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John Kelly's Washington: Bird v. Cat, the heat, water rationing, conserving power, Washington tour guides, more

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John Kelly
Friday, July 9, 2010; 12:00 PM

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John Kelly: This week we explore the age-old tension between people who like this and people who like that. If you are a person who likes this, you can't imagine anyone would prefer that. If you are a person who likes that, you can't imagine anyone would like this.But, you ask, isn't it possible to love both? No! You must choose! That's what we did in this poll earlier this week that asked you whether you preferred extreme winter or extreme summer. It's an unscientific survey, but winter came out on top, 55 percent to 45 percent.Would the results have been different if we'd asked in the dead of winter, with 3 feet of snow outside and no relief in sight? Who knows. What do you think? And how are you dealing with this heatwave? (Or this one?)Then there's the little matter of cats vs. birds, an issue I explored yesterday. Most of the comments have been from people who think housecats should be kept away from birds, lest they kill them. But there was a comment from Solarlobo that expressed something I've seen some cat owners profess to: a perverse sort of pride that their pet is a natural born killer. "I feel it's a part of the balance of nature," Solarlobo wrote. Do you agree?And what do you think of this: The CatBib Will Stop Your Cat from Catching Birds!Time to talk about this and that.

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Pick Your Complaints Please!: I just gotta say...are all the people complaing about the heat also people who complain about the snow and frigid winter weather in February? I do not complain about the heat because I choose to complain about the cold in wintertime. It's obnoxious to complain about both. For me, I much rather have the sun, BBQs, pools, outdoor cocktails, beach trips and all the other joys associated with the summer heat. If you work or live in an environment with not access to HVAC, then I can understand dual complaints, otherwise, hush. That is all. Thanks!

John Kelly: One vote for summer! (Or against winter.) And your position makes sense: You can complain about one or the other, but you can't complain about both. But since when have humans made sense?

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SW Waterfront: So we need an update. How did things turn out with with your Italian teenage visitor? What did he like and dislike? Any new or intriguing insights into how the European young ones view our country?

John Kelly: He's still here so no final verdict yet. Tomorrow we're going to NYC so he can see a Broadway show ("American Idiot," not a typical Broadway show). Next weekend we're going to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. We figure Busch Gardens ought to make him feel at home, since it has Roman Rapids and Escape From Pompeii.What have we done so far? Air and Space, Freer/Sackler, American Indian, Folklife Festival, Washington Monument, Natural History, IMAX movie, Nats game (Nats win in the 9th!), shopping mall. He has English classes in the morning and hasn't done much on his own after they're over. He and his Eurobuddies seem to prefer going to a restaurant or bar and watching the World Cup. Of course, that might be self-preservation on their part. I don't think it reaches 100 degrees that often in Rome. Of course, it's not the caldo, it's the humido.

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John Kelly: And I also gave him a tour of The Washington Post.

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Attic Revisited: Well, John, I followed your advice and investigated the scratching in my attic on my own. Good news is that I survived my excursion. Bad news is that I have a little family of bats living up there. Yes, BATS! Apparently you have to be an expert to remove them as the guy I called initially backed out when I told him what it was...(sigh) home ownership isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

John Kelly: Bats...Why did it have to be bats? On the plus side, they eat insects. On the minus side, they're freakin' bats and they're living in your attic! I guess tiny wooden stakes aren't going to work. Good luck. I wonder if one way to deal with them is to seal up their entry holes while they're out carousing at night. Anyone else have experience with bats in their belfry, er, attic?

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Putting things into perspective: How can you worry about the heat, and its effects on people's health, etc., when we have the traums of LeBron James deciding where to be a multi-millionaire for playing a ball game? Are there still people who feel a sports team actually represents a city, that the players and owners feel real loyalty to a city, and that we should owe more loyalty to a sports team than to any other business in a city? Sports is entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, even if people who wouldn't vote for $100 more a year for school would think nothing of blowing more than that for a couple of hours of watching millionaires play ball. Sad to say, many kids don't realize what a tiny percentage of players acdtually make it big.

