Sunday, December 21, 2014

Luminary Night -- The Aftermath

As I mentioned, last Sunday was luminary night in my neighborhood, and everyone had white paper lunch bags lining the sidewalks with a cup or so of sand weighing them down with a small candle burning inside. It really is quite pretty when everyone on the street participates.

The candles burn for at least six hours. It might be more -- I've never stayed up late enough to notice when they finally burn out. The problem is that this year it rained sometime after midnight, soaking the bags and leaving them wilted on the concrete.

Now I'm not complaining about the rain. We need it. We need more of it still. But have you ever tried to lift up a wet paper bag filled with sand? How about twenty of them? In the dark? When you're rushed so you can get to work on time? I wasn't the only one who had this problem, believe me. A week later I'm still stepping on clumps of sand when I'm out walking the dog around the 'hood.

So, yeah, maybe next year I'll check the forecast and clean up early...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Telling time by the bottle of wine...

Tonight is luminary night, so the neighborhood looks very pretty with bags and candles. This year also marks the first year one of my bags caught on fire, but it was while someone else was lighting the candle inside, so I maintain that it's still a pretty safe thing to do, especially since it rained a few days ago.

But really, the reason I know it's the holiday season is because I found this on my doorstep:

(Not the jeans, they just happen to be a handy backdrop.) Yes, it's realtor wine! Every year since I've moved in I've received a bottle of this stuff. I did try to drink it a couple of times, and to my (admittedly uncultured) palate, it was terrible. Some year I hope to find a use for this bottle and the others that I've kept in the worst possible conditions. In the meantime I see it as a sign that it's time to break out the electric blanket.

The odd thing is that I received a 2012 bottle again this year. I'm pretty sure that up to now I've always received last year's pressing. But now I have a matching set:

Perhaps I should do a taste test to see what happens to wine when it is stored near the ceiling in a mostly un-airconditioned house all year. Does it make any difference at all?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winner, winner, turkey turnover dinner!

The package...

The contents...

And the culprit...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What's Your Book About?

I still don't really know what the book is about, but I'm getting closer. I'm sure the elusive plot-beast will show itself soon.

In the meantime, I'm still writing words...

Keep Calm And Write On.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ready For November

October is winding to a close which means a few things:

1) I've bought five bags of Halloween candy which I will probably eat while waiting for non-existent trick-or-treaters to show up.

2) National Novel Writing Month starts in just a few days. I have a bit of a plot and a couple of characters, which will get me through at least 2,000 words. I still need to work out the other 48,000 or I'm going to have a bit of a problem. I even went to a Sacramento NaNoWriMo meet and greet yesterday. Now I can say that I've met my people. I felt moderately attractive with good social skills. That should give you some indication of the group. Good people, on the whole, though.

3) Mike is turning 50 in a couple of days. I don't really see how that's possible, but the math doesn't lie. Surely I should be better at adulting if I'm old enough for him to be 50...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dear Levi Strauss & Co

Dear Levi's,

I realize that you need to give your designers something to do, and I also realize that you can't have all of them working on new "skinny" jeans to be worn by all the people who think "skinny" refers to the results and not the prerequisite.

But for the love of Zeus, could you please, please just keep them away from the 505s?

When I placed my most recent order via your website, what I wanted was some new jeans to replace the ones that have ripped so much across the knees that they have almost decapitated (de-crurated?) themselves.

That's it. Just replacement jeans that I could get through the wonder of the internet without having to go try a bunch of clothes on in the store.

What I didn't want was more decorative stitching. And I especially didn't want useless flaps on the back pockets that I can tell will curl up every time I put them in the drier. Flaps that I'm sure would require ironing if I were the sort of person to iron.

Worse yet, the useless decorative flaps that will be permanently curled in a week are fastened with the famous Levi's metal buttons. Do I need two big pieces of metal poking me in the ass every time I sit down?

Please get your shit together and leave the 505s alone.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Contents: A+, Packaging: D-

I bought some Meyer lemon marmalade and it was great. However, I had a little problem getting the lid off.

Even after the seal was broken I couldn't twist it. I don't know what kind of circus strongmen they have tightening the lids at this company, but they need to calm down on the steroids.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A-Maze-Ing Talent

The little fluffy dog and I have officially moved on to the advanced beginners agility class, which is so advanced that we sometimes attempt to run a course of up to ten obstacles. (We actually have come quite a long ways -- I'd forgotten what the first class was like until I saw the new beginners trying to get their dogs to enter the weave pole maze. It's not an issue now, but watching the dogs back out and do everything to avoid it the first time brought back memories.)

Our difficulties in agility come from two sources: the dog and me. Ginger's attention span occasionally means that I'm left calling her like an idiot while she's sniffing the ground and wandering in the opposite direction. And she gets so excited about some of the obstacles that she skips anything in-between.

But what is increasingly becoming the larger problem is my inability to remember where I'm supposed to send her next. This seems simple until I'm sighing in relief that she actually went through the tunnel and then she pops out the other side and I'm suddenly supposed to be directing her somewhere, but is it over the red jump to the left, or through the weave poles to the right, or over the dog walk in the middle? (Trick question -- it's always over the dog walk according to Ginger because that's one of her favorite obstacles.)

