Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Puzzle

A couple other Holidailies participants have mentioned jigsaw puzzles in recent weeks, which got me thinking. I haven't done any puzzles at home for the last few years because the last puzzle, a gigantic Neuschwanstein Castle picture, took me so long to put together that Effing Scooter peed on some of the pieces and then Molly the Deaf (and incredibly dumb) chewed up another piece. When I finally finished, with the chewed cardboard shoved into the only spot left, I had to take a picture and then throw the whole thing away.

cat lounging on half-completed puzzle of Neuschwanstein Castle
The Good Old Days

But Molly has been eating cardboard in the afterlife for a few years now, and Effing Scooter has peed his last, plus I have a new kitchen table just waiting to have a bunch of stuff spread all over it, so I opened up a new puzzle this evening. It's a painting of Venice (I think). I prefer puzzles made from photographs, but this is what I have.

Uncompleted Puzzle
The Good New Days

So far, so good. Ripley had to "help" me for a while, but I finally convinced him to just sit on the box. I've only had to pick up one piece from the floor. I'm a little worried about what will happen when I go to bed and the poltergeists are activated, but maybe they'll leave it alone. Fingers crossed.

Anyhow, happy new year!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Home

I have made it back to Chez Nebulopathy, where the cats are so excited to see me that they're grooming each other. My car still has a dining room table and a scroll saw in it, but that's tomorrow's problem. And it will be tomorrow's problem because I need to go fetch the dogs before noon, so all the stuff in my back seat needs to be unloaded.

The drive home wasn't bad -- the grapevine was open (with some pretty snow), I ate fries and a whole lot of cookies, and Ninth House is still keeping me interested. I stopped in Kettleman (or the Kettleman exit, which is just a travel stop) to go to the Fresh Mex restaurant and the whole area was such a cluster that I ended up at Jack in the Box, which doesn't have anything vegetarian (note to self: the "ultimate cheeseburger" is not the same as the "impossible cheeseburger"), hence the fries. I guess the important lesson here is that Kettleman should be avoided at all costs during periods of heavy holiday travel.

So here I am, happy to be sleeping in my own bed tonight, and also sad that I don't have a good excuse not to go for a run tomorrow.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Tools

My mom is trying to clear out the garage, so while all the kids were home for the holidays, she told us to take any tools we wanted (ie, work it out amongst ourselves). Given the fact that most of us already have everything we really need, and some people were flying home, there was a lot of "Does anyone want this? If nobody else wants this and I can fit it in my car, maybe I'll take it." So... less hyenas circling prey, and more pandas trying to climb into a hammock.

I'd been sort of thinking about the scroll saw for a while, and nobody else wanted to take it, so now it's in my trunk. Lest you think I'm a power tool expert, you should know that the first thing that Jeff and I thought was the scroll saw turned out to be the band saw. Now you're thinking that maybe I should stay away from using dangerous things when I can't even identify them on sight, and you might be right. I'm sure there's a YouTube video that will explain everything I need to know. Let's all cross our fingers that I don't chop off anything important.

I'm also taking home the old kitchen table. I've lived in my house for seventeen years and it's time to have a kitchen table. The treadmill (only one person needed to assemble!) is currently in the dining room, but it really ought to be in the back room anyhow. I'm sure the cats will enjoy having a new place to sprawl in the dining room.

Someday it's going to look like an actual adult lives in my house. Don't hold your breath.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Tripod Mod

I'm pretty sure there's a similar, but completely different, entry from last year showing how we held the phone on the tripod the last time we took a family picture. This year it incorporated chop sticks and blue painter's tape.


The best part is that we were doing this in my brother's front yard and there were enough people around that we could have just asked someone to take the picture...

Friday, December 27, 2019

Pot Pie Day

Today was cooking and baking day (and also maybe possibly finishing up the calendar to give to my mom when the family celebrates Christmas tomorrow, but that would suggest that I procrastinate or something).

Even though everyone other than my mom decided to leave when they found out I was cooking, the autumn pot pie turned out well.

Autumn pot pie
Look at that flakey crust. Just look at it.

I had a teeny tiny problem with the #!%@$* pastry crust over the top -- it rolled out in clumps that I pieced together over the top. I have no idea what went wrong. Still, I would have had to cut vents in the crust if it had rolled out smoothly, so it probably wouldn't have looked much different. In any case, it tasted just fine.

I also made a couple loaves of stollen, and mostly deciphered the handwritten notes correctly.
Loaf of stollen, with candied fruit visible
Not a fruitcake. It still needs to be dusted with powdered sugar.

Someday maybe I'll learn to follow directions and turn into a decent baker.
Recipe for stollen with handwritten notes
No extra butter in the middle of the loaf.

But probably not.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Pizza and Tornados

Pizza night was a success. We have a bunch of leftovers, but everyone ate, so I'd give it a thumbs up. We all decided not to use the vacuum-packed "fresh mozzarella" that had been aging in the refrigerator for some unknown amount of time -- I took one for the team and tasted it first, so if I die of some cheese-related disease, that's just the way it goes. (And really, isn't that a good life goal? To die of cheese-related disease?)

One of these days I really am going to make it out for a run. It was pouring last night, and there was even a tornado warning on my phone that I noticed twelve hours after it was sent. I'm not completely sure what we would do in case of an actual tornado. The water table is pretty high here, so nobody has a basement. And apparently I wouldn't know about it until half a day after the fact, so I guess the basement thing isn't even relevant. But I probably won't be out running in it anyhow unless I get moving one of these days.

