Monday, December 26, 2011

Kindle and physical books

I bought a Kindle Touch that was delivered just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  Obviously, I am not an early adopter.  There were 3 reasons I finally succumbed. 
  1. I used points I earned at work, so it was essentially free.
  2. A older book I wanted to read was $25 for the paperback, but $4 for the Kindle edition. 
  3. I could get library books on the Kindle, and never have to worry about returning them.
My first two books were Diary of a Player by Brad Paisley and David Wild.  And Winning Low-Limit Hold'em by Lee Jones.  Both were cheaper for the Kindle edition than a physical book.

(I wonder whether there is any psychological significance in the first book a user downloads? )

  I like the Kindle.  It is easy to read.  It weighs about the same as a paperback.  I can read bits of different non-fiction books and it remembers my place.  No stack of books lying around with bookmarks, nagging me to finish.

But I find myself in a quandary.  I like to read the paperback mysteries that Amazon sells 4 for the price of 3.  The Kindle editions are the same price as the paperbacks.  But without the 4 for 3 special.  So it would actually cost me more for the Kindle editions.

In the end, I don't think the Kindle will replace physical books for me.  I have book series that I want to continue collecting.  And I can't justify paying more for 4 Kindle books than for 4 paperbacks.  So, I will get the Kindle edition when it is the cheaper alternative, or if I want to get it from the library.  Otherwise, I will continue to buy physical books.

Which means I'm going to need more book shelves.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Middleman saved my day

I don't get sick often.  But this year I did not escape the cold that has been circulating around both work and the gym. (Same cold or different?)

Anyway, I came home from work early and took a nap.  When I woke up, I didn't have anything to distract me from my self-pity.  Too fuzzy brained to read.  Nothing remotely acceptable on daytime TV.  Couldn't play games on my phone because it is *broken*.

Then I remembered I had the entire series of The Middleman on DVD.  From IMDB: "A struggling artist is recruited by a secret agency to fight against evil forces."

The series was campy and corny, with sort of an Adam West Batman vibe.  There were subtle pop culture references like having the ghost infested sorority house located on Ray Parker Jr. Lane.  Unfortunately, there were only 12 episodes made.

It was the perfect pastime for a cold, rainy winter day when I wasn't feeling well.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

T-Mobile and the Bricked MyTouch

First off, I love my MyTouch 4G Slide.  I got the phone 3 months ago to replace an aging Cliq. The 4G connection speed is amazing and the video display is sharp and clear.  Game play on it is awesome.

And then it bricked on me.

I was playing games and listening to television.  I played some Angry Birds.  I played some Dabble.  I started to play Word Pop when the phone froze up.  Then shut down.

And stayed shut down.

I pried the protective back cover off.  I took the battery out.  I replaced the battery.  I pressed the switch.  Nothing.

I plugged the phone in.  I pressed the switch.  Nothing.   I took the sim card out and replaced it.  Nothing.

Resigned, I called T-Mobile about a replacement.

We discussed all the steps I had taken.  We repeated some of these steps.  It was decided, yes, I did need a replacement.

T-Mobile doesn't permit you to take the phone to a brick and mortar store for a replacement.  They prefer to spend the money to overnight the replacement - after reading you a litany of disclaimers and warnings about what will happen if the failure is really your fault.

And there is a $5 service fee for the warranty service.  A service fee!  To replace a defective phone.

Who does this?  If I buy a watch from Walmart and it breaks, they replace it or give my money back.  They don't charge me for the service.

My alternative is to go directly to the manufacturer, which will probably delay the replacement.  As I have reached for my phone multiple times this morning, delay is not an option.  So I am stuck with the $5. Which I am sure T-Mobile knows will happen.

On top of that, I am out the cost of the screen shield, because they do not replace accessories.  Even when the phone they sold me is defective.

Adding insult to injury, I am promised that the replacement will be "New or like new".  "Like new"as in used.  As in, I may get a used phone to replace a phone I paid premium money for only 3 months ago.

I was worried what would happen to T-Mobile when it merged with AT&T.  I shouldn't have bothered.  T-Mobile doesn't care about its customers any more than AT&T does.

I am *not* a happy camper.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Too much potential

It's isn't enough that I have a good job, good friends, and good health.

I must live up to my potential. 

I got good grades in school, so I had the potential to make a lot of money as a doctor or a lawyer, regardless of my disinclination to be either.

My hobby is stained glass art.  I have the potential to be a great artist.  But not the dedication, or the marketing inclination, to do so. 

I wrote the quiz book advertised on the right.  It had the potential to be a good seller.  I had the potential to become a professional writer.  Dedication, marketing, and temperament mitigated this potential.

But *having* potential can be a burden.  There is a sense that every book read for pleasure, every game of solitaire or Angry Birds, is a waste of ones potential.  I should be doing something useful, something to further my potential. 

This guilt is something I have been fighting, only partially successfully, for many years.  But the horoscope I got recently helps. 

Sometimes it’s OK to stop striving to live up to your potential.  What if you simply stayed put? 

I like where I am in my life.  And if that means I don't become a famous artist or a renowned writer, I am, mostly, okay with it. 

I have the potential to be happy.  .

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Post Office is killing itself

I will freely admit I do not know what the solution is to the Post Office's financial problems.  But I suspect decreasing service is not it.  The general reaction from industries facing full or partial extinction is to accelerate their own demise. 

If the Post Office delays delivery, customers will find alternatives.  Timely delivery isn't that important for the holiday cards and the few letters I write.  But it is of utmost importance for companies like Netflix and weekly magazine purveyors.  It is also important for people who send their bill payments via snail mail.  The calculation of when to mail a bill payment for timely delivery just became more complicated.  Once people have found an alternative, they are not going to return to the Post Office. 

