Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

- Is it strange that I am cleaning the house because the pet sitter is coming over? In any case, using their highly developed deductive powers, the cats have figured out that something is up and are swarming around me no matter what I do. It is very difficult to sweep when three cats are running around in the room.

- Just another thing to be insecure about: my freakishly large calves. Strangely, it had never occurred to me that my calves were large, but then I tried to buy a pair of polo boots on ebay. It turns out that not only am I not normal, I’m two sizes above normal. How did this happen? I blame Mom and/or Dad.

- The check from the UC Regents cleared. It’s very odd to get money from a class action lawsuit. I’m not even sure why I was suing the Regents. I would feel somewhat guilty about it, but if I add that amount to the wages I was receiving last year as a resident and divide by the number of hours I actually worked, I was still making less than the people waving signs on the street corners. (No, I wasn’t taking benefits into account, but I also didn’t add in the on-call time either.) Anyhow, I have rationalized taking the money. Maybe I’ll buy new (custom-fit) polo boots. Or at least get the hole in the roof fixed.

Merry Christmas and all that crap. The freshly-bathed dog and I (well, yes, I’ll be freshly-bathed, too) will see most of you soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Love Lucy

Most inappropriate songs for my dog:

Snow Patrol: Open Your Eyes (Just kidding!)

The Veronicas: Leave Me Alone (Separation anxiety? What’s that?)

Chubby Checker: The Twist ($2,000 later, the gastric dilatation and volvulus was resolved)

Sound of Music: Climb Every Mountain (but first take your Rimadyl and tramadol)

(She was actually sleeping like this today.)

Because nothing says Merry Christmas like picking on poor, defenseless animals…

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Randomness

- I don’t have any Christmas lights up. I’m just not good on ladders. Do you think lights strung about three feet off the ground would look funny?

- Due to the six resident weapons of mass destruction, I don’t have any decorations inside either.

- Have we established yet that I don’t have any Christmas spirit? (I do have half a bottle of tequila in the cupboard… Does that count?)

- Horses and wind do not mix. I forgot about that until yesterday. Two steps forward, one leap sideways, run away!

- Heeder did not try to kill me yesterday (although he did suggest the first two horses that I tried to ride, so he’s not off the hook altogether). However, somebody else almost hit me with a ball during a chukker – while I was watching from outside the arena.

- Perhaps I should resolve the health insurance issue before I play polo again…

- The hat that JJ knitted is warm and soft. I should have cadged a scarf while I was at it.

- The dog has gone outside and sat on the step three times in the last hour. I think she’s hoping that it will warm up and stop raining soon. Dream on.

- Jury duty tomorrow. I can’t wait to see who my fellow peers are.

- What, exactly, can one do with a pair of nail clippers that is so dangerous?

- Bah humbug!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It’s Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas…

Evidence that Christmas is around the corner:

- The grass is sometimes a little bit crunchy in the morning.

- All my vet school friends are depressed about the number of euthanasias they have to perform. (Fact of life: everybody’s favorite time to kill their pets is right before or after Christmas. Hospitals with limited freezer space can either a) schedule extra pickups by the cremation company, or b) rotate the dead animals every few hours so nothing thaws. It’s just a great time of year for everyone.)

- The local high school marching band is practicing for the parade this weekend.

I’ve heard them three times this week. It always brings tears to my eyes. (Those would be tears of laughter.)

Unfortunately, this band has gone with the time-honored tradition of taking the person with the least musical talent and putting him on the bass drum. After all, how hard can it be to whack a drum with a fuzzy mallet every once in a while?

Sadly this drummer embodies the equivalent of a metronome designed by Salvador Dali. First there are a few beats at one speed, then his attention wanders and he slows down. Then he notices that he’s not walking fast enough and tries to catch up, overshooting in the process. The snare drums repeat this pattern with a slight lag. The rest of the band (or at least, the ones that remember which notes they are playing) are split between following the drum section and following their own beat.

The bad news is that they only have one more day to practice. The good news is that the parade route is only about three blocks long, and they’ll only have to play for five minutes. And the even better news is that it’s supposed to rain this weekend.

Once again, I love living in Woodland.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pollo Polo (i.e., polo played by a chicken)

I’m a total coward. I don’t even pretend not to be. Yet somehow I found myself out on a horse again last weekend. Here is my interview with myself about it.

What is the most important equipment needed for polo?


What gaits are you comfortable with after riding for the third time in thirty years?

Walking and a slow trot.

Did you play polo?

We played an ultra-slow-motion chukker for fun.

That sounds safe!


What happened during the chukker?

In order to get the ball in play, all of the riders but one line their horses up facing the one hitting the ball in. Then the ball is hit toward them and play ensues.

What could possibly go wrong?

Heeder hit the ball in, and it lofted up and whacked my horse in the eye.

What gaits did your horse use after that?

Backwards and spinning.

That sounds different from walk and trot.


Why is Heeder trying to kill you?

That remains to be determined.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


There are two types of people in the world: huggers and non-huggers. As a non-hugger, I know the other camp exists, and I’ll put up with it, but you’ll never catch me invading someone else’s personal space without a close relationship and a physical separation lasting at least six months. I’m guessing that the huggers of the world don’t understand what they’ve done to offend all of the non-huggers.

I realize that all of the huggers pity the poor non-huggers, and I know I must occasionally look like the piemaker on Pushing Daisies, but it’s just the way I am.

Anyhow, here’s an episode from work as seen from the eyes of the non-huggers and the huggers. There were four of us (me, Scrawny Mike, Jeff, and Lourdes) in the breakroom. It was the day before Thanksgiving and people were starting to leave since it was after noon.

What actually happened:

I was leaning against the counter, in front of the toaster oven. Jeff and I were talking about something when I saw him look at the first aid kit mounted on the wall. He reached past my shoulder for the latch and I moved out of the way so he could search through the bizarre and useless collection of band-aids contained within for something he could wrap around his scabby cuticles.

What Lourdes and Scrawny Mike saw:

Lourdes and Mike were a few feet away when Jeff awkwardly leaned forward as if he were going to give me a hug. Lourdes even started to say “Aw….”. Then I moved out of the way and Jeff opened the medical supplies.

What, I’m supposed to give my brother a hug at work since I’m not going to see him for four whole days? Right.

I still think Lourdes was disappointed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reason #968 Why I Will Never Take a Job with On-call Shifts Again (*)

Scene: Approximately six months ago, 7:30am, Saturday morning. I have to be at the hospital for treatments on the in-patients at 9. I’m in the shower, naked, with shampoo in my hair. The Nextel phone, which goes no further than two feet away from me all weekend, rings. I shut off the water and grab the phone, hoping that I’m not going to shock myself as I drip suds all over it.

Me: “This is Dr. B.” (Subtext: This had better be really important.)
Hospital receptionist: “Are you in the hospital?” (It’s always a really bad sign when the call starts out like this.)
Me: “Nope, I’m at home. What’s up?”
Receptionist: “We just had a client walk in with a rabbit.” Pause. “It doesn’t look very good.”

(For those unfamiliar with the hospital, having the receptionist tell you that something doesn’t look good means that it’s pretty much dying in the lobby. I had a client come in once with a seizuring bird and the receptionist didn’t mention it.)

Me: (Shivering in the shower, doing calculations on how fast I can get the soap out of my hair, get dressed and drive without being pulled over.) "I’m at least twenty minutes away. Can you get whoever’s on small animal emergency to triage and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Receptionist: “Okay.” She hangs up.

I put the dripping phone back down on the back of the toilet and turn the water on full blast to get most of the soap off. I decide to skip the jeans in favor of scrubs since I’ll be seeing a client the minute I get there, so I run out of the bathroom to grab the clean scrubs off the dryer, thus letting the cats into the bathroom.

At this point I’m rushing around getting dressed, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, and in general opening and closing drawers much more quickly than usual, which leads to Ripley getting his foot closed in the drawer. He compounds the problem by jumping off the counter (with his foot still stuck in the drawer) and ends up hanging in the air by one leg. By the time his foot is unstuck, he’s not putting any weight on the leg.

There aren’t any bones sticking out, but I’ll be gone at least eight hours, so Ripley is now coming to the hospital with me. I shove him into a carrier and run out to the car. Total time since phone call: less than ten minutes.