If the red jump really is next, I'm supposed to be prepared to direct her there, and worse yet, I'm supposed to be using a specific hand to give her signals. And I'm supposed to be facing the right direction. And I'm supposed to have her in my sights but not trip over anything. And if she decides to go run over the dog walk anyhow, I'm supposed to stay with her so she doesn't jump off and hurt herself. And then somehow we're supposed to get back on course.

So don't expect to see us in any competition any time soon. Or ever, really, since I don't really have any desire to compete.

I'm just waiting for Ginger to realize that she's jumping over obstacles that are higher than the fence blocking her from the cats' litter boxes. This agility thing may turn out to have been a bad idea...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yes, I am a Cat Person

The little dog continues to excel at agility, if by excel I mean rolling on her back in front of the tunnel entrance. Despite that snag, she's doing pretty well. I was having a hard time getting her to keep on the mini-course last week because she wanted to keep going over the A-frame. Having her run off course because she's so excited about a different obstacle is not the worst problem to have. At least she's having fun.

Getting her back in the car after class is done is about like trying to get a little kid to get in the car after a trip to the park. (And as someone who threw a two-hour tantrum about such a thing as a three year old, I know whereof I speak...)

She's currently sulking in her crate because I gave her a bath earlier today (for the same reason she's had the last five baths). I keep hoping that at some point she'll make the connection between rolling in smelly stuff and having to endure a bath, but I don't think it's going to happen.

Right after I finished rinsing her off, she ran over to the fresh dirt and rolled around in it. Then she was upset I wouldn't let her muddy self back in the house until she dried off.

Somehow the cats don't have this problem. And they could probably learn to do agility if I found the right treats to motivate them.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shake It Up, Baby!

So we had a somewhat strong earthquake last night, and even though it was centered a few counties away it was still big enough to wake me at 3:23AM which is not an easy feat.

I knew I wasn't just imagining things because the wind chimes hanging in my living room (what, isn't that where everyone hangs their wind chimes?) started chiming, and other wind chimes in the neighborhood also made sounds because other people hang theirs up outside.

After the first wave of facebook posts about how everyone felt it and nobody was hurt, newspapers started posting the standard articles about how animals sometimes act strangely before earthquakes which may be because they can sense p-waves or they have ESP or something like that. (I haven't actually read any of those articles in depth for reasons that will become obvious.)

The cats woke up and jumped off the bed about the same time I awoke, which was likely about halfway through the earthquake. The dog, on the other hand, slept through almost the entire thing, then finally woke up and ran out into the living room to bark at the wind chimes.

So... yeah, I'm not expecting any advance warning before the next one either...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jumping Through Hoops

The little fluffy dog and I started our agility class this week and I was amazed. Ginger was having one of her brave days and jumped through the hoop (no problem), ran through the weave poles (scary because there was a wire fence maze to keep her on the right path and she's not a fan of wire fences), and even went through the tunnel.

The tunnel part really shocked me because we tried that once before a few months ago and it was a massive failure. This time it only took a couple minutes to convince her to enter the tunnel, and even through she crept through it like she was worried a landmine would explode if she stepped on it, she did finally make it through and after a few more times she trotted through like it was no big deal.

The good news is that there is only one other dog in the class. The bad news is that the other dog is Ginger's previously-unknown mortal enemy. I knew she had a thing about pugs, but apparently shelties are on the evil creatures list as well. Luckily with two dogs and two instructors, we were able to work on different things far enough away from each other that Ginger could stop pretending we were at an MMA class and work on running through the tunnel again.

Of course, then we went to our other basic obedience class two days later and she was a total goober and wouldn't stay in one place no matter what I did. So I guess that falls into the "win-some-lose-some" category.

In other news, I moved all three yards of the mulch off my driveway (yay!), but I need about five yards more. Maybe at the end of summer...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I Have All The Dirt

So camp Nano is done and once again I managed to get all of my words in, which makes me a "winner". Granted, most of those words need to come right back out. My outline for the second book wasn't quite as specific as it should have been, so things changed along the way. Maybe it would have happened even if I'd plotted it better in advance. I will need to edit with a heavy hand (when I get around to it).

Look at my steady progress throughout the month:

My cabin... well, we did better than the April camp. At least this time everyone in the cabin showed up a few times.

I celebrated this weekend by ordering four cubic yards of dirt and three yards of mulch. Moving four yards of dirt (approximately 100 billion loads in the wheelbarrow) around in temperatures over 100 F is not really a good idea, but I did it and it's done. The mulch is still sitting on my driveway.

My neighbors' older daughter got married over the weekend. It sounds like a good time was had by all, especially the uncle of the bride (in his mid-sixties) who took one of the other guests back to his hotel room that evening.

The little dog and I are signed up for the agility class that starts this week (unless it gets cancelled because not enough people signed up). Between Ginger's fear of new things, fear of heights, and love of growling at other dogs on leash, I suspect it will be somewhat of a disaster, at least initially. Still, it could be fun. We'll see...