I don't receive much personal mail.  I get the majority of my bills via e-mail.  And I resent the companies that do not offer me that option.  I order books frequently from Amazon and some of those arrive via postal delivery, but many are delivered by FedEx or UPS.  And now that I have purchased a Kindle, I will be buying fewer physical books.  I am part of the problem.

Newspapers are following the same path.  They decry the loss of readership, but offer less and less to those of us still subscribing.  The newspaper I get now, in a major metropolitan area, is thinner on several days a week than the newspaper I grew up with.  A small time newspaper.

Nor does it help the newspaper's plight that it refers people to the internet for more information.  Once a person gets into the habit of going to the internet for their news, their affinity for print news lessens. 

Formerly successful industries are fated to be destroyed by our rapidly changing technology.  Records are replaced by MP3 except by collectors and purists.  Pay phones have all but disappeared, the need replaced by ever cheaper cell phones.  Land lines themselves are becoming rarer.  Personal checks are being supplanted by debit cards and on-line banking. 

I don't know the solution, if there is one.  I know I would not return to sending and receiving my bill payments through the mail.  Nor would I give up my cell phone to save the pay phone industry.

Technology advances, cultures change, and industries become obsolete.  When was the last time you needed coal delivered to stoke your furnace?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bird house?

As is my general habit, I left the patio door open the other afternoon,   Why?  Well, there are very few bugs in AZ. And Angel can barrel out the patio door easier than she can the doggy door.  And the door sticks.  And I like to hear the birds chirping in the yard.

I put food out for the birds, then go upstairs to sit at the computer desk and check e-mail.  I hear a bird hit the window.  Again.  I ponder why a dozen twirlies and wind chimes hanging from the patio roof aren't enough to keep the birds from flying under it.

I hear an odd noise and see the dogs looking up, both in the same direction.  I see nothing.  Peripherally, I sense movement, but I still see nothing.

I hear another window strike.  This one is loud.  And coming from the living room.  I realize there is a bird  in the house.

I walk downstairs and a sparrow is fluttering against the south transom window in the living room.  Dust is flying everywhere.  (In my defense, the transom is 10 feet off the ground.) The windows are dusty and rain-spotted enough that the sparrow should realize it is a solid object.  But it can see the sky.  And it wants out.

I approached carefully, slowly, and the bird, of course, flies away.  Further into the house.

I open the window under the transom.  Most of the windows have screens, which are a hassle to remove.  So I only have the patio door and the one window open for the sparrow's escape. But it's a big window.

I follow the bird around the house, trying to either catch it, or encourage it to go outside.  It lands on the north transom window, bumping the glass.  It flies back upstairs, first into one bedroom, where it lands on a picture frame.  Then into the studio, where it tries to catch an edge on the peg board frame, then sits on the floor for a moment.

Angel is following me up and down the stairs.  She wants to see this creature I am pursuing and tries to enter the studio.  I fear the sparrow will become a feathery snack, and warn her to stay back.  Peanut, not liking hub bub of any sort, stays hunkered down in the loft. 

I think, maybe the sparrow is tired enough to catch.  I approach, but it flies back downstairs and hits the south transom again.  Less hard.  The sparrow is tiring.  But still, hitting the window again had to hurt.

When I approach, it flies upstairs again.  I can't find it upstairs despite checking every room.  I sense it fly past me again on its way downstairs.  Too tired to fly up to the transom, it finally discovers the open window and escapes.

I thought.

The dogs and I watch a little TV.  We go to bed.  I go to work.  I come home and refill the bird feeder. I reenter the house, through the open patio door.

The sparrow flies up onto the transom ledge again.  This time, there is no window strike.  Just a graceful, careful landing.    It appears that the sparrow did not escape after all.   Either that or it came back inside, which doesn’t seem likely.  I have no idea where it may have spent the night.  Somewhere high.  Maybe hiding among the beanie babies?

Puzzled, I open the south window again.  This time I also open the front door.  I tell Angel that No, she can't go outside.  I walk to the south wall.  The sparrow flies to the north transom.  It really has the hang of this landing process now.

We do this a again, back to the south window, then to north window.  When the sparrow is on the north window, I walk toward it from the side.  Instead of flying away high, it flies low.  And discovers the open door.

The sparrow gets outside and lands on the rocks just past the entryway.  It looks around tilting its head from side to side.  It pecks at the rocks.  I imagine it is amazed to find the outside world again.

I close the screen on the front door.  I close the patio door and the south window.  When I come back to the front door, the sparrow is still standing there. Just looking around.  Angel comes to stand next to me and the sparrow flies away.

Now it has a scary story to tell its birdie friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Irritating trainer

I recently had some sessions with a corrective trainer at the gym.  It's been three weeks since my last session, but I am still irritated.

I signed up for the discount priced 5 sessions because I was convinced she could show me how to alleviate the considerable pain in my neck and the worrisome weakness in my right knee.  And she did.  Within the first 2 sessions.  And for that, I thank her.

What I do not thank her for is the disparaging and condescending attitude she had.  My next three sessions were spent listening to her diss the fitness choices I've made.

When I rejoined the gym in February, I was evaluated by a trainer who felt I was pretty strong and very determined. 

Cut to 7 months later and this trainer tells me it's a miracle that I can make it through one Body Combat class, much less the 4 classes a week that I take.  Apparently, I am a walking disaster despite working out. 

I pointed out that I enjoy the classes and they keep me motivated.  Her response?  She said a trainer could keep me motivated. When I replied I cannot afford a trainer, she suggested I hire a trainer for twice a month.

