Friday, March 27, 2020

Neighbors of Constant Sorrow

If you recall, I mentioned that I bought a violin to help warn people away from me during this time of isolation. I started trying to find fun music to play, which led me to bluegrass fiddle (no, I don't know anything about fiddle music or how to play it) and that led me to this tutorial:

(Bluegrass fiddle tutorial for "Man of Constant Sorrow")

I have slightly more patience now than I did in grade school, so I spent the ten bucks on the tutorial (well worth it, by the way -- it includes sheet music, the tutorial, and backing music at three different speeds) and I've been learning roughly one measure per day, which is exactly how I was told to learn things as a kid and completely ignored.

Anyhow, my neighbors (trapped in their home!) have been forced to listen to a bad violin player trying to learn bluegrass fiddle, and I can only assume that shortages at the grocery stores are the only reason they haven't yet egged my house.

Black cat on bed of newspaper even though he has about 20 plush beds around the house dammit
Ripley does not have time for your nonsense

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Captive Audience

Well, here we are and here we'll be staying for some amount of time. My county has only had a shelter in place order for the last day, but I've pretty much been in sparkling isolation (hey, as they say, it's not quarantine unless you're in the Quarantine region of France) since last Thursday.

That was a week ago. I live alone and I'm not a very social person, so this isn't all that different from my normal behavior. I have had some evening "sit around and chill" video calls with friends, but it will be another few weeks before I run into trouble.

I haven't had the mental energy to work on editing (soon!), so I've been doing other things, such as this:

Pen-drawn squiggles partially colored in
DIY coloring book
(I'm Gen X. We know how to keep ourselves entertained.)

But today I got this:

Shiny new violin on chair

For less than $200 you can get a violin, two bows, rosin, a shoulder rest, an electronic tuner/metronome, plus an extra bridge delivered to your home. And the violin is far higher quality than the one I played during grade school. That one literally cracked lengthwise sometime around sixth grade, without noticeably affecting the sound.

Am I any good? Well... I haven't played in 37 years or so, and I wasn't all that great to begin with. So that would be a no. But I'm having fun with it because instead of trying to play something written on a page, I just put on something I listen to, like Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know", and try to hit notes that are in the right key. Sometimes they are, sometime they aren't. This is the stress-free way to play the violin.

Pity my poor neighbors though -- they can't hear what I'm playing along with, so all they're hearing is random notes played badly. And they can't leave!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Just Another Day At The Office

At work today, there was a raptor (don't ask me what kind -- I'm horrible at bird identifications. It was too small to be a red tailed hawk -- maybe a sharp-shinned hawk?) that was just standing in the water in the fake river that runs between the buildings. This was really abnormal behavior, and when it was briefly standing on land, it held up one foot, as if maybe it was injured.

Someone asked me (uh, former veterinarian who used to treat a lot of raptors and had techs who were excellent at bird identification so I didn't have to) about it, but of course when I went over to get a closer look, it flew up into a nearby tree.

A couple of hours later it was back in the water, so I grabbed a cardboard box on the off chance that it held still long enough for me to grab it, then made my boss (H) come outside with me so someone could pull me out of the water if I slid down the bank. His wife (S) came along because she figured if I fell in, H could pull me out while she recorded it all for posterity.

[It is important to note here that neither H nor S speak English as their native language, though they are both completely fluent. In particular, H and I had a very surreal conversation one day when I was talking about my birds and when I said "conure" (tiny, loud parrots) he thought I said "condor" (huge, endangered birds) and there was a good five minutes of disbelief on both sides before we figured it out.]

So today, the three of us walked outside to try to catch the bird --

Me (pointing to the water): There it is.

S: That's a duck.

Me: *looking at her in disbelief because even I can identify a freaking duck*

H: It can't be! It has wings!1

Me: *whips head around to look at him because... wtf, ducks have wings too*

At this point I deployed the tact that I'm famous for and said "I'm not sure which one of you said the stupider thing."

Anyhow, when we got closer to the bird-with-wings-that-was-definitely-NOT-a-duck, it flew into another tree, so that was that. If it really is injured or sick, they're just going to have to wait until it's too weak to fly and then catch it and take it to the wildlife center.

I gave them the 30-second talk on what to avoid when grabbing a raptor ("The talons. Avoid the talons."), but honestly, if the bird's survival depends on these two, it's doomed.


1) Turns out he thought she said "dog", not "duck" which clears things up until you start to wonder why he believed she could mistake what was clearly a RAPTOR for a DOG.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Can('t Get My Po)i(nt A)cross

Every once in a while, I see some sport or activity and think "huh, that could be fun!" Usually I then forget about it, but on rare occasions I follow through.

