Category Archives: Stories

RaccoonWar Intermission

Humanity's challenger. Who will survive?
The group I'm in was just picked to participate in the Red Bull Creation challenge so I was out quite late last night. By the time I staggered into home, I was too tired to set the traps and cameras, so we barricaded the cat door for the night. Tonight, I hope to try out the new trap. I'll have video eyes on it and hope to have footage of the monster in its new cage-shaped home soon.

An Unexpected Development

Watching the logs this morning from the first night's attempt with the computer-enhanced trap, I thought cat shadows had set off the motion detector.  The computer that was supposed to record 'the big picture' had helpfully shut down for Windows Updates an hour before the event, so I could only refer to a collection of snapshots from the detector itself. On further review this afternoon, I discovered unmistakable evidence that what I thought happened had not happened and realized I would need to change my trap.  A lot.

Computermifying the trap

Clearly, I have underestimated my foe in the past, but no longer.  I have tried to meet him on his battlefield: creature versus creature.  This is foolish for he is clearly a better creature than I, a human, who because of civilization am separated somewhat from the mad scrabble of wilderness and the required base cunning it engenders. This was a mistake.  To win, I must use skills he presumably does not have but I possess: Skills of technology and science. I have modified the animal trap so that it no longer matters how delicate his touch is when reaching over the pressure plate to grab the food.  It no longer matters whether or not he can use some sort of raccoon magic to float through the air to secure the prize without triggering the door, because I am now using COMPUTERS. I've attached a camera that looks down into the cage and am monitoring it with Yawcam, a program that can perform actions when motion is detected within a specific area. When the raccoon enters the cage, the motion will cause it to execute a program that uses a electromechanical servo to trigger the pressure plate manually, trapping this furred bandit so I can take him elsewhere. I also now have a camera set up to capture the grand event, recording with my Microsoft LifeCam.  The end of his revolution, friends, WILL be televised.  View the attached video to see the setup if any of this is unclear. I set the trap last night, but when I woke up, it looks to have been triggered by one of my goddamn cats walking past the lamp and changing the light level JUST ENOUGH to set it off.  I'll play around with the lights to avoid a recurrence of this tonight, but I anticipate success in the near future, barring other interference from my GODDAMN CATS. This raccoon has become my furry white whale, I know, but from hells heart I promise I _will_ catch it.

Looking for victory in all the wrong places

The enemy is crafty. He is clever.

Before going to bed, I set the trap. Last night's bait: one uncooked chicken egg. I tried to use peanut butter to bind it to the trigger plate, but my foolish decision to purchase creamy instead of chunky once again came back to punish me. Oh hubris, thou art merciless with thy lessons! I retired to the Raccoon Operations Monitoring Strategy center (aka bed) and slept. At 3:30, chaos visited my home. I woke to clattering and thumping downstairs, punctuated by animal noises. "Aha!" I thought, "the game is afoo-AARRGH!" and tripped on a box on the floor of my unlit room. I banged into things in the noisiest way possible while trying to avoid faceplanting into something sharp and succeeded, but at the cost of stealth. Dazed, I turned to apologize to my wife for waking her and was met instead by an uninterrupted snore. The two kittens that had set up camp atop her blanket-covered form woke long enough to meow a complaint at me then went back to sleep as well. I walked downstairs, my phone in flashlight mode held out before me protectively. From the noises, there could be a swarm of raccoons trying to trap their freed buddy as far as I knew. The thumping had stopped, but there was now an ominous crunching noise. Crunch. Crunch. (pause) Crunch. At the bottom of the stairs, I turned to our family room and checked the cage. Empty. Then movement caught my eye and I realized that the grey shape I had seen was in fact the raccoon. He was... leaning on the cage. Casually. And in his hand, he had cat food. Staring at me, he swallowed then slowly and deliberately put another piece of catfood into his mouth. Crunch. The noises I had heard earlier? Possibly related to our catbear 'Bender', a giant house lion (killer of birds, scourge of mice). When I get downstairs, he's sitting on the couch watching the raccoon. I don't know if they've been battling or if there's some sort of professional courtesy thing going, but the chaos noises have stopped. I'd like to take a moment to unexpectedly talk about my son Marcus and some of the social challenges he faces in school. It's a brief side-story, I promise. Marcus (10) likes cats (he's the 10 year old male version of the 'Can't Hug Every Cat' song, check YouTube if you've not seen it) and this is usually fine except for when it intercepts social interaction with non-cats (specifically, humans). Speaking with him a few weeks ago, I discovered that Marcus had decided that when he wanted to be left alone at recess, it was a hassle to _tell_ people who were coming to talk to him because it took valuable time to explain that no, they were still friends but yes, he just wanted to chill for a little. "Instead", he told me, "now I just hiss at them." This was distressing for any number of reasons, and I told him that taking a page from the Cat Book is not always the best answer. We talked about how important it is to use our words (even when it's a hassle), and how we as humans have options cats don't when it comes to asking folks to back off.
Moriarty to my Holmes? Or Mr. Krab to my Plankton?