John Kelly: not even having heard of the whole "Where will he go? Where will he go?" circus. We could have run a generic headline this morning: "Millionaire athlete leaves one city behind for another city."

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Call boxes at end of each subway call: John, several times this summer I have tried to use one of the intercom boxes to alert the conductor there is no A/C in my car. About half the time, the red light goes on, but the operator never answers. What if it were a REAL emergency? Apparently the boxes don't always work - just like the A/C!

John Kelly: You're assuming that the operator can do something about the broken AC. But you're right, that is troubling. At the least the driver should respond, even if it's just to say that there's a train immediately behind this one and it may have air conditioning.

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Heat wave coverage: Where were the TV news stories with eggs cooking on the blacktop? Is it too much to ask that when we're in the middle of a heat wave that we get a bit of the old hat?

John Kelly: I did see another cliche: a photo of roofers. Roofers always get their pictures taken during heatwaves. But you know who should get their pictures taken? The people who refinish swimming pools. I interviewed one a few years ago who said being down in an empty swimming pool is like being inside a parabolic mirror. All the rays bounce off the white and heat you up like a 7-11 burrito.

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It ain't called the south fer nuttin': I'd rather be roasting in the summer than feel a slight chill in the winter. I. Hate. Winter. The cold, the dark, the ice. I am NOT complaining right now, as sticky as I am.

John Kelly: She prefers extreme winter to extreme summer because in a blizzard the boss doesn't expect you to come into work, but in a heatwave you're supposed to suck it up.

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Summer: Back in late 1960s I worked for the Smithsonian Anthropological Archives, then in the Castle We found a letter from the 1880s, e.g., pre-AC, signed "Yours, Swelteringly".

John Kelly: Good to hear that people noticed the heat even when they didn't have AC. We tend to think that aggravation at the weather only dates from when we could escape it.

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I know this is John Kelly's Washington: And not specifically John Kelly's Washington Post, but could you please convey to powers-that-be that with introduction of the "video" chats (enjoying some, not so much others), someone needs to do a little test screening. Hearing "um" and "like" (except as simile) is distracting, as is unfortunate hand-placement or lack of physical/vocal animation. That said, when do we get a video chat with you (sitting on porch, sipping iced coffee, leaning back in chair, and addressing your many fans)? Do you think journalists/commentators will necessarily need a camera-friendly image in the future?

John Kelly: Are we doing video chats? I'm always the last to know these things. I'd love to do one. And I think some hidden electrodes and shock-therapy would probably help cure people of their "ums" and "likes."

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John Kelly: Here's an e-mail I received from a reader:Don't forget the service that free roaming and feral cats provide by helping to control the rat population in and around Washington D.C.. Although I'd rather my cat not kill birds I can't fault him on his ability to kill rats. His personal best is four in one night.

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re Pick Your Complaints: I totally agree. I hate summer (sorry I missed the poll), except for the occasional dry and less-hot day or evening. But I love, love, love winter -- the colder and snowier the better! I probably grumbled a little when I lost cable and internet (and would have howled if I lost power), and I'll admit I got a bit cabin-feverish with that last foot or so in February -- but even then I would qualify any grumbling by noting that I really do love winter anyway.

John Kelly: It's funny how summer can give you some perspective. When I walked out of the house this morning, I though, "Ooh, it's nice and cool." Now, it was not nice and cool, but after the last couple of days it seemed that way.

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Why Winter Wins...Everytime: I can always put on more clothes, but I can only go so far in taking them off. Summer here is miserable. Enough so that I started at looking at jobs back west. I just can't take the humidity any longer.

John Kelly: Can anybody help me remember a science fiction movie about landing on either an extremely hot or an extremely cold planet? Not "Solaris," the Danny Boyle movie about landing on the sun. The movie I'm thinking of had a scene where the space team leader or whomever is gathering his crew and he asks them, "Do you prefer a hot planet or a cold planet?" Their answers are similar to yours.