I managed to make it a whole four hours before telling K-Poo Weak Hands that if she looks like this when she's five months pregnant she's going to be gigantic before she has the baby. That went over well. Luckily I'm more agile than she is these days. She can probably still run faster though.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Internet By Carrier Pigeon

In my nice warm bed this morning, I really did think about getting up for a run at 6am. That lasted about four seconds. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess there's always tomorrow.

Every time I go on a trip, I plan to get up at seven or so, do the last few things that need to get done in the morning, and then get on the road by nine. It never really works that way. Today I was working on the "last few things" (taking out the trash, wiping down the counters, printing out the instructions for the pet sitter) until almost 11, at which point I thought I was ready to go until I realized I hadn't packed yet. Luckily that's a five minute task when none of the cats are helping.

The drive down was... fine? Somehow I didn't get stuck in traffic going through L.A., which is unusual, but I had also switched to a new audiobook by then ("Ninth House" by Leigh Bardugo, in case anyone needs a recommendation) and it was holding my interest, so that made the miles go by faster.

Anyhow, I made it. I am in "the O.C.", as the kids used to call it. (Not when I was growing up here. And maybe nobody other than the producers of that show ever called it that. I'm not sure. I may not have been cool enough to hear it even if it was being used.) The streets are very wide and full of cars and the lawns are evenly mowed, but the internet speeds here are terrible.

Dog & cat asleep on couch, with little dog on bed below
Can I sleep without these guys around? I guess I'll find out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Cleanest Day of the Year

Bird cages and floors have been cleaned (for some value of cleaned). The dogs have been sent off to camp, where they will get to bark as much as they want to and everyone will constantly give them treats. All the baby gates have been taken down, and I am free to move about the house without constantly stopping to open them. With no late night dog walks, I got in my pajamas at 5pm. Do I know how to party or what?

My running app has a 5k tomorrow morning. I felt weird about running at 6am without the big dog to keep me safe from all the stray cats and squirrels, but it looks like it's going to rain anyhow, so if I get up that early, the run will be on the treadmill. Then I'll pack and get in the car and spend 50 (subjective) hours driving down to the southern half of the state. I'd love to find a good audiobook before I go, but I'm having a hard time picking one out. Obviously this is a minor problem, but ugh, Audible does not have a great suggestions or browsing section.

The internet savvy amongst us are wailing and rending their garments because I am publicizing that I will be gone from my house, but jokes on you because:

  • Does anyone really read this?
  • The only things of any value that Effing Scooter didn't pee on before he departed this earth were my laptops, and both of those will be going with me.
  • Yes, the treadmill is new, but it's something like 150 pounds and you show me a thief who is willing to put that kind of effort into stealing things. If they do, well, they deserve to get something for that sort of work ethic.
Now I'm off to enjoy my clean sheets and a bed that isn't being hogged by the big dog. (I'll probably also spend the night freezing because my main source of heat is not there.) I hope your holidays (whatever you celebrate) are happy and healthful.

Slightly out of focus eye in a black housecat
Ripley is working on his selfies.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Bags of Holiday Cheer

You know I'm in the holiday spirit, because I went into the veterinary hospital at 5:30 PM, slung a bag of warm cat diarrhea across the counter, and said "Merry Christmas!" I figure if someone jumps back and yells "Jesus!"* when you greet them in late December, you're definitely keeping the Christ in Christmas.

Hey, at least I double-bagged it.

Anyhow, now that chore is out of the way, it's time to start my yearly cleaning-for-the-pet-sitter. It's a little easier this year because her expectations will be pretty low -- she was already here at the beginning of November when I didn't have a chance to get ready, so it's not like she doesn't know what my house is like normally. Still, it's good to clean things up once a year. Tonight is the refrigerator and all the empty boxes that have been piling up in the living room. The bird cages and floors will be the goal for tomorrow.

Everything else can wait until next year.

Grey cat stares at the camera
Guido-You-Bastard is tired of your shenanigans.

-----
* Christy did no such thing, because she's a professional.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Don't Tread on Ripley

Apparently seven days is long enough for me to forget that a 60 minute walk-to-run (multiple minutes of running interspersed with 30 seconds of walking) just feels like it lasts forever, because every Sunday I show up for the 8am walk-to-run, and today was no different.

What was different, though, was that it was raining outside. But I had a new treadmill (which did not need two people to put it together, thank you very much), so my Sunday morning proceeded as planned.

Other than the previously-mentioned fact that 60 minutes seems to last forever, the run went fine. I find it a little harder to run on the treadmill, so my times were a bit slow, but the walk-to-run is all about getting miles in, not speed.

While I was running, Mr. Ripley, the six million dollar kitty (announcer voice: We can make him... more expensive!), decided that he was going to walk across the front of the moving treadmill. That swept him right under me at 5 mph and dumped him off the back where he nonchalantly got up and wandered off. Meanwhile, I was trying to recover from my panicked scramble to keep from landing all my weight on him.

I got a great cardio workout today.

I'd like to believe that Ripley learned his lesson, and that he'll never do that particular move again, but I've known him for 16 years and I don't believe it.

Black cat in a striped onesie
Worth every penny, or maybe just an example of sunk cost fallacy.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Solstice

I got a new sketchbook/notebook with blank pages. It's been a few decades since I've had one. Opening it up and putting something on the first page is the hardest part, because up to then it is blank perfection. But in going through my old notebooks, sometimes the best things are the ones that I was most frustrated with at the time.

