Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Splash Of Color

About a month ago I started trying to let my right brain out to play once a day by drawing and painting. Sometimes the results have impressed me. Sometimes I just laugh and see if maybe adding more purple will solve the problem. (The answer is: no, no amount of additional paint will fix most problems.)

(Just add more paint. Keep adding...)

My original supplies consisted of 1) a sketchbook for "dry media", 2) watercolor pencils, 3) "manga" pens, and 4) the cheapest brushes I could find.

Technically watercolor is not really a dry media, so I guess it's not too surprising that the paper gets wavy when I add enough water to the watercolor pencils. The brushes tend to shed bristles like they're in a pre-Rogaine advertisement, and I'm not sure what makes the pens "manga", but I guess they draw overly-large eyes well. After weeks of attempting to find a light source in my house that would allow me to photograph the final product without adding a yellow hue, I finally dragged my old scanner out of the closet and hooked it up. (That also solved part of the wavy paper problem.)

(Helpful hint: it's best to remove all the cat hair from the glass before scanning...)

I decided to increase my investment over the weekend and I bought some actual watercolor paints. Unlike the watercolor paints of my youth which came in multicolored cakes that never went bad, these come in tubes. It's going to take some adjusting. I have to remind myself that watercolors should not be applied with a trowel.

The biggest problem I've had (aside from facial symmetry, which I just can't do at all) is coming up with something to draw.

(Is it really that hard to remove all the cat hair before scanning? Yes. Yes it is.)

It's almost like writing a blog or something.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


(Judgmental walrus is judging you)

About twelve years ago, our productivity at work was immensely enhanced by the Y2k hysteria when it was determined that the project to certify all of the internal applications "y2k-ready" was the perfect dumping ground for all the useless employees. The best part was that we didn't have to take them back afterward.

Jump forward ten years and there was no longer a ready-made group for shuffling the chaff out of sight. But once one person was successfully unloaded on another group, all the other managers poked their heads out of their offices and followed suit. Unfortunately that meant that the support group became the equivalent of a nuclear dump site. Sure there are a few competent people trying to keep things going, but there are also a lot of leaky barrels.

For example, every time we do a release, I write up a page of instructions. I number the tasks. I try not to put too many words on the page. Usually it's almost identical to the instruction sheet from the last release. Then I send it off to the support group where it is translated into some other universe.

How do you improve things when step four is run three times in a row, and step six is skipped entirely? There are only eight steps. And this problem with numbers has happened two releases in a row.

I just can't...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

That Bastard!

One of the great things about living alone is that if I put something somewhere, it will stay there (unless it's something that Ripley likes to drag around the house). The bad part of that is that if I can't find something, I have only myself to blame.

Take today, for example. I was cleaning up the back of the house and needed the dust pan, so I came out to the living room and failed to find it in its usual spot on top of the big dog crate. I didn't panic right away since (I have to admit) I sometimes don't put things away. Also, I have a tendency not to spot things that are right in front of me.

However, after about ten minutes of circling around the house and carefully looking in every nook and cranny, it finally dawned on me: clearly some bastard had broken into my house and taken the dustpan.

At this point my brain was split. One part (we'll call it the rational part) knew that that scenario was pretty unlikely. I mean, it's a nice dustpan, but it's still a dustpan. And surely if someone bothered to break into the house and get past Ginger the wonder dog, they would take my Mac, which is actually worth something. And possibly my work laptop, which is almost in its dinosaur years, but would probably still be stolen in the event of a real burglary.

The other part of me (which I fully expect to wrest control from rational me by the time I hit 80) was trying to decide whether it was worth calling the cops about the scumbag who had broken into my house.

My brain was still battling it out when I saw the dustpan where it had fallen behind the dog crate.

I'm blaming this one on the cats.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some People Just Don't Get It

So I'm at work this evening, and Scrawny Mike is describing his latest illness/food poisoning to another coworker in enough detail that I can't actually pay attention to what I'm supposed to be doing. And the whole time I'm thinking "well, at least he's not talking about video games".