As I’m going 85 mph on the freeway, I call the hospital.

Me: “Hey, it’s Dr. B. Can you let small animal emergency know that I’m on my way in with one of my cats – he got his foot stuck and is now non-weight bearing on the leg.”
Receptionist: “Okay, I’ll let them know.”
Me: “How’s the rabbit?”
Receptionist: “Oh, it died right after I talked to you.”

And yes, I got charged an emergency fee for my cat.


(*) I know, I know, “never say never”, “it’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings”, blah blah blah. However, to put this in perspective, here are some things that would actually be strong enough incentives:
1) Cure for cancer,
2) Neil Patrick Harris becomes straight and only wants me when I’m on call,
3) Approximately $1,000,000/minute (tax-free) for a two hour shift, followed by early retirement.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I know at some point I'll get another dog. I've been tentatively planning to wait until after Lucy is gone, but I'm also open to adopting another dog sooner if the perfect match comes along.

A number of years ago Rvan decided that he was ready to settle down with someone, and embarked on a series of legendary, disastrous dates.

Without further ado, here are the six ways my attempt to adopt a dog last weekend was like one of Rvan’s bad dates:

We met online:

In this case it was a craigslist ad that said that the dog was at a shelter and had a limited amount of time before being put to sleep. The dog in question, Katy, met both of my requirements: 1) Good with other dogs, and 2) Good with cats. That’s it. That’s the list.

The craziness began before the first meeting:

I emailed the person who wrote the ad and told her about my situation. After three or four exchanges, I finally figured out that the woman didn’t work at the shelter (which was not obvious from the ad), but that she’s been trying to resolve an animal problem at a trailer park, and she was the one that brought the dog to the shelter in the first place. She mentioned that she was having a hard time getting the dog back out of the shelter, but didn’t say why. I assumed it was some sort of paperwork problem.

We finally set up a meeting on Saturday afternoon, which would give her time to get the dog after the SPCA opened at 11am and to run some unspecified errands. I gave her my cell phone number so she could call me half an hour before we were supposed to meet on Saturday.

At 6:30 on Friday night she sends me email complaining that I didn’t answer my cell phone when she called. This is my first concrete sign that she may not be dealing with a full deck. I considered stopping the whole thing at that point, but I figured that I could deal with a little craziness since I’d only have to deal with her once.

(The one that got away.)

Meeting in a public place:

Since the dog was in Sacramento, I agreed to meet the rescue person at a park downtown, a 30 minute drive from my house. I'd bring Lucy along, and that way the dogs would be able to meet in a neutral place.

It was a typical city park complete with sleeping homeless person. Lucy was acting like an idiot and barking nonstop. (She learned this lovely behavior from people at the dog park petting her every time she barked.) The other dog, Katy, was pretty calm and didn’t really seem to care about much.

This was when I found out that the reason the crazy woman was having a problem getting Katy back from the SPCA was that Katy failed the temperament test. Apparently she snapped at someone when they hugged her. I’ve known enough nice dogs that have failed shelter temperament tests to not be overly concerned about this (especially since Katy let me do everything to her at the park), but I was a little annoyed that this was the first time I was getting this information.

Oh, by the way, I’m seeing other people:

The first person I talked to when Lucy and I got to the park was the other person who was there to see Katy. It was news to me that anyone else had replied to the ad. Oh, and there was another person that was supposed to meet the dog that evening.

I really like you but…

After a while at the dog park, the crazy woman offered to see how Katy did with my cats since any sign of aggression would be a complete deal breaker. So we drove back to Woodland. The good news was that Katy didn’t even seem to notice the cats at all. The bad news was that Lucy got completely bent out of shape about having another dog in the house. (I think she would have gotten over that fairly quickly.)

It became fairly obvious that a visit to the home had always been an adoption requirement. That’s pretty common, and I didn’t have a problem with it, but a) you really need to tell someone about it beforehand if that's the case, and b) why make me drive out to Sacramento if we’re both going to have to drive back to Woodland?

Anyhow, the crazy person said she liked me, but didn’t like the sagging fence between my house and the house next door. I can understand her concern, but the neighbor’s yard is otherwise secure, and dogs tend not to leave back yards unless they are left alone out there. I don’t leave my dog outside when I leave.

I’ll call you:

The crazy woman wanted to check out the situation at the other place, but promised to call me and let me know either way. It’s been four days. I think I’ll just assume that Katy found another home.

On the positive side, even Rvan eventually found someone...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

Dishes best served cold:
1) Revenge
2) Gaspacho (if you like it, which I don’t, but assuming you did…)
3) Pumpkin pie

That final one is really important because I bought a frozen pumpkin pie while grocery shopping this evening, baked it, and then got tired of waiting for it to finish cooling. It just isn’t the same.


I get the next veggie box on Tuesday, and there will be no kale. Woohoo! (And there was much rejoicing.)

One of my friends pointed out that I could just tell the veggie people not to put kale in the box, but I keep thinking that there must be some way to make the stuff taste good. Surely it can’t only be popular because it’s the only green that will grow at this time of year.


The cats are decidedly more affectionate (with me, the dog, and each other) when the heat is off. Apparently they are only foul-weather friends.


Satin sheets sound like a really nice grown-up idea, but it kinda sucks when the bedspread keeps falling off the bed because the sheets are too slippery. Flannel sheets sound a bit fuddy-duddy, but maybe it’s time I embraced my inner fuddy.


I swept up those damned pollen cones for the very last time today. But I still have a hole in the roof.


Cranberries are actually pretty good when sautéed with pears and pecans. You don’t actually have to make jelly out of them. Imagine that.


Who likes lima beans? I mean, really. (Trick question!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Kale Chronicles

I’ve been cooking a lot more lately – partly because I have more time (even with the commute), and partly because I have to use up all the damned vegetables, and that’s not going to happen if I eat frozen pizza. I will make it through the potato-leek soup (which I hereby dub spuds-a-leeky) by next week, but only if I continue eating it for dinner every night. The cranberry-pear glazed yams were quite good, but I have yet to figure out how to make something more than just barely edible out of kale. (The birds are getting a lot of kale these days.)

As much as I’d like to believe that I’m just amazing in the kitchen, the following picture is probably more representative.


On a separate note, the elliptical showed up last week, and I finally put it together on Saturday evening. There were a whole lot of pieces in the box. That was good news since the box was 140 pounds and I wouldn’t have been able to muscle it inside if I hadn’t unpacked most of the box on the porch. The bad news was that it took three hours to assemble. But assemble it I did, and I didn’t even have any extra pieces at the end. Go team! (There’s a ‘me’ in team, you know.)

My legs are a little sore this week…

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Cannot Tell a Lie

Well, it was a cedar tree, not a cherry tree. And technically I didn’t chop it down, I paid other people to do so. But other than that, George Washington and I are together on this one.

I’ve tried multiple times to get a picture that shows exactly how big this tree is, but it never seems to work. Then, this morning, on day two of the tree chopping extravaganza, I took this:

All I needed before was for someone to climb up in the tree and provide a proper scale (after first chopping off all of the branches that would get in the way of being able to see said person).

After the branches were removed and lowered down, there was just the trunk spiking up into the air. Since there wasn't any way to lower things easily, the removal method was to cut off six foot sections at a time and let them fall. As the tree guy warned me, you could really feel it when one of those fell. At one point a bunch of my neighbors were outside and started applauding when a particularly big section hit the ground. (The tree guy also warned, before they started, that he "couldn't promise there won't be holes in the lawn when we're done.") Since the trunk was about ten feet from the house, the sections were falling right in front of the window. I finally decided that I would feel stupid if I were killed by a falling tree trunk and moved away from the window.

This is what the front lawn looks like tonight.

It makes my house look sort of like a monopoly hotel.

Anyhow, the tree is down, the house is still standing, and I need to go cross the Delaware or something.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patron of the Arts

Apparently living with me is conducive to producing artwork. (Please note that I make no claims, good or bad, about the quality of the aforementioned art.) Is it my stunning personality, or maybe just the lack of cable…?

Ten years ago Jojo the Enforcer spent the summer with me. Among the highlights of that summer:

- I found out that Johanna is easily confused by the plots of straightforward movies, mostly because she can’t tell the actors apart unless they have some striking physical differences. If one of the characters isn’t bald, fat, or lame, forget it. And if she gets confused, she goes to sleep.

