Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Pest Control 101

The holiday season, aka Christmas, is wrapping up (pun intended), but with all that extra food lying around over the last week or so, I should probably talk about pest control.  Pest control isn’t all that difficult if you follow a few simple rules.

Rule #1: Focus

In order to eradicate your pests, you need to focus.  This means that you need to define exactly what you are trying to eradicate.  Are you going after all your bratty nieces and nephews-or just the ones less than three feet tall?  What about those terrifying eyelash mites we heard about in Grade Six?  The ones that literally dive in and out of your eyelashes with reckless abandon, sucking the juices out of them until they (the eyelashes) wizzle up and fall off?

Demodex folliculorum (maybe)

I think this is an unretouched image of an eyelash mite contemplating diving into its next eyelash with reckless abandon. But I’m a little suspicious of the overall quality of the information on the site where I got the image (everything you wanted to know about eyelash mites).

For instance, I found this quote kind of misleading:

“Actually they (Demodex folliculorum) like to burrow into the follicles. You don’t have any symptoms. But your eyelashes can get irritated and very itchy. This can cause our eyelashes to fall out.”

Hello?  Last time I checked, irritation is a symptom.  Like when your patient says, “My eyelashes are irritated.”  That’s a symptom.  And if you’re really on your game that day, you will immediately counter with a patient-centered interviewing technique and ask,

“What do you think might be wrong with you?”

The patient will probably say, “I literally think I have eyelash mites.”

And what about itchiness?  Same story.  It’s a symptom too.

Eyelashes falling out is a symptom if the patient tells you about it, but if you happen to see eyelashes falling out on physical exam, then it’s a sign, not a symptom.  But maybe I’m splitting hairs.  And who the hell actually examines their patients these days anyway?

I’m just saying you should be a little wary of some of the stuff you read on line.  Especially the stuff in some of these would-be humor columns.

But I’m getting way off focus here, so let’s talk about spiders.  They make pretty good pests since many of us non-spiders are terrified of them.  And supposedly we’re less than three feet away from a spider  literally everywhere on Earth.

OK let’s stop right here.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but to me it seems like literally everyone  is misusing “literally.”  I wanted to see if anyone else was noticing this problem so I googled “overuse of literally.”  Literally less than one second later, my suspicions were confirmed.  Literally tons of people are concerned about this issue.  I found a great site that outlines the problem: stop saying literally .

The author, Liz Bureman, explains:

“When something is literally occurring, that means that it is happening exactly as described. Someone who is literally passing out from excitement has their eyes rolling back in their head, and is collapsing to the ground as we speak.

Usually, the intended word is figuratively, which means that whatever is happening is being described metaphorically. Someone who is figuratively on pins and needles with anticipation is really looking forward to something. Someone who is literally on pins and needles is currently experiencing small puncture wounds on their body.”

I literally adore the way Ms. Bureman thinks.

Note that just now I misused “literally” another way: I used it for emphasis when really, I should have been looking for some other adverb like “totally” or “absolutely” or “incontestably.”  Just saying.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, spiders.  Although I think they are great pests, it turns out that this whole less-than-three-feet-from-a-spider-almost-everywhere-on-Earth thing is another one of those pesky urban legends.  Just go to the truth about spiders where you’ll read about Norman Platnick’s tragic error back in 1995.  Norman Platnick is a famous arachnologist, in case you were wondering.

Norman Platnick less than three feet away from a spider

You could also just try using some common sense.  Do you honestly think there are spiders crawling everywhere in Antarctica?  What about at the summit of Everest? Or during free-fall whilst skydiving.  Next time you are in Antarctica or on the summit of Everest, or in free-fall, take a look around, would you?

I want to move on but first I need to give you this short list of other things we’re literally never more than 3 feet from: nitrogen and oxygen molecules, our cell phones, someone bitching about Donald Trump even if we happen to be alone in a small capsule orbiting the Earth, 20 mph playground/school zones where there the nearest playground/school is literally 200 yards away, situated behind an 8-foot, barbed-wire fence.

Ok, we’re good.

I just realized that if we’re going to get serious about eradicating pests, right away we run up against a big problem, which is how to pluralize animals.  A good way to pluralize animals is to stick a male and female together for awhile.  You will probably wind up with more of that animal, sooner or later.