Now, in what world does a trainer twice a month equal the motivation of a class taken 4 times a week?  I pointed out - again - that I enjoy the Combat classes and the cardio has decreased my blood pressure and cholesterol. 

She actually shrugged and told me that eating right would solve my cholesterol problem.  Which is contrary to what my doctor told me. I didn't bother to point out that the foods she was suggesting I eat are migraine triggers. 

As for my cardio requirements, she suggested the stair stepper, which has to be the most boring, painful exercise device ever created! 

Many of her statements are suspect because I know differently. 

As in, Body Pump does not work the triceps.  Fact, each time I’ve taken the class, there has been a triceps track.  I agree that it is possible to injure yourself.  But there is just as much possibility when doing exercises on the machines or the floor without trainer supervision. 

As in, the calorie burning benefits of Body Combat expire immediately after the class ends. Fact, I read a recent study that states otherwise.

As in, the classes work the same muscles every time.  Fact, the classes change quarterly.  The tracks are varied to work both arms and legs.  The instructors modify the classes weekly.  These classes are much more varied than working a routine on the machines without a trainer.

Even after I made it clear I would not be buying more training sessions, she denigrated the Les Mills Body Combat, Body Attack, and Body Pump classes as being hard on the joints and bad for you.  She grudgingly admitted that RPM and Body Flow were "okay".

Mind you, this is a trainer who works in a gym featuring the Les Mills classes.  A gym that spends considerable time and money preparing and promoting those classes. 

I know personal trainer have a bias against fitness classes, but this left a bad aftertaste.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Home repair misadventure

So, I was sitting at my desk in the loft on a telework day and the broken window blinds started bothering me.  One string had broken and the slats listed drunkenly on the right.  I keep forgetting to check from outside, but I imagine it isn't an attractive look.

Let me set the scene first.  The window is fronted by a custom made counter just shy of 3 feet high with drawers underneath and bookshelves on either side of the window.  The counter covers the bottom 8 inches of the window.  The bookshelves overlap the window by 6 inches on either side.  So the blinds are a bit boxed in.  Add to that the 1993 Magnavox television sitting on top of the counter in front of the window.

Now.  The blind damage isn't recent.  The string has been broken for a few weeks.  But today I decided to remove them, figuring no blinds would look better than defective blinds.  I got a folding chair and used it to step up onto the counter to reach the blinds.  I was standing on the counter with a foot on either side of the television.  I had a little trouble getting the blind latches loose, but I finally managed.

While trying to maneuver the blinds from behind the bookshelves, I pulled on them.  The blinds came from behind the shelving more suddenly than I expected.  I slipped off the counter, missed the chair and landed on my butt on the floor.  Unhurt.  Empty-handed.

The blinds ended up on the floor next to me, scattering a thick cloud of dust and broken plastic parts all over the loft.  And the TV fell face down on the floor.  It fell slowly and may have been deflected by my body.  Nonetheless, it ended up on the floor.

I vacuumed and dusted off the fallout.  I threw the blinds away.  Also the folding chair was damaged, torn and bent. Either the television or I must have hit it. So the chair went into the garbage as well. 

The TV.  Well, that was a problem.  It’s a large CRT television.  Weight alone probably wouldn’t be a problem, but weight and bulk is.  I couldn't lift it from floor to counter.  I thought maybe I could raise it in stages.  First I moved it to a foot stool about 14" high.  And took a break, partly because I was winded and partly because I was due at the vet.

The vet took longer than I anticipated and I was annoyed.  The annoyance seemed to give me strength.  I got home and tried to move the TV to stage two, an armed chair 2 feet high.

I only got it partway onto the chair.  As I was standing there holding the TV to keep it from slipping off its precarious, partial hold on the chair, I managed to muscle it onto the counter.  Whew! 

Not brave enough to try the television yet, I had a sandwich out on the patio. Courage and energy restored, I came back to the loft and turned on the TV.

And it worked!  A 3 foot drop and it still works!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Illogical advertising irritates me

Maybe the illogic of some advertising doesn't bother other people, but it bothers me.  I find myself distracted from the message or turned against the advertiser.

Now I don't mean deliberate illogic or fantasy.  I'm pretty sure there isn't a real Kebbler elf, or a Direct TV football fairy.  What bothers me is the presentation of a situation as realistic, that really isn't.

I don't know how many of these may be local ads. If you haven't heard of these, my apologies.

There are the Titan Auto Insurance television commercials.  There is a Titan bobble-head on the car dashboard.  If the driver has never heard of Titan Insurance, how did the bobble-head get into the car?

There is a Lasik radio ad (probably local) where a man and a woman are discussing Lasik as if he has never heard anything about it.  She has had the procedure and tells him all about it.  He even asks her about the cost.  Then he asks if they can afford it.  Sure, we can.  It now appears this is husband and wife.  So why doesn't he know anything about her surgery?

There is the billboard that advertises "Faster ER wait times".  Now how do they accomplish that?  Is there  a time distortion field in the waiting room?  Shouldn't someone who makes a living off words realized that the wait times are "Shorter", not "Faster"?

My latest irritant is a radio commercial for a baby sitter verification service.  The kids brag to Mom that the baby sitter let them watch the blocked channels.

Now - from the kids voices, they were old enough to know better than to squeal to Mom.  They know they will never get to watch blocked channels again if Mom doesn't hire this particular baby sitter.

And who gave the baby sitter the code for the parental controls?  Mom, that's who.  So who is really responsible for this transgression.  Yep, Mom. 

I have a friend who has had his fill of Flo from Progressive and the Geico gecko.  I like both of these advertising icons.  So I guess what irritates one person charms another.

But these irritate the crap out of me.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My dogs and I

A friend gave me a gift card to PetSmart for my birthday, saying "I know your dogs are your life."