- Johanna borrowed Jeff’s old car, Vlad the Impala. The car had two drawbacks (aside from its age and size): 1) it didn’t warn you if you left the lights on, and 2) one of the tires had a slow leak. I’m sure you can figure out what happened all summer.

- Johanna bought a clock for her bedroom and hung it on a nail one foot above the mattress she was sleeping on, which was on the floor. It was a very interesting look.

- Dearly departed Bonnie, the semi-feral cat, almost got stepped on many times. I thought she and Johanna had finally started to bond when I can home and found Jo playing with the cat toys, but then I found out she was tossing them at Bonnie, not to her.

Anyhow, here is the visual recording of that summer:

And just for comparison’s sake, the cup that Johanna made for me at the same time K-poo made hers (~25 years ago). The two year age gap between them meant that labels weren’t actually necessary, but she added a legend ("Koala Bear Regions") to the map anyhow.

I'm just like one of those Italian Renaissance people, except I take showers and I haven't made anyone paint the ceiling. Yet.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

Temporary sickness, as far as I’m concerned, should be considered a blessing. If I never got sick I would be tempted to fear death. As it is, I’m forced to remember that there are worse things.
On the other hand, being sick just pretty much sucks. And that’s my excuse for this entry being a few days late.
Anyhow, before my sickness drove K-poo 500 miles away, she gave me a (slightly belated) birthday present, a hand-painted mug which I will now share:

The scenes are amazingly lifelike, especially if you spend a whole lot of time in my house staring at the cats...

And the green cone in the back yard with the dog crushing the flowerbeds nearby...

And, of course, that fateful day when we played polo. This particular scene illustrates the reason that portraiture was so popular back in the day -- I've apparently lost about 30 pounds and I've got the mallet in the proper position. K-Poo is the one on the ground with the horse nowhere in sight. By the detailed brushwork, you can see the grace inherent in the fall.

Contrast that with the cup I received about 25 years ago by the same artist:

I think this might be a squirrel, but I'm not totally sure about that. I suppose it might be a space-alien Tyrannosaurus rex. Or maybe a zombie fox.

Luckily this picture came with a label. And that's probably a good thing...

I'm fairly sure that a child psychologist would have some interesting things to say about those pictures, but K-poo turned out pretty well anyhow...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Home is My Castle (mostly ruins)

It turns out that there’s really no qualification that you have to have in order to own a house aside from the ability to sign your name to about 80 sheets of paper, and a little money (or no money, in the case of many of the mortgages made in the last ten years).

For me that’s a good thing, since I never would have passed an ownership test. Granted, I’ve never been cited by the fire department for having four feet high weeds in my front yard (unlike a certain other family member), but I still may not be the right person to maintain a house.

Exhibit A: When I first moved in, there was a number sign hanging from the front light pole. It looked just sort of okay. Then, it broke and fell off the pole, so I glued it back together again and hung it back up. After that, it looked a little less okay since there were brown glue streaks on it. Then it broke again, and I just propped it up against the house. That was a year ago.

Meanwhile, K-poo moves in, and in less than two months she has painted a room, replaced the casement window operator, set up the drill press, and fabricated and hung a new sign.

Exhibit B: I’ve owned the house for six years. I’ve never really decorated it for Halloween aside from one year when I put up fake spiderweb stuff (which I took down after the new year). K-poo moves in and makes it look cool.

Of course, she has a little extra time on her hands. But still…

Oh well, at least my jack o’lanterns have always had two eyes. And my hands are strong enough to sign all 80 pages of the loan paperwork.


Other random notes from Halloween:

- Naturally, after months of dry weather, it rained on Halloween.
- K-poo and I independently said that one little kid looked like our nephew Aiden. Then K-poo adds "that just makes me want to grab him and keep him here." I don't think the kid's mother heard her, thank god. Because being known as the house with the crazy cat lady isn't enough -- K-poo's trying for the label of just plain crazy.
- My plan to break my October no-junk-food fast with all of the leftover candy was foiled by all the damned trick-or-treaters. Next year the light stays off.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Do It for the Kids!

So, I did my civic duty a few days ago and voted. Absentee ballot is the way to go – you can sit on your couch, watch tv, and eat junk food while determining the future direction of the country.

Anyhow, aside from the presidential election, there were something like a dozen measures for stuff in California. Some of them I knew about, but most of them I had to actually read the booklet to find out what I was voting on. After reading the pros and cons, I was still unsure about how I felt about a few of the measures, so I used the tried and true method:

Whichever side mentioned children first is the side I vote against.

(Obviously this voting strategy doesn’t apply to the measure on funding children’s hospitals. Or does it?)

It’s not that I’m against children really. I mean, I accept that some people like them and all, and while I wish there were better leash laws for them, I guess they’re not all bad. But why are they in a special category? Technically, they're human. Anyone who uses “the children” to persuade people is trying to hide something, and that sort of behavior should be punished.

Anyhow, my ballot is safely in the mail. Aside from civic pride, I sleep well in the knowledge that I have nullified my father’s vote. (Hi Dad!) What more can you ask for?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Notes From a Natural Athlete

Funniest quotation of the day before:
“Riding a horse is easy.”
(Said by Eric, who doesn’t ride, and wasn’t going with us.)

When someone invites you to drive halfway to Yosemite to go play polo, the rule is that you have to say yes. More importantly, you also have to bring K-poo Weak Hands along. Does it matter that you haven’t been on a horse in almost 30 years? Or that you weren’t all that great a rider to begin with? Actually, yes, it does matter. But caution is for wusses (like all the people who didn’t go with us).

Failure #1: Google maps almost got us there. We knew we were within ½ mile of the place, but we couldn’t find the final turnoff (Lon Dale Road).
Failure #2: K-poo felt that we should have been able to find the stables just by looking for the large British flags that should have been flying in order to announce the presence of Princes William and Harry. However, it turns out they are riding dirt bikes in Africa, and were unable to attend.

We finally called Eric and he was able to tell us that on Yahoo maps, Lon Dale seemed to parallel Hwy 120. We turned down the road labeled “Frontage Road” and lo and behold, the mailboxes were labeled Lon Dale.

Prior to riding:
Me: “We’re going to die.”
K-poo: “We’re not going to die.”

Less than 15 minutes later K-poo was on the ground with a bruise forming on her tailbone and dirt embedded between her teeth, trying to decide if she could move her toes.

Technically she didn’t fall off, she just executed an emergency dismount at high speeds. I have to say, her form was excellent as her horse was running away with her the entire length of the arena. I lost sight of her when the two of them flew through the open gate, and thus I missed the photo opportunity of the year.

I’m still not sure how she managed to hit both sides of her body when she landed. Luckily, she was okay, and the only permanent damage was the top button of her jeans.

Rules of polo:
Okay, I actually don’t know any of the rules of polo, but apparently the main way to keep the ball away from your opponent is to use your horse to push his horse out of the way. I’m thinking alcohol must have been involved at some point. The only other rule I know is that they have to wear white pants, which is just stupid for a sport played on horseback in the dirt.

Helpful question of the day: “Would you like a sand wedge instead of the mallet?” I think Heeder was trying to be funny after I missed the ball and hit the dirt for the third time in a row. Oh yes, very funny. Ha ha.

Funniest quotation of the day: “You’re a natural athlete.” This from Mike, the owner of the horses, to me, of all people. I can honestly say that nobody has ever told me that in the last forty years. However, I suspect Mike says this to a number of people. He’s a nice guy, and he’s trying to get people interested in a dirty, expensive, dangerous sport – perhaps a little fudging of the facts is necessary.

Anyhow, we had a great time. Everyone was super nice (except for Spawn of Satan who ran away with K-poo), and I highly recommend that everyone go try this. Especially Eric.

Oh, and Eric, I know the perfect horse for you…

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

So the green cone has finally been installed. What is a green cone, you ask? No, it’s not the mythical cone of silence (although that would be a great gift for me if anyone comes across one – the conures could really use some noise control.) And it’s not a dunce cap, although the top is the right shape and it would actually fit over Rvan’s head.