Now one platypus rooting around your yard isn’t such a big deal but what if there are more?  You will have a hard time getting anyone to take you seriously if you don’t get the terminology down pat.

You: Hello, I’d like to speak to someone about my pest problem.

Norm: Hi, this is Norm Platnick.  What can I do for you?

You: There are a bunch of platypuses rooting around my backyard.

Norm: Don’t you mean platypi?

You: Whatever.

Norm: I’d like to help you but I’m an arachnologist, not a platypusologist.  How did you get this number?

I literally just realized that I’m still in Rule #1 so I should probably make a new rule.  You need to know how to tell what kind of pest you’re dealing with, if it isn’t something obvious like a platypus or a spider.  This next rule will give some helpful pointers.

Rule #2: How to spot pests

If you have an octopus problem you’re likely going to find open jars of peanut butter out on the counter, or maybe open child-proof pill bottles.  You might find that all your combination locks are dangling open as well.  Octopodes are smart as hell and can open anything.  You really need to worry if you never had any peanut butter, child-proof pill bottles or combination locks in your house, because that means the octopus was bringing them into your house.  So that is one devilishly clever octopus.  Good luck.

Mice are easy.  Obviously you might see droppings or hear scritching sounds emanating from the walls.  More subtle signs include a note left inside the fridge:


Again,  good luck.  That is clearly not an ordinary mouse you’re facing although it seems to be polite.  It could have written: “More Gouda.  Or else.”  You should also probably watch “Mouse Hunt” a 1997 movie starring Nathan Lane, Lee Evans and featuring guest exterminator Christopher Walken.


Elephants are tough to spot.  Clues include random vibrations of the floor, random earsplitting trumpeting sounds, and random small mountains of dung also called “cookies.”

What about marine iguanas Piece of cake.  They’re easy to spot.

This next image depicts a marine iguana feeling quite pleased about life in general and its new hairdo in particular.

Marine iguana relatively free of eyelash mites but facing a fairly serious algae problem

What about snakes?  A surefire sign that there are snakes nearby is if you spot a hatchling marine iguana hauling ass and literally running for its life. If you don’t believe me you need to watch this clip: hatchling marine iguana literally running for its life.

That clip is the best thing I have ever seen.  Seriously.  Even better than that picture in which two guys are dueling with van de Graaf generator-based weaponry.  You will be on your feet cheering your heart out for that iguana.

You can literally trust me on this.

 Next month: How to tell if you have a Komodo Dragon problem when you’re not a deer.
Posted in zany, offbeat humor

Exploding Pythons and Other Stories

I don’t know about you but I feel like 2022 flew by like a video of a chinchilla taking a dust bath, played at 2X speed. And since you brought it up, here’s actual footage of a chinchilla taking a dust bath. You can play it at 2X or not. It starts slowly, then builds into a frenzy of activity, just like 2022! At least that’s my perspective.

This past Christmas was especially hectic, what with Nor’easters, Alberta Clippers and Polar Vortices wandering around and disrupting travel plans with reckless abandon. We had to rejig our travel plans at the last minute to avoid spending Christmas in the Toronto airport. I felt like a hatchling marine iguana fleeing for its life with a pack of ravenous snakes in hot pursuit: or maybe cold pursuit, since snakes are cold-blooded.

In fact, I wrote about an actual hatchling iguana caught on camera fleeing for its life from a pack of ravenous snakes in a previous post saying the following: “That clip is the best thing I have ever seen.  Seriously.  Even better than that picture in which two guys are dueling with van de Graaf generator-based weaponry.  You will be on your feet cheering your heart out for that iguana.”

Immediately after I embedded that clip (below) in this post I watched it again and sure enough, there I was, up on my feet, cheering my heart out for that feisty little bugger. If Tom Cruise and Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman) got together and somehow produced an iguana baby instead of a human baby, that hypothetical love child iguana’s butt would totally be kicked by the Planet Earth II iguana featured below. Trust me on this.

