Round table: Aluminum foil and flour: Just a normal morning around here

March 14, 2012

I can tell you when I noticed it. The reason I can tell you when I noticed it is, this year I decided to get back into the habit of actually keeping an up-to-date calendar. You see, last year I bought a calendar, but for some odd reason, I didn't use it.

But this year, I've got a calendar, and I can look back, and tell you when I noticed it.

Or more specifically, noticed when it was gone.

You see, Peny went down to see the grandkids. That's what I had written down on the calendar. And I was home alone.

It was a Saturday. I had just gotten back to the house from grocery shopping. The snow from the last storm was finally gone from the driveway, and I figured it would be nice not to have to use a sled to bring the groceries in.

The driveway had snow on it for so long, we didn't have much reason to lock the door. I mean, you could hardly get up the driveway.

Or so I thought.

Anyway, home I arrived, and I figured I'd check the email. And that's when I noticed it.

Gone.

Not the computer, mind you, but my portable hard drive, that used to sit right on top of my computer.

The USB cord was still plugged into the front of the computer, but the other end was lying on the futon.

How odd. And how unnerving. The helpless feeling, you know the feeling. It was well-described by our intern, Hallie, in a story she recently wrote. It was indescribable. I didn't know where to start feeling.

So I scanned around the room, the house, in closets. I looked out in the garage. I checked the recycling. The recycling? Why am I caring if the recycling is still here? If you're gonna take something, by all means, please, take my recycling.

But, you took my hard drive. What do you want, my personal information? Can I clue you in - you may want to check what's on it before you take it, because it wasn't there.

What on earth are you going to do with it? You probably don't even like the kind of music I listen to. I really hope you don't.

I called Peny. The feeling I had inside of me seemed to magically transfer through the phone lines to her. The feeling that someone has been in the house. There were several more calls back and forth, and some emails.

"Did you find it"

"Nope. Weird. I can't find anything else that was taken. All of your stuff still seems to be here. Did you take your digital recorder with you? I can't find that."

"Yes, I have it. We better start locking the doors. I'll be home soon."

That's the mystery, because the hard drive was the only thing that was gone. Just a small metal box at the end of a USB cord.

So we locked the doors. And I had new keys made. And security at the fort tightened up.

I locked the doors when I was home during the day. I locked them in the morning. I checked them at night.

And 20 days went by. Just like that. All quiet.

Until the next morning.

"Hey, have you seen my card reader?"

I looked at her.

"You've got to be kidding."

"Nope, the card reader, with the USB cable, it's gone too. I don't think the card reader was plugged into my computer."

Our computers are less than 10 feet away from each other. Same room. At essentially the same desk-height.

And now, two same sized, same colored small metal boxes have been removed off the tops of two computers. They're gone.

"We used to have packrats that took jewelry," she said to me.

I thought to myself, 'You've got to be kidding.'

"Packrats, huh?" I said, probably disbelievingly.

"Yeah, they like shiny things."

I looked at our 17 pound cat. "Some guard-cat you've turned out to be," I told him. He meowed and then began to attack a very specific area of a rug that did not appear to have anything on it.

My mind churned. Yes, packrats. It makes perfect sense. No signs of forced entry in 20 days. Two similar computer accessories missing. Came in through the cat door, no doubt. Can my hard-drive be close by, buried under a rock somewhere?

What would Sherlock Holmes do?

I start to devise a long-term plan. I need to track this rodent, and find out where it lives. I have ideas.

I'm thinking of ordering one of those LoJack devices that police use to locate stolen cars.

I've got some friends that radio-tag fish. Maybe something like that.

I know what I need, I need a GPS device. Yes, definitely. How small are those GPS things, anyway?

Hell, I'll settle for one of those gizmos that's supposed to help you locate lost keys.

I will wrap one of these items up, in a nice, shiny package. And you, Mr. Packrat, will take it back to your lair.

And I will activate that device, and I will find you. Oh, yes, I will find you.

The clock says it's almost 8 a.m. and I have to go. It turns out I don't have any of those electronic devices right now, so we'll go with a low-tech approach for today.

You like shiny objects, huh? Well, here's a nice shiny ball of aluminum foil. And it's filled with flour. That's right, flour. Oh, and I also poked a bunch of holes in the aluminum foil ball. That way, the flour is going to spill out, and I will track you back to your nest.

I really hope this works.

And I lock the door on my way out. I hope some more. It's a much better feeling to hope, rather than think someone has been in the house.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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