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Summer v. Winter: I already weighed in, but forgot to add this -- in winter, you can always add another sweater, scarf, boots, whatever. But when it's like this, there's nothing you can do -- you can't go out naked (and you'd still be too hot even if you did)!

John Kelly: That's hot!

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Weather extremes: I think it's totally appropriate to complain about both really hot and really cold weather. If you're uncomfortable, what difference does it make what the cause is? After all, if we don't complain about the weather, what are we going to talk about with strangers - politics or religion?

John Kelly: We can talk about tourists not standing on the right on Metro escalators.Speaking of which, my younger daughter is a chip off My Lovely Wife. The other day she educated some tourists as to our escalator etiquette. Hey, we had a train to catch.And speaking of My Lovely Wife, I thought we were going to get an M-80 through our letterbox. Someone was shooting off fireworks in our neighborhood early this wweek and she shouted out the window for them to stop. Someone shouted back, "Relax." To which she responded: "Don't tell me to relax when fireworks are illegal, it hasn't rained for weeks and we're under water restrictions."

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Why I subscribe to the Post: After complaining about price increases, content decreases, along comes the story about the Bus Doctor. Hard news? No. Puff piece? No. A delightful read about a unique profession and a slice of life in this tourist-ridden town. Love that the DOT officers interviewed all know him and trust his judgement. I hate the direction in which the Post is going (snarky seems to be Weymouth's style of choice); this was anything but. Thanks!In D.C., tourists come and tourists go -- often thanks only to the Bus Doctor

John Kelly: Wasn't that a great story by Monica Hesse? Yes, it was a joy to read.But don't you think The Post has had snark long before Katharine Weymouth became publisher?

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Your Italian visitor: Any chance you can get him to a show at the 9:30 club? Bet that would give him some impressive cred back home.

John Kelly: Hey, he already saw a show at the Quarry House. And what says cred like a tiny dive that no in Rome has heard of?

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more reasons summer is better: There are beautiful nostalgic sounds that remind us of happy times (cicadas, screen door slamming, fireworks, waves). What does winter have? Ice cracking as you fall on your butt?

John Kelly: Don't you mean your butt cracking as you fall on the ice?

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This One Is Not for the Birds: Oddly, most of the cat-haters I've encountered aren't bird-lovers. They rationalize their hatred by claiming that "cats don't come when you call them," which sounds to me like a control issue.

John Kelly: What I find fascinating is that many people who profess to be animal lovers sort of draw the line at birds. That is, they don't want to cramp their cat's style. Even the ASPCA's Web site says, yeah, cats should be kept inside, but you know, pollution kills more birds then cats. The message seems to be, lay off the cats. But what if my dog was killing any cats that it came across?

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heat wave - keeping cool: Why is the best way to keep cool, indoors or out, never mentioned? Keeping wet with water. Sweat evaporates, cooling us off, and ultimately dehydrating us. Wet the body with water. It evaporates, but doesn't dehydrate. Just putting a wet washcloth on one's head helps a lot. Better yet, put your head under a faucet to wet it. Keeping a wet cloth around the neck is also good. When I am outdoors on a hot day, I carry a spray bottle of water and use it in head, body and limbs. If indoors with just a fan, keeping at least a part of the body wet with water helps a lot, and doesn't cost anything. Drinking water, staying in shade, etc. are good, but the best way to stay cool is to stay wet.

John Kelly: Suddenly, being called "all wet" doesn't sound like such a bad thing.

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in a blizzard the boss doesn't expect you to come into work, but in a heatwave you're supposed to suck it up.: with the cost of AC, I'd rather go to work on a hot day and get free air conditioning than stay home and pay to AC my house.

