The Chronicles of Garnabus

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Invasion...

Marie came to me this morning at about 7:45 and said, "Papa, there are a LOT of ants in the kitchen!"

So... how much is a lot to a four year old?

The Common black garden ant (Lasius Niger) is 3mm in length according to David A. Cushman in his research on the impact of Lasius Niger on Bee colonies. 3mm is approximately 1/10 of an inch.

Thus, since the line of ants in my house this morning was no fewer than four ants across (it was a THICK line), that gives us approximately 40 ants per linear inch, or 480 ants per linear foot.
Given that I had three different lies from two different sources, this is going to add up pretty quickly:
From the garden window corner, the ants traversed a 12 foot wall, making a 90 degree turn, traversing another 8 foot wall to the kitchen, and finally another three feet to the garbage bag, which was the only food in the house that they found (making it 23 feet of failed expedition before they finally found any payload – persistent little buggers!), giving us 23 linear feet off the first line of ants, or 11,040 ants.

From the top of the garden corner window, the second entry point, the ants traversed an 8 foot long window before making a 90 degree turn to head down the wall, 8 more feet, to the floor. Half of the line broke off at this point, making a 90 degree vertical turn into the carpet, whence they traversed the same 12 foot line to the kitchen as their compatriots who entered from the garden window floor, but only at 2 ants wide, giving us only 240 ants per linear foot. This line similarly entered the kitchen, but traversed the full six feet of the kitchen to the back wall where they found some cereal on the floor, left by my children. Thus giving us 34 linear feet at 240 ants per foot, for a much smaller payload (I’m guessing as the line passed by the garbage bag where the other ants were partying it up, only to arrive at four meager Gorilla Munch cereal balls, they fired – or perhaps killed and ate - their scouts). Thus, this line would contain 8,160 ants.

Picking up at the split, the rest of this line made a 90 degree turn at the floor, but stayed on the floorboards. Thse proceeded the rest of the 10 feet of that wall, behind furniture, making a 90 degree turn at the back corner of the living room, and proceeding to traverse the 8 feet of wall behind our entertainment center, splitting off at the entertainment center itself to send a line around the front of the entertainment center for God only knows what purpose since these two lines found NOTHING. This being a thicker majority of the line from the garden window, theirs was about three ants thick, giving us 360 ants per linear foot for a total of about 22 linear feet of ants (from the split), or 7,920 ants.

So at the point when my daughter, Marie, came to me and said, “papa, there are a LOT of ants in the kitchen,” there were approximately 27,120 ants in my apartment. I agree with my four year old. That is a LOT of ants!

Heading off their entry points with a heavy dose of cinnamon (ants - at least Lasius Niger - will not willingly cross a line of cinnamon – true story ;o), I went to work moving sofas, plush chairs, children’s chairs, entertainment centers, Ginger’s crate, the coffee table, and various and sundry toys and baby related apparatus. Armed with my Dyson “Animal” Ball Vacuum, I spent two and a half hours from 7:45-10:15 vacuuming up 27,120 + ants (they didn’t all stop coming in, and were spreading further afield in the kitchen, so I’m guessing their numbers must have increased).
To my great satisfaction, when I cinnamoned the upper line at the top of the window, a large, long ant (about 6 or 7 mm) came out of the wall to escape the cinnamon. I assumed it may have been the queen and eargerly, and with great relish (I may have some unresolved aggression issues), vacuumed ‘her’ up. Having now done some research on the subject, ARKive lists the Queen as being 8-9mm long, and a typical mature queen is pictured above, so it may have been an adolescent queen that hadn’t reached maturity yet, but regardless, it made me feel better.

At least Jane had the presence of mind to let me know I was making the ants scary to the children, so I brought them out to look at the lines and talked about how they set down a scent trail and move in lines, and highlighted all the great things they do to promote water absorption in the soil and break down foods that other animals can’t or won’t eat. A good teaching moment in the midst of the chaos is always a fun way to diffuse some of the aggravation of having to deal with the frustration of an invasion. :)
I must say, with the fire, smoke cleaning, van repairs, rains, hail, and now ants, the daily adventures at our house are getting just a bit tiring.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top Ten Worst Songs to have Stuck in your Head (ok, MY head)

10. The Monchichi commercial jingle from the 80's
9. I'm Henry the VIIIth I am
8. The Mozarabic Chant to Eucharistic Prayer D (yes, it happens EVERY Lent)
7. My Little Pony commercial jingle from the 80s - (was I watching Girl cartoons or something?)
6. D'd'd'd'd'Dora (the Explora')
5. Blues Clues
4. What's New Pussycat (or anything else by Tom Jones for that matter ;o)
3. 8-bit Zelda theme song
2. Hey Mickey


And the number one worst song to have stuck in your (my) head...

going on THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS now (and thanks, Fuego, for reminding me tonight so it could have another encore)...