I was flattered, and the gift was awesome.  Especially since I needed pill pockets for Peanut's daily medication.

And yes, my dogs are very important to me. In case you haven't visited before, I have two dogs; a 10-year old shepherd/schnauzer mix and a 3 year old shepherd/dane mix.  They are my family, my constant companions.  Until I thought about it, I didn't realize how much my life revolved around them.

We have a family vet, an orthopedic vet, and a cardiology vet.  I'm not sure it's a good thing when the people at the veterinary office recognize your voice on the phone.

I make sunrise trips to the grocery store in the summer so they can ride along before it gets too warm.  I even split up my grocery trips so I can take them both on Saturday and Sunday.  And somehow they know which days are ride along days.  They hang their heads out of the window and Angel drools all over the side of the car.

I make a quick trip home from work to change for the gym because I want to ensure they are okay.  And I want them to know that I am okay, before I leave them alone again.  I talk to them as if they can understand, and I think that some of what I say they do understand.

These are shedding dogs, so there is dog hair everywhere, regardless of how often I brush them.  No one visits my house, or rides in my car, without being warned about the hair.  You wear black at my house at your own risk.

I buy way too many treats and chews, both to reward them for good behavior and to keep them entertained while I am away at work, or trying to work at home.  There are toys and chews scattered all over the house and yard.  Walking around the house in the dark can be a challenge.

There is a loveseat facing the upstairs window looking out over our street so Peanut can watch out over her kingdom in comfort.  The loveseat is covered with the latest in fluffy comforters because Angel ate the stuffing out of both the loveseat and the previous comforter.    My sister keeps me supplied with comforters picked up at thrift shops.

The king-sized bed should have room for all three of us. Peanut curls up daintily taking up very little room.  Angel sprawls out on her side with her legs spread across the bed. I generally end up scrunched against the head board.  I wake up to a soft damp nose in my face and two dogs eager to be petted.

And I love it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I have roof.

I spent almost all day Monday listening to the dogs bark at the roofers and the roofers hammering above my head.

And it was heavenly. 

That night it was windy and rainy.  Not that I got any of that rain.  But the nice part was, I didn't mind if I did.

Because I have roof.

The degree of relief I felt once I had a completed roof surprised me.  I hadn't realized how tense I got every time it got windy, or whenever it got cloudy.

Now I don't have to worry about the tarp blowing off.  I don't have to worry about rain damaging the structural integrity of the roof.  I don't have to worry. 

Because I have roof.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peanut is doing great.

Well, we had our cardiology appointment last week and the vet said she has congestive heart failure.  This killed my father, so I knew the diagnosis was serious.

However, she didn't have a heart attack.  The vet believes it was something called syncope, a type of fainting.  I didn't see her lose consciousness, but maybe it was very brief.

The congestive heart failure is a worsening of the heart enlargement and arrhythmia.  Heart disease is a progressive condition.   The vet refused to quantify her life expectancy, but I read on-line that it averages about 6 months.  There are exceptions, of course.  And he put her on a new medication that supposedly doubles that.

Anyway, she is now on three pills twice a day and one pill three times a day.  One of the pills comes in a large, chewable pill. Which, of course, she won't eat without it being wrapped in a pill pocket.  I can combine some of the pills, but we are still going through 4 or 5 pill pockets a day. 

The very good news is, she is doing so much better I can hardly believe it.  She is eating again.  She is running down the stairs again.  She is anxious to go for walks.  Although I still try not to let her over exert. 

She is even starting to boss Angel around.  I never expected to be glad to hear Peanut snarl at Angel. 

For however long it lasts, I am grateful to have my princess back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Did my dog just have a heart attack?

I was watching TV with Peanut, my 10-year-old shepherd mix, laying on the floor at my feet.  She jumped up suddenly and seemed agitated, turning a couple circles like she was going to throw up.  She sat down as I reached for her to comfort her and kind of hunched over.  Which is a normal puking position. 

She stood up abruptly, her legs buckled and straightened one at a time, making her totter and struggle to get her footing.  Then she collapsed to the floor. 

I wanted to freak out but tried to stay calm.  I laid down on the floor, shooed Angel away, and held Peanut until her breathing slowed down.  I looked into her eyes trying to decide if her pupils should be that large.  Were the pupils blown?  Had she suffered a brain trauma?  Then she sighed and  laid her head on my arm.  I laid on the floor for about 20 minutes just petting her. 

Angel lay near us on the floor, but not touching either of us. Which is very unusual.  Angel likes to be in contact with the members of her pack.

I was quite relieved then Peanut moved first one front leg, then the other to lay across my arm next to her nose.  I was terrified to find out if she could stand on her own or not. 

After a bit, the floor got too hard.  I stood and picked her up, giving her no opportunity to stand.  I put her on the couch. positioned her across my lap, and petted her more.  

Angel came up gently onto the couch and laid next to her, not bumping, pushing, or laying on Peanut.

After about 20 minutes, it was time to go upstairs to bed.  I was quite relieved when Peanut jumped down off the couch on her own and was steady on her legs.

Still, I am concerned.  She has an enlarged heart and arrhythmia.  Did she have a heart attack?  A stroke?  Is this a harbinger  of the end of my beloved princess? 

We already had a cardiology appointment scheduled for today.  I hope he has some answers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Storm damage

I was just starting to watch Torchwood Saturday night at about 5:45, when the dogs started to freak.  I kept hearing something ting against the window.  So I stepped outside and it was hailing!  And hitting the windows under an 8 foot patio cover.  Very strange. 

I went back inside and sat on the couch between the dogs to comfort then and watched the hail.  I saw the wind pick up and the patio furniture start to slide across the concrete.  One chair tipped over and slid several feet.  The glass patio table stayed upright, thankfully. And nothing came through the picture window.