This time it was canicross. In case you don't have time to listen to some awesome Canadian accents in the link, canicross is like dog sledding, except instead of a sled you have a person running behind. The only rule (that I'm aware of anyhow) is that the dog always needs to be in front.

Put yourself and your dog in a harness and then connect the two with a bungee cord -- what could possibly go wrong?

Anyhow, my new gear showed up and after I spent about an hour figuring out the human harness, I took the big dog out for a run.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • The human harness comes with a cup holder. "This could be my sport!" I thought. 
  • On further examination, the cup holder was just a water bottle holder. That was less exciting.
  • There's a bright orange "quick release" tab on the connection to the leash. That's not disturbing at all.
Bright orange fabric strip with grey letters "RELEASE"
I wasn't kidding.
  • Either canicross makes people instantly thin, or only thin people take it up. I'm not skinny, but I run three times a week and I just barely fit in the harness.
  • The big dog is at a perfect weight and of course fits very nicely into his harness.
Svelte Alaskan Husky mix wearing a sled dog harness, standing in weeds
(Ignore the weeds and the fact that the big dog is blowing his coat -- he's a handsome hunk.)
  • Perhaps I should limit my own kibble and I, too, would fit nicely into my harness.
  • I've spent a lot of time -- a lot of time -- working on getting the big dog to run nicely right next to me without pulling, no matter what exciting thing is going on around us. We practice this three times a week. He's very good at this.
  • Trying to convince your well-trained dog that he should run in front of you and pull on the leash is a lot harder than it sounds. Like, really, really hard.
Lovely Alaskan Husky mix running next to the camera, not out in front
Velcro dog only gets side views taken while running

So... I'm not really sure how to convince the big dog to run in front of me, and apparently he's too much of a gentleman to pull on the leash. Maybe this isn't our sport. Or maybe we just need to find another person to help in training. I must know someone who'd be willing to go for a training run at 6am, right?

Friday, January 24, 2020


Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I was working on a puzzle? I had this strangely prophetic thought:

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.

Well. I had the audiobook of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and some time when I was supposed to be doing something else, so I got quite a bit of the puzzle done. All of the edges were in place, the boat was pretty much done, and I was starting to work my way inward.

Then one morning I came out and part of the puzzle was rumpled, as if a cat had skidded to a stop on it. I smoothed it out, but I couldn't find one of the edge pieces. I looked on the floor and didn't see it, so I thought it was somewhere on the table where I just wasn't noticing it.


Then a few days later I was in the kitchen and saw this happening:
Semi-feral tortie plays on table with partially-assembled puzzle

Oh, how cute, she's playing with the loose pieces. But then:
Semi-feral tortie actively takes apart the partially assembled puzzle
She's not just checking it out, she's tearing it apart. And then I caught her in the act of walking off with a piece in her mouth:
Naughty semi-feral tortie leaves with a puzzle piece in her mouth. Dammit.
To recap, she's taking the puzzle -- this puzzle that I spent hours trying to put together -- completely apart and stealing the pieces away.

In one way it's the pushme-pullye of puzzles; I put it together and then she takes it apart so I can put it together again. I'm saving all kinds of money here. But my chances of finishing this are not great since I'm not sure what Gin has done with the pieces she's taken. Worse, I caught the big dog with a piece in his mouth yesterday, so it looks like the pet sabotage crew is complete.

The good news is that this is the first time Gin has felt comfortable enough to play while I've been around, so I guess that offsets the fact that she's just a complete jerk.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A Message From The Big Dog

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the persimmons
that were in the ivy

and now
I need to go
to poop RIGHT NOW

And also
to check in the ivy again
in case
another has fallen

- The Big Dog

(with profound apologies to William Carlos Williams)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year

I started the new year off right by sleeping in, running four miles (with an average pace just a hair over 11 min/mile, which is speedy for me), then working on the jigsaw puzzle for most of the day. I suppose I could have been a tad more productive, but I'm going to add 1000 words to my current novel before I quit for the day, so that should count for something.

Mostly uncompleted jigsaw puzzle
I also signed up for a couple of writing classes (space opera, and literary tips) and a reading aloud class. The prices were low and I can always use new tips and tricks.

Sadly I have to go back to work tomorrow, but at least it's a two-day week, and then a weekend to recover.

Another year of Holidailies done and dusted! I always enjoy reading everyone's entries, and I appreciate the people who keep it up all year. With any luck I'll do a better job blogging this year!