Anyhow, I'm off to bed with promises to my back that I won't ask it to lift anything for at least the next five days. Have a good week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Teaching Middle-Aged Dogs New Tricks, Part Two

Ginger the Wonder Dog and I started the second dog training class last week. So far, so good, by which I mean I didn't drop anything on her head during the first class.

The other dogs are bigger, which didn't stop Ginger from growling at them. One of the dogs lives just two houses down from me. I've talked to her owner at least three times over the past few years, but neither one of us recognized the other. The owner has a pretty unusual first name, though, so I took the conversational leap of getting her to confirm she lived on my street. In our defense, I think every time we've spoken it's been dark outside, so I'm not sure I've ever gotten a good look at her face before. Now I'll probably still forget her face, but at least I know what her dog looks like.

We're supposed to be working on extending our three minute down-stay into a ten minute down-stay with distractions. Since our three minute down-stay is more like a three second down-stay-get-up-wander-around-lie-down-again, this might be a little difficult. I'd say we're making progress on it, but for the last two days every time I've asked Ginger to do anything at all she's just wandered off. We'll get there...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Postcard From Camp

I am once again camping at Camp NaNoWriMo for July. This time they made the concept of "private" cabins (ie, invitation only) which meant people could seek out people on their own instead of getting randomly sorted into a group of twelve.

I'm in a cabin that I found through the forum thread titled "Geriatric, grumpy, can't remember where we parked, cabin mates". (That's actually true.) The age of people signed up for camp skews very, very low (somewhere around 13-15), so at 45 I'm sort of old. But not as old as the majority of people in my cabin, so now I'm sort of young. It's a good group, though, and there are no dead bodies stinking up the cabin. We're not very likely to hit the cabin goal, but I'm on track for mine and that's all that really matters.

In other deja vu news, the little dog and I are signed up for dog training class again. I can't imagine what we'll be working on since she knows every command in existence (as long as that command is sit, down, or touch and there aren't any other dogs nearby -- stay is still a little iffy...)

So that's my life lately. In case you wondered...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Days...

Jeff was having his annual Sort-of-near-the-fourth-of-July barbeque today, so I made kebabs (with baked tofu) and chocolate ice cream with chunks of cherries and packed up the car and drove off.

After sitting in traffic for thirty minutes I realized that I forgot to add an ice pack to keep the ice cream cold.

After another thirty minutes I came to the conclusion that I should have bought some dry ice to keep the ice cream cold.

When I finally got to Vacaville after an hour and a half (and traffic wasn't improving) I couldn't remember why I wanted to go to the barbeque in the first place because I hated every single person in the entire world with the exception of my mom (and in another fifteen minutes that would have been iffy as well).

So I turned around and drove home.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

June: Incomprehensible Movie

Warning: there are spoilers in this post. If you are planning on ever watching August: Osage County, you might not want to read this. However, if you do read this, you'll probably never willingly watch August: Osage County unless you have some sort of strong masochistic streak.

Here are my current requirements for a movie:
  1. It has to pass the Bechdel test or at least have a good reason not to.
  2. It can't be animated.
  3. No singing. (I'm still deeply scarred by Mama Mia!.)
It's actually a bit more complicated than that. For instance, I'm not sure there is anything that could get me to watch another Tom Cruise movie. I just can't take him seriously any more. And I won't watch anything that involves a plot that shows the viewer the same day over and over. And I don't know if it's just me, but most of the romantic comedies I've seen in the last fifteen years have left me wondering why I should be happy the couple is together in the end since they are either morons or sociopaths (or both).

All of that is to explain why I watched August: Osage Count over the weekend. It has a lot of actors that I don't hate (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts,  Margo Martindale (of "Justified" fame), and Ewan McGregor among others), and it's listed as a comedy on iTunes.

The IMDb synopsis:
"A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them."

Here is what happens in this two hour movie:
  1. The father commits suicide (which is what brings the three daughters back to Oklahoma)
  2. The mother has mouth cancer and is a drug addict who constantly screams at people.
  3. Daughter #1's marriage finishes falling apart completely.
  4. Daughter #2 admits to sleeping with her first cousin.
  5. Daughter #3 brings her fiance home who then smokes pot with and gropes the 14 year old daughter of Daughter #1.
  6. Daughter #1 finds all of her mother's pills and flushes them.
  7. Daughter #2 finds out she's not sleeping with her first cousin, but her half-brother.
  8. All of the daughters finish screaming at each other and their mother and leave separately.
  9. The mother is left alone in the house with the housekeeper.
Remember, this is a comedy.

In addition, Benedict Cumberbatch appears to have been taken from a Depression Era dustbowl movie and inserted into this one. He's incredibly out of place and every scene he's in is just awful. I can't even figure out what the problem is, but it's really bad.

I stopped the movie with thirty minutes left and went to take a nap. I don't know why I bothered to finish it later, but I did.

At the very end, Daughter #1 has some sort of epiphany, which we know because she pulls her truck over to the side of the road, gets out, and stares at the skyline for a few seconds before getting back in her truck and driving off again. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the epiphany was supposed to be. Possibly it had something to do with making sure she read the script before agreeing to do another movie.