John Kelly: Do you turn the AC down or off in the day if you're not there? That was mentioned on the radio the other day. Makes sense, although in our house there's seldom a time in summer when no one is there. I tell you what has made a difference though: ceiling fans. We were thinking of getting a second AC unit, since it gets so hot in the upstairs bedrooms. But we put ceiling fans in every room and it's quite bearable.

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sw dc: I think I love your wife.The fireworks were lovely, and I'm able to watch them from my balcony. The illegal ones, well, one went off close enough that it rocked my building. I heard people on other balconies complaining about it, too.And I'd love to see "Metro Etiquette" signs up in the major stations.

John Kelly: I guess someone might call her a killjoy. And I suppose we all of us occasionally break the law. It's possible I may have driven more than 55 mph on the Beltway, for example. But if you live in a place where fireworks are illegal, I don't see where you get off lighting them, then talk back to the person who says, "Hey, knock it off."

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Cats, mice, birds: I equate letting your "pet" (read "domesticated") cat slaughter other creatures akin to allowing your pit bull to take out your neighbor's chihuahua. If you cannot control your pet (letting it run loose outdoors), you are not a responsible owner (leash laws apply to cats as well you know - at least in my county).

John Kelly: Which county are you in? I'm not sure cat leash laws are that prevalent, though avian groups are trying to get them passed.

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standing on the right on Metro escalators: I don't understand why I am supposed to compensate for YOUR lack of time management skills. It is so scary to be on the right-hand side of the escalator as someone runs by hitting one with his briefcase. One of these days I will fall down the escalator after being pushed by someone rushing past. Then I will love summer since my back injury will cause me to be unable to work. I will lie on the beach drinking mojitos with the money collected from Metro. Metro should not encourage running on the escalator with their stick to the right rule.

John Kelly: Look, I don't advocate knocking anyone down. And knocking into someone who is standing on the right is really uncalled for. But I reserve the right to be irritated when the left "lane" is blocked. Metro is so messed up these days that there's no such thing as time management skills. Missing the train that just pulled into the station because some inconsiderate or clueless person is blocking the left land is like missing the last chopper out of Saigon.

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People who like this, people who like that: Can also translate in some ways to citizens who vote "for" a candidate and citizens who vote "against" a candidate. As in, I'm voting "for" the challenger (not necessarily because I know anything particularly positive about him/her) because I just don't like the incumbent and want to vote "against" him/her. I submit polarization is good for the axis of the earth, but not for citizenship.

John Kelly: What about that whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing?

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Extreme moderation: I prefer to complain about both extreme winter and extreme summer (though probably a bit more about summer. (You can always put on more clothes to keep warm but there are only so many pieces of clothing you can remove to keep cool). So, call me a non-conformist, but I prefer to have extremely moderate springs and autumns.

John Kelly: I'd like to conform to a chaise loungue by a swimming pool.

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Rome in July: Temps in mid to upper 90s and some humidity since you are close to ocean. The beach is just a subway ride away. Can get over a 100 and with dewpoints to rival D.C. and they don't have AC. That's why they have their siesta in the afternoons.

John Kelly: And all the apartments have these massive shutters that they crank shut when the sun gets high. We stayed in one apartment that was like a sepulchre when the shutters were closed. Relatively cool inside, though.

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SW Waterfront again: Hmm. How did your Italian guest like the Folklife Festival? Personally, I think it is boring as can be. On top of that, it ruins the Mall! The beautiful vista is interrupted by all the associated crap, and the grass is trampled to nothingness - just when it was beginning to recover from the previous Folklife Festival. I just have never understood why the Smithsonian thinks it is worthwhile.

John Kelly: Let's just say I think I overestimated a teenage boy's interest in the traditional folk dances of Mexico and the sounds of the Japanese koto.

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Arlington Gay: American Idiot. Excellent choice. Partner and I loved it. But only 1 show? We usually see 4 or 5 in a weekend. (Then again, we only have to buy 2 tickets per show, not 5...)

John Kelly: MLW and I saw it when we were last in NYC, so we'll have to see what's on tap at TKTS. It would be nice to see more than one, but those tix add up.

