Monday, September 28, 2015

There is now a chipmunk in my house and a hole in my right middle finger

I have a post I wrote last night scheduled to go up in less than an  hour.  Normally I wouldn't break chronological order like this especially since it could be potentially confusing as that post is about how this very computer I'm writing on is fucked.

So, good news first: I got a charge overnight which means that all of the prep work I did trying to desperately get things ready for transfer to an external hard drive before the power went out, work that required me to hold the power cord in a strange and possibly unsafe, certainly untenable, position, might not have been in vein.  We'll see if I get enough useful time to actually make the transfer.


Oh thank god, she got it again, I carried her out of the house, and got her to let go in a way that didn't lead to her dropping it somewhere that it could get into the house.


Speaking of said overnight charge,  I also have another post intended to go up tomorrow in which I use the charge to write a ficlet that formed while I was trying to get to sleep last night after the moon turned red (I sure as fuck wasn't going to stay up until it turned white again.)  I'm partway through writing that at the moment.

This seemed like it was immediate enough to justify breaking chronology.

* * *

My cat was making a sound that generally means she has a mouse in her mouth and is therefore unable to vocalize properly.

I've gotten used to this.  I can deal with it by partially opening the door, blocking the cat's entrance with my own body, and giving her a light bop on the head to make her open her mouth enough to drop the mouse and have it scurry away, assuming it isn't dead yet.

If it is dead she generally loses interest and I can later pick it up with a paper-towel separating me from mouse germs and give it a proper mouse burial (which means throwing it into the narrow place between the fence and the garage where it can be disposed of by scavengers --wild mice practice open air funerary rituals, after all-- and saying a prayer for the safe delivery of its soul to somewhere where it hopefully won't suffer the trauma of being killed by a domestic cat.)

The whole thing is fairly mundane and no cause for alarm.

This time it was a chipmunk.  Here's what I didn't count on: those fuckers are a lot bigger than mice.

A bop on the head doesn't cause the cat to open her mouth enough to release.  I'm not willing to harm my cat, she may not be particularly affectionate but we live together and I happen to love her even if the feeling isn't mutual (and for all I know it might be, she isn't one to really show clear emotions so it's possible, if not probable, that she loves me too.)

So I couldn't get her to release it with the usual bop on the head, because the bop is about causing a minor reflex or slight distraction or something.  It doesn't seem to actually hurt her, and it definitely doesn't stun her into going slackjawed.  It only makes her open her mouth a tiny bit more than necessary to hold a mouse.

I needed to improvise.  How to get her to open her mouth widely enough to release a chipmunk while causing her as little discomfort as possible?

There was no clear way.  It seemed like getting her to let go was going to require doing things that would require more force than I ever want to use on her.

What I did not think, in all of this, was that since this was new territory I couldn't treat it as if it were a casual "get the mouse to drop" situation and I should, in fact, move to full lockdown procedures where the cat and I were both outside and the door to the house was well and truly closed.

I didn't think of that at all.

I want to pause to note that problems such as this wouldn't exist if the cat didn't insist on trying to bring outside animals, generally live (she doesn't pick up dead ones so I'm forced to assume that the dead ones are ones that she killed while she was holding them in her mouth) into the house.

She's not a damned barn cat.  Her job is not to control vermin in the vicinity.  Her job, her only job, a job on which I hold no evaluations and never punish her for failing to preform (because she never preforms it), is to control vermin inside the the house in order to keep the house vermin free.  She is a house cat.  A free range house cat, but a house cat none the less.  I don't know much of her lineage (or, you know, anything except how she came to be my cat) but I do know that her mother was a house cat too.

The only time she's ever done her job of controlling vermin inside the house was things went horribly, horribly wrong and she needed to hunt for food to keep from going hungry when she was trapped in the house, and no one checked on her, while I was away for an extended period.

I don't plan on letting things go horribly, horribly wrong EVER AGAIN, I mean that was seriously a two-horribly situation and should never have been allowed to happen.  It was a serious moral failing on my part and one that I now guard against consciously because I'm now aware that I can seriously fuck up that extremely.

So back to the chipmunk.  It was too big, her mouth had to open too far for her to drop it for the usual measures to work.  I had to take drastic action.  I had to pry her mouth open.

This is something that one should never do, but one should also never abandon a live animal to the kind of wretched death that being in a house cat's mouth tends to lead to, and a chipmunk should never be allowed to enter my house.