So, yeah. My new rule about movies is that I won't see anything that started out as a play. (Now that I think about it, that would have saved me from Mama Mia! as well.)

I think it will be a good rule.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good Help Is Hard To Find

It's been busy at work lately, and the new director wants to start doing a whole bunch of new stuff, so they opened a job position for another programmer. In theory, that's a good thing, because there would be someone to take up part of the load and bounce ideas off of.
In practice, it will probably be a huge waste of time because finding a qualified programmer is nearly impossible. I don't know if it's the location (far enough away from most other tech jobs that it's a longer commute), the pay, the absurd hiring/searching process, the drug screening, or just actually a lack of qualified people looking for jobs, but in any case I'm not holding my breath waiting for someone to help.
In the meantime, we have an intern. And not a newly-graduated-from-college intern or even a will-graduate-from-college-in-two-years intern, but a high school intern.
I don't know what genius thought up this program, but... Let's just say that coming up with something for this guy to do is harder than most of the things I do on a daily basis. He started on Monday, and my boss was on vacation all last week. I spent about an hour explaining the twenty minute task that we had come up with, and thankfully that took him over a day. I feel kind of bad for not finding something else for him to do for the rest of the week, but let's recap here: I'm a contractor, I don't work in the office four days out of five, and I have no desire to manage people. This is not my problem.
So basically, if the point of having high school interns was to encourage kids to go into engineering, I'm pretty sure this will backfire. On the other hand, it's probably a realistic view into life at a big company. So maybe this poor kid will be convinced to do something more productive.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Worth At Least Four Thousand Words

As promised, pictures of the new fence. This is the view from the alley looking toward my house. I left the gate open. Not only will I be able to get into my garage from the alley, I can also get into my back yard. And my neighbors can come over and pull weeds if they are so inclined.

This is the view from amidst the sunflowers. I've gotten more compliments on those things in the last two weeks than I have for anything else I've grown. I've also done exactly nothing to get them to grow. I didn't plant them and I don't water them. The bees that live in my neighbors' wall really love them, though, so I'm glad they grew.

I couldn't decide which of the next two pictures I like better. (I'm leaning toward the top one.) Probably anyone who knows anything about photography would be able to take a better shot of the exact same thing, but they haven't, so I did.

In other news, it's 109 degrees F in Woodland today, and my air conditioning isn't working. Might be time to slowly stroll around the grocery store for a few hours.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Still Fencing After All These Years

Now the other, smaller, fence separating the garden from the yard is being redone. I have filled the green waste bin up to the top, and yet still had to take the little dog in to have three foxtails extracted from her ears this week. That's what I get for letting my weeds grow so well.

Today I made pumpkin pie, except that they didn't have any pureed pumpkin at the store, so I used sweet potatoes instead. It's... interesting. It would probably be better with a little of the sugar I left out. Still, it's not terrible, so that's something. (The bar is rather low when it comes to cooking.)

I also made a Greek potato-vegetable casserole, with dill and parsley. Thankfully that one tasted better than it smelled going into the oven because that's going to be six meals this week. Disasters in cooking are fine when I only have to eat them once, but six times and I'd have to give up and call Domino's.

At some point there really will be pictures of the fence...

Monday, May 26, 2014


After almost of year of planning, I have a new fence. Or, well, almost. It's not quite finished. (This might be a problem because the guy doing it is supposed to be working on something else tomorrow, but I'm sure he'll finish it somehow.)

So that's the good news.

The bad news is that now everyone can look into my garden and see all the weeds growing everywhere. To give some idea of the scale of the problem, I completely filled the green waste bin and it didn't really look like I'd done anything at all. So I have a little bit of work to do.

But someday soon I might be able to park in the garage.

I'll post pictures when it's done.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I know it's supposed to be Spring, but my yard is filled with dried-out weeds, about 100 sunflowers that are growing in the areas not covered in weeds, I have a bazillion mosquito bites, and the week finally cooled off to a max temp of 85 today. I think it qualifies as Summer.

In other news, I bought a bottle of baby aspirin for the Kittenhead who is currently in congestive heart failure. One bottle has 120 tablets, and at a rate of 1/2 tablet every three days, that gives her an almost two year supply. In comparison, she came home from the hospital with her diagnosis and a 30 day supply of prescription meds, which is probably already reaching. Lest you think I was being hopelessly optimistic when buying the aspirin, I will point out that I bought the smallest bottle they sold. In any case, she seems to be doing relatively well at the moment, although I'll admit I did cringe a little when she ran down the hallway this morning.

Who me? Heart issues? Let me purr a little louder...

Right. Have a good week.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Had A Swell Time (*)

Things I learned this weekend while visiting my parents:
  • Sometimes a hatchet is really the best thing to use for splitting up a plant while re-potting it.
  • My mom didn't learn that Santa Claus didn't exist until she was in the fourth grade.
  • K-Poo went to the first day of the women in leadership training hungover. (High five!)
  • My mom still looks pretty much the same as she did in her high school yearbooks.
Anyhow, I'm back. The little dog is still boarding until tomorrow, so it's very quiet here. The cats have been gorging themselves all weekend at the all-you-can-eat buffet and couldn't be bothered to notice me when I came in the door (except for Ripley who rolled around on the floor in front of me and generally made a pest of himself).