I know, I should get on with the python stuff but I also want to say that if Planet Earth II iguana had a Mom like the one in this next clip, the snakes would be a non-issue. Especially if they in any way resembled elongated, streamlined raccoons. The Mom in question, who I’m almost positive works part time as a baggage handler for (insert the name of any major airline here), starts her day by rushing out the front door when she hears her daughter Reilly screaming whilst waiting outside for the bus.

Mom finds a plus-sized raccoon clinging to Reilly’s leg and promptly disengages it while Reilly attempts a fairly complicated horizontal gymnastic manoeuvre against Mom’s hip. Mom calls for help, shouting something about rabies and shoos Reilly back inside after detaching her daughter from her hip with one arm whilst the raccoon clings tenciously to her other arm. After giving the raccoon, still clinging tenaciously to her arm, a practice swing, Mom yeets it a good 20 feet or so into the front yard. It’s awesome. Unharmed and possibly feeling a little sheepish, the raccoon gets up and waddles away nonchalantly. You actually wind up feeling a bit sorry for it. Reilly and Mom got away with a couple of scratches and a brace of rabies shots.

OK, now I REALLY need to get on with the python stuff.

Late in 2022, somebody in the know told me about a Burmese Python in Florida that died after eating a 5-foot alligator. I got the lowdown from the WSAZ News Channel site. Motto: We need better news correspondents. Or maybe just better proofreading.

Here’s a photo of the victim, freshly excavated from an 18-foot python:

According to Jeanne Moos, CNN National news correspondent: “The state of Florida encourages people to kill Burmese pythons because they eat so many other species and produce rapidly.”


They” can be a dangerous word, sometimes leading to needless confusion. You’ll notice that I struggled at bit with the use of “her” in the description of the raccoon battle although I think I managed to avoid needless confusion.

Anyway, my first question is: Who’s doing the eating: the people or the pythons? My other question is, (assuming that they refers to the pythons) is: What do they produce?


Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)?

Herpetophobia (fear of reptiles in general)?

Vorarephobia (fear of being eaten alive/swallowed whole)?

I feel like a pretty good case could be made for any or all of the above phobias. And possibly the methane.

Interestingly, Rosie Moore, one of the scientists who necropsied the python, has also made a name for herself as a successful free-diving bikini model. I am not making this up. The footage Ms. Moore posted on Instagram pertaining to the necropsy rapidly went viral. For some reason.

Turns out that alligator-snacking pythons are old news. I got to poking around and located another article detailing the October 2005 discovery, made by South Florida Natural Resources Center researchers, of a dead, headless python sporting a mostly-intact alligator protruding out of a hole in its midsection. The headline on the Mongabay blog post was “Python explodes after swallowing 6-foot alligator in Florida Everglades”.

I swear on an Exploding Kittens card game that I am not making any of this up.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Tail of alligator protruding from midsection of headless python

There are various competing theories about what happened:

(a) The python successfully engulfed and suffocated the alligator but eventually exploded due to intestinal gas buildup.

(b) The alligator was engulfed but somehow remained alive and fought part way out of the python before expiring.

(c) The python successfully engulfed the alligator but a second alligator came along, ate the head of the python in retribution but was unable to free the imprisoned alligator.

Those are pretty improbable theories if you ask me because (a) and (b) don’t account for the missing head and in (c) we don’t know if the snacked-upon reptile was still alive or “just resting” as the saying goes. Why would the second alligator attempt to rescue a dead alligator? Admittedly, I might be overthinking this.

My theory, shamelessly modified from a theory posited by the person who told me about all this python-alligator stuff in the first place, is that the alligator in question may have contained the long-sought-after carcass of disappeared notorious former Teamster’s Union President and convicted felon, Jimmy Hoffa. Before his demise, and in an eerie twist of fate, Hoffa could have accidentally ingested a set of nesting Matryoshka dolls bearing the likenesses of, in no particular order, various ruthless political leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Genghis Khan, Erik the Red, and Margaret Thatcher. The innermost doll probably contained a grenade which was eventually detonated by powerful pythonic contractions.

Maybe that’s not such a great theory but “The Pythonic Contractions” might seem like a pretty great name for a band. Or at least an OK name. If you happen to be somebody who was fifteen years old in the early 70’s.