Black cat, purple sketchbook, and keyboard
Ripley is not impressed.
I was supposed to do a bunch of things today, but I've had a sore throat for a couple of days and I decided a nap was in order. I did finally drag myself to the art store and then to get pet supplies and groceries. On this, the longest of nights, I'm ready for the days to get longer.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The First Step of Meal Prep

I got a text from my mom last night saying that she was going grocery shopping and asking if I wanted anything special when I visited next week. I don't mind running to the grocery store when I'm in Orange County -- it gives me a reason to step away from all the junk food and do something else. And then I offered to cook a meal or two (or however many anyone can stand of my cooking).

You know what that means -- now I have to figure out what to make.

So my guidelines are:
  • No cilantro
  • No avocado
  • Little or no rice
I don't eat meat, but I have no problem splitting up a dish and cooking one part with meat and another without, as long as the part without feels like a real meal and not "hey, here's a hamburger bun and some condiments".

I'm thinking something along the lines of these (along with salads):
  • pizza (let everyone pick their own toppings)
  • autumn pot pie
  • pita/falafel/hummus
  • lasagna
(I'll probably also be making my traditional stuffed peppers at some point as the vegetarian alternative to the roast at Christmas dinner.)

It turns out a lot of the meals I cook depend on cilantro, so I'm having a hard time coming up with tried and true recipes.

Anyone have any other suggestions? 

In other news, I got the little dog to stand on the treadmill today, but she didn't quite get the concept of walking forward, so she kept falling off the end when I turned it on. The big dog is still highly suspicious of the whole thing.

Green vine with small squash that turned out to be a pumpkin in the end
Random garden picture from earlier in the year. This plant was labeled as a Hubbard squash, but turned out to be a pumpkin.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Super Observant

I got up in time for my 6am run this morning, had a good workout with the big dog, then came back home. It wasn't until I was trying to knock some of the extra sand off my shoes that I noticed the tread didn't match and realized I'd been wearing two completely different shoes.

Two shoes, each a different brand, both dark blue
Yeah, they're not even the same brand.

I can't say this is the first time that's happened, but the last time I remember actually leaving the house like that was about 35 years ago. Whatever. It was dark this morning and I was still half-asleep. And they're nearly the same color. Maybe that's why they make running shoes in such obnoxious colors.

Yesterday I was wondering about my treadmill delivery. Late in the day I got email saying it would be delivered between 9 and noon. Then I got a robocall at nearly 9pm saying they were going to deliver it between 3 and 6pm. Today I looked at the "track your shipment" page, and it had a truck marker that stayed at the warehouse thirty miles away for the entire day, even after the package was delivered.

The truck showed up at 2:20, and the driver flipped the 180# box through my front door, ignoring the "fragile" and "this end up" signs.

Everything seems to have made it safely, though, and I spent the entire evening putting it together. The instructions say you need to have two people, but really all you need is one stubborn person who doesn't mind holding up fifty pounds with their forehead while inserting and tightening bolts.

I used all the pieces, so I think everything is right, but I haven't turned it on yet -- tomorrow is soon enough!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Rain Non-Runner

I was planning on going for a run this morning, but when I woke up at 4am to let the very whiny dog outside (either because he wanted to go hunt persimmons or because the previously slaughtered persimmons had made their way through him; I couldn't tell), it had started raining before I got back to sleep. I took that as a sign and slept in until nearly seven.

I'm also using the rain as an excuse to not walk the dogs this evening. Spending 3-4 hours driving during the day makes me really tired and I don't want to leave the house. That probably makes me a bad pet owner, but the dogs aren't too excited about walking when it's raining either. We're just going to agree that the day is over.

In other news, I am shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- that the company that was supposed to call me today after 4pm to schedule a time for the (rescheduled) delivery tomorrow did not in fact call me today. The online link says that they are planning to deliver it between 9am and noon, but I'm taking that with a few mountains of salt.

Two dogs curled up separately on a big dog bed
I've eaten things you people wouldn't believe. Black figs up higher than my shoulder on our sidewalk. I ate cat poop glittering in the dark near Tannhäuser Gate. All those meals will be lost in time, like persimmons in the rain. Time to whine.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Expectations

I've about 85% through the most recent book I'm reading. If I remember correctly, I chose it off of an "editor's picks" list. It's a procedural murder mystery, and though it's listed as the author's debut*, there are another five in the series already. I took that to mean that there would be continuity in the main characters, which is what I was looking for -- continuity, good relationships, and character growth throughout the series are my ultimate goal.

(*Debut can mean different things -- a friend of mine who has self-pubbed multiple novels just sold a trilogy to a major publishing house for gobs of money and this is being listed as her "debut". Anyhow, she totally deserves it and I can't wait for it to come out.)

So now I'm almost finished with this mystery, and we're getting into "if only I'd known then what I know now" territory on the part of the narrator and I'm pretty sure one of the main characters is going to die. (Also, I figured out what was going on about halfway through the book, because the psychological stuff was a little heavy-handed.) I'm debating whether I want to finish the book now. I'll probably end up skimming it just to make sure I'm not assuming the wrong things, but it's a bit disappointing.

There's not anything wrong with this book, but my expectations were not in line with the reality, which makes the ultimate experience a disappointment. Did I miss something in the blurb? Was there a marketing failure? The business of publishing is all about getting the right books in front of the right audience. This time it failed.

I know the books I'm looking for are out there. I just have to find them!