* There's a story behind the title, but I promised my mom I wouldn't mention it on the blog and it's Mother's Day and everything, so...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dear computers, please stop trying to be helpful

So, a few months ago I read this article about how there's a really popular genre of books which we'll refer to as "creature erotica". Now, it doesn't surprise me that there are books about people getting it on with Sasquatch, because... let's face it, there are books about everything. (Thanks, Internet!) No, what surprised me was one of the authors who claimed she'd made $30,000 in one month from sales on Amazon for one of her novels.

Anyhow, I was relating that on a writers forum today, and I did a quick search on for "bigfoot erotica" just to get some numbers to add to my blurb. That search yields 195 books, most of which are part of a series involving other things such as the Loch Ness monster, etc. One series has the tagline "Paranormal Monster Bigfoot Erotica -- Things that Bang You in the Night", which I think is possibly the best thing ever.

Maybe I really should have put sex scenes in my November novel.

Anyhow, ever since I made that search on Amazon, all of the Amazon ads that show up on other pages are for books in that result list.

Maybe it's time to clear my browser cache.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Targets of Advertising

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in her forties in possession of a Facebook account must be in want of online dating ads.

Often they are of the "Wealthy men seeking mature women" type and let me tell you, those aren't fooling anyone. You find me one wealthy guy who really likes mature women and I'll show you a guy who is fending women off with a stick. That guy doesn't need an online dating site.

Generally, though, I get an ad from Zoosk showing me a picture of some guy that is not calculated to make me want to sign up. Just a tip, Zoosk -- stop showing me pictures of guys in tank tops. It's not sexy. My favorite Zoosk picture is of a guy with slicked back hair wearing a tank top and orange crocs. Let's face it, when I am offended by some guy's fashion choices, it's a bad sign.

 And then there's this other site. I'm pretty sure "Trent" and "Cesar" are actually the same person. Unfortunately, neither they nor "Jim" can form a complete English sentence, which is a little sad since they are clearly respected professionals. Also, since I don't post pictures of myself on Facebook, I'm not sure which photo they are commenting [on]. Perhaps the pictures of my cats? That would be a little weird.

And just to prove that a) other people get even worse ads, and b) my friends are funnier than I am, I offer this from one of my vet school classmates:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Taxpayer #2 has left the building

In some sort of record setting, hell-freezing-over, end-of-days type move, I actually filed my taxes today, a whole two days early. That's crazy talk, I know.

I'm sure that means that I have made some critical error which will land me in debtor's prison, but seriously, look at me being all adult-like and stuff.

I also got some guy out to give me a quote on rebuilding the back fence.

My only complaint about the day is that when I filed my federal taxes I got an email that didn't have the opening line of "Dear Taxpayer #2". Apparently the IRS has updated their software and taken out some of the debugging code, but now it's so impersonal that I just don't feel the warmth that I normally get from their emails.

The next thing you know they won't be sending me the usual October email, which is like the IRS equivalent of a Christmas card even if they disguise it as a request for me to fix some part of my tax filing.

Anyhow, my Camp NaNoWriMo novel continues to progress. Somehow I am still on chapter three, but there has been action! Now I just need to get all the characters to move on to chapter four. Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

There Are Blow Flies At Camp

So, the good news at Camp NaNoWriMo is that I have been dutifully slogging away at my 1,667 words every day and have even built up a two day buffer.

The bad news is that apart from individual statistics, there are "cabin" statistics, and four of the twelve people assigned to my cabin never showed up for camp. They have written zero words. That's 200,000 words for the month that other people will have to write as far as the cabin statistics are concerned.

I mentioned this to other people to see if this was a common problem, and found that 33% DOA is not that bad. One cabin had 10/11 people not show up. We all made jokes about the flies buzzing around the dead bodies

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't that big of a deal, I know. Still, why sign up the week before if you aren't going to even try?

People are flaky. That's really all I have to say.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On the Bus to Camp

So, Tuesday is the kickoff for Camp NaNoWriMo (, which is similar to National Novel Writing Month except it's not in November, participants get to choose their word count goals, and it's set up sort of like a summer camp.

I think it's supposed to make people nostalgic for their childhoods or something, but I finally realized that the reason I wasn't really getting into the whole "camp" aspect was because I never actually went to summer camp as a kid. (Please note that I'm not complaining about this. I have enough real things to complain about from my childhood -- notably the presence of two younger siblings when I was explicitly promised that I would always be the baby of the family -- and going to an actual camp with other children and bunks and other children and mosquitos and other children... I didn't miss it.)

Anyhow, I guess I'm supposed to make s'mores and listen to recorded crickets chirping or some such nonsense. I think I'll just stick with my regular writing music. I'm not completely ruling out the s'mores, though.