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Cats/Birds: It would only be part of the balance of nature if the cat was left to survive on what it killed, and not fed by the owner.

John Kelly: I didn't even get into feral cats and the whole TNR thing. No, not The New Republic. It's trap, neuter, release. Proponents say clearing out feral cat colonies just encourages a new colony to move in.

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Second the bus doctor story: As entertaining as spy-swap, LiLo hearing, and upcoming election stories may be, there was something delightfully local and positive about a solid guy doing a solid job. I *heart* stories like these.

John Kelly: Really. It makes those of us who tap a keyboard all day long seem kinda lame, doesn't it?

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I'll feel how to tell me to feel: So John, how am I supposed to feel when I read things like "The did not remove any items..." in the Post? Outraged that such a great paper lets things like this into print? Do I just laugh and move on? I'm not even a professional and I find things like this all the time. I know, I know; you're losing editors, but this? Honestly? Sigh.

John Kelly: You're supposed to write a letter to Free for All! That's why we put those typos in: to fill up space on Saturday.

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Turning down the AC: "Do you turn the AC down or off in the day if you're not there? That was mentioned on the radio the other day. Makes sense, although in our house there's seldom a time in summer when no one is there. " We have digital thermostats which let it get hotter during the day and when we're sleeping (and the opposite in the winter). Our electric bills are - on average - over 50 percent less than our neighbors (similar sized houses but we do have a 9 year old energy efficient system and theirs could be older)

John Kelly: like HAL in "2001." "I can't let you turn the air conditioner on, Dave."

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extreme summer: I don't know about y'all but I am drinking hot tea because my office AC is FREEZING. What humidity and heat?

John Kelly: Is your office more likely to be too hot in the winter or too cold in the summer?

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Winter is better: Another reason to love winter - you can go outside! Unless you live in the far north where it's so cold your eyelashes freeze, walking around in the cold is not only possible but invigorating. And even I, a certified klutz, can have a fun workout cross country skiing. But DC summers - all you can do is stay indoors. Forget walking, or despite the crazy running addicts, going for a jog. I only get cabin fever in July and August.

John Kelly: I guess it depends on how you feel about sweat. It's natural, isn't it?

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Wild mice and birds are not the same: "I equate letting your "pet" (read "domesticated") cat slaughter other creatures akin to allowing your pit bull to take out your neighbor's chihuahua. "You must equate accidentially hitting a squirrel with accidentially hitting a pet (while driving your car). If you consider wild animals on par with pets (if a cat or dog kills them) then you must do the same when a human kills them.

John Kelly: So because no one "owns" a goldfinch it's okay if a cat kills it?

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John Kelly: Hey, speaking of Metro, a colleague of mine here, Evelio Contreras, is collecting stories of interesting Metro episodes. He's doing a series of videos on them. You can see more here on Dr. Gridlock's blog. Hit my man up with some cool Metro tales.

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Bats 'n' cats: "Good luck. I wonder if one way to deal with them is to seal up their entry holes while they're out carousing at night." This is what they did when my mom had bats. I think non-lethal methods are now required for most wildlife removal (not rats and mice, however).In MoCo, "altered" cats are the only animal not subject to the leash law. I looked it up. As a cat and bird person, I think cat owners should keep their cats indoors for both the cats and birds' sakes.

John Kelly: I know that's what the humane society trappers I did a column on do with raccoons and squirrels. They wait till the animals are out foraging then seal up the holes. That way the animals can't get back in and are forced to find a new home. Sounds like bats have to be relocated?

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Winter v. summer: Summer is for lethargy. Winter provides us with more opportunities to be heroic (in our own minds, likely). Staying indoors in an inclement winter means tending hearth and home, (re)connecting with family/selves in barren landscape. Braving the elements in winter means walking to the store for a loaf of bread or toilet paper required by Tiny Tim, shoveling out our neighbors, loaning a few logs for the fire, and waving a big hello to a fellow traveler because we're all bundled up and being friendly requires, sometimes, exaggerated waves and "hi". Give me winter. I think we like one another more in the cold. Could I get more anecdotal?