Little fluffy dog in the dirt next to a colorful tile.
The little dog has no expectations and is thus not disappointed. Much.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Time For Random Pictures

We've hit the halfway point in this month of Holidailies and I've got nothing tonight, so I'm just going to go through my photo roll and post some random stuff.

Slender tree trunk with sign "Fred, Please stop cutting branches off of this tree"
A neighborhood that communicates is a neighborhood that has signs all over the trees.

If you walk in the alleys enough, you find interesting signs:
Marker for a branch line of the California Pacific Railroad
"Up to 16,000 Chinese men worked on California railroads in the 1860s." And yet maybe two non-white people were in my grade school history books. It's almost like the writing was a little skewed.

Late night walks sometimes produce some odd things:
Three cats gathering outside
"I'm sure you're wondering why I called you here tonight..."

This one just deserves to be on every blog post:
Two kittens stare through a hole in the floor into a field of stars



This bed is almost good enough for him:
Dog on cushion on top of couch
He's got the whole "Princess and the Pea" vibe happening here.

The big dog gets his stitches out tomorrow and with any luck I won't have to run around in the rain at agility. That's enough to look forward to.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Dominosteine

For me, baking is a lot like home repair. I see the thing I want to make/do, I go buy all the parts, and then I get home and realize that there is no way in hell I have the ability to do this. There's no hope for my house, but at least with baking I can either eat the evidence or throw it away. And baking is cheaper than DIY.

This is the recipe I was aiming for: https://www.quick-german-recipes.com/dominosteine.html. I've never seen or tasted them before, but I like marzipan. Also, I bought the bottle of rum for these things last week, so come hell or highwater, I was making them.

I prepped by watching a couple episodes of Claire Saffitz of the Bon AppĂ©tit test kitchen in the "Gourmet makes..." series. (They're on YouTube. Everyone is entertaining except for that one really obnoxious guy who is exactly like all the guys that would stand around interrupting and talking about random shit in school while you were trying to get work done and then copy all your answers at the end.) Anyhow, mostly what I learned is that Claire is willing to redo things multiple times until she gets it right. That's not really how I work. For me if it doesn't come out right the first time... I shrug and move on.

I ran into my first problem when it called for an 14x17" pan, which I don't have and the grocery store didn't have. I compromised by using two slightly smaller pans for the lebkuchen, but of course that meant the thickness wasn't quite the same.

Whatever. Cake is cake. Except when you then need to cut it in half horizontally.

I cut the first pan in half more or less horizontally. Mostly it was less. Much much less. The cake wasn't very even. I'd assumed it would level out a bit in the oven. That did not happen. The second pan of lebkuchen I just cut in half and folded back on itself. Was it twice as thick as the other pan? Yes. Did I care? Not really.

If anyone ever tells you to roll out 4 oz marzipan until it's thin enough to cover two pans of lebkuchen, laugh in their face and make them go away. Still, I eventually got the marzipan more or less evenly distributed. A little apricot jam later, everything was assembled and I was ready to dip the squares in chocolate.

The good news is that google will tell you how to make a double boiler. The bad news is that unless there is some secret way to do this, dipping cookie squares in hot chocolate involves burning your fingers a bunch. Then I ran out of chocolate and just poured the rest over the remaining squares.

I am ready to admit that I am not prepared to be on the Great British Bake Off at this point, though I am really good at finishing things quickly.

The more or less correct ones:


And the non-camera-ready remainder:


It still looks better than every home repair project I've ever tried, though, so at least there's that.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Wet Junk in the Trunk

On Tuesday we had agility in the rain, so I was expecting my car to smell of wet dog on Wednesday, but it wasn't too bad.

Then I didn't use my car until this morning, and when I opened the door there was a powerful musty odor. I thought maybe it was the wet dog scent left in the back seat and it would dissipate after a bit of air circulation, but it didn't go away. Then I started wondering if I'd missed a bag of groceries in the trunk the week before, but I was pretty sure I would have noticed that when I put them away.

It turned out to be my dogs' collapsible crates. Only one dog can run the course at a time during agility, so the other dogs in the class stay in their crates and rest. Or, in the big dog's case when I'm working with the little dog, stay in their crates and bark their fool heads off like an idiot. The crates have nylon sides and pack down nicely. I keep them in the trunk because the only thing I use them for is agility.

Note to self: if the crates get wet, you need to take them out, open them up, and let them dry. I really hope they dry out in the garage. And that my car stops smelling.

Assorted children's shoes lined up on a brick planter with plants in the background.
Unrelated collection of little kids' shoes I saw a few months ago during a walk downtown.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Mighty Persimmon Hunter

Persimmon on cutting board
The last persimmon of the season
I can't remember if I've mentioned this here before, but my dogs love persimmons. I didn't even know my neighbors had a persimmon tree until a couple of months ago when I looked up and there it was, a gigantic tree that actually crossed over the fence into my back yard, with a bazillion persimmons on it. I'm guessing the tree was not planted in the last year, so you are right to wonder how I missed a giant tree just fifteen feet from my house for eighteen years, but there you have it. I'm just an amazingly observant person. (Also, it might have been blocked by the oleander bush that I had severely trimmed last year. So I only really missed seeing it for a year. That's better, right?)

Anyhow, my neighbor brought over a bag and I tried a couple of slices on the dogs and they both loved it. There aren't many things they both like. The little dog tends to like vegetables (carrot, zucchini, broccoli, red pepper) and the big dog is a fan of fruit -- he still rushes outside every morning to see if any figs have fallen overnight, and fig season ended months ago.