My outline for this novel is done, although there will be a distinct lack of action in chapter eight if I stick too closely to the plan. This novel is a continuation of the one I wrote in November. My beta reader said she wanted to read the next one so I have motivation to write it.

I did try to get other people in my family to join in April, but was completely unsuccessful at that. Other non-successes of the week: adopting a new dog, convincing other people to sign up for the dog tricks class, doing my taxes. However, I would like to point out that there are two people in my eleven-person cabin who are teenagers and sisters. I mean, if they can do this on top of high school, one might think that people who have time to watch Game of Thrones might be able to carve out a little spare time, but hey, what do I know? I'm not bitter or anything, you bastards.

So maybe I'll send postcards or something.

But only if I start getting care packages...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

All the Important Things

Apparently the first trick of the dog tricks class will be to find another three people to sign up because it requires four participants to avoid cancellation. I will be sad if Ginger misses her chance to literally jump through hoops.

In the meantime the cats are having the best weekend of their lives because I unearthed a box of old cat toys that nobody ever played with. Turns out that I just needed to let them age for a few years. Also, I recovered an old scratching post with new sisal, so that's been another popular item. Really I recovered it because it just looked terrible, but the fact that they are fighting over who gets to use it is a bonus.

My car got a new timing belt (scheduled maintenance), so I guess that means that I'm not buying a new car any time soon and I should just send in my registration renewal. The best thing about having my car worked on is that they fixed the light that illuminates things on the dash so now I will be able to see how fast I am going when it is dark out and I'm less likely to run out of gas. It's the little things...

And finally, Camp NaNoWriMo kicks off in another week and a half so I am busy plotting. By which I mean that maybe I should figure out what's supposed to happen in this book before I start.

Weeding can wait.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Forward

Apparently we have skipped Spring and just gone straight to Summer this year in Woodland. If I find myself hiding in the shade in March, what will it be like in August? Actually, it will just be hot. After you get to 110 F, does it really matter?

In any case, I am growing a fine crop of dandelions and stinging nettles. (I realize that those are technically both edible, but I'm still viewing them as pests.)

Ginger and I received our certificate for finishing class. Luckily there was not a final exam, or her inability to stay seated while I move more than two feet away might have been an issue. I think we may take the "Tricks" class next just for fun. Jumping through a hoop might be exciting for her.

I'm planning on doing another writing challenge in April ( -- so far I haven't been able to convince anyone else to do it with me. It's good that my livelihood does not depend on my persuasive abilities or I would starve.

And finally, some cuteness to see you through the week:

(Ripley and the Kittenhead hanging out together.)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How to increase your productivity, in one easy step

After procrastinating for three months, I finally decided it was time to buckle down and edit the November novel.

But first, I had to go buy a table.

Why didn't anyone tell me about this new technology? It turns out you can buy something that allows you to sit comfortably and have papers spread out in front of you. Witchery!

So yeah, that was what I did this weekend.

I also bought a new lawnmower and mowed the lawn, which I'm sure made all of my neighbors (and frankly, most of the people driving down the street) happier.

Ginger and I have one more week of dog training class, which means I have three days to perfect her sit-stay. She's more a fan of the sit-wiggle-forward-and-follow-me-around-while-pretending-to-sit. We're working on it. The only saving grace is that I know she'll still be better than the rest of the class. The bar really is pretty low.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ginger, Super-Dog (at least comparatively)

In week two of dog training class I found out that Ginger really is a rock star.

I used to think that she seemed smart only because Molly (aka, the big dog (RIP)) was so incredibly not-smart, but it turns out that Ginger not only has the Einstein hair, but the Einstein brain as well. Or possibly she's so motivated by little bits of food that she overcomes any inherent deficiencies.

In any case Ginger was the only dog in class that would actually sit on command (more or less) in week two. The puppy was so excited about the food that he was vibrating off the ground, and the terrier continued flipping off her owner and generally acting like a juvenile delinquent. (I think I saw her smoking in the corner with a bottle of beer.)

So Ginger is making both of us look good, which is great because I realized after class that we were supposed to be practicing four times a day, which is about three more times than we have been. I'm trying to make a case that stopping once per block during our daily walks to practice sit/down/stand/wait/etc. counts as more than one session, but I think that might be wishful thinking. But really, we wouldn't want to get too far ahead, would we? That would be rude.

While I'd like to think that it's all due to my impressive dog training skills, I think I may be more on the Molly end of the scale. Fun story of the day:

Back when I was an employee, I met my boss' boss (who lives and works in a different state) a few times and on the rare occasions when she came to our office I could never recognize her, despite the fact that I spent twenty minutes in a one-on-one interview with her. Finally Rvan pointed out that she always wore button-down sweaters, and from then on I was able to figure out who she was as long as I knew she was in town.

Today I was talking to Jeff during lunch, and I knew this person was in the building, and she came into the break room and I still didn't recognize her because she wasn't wearing a button-down sweater.

I'm beginning to feel bad for making fun of Molly because she didn't recognize me when I picked her up from boarding after Christmas one year...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Best Dog!