Just saying.

Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

What To Do If You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

I’ve had the following conversation with various children (most of them mine) at least fifty times over the last fifteen years.  Maybe you have too.  Not sure why you’d be talking to my kids but I’m not going to nit-pick.  Let’s just get going in the interests of saving time.

Imagine that your kid is strolling toward the front door…

You: Where are you going?

Your kid: The mall.

You:  The mall?  Which one?  Market Mall? Chinook? Heritage?  Last time I checked there were approximately thirty-seven malls in Calgary.

Your kid:  Long sigh followed by eye-rolling and a pause… We’re going to CrossIron Mills.

You:  OK, great.  Have fun and remember: clarity of speech is a virtue.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget that iconic American riverboat pilot-turned iconic American silver miner-turned iconic American author Samuel Langhorn Clemens once said: ” The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.”

Noted riverboat pilot/silver miner/author Samuel Langhorn Clemens posing in front of an early prototype of a Dyson Airblade

As an aside, one of the other things that Clemens said was, “What in the heck ever possessed me to start hanging out with Nikola Tesla?”

Samuel Langhorn Clemens saying to his buddy-iconic crazy Serbian-American genius and prankster-Nikola Tesla (lurking in background with an impish expression on his face): “Nikola, I said lightning bug! Not lightning! Turn this damned thing off!”

I swear on my Model S that this is not a phony picture.  They were besties.  Tesla may even have helped Clemens invent a wireless moustache trimmer.

Anyway… I might have been at the mall searching for a copy of The Electrifying Adventures Of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla (Who Needs Wires Anyway?) but I happened to detour into Time Capsules `R Us first.  In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of pretty cool time capsules for sale these days.

housecat-sized time capsule
Housecat-sized time capsule

Who would have ever thought that some day there would be an entire store devoted to selling time capsules? But there it was, right next to World Of Paperclips.

And there I was, confronted by all these time capsules, so I started thinking about what the heck I would put in one.  Specifically, what could I put in a time capsule that would give our descendants a really clear picture of what we were like?

The answer came to me immediately: I could make a detailed analysis of a random issue of the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue and stick THAT in the time capsule.  From the detailed analysis, our descendants will get an unvarnished picture of what we were like.

For example, they might conclude that many of us retired to Florida (before most of it went underwater) where we proceeded to obsess over our health-and also thank our lucky stars that we decided to buy stock in FedEx and UPS.

Since I had too much time on my hands I decided to perform that detailed analysis.  And here it is:


2019 summer supplement Hmmacher Schlemmer
This bike is nowhere near the Remote-Controlled Abrams Tank, which is on page 70, in case you want one.

I identified 24 categories of health-related products plus this kick-ass kite which I  felt deserved an honorable mention.

F-35 kite
F-35 kite (Pilot’s license not included)

From all the other non-kite-related categories, I concluded that:

(a) Our feet are a big issue for us-I catalogued 31 products related to foot problems (neuropathy, swelling, plantar fasciitis and general comfort), some of them spring-loaded!

spring-loaded insoles-excellent for leaping tall buildings

(b) Our eyesight and hearing are terrible-30 offerings  related to vision-mostly glasses, lamps and voice-clarifiers/amplifiers

Advanced rearview mirror-includes 22-page installation manual

gooseneck viewer
Dang you Patches! Are you under there? Your supper is ready.  If the Roomba is under there too tell it it come out.

(c) Joint problems are rampant-I noted 22 items including massagers (some of them laser-assisted!), heating pads, braces, and a small masseuse named Hector.

Now where was that “Off” button again?  I KNEW I should have checked out that little Hector guy

(d) Collectively, we worry too much about our lips, sagging skin, toenails, faces, teeth and last-but-not-least our sinuses-13 gadgets total

I have to stop eating dragonflies once and for all.

My name is Alexa and I work for Amazon. How can I help you?

sinus irrigator
Sinus lavage device including convenient repository for any small metal parts that might wash out of your nose.

