Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's that big exclamation point on my Dashboard?

I am seeing a lot of web searches coming in for "dashboard exclamation point", so I decided to update this classic post.

Now that the temperature is dropping, a lot of drivers are noticing a new symbol which might have appeared in their dashboard. It looks something like this...

That huge exclamation point certainly looks scary, But don't worry,  this symbol is actually and alert for your cars Tire Pressure Monitoring System, (TPMS) kicking in.

When is gets colder outside, air contracts and reduces your tires air pressure (PSI) slightly. Usually, the reduction is not enough to be dangerous, but certainly enough to trigger the sensor.

How do you fix this problem? First, don't waste your money going to a mechanic. Go check your tires recommended PSI, (usually inside driver-side door) fill it up, and wait for the sensor to eventually turn itself off when driving. Don't fill it to the max psi rating that's printed on the tire.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The war on acid-crapping birds

Every May is starts. The dread. That fearful anxiety of simply knowing that THEY are coming. They are ruthless, dirty and menacing. They have no regard for the rules of war. Their numbers are overwhelming, and like a fire or plague, they move through, consuming and ravaging everything in their path. I'm talking about the European Starling infestation that roosts in my neighborhood every summer and just shits all over everything.

I moved into my current house about three years ago. It has a nice little driveway where I can fit one car and another behind it if I block the sidewalk. Otherwise parking is on the street. The whole front of the house is shaded by a lumbering ancient oak tree that has been there since before the house was built. This is where they start to gather. In April, I usually start a gauntlet of defenses. Bells, red tail hawk sounds, fake owls, and many other countermeasures that eventually prove ineffective. A swarm of 3000 little birds just has no natural predator.

But lets get this out of the way up front. I love nature. I love animals, tress, and being outside. I actually like their dusk and dawn chorus of chatter.

Artists rendition of my front yard

 But they just crap everywhere. My driveway is white. I literally had to clean the roof of my house this weekend with a pressure washer,  bleach solution and then scrub it because of the inches-thick layer of bird feces that have accumulated over the last year.  My grass is dying under the toxins. My kids toys in the backyard are covered, and when it rains, the smell of bird poop is so overwhelming we have to close the windows.

But the worst part is the cars. Normally I wouldn't mind a little bird poop, I can just hose it off. But these bastards shit acid. Seriously, legit Sigourney-Weaver-in-a-power-loader-fighting-the-alien-queen-acid. If I dare let the sun dry spots on the car, they literally strip the Clearcoat off, leaving a ring or a blemish on the paint. I have tried scrubbing, detergents and clay bars, there is just no getting this stuff off. My only defense is to frequently wax it to provide some layer of protection. It helps, but its like building a sandcastle in front of a hurricane.

For four months out of the year, I can’t even use my driveway. My wife has to park across the street, and I park in front of our house. But it doesn’t matter, half of one car will still always get covered.

I wake up to this every single morning. This particular morning was actually lighter than others.

“Try calling the town” you might say.

Well, me and all of my neighbors have tried. Their stance is that it’s an endangered species, and they wont do anything. Never mind the fact it’s actually an invasive species, but hey, I’m sure the public works person has a much more robust understanding of ornithology than I do.

I got a little excited this year when I found a couple of dead birds in my yard. And then I found a few more, and then some more. Then I started to get worried, as I suspected West Nile. So I called up the Nassau County board of health for testing. This is how it went;

Me: “Hi, I have some dead birds in my yard, and I wanted to submit them for testing.
County worker: “I’m sorry, but if you found a dead bird, we no longer accept them for testing. Please wrap it in a double thick plastic bag and throw it in the garbage.”
Me: “I see. Well does it matter that I have 23 dead birds here? My backyard looks like the Heavens Gate Compound back here.”
County worker: “Well I’m sorry sir, but if you have a dead bird, we no longer accept it for testing.”
Me: “I don’t think you heard me right. Not A dead bird, 23 dead birds. This is like some biblical shit going on in my backyard. You really don’t think this warrants at least some consideration?”
County worker: “ I’m sorry, sir we do not. Please simply double-bag the bird and put it into the trash."

So this is not going to get solved anytime soon. Now I’m holding out for colder weather, when these 3000 chirping little bastards migrate south for the winter, or return to hell from whence they are spawned. I’ll try pruning the massive tree some more this year, and perhaps invest in some bottle rockets for next year.  The war will rage on. but in the meantime, I have a lot of really good tips for getting bird crap off of car paint.