John Kelly: We'll check with you in February and see how your inner Tiny Tim is doing! He might have changed his tune from "God bless us, every one" to "&*%$! us everyone."

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Best Defense is A Good Offense: It would be worth checking with ornithologists to see if judicious placement of birdhouses and feeders would help keep the birds out of cat reach. But after watching old Tom and Jerry cartoons with my kids, I might consider equipping the birds with air-to-ground missiles...

John Kelly: I heard that you don't want feeders in places where cats can find cover in which to wait, sniperlike.

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winter is awful: Snow makes driving a nightmare. There is no analog for the summer - you're free to drive all the time. In the winter, I stay in one small room, with a space heater cranked up. Now, I open the windows and move around the house freely. I have a fan in the room where I'm using the computer, and that suffices.

John Kelly: A vote for summer!

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Natural born cat killers: Have any of these people actually seen a cat attack and kill a bird? I have and it was terrible. It's not like they eat it or anything, they just kill it, play with it for a minute, then walk away. I was traumatized.

John Kelly: One interesting point an expert made: Birds probably have more to fear from house cats than feral cats. House cats, being fed by their owners, are probably in better shape, and thus better able to mount a successful attack, then feral cats.

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Summer v. winter: I don't understand the logic in saying that if you hate extreme heat you can't hate extreme cold. You can hate 'em both! Give me a nice 55 to 75 degree day any time!

John Kelly: You can have it...in October.

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Sealing holes and animals: I have PVC weep holes in my retaining wall. I had a chipmunk burrowing a den in there. I waited until he was out, flooded it with a hose (to make sure) and then put a piece of heavy wire mesh in there (about 4 inches in). Day later, saw the chipmunk trying to get passed it, get frustrated, and leave.

John Kelly: Aww...cute little chipmunk. I love the little critters. Are they a nuisance? Actually, cats kill more rodents than birds, I'm told. I guess I'm just a sucker for those old Chip and Dale cartoons.

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What does winter have? Ice cracking as you fall on your butt?: Snowball fights. Making snowmen with your kids. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Sledding on the hills with neighbors. Writing your name in the snow :) Yeah, winter wins.

John Kelly: I'm feeling chilly all over.

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Nats Park: Was that you up on the Jumbotron the other night, dancing away?

John Kelly: Not me. I never end up on the Jumbotron and I never get a free T-shirt shot at me.

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You Don't have to Shovel Humidity: I am not complaing about the summer and heat. I take it over shoveling 3 ft and snow trying to find a place for it on the six foot piles.The water temps along the Eastern Seaboard are extremely high for this time fo year. High 70's already. It should be a very interesting late August and September when it comes to hurricanes. maybe OC will finally take the direct hit it ahs missed since the early 60's

John Kelly: Let's hope not! Still, I like warm water. It was chilly when we were at Cape May a coupla weeks ago, then again, I'm used to South Carolina in August, with temps like bathwater.

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Summer vs. WInter: Summer. hands down. Yes it's hot and muggy and over-run by tourists in Old Navy flag t-shirts and fanny packs, but the roads are passable. If you don't have AC, you can go to a mall, movie theatre, library, any place that has it. By car, bus, bike, subway, or foot.February? walking was the only option to get out and some days there was no place to walk to as everything was closed!I like my mobility options in the summer.

John Kelly: Summer!

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John Kelly: That's all for today. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget that Camp Moss Hollow still needs your support. You can make a tax-deductible donation to this summer camp for at-risk kids by clicking here.Keep your pets safe in this hot weather, no matter what they might be. And don't forget to drink plenty of fluids yourself. Have a great weekend and see you in the paper next week. As I'll be in Busch Gardens at the end of next week, no chat on July 16, but remember that you can always reach me at kellyj@washpost.com.


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