I didn't like it, I didn't feel good about it. and I tried to use my knowledge of getting horses to open their mouths with minimum discomfort to see if, in spite of the vast unrelatedness between horses and house cats, I might do something similar to my cat.

I also made sure that I interacted with her mouth primarily on the side that the chipmunk's mouth wasn't on, because I didn't want to get bitten by that that thing.  At least I know where my cat has been.  Actually I don't.  I have no idea.  She could be regularly chowing down on nuclear waste topped with smallpox at the Rabies Я Us food troth and I would have no idea.

Still, she's not a wild chipmunk.  (Is there any other kind?)

So I pried my cats mouth open.

She dropped the chipmunk --which ran into the fucking house-- and then clamped down in a failed attempt to catch it before it fell that did managed to leave a gash in my finger.

The chipmunk scurried all the way down the hall, into the kitchen, and behind the microwaves.  Yes, we have two.  Long story.  The microwaves sit atop the ice box.  What is an ice box?  Well in days long ago there was no such thing as a refrigerator so you put stuff that needed to be kept cool in a wooden box with ice in it.

Who did you think Kristoff sold ice to for a living?

Mine is one of these:

It's not in as good repair as that one.  The two of the latches are missing along with one of the things the latches latch onto.  Also one of the doors is broken but you can't see that it's broken because what's broken is an interior piece of wood that holds the door together, all of the parts visible from the outside are fine and you don't realize that particular door is broken until you open it and the door falls apart.

Behind the ice box is a hole in the wall likely chewed by the mice in the house that the cat refuses to deal with.  Someday I want to find where that hole leads and fix both the hole there and every single other exit point, but that's rather low on my list of things to do since before repairs of that nature to the actual house are made, a lot of fucking cleaning within the house will need to be done to make the repair project viable.

I was worried that the chipmunk might have made it into the hole and thus gotten away for good, but I still pulled the icebox, and a small endtable type thing next to it away from the wall, in hopes the cat might recapture it.  I additionally told the chipmunk that I was leaving the door open (the door opens onto an elevated porch that has little of interest; wild animals never approach it willingly) so it should get out of my fucking house.

Then I started to write this post.  Almost an hour ago.

Pulling the ice box out actually led to oh my fucking god those things can climb! because the chipmunk hadn't gone through the hole.  I'd forgotten about this at the time, and just now had to check to see if it was/is true, but the discovery of the hole was not met by total negligence on my part: I blocked the hole with a big heavy board of the type that has those holes in it you can use to hang pots on.  Two of them actually.

They haven't been chewed through and no mouse or chipmunk can fit through a hole with a diameter of less than a centimeter.

But that is not the point because I wasn't even thinking about the fact that the boards were there to block the hole.

Let's get back to "Oh my fucking god, those things can climb!"  When I think climbing rodent of the outdoor variety I think, "Squirrel."  Squirrels are a different beast entirely.

"Squirrel" is a word that comes to us from ancient Greek, through normal Latin, then Vulgar Latin, then Old French, then Anglo-Norman until it finally hit English-proper in the Middle English period.

"Chipmunk" is an alternation of an Ojibwa word that means squirrel but --presumably though I know precisely zero about Ojibwa-- doesn't have the "giant fracking tail" connotation of the word "squirrel".  [Added] Yup, "Chipmunk" apparently comes from a word meaning "one who descends trees headlong" which has nothing about tail size.

Like I said, different beasts entirely.

Chipmunks are ground animals that sometimes climb trees, and I so rarely see them climbing trees that I often forget that they do climb trees.  I was certainly unprepared when that thing shot up the fucking wall to the height of the icebox when I moved said icebox.

Preumably the reason it stopped at the height of the icebox is that that's where the shaved brick facade*, which serves no apparent purpose and produces reactions of "Wha?" if noticed, happens to end.  The fact that the facade is about the same height as the ice box is a matter of pure coincidence, though the ice box being there might be to hide the downright strange facade.

Anyway, it dropped down to the ground and out of sight after that.

But while I was intermittently starting to write this post I decided to also check on whether the cat was trying to re-catch the chipmunk.

This resulted in additional moving of the icebox and surrounding stuff because I hadn't initially made enough space for the cat to maneuver well.  She could get in there, but not to much more than walk in a straight line.

After doing that, I returned to this post which was then only a few sentences long.

