Bats in the belfry… I mean closet

Bat in the ClosetIt all began a couple of weeks ago. Lying in bed at night, SLP and I both heard a strange rustling sound in the ceiling. Unable to do anything about it, and uncertain if it even was anything to be concerned about, we listened for a few minutes and then, when it stopped, went back to sleep.

Then we went away for a week. We’ve been back for three or four days. Last night around 10 PM we were lying in bed, each watching our respective iPods. (Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm; she, 30 Rock; the fact that we were both isolated in the worlds of our pocket-sized cocoons rather than interacting with each other or even watching the same show, a sign of the times. We’ve also been known to sit side-by-side, each competing against an AI opponent in computer Scrabble, rather than just busting out the board and playing the game together.)

And then it happened. We both jolted up at the sound of a thud and some frantic rustling in the cheap economical IKEA wardrobe at the foot of the bed.

What transpired next was a scene worthy of the sitcoms we were watching.

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah… was it… in the closet???”

“I think so.”

“What should we do?”


“Maybe it was just some clothes falling down.”

“Yeah…” And then I went for it. Foolish, perhaps, but I opened the door. The next 1/8 of a second happened in slow motion. Something dark writhed slowly in the air and landed, stunned, on the floor.

“IT’S A BAT!” I shrieked, channeling my inner 7-year-old girl.

We both leapt from the bed and danced around on tiptoes, arms flailing, for a few seconds.

“Cover it!”

“With what???”

“Find something!!!!”

I grabbed an empty toy bin and nervously inched towards the still-still bat. I frantically threw the bin over it, hoping it was covered.

“Now what?”

“Is it dead?”

“I don’t know. I think I hear it rustling around in there.”

After consulting the Interwebs, we determined a course of action: SLP went down to the basement to get a large piece of cardboard to slide under the bin, trapping the bat in a makeshift cage, while I continued the tiptoe dance upstairs. (Miraculously our 4 1/2-year-old son slept peacefully, feet away, through it all.)

Eventually she returned with the cardboard, which I gingerly slid under the bin. I peeked around to the back, where I discovered (with more shrieks and cringing) that part of one of the bat’s wings was protruding… but it appeared secure.

My wife sprinted down to the kitchen as I carefully made my way, holding the cardboard in place and somehow controlling my natural clumsiness adequately to keep from bumping against a door frame and prematurely freeing the beast, until I made it to the back door.

While she held the door open, I stepped out into the snow in my bare feet, shouted, “Here we go!” and with much haste hurled the lot as far out onto the driveway as possible.

It took several hours to come down from the trauma, but eventually I fell asleep. I saw this morning that our driveway-sharing neighbor had moved it off to the side, and it did not appear that anyone had needed to be taken to the hospital for rabies shots, so I am assuming the bat escaped.

The question remains, how exactly did it get into the roof (assuming it was what we heard a few weeks ago), and furthermore how it got from the rafters down into the bedroom and then, unnoticed, into the wardrobe. I blame shoddy work by the roofers who probably did not adequately vent our bathroom fan two years ago. For now, though, I am simply glad that there are (as far as we know) no longer any non-human mammals dwelling in our home.

The Monty Hall Problem

This is an old story, but a coworker and I were just discussing “The Monty Hall Problem,” which comes down to the common scenario from the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal”: If you have three doors, with a car behind one of them, and dud prizes behind the other two, once you’ve made your selection and the host reveals a dud prize behind one of the other doors, does it make sense for you to switch doors or stick with the one you’ve picked?

The simple intuitive answer is that it makes no difference, now that there’s a 50/50 shot at opening the right door. But it seems that 2/3 of the time it’s better to switch! We pondered this for a while and I guessed that it may have something to do with the fact that the host knows which door the car is really behind.

Apparently that’s correct. (Since this link points to an ancient [in Internet time] web page that may or may not endure, although it’s made it this long, I’ll provide a summary here.)

Let’s Make a Deal Roulette Wheel

This roulette wheel is the key. The inner circle is the door the car is behind, the middle circle is the door the contestant picks, and the outer circle is the door(s) Monty Hall can open after the contestant picks. The red spaces indicate that the contestant should switch, and the blue that they should not. 2/3 of the time it’s better to switch, because Monty Hall has basically been forced to reveal that the car is behind the door the contestant did not pick.

In other words, the contestant picks the right door the first time 1/3 of the time. This is pretty straightforward. That means that 2/3 of the time they did not pick the right door the first time, also straightforward. Therefore, since 2/3 of the time the car is not behind the door they picked, and Monty Hall will never open the door the car is behind, then 2/3 of the time the car is behind the door that neither the contestant nor Monty Hall picked, so the contestant doubles their chance of winning by switching.

What the bell…?

OK, I had several ideas for the title of this entry, all of them lame. The one I chose was no more or less lame than the others. Anyway…

We spent last night at a hotel in Baltimore. A convention happened to be going on at the hotel. A convention the likes of which I had never even imagined could exist.

It was Bells Galore in Baltimore! This was the 2006 convention of the American Bell Association. Yes, bells. These people collect bells. They talk about bells. They dream about bells. And they most certainly ring bells. Throughout the afternoon and evening, the sound of ringing bells could occasionally be heard wafting through the halls.

Now, the range of ages in attendance spanned from teenagers upward, but I would have to guess that the median was somewhere around 83. And it just so happens that the East Coast has been hammered for the past several days with heavy rains from a stalled front. Last night the rain was particularly heavy, and around 10 PM the power in the hotel went out. It was rather odd, since all of the adjacent buildings, including a large mall across the street, still had power. Luckily, it was late enough that we just decided to go to bed, but around a half hour later, the fire alarms started going off. Disturbingly, the hotel had no emergency lights, so the hallways were completely dark. Several of us illumated our own path with our cell phones. (Ah, the wonders of the modern age.)

Well, halfway down the stairs we were met by the hotel manager, who informed us that there was not an emergency and we did not need to evacuate; the alarms were simply malfunctioning due to the power outage. Of course, the hotel was filled with octagenarians; not the best time for such a fandango. So a while later the fire department arrived (formalities), and they had to go door to door knocking and asking if anyone needed medical assistance.

Fortunately we didn’t, although the fire alarms continued to sound about every 10 minutes for the next half hour or so, spaced out just perfectly to wake up our 3-month-old daughter each time just as she was falling asleep.