To quote the frequently asked questions brochure, the green cone “eats the food you don’t”. In other words, it’s a compost bin. A super, duper, expensive, designed in England compost bin. What makes this better than your average compost bin is that it uses technology from the future to instantly vaporize anything that is added. Okay, that may not be what the company says, but the brochure claims that you can add 1.5-2 pounds of kitchen waste every day without the level inside going up. And you only have to empty it every 3-4 years. And you can put meat scraps and “animal excrement” (in moderation) in it.

(A garden gnome stands next to the newly assembled green cone.)

What the marketing doesn’t talk about is that installation requires you to dig a gigantic hole. It’s supposed to be two feet deep and 32” in diameter. That’s a huge hole. This required two days, one to dig the first six inches in the rock hard soil, and then the other to dig the rest after watering the starter hole overnight. And you can’t really skimp on the depth since otherwise the basket part at the bottom isn’t buried.

(Vegetable's-eye view prior to the suicidal leap into the abyss.)

Anyhow, the green cone is installed and ready to use, which is important as I’ve just signed up for a CSA vegetable box. Imagine that -- a box of freshly picked produce delivered to my house every other week. To quote Rvan, even if I don’t eat a wider variety of things, I’ll be putting a wider variety of vegetables into my compost bin.

(Green cone may be easily mistaken for a missile silo after installation.)

And that's a good thing -- I want to treat the green cone well after all the money I spent on it...

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Everyone knows I’m a big Apple fan. My iMac has got to be the best big-money item I’ve ever bought (taking the throne from the down comforter I bought in college that kept me warm for many years until, sadly, Scooter used it as his own personal throne one too many times). I’m keeping iTunes in business (although I am a little peeved that the third season of Battlestar Galactica is unavailable. I’m sure it will be available soon, right?) And my iPod (plus a thick sweatshirt) helps me forget that I’m in Siberia at work.

The whole Apple brand is meant to appeal to someone like me. In general, the advertising is geared towards young, liberal, cool people. (Stop laughing, that’s what I am in my head!) Or, more specifically, women. And that’s fine, I’m willing to have a company cater to me. More companies should. But the new iPod makes me think that Apple may be taking the liberal thing a bit too far.

Unlike Chris Leavins’ iPod (he's the guy from Cute With Chris, and if I weren't totally lame I would have a proper link so you wouldn't have to cut and paste the following, but it's late and I'm tired, so just cut and paste already: ) *, my iPod is populated mostly with songs by a bunch of really white people. Astute readers will note that I grew up before rap “music” made young white suburban teenagers try to pretend they were from the ghetto. My formative years were spent listening to so-called “new wave” which featured a lot of really pale guys from Europe who used drum machines and too much hair gel. I missed most of the grunge scene, and I haven’t really bought much music in the last fifteen years. It’s not that I have anything against non-white musicians, it’s just that they weren’t playing on the radio stations I listened to.

My iPod, however, seems to think that I need more balance in my life. A couple of times now, it has come up with some interesting patterns when shuffling songs. For example, it will play “Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughn, then “Mr. Bojangles” by Nina Simone, then a Sinead O’Connor song, then “I want a little sugar in my bowl” by Nina Simone, then an instrumental piece by Ottmar Liebert. Eventually it just goes whole hog, and I find myself singing along with Nina Simone in “To be young, gifted, and black”.

Oh well. I think my iPod is just jealous because it wanted to be black, and is red instead. At least, I think that’s what it is trying to tell me.

In any case, I leave you with these words of wisdom: “If you’re young, gifted, and black, your soul’s intact.” Now you know.

(*) It's all clear now, no need to cut and paste, here's the info on Chris Leavins' iPod

Thursday, October 16, 2008

All Hail the Queen

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I live alone (ignoring for the moment K-poo Weak Hand’s extended stay). When I moved back from that third world country called Louisiana, I ditched everything that wouldn’t fit in the 6x6x8’ container, including my bed. (And by “my” bed, I mean the bed I got from my sister who got it from my brother and sister-in-law who possibly got it from my parents. It was time.) So I bought a new, expensive, queen size bed, figuring that I’d have all sorts of room to roll around and still not come near the edge.

Yeah, right.

The reality is that I get a one foot wide strip on the very edge of the bed, and it’s a good thing that I’m pretty aware of where I am when sleeping or I’d have fallen off the bed multiple times. I start out with the entire bed to myself, then the big dog climbs into bed and takes the middle, forcing me to move over. (Hey, the dog is old and blind and arthritic, and if she can sleep comfortably on the bed, it’s worth it.) Then the cats pile in and lean on me, which is fine, but if I try to change position on the bed, they flop into the space I’ve temporarily vacated, leaving me with less and less room. And if my toes hang over the end, Guido attacks them.

To paraphrase that guy from Jaws, I think we need a bigger bed…

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Falling in Love

For a moment today, I fervently wished I were married.

I attribute this brief bout of insanity to my (at the time) impending death. And it wasn’t because my life was flashing before my eyes and I had regrets about things I’d never done. I’ve never really had marriage on my life todo list. Oh sure, I suppose sometimes it would be nice to have another person around, but six cats and one big dog keep the bed pretty toasty, and I never have to worry about the toilet seat being left up.

No, the reason that I was hoping for a husband to magically appear was that I have a pretty intense fear of heights and if I’d been married, preferably to some sort of tree climbing high-rise construction worker, I wouldn’t have been the one on a ladder trying to grab the cat off the roof.

Here is a semi-accurate transcription of what the neighbors heard today:

“Guido, where are you?”
“Where are you?”
This went on for about five minutes while I wandered around in the untamed wilderness that is the back yard looking for the inside-only cat who had figured out how to unlatch the second screen door in two days. He always sounded like he was nearby, but on the other side of a fence. Finally I looked up. There he was on the edge of the roof.

[Swear words deleted].
I stood on a patio chair, which put me a good four feet under the edge of the roof. Then I got the kitchen stepstool. Standing on the “do-not-stand-on-this-because-it-isn’t-a-step-and-you-will-die-you-idiot” part of the stepstool, I was just able to reach the roof.
This approach would have worked well if Guido had come to me and leaned over the edge so I could grab him. Unfortunately, he was enjoying the spectacle of me trying to kill myself too much to cooperate. He did come within a foot of where I was, and leaned over the edge to see what I was doing. This led to the following dialogue:
“Guido, come over here.”
“Come on, just a little closer. I’ll scratch your chin.”
“Guido, you little bastard, get over here.”
Finally he got bored and wandered out of sight.

At this point I knew I was going to have to use the big ladder, which I’d bought at Home Depot five years ago in a fit of optimism. I’d brought it home, climbed three steps, and decided that whatever I needed to do on the roof could wait until Hell froze over. It’s been sitting in the garage ever since.

So, I dragged out the big ladder and figured out how to open it up, took a deep breath and climbed up. I’m sure my neighbors were watching at this point. Now I was high enough up that I could see Guido rolling around and sunning himself on the roof.
“Guido, come here.”
“Guido, you little bastard, get over here.”
“Guido, get your ass over here!”
“Guido, do you want a treat? Treat?”
Finally he wandered over close enough that I could grab his scruff, at which point he dug his claws into the roof and I almost pulled the ladder over trying to yank him off.

Word to the wise: if you are ever eye level with the roof, and you’re pulling the cat off the roof so you can get his ungrateful little ass down on the ground, protect your head because that’s going to be the closest thing he can latch onto.

Apparently both of us are afraid of heights.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It’s okay, everyone! False alarm!

As we were walking to lunch the other day, somehow we got on the subject of age and the fact that my 40th birthday is next month. And somehow from there my mind made the leap to “oh crap, if I stare at younger guys that’s going to make me a cougar.”

See, in my mind, cougardom, that province of disgusting mature women on reality shows, starts at forty. At some point, the percentage of guys older and younger than you tilts in favor of the cradle, and when you add in looks, the ogle-ability quotient steepens that slope. How can you avoid checking out younger men? It’s inevitable.

Lucky for me, though, I looked up cougar in that trusty old standard While normally I’m a don’t-sweat-the-details sort of person, in this case the details are important. There are seven entries. Things were a bit scary in the beginning when I found out that some young whippersnappers consider women 35+ to be in the right range. Have I been in this category for five years without knowing it? Worse, the next entry broadens it to women in their 30s and 40s.

