Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Very Poor Housekeeping

I think my house spiders are developing an attitude. And, if I'm not mistaken, a taste for human blood.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ballot Questions in Montgomery County, MD

This year there are two statewide ballot questions and two county ballot questions. Of these, Ballot Question A is the least clear, so here's some background information.

The following excerpts of the County Charter with editorial remarks are © 2008 American Legal Publishing Corporation:

Sec. 311A. Limitations on Expenditures for Landfills in Residential Zones.

No expenditure of County funds shall be made or authorized for the operation of a landfill system of refuse disposal on land zoned for residential use. (Election of 11-7-78.)

Editor's note—See East v. Gilchrist, 296 Md. 368, A.2d 285 (1983); holding section 311A cannot be given effect under circumstances involving an order of the secretary of health and mental hygiene and requirement of local funding under public general law.

Sec. 311B. Limitations on Expenditures, Contracts, and Permits for Burying or Trenching Sewage Sludge in Residential Zones.

No expenditure of County funds shall be made or authorized for the construction or operation of a system for burying or trenching sewage sludge on land zoned for residential use, nor may the County purchase or contract for the service of burying or trenching sewage sludge on land zoned for residential use. Also, the County may not seek federal or state permits for the burying or trenching of sewage sludge in residential zones. (Election of 11-4-80.)

Sec. 313A. Purchasing, Contracting for Goods, Services with C&P Telephone Company.

The County Government may not purchase and contract for goods and services with the C&P Telephone Company (C&P) unless C&P includes telephone subscribers in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Montgomery Village in the Washington Metropolitan Area Telephone Exchange (MET) at local rates no higher than local rates charged MET subscribers in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Kensington and Rockville telephone exchange areas. (Election of 11-2-82.)

Editor's note—In Rowe, et al. v. The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Maryland, et al., 65 Md. App. 527, 501 A.2d (1985), it was held that Charter section 313A could not be given effect because it conflicted with a state Public Service Commission Order.

The League of Women Voters has a discussion of all four ballot questions, including (in part) the following on Question A:

Present Practice – The County Charter provides a framework for the governance of the county. Three provisions in the County Charter: 311A, 311B, and 313A currently have no legal force and do not affect how county government operates. The Maryland courts blocked implementation of 311A and 313A because each directly conflicted with some aspect of state law. More fundamentally, neither of these provisions are proper “Charter Material” because they do not address a fundamental aspect of the form and basic structure of county government. In addition, they attempt to legislate through a charter amendment, which the Maryland Constitution prohibits. Although the Maryland courts have not blocked the operation of 311B, a consistent line of Court of Appeal opinions makes clear that this provision, like the ones above, is in conflict with the Maryland Constitution’s prohibition on legislating through a charter amendment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quite Possibly the Funniest Spam Message I've Ever Received

From: (Cron Daemon)
Subject: Cron <root@s119> /etc/webmin/sysstats/
X-Cron-Env: <SHELL=/bin/sh>
X-Cron-Env: <HOME=/root>
X-Cron-Env: <PATH=/usr/bin:/bin>
X-Cron-Env: <LOGNAME=root>

WARNING (eval)( 176)  : ERROR while updating i3.rrd: opening 'i3.rrd': No such file or directory

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Be Young And Beautiful Forever, Or At Least For Twenty Years!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Past 32 Hours

Yesterday morning, I was mowing my lawn. This was quite the endeavor, since it had been a couple of weeks, the weather was good for growth, and I have a push-reel mower. This meant that instead of my usual mowing each row twice (up and back), I had to mow each four times, the first pass being substantial effort.

I'd finished the front, which is the worst part of my yard, mower-wise, and started mowing the side. The side is a bit of a pain, since it's on a slope, but it's small, so it's not generally that bad. As I'm pushing the mower up and back, I glance at one of my basement windows. And see a squirrel looking out at me.

