10

The Hedgehogs’ Smart Home – Part 3

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Where we are: Harry and Vivian Hedgehog’s smart home is becoming a nightmare with merchandise arriving without being ordered. Vivian has been working with Euphrates to fix the problem, but it has continued.

Harry and Vivian were extremely disappointed. As much as they liked Venus, they couldn’t keep using her. It was irritating to keep getting things they hadn’t ordered. Besides, it was tying up their credit while the return was processed. They didn’t want to have any problems with their HedgeAccess card. What would happen if something got lost, and they had to pay Euphrates for something they had never wanted in the first place?

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Harry contacted Euphrates to see if they could use Venus but disable her ability to order from Euphrates. The representative told him that Venus had to communicate with Euphrates. It was part of her basic programming. There was no way to separate the ordering function from the rest of the communications sent to Euphrates.

Harry disconnected his chat and thought about what the representative had said. What type of information would Venus need to send to Euphrates except sales information? He looked at the paperwork they had received from Euphrates when they bought Venus. Reading through it, Harry found what he was looking for:

“All conversations recorded by Venus are the property of Euphrates. This information may be used for marketing purposes or for the solicitation of new customers.”

Hogs! He knew he should have found a hedgehog vendor rather than using the Cobras.

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Harry: It looks like there’s no way around it. It’s either get rid of Venus or live with the unwanted items.

Vivian: We can’t just turn off the ordering?

Harry: No. It’s tied into Euphrates’ ability to listen in on what we say.

Vivian: I knew it was too good to be true. We’ll have to pack everything up and send it back tomorrow.

Harry: Why can’t we do it right now?

Vivian: Don’t you remember? Pete and Stella are coming over for dinner. We have to get ready.

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Pete and Stella were Harry and Vivian’s best friends. Harry and Vivian had moved into the burrow next to their friends. The burrows were so close that sometimes they could head each other scratching the ground or running on the treadmill.

Dinner went well. The grub-avocado salad was delicious. And they enjoyed the dandelion wine, although it did come from a human recipe.

Pete: How’s it going with your smart home?

Harry: Not so well. We keep getting stuff we didn’t order. You’re supposed to get her attention, by saying “Venus” before you ask her to do anything. Apparently, if it’s something they sell, the rules don’t apply.

Vivian: Or something. We can’t figure it out. All we know is that we’re not using the “official” words, and we keep getting stuff.

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Stella: What kind of stuff?

Vivian: The first thing was a television.

Stella looked at Pete.

Pete: Was it a Katsu 4K streaming model?

Vivian: As a matter of fact, it was. Then we got some Badger-b-Gone. The most recent thing was a vacuum cleaner.

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Stella: Oh, my hogs! I am so sorry, but we know what happened.

Harry: You do? How?

Pete: After you got Venus, we thought it would be fun to pretend to order things online with our own Venus.

Stella: So, we told “our” Venus to order a few things. We never thought it would interfere with your real Venus.

Harry: It shouldn’t have. That’s ridiculous.

Pete: I agree. But it’s the only possible explanation.

Harry: You’re probably right. Well, it’s a good thing that we decided to get rid of Venus. It’s bad enough that she was listening in on what we say. But she was spying on you too.

Stella (laughing): It’s a good thing Pete and I weren’t very imaginative when we were playing around. You might have ended up with a 4-foot pink armadillo pillow.

Vivian: I guess it’s back to Prickles and Quills for us.

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12

The Hedgehogs’ Smart Home – Part 2

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Where we are: Harry and Vivian Hedgehog have decided to invest in a smart home. They are extremely happy with Venus, their personal assistant from Euphrates, until merchandise starts arriving at their house that they haven’t ordered. They think that Venus must be ordering things on her own.

In the morning, Vivian called Euphrates about Venus. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Vivian finally reached a representative who spoke hedgehog. She was pretty sure the work was outsourced; the hedgehog was heavily accented with meerkat. Hopefully, they could understand each other.

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Voice: Thank you for calling Euphrates. My name is Eugenia. How may I help you?

Vivian: We purchased a Venus a few weeks ago, and we think she’s ordering things on her own.

Eugenia: That’s not possible. Our technology has been extensively tested to prevent that problem. Perhaps someone in your family ordered the items and didn’t tell you.

Vivian: The only other hedgehog around is my husband.

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Eugenia: He probably ordered the items and didn’t tell you.

Vivian: No, he did not.

Eugenia: Perhaps one of you just forgot what you ordered.

Vivian: We did not forget. Are you going to help me or not?

Eugenia: I am trying to help you. There’s no need to get angry. What is your customer ID?

Vivian: 100-672-437-925-107-688-04692

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Eugenia: Am I speaking with Vivian or Harry Hedgehog?

Vivian: I’m Vivian Hedgehog.

