ultra safe pest management called me this morning. i had a really hard time understanding the guy on the phone. after fumbling through the muddle of noises, i was able to cobble together an appointment for 1:00 tomorrow, right after the orkin man who's arriving between 10-12. i know nothing about ultra safe other than randomly finding their ad through google search. they do a lot of publicity, with media appearances and even (supposedly) billboards, so i don't know if they're more flash than substance, or maybe more expensive than some other local pest control companies.

finally i called waltham services, a very discreetly named extermination company with a good local reputation. my parents might've used them before for routine pre-emptive upkeep at the cafe (although they don't quite remember the name of the company, just that it's based in waltham) and even the terminix guy mentioned them when he was listing some of the things (i.e. bait trapping) other companies do. the guy on the phone was so much easier to hear, and based on call clarity alone i would've picked waltham services immediately. they weren't sure about their schedule and called me back a few minutes later for an appointment later this afternoon between 4-6.

fast forward to late afternoon in belmont. bill the termite inspector arrived about 4:00, his 7th appointment of the day. my mother stayed with hailey in my parents' bedroom while my father and i took the inspector on a tour of the house. bill's been in the business for almost 35 years, and said he recently did a house a few blocks away. unlike the terminix guy, bill was very thorough and brought his own tools (maglite, screwdriver, telescopic mirror). after the bedroom, he checked the basement, including all the windows, the support beams, and around the stairs, before finally seeing the garage. he then took a walk around the property, looking for places termites might hide. he had no luck with the rotten piles of wood by the far end of the yard (even he was surprised) but digging through the mulch bed edging the sun room, he actually found some termites.

even though waltham services does termidor barrier treatments, bill was pushing for termite baits using the sentricon "system," the active chemical being noviflumuron, a growth inhibitor. while orkin told me it takes just 40 days to kill the termites using bait traps, bill said it takes months to even a year. he explained that using a barrier treatment will protect the house, but the colonies can still survive underground. bait systems require more time, but the advantage is it eventually kills all the nearby colonies.

after taking a measurement of the house perimeter, he met us back inside to let us know the cost. he punched in a number on his calculator and showed it to my father in the amount of $1800. but since my father has used waltham services before, he qualified for the existing customer discount of 20% which brought the price down to $1500. that's for 2 years of maintenance because technicians have to come back every few months to replace the baits, and then around $225 annually afterwards.

the barrier guy (terminix) told me bait systems are cheaper, while the bait system guy (waltham services) told me barrier treatments are cheaper. it's hard to figure out who's telling the truth, but given the two price quotes, baits cost more because of the additional man hours required to maintain the traps (although broken up over 2 years, that's $750/year, but i think that 2nd year is a marketing device since the termites should be long gone within a year).

i like the bait method because it's not as invasive (doesn't require trenching and drilling holes around the perimeter of the house) and it's also the most environmentally-safe method of termite removal. i don't mind that it's slow working, but its the inherent maintenance and service contract of the system that i don't like. it's almost designed to be expensive because technicians have to make repeated visits. i like the barrier method because it's fast. i also read that it's supposed to last at least 10 years, so that a decade of not having to worry about termites again. no technician has to come by every few months (unless you buy into the annual service plan with the termite-free guarantee). i don't like how much chemical has to be pumped below ground but the actual concentration of termidor is small compared to the overall volume. i also don't like the trenching, but most of our garden has been moved away from the house anyway (via raised beds) so it won't affect us that much.

after weighing the pros and cons, i'm still leaning towards the termidor treatment. the terminix guy is pushy (he called me today asking if we've made a decision yet; when i said we were still getting estimates, he seemed incredulous and asked how many more people do we need to see) but the product he peddles works. bill told me that on a scale on 1 to 10, our "termite infestation" was a 0.2. given that we only seem to have a light dusting of termites, it stands to reason that a barrier treatment should be enough. then afterwards for added security we might plant some termite baits around the yard to kill off any potentially new colonies. the only thing is bill never gave us a price for doing a termidor treatment. i may call him tomorrow to get some numbers. if we are going with termidor, i rather not go through terminix.

after bill left close to 6:00, we had dinner. i returned home around 8:00, the temperature slightly chilly in the 50's, but not as cold as last night when it was rainy and in the 40's. i've got another long day tomorrow, when i have to entertain 2 more exterminators: orkin in the morning and ultra safe pest in the early afternoon.

i spent the rest of the night trying to recover some vacation photos for my godmother. i used to use photorescue (for OS X) but it's getting long in the tooth. i also have cardrescue which i thought was a good program until i scanned the memory stick and a lot of recovered photos were corrupted, even the ones that didn't get erased and were still fine on the card. i came across an old version of klix which crashed each time i ran it, once it got to about 400 photos. i tried a demo version of cardraider which was promising as it managed to recover some photos cardrescue couldn't. i tried data rescue 3.2, but since it's not primarily designed to recover photos from a memory card, it did just as bad as cardrescue. i then tried the latest demo version of klix, and that program managed to recover even more photos than cardraider. klix is a weird app, with some photorescue pedigree, but then tossed around by a few companies. i almost ended up buying klix, but decided to sleep on it and maybe find a PC solution tomorrow.