The wind started blowing right through the doggy door, the magnet clattering as the flap swayed back and forth, twigs and leaves scattering across the tile floor.  Then the acacia came crashing down from south to north.  It missed the patio cover, but lay across the grass, which I was glad I had just cut.  No idea why that mattered, but it seemed like it would be a while before I would have the chance again.

The worst is over I thought.  But the wind picked up ferociously.  I heard loud noises, but nothing definable.  Then suddenly, the wind was gone. 

I went outside and checked out the tree.  Completely laid over, but the roots aren’t exposed.  I have no idea whether it can be stood back up, and whether it would survive. 

I walked to the west side of the house and saw the double gate was wide open.  Fortunately, the hasp was fine, the unlatched lock had given way.  There were pieces of roof tile laying on the ground.  I walked out front and saw more tile in the yard and on the driveway.  I looked up at the roof from the driveway and it seemed fine. 

I returned to the back yard and noticed a section of asphalt roofing from the patio cover laying in the garden.  It was crushing my flowers, so tossed it onto the rocks and looked up to see where it had come from. 

The roof.  The tile roof.  It was a shambles.  Tile was tipped up on end instead of laying flat. 

I hurried inside to call the insurance company and file a claim.  The adjuster would call me in one or two business days.  What was I to do until then?  Was the roof leaking?  Well no, it’s not raining.  I hung up with a number to call if I needed more information.

I went back outside.  Terri hollered at me from over the fence.  They had lost 2 large evergreens and some tile and wondered if I was okay.  They have flat tile and although some was disturbed, their roof was in much better condition than mine. Although part of one tree is now laying in their pool.

My tile is the humped kind.  The wind got right under it and lifted it off the roof.  I looked more closely and could see some of the flashing sticking up and some of the wood lathing where the tile is attached.  The western corner piece dangled precariously.  Ron, who does construction, advised me to get someone out to tarp the roof before it rained.

So I called the insurance company back and got the numbers of a couple places that do emergency work. I called at 6:40.  They got here at 8.  It started raining at 7:15.  I haven’t had any appreciable rain since April.  The day I lose my roof it rains.

The guys spent 2 hours tarping the roof.  The first 20 minutes it was pouring down rain.  I stood outside and watched.  The next hour the wind was blowing in intermittent gusts, grabbing  the tarp and flapping it.  At one point the step ladder on the patio cover roof fell over while they were both on the main roof.  I climbed up, righted it and held it for quite a while as it shuddered in the wind.

Later, the wind seemed to have died down and I was concerned about the dogs, so I climbed back down to check on them.  I hadn’t yet climbed back up when a gust of wind toppled the stepladder off the roof onto the ground.

While they were working, although it was dark, I noticed the chinaberry tree looked odd.  I went over to examine it, got a flash light and reexamined it.  Major branches had split. After splitting, one fell onto another branch and broke it.  It is horrible mangled.

That disturbed me more than anything so far.  I am sicker about the trees than I am about the house.  A house can be repaired.  Trees die.

As I was standing outside listening to the guys working on the roof, I looked up and saw the beautiful full moon and listened to the frogs croak in a nearby pond.  It was peaceful and soothing and I am grateful that the damage was as limited as it was.

Dish towel hierarchy

Is it weird that I  have a dish towel hierarchy?

There are four stages, progressing from cleanest to dirtiest.  The progression occurs when one of the dirtier towels needs to be replaced.

A clean one goes from the drawer to hang on a rack next to the kitchen window.  This gets used for wiping clean dishes or gets laid on the counter under wet dishes so they can air dry.

The next stage is hand towel.  I use the hand towels to dry my hands and wipe water off the kitchen counter. These towels are hung on a rack in front of the sink.

Progression to washer towel comes by many methods.  Sometimes, my hands or counter aren't just wet, but are damp from spilled tea, strawberry juice, or the like.  Other times, I grab the first towel handy to wipe a sweaty brow.  In these cases, the towel is moved to the top of  the washer.. 

A laundry towel is one that goes directly into the washer for the next laundry day.  A washer towel becomes a laundry towel if I use it to wipe off algae splashed from bird bath water or wet grass that is sticking to my legs, to wipe water off the floor, or to dry off a wet dog,.

Weird?  Maybe.  Useful?  Definitely. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where do I find the time to blog?

Somehow I can't manage to find the time to blog.  I managed to miss the entire month of August.  Not only has the record-breaking heat induced a lethargy, I also feel like my days are speeding past me.

I rejoined a gym in February, and as I get more fit, I keep adding more exercise classes. I do 4 to 6 one hour classes each week.  Plus I just started seeing a "Corrective Trainer" to try to resolve my shoulder and knee issues.  This has resulted in homework in the guise of stretching exercises and, soon to be added, corrective exercises.

If I add together the 8 1/2 hours of time I spend at the office, the one hour round-trip commute, one exercise class, twenty minutes to get to exercise class and back, seven hours of sleep, plus dressing, eating, brushing teeth, giving pills and love to two dogs, etc.  Add to that the time I spend keeping a journal, because my memory is like a sieve, and I am not surprised that available time keeps slipping away from me.

Add to that the time I spend keeping a journal, because my memory is like a sieve.  

When I get home from work, my eyes are so tired from staring at a computer all day, that I can barely read.  So I spend my evenings, post-exercise, cuddled up on the couch with my dogs watching television.  Which they like. 

Of course, on the weekends, I don't have the work time commitment, but I do have a lawn to mow, house to sort of clean, minor household repairs.

And lately, I've been more inclined to curl up with a mystery or science fiction novel. 

