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   Wetenschapper posted on Pet Peeves  Starlings! I hate 'em. They keep trying to colonize the big linden tree in the front yard. No thanks, I've seen what these highly social birds can do once they decided to roost, en masse, in a tree - constant racket and bird poo so thick on the ground you'd think it had snowed.

Well, after several weeks of chasing them off with a slingshot - a risky proposition, since I never know where the missile is going to come back down, maybe a window somewhere - I think I've found the perfect solution: a laser pointer. The 1Mw ones used for giving slide talks aren't bright enough. They have to be easily visible in daylight. I recommend a 500 or even a 1000mw bright green laser. Usually, the bright spot in the foliage is enough to frighten the flock away. For stubborn stragglers, it may take a shot to the eyes (they light up like cats' eyes, by the way ) followed by a couple of days of bumping into limbs to convince them this tree is not theirs. There are companies online selling suitable lasers, usually in the $50 range.
August 2 at 13:25 EST .

   8 people like this.

   GO3  You're right. Stick with the green lasers esp in daylight hours.
August 3 at 02:56 EST .

  7 people like this.

   Wetenschapper posted on Dogs, Cats & Critters  Our pet rat, Maggie, who thinks she's a dog. She comes when called, follows us around the house, and tugs on your pants cuff to beg to be picked up and petted. Here she is, enjoying a hazelnut with the neighbor's daughter.
   September 5 at 07:48 EST .

   17 people like this.

   FlatCityGirl  What kind of a rat is she?
September 12 at 14:19 EST .

  16 people like this.

   Gram77  AS a little girl my mother had a pet rat called Peppy. He was a problem when she practiced the piano. Peppy thought it was a game to see how many times he could jump on her fingers.
September 15 at 13:28 EST .

  13 people like this.

   Wetenschapper  Maggie is a "brown" rat, a Rattus norvegicus, as are all the tame, or "fancy" rats that one sees in the pet store. Her particular coat markings are called variegated, which gives her spots of color around her head, like a Jack Russel terrier. Rats make wonderful pets. They docile, playful, intelligent, and clean - they can be trained (as Maggie has ) to use a little litterbox. The only downside to pet rats is that the poor creatures only live 2-3 years, so you have to enjoy their company while you can.
September 17 at 13:20 EST .

  9 people like this.

   Mmlj4 posted on Wetenschapper  About your response to my Linux comment: OpenSUSE? I don't think it does enough hand-holding for the average user who's switching from Windows. Neither does Fedora.

By the way, I ran SuSE since version 6.2, up until Novell's deal with Microsoft. Honestly I can't stand Ubuntu, but I see its value these days (Mint is a little less unbearable). Nowadays I run CentOS on servers (long, depressing story) and Arch on my personal desktops and laptops. My favorite of all is NetBSD, but it's not really a practical OS.
November 10 at 10:01 EST .

   16 people like this.

   Wetenschapper  I tend to check in with The Connection about once every six months, so I apologize for the delayed response. Interestingly, SuSE 6.2 was also the version I started with, played with it for about six months, then abandoned it, since Linux at that time seemed more like a box of spare parts than it did a real operating system. Sometime around 2006, a colleague introduced me to Ubuntu, and I loved it - a love affair that quickly went down the toilet when they moved to the Unity interface. I tried several distros, eventaully settling on Suse. I like the Gnome 3 interface, and Suse Leap is extremely stable.
April 2 at 11:41 EST .

  12 people like this.

   Wetenschapper posted on Dogs, Cats & Critters  You'll notice my post below defending rodents; well, confession time, there's a reason for that. After years of working with rats in a lab situation, it dawned on me that these little fellows are intelligent, clean, even affectionate, and our son was wanting a pet, so I thought..why not rats? Contrary to all stereotypes, they're quite lovable little creatures - then learn their names and come when called, they use a little litterbox in their cage like a cat, they play like kittens, purr when petted by bruxing their teeth, and show affection for their owners by trying to groom their hair, or in my case, my beard. Here's a picture of one of our baby rats, Buster, a Dumbo-eared rat at 21 days old.
   November 5 at 12:12 EST .