Large dog in down-stay two feet from persimmon on the floor
Caught the two millisecond down-stay!


I mentioned to my neighbor that if the dogs could climb trees, my neighbors wouldn't have to worry about giving away the rest of their persimmons, so she asked if she should just chuck any of the damaged ones over the fence. Not really thinking about it, I said "sure, of course!"

It took about a day for the big dog to realize there were persimmons hiding in the ivy. Now he begs to go outside so he can go look. He spent hours out there in the rain today. I'm not sure how many he found today, but he definitely ate a few yesterday, which became clear when his high fiber voluminous poop came out bright orange on our walk. That freaked me out a little until I realized what was going on.

large dog sniffing persimmon
The photo shoot nearly came to a disastrous end (for the persimmon) at this point.

Anyhow, I'm calling it "enrichment". Maybe I should plant a tree of my own.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rescheduled

Let's pretend you're a shipping company, and it's December, and you've accidentally overcommitted and you have no way to hit your deadlines. The package is something that requires a signature on delivery, so you know the customer is going to care when it shows up. Worse, you have messed up your schedule so much that you won't be able to deliver it for an entire week after the scheduled date.

Pick a solution:

A) You notify the customer (you have both email and phone#) that you're not going to be able to deliver the package ahead of time, you apologize, then you find a new delivery date that works for both of you.

OR

B) You go into your tracking software the night before the delivery, add a note that says "Customer requested appointment to be rescheduled", reschedule the delivery for a day a week later (which isn't a day the customer will be home), don't notify the customer of this change at all, and leave the customer waiting at home for the delivery during the original three hour window.

Cute black cat in fuzzy bed cave
Ripley says you shouldn't lie to your customers or Santa will put coal in your stocking.

Note that either way the package is going to be delivered a week late. But with the first solution, you might irritate the customer a little, and maybe they grumble to their friends about it, but that's probably as far as it will go.

With the second solution, the customer is really, really not happy with you and gets in touch with Amazon to complain about your crappy business and to get the delivery properly rescheduled. Amazon gives the customer $75 to keep them happy, which means their profit margin has just dropped. Jeff Bezos's shriveled heart clenches and the evil eye focusses on you.

Also, instead of just grumbling among friends, the customer doesn't feel bad about naming the company (XPO) that has such shady business practices. The customer also wonders how big a warehouse you have if you're storing a week's worth of deliveries instead of sending them out when they come in. Bottom line, it makes the company (XPO) look unethical and incompetent.

When in doubt, pick the first option. And hire people who will pick the first option. And train your employees to pick the first option. And set up your company to reward the people who pick the first option and punish the people who choose the second option.

That's my PSA for the month of December.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Last Half Mile

This is my profile on the running app I've been using recently. They mildly celebrate milestones (depending on who is coaching and whether the runner mentions it ahead of time), and I am sooooooo close to 100 miles that if it would just stop raining, I'd be there.

Running app profile with total distance of 99.52 miles circled


There's probably a metaphor here about life, and how the last half mile might take just as long as the previous ten. I guess that's valid. Mostly what I take from it is that milestones based on arbitrary numbers are kind of silly. Why is 100 special? Base ten isn't the greatest thing ever. Why not celebrate 64 or 132? The only birthday party I've had as an adult was for my 32nd birthday, and I invited everyone to my 100,000th birthday (which it is, if you are using base 2 -- that's 1x25 for everyone who didn't take programming classes back in the dark ages. Do they still teach binary and hexadecimal? Seems like it's still useful for bit masking, but who knows).

Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent there (and do they still teach trigonometry in school or has that gone the way of typing classes?), but my point is that nothing has any meaning at all and it's never going to stop raining so I should just be happy I made it to 99.52 miles.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Running Between the Raindrops

Here in Northern California, dog agility is an outdoor sport all year round. That isn't to say that it isn't occasionally a little uncomfortable.

Tonight it started sprinkling as we were on our way there, but it didn't really start steadily raining until class started. We persevered.

Fluffy little dog slightly wet from rain
Another ten hours in a downpour and the water might get to her skin. She still looks pathetic though.

The big dog thought all the running around in the chilly rain was a great idea, but he drew the line at actually lying down on anything wet. The little dog doesn't mind wet surfaces (probably because she has to be completely submerged before the water makes it through her undercoat to her skin), but she kept stopping in the middle of the course to shake the drops from her head.

My parka (jacket? coat?) repelled water 20+ years ago when I bought it, but now it just provides an extra layer for the water to seep through, so about halfway through class I was pretty much soaked. But I had two dogs to run and it wasn't all that cold out, so I was reasonably comfortable.

Large dog with wet hair
Wet, stoic, and stitches still intact!

All in all a good time was had by everyone, but at the end we were definitely ready to pack up and go home.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Neighborhood Snobbery

So I took the dogs outside for a walk last night at about 9:30 PM, and that was when I realized it was the annual luminary night in our neighborhood.

Sidewalks lined with luminaries, those paper bags with a little sand and a candle in them, make a beautiful sight, and I have no problem with it. There's nominally a charitable aspect to the night, with a coat donation bin somewhere I've never found and the money leftover from the supplies theoretically going... somewhere? But the organizers don't charge all that much for the supplies, so I can't imagine they end up with a bunch of cash.

