“I send greetings to those celebrating the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rat.” — President George Bush

For some reason, that presidential message cracked me up when it arrived in my inbox Tuesday. I guess I don’t expect presidential lunar rat greetings (though the Chinese New Year is certainly worthy of a presidential shout-out).

Today is the first day of the Chinese new year. It is the year of the rat, the first of the 12-year cycle of animals in the Chinese zodiac. The rat is supposedly a protector and bringer of material prosperity. Rat is also associated with aggression, wealth, charm, and order, as well as death, war, the occult, pestilence, and atrocities. Yippee.

I am personally just worried that the rats of DC will decide, “It’s OUR year!!” and raise a revolt. Have mercy upon us.

Living in the city, there are some rats that dwell in the alley behind our house. I was disgusted when I first saw them one night, climbing the stairs of the two-flat right behind us. Actually, they were so large, I first thought they were small cats or an opossum or something. But no, those were rats. I saw them again another night and another night. I usually just looked away quickly in horror, but then one night I started to watch them. This one rat just kept going up and down the stairs, over and over. It was hilarious. We would look out the window and –oh!, there he was again! — up and down, up and down. We named him The Stairmaster, also The Exerciser. And you know what happens when you name something — it becomes a friend.

There appeared to be two rats, though my research on the species indicates that there are always many more, which is a somewhat disgusting thought. But the stairmaster and his friend — I think my next-door neighbors call him Fred — were not too bad. If it was just them, doing their exercise thing on the stairs, I could handle it. They were almost kind of cute.

We tried to live peacefully with the rats. This was in part because it is really hard to get rid of rats in the city, so I felt resigned to accepting them as neighbors. Whenever I walked outside onto our back patio/yard/postage-stamp, I would greet the world by shouting, clapping my hands, and stomping my feet (the joy of the Lord is my strength, you know) to scare any rats away. All of this may sound insane to my suburban or rural readers, and it is, but just substitute some cuter pesky creature — a raccoon, perhaps — and it may make more sense.

But it gets worse. Last week we were enjoying a peaceful evening at home when we heard what sounded like an animal outside — like a dog or cat that wanted to get in, except we don’t have a dog or cat (sadly). Then the sound was suddenly overhead, like some creature with significant toenails was running around upstairs or in the ceiling. It scurried around and then the sound stopped. I banged on the ceiling — nothing. It was not a mouse — we’ve had those before, and you certainly can’t hear them walking.

It was not a pleasant sound.

It may be time to seek vengeance on the rats.

I was living in fear all of that night, but we did not hear or see anything else. One week later, we still have not heard or seen anything else suspicious (at least not in the creature-in-the-house department), so I am just trying to convince myself it was a squirrel on the roof, or an auditory trick, or the dogs next door. I just pray the year of the rat is *not* the year the rats take over my home. Anyone have a nutcracker and an army of wooden soldiers I could borrow?



This morning I was making¬† a tasty cheese grits casserole for a baby shower with fun friends. And in the process of grating the cheese, I also grated my thumb a bit. Don’t worry, party attendees — there was no thumb in yer grits. But I did slice my flesh on what is, apparently, an extremely sharp cheesegrater. Ned and our friends and I are still getting used to the new, very sharp kitchen items we received one year ago for our wedding. This marks the third time someone has shed blood in preparation for a party in our kitchen. Beware!

Dear farm bill,

I really do care about you and I have been trying to arrange my schedule to accommodate your needs. However, I am not sure how much longer I can take this. When are you going to pass? Or fail? Or do something decisive? I feel like you are stringing me along all the time — “next week,”you tell me, then “next week” again. I’m just following you around all the time, waiting for something to happen. And how am I supposed to respond to today’s vote in the Senate, where they failed to lift a filibuster against you? I thought maybe you were dead, — which would have been OK, because then, at least, I could have a wake for you and drink lots of beer. But now you tell me it’s just a coma, or maybe even a nap. So I have to sit by your side until you wake up?! Spare me, farm bill. I just want to be a normal person again and not include “it depends on the farm bill” in my party RSVPs. Either work with me or be gone.


frustrated ag reporter

car crash building

Here they are, the picture from the infamous car crash at my building yesterday. Note the car, half-way in the building, the broken glass, the onlooking crowds, and … yes… the street once again full of cars.


Perhaps some of you have seen the news that has that has gone out like a shot heard ’round the world about Paris Hilton and her big fat charitable concerns for drunk elephants. (I know you’re saying: “well, at least the elephants don’t drive, like certain drunken celebrities we know.”)

It was a lovely little gem of a tale: a celebrity, an odd cause and crazy animal antics — what more could you ask for?

The truth, people — that is what you could ask for. And the AP wasn’t giving it to you, according to Hilton’s publicist.

It turns out the story was completely wrong. Like all wrong. Paris never said anything about the pachyderms, according to her people. Now we need some “responsible” journalism to follow up on why she doesn’t care about them and their drunk elephantine butts after all.

So, I looked out of the window behind my cubicle a few minutes ago and noticed the street was blocked off with firetrucks, police cars, ambulances and police tape. Dozens of people were crowded around on the street and a nearby elevated walkway staring at the base of our building where all the action was, seven floors right under my cube. I could not see what they were observing, but people didn’t seem to be scared or sickened, so I decided it was safe to go outside and check it out. Well, lo and behold. There was a small four-door CAR that had BACKED into the nearly-full-length windows of the building, broken the windows and found itself inside a conference room on the first floor.

I stood with some colleagues staring at the scene, as we wondered, “How did that happen?!” Then I realized, “Hey! We’re reporters! We’re supposed to be able to find out!” I asked around. Word on the street is that an 80-year-old woman was attempting to parallel park and somehow jumped the curb, crossed the three-meter-plus sidewalk, and crashed into the building instead. She was “disappointed,” according to the building’s doorman, who spoke with her after the incident.

I’m not sure how it is possible to jump a curb and bust open a building when you are trying to park. The car was more than halfway INSIDE the building, having broken the ledge of the building and the windows. I assume she must have slammed her foot on the gas when she meant to press the brake.

The great news is that no one was hurt — the driver was fine, there was no one in the conference room that she hit, and she avoided the cart lady, thank God. It was really quite amazing — she could have hit parking meters, the columns on the outside of the building, or a large fenced-in planter area, but she took the one narrow, direct shot between those obstacles to crash right into the windows. Thankfully, no people were in that path, so now we can LAUGH with GLEE at the hilarity of crashing your car into a building. When people get hurt, it’s not so funny.

Very special bonus: there are cars parked all along the road, so whatever available parking spot she was aiming for has since been filled. This means that after the car plowed through the spot and crashed into the building, someone else pulled up and thought, “sweet! an open spot!”

(I had my camera, so I will try to post pictures of this AND the aforementioned champion pumpkin later.)

UPDATE: Photos are UP!