Eugenia: Please give me your mother’s maiden name to verify your identity.

Vivian: We’re hedgehogs! We all have the same last name.

Eugenia: And what is that name?

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Vivian: Hedgehog! This is ridiculous!

Eugenia: Please calm down Mrs. Hedgehog. You’re not helping the situation. It shows that you ordered a Katsu television and 4 boxes of Comco Badger-be-Gone in the last month.

Vivian: That’s what I’m trying to tell you. We didn’t order those things. I’m returning them both.

Eugenia: I see that there is a refund in process for the television. I’m sorry it didn’t meet your expectations.

Vivian: I didn’t have expectations. I. Did. Not. Order. A. Television.

Eugenia: I don’t see anything here about a return on the Badger-b-Gone.

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Vivian: That’s because we just got it yesterday.

Eugenia: You don’t have to be ashamed about wanting to keep the badgers away. I hear they are quite dangerous to hedgehogs. In fact, I’ve read…

Vivian didn’t get to hear what Eugenia had read because she hung up the phone before Eugenia had a chance to tell her.

Vivian was so upset that she needed to spend 45 minutes on the treadmill to calm down. She made herself a cup of marsh-grass tea and tried to decide on her next step.

She went to the contact information on the Euphrates website and discovered that she could chat online with a technical support representative. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone telling her to calm down.

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“Thank you for contacting Euphrates. My name is Tim. How may I help you?

Vivian: We bought a Venus and she is ordering things on Euphrates that we didn’t tell her to.

Tim: That’s extremely unusual. Let me check your account.

Vivian: Thank you.

She waited while he accessing her information.

Tim: Thank you for waiting. Your account shows that you purchased a television and some Badger-b-Gone. Are these the items in question?

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Vivian: Yes. We didn’t order them. Venus ordered them.

Tim: It also shows that you ordered a Venus Ultra X62957. Is that correct?

Vivian: Yes.

Tim: And that is the machine that is giving you trouble?

Vivian: Yes.

Tim: Normally we don’t see a problem with that model. It is possible that the memory was holding data from testing.

Vivian: Can you fix that?

Tim: I have removed everything from the memory between the date of manufacture and the date of purchase. You should be all set.

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Vivian: Thank you very much!

Tim: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Vivian: No. That was the only problem.

Vivian told Harry about her conversation with Tim. They were both excited that they would be able to enjoy Venus without monitoring everything they said for fear that Venus would might pick up something to order.

It seemed that everything was well for a few days. Then they received a vacuum cleaner from Euphrates.

What was going on?

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Next week – Do the hedgehogs finally get to the real reason Venus keeps ordering things?

All pictures courtesy of Google Images

11

The Hedgehogs’ Smart Home

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Harry and Vivian Hedgehog had just moved into a new home and were excited to start decorating.

Vivian: I’d like to do something a little different. It seems like everyone we know is doing rustic. If I see one more pinecone, I swear I’ll scream.

Harry: One of the guys at work says he has a smart house, and he loves it.

Vivian: What’s a smart house? I don’t want anything that orders me around.

Harry: Bob said he has this thing he talks to, and it does what he wants.

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Vivian: Bob the Squirrel? The one who tried to get everyone to sign up for satellite TV so he’d earn money?

Harry: Yeah. That didn’t work out so well, did it?

Vivian: You would think the goofball would have known that trees interfere with satellites. He lives in a tree.

Harry: He said that was the problem. The squirrels put their dishes on the top of their trees, so it worked great for them.

Vivian: OK. Tell me what a smart home is.

Harry: You buy this speaker thing from Euphrates. Then you get stuff that connects to it.

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Vivian: You mean the house is going to be full of wires and cords? That’s not an improvement over pinecones.

Harry: No. That’s the great part. The speaker is the brains of the whole thing. Her name is Venus, and she talks to the other smart stuff and tells them what we want.

Vivian: Does Venus speak hedgehog, or are we supposed to learn squirrel?

Harry: She speaks a lot of languages: hedgehog, squirrel, rabbit, badger, horse. She even speaks water buffalo.

Vivian:  What kinds of things does she control?

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Harry: There are a lot of things. She works with lights, thermostats, security cameras, doorbells, TVs. She even order things from Euphrates if you tell her to.

Vivian: That sounds pretty good. Let’s do it. Too bad she doesn’t cook or clean.

They went to the Euphrates website and ordered Venus and her accessories. A few days later, everything arrived.

Vivian: This is so exciting! I’m the first one of my friends to try all of this. I can’t wait to tell Eve and Judy how this works.

They hooked everything up and started talking to Venus to see how she worked.

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“Venus, turn on the bedroom lights.”

“Venus, turn the heat up to 70 degrees.”

