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?