Back to 3:30 this morning, I'm facing the raccoon. We're in one of these standoffs. The egg is sitting unmolested within the cage, I now realize that the thumping I heard was him trying to open the catfood bin in the next room, and even though I keep looking at the cage, he just won't go into it. We stand there, then Raccoon takes the next step.

I mean literally, he takes a step towards me. Oh HELL no. So I, calling on millions of years of evolution that has led to the species of man which can harness the atom, fly to other planets, look into the depths of creation itself, respond instinctively. I HISSSSSS at him. "Nope", the raccoon says with his body language, "I don't have time for this flavor of crazy." He turns and heads out the cat door. I secure the cat food behind a door and trudge wearilly upstairs. Last night's battle wasn't a draw, it wasn't a stalemate. It was a loss. The image of that cocky son of a sow leaning on the cage and casually popping Whiskas like they were popcorn, that's the image that'll stay with me for today. To be continued.

The raccoon strikes back

Nature's hamburglar except without the hamburgers

Per my previous post, I set the trap up inside with adequate spacing for the cats to go in and out of the house. Holding off on Tyler's 'put an egg on it' advice for now, I placed a small container of cat food in the cage and set it for action. KayDee and Alex were out late attending the baseball fight so I went to sleep and where visions of trapped raccoons danced through my head.

A half hour or so later downstairs there arose such a clatter, I wearily woke up just enough to ask the returning KayDee what was the matter. The raccoon was apparently in our house when they had come in the front door. Standing on his hind legs next to the cage, he challenged my wife and child for ownership of the house. Alex, flux with territorial pride after watching the Ems handily beat the visiting 'Bears' (which are basically large raccoons, right?) apparently lunged at the invading critter with his hands over his head roaring "Noooooo!" Reconsidering the risk/rewards of remaining, the animal turned and ran out the cat door. The trap, I note, had somehow been set off already but sat empty. KayDee reset it, but when I checked this morning I found it open and containing an empty container of cat food. The raccoon had, apparently, come back in the middle of the night once things had gotten quiet and eaten the food in the trap. Somehow avoiding the trigger plate and with the delicate precision of a surgeon removing a live bomb from someone's chest cavity, he apparently extracted every single little piece of cat food then strolled out the door. For comparison sake, one of our tiny kittens was trapped in this a couple days ago when he set off the feather-light trigger, so this raccoon is an expert. Tonight... I shall attempt again but with the food secured at the back. Hopefully, the awkwardly precarious posture needed to reach it will be his undoing.

(ed: at this point, my friends suggested I try baiting the trap with eggs.  "Ok", I thought.  I'll try that.  Tonight.)

In which I purchase a trap.

Our world, their war.

Raccoonwars update: I bought a trap yesterday and emplaced it in front of the cat door last night. To prevent our own cats from being suddenly captured, we locked them all in our bedroom. "They won't mind, right?" KayDee and I rhetorically asked each other while avoiding eye contact (as we knew our words rang false).

The cats, as it turned out, did in fact mind. Quite a bit. Last night's sleep was punctuated with occasional bouts of plaintive meowing, hissing (they did not appreciate being stuck next to the new kittens which they see as interlopers), and a steady monotonous scratching at the locked bedroom catdoor which had betrayed them by cutting off their easy escape. Meanwhile, the raccoon chose last night to skip our house. Whether he stuck his head in and recognized the baited trap for what it was or reads Facebook and knew what was in the works, he/she was not in the case at 3AM when I finally relented and let the cats free. Tonight, we will try a modified strategy that involves NOT trying to prevent our cats from being dumb and getting caught in the cage. We'll just leave the cage out and hope the Raccoon goes for it while our obnoxious 'cannot-let-Ben-sleep' cats skip it. After last night, I can't really build up a huge head of concern at the thought that one or both of the cats might end up trapped for a few hours in the cage, so it's potentially one of those 'win win' situations. We shall see.