1. Windy (by The Association)

So ya, some of the others are worse in the grand scheme of things, but by **literally** the seven thousandth time in three days, I can think of no worse fate than to have this song stuck in my 'craw' for all eternity. (At this point I'm considering inventing a time machine just so I can go back in time and slap The Association for recording it.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

I made soup

Reentering the stream of blog life after a year and a month, I figured either I needed to have grown a third arm, won the nobel peace prize, or I would just have to bite the bullet and dive in with nothing more exciting and earth shattering than soup...

I also realized that having a private blog means that no one is reading it - thus no incentive to write anything new.

So... TCG is public again!

Oh -- I also have a new blog for Gluten Free recipes - "Boca del Fuego." Actually interested in hearing more about the earth shattering soup? You can check it out there.

I'll reserve this space for real life stories - and of course the more unorthodox creations involving peanut butter paired with foods and spices God never intended.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Tail of Woe

So our newest addition to the family, feline sibling Pele, has recently been urinating on the bathroom floor. No, this isn't a silent protest about some grave injustice being perpetrated by his canine sister, Ginger, his human sister, Emjay, or his other feline brother, Fred. At first I was sure it was, but Pele, assured me (through our vet) that, in fact, he has crystals that are forming in his urinary tract (ouch).

This can be a very dangerous condition for a cat, resulting in blockages and death if the problem is not addressed.

So our vet, Dr. McDonalds, recommended a diet combination of wet and dry food, prescribing a medically available food that is about twice the price of the rocket fuel we already feed our pets.

Now, those who know Fuego and I know that we tend toward the hippie end of the treehugging spectrum. We have spent long hours researching what we feed our pets to try our best to minimize our carbon footprint, as well as maximize the nutritive balance of the foods they eat. We settle for nothing less than human quality foods with no fillers or byproducts, and have enjoyed the benefits of soft, shiny coats, high energy, and digestive bliss. While we were in seminary it is easy to say that the pets ate better than we did.

Since going gluten free, we changed their food, but not the quality (another two weeks of research), moving them away from grains, but maintaining the high level of quality ingredients we had come to demand from our previous supplier.

I say all of this in preparation for the explanation of Dr. McDonalds name.

Not only did she recommend Purina to us - telling us that "Purina's high end foods are really quite good," and that "if we can't afford the medically prescribed food, Purina's urinary health formula would be a good alternative" - but the prescription-only food she medically prescribed for Pele is filled (and by filled, I mean nearly ALL the ingredients) with animal byproducts, grains, and vitimins and minerals sourced from things a cat would NEVER eat in nature.

It's like raising a child on organic foods for the first twelve years of their life only to watch in dismay as they chose to live exclusively off of McDonalds and Hot Pockets in their teens.

So in researching the ingredients in our nutritionally sound rocket fuel vs. the medically prescribed junk food, I discovered only trace differences in the minerals that contribute to crystals, and that the ash (one of the contributing problems) is still LOWER in our food than in the McKibble. I also discovered, in researching cat's urinary health, that grains can contribute to the problem as they can make a cat's urine more base than acidic, allowing for the development of crystals, while a diet mainly composed of meat keeps a low pH (acidic), and prevents the formation of crystals.

End result? We're not giving Pele anymore McKibble - he didn't eat it anyway (good kitty!). We're fasting him on organic free range (yes, locally produced) chicken broth for 24 hours to get him out of the danger zone, and then we're upping his dose of wet food to help him get more water into his system (insufficient water intake is one of the main contributors to crystal formation, and is likely why he is getting them since his food is already better than the prescription formula).

I'll be returning the McKibble (which, by the way runs at $15/4lbs for McKibble vs. $30/20 lbs for Rocket Fuel) with a copy of my comparative nutrition analysis.