“Venus, turn on ‘Hector Hedgehog and the Lost Treasure’”

“Venus, let us see outside the burrow.”

“Venus, change the bedroom lights to blue.”

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Venus did everything they told her to do without a glitch. They looked around the outside of the burrow before they went to bed, and everything was calm.

Over the next few days, Harry and Vivian discovered that they really liked having Venus around. There were a few small issues, but nothing that they couldn’t work out.

One day, Harry came home from work to a huge television. He stomped into the burrow.

Harry: Vivian! Why on earth did you order that TV? I thought we’d agreed to no more big purchases.

Vivian: What are you talking about? I didn’t order it; you must have. You’re always talking about how much you want a new TV.

Harry: Venus, who ordered the new television?

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Venus: I ordered the television exactly one week ago. Is there a problem?

Harry (sighing): That wasn’t helpful. I wonder if we did it by mistake. I’ve heard that Venus picks up everything we say.

Vivian: We’ll have to be more careful when we’re talking. And return the TV.

Vivian returned the TV.

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They wanted to show off Venus to their friends, and decided to have a dinner party. Each time there was a knock at the door, Harry would ask Venus “Who is at the door?” The friend and Harry greeted each other before the guest entered the burrow.

Harry and Vivian demonstrated Venus interacting with the other smart products. Their friends agreed that Venus was fantastic. Harry and Vivian were glad they had invested in a smart home.

A few days later, Harry came home to a package. He and Vivian accused each other of ordering whatever it was.

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Vivian: Fine. Open it. We can probably tell who ordered it by what it is.

Harry opened the box and pulled out the contents. They both looked at it, confused.

Harry: Badger-b-Gone? We don’t have badgers here.

Vivian: This is very odd. What’s going on?

They both looked at Venus.

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Next week: Why is Venus ordering things on her own?

14

Cat Forum: The Purr-Fect Gift

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Greetings Fellow Felines. Snoops and Kommando Kitty here. It’s time once again for us to give gift suggestions for the holidays. But unlike last year’s list of gifts for the well-to-do cat, this year we have ideas for you to gift your human. (We know it’s backwards, but we do try to be humorous once in a while.)

Does your human like to work in the garden? Do they come in smelling of dirt (or worse)? Do they complain about you leaving “deposits” among their flowers? Are the tables and counters full of fresh veggies part of the year?

Maybe a gardening companion:

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Or a new plant:

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Does your human like to dress up? Do they leave you alone a lot while they go out?

How about a fancy companion:

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Or some new  clothes:

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Does your human like to do crafts? Knit? Crochet?

Maybe their own living pincushion:

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Or some nice fabric:

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Does your human sleep a lot? When you want to eat? When you want to play?

Maybe a pillow buddy:

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Or some new bedding:

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Haven’t seen anything good?

In that case, we recommend the gift no cat-owned human can resist:

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images.

13

Humans in Cheeseland

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We recently received an email that we found a little puzzling. The writer was a human who accused us of not paying appropriate attention to people in our writing.

What puzzled us wasn’t the question. Rather it was how they had found us in the first place.

Generally speaking, there are only a few people who would go to a blog that openly proclaims that it is edited by mice. For some reason, there is a prejudice against mice in many parts of the human world.

Additionally, it seems to us that there are enough magazines, blogs, videos, and so on dedicated to humans. There are magazines for potato farmers, croquette players, and lighthouse keepers, and everyone else (it seems).

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However, humans are mammals. In light of our non-speciest pledge, we decided to speak with this person. We sent Lexi, our language specialist.

Lexi: Welcome to Cheeseland. I’m Lexi.

Human: Hello, Lexi. I’m Charles. Thank you for meeting with me. I hope you don’t mind that I brought along someone to document our meeting.

Lexi: I guess not. Why is he wearing protective gear?

Charles: I was hoping to meet someone a little more, um, exotic.

Lexi: Really? Like what?

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Charles: I was thinking a crocodile or hippo.

Lexi: You realize that we’re not in Africa, don’t you?

Charles (embarrassed): I didn’t think I was going to be meeting with an actual animal.

Lexi: Excuse me?

Charles: You know. A non-human. I thought this was a gimmick for some type of animal rights group. You are an actual dog, aren’t you?

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Lexi: Of course I am.

Charles: You wouldn’t mind me touching you just to make sure, would you?

Lexi growls.

Charles: OK. Don’t get excited. Just let me talk to the humans who work here.

Lexi: What are you talking about?

Charles: You know. The people who write the articles.

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Lexi: Have you actually read Cheeseland?

Charles: A little. You don’t expect me to believe that cats and a mongoose and an elephant write articles do you?

Lexi: Why not?

Charles: What do they do? Use their furry little paws to type? And their furry little brains to think?

Lexi growls again.