As I mentioned before, Ginger and I started the basic dog training class last week, and I can safely say that she is the best-behaved dog in the class. (No, technically it's not supposed to be a competition.)

There are only two other dogs: a four month old bulldog (super-excited and completely out of control, which is appropriate for the age) and a one year old terrier (smart and a little calmer, but totally uninterested in pleasing her owner). While the other two dogs were busy pulling their owners around and generally acting like dogs that needed to go to class, Ginger was sitting nicely.

So we looked really good for the first half hour or so, mostly because Ginger can sit on command. Actually she will sit even when I don't ask her to. She will sit when she wants food. Or when it's time to put her leash on. Or when it's time to come back inside. Or pretty much any time I look at her. In fact, sitting is pretty much the only thing she does.

"Down" is a whole different game. She didn't come to me with that knowledge. Here's how you teach a dog to lie down:
1) Have her sit. 
2) Lure her head down to the ground with a treat until she settles her body down.

Two steps, and she already knew the first one really, really well. So it was a little disheartening that I pretty much spent the rest of class watching my dog imitate a see-saw; either her butt could be on the ground, or her front end could be on the ground, but never both at the same time. She just kept rotating her body around her center of gravity.

In the meantime the bulldog puppy was slobbering over everyone who got close, and the terrier peed on the floor.

We also practiced "Come" which would have worked better if I could have ever gotten Ginger to move more than six inches away from me in the first place. (The terrier had no problem leaving her owner, but I don't think she ever even glanced back at her once. The bulldog gleefully ran from person to person. That whole corner of the room was covered in drool.)

Anyhow, a fun time was had by all (except maybe the terrier's owner).

And we still have two days for Ginger to learn how to lie down...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Dog!

The little dog and I start the basic dog training class this week. It should prove to be an interesting experience.

This is what the flyer says I'm supposed to bring for the first one hour class:
- a hungry dog on a 6 ft leash with a soft collar
- food rewards, "3 times the amount you think you might need"
- an assortment of food
- 6 ft leash
- dog bed
- water bowl and water
- hardy chew toys to keep the dog occupied while I am listening to the instructor
- other optional random stuff in case I haven't yet injured my back while carrying the mandatory supplies

From the items that were repeated I think that she may have a problem with people showing up without 6 ft leashes and without treats, but that's just a guess.

Anyhow I bought three different kinds of dog treats that can be cut up into small sizes, so I think we're good on that point. And I already walk her on a leash that's close to 6 feet.

But let's be honest here. The main problem is not going to be Ginger, it's going to be me (and the other owners who are in the class).

So I bought myself some treats, too:


I think I've got the right idea...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Excuses, excuses...

So I got out of bed this morning (with the five cats and one dog leaping around me) thinking "Hey, you know what sounds good? Waffles with crushed pineapple on top."

In my head this was a completely doable plan -- a little bit of flapjack mix (which only requires water), a can of crushed pineapple (which I always have), and the waffle iron that I bought at the Goodwill for $5 a decade ago.

After digging around for a bit I finally found the waffle iron in the back of the cabinet and I plugged it in to heat up while I mixed up the batter.

So... no flapjack mix to be found. Apparently I finished it off the last time I made pancakes. But that wasn't really a problem because for once I actually had all of the ingredients to make pancakes. I even had milk. A quick internet search and I was on my way. The only bad thing was that now I had four times as much batter as I needed, but it usually takes me a few waffles to figure out what the light on the top of the waffle iron means, so that wasn't really a problem. (My waffle iron has one of those orange crystal lights on the top of it that turns on when it is at a certain temperature. The only problem is that depending on what your viewing angle is, it can look like it is always on. Technology really has improved over the last twenty years.)

I finished stirring the batter and was halfway through spraying the almost-hot waffle iron when I realized that at some point since I had last used it (> 5 years ago), pantry moths had hatched in the crumbs of flour left in the crevices, and there were empty moth chrysalises attached to the a couple of the iron spikes.

So... no waffle iron. Apparently it was going to be a pancake morning instead. I got out the skillet, melted butter, and poured in some of the rather-thick batter. While it was cooking, I opened the cupboard to get the pineapples.

So... no pineapples. I always have crushed pineapple in my cupboard. I'm not sure what happened. Luckily I had syrup in the refrigerator, even though eating pancakes with syrup always makes me feel ill.

Anyhow, I ate my pancakes with syrup and then I felt ill and went back to bed.

 (Crow the cat is judging you.)

And that's why I got nothing done today.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another Random Stuff Post

A friend of mine tried sneaking some pesto into her four year-old's pasta and got this response: "I am not eating this compost."
I laugh at his appropriate vocabulary and wish her luck at trying to get her kid to try new things as time goes on.

Occasionally Scooter makes up for all the stuff he destroys. Here is an example of how cute he can be when he tries hard...

On a different note, I finally saw The Big Lebowski over the weekend. After hearing it hyped up for so many years I was just sort of underwhelmed. I think I just don't really like movies from the Coen brothers. There, I said it.