It's not you, it's me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Life IS Pain

"Life IS pain, Highness" - Wesley to Buttercup. 

I was quite irritated recently when a friend offered me sympathy, that I neither sought nor wanted, for some neck pain I have.

Yes, my neck hurts, caused by slight arthritis, by hunching over a computer, and from falling out of a window when I was two.  But I do not *suffer* from this pain.  It just is. 

Everyone I know, from 18 to 90 years old, deals with a physical pain of one kind or another.  I think it is part of the human condition.  If you take breath, there is pain.

I'm not talking the pain of disease - just your everyday, ordinary pain.  The pain from over-exertion.  The pain from inactivity.  Pain related to repetitive actions in your work.  Headaches, stomach aches, tooth aches, ear aches.  The pain from a sliver, a paper cut, a mosquito bite. The twinge of an ankle turned wrong.  The ache of a shoulder tugged by a anxious, large dog on a leash.

The expenditures for just prescription pain medication was $13.2 billion in 2006, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Granted, some of this could be pain from disease, but it doesn't count purchases of the plethora of pain remedies available at your local store.  Pills, salves, drops, wraps, heat wraps, herbal remedies - easing pain is a big business in the U.S.

I'm working hard, exercising to strengthen my muscles, being more conscious of my pathetic posture, and getting massages to counteract the hours at my desk. But I don't expect to become pain free, just exchange pain from bad causes to pain from good causes.

Life IS pain, Highness.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sometimes the cycle of life sucks

I love my yard.  There is a patch of grass for the dogs to lay in, room for them to run around, 3 trees and a raised planter.  My lot backs up to a retention basin and I put bird seed and water out, so I get a lot of birds, plus lizards and squirrels.  I used to get bunnies, but that was B.A.  Before Angel.

Yesterday I was out in the yard refilling bird baths and bird feeders.  I saw what I thought was a dead sparrow in the grass. 

I picked it up to throw it over the wall so Angel wouldn't eat it.. It lay limply in my hand, blinking.  I saw no blood and hoped it was just stunned from hitting a window.  It was covered with ants.  I blew and brushed the ants off.  

I do not have the heart, or the courage, to kill a wounded creature.  And I was hoping it wasn't mortally wounded.  I looked for a safe place to set it, where neither ants nor Angel would get it.  As I was looking for a safe spot under the acacia tree, it shrieked and flung itself from my hand, landing on the hard ground. 

The shriek nearly tore my heart out.  Still, I didn't want Angel to get it, so I picked it up and set it on the bird block platform.  But the platform was swarming with ants, and in the full sun at 108 degrees.  I picked it up again. 

It shrieked again and flung itself out of my hand.  Again, I didn't want Angel to get it, so I picked it up and set it in the crook of the Chinaberry tree. 

I still haven't had the nerve to see if it died.  If I don't look, I can pretend it got better and flew away.

Later in the day, I found a dead baby bird in the bird bath under the tree. 

Sometimes the cycle of life sucks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why be hateful?

Hate is a flaming arrow that burns its target and singes those along its trajectory.

It's the pointless comments that astound me.  I don't understand why would anyone go on Facebook or Twitter or someone's blog just to post a vicious comment.  Or to post those remarks as a comment on a shared friends's Facebook post where they would be less easy to avoid.

There is effort involved.  It is not just the spur-of-the-moment, foot-in-the-mouth comment.  Those are bad enough.  This is an intentional, willful, deliberate action.  Why?

The remarks were not directed at me.  But when reading them, I caught my breath, almost as if they were.  My heart raced.  My head pounded.  I imagined how I would feel if I was the target.  I am caught in the arrow's trajectory.

Written or verbal - why say something unnecessarily hurtful?  Yes, sometimes words hurt but still have to be said.  It is the intent that matters.  These are the words spewed forth to wound, to slash, to cow, to intimidate, to make the speaker feel superior and righteous and in control.    

Words are meant to enlighten, to illuminate, to allow someone else to dream or visualize.  They are meant to encourage, to comfort, to share.

Words should not be hateful.  It isn't necessary.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Random thoughts

Here are some of the random thoughts I've had over the past couple weeks:

Why does Sara Lee put a slotted plastic clip on their bagels, but a twist tie on the loaf of bread?  Is there some significance I am missing? 

I find it interesting that dogs are "pawed" just as people are "handed".  My Peanut shakes with her right paw.  Angel shakes with her left paw.  Is this an innate trait or something learned?  I taught Peanut and I am right handed.  Angel's prior owner was left-handed.  

I have 4 identical terra cotta planter bottoms that I use as bird baths.  The 3 in the sun develop a fluffy orange mold or growth.  The one in the shade gets a dark green, slimy mold.  Same container, same water.  Just sun versus shade. 

 One (or maybe one at a time) of the hawks in the electrical tower screeches for long intervals during the day.  Am I anthropomorphizing when I feel this sounds like a distress call?  She sounds like she is missing her mate or a child.  Maybe it isn't even the female. Maybe it is just a territorial declaration.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Some medical clinics WANT you to be frustrated

I had an endiograph scheduled for 8 am.  At least I think that's what it's called.  I swallow barium and they x-ray me swallowing.

It was requested that I get there at 7:30 to do paperwork.  The paperwork took no more than 10 minutes.  That left me with 20 minutes to kill which I happily spent playing word games on my phone.

Up to this point I am reasonably content.

Promptly at 8,  they took me change into a hospital top.  My belongings, including my phone, were safely locked away.  I am now sitting in a much smaller waiting room with no games but with magazines to flip through.  Of course, the room was dimly lit and my reading glasses are locked away with my purse.  I did manage to entertain myself with the photos in the magazine.

Not as content now.