I know they mean well, but I think I may have to find a hippier vet ;o)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Return of Zach's!!

Anyone who has lived in Berkeley, or who has visited someone who has lived in Berkeley for that matter, has been to Zachary's Pizza. Mind you, they haven't been just once, but since their first visit, have never considered any other pizza to be of Zachary's caliber - secretly comparing every other bready, cheesy, meaty pie to the Zachary's goodness. It is unparalleled.

If you don't like Zachary's Pizza, you're wrong. I'm sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but you are. You should try it again when you're in the right state of mind, because something must have been blocking the goodness from reaching the taste, texture, and addictive succulence receptors in your brain.

So, now the problem. I can't tolerate gluten anymore. Not only does that mean I can't have pizza, but it means I can't have Zachary's pizza. Not only can I not have Zachary's Pizza, but I can't have Zachary's Pizza and an ice cold beer. This is a problem.

Moving away from Berkeley has meant that in the past two years I have only had Zachary's twice, and since I went gluten free back in October of 07, it means I have almost certainly been Zachary's free for over a year.

Tonight I have the distinct pleasure, ney privilege, ney HONOR to report that I have successfully recreated Zachary's pizza in gluten free form!

In all its deep dish, stuffed crust, chunky tomato, basily, garlicky, hidden cheesy, spiced to perfection goodness, I removed from my oven the near twin to my long lost Berkeley taste bud idol.

Even better than simply getting to have Zachary's... We found a gluten free beer while visiting Jbewan in New York that we have been able to find at Bevmo!

So for the first time in over a year, Fuego and I were able to sit down to a proper dinner of Pizza and Beer -- and OH MY GOD was it GOOD!

Thankfully I made two, because the first one didn't last long =o)

One parting shot of the beautifully towering crust, deep pocket of heirloom tomato, organic zucchini from our garden, garlic, cheese (drunken goat and goat mozzarella), fresh organic basil, and special blend of fantastically delicious spices -- mmmmmm.

Happy eating =o)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Father's Confession

I put my daughter to bed for the first time tonight.

While Emjay has been with us for nearly a year now, and while I have put her to bed countless times over this past year, tonight was different. I didn't know it would be different -- after all she's been our "daughter" all along, right? But apparently something beyond expectation (and beyond explanation) happened today when the courts legally pronounced Fuego and I Emjay's parents and made us a "forever" family.

Tonight, at home, our house seemed more permanent. There was a peace in the air that, I think, all of us could feel. Emjay can never again be claimed by someone else and taken away from us -- we are her parents and she is our daughter. For better or worse, we are a real, permanent family -- forever.

So although Fuego and I have said all along that Emjay is our daughter, the horrible unspoken reality that she was a ward of the court, placed into our care "temporarily," has been a truth that has kept me guarded for almost a year. Every time I have comforted her, fed her, changed her, spent time with her, and risked loving her in the hope that someday she would truly be my daughter, a part of me held back. I don't think I really knew or understood that until tonight.

Tonight, with a simple piece of paper in our possession that says unequivocally that I am Emjay's father and Fuego is her mother, I truly felt it in my heart for the first time that Emjay is my real and true daughter.

Thus, through new eyes, I put my daughter to bed for the first time tonight. No longer guarded, no longer holding anything back. A real father putting his real daughter to bed -- just like every other real family gets to do.

Ya... I could get used to this =o)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Having confessed my angst over my deteriorating relationship with my computer, I would be remiss in failing to blog about today's Emjay news!! So... while this cursed thing is up and running, with the program already open that I need, I am going to enjoy a brief opportunity to revel in functionality and blog TWICE in a single day -- thereby increasing my recent blogging productivity by infinity plus 2 (it's a product of zero kind of thing...sorry).

Today we signed papers with our two social workers that effectively ended Emjay's foster days -- she is officially no longer in foster care! (She is not, however, officially adopted, this will happen sometime between the last week in February and the first week in March.)

Today Fuego and I met with Emjay's county social worker and our adoption social worker to sign papers declaring our intention to adopt Emjay. While, of course, we intended all along to adopt her, the special significance of today's signing is that the State of California now recognizes Emjay as legally adoptable, and by our signing of today's papers, she has officially transitioned from being in foster care to being placed in her adoptive home.