First class jerk

I'm flying out on a business trip in a couple weeks, and due to what must be a hilarious sequence of computer errors, I've somehow been booked First Class for the flight out.  I say "computer errors" because

  1. My company does not do this on purpose.
  2. The people who would do this as a favor for some folks wouldn't for me, for I am a raving douche bag.
So, this leaves me with a conundrum.  I can either sit back and enjoy the flight, staying classy and having a great time up front with the big kids.  Or..... I could be an asshole. Now, I don't need to be a jerk to the stewardesses.  There's nothing I can do on purpose that can be more offensive to them than my presence and personality already brings to the table.  I'm an overweight computer nerd with fucked up facial hair ("Check me out, I'm Wolverine's fat brother!") with the fashion sense of a stray dog covered in garbage.  I'm terrified of any social interaction that doesn't involve my arcade character tea-bagging an opponent over the internet, so my ability in face to face conversation is... limited.  I'm 6'2, which means I tower over most women, so I usually avoid eye contact to avoid "looking menacing".  Unfortunately, this usually backfires when it looks to them like I'm staring at their chest instead.  This is twice as likely when I'm sitting down and they're standing.  Also, by the way, a view that is twice as nice. Finally, my use of technology takes what would otherwise be a casual social crutch and turns it into a rusty nail of stupidity.  For example, I've spent hours reading my iPhone while holding it in my lap.  To me, this is perfectly reasonable, and it may even sound like a fairly normal if geeky thing to do.  The problem is...  the iPhone is invisible to everyone else, so to them, I'm 'that dude that keeps staring at his crotch and occasionally poking it'. So...  this aside, what else can I do to properly take advantage of this increasingly unlikely seating arrangement?  I've put some thought into this, and I've decided it's time to be...  The Judge. A little known fact about human psychology, we seem to be wired to find the judgment of strangers somehow more relevant and important than the judgment of those we know.  It sounds retarded, and it probably is, but for some reason, if your sister looks at what you're wearing and says "Did a 3 year old child pick out your clothes today?" you can dismiss it.  Bah, sis, whatever.  But when someone on the street looks at your clothes and gives a little smirk, you might feel like ice water just poured down your spine.  "Holy shit!  A stranger looked at me....  and I failed their test!" I don't have an explanation for this (well, I do, but it mostly involves your mother and how fat she is, and also shut up) but I've seen it enough to be convinced that it's true, so perhaps it's time to take advantage of this situation and try it out in public. The Plan (because without a plan, you're just rude.  WITH a plan, you can be a true asshole)
  1. Dress snotty.  This means, as best as I can tell,  'black turtleneck and khakis'.  This is, of course, if television has taught me anything that porn hasn't.
  2. Take advantage of early boarding, get to my seat before everyone else.  This should be cake.  (waves ticket) First Class, remember?
  3. Don't shave.  No reason, I just fucking hate shaving. Now the hard stuff:
  4. As each person boards, look them up and down.
  5. Make brief eye contact so they're looking at me.
  6. Immediately break eye contact and smirk while shaking my head slightly.
That's it.  Nothing fancy. What, you were expecting Isaac Einstein?  No, it's simple, you're doing one small thing.  You're judging them on some basis that's beyond their understanding (because you don't have one) and they failed your standards. So...  I'll judge them.  I'll send each of the cattle back into their pens behind me with the sudden thought that maybe they took a wrong turn in life.  Because not only did a stranger evaluate them on some unknown metric, that stranger was obviously respectable and wise because he was sitting in First Class.  The fact that he'll be riding back home in coach two days later doesn't matter because they don't know.  They'll slouch back to their seats and sit down.  The Air Mall catalogs will mock them from the seatback centimeters in front of their noses, and maybe one or two of them will actually cry a little. Fuck yeah, I'm gonna get me some tears.  Then, back to reading books on my crotch.