What it really is, though, is a chance to trot out some house snobbery. Whoever is organizing it doesn't just tell the whole city when it is and then let each area organize. No, they contact specific people on the chosen blocks and let them deal with their own neighbors. So there's a line where all the candles stop and it just happens to be right where the fancy houses end.

My block is mixed -- my house is pure garbage from 1958, but the houses on either side are historic and one has the plaque to prove it. We used to get invited. However, my neighbor (with the historic house plaque) was apparently the only person good enough to be roped in by the organizers and she's pretty much over it by now, so... the first I knew it was happening was when we walked down the block and I realized I needed to make sure my dogs didn't catch on fire.

Whatever. It was pretty anyway.

Snail halfway up paper bag lit from candle within
Sometimes it's good to stop and think twice about what you're doing little snail.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Or I Could Take a Nap Instead

Here's what I had planned for today:

  • 8am 60 minute walk-to-run
  • Add at least 500 words to the heist novel
  • Organize the feedback on the novel I'm editing
  • Call my mom
  • Make a batch of Dominosteine, which I've never had before but look really good.
  • Clean the back room (aka, the room the birds are in). It really needs cleaned.
It started out reasonably well. I bailed on the run because I woke up just before it started and the forecast said it was going to start raining, so I joined on the elliptical instead. Then I wrote almost 400 words, and...

Yeah, that was point when things took a nosedive. I started reading, and then I got under the covers to read because it was chilly in the house, and then it was suddenly 4pm and the furry critters wanted their dinner. So I fed the four-leggeds and made a batch of pizza dough and then made pizza for dinner.

It was too late to start the Dominosteine (though I'm definitely going to make them since I had to buy a bottle of rum, which entailed standing in the grocery store googling the difference between white rum and dark rum and spiced rum and why can't the recipe specify these things for the non-drinkers?!), so I made these peanut butter & cheese dog biscuits instead.

(I am charmed by the author's assertion that "any flour will do" which is immediately qualified by "I wouldn't use white though". My dogs regularly eat horrifying things when we are out on walks and I don't catch them fast enough. White flour is the least of their worries. The only reason I used whole wheat flour today is because I have a bag that's been open for at least a year or two and it needs to be used up.)

Springerle rolling pin and unbaked dog biscuits
I can't tell what the patterns are in any case, so the dogs won't care.

As previously threatened, I did use my springerle rolling pin instead of cookie cutters which a) made this easy and fast, and b) brought my cost per use of the rolling pin down by at least $5. The pattern doesn't show all that well, but I'll take it.

They're still in the oven, so no finished pictures, but this is what they looked like going in.

unbaked dog biscuits
More patterns you can't quite see. Mmm, peanut butter and cheese. They smell kinda gross.

I'll give my mom a call this evening, but all that other stuff I was going to do has gotten shoved out to later in the week. And that's okay. Weekend naps are the best thing ever.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Yearly Exercise Binge

Yes, it's December again, which means, first off:



Holidailies! Go check out some other blogs. Most people are much funnier than I am, and the ones that aren't will make you appreciate my writing more.

But also, December is my traditional "time to buy exercise equipment" month. I think it's a combination of the constant darkness, the uninviting outside conditions, and the amount of crap I eat in December. Lately I've been trying to run more, and that's hard to do when the track is a muddy mess and you constantly trip on sidewalks.

I do have an exercise bike and an elliptical, and I've even used them both within the last week, but I do think that running is a more efficient form of exercise. I find it really hard not to expend energy when I'm running.

Anyhow, I looked into joining a gym so I'd have access to a treadmill, but Woodland is a very 8am-6pm type town. There is exactly one 24-hour gym, it's 5 miles away, and it would cost me $100 just to get in the door.

So I started looking online, and there is a huge range in price on treadmills. I don't need a professional version that will hold up for five years in a commercial setting, but I also don't want one that has reviews like "great for walking, but I'd never want to try running on this thing".

My favorite review question


I posted a note in my FB running group asking if people had recommendations, and everyone started saying they loved their $3000 treadmills. Apparently I should have added "for cheap bastards" in my request.

After looking at a bunch of reviews, I might have found one, but then I read a review that said it was definitely going to take two people to set it up and... ugh. If I wanted to let people into my house, I'd invite my friends over.

Maybe I should just build a climbing wall in the living room instead...

Mom, she's touching me! There was much grumbling from the big dog.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Poltergeists

So I've had the two feral cats living in the house for the last however many months, and they've adjusted well. After they both got fixed and vaccinated, I let them have the run of the house. Then I didn't see them for something like two weeks and I was really hoping they hadn't gotten out or gotten stuck someplace.

3 month old photo because I don't have a shutter speed fast enough to photograph them now

After a while, though, it was like I had poltergeists in the house. Everything would be picked up before I went to bed, but I'd come out in the morning and the blanket would be knocked off the couch, or an empty box would be on its side.

Then in the dark I would hear herds of elephants thundering up and down the hallway, retreating back into the fairy kingdom as soon as the light of dawn arrived.

After that I would often surprise them in the kitchen. Gin kept an eye on me and trotted away. Baby Tonic always lost his mind and ran at top speed. One day I went into the kitchen and he jumped out from behind the washer (where I wouldn't have been able to see or get to him), did the Scooby scramble toward me, deflected around me at the last instant, nearly ran into the little dog, made it through the baby gate, then literally bounced off the big dog on the other side before running off into the living room.

I'm hoping Tonic gets a little smarter when he grows up.