The nurse came at about 8:15 and took me to the x-ray room.  Cool, I think.  Fifteen minutes after the hour isn't bad.  I then proceeded to wait in a cold, even more dimly lit room for 20 minutes, with no phone games and no magazines.  This room did have a clock, that I could watch ticking slowly by while no one came to perform my tests.

I am getting agitated and frustrated by this time.  I had just decided to go find a magazine when the technician appeared. 

Do the people who design these tests even think about the people taking them? 

First they gave me some crystalline barium to drink with only a little water.  That wasn't bad, kind of like drinking undissolved sugar in water.

But next I had to drink some really thick barium solution while they x-rayed me.  It was like drinking flavorless pudding.  Is there any reason flavor couldn't have been added?  I nearly gagged.

Thirdly they gave me a large tablet of barium to swallow.  Now, large pills getting stuck in my throat is the reason I am here.  I asked, only partly joking, if they had paramedics on call.

Throughout this, the nurse is being somewhat sympathetic, while the x-ray technician is the opposite, condescending and impatient. He says the pill isn't that big and I shouldn't have a problem.  (The last one I choked on was a Tylenol, for crying out loud.)
To me, it felt like the pill paused halfway down, but did complete the journey.   The technician, "See it went down with no problem."  Like I said, condescending.

Finally, they had me lay on my stomach and use a straw to drink a thinner version of the barium while I was x-rayed.  The taste made me gag and the nurse thought I was choking.  At least that ended the tests. 

I got there at 7:30 and waited until 8:30 for a test that took 6 minutes.  Apparently my time and comfort is of no consequence to them. 

I've been to "test mills"  that are punctual and considerate.  This one was neither.  I left feeling queasy from the barium and infuriated by the treatment.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't kill my illusions

I had a bathroom conversation recently that still irritates me. (No quotes because I don't remember the exact words.)

I walked into the bathroom at work and a woman was wiping her leg off and grumbling.  I asked, What's wrong? She replied, I got splashed by the toilet.

I shook my head sympathetically, smiled, and said, Maybe it was clean water.

Her growling answer?  It wasn't.

Me:  Well, I like to believe it is. 

At this point, she proceeded to tell me at length how she learned in chemistry class that the fluid coming out of a container is not the one being poured in, but the one being poured into.

I cut her short and said, Well, I prefer to pretend it's the clean water.  (See, I said "pretend", indicating that I know better.)

She snorts, Well that's just wrong and again launches into the elaborate description of the decades old chemistry experiment that proves her right and me wrong.

Now, if I can tell that someone prefers to believe a non-truth, I leave them to their comforts.  A wife who pretends her husband isn't a scumbag, a person who believes their child or pet is getting better, someone who believes that Santa doesn't exist, these are people who cling to their pretenses and it does me no harm to leave them be.

I think it was very rude for her to insist on "educating" me.  I like my fantasy, thank you very much.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Age restricted communities

I know they are very popular here in Arizona but I don't understand age restricted communities.

I grew up in the Midwest in a neighborhood where residents ranged in age from infant to 80.  As a kid, I benefited greatly from that variety.

The 'elderly' woman next door, who was probably only 60, babysat us while my mom went to work.  She also had the best front porch on the block.  All the neighborhood kids, and there were a slew of them, gathered on her porch when it was too sunny, or too rainy, to play outside.  We put jigsaw puzzles together, learned to tat and crochet, played cards, and just sat drinking lemonade and talking.  It was a magical place.

Having younger kids around meant I had a way to make some pocket money baby sitting.  Having older kids around meant I had someone to show me how to dress to be 'cool'.  If my mom wasn't home, I could go next door or across the street to have a question answered, or to get a cookie.

Of course, that was the benefit to me as a kid.  But as an adult, my life has been enriched by the young people who lived in my neighborhood.  Two of my favorite people in the world were 6 and 8 when I moved into this neighborhood.  Kimberlee and Colten were frequent visitors to my house.  I would not have known them if this had been a restricted neighborhood. 

I don't mind the noise of kids playing or having to watch out for bicycles in the street.  I like having the neighborhood kids come to the house at Halloween.  I don't even mind buying cookies and gift wrap for school fund raisers.

I believe our lives are better for the variety of the people in them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Squirrel Girl

Several years ago, when I started work at a software company, they didn't have a cubicle available.  So two guys and I were given tables and placed in an old conference room.  This conference room had floor to ceiling windows overlooking a landscaped area.

Squirrels came daily to eat the purple Ruellia flowers.  I took this picture one day through the glass.

I decided to reproduce the photo in stained glass.  This is my glass panel. 

I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

For more views -

Thursday, June 9, 2011

October Hail Damage to my Car

I didn't think that any of the pictures I took of the hail damage done to my car had turned out.  But I was browsing through photos and discovered that this one actually shows the damage pretty well. 

Just imagine that the roof and the trunk look as bad as this view of the hood.

Original blog about the hail storm:
It's not just an old car to me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another day at the vet

I spent the morning at the vet specialist clinic again.  They very nicely coordinated the appointments so I could bring in both dogs at the same time.  Of course, that meant I walked from the car with 2 dogs on short leashes, carrying my purse, and Peanut's X-Rays and tried not to get dragged to the office door.

Angel had her two week post surgery followup. I was relieved to find out the stitches had been dissolving stitches.  I had feared she pulled them out.  The incision looked fine, but I expected to get a "Bad mommy" from the vet if I had let her pull them out.  The incision is just a little red and she suggested maybe a little cortisone cream to take away the itch.  And, hopefully, it will add a bad taste and inhibit licking. 

Back in 6 weeks to have X-Rays and make sure things have healed well.  I'm not sure what we do at that point if they haven't. 