However, then I started noticing things about “overprocessed hair and skin” and “surgically altered”. If I can say anything with confidence (and really, who can?), I can say that I don’t have overprocessed hair and skin. And the only surgical altering I’ve ever done was at feral cat spay and neuter clinics.

Anyhow, I’ve defined myself out of risk, and I can go back to my normal obliviousness.

Whatever. I am woman, hear me roar…

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our Lady of Reynolds Wrap

So I was out front sweeping the sidewalk this morning after mowing the lawn. Normally my neighbor, Larry, mows my front lawn (which is blog fodder for another day…), but I guess Larry’s been out of town or busy or something, so I mowed my own lawn today.

Mowing the front lawn, not a big deal, except for the butterfly bush that my neighbor on the other side, Steve, planted on the edge of his lawn. The branches curve down onto my side and make it a little hard to maneuver the mower around. I just go straight by – occasionally one of the branches gets sucked in, but usually they just get pushed out of the way.

Mowing the back lawn is a different story. No matter how hard you try to put the dirt clods back in the same spot after digging trenches in the lawn, you always end up with hills and valleys. I cranked the reel up to its highest level and tried to get some momentum going. It’s a little like off-roading with the electric (with a cord!) mower. Despite the fact that the mower is a Black & Decker “Lawn Hog” (which always makes me think I should be wearing a bandana and a leather vest while mowing the lawn), it acts more like a Lawn Moped -- you know, the kind that you used to be able to pedal after you ran out of gas.

Anyhow, I’d finished the mowing part, and I was cleaning up the sidewalk out front when my neighbor Steve came out. (No, he didn’t say anything about the butterfly bush.) We haven’t seen each other for a while, so we were standing around talking when a procession of about twenty people, mostly Hispanic, came around the corner. They were dressed in a Sunday-going-to-church manner and singing softly as they walked on the sidewalk.

“I wonder if I’m going to catch some flack for the sign,” Steve said as the group got closer. He has a “Vote no on prop 8 – equality for all” sign in his front yard. I told him I’d back him up if things got ugly (which is the funniest part of this whole thing). We moved off the sidewalk to let the procession pass.

The sign didn’t seem to be an issue. The whole crowd kept going without slowing down or even looking at us. About five people had hand-lettered signs that said something about the Virgin Mary in Spanish. One of the teenagers in the back had a massive rosary that appeared to be made out of ¼” rope, with crumpled up 3” diameter balls of aluminum foil for beads. It looked about as classy as you would imagine (and I’m probably going to hell for making fun of it.)

I love Woodland.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Worst Inventions

I think Jane Austen said it best when she wrote “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single person in possession of a speaker phone, must be in want of a whole group of people stuck in neighboring cubicles to listen to his conversation at the maximum volume.”

Today’s topic is, of course, worst inventions of all time. I can’t decide the absolute worst, but I have some strong contenders:

1) Speaker phones: Let’s face it, these things are just annoying. Whether it’s at work, where people use speaker phones because they’re too lazy to pick up the headset and the poor people working around them be damned, or at home, where the person on the other end is yelling because you just can’t tell if anyone is out there hearing you, speaker phones are the invention of the devil. I hereby promise to hang up on anyone who puts me on speaker phone without having a really, really good reason.

2) Advertising for “bebe”: This company has owned the rights to a bus stop wall near the freeway for at least six years. In all that time, I’ve often noticed the ads since the pictures are quite striking. However, every time I see one I think “That looks really stupid”. Honestly, these clothes don’t make a person look attractive, much less sexy. Now obviously I’m not their target market (since I would never wear clothing that revealed that much skin, even to a Halloween party), but I find it interesting that even if I wanted to buy something, I wouldn’t know where to get it. I’ve never seen that brand in the mall stores, and I’ve never seen a bebe boutique. Do they really sell anything?

3) Packaging for socks: I bought a six-pack of socks at Target. The package is reclosable, and they put that as a selling point on the package. Why? To keep my socks fresh?

4) The new Wheezer song: I don’t remember them always being this bad. I think I even own an earlier album. But this “song” is making me turn off the radio. Sample lyrics: “I’m a troublemaker, Never been a faker, Doing things my own way, And never giving up. I’m a troublemaker, Not a double taker, I don’t have the patience, To keep it on the up.” I have the feeling that someone gave them a rhyming dictionary for Christmas and they couldn’t quite figure out how it works. Not since the very last Cranberries album have I heard lyrics this awful.

5) HD TV: Let’s be honest, the problem with TV isn’t that the picture isn’t sharp enough, it’s that the content is crap. I don’t need to see bad acting in perfect clarity. Half the time I’m not wearing my glasses anyhow…

Did I forget anything?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Random Bag

I was going to get a few things done this weekend (finish the sprinklers, replace the casement window operator, clean my room, weed the flower bed, etc.) but…
- it was in the high nineties this weekend, which is conducive to nothing other than sleeping on the couch
- K-poo Weak Hands went to the city for the weekend to party, so I didn’t feel guilty that I was lazing around while she was working
- I have an entire box of books that I haven’t read
Needless to say, I got nothing done aside from reading three books and making lasagna.

As you can see, K-Poo started taking pictures as promised. So there. Now everyone can complain about the art.

Confirmed superpowers:
- Me: the ability to choose the slowest checkout line
- Jeff: music butt (his phone kept randomly playing songs while he was digging last weekend)
- Eric: photo butt (his phone takes pictures randomly, complete with shutter sounds, while in his back pocket)
I’m sure there are others.

Actual headline from the Daily Democrat, a source of continual laughs:

Kiwanis Club 'entertainment' books for sale

Irony, truth, or cluelessness?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Stuff Report

Here’s the scoop on a bunch of my material possessions. Overall, the week has been a bit mixed.

- Answering machine: Yes, it’s back! K-poo encouraged me to unpack another box and it was inside. This is the old answering machine with the analog tape that beeps after the greeting for as long as it takes to forward past all of the existing messages. On the reverse side of the tape is the message I got from a woman asking me to pay for a new dog since I’d run over her dog (and no, I didn’t hit her dog, it was running in the street in front of my house and somebody else ran it over – I merely did unsuccessful CPR on it and transported the body so she could pick it up and left her a message where she could find it). Anyhow, is it more annoying to have an answering machine with a potentially two minute long beep, or to have no way to leave messages? I’ll let you decide. It doesn’t really matter much since I tend not to listen to the messages anyhow.
- Pictures: K-poo is taking pictures so that I can improve the look of this blog. The reason she’s taking the pictures is 1) she’s the one who keeps complaining about the way it looks, 2) she owns a digital camera, and 3) my photography skills are on par with my carpentry skills. On the other hand, the pictures aren’t on the blog yet, so you know how this is going…
- iPod nano: I like the fact that it’s got 16 GB (which is 4x the size of the last one). I’m embarrassed to admit how long I thought the shuffle feature on the old iPod was broken because it always seemed to be playing the same songs when in fact it just wasn’t able to load all of my music. The color (red) is nice, and it’s also nice that my name and number are etched on the back since you can’t write on that finish with anything. Now if I get run over at night they’ll at least be able to leave a message on my cell phone about my demise, unless someone steals the ipod before I’m found. The new features… I don’t really need pictures of the album covers, and the shaking of the iPod to start the shuffle is just silly. Whatever. It’s still worth the money.
- iTunes: I had to upgrade iTunes for the new iPod, and version 8.0 just isn’t quite ready for prime time. Either the software or the store is broken, and it won’t let me download any more Battlestar Galactica episodes. If it’s not fixed soon, I’ll have to stop working out, since I’ve almost finished watching season one and I can’t work out without something to take my mind off the fact that working out sucks. This is a true crisis. Forget the whole Wall Street thing – this is important! In addition, I’ve had to restart iTunes a few times because it asks for a password and tells me that this computer isn’t licensed to play the video. Then when you enter the password, it informs you that this computer is already licensed. Then it asks for a password again. Apple’s usually better than this.
- Doorknob: K-poo successfully changed the knob on the door to her room. It’s round (instead of a lever) and has a lock. Guido has not yet figured out how to open it, but it’s early days yet…
- Bookshelves: K-poo and I assembled two five-shelf bookcases from Target last weekend. They were only $30 each and look pretty good. However, if you ever see something advertised as “needs no tools”, run away. There are about seventy little pieces of plastic holding everything together and it would have been a lot easier if they’d just used some screws. But they were still a good deal, and I need at least two more…
- My new cell phone: I don't like it. It's hard to use. It's pretty, though, and the battery lasts longer. I think I'll get a new battery for the old one and switch back. Yeah, the old one's a brick and everyone laughs when they see me raising the antenna, but I can dial the correct phone number with it.
- I just got a free box of books. The Pleasant Hill library is giving away thousands of books. Free! At some point it’s just overwhelming.