   15 people like this.

   Waving flag  Have had rats as pets for years, I heartily second everything OP has said about these darling critters. I get quite offended when people refer to Democrats as rats. Trust me rats are much smarter and more honest.
And Buster is adorable.
November 5 at 12:22 EST .

  10 people like this.

   OnTheBall  OP they've found that lawyers make far better Lab test subjects! Besides there are just some things a rat ~won't do~! And as you pointed out, the rats are actually lovable!
November 5 at 12:36 EST .

  14 people like this.

   Tivadoc  As a teen, I had a rat named Rachel I got from a lab. She was everything OP said and more. She would steal any small shiny object and put it in her cage. Although the initial reaction at home was poor, when she passed away 3 years later everyone was very sad. She was a great pet.
November 5 at 19:08 EST .

  12 people like this.

   Wetenschapper  Our first rat, Ratso, was also a lab rat. Mischievous little guy, used to play with our cat and steal his food, but he was an albino Wistar, and albinos are very nearly blind. Like Tivadoc, we've also had a rat named Ratchel, a blazed Husky, kind of shy, but would brux like crazy when she was petted. Poor rats, as clever and lovable as they are, they only live two or three years. Rats may be one of God's humblest creatures, but they're little points of light in His universe that inspire awe and respect.
November 6 at 08:39 EST .

  10 people like this.

   Wetenschapper posted on Main Page The Lobby  Ah, good I'm on at last! I've been wanting since yesterday to post this video of the US ambassador to Belgium (where I live) lying his patoot off, thinking that Americans, who know better, will probably never see it. Gutman, who is an Obama appointee, appeared on a Flemish talk show after to election, coming across as a shabby cheerleader and apologist for the Obama administration. The Flemings, nonetheless, love him, because to his credit, he's troubled himself to learn a bit of Dutch as well as the usual French. I've actually met the guy when we went to renew my son's passport at the US embassy in Brussels. Even before I knew who he was, he struck me as an oily glad-hander, not unlike BO himself. For the interview, see
November 5 at 06:08 EST .

   15 people like this.

   JLoophole  Thanks for the blood pressure lift, I was feeling a bit sluggish this morning. Just unbelievable. He got the memo, didn't he? "Not a referendum on Obama??" And did you notice he NEVER said "The United States." He said, "my country." The interviewer had a far better grasp on reality. Shabby cheerleader - perfect.
November 5 at 06:17 EST .

  11 people like this.

   Nugoddess  ''Unemployment in my country remains at 9.5%. That was a problem not created by this administration but inherited by it...''

Excuse me but I need my Vasotec. You are correct that he is an oily glad-hander; he's the kid who got beat up on the playground and rightly so.

He's a poor representative of our country.
November 5 at 06:47 EST .

  11 people like this.

   Chillijilli  Used to live/work in Dusseldorf for ~ 5 yrs and miss my mussels in Brussels. Mit frittes no less. Wetenschapper, I'll be looking for your comments. As an expat, I know you see the world and the US with different eyes sometimes...
Also, pls settle an argument for me: is it true that Belgians were able to drive w/out licenses until just a few years ago?
November 5 at 07:57 EST .

  11 people like this.

   Wetenschapper  I've been living near Mechelen, Belgium since 1988, and licenses have been required here since 1970 when my (Belgian) wife got hers, at the very latest. However, there are tiny little cars of about 5 HP with a top speed around 35 mph that you can drive on the streets without having a driver's license, although I've seen fewer than half a dozen of these since I moved here. Perhaps that's what you were thinking of. Coincidentally, Next week, the neighboring village of Elewijt is having a "mosselfeest" and I'll be taking the family to have "Lekkere mosselen met een dikke supplement fritjes" probably with big, sudsy mug of Hoegaarden. MMmmm. Belgians do know food!
November 5 at 09:47 EST .

  13 people like this.

   Saguni  Interesting video, especially this part: "we always have compromise on budgets, even this year's"

Did I miss when they passed the budget this year...I thought they were just letting that slide so the arguments over the Dem's pork wouldn't be so obvious
November 5 at 12:11 EST .

  11 people like this.