(e) We are lousy sleepers-the tally included 12 beds, mattresses, wedges, toppers, and a lounger

wake me up in 2783
Wake me up in 2783 if my alarm doesn’t go off

Well that was instructive, but I feel like I should get back to looking for that book I mentioned and I know you probably have better things to do too.  One of the other things on my list is doing something about those darned kids who keep sneaking into my pool.  Maybe Hammacher Schlemmer can help…

fake alligator
This thing is nowhere near the replica 1635 AD torture device/Cervical Traction Back Stretcher which is on page 55.  I know you want one.

cervical traction device
Why was that giraffe staring at me in the zoo?

Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

How To Live To Be At Least One Hundred Years Old

Before I get started it’s probably worth listing some of the loose threads that have been lying around from previous columns.  Bear in mind that listing some of the loose threads might simply be a way to get started without actually saying I’m getting started.  But by then it will be too late to stop.  Anyway…

Some Of The Loose Threads That Are Lying Around From Previous Columns:

-How to tell if you have a Komodo Dragon problem when you’re not a deer

-How to establish yourself as a successful Body Part model

There are lots of ways to tell whether or not you have a Komodo Dragon problem.  First of all, are you more than 985 feet from the closest bush, forest, stand of grass, Quonset hut or anything else that could conceal a 10-foot long lizard?  If the answer is yes, you currently don’t have a Komodo Dragon problem because I read the following gem on a Komodo Dragon fact site: “They are able to see prey and other objects as far as 985 feet away.”  So even if there is one lurking out there somewhere, it can’t see you because you’re too far from it’s lair-unless it has a telescope (or binoculars).  This is unlikely.

Secondly, if you happen to see a Komodo Dragon at close range (say 700 feet), does it look like this?


If so, you can relax.  Despite the sly grin, this is most likely a dead Komodo Dragon.

Are you currently located on any of the Lesser Sunda Islands, namely: Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang or Padar?  If not, you don’t have a Komodo Dragon problem because they don’t live anywhere else except maybe in zoos.


Have you recently (in the last 60 seconds) fallen into the Komodo Dragon enclosure at a zoo?  Are you contemplating climbing into a Komodo Dragon enclosure for some obscure reason known only to you?  If the answer to both these questions is no, once again, I think you probably don’t have a Komodo Dragon issue.

Do you bear any resemblance at all to a juvenile Komodo Dragon? No?  Congratulations!  Your chance of being eaten has just dropped substantially, as adult Komodos routinely eat their young, including nieces and nephews.

Komodo hatchling wondering if it’s more than 985 feet from Mom or Dad or maybe even Uncle Louie.

Finally, do certain aspects of your body stand out? Do you consider your legs, hands or feet to be among your best features?    Do you already lavish inordinate amounts of time on some of your body parts, regularly coating them with expensive lotions and suchlike and protecting them from things like penetrating injuries and the harsh rays of the sun?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, venomous 10-foot lizard carnivores are the least of your concerns.  Instead you need to start worrying about all the time you may have  wasted by NOT already having become a Body Part model.

Q: What is a Body Part model?  Is it something from Forensic Files?

A: No.  A Body Part model, also known as a Closeup model, is like a regular, anorexic model except that he or she only models isolated parts of their body that might have a special quality.  Body Part models appear in ads for things like shoes, fingernail polish, rings and socks.

Q: What about ads for parrots?

A: No.  That’s a ridiculous question.

Q: OK, sorry.  So what are the special qualities we’re talking about here?

A:  We’ll get to that.

Q: (Sigh)  So how do I get started?

A: Take the advice of the good (but marginally literate) folks at UK Models:

“Approach an agency who specialise in this area to understand if your feature is photogenic or not. There is no harm in asking as you could make a living off modelling this body part. Have a look at campaigns that use isolated features and compare the body part to your own to gauge if you will be considered in the niche.”

I am not making this up.  Top Body Part models, secure in their niches, can earn thousands of dollars a day.  It’s a highly-competitive business though, with lots of rules:

Hands –  Flawless, smooth skin with evenly shaped nails.  Hand shape is important.  Male hands should have minimum hair.
Legs  – Smooth, long and shapely.  Skin free of veins, blemishes.  Not overly muscular.
Feet  – Evenly shaped toes and nails.  Free of corns, bunions or other foot blemishes.
Shoe size Should range from size 6-10 for women, and 8-12 for men.
Body – Even skin tone and well-toned, nice muscularity.