Anyhow, that’s the state of the stuff.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Weekend

This weekend we almost put in sprinklers in the back yard. Everything is in except for the actual sprinklers, due to a slight problem with the risers (ie, they were the wrong size). The lawn looks like it was attacked by a gopher with some serious OCD.

In any case, a few things were learned on Sunday.

- Never leave the four year old child alone on the computer. The lure of the icons exploding in a puff of dust as they are dragged off the dock means that you will have no applications to choose from at the end of the day.
- If x is the difficulty of the home improvement project, and y is the number of beers consumed, z = x + (y * 2) is the number of trips to Home Depot that will be required in order to finish the project.
- If z is the number of trips to Home Depot that will be required, z-1 is the number that will occur before dark and the end of work for the day, once again leaving the job 98% finished.
- Make sure you know which side of the closed valve you are on before you start cutting the existing PVC.
- The four year old child hollering “Itsy bitsy spider” while holding the cat toy will entertain one of the cats for quite some time. However, there is a good chance that at least one of the other cats will pee on the guest bed within 24 hours. This is possibly related.
- Purple primer will eventually wash or wear off, but it’s still probably not a good thing to use around the naked four year old.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fifteen Years

Things I have accomplished in the last decade and a half (in no particular order):
- Bought a house, which promptly employed its tractor beam to encourage all of the large branches from the cedar tree to punch through the roof.
- Acquired six cats, a dog, and three birds. (The accomplishment is that I didn’t acquire more than that.)
- Spent all my money and energy to become a doctor.
- Decided maybe I didn’t want to be a doctor after all.
- Moved to Louisiana.
- Escaped from Louisiana.
- Got my driver’s license and bought a car.
- Dented the car a whole bunch.

Things Mike and Paige have accomplished in the last decade and a half:
- Got married and stayed that way.
- Raised three pretty impressive kids.

Those freaking overachievers…

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Diet of Epic Fail

It has occurred to me about once per day for the last year or so that I could stand to lose some weight. It’s not critical – if I measure my height without slouching, and measure my weight while I stand naked on the old analog scale and lean to the side, my body mass index is still within the “overweight” category. However, I’ve got a whole lot of German hillbilly peasant genes working against me here, and the prognosis isn’t great.

Anyhow, despite the daily reminder, I still haven’t lost much weight. Here’s a sample day. See if you can spot the problem.

5:45 am – Alarm clock goes off. Hit snooze a few times while the cats run back and forth over my head.
6:00 am – Get out of bed. Stumble to the kitchen, feed the cats, medicate and feed the dog.
6:10-7:00 am – Work out on the exercise bike while watching a video. (Yay, look at me go!)
7:00 am -- Eat a bagel or cereal. Take a shower and get ready for work, drive to work.
11:30 am – I’m starving. It’s time to go to lunch.
Lunch -- Eat the only vegetarian option on the menu at whatever restaurant we end up at. Eat too much because I’m so hungry, but that’s okay, right, since I worked out this morning.
1:30 pm – Pass by Robert’s stash of pretzels, oreos, and pistachio nuts. Look, I’m being good!
2:00 pm – Stop at Robert’s stash of pretzels, oreos, and pistachio nuts. It’s okay, though, since I worked out this morning.
2:30 pm – Hey, I worked out this morning, a few more pretzels won’t hurt.
3:00 pm – Damn you, Robert!
3:30 pm – Might need to work out again tonight to burn off the oreos.
4:00 pm – Isn’t it time to go home yet? I feel a little sick.
6:30 pm – Waddle out to the car and drive home.
8:00 pm – Dinner time. Oops, I ate half a pizza. That’s okay, though. I’ll just set my alarm for 5:45 tomorrow and work out in the morning…

Obviously it's all Robert's fault.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exposing Myself

Before I start, I’d just like to point out that I do take rabies very seriously. I’m a little cavalier about some zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) because the diseases just aren’t that serious, they’re hard to transmit, or they’re fairly easy to get rid of if you do get them. Chlamydophila psittaci (psittacosis) is a good example. Last Fall we probably had about three raptors that were shedding Chlamydophila come in every week. The approved protocol for handling suspect birds involves isolation gowns, gloves, and a mask, but sometimes we wouldn’t suspect Chlamydophila until the bloodwork came back, and we didn’t gown up for every wild bird that came in. I know I’ve been exposed to it many times, and I’ve never gotten ill. If you do get ill (cyclic fevers are the most common symptom), doxycycline will cure you.

Rabies, on the other hand, is a virus that is uniformly fatal if not treated. Worse yet, if you wait until the symptoms appear, it’s fatal despite treatment. There is exactly one reported case of a person recovering from a rabies infection after symptoms appeared. That’s it.
All students entering vet school are required to be vaccinated against rabies, and at least two of my classmates ended up having severe enough reactions to the vaccine that they were hospitalized. This happens every year and the school still requires the vaccine because the disease is so serious.

However, (and this is the important part) rabies requires direct contact for transmission, generally from saliva in a bite wound.

The following is a good example of how it just doesn’t pay to be helpful.

The exotics ward received a call from the main reception area that there was a dead bat on the walkway coming into the hospital. First off, the receptionists knew it was dead, so I’m not exactly sure why they were calling us instead of, say, doing whatever they did for dead squirrels and birds and the like. In any case, they called us, so one of the technicians put on latex gloves, went outside, carefully picked up the stiff-as-a-board Mexican Hoary Bat, placed it in a bag, and then came back inside and placed it on the counter in the treatment area. During this entire time I was in the office, which is about twenty feet away.

Rabies is relatively common in bats in this area, so even though we didn’t have any evidence that suggested that any person or animal had handled the bat, I decided that the responsible thing to do was to send the bat off for rabies testing. There are probably over a hundred dogs that walk on that walkway every day, and I was worried that someone would call later to let us know that their dog had been playing with a dead bat that day.

So… I filled out a pathology report to have the bat tested, and because the reports require a doctor’s signature, I signed it. Now my name was associated with it. On the report I was fairly specific: “Bat found dead on walkway to VMTH. No known exposure to humans or animals. Please rule out rabies.”

For those of you that haven’t been paying attention, I never came closer than twenty feet to this bat. I certainly was never bitten by it.

Two days later it started.

The administrative assistant in the pathology department called me to tell me that the bat had come back positive for rabies. I told her what I’d written on the form – there definitely wasn’t any exposure to anyone after it was found, but I couldn’t promise that something hadn’t gotten to it earlier.

Silly me, I thought that was the end of it.

The next day the county health officer called. I again explained the circumstances. No exposure, blah blah blah. I added that I’d never even seen the bat. After repeating this a few times the health officer seemed satisfied. Now, I thought, I’ve really heard the last of it.

Ten minutes later somebody from employee health services called so that I could set up an appointment to have my rabies titers checked. I reminded her that I’d had my titers checked at employee health services not six months before, and besides, I hadn’t been exposed. The health services employee said that there was some irregularity with the way the testing company had handled that batch of samples. She got a little snippy when I asked if they were calling all of the other people who’d had titers checked at that time. Then I spent a few minutes trying to get her to admit that there was no point in rechecking my titers since I hadn’t been exposed. Finally, she said “I’ll just write on the form that you declined to have your titers checked” and hung up.

I got three more calls over the next two days.

As far as I know, no member of the public every called to report an earlier exposure, and the county didn’t publicize the finding of a rabies positive bat near the hospital.

The next time I see a dead bat, I’m throwing it in the garbage.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sure to Proceed?