Warned you this was just a post of random stuff...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Middle-aged Dogs Can Definitely Learn New Tricks That They Shouldn't

For some reason, Ginger (formerly known as "the little dog" and now just "the dog") has discovered a new-found love of rolling in really stinky things.

I'm not sure why this has suddenly come up but twice in the last month she's come back inside and brought with her a smell to peel the paint off the walls.

This most recent time I made her go back outside (because I was working and didn't have time to bathe her right then), and when I got tired of her throwing herself against the sliding glass door, I went out and dumped a bunch of spray-on shampoo around the problem area and tried to wipe it off with paper towels.

Do you know what smells worse than a dog that has rolled in something gross? A dog that has rolled in something gross and then been sprayed with shampoo that has some sort of perfume in it. I can't even describe it, but suffice it to say that Ginger was bathed well that evening.

Just one more reason I'm pretty sure I'm a cat person...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

And the Reviews are Streaming In...

I'm trying to get my butt in gear and edit the novel I wrote in November. Motivating myself to write is easier because I can set a word count and then force myself to sit down and type until I hit that goal. Editing is a much more murky task.

I've decided to go with this method:, mostly because one-pass seems like the minimum amount that I can get away with. I'm on the scene by scene slog. I already know my ending sucks. The book just sort of stops. But that's on chapter ten, so maybe I'll have figured out how to end it by the time I get that far.

Today Scooter peed on the first four pages of chapter two. Personally I thought chapter two was not bad (relatively), but apparently my cat disagrees. His comments were very non-specific, though, so I need to figure out what part, exactly, he didn't like. Was it the introduction of a new character, or the general lack of description? Perhaps the dialogue was offensive to his sensitive-yet-furry ears?

The other four cats have yet to weigh in, but I'm hoping for kinder or at least less oblique suggestions.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Have Sodastream, Will Travel

Well, I'm back from the holidays safe and sound.

The trip down to Orange County was uneventful, which is no surprise because driving down Interstate 5 is pretty darn boring. It gave me a chance to spend multiple hours working on my new song "Stinky Cows", sung to the tune of "Silver Bells". You get bonus points if you add in your best Bing Crosby impression.

I stayed at the Residence Inn, and not just because I needed someplace to work on all twelve months of the hand-drawn and painted calendar that I give my parents every year. Because clearly I would never wait until the day before Christmas to start something like that *cough* *cough*. No, I stay at the Residence Inn because every day I leave, and every evening I come back and it's all magically cleaned up. They even do the dishes, by which I mean if you leave one mug in the sink, they will put it in the dishwasher and run it with one mug. After the first day I made an effort to leave more dirty dishes just so I didn't feel like they were wasting so many resources. I also figured out that the rooms have a toaster, so you could, theoretically, go to the breakfast room, grab a bagel and cream cheese, and go back to your room for breakfast, all without slowing down or talking to anyone. This place was designed for me!

The day before Christmas (which was actually the day after Christmas as celebrated by other people), my parents' oven was found to be in non-working order and it didn't even have a thick coating of dust on it. I think that oven just has Seasonal Affective Disorder because it broke last year right before Christmas as well. The stollen turned out just fine after being baked in the Dutch oven (or at least in what my mother refers to as a Dutch oven, but really an electric skillet with a lid according to the rest of the world) despite being left to rise all day during an important game of Boggle (which I totally won).

Jojo the Enforcer and her family didn't make it out to California this year, but everyone else gathered to exchange viruses the next day. I received a Chinese brush painting kit from my parents (which could possibly be seen as their attempt to get a better gift for next Christmas if one were a little cynical which of course I am not). It has watercolors, a ceramic palette and brush holder, a bunch of different brushes, and a coke spoon. I was a little thrown off by that last item, but... different cultures and all. However, I read the instruction book later and found out that it was a little water dipper, not a coke spoon. Who knew? The instruction book is impressive in other ways because it starts with one page explaining the function of all the pieces in the kit (not a coke spoon!), then has one page demonstrating the different brush strokes, and then the next page is Bam! paint this complicated fish! We all know I would have skipped any instructions in between, so it's the perfect book for me.

Sons number one and two repaired the oven, so we were saved from a Christmas dinner cooked on the propane grill outside. I ate too much, a recurring theme over the holidays. The next generation was judged incapable of doing the dishes until all of the china was safely washed, dried, and put away. Not a really good sign since the youngest one there was nine years old. These kids today...

The next day was pretty low key aside from the oven sort of not working again. And by not working, I mean failing to ignite properly despite a good flow of gas to it. I'm not going to claim there was some big ball of fire or anything... but it did blow both of the oven doors open when it finally did ignite. I think someone ought to check to see if Jeff or Mike took out a new life insurance policy on my parents recently.

After crushing my mom and K-poo in Boggle earlier in the week, I graciously let my mom win a game of Scrabble. (Yeah, it wasn't even close. And I got stuck with the Q at the end of the game.)

Anyhow, this year I managed not to get lost while driving back to Woodland, and the dog was happy to see me. The cats might have noticed I was gone. Or maybe not. The birds screamed like they always do. And the cops showed up the next day looking for some guy I've never heard of.

Happy New Year!