Also, at some point before most of this.  Probably immediately after moving the icebox the first time, I put a band aid (genuine band-aid brand no less, I was in a hurry when I bought them and didn't have time to look for the generic) on my middle finger where the cat gouged it.

By the time was two paragraphs long the had re-caught the chipmunk.  Picking her up and carrying her out of the house was a gamble.  If she had a mouse that would have caused her to drop it, but as already established, getting her to drop the chipmunk was a more difficult procedure entirely.

I did manage to get her to drop it, off of the porch, without further injury on either of our parts.  though, honestly, the cat never gets injured in dealings with me.  She does get injured, something damaged one of her ears once (the big leathery skin part that sticks out and makes for distinctive looking cat ears, not the sensitive inner workings) so I know that she's not impervious to harm and can in fact bleed, but if the participants are myself and her, it's a sure thing that if anyone gets injured it will be me, not her.

I apologize to the five people, who may be bots or crawlers or something, who read this post in its original form where it abruptly cut out in the vicinity of the oh my fucking god those things can climb! part.  When I started writing it, which is now more like an hour and a half ago, I figured it'd be quick and fall before the post about the computer naturally.  I think that's the preferable order because while this post may be more interesting, that post is more important in terms of the near future of Stealing Commas because what happens to the computer has a very real effect on what happens to the blog and if one of these is going to have front of the blog time I think it should be the one that's letting people know about serious developments in the future of the blog.

Why?  Because I don't know what's going to happen after I take this computer to be repaired today.  If the blog does go dark (I hope it doesn't and am planning on preventing it via secondary computers) I want people to have seen a heads up on why that might happen.

Also, I figure that most people will be more likely to read a post about a chipmunk and a hole in my finger even if it isn't at the top of the blog than they would be to read about computer problems which are fairly standard for me (where do you think most of the semi-working secondary computers came from?  Once the warranty expires a computer is doomed to quickly become unviable as a primary because electronics will break in my vicinity), have frequently been covered here, and in fact run in the family.

My family tends to be pretty tech literate, though I must admit that we've all started to fall behind in recent years, but from my father comes a tendency to have things fail as if by magic.  My dad is the most tech savvy on a mechanics of how computers work of all of us, but it is an extremely bad idea to let him so much as touch anything more advanced than a pocket calculator.  If he so much as breathes on it, the gods of technology will be perturbed.

He's the sort of person who you might call for advice only to end up saying, "No, for the love of god don't come over and look at it!  Just tell me how to fix it over the phone," even if you, like me, loathe phones.

He once called tech support with an error number only to find that no end user in history had ever gotten that error and it was widely believed in tech support that it was impossible to get the error without actually trying for it as part of a rigorous testing regime.

It's not that he does anything wrong to electronics.  He handles them with more care than I do, it's just that some sort of thing that science cannot explain causes his mere presence to make them go wrong.

My mother has no such curse.  She was actually a computer programmer before anyone knew what the fuck that was, and probably could have made the family billionaires if she'd had the self confidence to stick with that career.  Then again, I'm of the opinion that if she'd pursued her playing of acoustic guitar, and the accompanying singing she did, as more than a hobby she could have been successful (probably not famous or rich, but enough to live on) there too.

My mother's lack of self esteem is tragic.  On the other hand, it doesn't seem to have prevented her from living a fairly happy life.

But, yeah, tech stuff.  Important to let people know about in case, in spite of the efforts I make to the contrary, not having this computer during repair time makes it so I can't keep Stealing Commas updated.

Hence me posting this before it was finished.  I could have used scheduling to make it listed as going up before the other post (thus letting the other post have top of the blog placement) even though it was posted now which is now almost two hours after I started writing making it almost an hour after the other post went up (do you see how slowly I write?) but it was easier for me to just post the incomplete post early and then finish it as an update.


* They're real bricks, but cut so that they're only about half a centimeter deep.  The result is that, if the facade weren't aged and falling apart, you'd think the chimney was made of brick, along with part of the wall next to it.  Why part of the wall next to it?  No fucking clue.  No other place in the house pretends to be brick.


  1. Have yet to read chipmunk adventure, but Her Unicorn Majesty has a thumb injury that caused MUCH DISTRESS, so you can sympathize with her when you visit.

  2. That's ... wow. Glad to hear the chipmunk eventually made it back out again. >_<

    (Good luck on computer situation - read the other post and came back to read this one. Hopefully warranty repair is quick!)