Then it was Peanut's turn.  The cardiology nurse came to the first room we were in and asked a bunch of questions. But she came back and moved us to one of their rooms with their equipment.  (Only we didn't use any of that equipment.) The cardiologist talked to me at length about what problems an enlarged heart can cause and congestive heart failure when, or if, it follows.  Then he took Peanut to get an echo-cardiogram.  Angel whined almost the entire time Peanut was gone.  Fortunately, that was only about 20 minutes. 

The nurse came to get Angel and I to go to the room with the EKG machine.  The cardiologist showed me a lot of pictures and graphs and diagrams, but really, I had no idea what I was looking at.  Still it was cool to see my dog's heart beating. And there were pretty colors to show the blood flow.

All I really cared about was that despite some fluid leakage and enlargement, Peanut is doing quite well.  She had an EKG 3 years ago and I forgot to provide those results.  So this cardiologist will compare the two and see if she is deteriorating.  But she is active and alert and energetic, so we both agreed she is currently doing very well. 

He did say that the risk from anesthesia was mild to moderate.  Since her teeth don't seem to be giving her any trouble, I am not willing to take a moderate risk to have them removed.

All in all, a good day at the vet.  Not cheap, but good.  Apparently being at the vet is exhausting because both girls are sound asleep at my feet.

Dessicated toad carcass

Back in April I moved a broken hose reel box and found this perfectly preserved toad carcass.  I've been told it's a spotted toad. I wish I had a decent picture of it when it was alive.  I'm not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I can't bring myself to throw it away.  It is still sitting on a shelf in my garage.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pictures from Angel's knee surgery

Angel is recovering nicely from her knee surgery.  Sometimes I think she is recovering too nicely.  She has spurts where she is her old rambunctious self and I have to calm her down, without quashing her spirit.  Fortunately, for the days I have to go to work, the vet gave me a very mild sedative so she will not feel as inclined to chase the squirrel out of the yard.

Angel's leg shaved for the surgery

The shaving went across her back
The stitches.  Poor baby.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Apocalyptic story while sewing

My mind wanders in odd directions sometimes. 

As I was stitching up a tear in my car seat, I imagined another scenario involving needle and thread.

Scene - post-apocalyptic America

Dark-haired, very stern man, with beard stubble, wearing dirty camouflage jacket.  He is obviously the leader of the (unseen) rabble.  He bends over an unconscious man on the dirt floor, holding a needle and thread. 

He and I are the only conscious people in the room.  For some reason, I am standing over the two of them, watching, with my arms crossed.

Leader is sewing up a gaping wound in the patient's arm.  One stitch has gone in and he moves the needle a half an inch over to start the second stitch.

Me, mildly:  "You know the wound will pucker if you sew it like that." 

Leader, growls, trying to be intimidating:  "Who's the doctor here?"

Me, not intimidated:  "Not you.  Not me.  But I DO know how to sew."

Leader, scowling: "So?"

Me: "So if you sew it like that, the wound will pucker." 

Leader, sneering:  "So the scar will be ugly.  Big deal."

Me: "So the wound will get infected if it isn't sewn together right."

Fortunately, I finished sewing up the car seat before the Leader could task me with sewing up the wounded man's arm. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I wasn't going to die - but still..

Just when life was going great - 

 Yesterday, a little after 2 my neck was bothering me at work and I decided to take something for it.  I was out of aspirin, so I picked 2 Tylenol arthritis tablets.  Slightly bigger than aspirin, but with a smooth coating.  Went to the kitchen to get some water.  Popped in the pills and drank the water.  And a pill got stuck!

Damn!  Someone came in and saw I was in distress, but there wasn’t much he could do.  The pill was in my throat, not my windpipe, so the Heimlich is useless.  I tried to stick my finger down my throat, but I couldn't get the pill to come back up. 

A woman came in, patted my back and talked soothingly to me until the paramedics came.  Yes, paramedics.  Again.  Only this time, the pill didn’t dislodge itself before they arrived.  I ended up being put on a gurney, answering a lot of stupid questions, and being taken to the hospital.

As always, I could breathe, but not swallow.  It’s amazing how much saliva accumulates when you can’t swallow it.  My throat would convulse because of the tiny amount of saliva trickling down, which made me cough, which made me gag.

I was got mad at the one paramedic who reported that I was coughing a lot, like that was the only problem.  As if anyone would ride in an ambulance for coughing issues.   I struggled to gasp out, "No, the problem is that I can't swallow!".  By the time we pulled up to the hospital, a little before 3, the pill had dissolved enough to go down and I could swallow again.  But once you are in the ambulance you don’t get away without seeing a doctor.

Fortunately, they were reasonably quick.  I didn’t see the point in the hospital gown, but I complied.  By 4, I was out again, after seeing a nurse, a physician assistant, the doctor, and the paperwork guy.  The doctor suggested that I see a gastroenterologist and gave me the name of one.  The nurse suggested I was lucky it was a pill, which will dissolve, rather than a piece of meat, which won't.

I discovered I am not as stoical as I had hoped when I feel like I am dying.  Yes, I know not swallowing won’t kill you.  But it can be pretty disruptive.  I also got quite irritated with the paramedics for asking me to talk to them.  Talking made me gag.  When they asked for my life details, I handed them my driver’s license.  (Someone had thoughtfully brought my purse to me.)  I know it's their job, but surely they could see that talking was an effort?

I was quite grateful to the two employees that helped me, but I didn't even see who they were.  Also I was lucky I was at work where there were people around.  Another good thing was that when the paramedics called the hospital, they described me as a "young" woman. 

I now have an appointment with a gastroenterologist (one on my insurance plan) to find out why this keeps happening to me.