Charles: OK, OK. Let me see the newsroom. I can decide who to talk to there.

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Lexi: Fine.

They walk down the hall and enter the newsroom. There are a few cats, a couple of dogs, a hedgehog, and a couple of ravens.

Charles: Very funny. A room full of animals making a bunch of noise.

Lexi: This is the newsroom. And these are the reporters. The editors are next door.

Charles: There aren’t any real computers in here.

Lexi: Those are real computers. They have voice recognition technology instead of keyboards. That way we don’t have to use our “furry little paws” to type.

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Charles: Let me talk to one of the reporters. I want that cat over there.

He points to a gentle-looking mixed breed. Lexi talks to her.

Lexi: Dar, this man would like to speak to you. He has the strange idea that we’re all humans dressed up like animals. You’ll have to listen carefully, he has a very thick human accent.

Dar: Hello. My name is Darlene. How may I help you?

Charles: Will you please take me to the humans who are running this place? I don’t understand all the animals running around thinking they’re people, but I’m going to get to the bottom of this.

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Darlene: Why would we think we’re people? We’re happy the way we are.

Charles (frustrated): Just show me any human.

Darlene: We don’t have humans, just other species.

Charles: There has to be a person somewhere.

Lexi: The only human we know is Cat. She pays for the blog.

Charles: I knew it! Take me to her office.

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Lexi: She doesn’t have an office. She doesn’t live in Cheeseland.

Charles: Fine. I’ve had enough. You get all of this, Willy?

Willy: Yep. But people are never going to believe it.

Charles: That’s OK. It’s not fake, so they’ll know there’s something weird out here.

Charles and Willy returned home. They posted the video to YouTube and waited for the response. The only comment they got was “???”. When they looked at the video again, all it showed was Charles talking and a German Shepard barking. Then Charles talking and a cat meowing.

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21

Homeowners’ Association Monthly Meeting

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Forest Glenn is an upper middle class subdivision with a diverse multi-species population. Before moving in, residents must sign a contract agreeing to be governed by the decisions of the Homeowners’ Association.

Please find below the minutes from the August 1, Forest Glenn Homeowners’ Association Monthly Meeting.

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm. Approximately 30 homes were represented at the meeting.

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Horace Hogg, president of the Association, reminded everyone that the pool would be closed for the season following the annual Labor Day party. He wants everyone to be courteous in the dish they bring to the event. We do not want a repeat of last year when one of the guests saw a relative being eaten by other guests.

Halloween is coming. A reminder to residents: no decorations are allowed that flash, light up, or are offensive to other residents. Therefore, witches and pumpkins are acceptable, but no negative portrayals of cats or bats.

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Decorations are limited to the porch and front of the house. Real blood is prohibited due to health concerns.

There have been violations of several Association policies during the past month. If residents have not corrected the problem by the end of August, fees will be assessed.

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Grass must be no higher than 1 inch – Beau Bison, Shelley Sheep. Lack of appetite is not an acceptable reason for non-compliance.

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No lawn ornaments – Dolly Deer, Joe Jaguar, Bob Beaver. Lawn ornaments include (but are not limited to) gnomes, flamingos, and wooden “Welcome” signs.

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No buildings except a house and garage – Alan Aardvark. Buildings include sheds, tree houses and permanent play houses for your children.

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One flag may be displayed per house and no flags larger than 2 feet by 3 feet displayed from the front of the house – Edgar Eagle, Larry Lion. Flags include national flags, state flags, school flags, college flags, and club membership flags. Homemade flags are discouraged. Flagpoles are prohibited.

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Political signs are not allowed on lawns – Delilah Donkey, Edgar Elephant. These signs are considered lawn ornaments, and particularly tacky ones. No one cares who you are voting for.

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Only shrub fences – Tommy Tortoise. Any other material would ruin the natural beauty of the subdivision. If residents were allowed to use materials of their choosing, we would be faced with the possibility of something cheap and tacky. You know we can’t trust everyone’s taste.

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Quiet time between midnight and 6 am – Billy Bat, Harold Hyena. Nocturnal animals are welcome in the neighborhood, but must abide by association rules. Additionally, parties which last past midnight must be moved into the home. Vehicles with loud engines may not be used during the quiet period.

Some reminders for fall:

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Do not burn your leaves. They may be used for mulch or saved in the backyard for burrowing relatives to use during the winter. The Association will collect unwanted leaves for the less fortunate.

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All plants must be trimmed back to no more than a foot tall before the snow falls. You are welcome to eat them yourselves or share with a friend. We will provide names of plant trimmers upon request. You may add small branches to your mulch or leaf pile if you wish.

If you are expecting relatives for the winter, fees are due to be paid no later than October 15. As usual, group rates are available.

The meeting adjourned at 9 pm. The next meeting will be September 5.

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