I checked out some professional body model images and I have to say that you can certainly tell the difference between an amateur Body Part model and a highly-trained professional Body Part model.

Professional Hand model featured in recent ad for iPhone

Amateur Hand model badly in need of a manicure (and glasses)

All I can say is that there are a lot of strange things going on in this world.  Even if you live to be at least one hundred, you won’t see half of them.

How To Live To Be At Least One Hundred:

Choose healthy parents.

Avoid falling asleep outdoors on any of these islands: Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, Padar.

Don’t tell any of your descendants how much money you’re going to leave them in your will.

Move to the island of Okinawa; there are more centenarians per 100,000 people on Okinawa than anywhere else in the world.

“Eat like a raw egg or something every day.”

-longevity tip from anonymous fifteen-year old

Laugh regularly.  Research has shown that adults who see humor in life are 35% more likely to live a longer life than those who do not.

If you don’t have a sense of humor, get one.  And if you don’t have a sense of humor,  why are you even reading this column?  Go read The Economist or something.

Get a therapy dog.

Keep your hands and feet perfectly groomed at all times.  You never know!  Your Body Part modeling career might be waiting for you just around the corner…If a Komodo Dragon doesn’t get you first.

Next column: How to have a successful career as a therapy dog.

Therapy dog taking a break from its stress-relieving duties to scan perimeter for large lizards

Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Static Electricity

I was at a medical conference in Toronto recently and one of the speakers cited the work of a physician named Dr. Hu in her talk.  After the talk was over, the moderator thanked the speaker and then said, “We have to get Doctor Hu here.”

Unbidden, the following conversation immediately popped into my head:

“We have to get Doctor Hu here.”

“Doctor Who?”

“Yeah, Hu.”

“Doctor Yahoo?”

“No. Doctor Hu.”

“Ohhh… Doctor Hu here!”

“No, not Doctor Huhear.  Doctor Hu. Here.”


“Now! And then we need to dispense with these ridiculously short sentences and get on with the main topic of this column.”

“Is there ever a main topic?”


Now that I have that off my chest, I have to talk about a book by Bill Bryson that I’ve been reading lately entitled: At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York. Doubleday, 2010.  Like all Bryson’s books, At Home is written with wonderfully dry, witty humor, and it’s packed with fascinating trivia.


In Chapter 11, which is in no way bankrupt(!) of trivia, Bryson launches into a discussion of mousetraps, mice, bedbugs, bats, rabies and last but not least, rats.  He cites this example of their ingenuity:

“Rats are smart and often work cooperatively. At the former Gansevoort poultry market in Greenwich Village, New York, pest control authorities could not understand how rats were stealing eggs without breaking them, so one night an exterminator sat in hiding to watch. What he saw was that one rat would embrace an egg with all four legs, then roll over on his back. A second rat would then drag the first rat by its tail to their burrow, where they could share their prize in peace.”

I really, really wanted to believe that story, but at the same time, the urban legend warning light in my brain started flashing, just like it did when I read about the intoxicated Marine who was supposedly arrested after a failed attempt to foil his car ignition interlock by having a raccoon breathe into it. (Craggy Island Calculus Problem)  I knew that one wasn’t true.  Turns out both the Marine AND the raccoon were drunk.

Anyway, back to the pilfering rats. I did what everybody does these days when we want to find out if something is true: I Googled “rats carrying eggs” and sure enough, I came up with that sketch you see up top, which was penciled by English naturalist and sportsman Charles William George St. John (b.1809-d.1856). Various webpages have reproduced that drawing including one in which a guy named Michael claims that his Aunt Mavis told him, “That’s exactly how rats steal eggs in England!” (What Aunt Mavis said)

But I was still suspicious.  After all, in Charlotte’s Web, the spider Charlotte had to move heaven and earth to get just one rat named Templeton to cooperate with her in saving Wilbur’s life.  I just couldn’t picture three rats  teaming up and then amicably sharing the booty.  Plus, I thought surely if rats really use one of their mates as a sort of travois during criminal activities, someone would have caught it on video by now, posted it on YouTube and it would have 83 million hits and counting, as I type.