You see where this is going.

Things started to take a downturn when he said "Yesterday I felt so bad I couldn't even play games."

At that point I was still hoping he might get distracted and talk at greater length about how his vomiting woke up the entire household, but no...

"Actually, I was playing Portal when I first got sick."

And then, the person he was talking to asked what level he was on and it was all over.

I give up.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Tastes They Are A-Changin'

One of the great things about having a garden is the ability to walk outside and graze. This, of course, works best if you plant things that you like. And that, of course, depends on your tastes being the same when the crops come in as they were when you planted them.

For some reason this year that seems to be a problem. Either my tomatoes really are terrible this year, or I just don't like cherry tomatoes any more. Broccoli (which I didn't plant but I do get in my veggie box) is another thing I used to like and now I can't eat it. The bush beans just taste very blah.

So what does that leave me with? The three strawberries that weren't eaten by the bugs were pretty good. The tomatillos aren't ripe yet, but early indicators are that I'll have quite a few of them. I have a lot more onions than any one person can eat, but luckily I can harvest those as needed. The lemon cucumbers are taking their own sweet time (which is probably because I planted them from seed rather late in the year). I have one (and only one) carrot that is about 1/2" in diameter but appears to extend down about two feet.

And other than that: okra. I have something like five okra plants and they're all doing pretty well. So far I've roasted okra, and added chopped okra to my pizza. I'll probably be currying okra soon. The odd thing is that I've never had much okra in the past, but it's one of the few things from my garden that I'm liking this year.

It's a good thing I don't depend on my garden to feed me the rest of the year...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Project Yourself

Back when I was in college (the first time) I had a roommate who worked part time at a group home for adults with Down Syndrome. Many of the clients had lived in group homes or institutions for most of their lives, and as with any group housing situation, often the behaviors learned were not ideal. One of the things that many of the residents could do was projectile vomit on demand. (My roommate had a great story about a new employee who had barricaded herself in the kitchen with the doorway completely covered except for a six inch gap at the top, whereupon one of the residents kept jumping into the air and vomiting into the gap. Fun times, fun times.)

Anyhow, I bring this up because it occurs to me (yet again) that this may be the only way to keep some people from carrying on with long boring conversations around me. In a quid pro quo type way, if you yack near me I may yak on you.

This pertains especially to conversations about computer games, but endless details about bicycle races may also qualify. Using a conservative estimate, I have been forced to listen to at least three hours worth of conversation/monologues on the two subjects this week. I'd prefer to listen to someone scrape their fingernails down a chalkboard.

So, take heed. You have been warned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

One of the great things about walking the dogs every morning is the chance to feel more connected to the neighborhood. I see the same people on a daily or weekly basis, and this being Woodland, people say good morning when they pass, whether they know you or not. (I did this once in Orange County and got a strange look.)

Here are the people I see in my neighborhood:
  • The older (than me) guy on Lawson who details his cars every weekend. One of the cars is a Civic -- it's nice to know what my car would look like if it were clean.
  • The bartenders at The Stag. (I'm assuming that they're the bartenders. I'd like to believe that not even the hardcore drinkers are at The Stag every single morning. Besides, I've seen them emptying mop buckets.) I sometimes return wayward pint glasses when I go by.
  • The owner of Emil's Shoe Repair. When he's cleaning out in front of the store, he's nice enough to turn off the leaf blower when we go by so Ginger doesn't have a heart attack.
  • The barber at Top Hat Barber. He's on vacation until next week, so the shop is closed right now. Normally there's one ancient guy sitting in the chair, with the big screen television on at full volume in front. Sometimes they close for funerals, too.
  • The guy at the holistic supplements store. We wave to each other every time I pass by during store hours and I try hard not to roll my eyes at the contents of the store.
  • The guy who owns Denny Design. I see him quite a bit since he's restoring the exterior of his part of downtown back to its original 1890s glory on the weekends, and he's always willing to take a couple of minutes to explain what he's doing. This morning he was applying gold leaf (I kid you not) to one of the columns. He's disappointed that the restaurant two addresses away was recently painted "like a wedding cake". According to him, "pastels are nice, but they didn't use pastels in the 1890s".
So there you have it. My morning walk.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


One of the first emergencies I saw during my residency was a pet rooster. At about four PM the receptionist called down to let me know that the owner was on her way with a sick rooster. The woman was driving from Manteca (roughly 90 minutes from the hospital) and would be there as soon as she could.