Let me just say that I’m sympathetic to those struggling with a language not their own. I still cringe when I remember an essay I wrote in a German language class that inspired a ten minute lecture from the teacher on the proper use of the word “erregend” which apparently means not just “exciting” as my pocket dictionary would have it, but “sexually exciting”. I can remember about five words of German at this point, but that’s one of them. And it’s not even that useful of a word. You could get by with sign language in a pinch.

(The odd thing is that I just looked up “exciting” on an online translator just to make sure I was spelling everything correctly, and it lists “erregend” as the first choice. So… either my German instructor was full of it, or there are going to be lots of sexually excited people out there.)

And it’s not just the language that’s a problem when you move to a new country. Everything you take for granted is different. When I moved to Germany for a year, I quickly (i.e., in the first day) learned that the ability to read 18th century poetry wasn’t a big help when I got to the grocery store. I’d been there at least six months before I realized why people were giving me such odd looks when I washed my clothes. You see, when I went down the detergent aisle (in that painful first week) I bought a box of detergent that seemed to be what I wanted. It had a picture of white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind with a green field and blue sky framed by the window. To me, white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind meant clean clothes. To the Germans (and to me as well when I had a better grasp of vocabulary and was bored enough to read the box), white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind meant – curtain detergent. I had no idea there was such a thing. But it cleaned my clothes just fine, dammit.

So, yeah, I’ve felt like an idiot before. But of course that’s not going to stop me from making fun of other people.

Way back in the dawn of time (during the .com boom), we had a multitude of foreign programmers. Some had lived in the US for quite a few years, and others were more recent imports. Occasionally the user interface would have little oddities like the “Sure to proceed?” button that we kept in the product just because it was so funny. Sometimes the comments looked like they might be in English if you could just rearrange the sentence a bit. And then there were the file names…

There was a team of programmers working on implementing the new digital signal coverage predictions. It just so happened that nobody on that team spoke English as a first language. The new and improved part of the digital protocol was in the handoffs, and there might by no handoff, one-way handoff, two-way handoff, etc.

Nobody (except for rvan) likes to type, so of course everything was shortened. Thus, there were files about “no_ho”, “1way_ho”, “2way_ho” and the like. Although I’d like to pretend I’ve matured, we’re still making 2way_ho jokes ten years later. I’m not even going to mention how the cumulative usage filename got shortened...

Whatever. There’s probably some person in Germany who’s still telling stories about the American idiot who washed her clothes with curtain detergent.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Indigestible -- a review of spam

Every once in a while I check through the weekly spam digest to make sure that it’s not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Here’s the latest batch. All spelling errors are the fault of the sender:

49 messages were filtered into your spam mailbox this week:

Category: Subjects that make you think that this might be a real message

Subject: What time is okay for you
Score: 3/10 (It might have worked…)

From: "Bank Of America Customer Update Department"
Subject: Bank of America Java Update Includes Security Fixes - Security Fix.
Score: 1/10 (Nice try…)

Category: Off the wall

Subject: Paris Hilton Hates Nicole Richie
Score: 1/10 (because I hate Paris Hilton)

Subject: The first aid is always ready
Score: 2/10 (and the lemonade is still in the bottle.)

Subject: We have hijacked your baby
Score: 1/10 (because you can have my baby, I don’t want it.)

Subject: Britney Spears Loses Kids For Being Fat At VMA's
Score: 5/10 (or maybe it was because she was obviously stoned…)

Category: Single entendre

Subject: Turning a small knob into a huge wand!
Score: 7/10, but 2 points deducted since I received seven messages with this subject in one week.

Subject: Make your man pole hard and strong
Score: 6/10 (but if I ever write soft porn, I’m using this one!)

Category: Odd spelling to avoid spam filters

Subject: if he's hard to shop for, you wont go wrong with viiiiaaaaagggrrrraaa
Score: 2/10 (Bonus point for Tony the tiger imitation, or maybe that’s just in my head…)

Subject: Huge holiday discounts for PE_enlargement and ED_treatment!
Score: 1/10 (on the theory that you shouldn’t have to wiki the abbreviations in an advertisement)

Category: English is not my first language

Subject: the comments I get about my nights with women are amazing, people think im wizard!
Score: 2/10 (…at least there’s a comma.)

Subject: ladies say size doesnot matter, but we know, it does!
Score: 2/10 (What, are you Data from Star Trek? It’s “doesn’t”)

Subject: Have an unforgetful night of pleasure with your girlfriend!
Score: 6/10 (because this ad is just unforgetful!)

Subject: Goodiest offer
Score: 7/10, special award for most egregious example

Special Dual Category: (1) English is not my first language, and (2) What?

Subject: Tired of been pissed off in bed by your gf that you cannot_satisfy_her for that promotion will help you
Score: 9/10 (I think this is my favorite one.)

Category: Unsolicited advice

Subject: Dont look fat and stupid this summer.
Score: 1/10 (Too late, summer’s over.)

Category: Object Oriented Programming 101

Subject: Don't be fooled by ladies, size has matter!
Score: 1/10 (Size inherits from matter, that’s an “is-a” not a “has-a” relationship…)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Joke's on Me

The other day as we were walking to lunch, listening to my brother Jeff fumbling to come up with the punchline to a joke he was telling, I was again painfully reminded of my family’s complete inability to remember jokes.

I have five brothers and sisters, and you would think that at least one of us would be able to tell jokes, but we can’t. We can make sarcastic comments that are fairly funny, and there was a very late night conversation between my oldest brother (who was going through EMT training at the time) and my youngest brother (who has always been a bit of a hypochondriac) about a medical condition called upper sphincter blowout which was probably the only time I laughed hard enough that I was concerned about physical injury. But if you want us to recite a joke you’re out of luck.

Every once in a while one of us will forget that we can’t and try, but the joke inevitably trails off to a disappointed conclusion as we either a) mess up the punchline in such a way as to render the entire thing useless, or (more likely) b) stop and try to remember what the punchline involved.

I have exactly two jokes that I can remember, and both of them involve math or numbers. (*)

The reason I’m fairly convinced that there’s a genetic basis for all of this is that I remember when my sisters were young. Jojo the Enforcer was about five years old and had the best memory for non-joke things that I have ever seen. My brothers and I would cheat during games of Memory, and Jo would still win. KB (or Karen-poo as she introduced herself the first day of kindergarten) was still eating her meals in the highchair, but she had an amazing vocabulary for a three year old.

Now, the joke that they were trying to tell was from a Bennett Cerf book. The book version is: “What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?” “Time to get a new fence.” As you can imagine, this is humor that appeals to little kids.

Here is the routine as told by my sisters: “What time is it when it’s time to get a new fence?” “An elephant!” And then they would dissolve into laughter. Sometimes they’d leave off the part about the elephant because they were laughing so hard. They told this joke at least once a day for about two years. And laughed every time.

Oh well. On the plus side, nobody in my family will bore you with an endless litany of blond jokes. At least we've got that going for us...

• Joke 1: Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. (Say it out loud. I have to think about which numbers are involved for a few minutes before I tell this.)
• Joke 2: A Polish man is on the left side of an airplane flying near the Grand Canyon when the pilot tells the passengers that there is a good view on the other side of the plane. The man goes to the other side to look out the window and the plane crashes. Why did the plane crash? Because the Pole was on the right side of the plane. (This is an engineering joke. I can’t even remember why it’s funny.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Instant Communication (or lack thereof)

Snippets from the first day back at work…

I spent the day trying (unsuccessfully) to log on to Outlook to read my email. The rest of the day was spent trying to get specifications for the project for which I was hired, talking to everyone who came by to say hello, instant messaging my boss (rvan) since I couldn't email him, and going out to lunch.

Actual instant messaging text:
You should be able to see this, you dork.
This message cannot be delivered to all recipients; one or more recipients are offline or do not want to be disturbed:
Are you paying attention now?
Tofu eater.
Speak for yourself!
***-****-**** is the IT support line
Okay, thanks.
Do I dial 9 to get out?
Only if you want it to work.
[Two lines of actual work information edited to avoid publishing trade secrets...]