Of course, I immediately cease mowing, and go inside. After pounding on the basement door a few times, I open it, turn on the stairway light, and close the door behind me. The squirrel is still sitting in the window, trying in vain to get out. I open another window, and it immediately runs over to it, but neglects to jump up to flee to safety. I figure that the window's too high for the squirrel to reach (a fact belied by the signs of gnawing I later notice), and stack a couple of boxes by the window. The squirrel won't go back, though.

At this point, the squirrel is, so I think, behind my TV and stereo setup, so I start looking around the basement to survey the damage (which at the moment seems minimal). That's when I see something that doesn't look right. There's a hole in the wall, through which I can see daylight. It's clearly a hole that was created by a human being. Not yet sure what the hole's for, I notice the dryer exhaust hose lying partially coiled behind the dryer.

I continued my survey of the basement, and find no sign of the squirrel. Now, I'm hoping that it found a way out while my back was turned. I close the window and go outside to take a look at the hole. It's behind a big plastic mini-shed that holds my garbage cans to keep the raccoons out. I see the remains of the vent hood, but no sign of the pieces of plastic that were formerly part of it. Given its placement behind the shed, I'm not sure how long it was like that. It could easily have been in that condition when I had the house inspected prior to purchase, though I'd hope the home inspector was more diligent than that.

The rest of the day was squirrel-dominated. After finishing the lawn, I went to Home Depot to pick up a new vent cover. While getting advice from the retired plumber working in that section, another customer (who was waiting to ask a question) ventured her own opinion. She claimed the plastic vent covers were useless, and that squirrels would just chew through them again. Of course, the store had nothing better. She finally asked her question, and was on her merry way, so I asked the plumber, "What would you use?" He didn't put much stock in the woman's claims, which are really probably more relevant if the squirrels have nested in the house, so I made my purchase and left.

Of course, with the current temperatures, it's not the best time to try getting caulk to set, but needs must win out, so my new cover is slowing sealing itself to the outside wall. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. After home depot I went over to Marco's to keg our latest batch of Winky Dink Marzen. Then I came home to replace the vent cover, which remains un-gnawed.

The day's manual labor done, I went over to my parents' house to borrow a squirrel trap. I didn't think the squirrel was still inside, but better safe than sorry. After baiting it with peanut butter, I called it an evening.

This moring, after getting ready for work, I went down to the basement again to check on the trap. I didn't get that far, though, because I could see the squirrel sitting at what it must have come to regard as its window. I opened a window, but it wouldn't budge. Figuring noise would stir it, I turned on the stereo and played NPR's pledge drive at high volume. That got it moving. Not to the open window, though. It was away from its window, however, so I opened that one as well.

There's a particular state of mind, helped along by wanting to get to work, that causes you to try to reason with a squirrel. It, however, was being thoroughly unreasonable. Fed up, I moved the trap into the finished part of the basement, close off the doors to keep it from going back to the laundry or furnace rooms, and left for work.

Knowing there's a squirrel in your house, trapped with your 42" flat-panel TV among other electronics, can make it difficult to focus on your work. I soldiered on, though, and put in a good innings. By the end of the day, however, the stress had my stomach a bit twisted.

Once home, I put on some old clothes (what I used yesterday to mow the lawn), a denim jacket, and a pair of reasonably thick gloves. Then I ventured into the basement. Sitting patiently in the trap was the squirrel. It didn't object when I approached, and only slightly when I lifted the trap and carried it up the stairs and outside. Outside—that was something it recognized, and became considerably more animated. I set the trap on the ground, with the door facing the large tree in my back yard, and carefully openened the trap. Squirrels can be, well, squirrelly, so I was prepared for it to view me as its foe rather than its liberator. No such occurrence, though, as it flew from the trap and up the tree.

I am now relaxing in an ostensibly squirrel-free house, enjoying some homebrew (Whitey's Gone Fishin' Pale Ale). And, of course, recording this for your entertainment. The clean-up will wait for another day.