The owner, an 80+ year old woman, finally showed up at around 11 PM with a moribund rooster named Jaques (or something like that -- it's been a few years). She said that it had taken her so long because she "kept checking to make sure Jaques was still alive". (Remember that, it's important.)

The rooster was just barely breathing. He was dehydrated and had a grossly distended crop and his breath smelled like something was fermenting. Getting any sort of accurate history from the owner was impossible. The only information I was really able to elicit was 1) the rooster was quite old, 2) he had been sick for at least a few days, which was why 3) she was treating him with leftover dog/cat/rabbit/people "medicine" (she didn't know what all she had used) ground up and mixed in with his feed.

I hid my disbelief face under my caring frown, told her that the bird was probably not going to make it ("I'm very concerned") but I'd give it my best shot, made her sign an estimate, and sent her on her way to go 20 mph down the busy freeway.

That late at night it was just me plus the senior student (not someone who knew anything about birds) and the rooster. We got everything ready to give fluids and suck the distillery contents from the bird's crop, but the minute I touched the rooster it went limp. As in, it stopped breathing and fell over, eyes open, no pulse.

I looked up at the student and found her staring at me with wide eyes. Things like that didn't usually happen on other services. (Things like that often happened on the exotics service, but I was still trying to pretend that I had some handle on things in front of the student.)

I grabbed the crash cart, intubated the rooster, and gave it a few breaths. I might have even given it a dose of epinephrine. Naturally it responded in the same manner as the rest of my CPR candidates. In the words of one of the ER clinicians, if you can't keep them alive in the first place, it's hard to make them alive again after they're dead.

I called the owner on her cell phone and told her the news and she agreed to have a necropsy done.

There was cancer filling everything that could be filled with cancer. The crop didn't empty because there was no gut left for it to empty into. This definitely was not something that could have been treated successfully. I left a voice mail for the owner telling her the results and forgot about it.

About six months later, I heard from one of my advisors (who worked one day a week in a clinic near Manteca) that she had treated one of this woman's other pets. While they were talking, the woman told her that she had taken Jaques to the university hospital and that I had told her that he died, but she wasn't sure that was true because he "hadn't seemed that sick" and she thought I might have just taken him.

And people ask me why I don't practice any more...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Doggone Truth

Molly Speedbump, the geriatric deaf dog, has been with me now for slightly more than a year. In that time she has figured out how to climb on the bed, dig up rawhides that Lucy the elderly blind dog buried in the back yard years ago, and pee near, if not always on, the puppy pads spread on the game room floor for that purpose.

Taking Ginger and Molly for a walk in the morning is an exercise in planning and patience. Ginger gets so excited when it's time to go that she bounds in the air trying to lick my face, which makes getting her harness on somewhat challenging. She has yet to give me a black eye, but it's been a close thing a few times. Molly presents different challenges. She spins around on the hardwood floors when she's excited, and she hasn't gained any agility in the last twelve months. Lately I've been putting a boot on her tumor-leg foot since she tends to drag that foot when she gets tired. (Having a trail of blood lead to my front door is just not quite the done thing.) Putting a boot on the spinning dog while the other dog is jumping up to lick your face is just not easy, no matter what you do.

In any case, each day starts off with me adding multiple layers of duct tape to the boot, because otherwise it looks like this:

which doesn't really protect her toes that much.

So, yeah. That's me every morning, wiping dog spit off my face, trying to keep Ginger from attacking bigger dogs on leashes, and listening to the "whoosh, pause, whoosh, pause, whoosh, pause" of Molly scuffing her foot as she trots along with a big wad of duct tape on her foot.

Dogs are such great stress relievers.