Now Gin has gotten to the point where she will stay put if the bulk of the living room is between us. Occasionally she'll even look out the window when I'm behind her. And yesterday I caught Tonic and Ripley hanging out together on the heating pad and Tonic didn't immediately run away when he saw me.

I figure in, oh, maybe ten or so years, they might sleep on the bed at night. As long as I don't move.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Effing Scooter

It feels like it was just a couple of months ago I was saying that with my luck Effing Scooter, the cat that had been peeing on all of my things for sixteen years, would be the one to outlive me. Oh wait, that's because it was just a couple of months ago. Turns out my prognostication skills suck.

Look at this magnificent old dude

When I list it all out, it looks like I've had a run of terrible luck or else I'm a hoarder with a billion cats, but the real problem is that all of my cats were roughly the same age, and that age was "old". In the past year or so, Crow the cat died of lymphoma after briefly being on rabies quarantine, Guido (Crow's littermate) was also diagnosed with lymphoma (he's still doing well!), Ripley had surgery to remove a couple of lung lobes after he inhaled something (he's still doing well!), and...

Yeah, Scooter lost a bunch of weight, and when we started looking for the cause, he had pancreatitis and a mass in his bladder. He was feeling like crap and not eating, and I had to be out of town, so I put him to sleep.

The irony of the mass in his bladder is that if he hadn't been constantly peeing on my stuff (paper! plastic! down comforters!) since he was a six week old kitten, I probably would have caught this a whole lot sooner. Hoisted by your own petard, buddy! Dammit.

Quit bugging me

Anyhow, since he's been gone the house has started to smell a little better. Eventually I'll find all the things he peed on and clean them. I hope. And I can leave packing paper out -- the ferals and Ripley have been enjoying playing with it.

But let's all raise a toast to Effing Scooter, aka Scoo-tay, aka Bubby, aka Bubbaloo, aka Bubbly-do -- he may be gone, but his spirit lingers on. Or else that's the smell of cat urine. Either way, he will be missed.


My favorite Scooter picture of all time

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Cat Gifs

I'm too lazy to search my old blog posts, but I'm pretty sure I mentioned that at one point my boss annoyed me and I got back at him by texting him something like twenty cat gifs over the next couple of days. (As you can tell, I'm an excellent employee and an overall joy to work with.)

So today, he was having trouble with his phone (and I'm just doubling down on "it was his phone, not the network" here, because if it wasn't his phone our whole department is in trouble because we design and run the network). He couldn't text anyone, and incoming texts were not getting to him.

For a while he was trying to figure out if it had something to do with sending texts to a group (And have I mentioned before how much I hate group texts? Because my boss is the most egregious offender. He sends group texts about everything, and then people start "liking" the texts, which sends me another text. On my birthday they managed to send about forty birthday messages/likes in the space of an hour just to irritate me. I almost blocked all their numbers.)

So today I sent him a test message. And what better thing to send than a cat gif?

Naturally mine was the first one to get through, and then all the other test messages were delivered and his phone sounded like it was a really bad video game for a few minutes.

My theory -- based on all the available evidence -- is that we just need to send him a cat gif to push things through any time we send him a text.

Another thing to know here is that I'm a terrible pet parent -- I left the big dog home alone today without an e-collar, just assuming he'd be good and not chew his stitches out. About 3pm I was starting to have some buyer's remorse on that decision, and I mentioned I was a little worried. My boss asked me to text him when I got home so he would know my dog was okay.

You know where this is going, right?



I figure I can keep this going for another few days (or weeks). There are a lot of cat gifs available...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

I Leave You Alone For Two Minutes...

Here was my day:

It started out well. I got up in time to make my 6am run. After two days of steady rain, the track (normally sand on packed dirt) was a bit soft (sand on mud) so my times were a little slower and I was ready to collapse about halfway through, but the big dog and I made it all the way.

We went home, I ate breakfast, and then let the big dog out for a couple of minutes. He does this thing where he bumps me with his nose because wants to go out, then a minute later he wants to come in, then twenty minutes later he bumps me with his nose to go out, and that repeats all day long. I don't have a dog door (because of the cats), so I spend half my life opening doors for him.

Anyhow, I let him back in, I took a shower, and then it was almost time for work. But I wanted to get the Roomba started, so I did a quick pickup of all the cat toys and cords that the Roomba likes to strangle itself with. And I noticed a blotch on the floor. So I grabbed a wet paper towel and cleaned it and realized it was dried blood. Then another bloody paw print, and another, and then some drops, and then pretty soon I decided I needed to go check on the big dog.

He had a cut over his carpus and though it wasn't bleeding any more, it was deep enough and long enough that it needed stitches. (Before you go assuming I'm a great pet parent -- if it had been on his flank I would have ignored it and let it heal on its own.)

So then I took him in for urgent care and -- this is the best thing about having a dog and not a child -- I left him there so they could fix him while I went back to work. When I picked him up in the afternoon he was pretty stoned, which I got a lot of amusement out of. Maybe not $400 of amusement, but close.

The drama queen wouldn't even look at his foot for hours.

Anyhow, we're home and we had to skip agility tonight which is the worst thing ever, and the whining has been pretty intense. Cheddar cheese did abate a lot of the agony though.

Now I just need to find the rest of the blood that has been sprinkled around the house...