Of all the years our social workers have collectively been working in adoptions, this was the first time they experienced a couple taking pictures of the signing. Yes, Fuego and I are officially the sappiest adoptive parents they have EVER met. They were, however, great sports about it, and the pictures will go wonderfully in Emjay's life book =o).

With today's signing, and tomorrow's adoptions paperwork from the county (that our adoptions social worker will be bringing for her LAST home visit), we will know by Friday what date has been set for us to meet with a judge to legalize Emjay's adoption and end this first stage of our lifelong journey together. Fuego and I are both ecstatic!

After obtaining the legal stamp of approval, Emjay will be issued a new birth certificate with her permanent name and with Fuego and I as her parents. While this will take about nine months to finally arrive at our home, it has already been VERY exciting to see all the new paperwork bearing Emjay's permanent name -- there's something profound and powerful about getting to name your child and have it actually recognized in legal documents after so many months.

And thus, having ultimately, and with profound finality, shed her "foster-stank," Emjay is preparing, in her newly designated residence of "Adoptive Placement" to be united permanently with her mama Fuego and papa Garnabus!

It has been a journey well worth repeating... which we plan to do in the near future ;o) Stay tuned!

Missing in Action

I have a bone to pick with my computer. When we first started courting, it was responsive, attentive, quick to please, and almost never disappointed me. It did what I asked without reserve and seemed only too happy to perform at optimal level, anytime, day or night -- it was almost as though I could do no wrong by my electronic companion.

Well, as time goes on, things change. Perhaps it feels that I took it's ready screen and responsive processor for granted over the long years of seminary when I took endless pages of notes for countless classes, wrote thousands of pages of papers (no really, thousands), and added programs and updated capabilities so that I could take teleconference classes over the internet from far distant countries. Perhaps it was offended when I insisted on using protection, installing and updating anti-virus software. Perhaps it felt I was cheating on it when I got that first job out of Seminary and came home smelling of another keyboard.

Whatever the reason, my computer is now no longer the computer I brought home. It is inattentive (it takes as long for it to come out of "suspend" as it used to take for it to start up from being completely off), slow to respond (opening any particular program can take as long as two minutes), haughty and condescending (suggests downloading and upgrading programs I've already downloaded and upgraded, and which have been running properly for months), self absorbed and self serving (it doesn't bother asking anymore whether or not I want it to download and install Windows and Norton updates, and sacrifices performance by running these unwanted and untimely updates invisibly in the background).

Out of jealousy, I have begun to spy on my computer -- monitoring those processes in the Task Manager that run in the background and use up the majority of my processor and memory resources.

I have tried reasoning with my computer. I have offered retreats and day spas in the form of registry optimizations, and defragmentations. I have trimmed the fat and improved its diet by removal of extraneous data and unused and unwanted programs. I have offered peace overtures and even suggested counseling by agreeing to the manufacturer's upgrade to internal service monitoring. But, ultimately, I have started to distance myself from my computer. More and more, I find myself simply using my iPhone to email, search the web, get directions, check the weather, and listen to music. My computer probably considers this a slap in the face, the iPhone being younger and sleeker, but I have needs, and the iPhone is quite frankly faster and has a LOT less baggage.

I fear that my computer and I may be approaching the end of our relationship. I'm pretty much just modeming it in at this point. As many of you who have checked my blog with any frequency over the past couple of months can attest, I'm just not online very much anymore, and to be honest, it is simply because I have experienced ever increasing lack of patience with my long-time companion. It just doesn't seem to have any fight left anymore, and for my own part, I don't have the patience anymore to wait for fifteen minutes for it to finally start up and have the program up and running that I need in order to blog (that fifteen minutes is about my whole window of patience for screen time when nothing is working at a reasonable speed).

To compound matters, many of you remember my desperate post about my work computer's attitude of indifference and apathy. I just don't have the strength to fight all day to get anything done, just to have the same problem at home.

Thus, I have resigned myself to ending it with my computer and I am saving up for a MacBook Pro.

The separation may take some time, we've been together pretty long, but I think we'll all be happier in the long run -- and then I can really get back to blogging regularly! It's time to move on with my life (keep telling yourself that, Garnabus, it will get easier with time...)