After some more rooting around with Google, I didn’t find what I was looking for; however, I did find a clip in which a lone sumo wrestler-sized rat named Ossi  picked up an egg, bit into it, and then scampered up to its lair with the egg leading the way, impaled by Ossi’s front teeth. (Ossi the rat pilfering an egg)

But this really didn’t prove anything. For example, just because you see someone wearing a kilt, it doesn’t disprove that they couldn’t also wear a small patch of absorbent material on their forehead sometimes.  Because they could.  If they really wanted to.  No one would care.  Just saying.

Dr. McGillson

Don’t ask

Finally though, after more Google-rooting, I found a pretty definitive statement on this page (Rats aren’t as clever as we would like them to be) dedicated to the identification of British egg thieves .  Here is what it said about rats:

  • Rats prefer the large, cryptic eggs of colonial nesting birds and consume the eggs in the nest.
  • They make a hole in the side or end of the egg with characteristic chip marks, then lick out the contents.
  • Squirrel signs are very similar.
  • A common myth is that rats co-operate to steal hens’ eggs – one lies on its back, holding the egg to its chest, while another rat pulls out the content with its tail. This is not true.

Well I guess that’s that.  But at least I’m now at a place where I can talk about static electricity.  One of the reasons why I was a little suspicious about this whole rats-teaming-up-to-steal-eggs thing is that the sledge rat would probably accumulate some serious static electricity if it’s furry, egg-laden body was rubbing along on a wooden, glass or worst-case, rubber floor.

Now as kids, we all quickly learned to rub balloons against our clothes or heads, then stick them (the balloons) on a wall, a cat or each other.  We learned even more quickly that if we inflated the balloons first, it worked even better!  We asked our grandmas how that all worked.  Mine said, “How the hell do I know?  I’m eighty-three years old; I was born in a small village about 60 miles south of Sparta, in Greece; we moved to Detroit when I was about seven years old and it took me a long time to learn English, never mind Electrostatics.  Go ask your mother.”

But somehow we all eventually learned that static buildup is due to electron transfer between two different insulators such as T-shirts and cat hair, or leather and rubber.  The transfer is increased if the two materials rub together.  A big van de Graaf generator, which uses this principle (dissimilar things rubbing together), can build up an electric potential of hundreds of  thousands of volts.

Check this out. I think  these two people are standing on big van de Graaf generators.  I’m soooo jealous.


Here are some schematics showing how a van de Graaf generator works:



If you think that the schematic on the left looks an awful lot like a vertical treadmill, you are correct!  Alert readers know that I have a treadmill desk (Treadmill Desks).  Jimmie Kimmell apparently also has one.  He may  wear a kilt occasionally.  I don’t know for sure.  It looks like he has on a pair of shorts in the picture below.  It might be a skort though.  Again, just saying.


One thing I do know for sure is that my treadmill works exactly like a van de Graaf generator, and the reason I know this is that one day, when things got colder here in Calgary (and hence drier) I was talking on my desk phone as I was walking, and then I started getting zapped in the ear every few seconds.  The built-up charge was finding its way to ground by arcing across to the earpiece of the phone. Then the display screen on the phone blanked out.

Awhile later I got a pretty good lifter when a spark lanced from my fingertip into my computer mouse, right by the scroll-wheel.  After that the scroll-wheel quit working.

Then for some reason I decided to increase the speed of the treadmill and suddenly there was a loud SNAP! and my heart stopped.  Just for a few seconds though. I was fine.  Really.  Didn’t miss a beat! And  I’m getting way better range with my new all-electric car now, for some reason.

Tesla Model S

As soon as the grounded wrist strap  I ordered gets here, it’s all good.


Meanwhile, I have a grounded rod I can hang on to, need be.  It looks a little weird though, and another downside is that I can’t play the bagpipes if one hand is hanging on to a grounded rod all day. But the upside is that the friction (!) between me and my co-workers has diminished considerably.

My grandmother always told me you can’t stay grounded AND play the bagpipes.  And if you don’t believe her, just ask this physicist.  I’ll bet he knows a lot about Electrostatics.

Bagpipes in low-Earth orbit