The IT support people are supposed to call me back between 9 and 15 minutes (and that was almost 20 minutes ago...)
And why did I save calling them as a last resort?
You so smart!
It's the soy.
Hey, do I have voice mail?
[Admin assistant] is supposed to set up telecom for you. She might need reminding.
Yeah, that would be a no, not yet...
Delayed success, not pending failure.
[Gives web page that has some information about current project]
The explanation is in your email inbox.
Is that a joke?
Many things around here are jokes but aren't funny.
Try this:
Try this, what?
What what?
You wrote "Try this:"
An imposter, I would surely never type that.
Liar, liar, pants on fire...
So do we have an ETA for the XYZ/123 and primary usage data?
Don't ever trust management.
Don't bring the Basque separatists into this. It was an honest mistake.
Is that a yes?
[Person responsible for getting data] has either left or is stuck somewhere else, like in Michele's office. I'm trying to run it myself.
I just realized I have no drawers or filing cabinets. I better never need to store anything...
Overheard cabinets.
Overhead cabinets.
You overheard the cabinets say what?
Keep your drawers shut.
Thanks Jamie Spears

I’d just like to point out that I get paid for this stuff…

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Almond-Rice Stuffed Peppers

And now, for a little cooking interlude...

I happen to like this recipe (from the Sunset Vegetarian Cooking book), but the people who wrote the book have entirely too much time on their hands. I, however, am a little pressed for time and frankly, some of the stuff they say to do is just ridiculous. This is my signature dish (yeah, that sounds a little pretentious – let’s just say that this is what I cook as the vegetarian alternative every year at Christmas).

Note: I live alone. (I know, you’re shocked.) Therefore, I’m the only person who has to eat what I cook. It’s possible that not everyone has the same tastes as I do. Your mileage may vary.

1. Go to the store. Hint: it’s a good idea to check if you have rice before you go so you don’t end up with a third unopened bag of rice. (But there’s a rice shortage or something, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.)
2. Cook the rice. Don’t you hate it when you get to the step in the recipe that says “Add 2 cups cooked brown rice.”? What, you couldn’t have warned be about this ahead of time? Brown rice takes about an hour to cook, which sucks if you’re on a tight schedule.
3. Feed the cats. (Skip this step if you don’t have cats.) I really can’t stress this enough. If you feed them before going into the kitchen, you have at least an hour to get everything done before they wake up from the food coma. This is especially important since this recipe has cheese.
4. Wash all of the dishes you need. Okay, if you cook more often than I do, you may not need to do this. Let’s just say that everything I need to use has a patina of dust.
5. Clean out the fridge so you have somewhere to put the leftovers. And so that you can wash the dishes that held the leftovers that have since gone bad in the fridge. Yes, this is disgusting. But necessary.
6. Crank up the music. I highly recommend the Music Genome Project at You tell it what music you like and it comes up with a playlist that it thinks you might like. I started with Split Enz. (So I like 80’s music. Sue me.)

What the original recipe calls for:
- 3 large red or green bell peppers
- Boiling water
- 2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries
- ¾ cup chopped almonds
- 2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced
- 1 large tomato, peeled seeded, and chopped
- ¼ cup parsley
- 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp Worcestershire
- ½ tsp dry basil
- Garlic salt
- Pepper

Let’s break this down a bit:
3 large red or green bell peppers – This should just say 3 large red bell peppers. As far as I’m concerned, green bell peppers are disgusting. I’m not sure why you would put a bunch of effort into making a dinner and ruin it with green bell peppers. However, I realize that other people have different tastes, so knock yourself out.

Boiling water – What, am I assisting in a home birth? You don’t need this.

2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries – Frankly, I’m not really sure what wheat berries are. Sounds like a breakfast cereal, and that would really not be appropriate here. I use brown rice. Now, I’m not a big brown rice fan in general, but it really does work better than white rice here. But, hey, I’m not a food snob, so if you want to use Minute Rice (Hi Mom!), be my guest.

¾ cup chopped almonds – All they had at the store was whole and sliced almonds. Chopping nuts is time consuming and messy, so I just used a bag of sliced almonds.

2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced – Not much to say here, other than my definition of thinly sliced is probably not as thin as the authors’.

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped – WTF!? Are these people on crack? Do you know what’s left after you do this? About 1 tsp of tomato mush, that’s what. Just chop a damn tomato and put it in. Seriously.

¼ cup parsley – I used a rather large bunch of parsley for a double recipe. I didn’t measure it, but I suspect there was at least two cups. No, my math skills are not defective. I think the parsley makes this recipe taste good, and it cooks down quite a bit. I still don’t get the sprig of parsley at the edge of the plate, though.

1½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese – I’m a big fan of cheese, but this is a little excessive. I probably used half of this.

2 eggs, lightly beaten – I used Eggology egg whites. Mostly just because I’m lazy, but also because that stuff lasts for four months in the fridge and you can freeze it. I usually just use eggs, though.

½ tsp Worcestershire – I think it’s interesting that a vegetarian cookbook uses this, since I have yet to find a brand of Worcestershire that doesn’t have fish in it.

½ tsp dry basil – I wasn’t measuring exactly, but I used extra because my dry basil is a little… old. All of my spices are. In fact, I can’t actually remember the last time I bought new spices. (I do dust off the spice rack every once in a while, if that counts.) I remember thinking that I should throw out the spices and buy new ones when I was packing to move to Louisiana. That was two years ago. Whatever.

Garlic salt – Once again, I failed to realize that I don’t own any garlic salt. I used some really old garlic powder (see above) and plain salt. That should be the same thing, right?

Pepper – Yes, I have this!

Cut peppers lengthwise through stems; remove stems and seeds. (Okay, so far.) Drop pepper halves into boiling water; boil, uncovered, for 2 minutes, then plunge into cold water and drain well. (I don’t do this. The peppers get baked in the end. I’m not sure why they should be boiled and baked. Maybe you need to do this if you’re trying to make green bell peppers edible.)

Stir together rice, almonds, green onions, tomato, parsley, 1 cup of the cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, basil, and garlic salt and pepper to taste. (Or, in other words, mix everything together.) Mound mixture into pepper shells. Place peppers in a shallow baking pan; sprinkle tops equally with remaining ½ cup cheese. If made ahead, cover and refrigerate.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes (45 minutes, if refrigerated) or until filling is piping hot. (Piping hot!). Makes 6 servings.

That’s it. Pretty simple if you don’t complicate things by torturing tomatoes and boiling the poor peppers. They freeze pretty well if, like me, you live alone.

I’ve also made this with those little bitty bell peppers for an appetizer at a party – if you’re going to do that, don’t cut the mini-peppers lengthwise. Cut off the top and scoop out the insides and then stuff them that way.

See, I do have a kitchen.


So, a few weeks ago I had to go to a strip mall and pee in a cup.
This was a traumatic experience for a few reasons. First, the place closed at 4pm, which means that I had to hustle to take a shower, get dressed, and drive the five minutes to get there before 3:30. As I was thoroughly enjoying unemployment, that was already asking a lot of me.
Second, I had to pee in a cup. Now, those of you that are of the male variety are thinking, yeah, so what? Well, let me tell you, once again, you guys have it easier. If you’re a guy, you don’t have any logistics problems -- you just unzip, aim, and whiz, you’re done. The female equivalent, however, is equivalent to landing a jet on an aircraft carrier. In high winds. Backwards. We’ll just say that there’s a very good reason the technicians wear gloves to handle the cup afterwards.
As a veterinarian, there aren’t many things that gross me out. Animal blood, pus, maggots – I’ve dealt with them all, occasionally at the same time. I’ll put on gloves to make the cleanup easier, but it doesn’t bother me. Heck, if someone else is dealing with it, I’ll eat donuts during the procedure as long as I’m out of the splash zone. I’ve been peed on, pooped on, bled on, and had anal gland secretions fly through the air onto me. Aside from being a great excuse to change out of the uncomfortable nice clothes into a comfy pair of scrubs, those things really don’t impact me much. But human secretions? Even my own? Give me a barf bag and stand back.
Why, yes, I am single. Why do you ask?
Anyhow, the reason I had to pee in a cup was to prove that I wasn’t taking any illicit substances before I could get hired for my new job. You know, the job where I sit in a cube and surf the net all day. Um, I mean, program. Ironically, at my last job, (the one where I made life and death decisions and had to have good eye-hand coordination at all times, the job where I had fairly easy access to drugs, yeah, that job) I was never tested.
In any case, I passed the test. But I might need some valium to get over the trauma…