Monday, December 2, 2019

Pumpkin and Peanut Butter

Exchanging gifts with my siblings during the holidays seems a little ridiculous when everyone has enough money to get anything they need during the year. And my niblings have so much stuff it feels like I would just be contributing to the destruction of the planet if I got them more, so I usually just contribute to their 529 accounts. I have everything I need (and more), and I don't really want to have to find room in the house for things I don't want. Basically, unless the gift is homemade or something that the recipient wants but can't afford, I think the holiday money is better spent on experiences or just going to charity.

This year, I've decided to make dog biscuits. That means everyone I know with a dog might get a present. And everyone who doesn't have a dog won't. Somewhat arbitrary, yes, but it works for me.

The first batch is from this recipe: https://damndelicious.net/2015/01/07/homemade-peanut-butter-dog-treats/.

Squirrel, bone, fire hydrant

My dogs give them a thumbs up, though I will admit that my dogs aren't super picky. One of their favorite treats these days is the persimmons that my neighbors have been desperately giving away.

These cookies were pretty easy to make, though I might just use the springerle rolling pin next time so I don't have to keep re-rolling the scraps.


At this rate I'll talk myself into buying a Kitchen Aid and a kitchen remodel so I have counter space to use...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019, or I'm *How* Far Behind?

This year I was going to be prepared for National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words in 30 days). Instead of trying to figure out what happened next through bleary eyes at 11pm, I was going to have an outline of my heist novel. A detailed outline.

And by the end of October, I more or less did. Maybe not all the sections were filled in, but I had characters (WITH NAMES!), I had a vague idea of the place, and I had a list of scenes I intended to write. I even had a pool of names for minor characters, because nothing derails my writing flow quite as quickly as having to come up with a new name. So I was ready. The first day went smoothly -- I wrote a few hundred words over my 1,667 par.

And then I had a family emergency and by the time I was back home and thinking about writing again, it as day 14 and I was 12,000 words behind where I was supposed to be.

For some people that wouldn't be a problem. I have friends who regularly produce over 1,000 words in a 25-minute sprint. They can easily skip writing all week and catch up in a couple of hours on the weekend.

I am not that person.

My average -- non-distracted -- writing speed is somewhere a little over 500 words / hour. I make it through NaNoWriMo every year by putting in the hours. Every single day. I get uneasy if I get a day behind.

And yet I did manage to finish on time this year. I'm writing my strategy down hoping it helps others and also so I can remember how I did this next year.

Light blue line is where I would have been in an ideal world, dark blue line was reality biting back


Failure is an option: I gave myself permission to fail. Obviously there were more important things going on in my life this year than a writing challenge. Adding the stress of "OMG I'm not writing enough!" wasn't going to do anything other than give me insomnia. If I failed then I failed, and that's just the way it was.

Making it manageable: Refreshing the NaNoWriMo stats page each morning was a little scary, because it would say things like "2,650 words left today". I was used to just barely making it through 1,667 words every evening after work. Adding an extra thousand seemed nearly impossible. So I added at least one writing sprint in the morning before work. I also brought my laptop to work on days I was in the office and added a sprint at lunchtime. My goal was to bring the "words left today" at least down to 1,667 before my normal evening writing time.

Word sprints: I'm easily distracted, so anything that helps me focus is key. https://tomato-timer.com/ saved me.  I would start a 25-minute timer and know that everything else (email, Twitter, food, etc.) could wait until it beeped.

Relaxation timer: If I just needed to sit down and relax for a few minutes with the intention of writing in just a bit, I would set the 5-minute timer to remind me that browsing the internet for two hours wasn't going to help things. (I ought to do this more often.)

Write-ins: I'm lucky to have an active group of NaNoWriMo participants in my area, and I made it to at least one write-in every week. I spent some time with friends and we also had word sprints going for 3-4 hours. That really helps get the words in.

If you have tips (for either planning ahead of time or hitting those goals during November), add them in the comments!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Chugging Along

First off, let me say that there aren't any fires near me yet, and I still have power, so clearly I am living the golden life here in California. The winds have been really high for the past twenty-four hours, but Frankentree (held together by a steel bolt through the trunk) still hasn't fallen down next door so obviously I have no tree prognosticating ability.

The feral cats are settling in now that they have the run of the whole house. Contrary to my expectations, they are both fine with the dogs, fine with the other cats, fine with the new Roomba, and fine with being inside. What they're not fine with is me, yet again proving that I'd make a terrible Disney princess. Gin starts growling the minute I enter any room she's in. Tonic just skitters away. I do hear them playing during the night, though, so I think they're doing okay.

The new Roomba is probably cursing its luck in being sent here, but it really does cut down on the fur tumbleweeds blowing around the place. The first time I deployed it, it had to return to its fainting couch twice to recharge before finishing. That day it also hogtied itself with sisal unraveling from a cat tree, and had an existential crisis in my bedroom, so it felt like I had just adopted another special-needs pet that needed constant monitoring. Since then it's been doing better, and only got stuck once today when it pushed the bathmat around and blocked the bathroom doorway so it couldn't leave the room.

The big dog and I have been running a few times a week. Using the track across the street has really cut down on the number of times I trip over cracks in the sidewalk, though it's probably a little boring for the dog. My average time has been dropping though I still have a long way to go before I make a 10 minute mile. Maybe I should have started training before I hit fifty. Eh, whatever.

And finally, National Novel Writing Month starts on Friday. No, I don't have all the scenes mapped out yet. I was planning on getting that done this weekend, but I've spent a bunch of time working or thinking about work. Jokes on them, though, because maybe I'll get the plot done during the work week!

Guido and Georgie, not wanting to hang out together, but both too stubborn to move.