Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas Cactus painting

Every year our paint place (The Brush Bar) posts at least one new Christmas themed painting.  This year, I made custom greeting cards (Shutterfly) from two of the previous years' paintings. 

This year's offering was a cheerful Christmas cactus.  Quite appropriate in a state where people actually do decorate their cactus. 

This one will definitely be next year's greeting card.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Inattentive drivers paying no attention to pedestrians

It's a scary time to be a pedestrian, even in the suburbs.

Bogie and I walk daily pre-dawn.  Our route often takes us past the driveways to a gas station and to a grocery store.

Too many times, drivers pull into, or out of, these driveways without even looking.  I've had to pull Bogie up short so he wouldn't be hit.  Or hustle to cross so we wouldn't get run over.

Yes, I know it's dark out.  But there are lights illuminating these driveways.  And Bogie is big.  And white.  Hard to miss if you are looking at all.

Do drivers not expect there to be pedestrians?  Is there an arrogance of driver versus pedestrian?  The knowledge that a car trumps a pedestrian in any encounter so why should the car pay attention?

Or are they so anxious to get to their cup of coffee or gas tank fill that they don't even bother to look?  Am I expected to hear them coming from behind me?

Another place that is risky is a parking lot.  Walmart or the grocery store, I park my car away from the entrance, usually because I have the dogs in the car. 

Drivers should expect pedestrians in a parking lot.  How else do people get from their car to the store, and vice versa? 

And especially in the *specially marked* crosswalks.  I mean, that's why they are there.

But there have been many, many times I've had to abort my progress because a moving car made no attempt to stop, or even slow, for the pedestrian in the crosswalk.

Is it rudeness?  Inattention?  Is their time more important than the rules of courtesy?

I don't know the answer.  I just know that I have to be extra-aware, because other people aren't aware at all. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Identifying photos - please do.

I spent this weekend finally finishing up the scanning and labeling of all of my Mom's photos.  She died almost three years ago, so I can't claim to have been hurried.

The main point of scanning them was to share with various siblings and relatives.

I did the same thing when my Dad died.  And ran into the same problem. 

Who ARE these people?

For one thing, sticking photos onto albums means they may or may not be able to be removed later.  So if there was any identification written on the back, well, there's no way to tell if there is writing on the back.

But even with loose photos it's hard to figure out.  Some people can tell the difference between one infant and another, but I can't.  Which brother is this?  I don't know.  If there was a date I might be able to figure it out, but many of the photos we have, my dad developed himself.

No dates. 

And the people from my parents' generation or before?  Don't assume we're going to know who they are.  The next generation down will recognize even fewer people. 

I asked my mom once "Who is this?'.  "That's your great-grandmother."  "Well, write that on the back."  "I told you. Just remember."

Sigh.  I didn't.

It's really a shame.  There are some interesting, very old pictures in their collections.  One was a boy about 3 years old with a cigarette, which may or may not have been my dad.  One of a great-great-aunt was actually marked.  That was thrilling. 

So please, please make sure your photos are identified.  Your heirs will appreciate it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The defective smoke alarm

Four years ago, tired of changing 9v batteries, I bought a set of smoke detectors with sealed lithium batteries guaranteed for 10 years. At which point you have to replace the entire unit. 

Yeah. Yeah.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

A month ago, the smoke alarm at the top of the stairs went off in the middle of the day.  Thankfully,  it was not the usual middle of the night claxon.  Still startling.  And scared the dogs.

Anyway, the other 5 weren’t shrieking, I figured the unusually high humidity was affecting it. I unwired this one and set it on the bottom shelf of the desk to look at later. 

Then didn’t.

A few days ago – in the middle of the night – it went off again.  With a sealed unit, I couldn't rip out the battery. So I threw it in the freezer.  That shut it up.

Except last night I got up to go to the bathroom and heard a weird, quiet, repetitive beeping.  I tracked it down to the freezer. 

The smoke alarm was going off IN THE FREEZER. 

I  closed the freezer door and the sound was muffled enough not to be heard in the bedroom. I went back to sleep and forgot about it.

But just a few minutes ago, I heard more subtle beeping.  Yep, it was going off again! 

I took it out to the garage and smashed it with a sledge hammer. 

Never again will I buy units with sealed batteries!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Lego Ghostbuster Firehouse

I recently assembled Lego's Ghostbuster Firehouse.  There are 4,634 pieces partitioned into 14 different sets of packaging. The instruction comprise of 600 steps

The build was pleasingly accurate, and the interior details were impressive. But I had issues with the project. 

Why did they print the instructions on a black background?  Artistic decisions like that should be guided by usability.

Some of the steps seem unnecessarily complex.  Like doing a single 4 across four double twos instead of across one double four.  That seemed to me just an excuse to ramp up the piece count.

And maybe I'm slow, but it took me a while to figure out how to attach the ghosts to the building.  A simple picture showing the removal of the brick facing would have saved me a lot of time. 

The firehouse shared the Creative Expert technique of having each floor lift off the one below it to expose the interior.  The firehouse also has a side that opens to all three floors. However, I had a difficult time opening and closing the "arms".  Nine out of ten times one of the separating floors would detach from the arm as I opened it. And it was a little tricky to close again without scraping the bottom floor.  Perhaps, like the attached ghosts, there is an undocumented secret to opening the side without issue. 

I am very disappointed that the scale is different from the Creative Expert buildings, despite the same size mini-figures. I had hoped to use this as the fire station in my street scene tableau since the retired fire station kit is far too expensive.  

The other buildings average 4 1/2" per floor.  The firehouse is just over 5".  Besides it's longer than the others.  I know it's not unheard of for a neighborhood to have different sized buildings, but the firehouse just doesn't fit in with my street like I had hoped.

Once my sister sees it, I will probably disassemble it.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Medical grifter?

I am still perturbed about this so I am going to vent.

I was not pleased at my annual exam when my NP decided I needed to see a cardiologist because of a a Premature Atrial Complex blip on my EKG.  This is something I have had for at least 7 years and no other doctor has considered it worthy of followup. No even a Mayo-affiliated doctor.

But I promised my sister I wouldn't skip any recommended referrals.  She worries.

The initial visit with the cardiologist started out a little odd.  His NP took my blood pressure without ensuring I was relaxed.  And with my feet dangling off the exam table.  Even I know this isn't optimal and this NP works in cardiology.  Add to that "white-coat syndrome" and, of course, my blood pressure was high.

The cardiologist was personable.  Agreed that the blip was probably nothing.  But said we should do a stress test and an echocardiogram anyway.  For a baseline. He wasn't concerned about the one-time blood pressure. But since I was coming back anyway, I should keep a blood pressure journal.

OK.  Made sense.  I made the appointment. The insurance wouldn't pay for the echocardiogram, but  I did the stress test, with a very pleasant technician.

So far so good.  Or at least, not bad.

The day of my follow-up visit, a different NP greeted me.  And proceeded to tell me how many ways my heart could be damaged that would only have been detected by an echocardiogram.  Really tried to frighten me. 

I was riled up, but said nothing.  I wanted to hear what the cardiologist had to say.  He glanced - briefly - over my blood pressure log and said it looked fine.  Said my stress test results were good and showed no signs of blockage.

THEN went into his pitch.  He said I really should have an echocardiogram and it was a shame insurance wouldn't pay for it.  But he said he wouldn't appeal.  Since an echocardiogram is for diagnosing issues when a problem is suspected and he just said my stress test results were good, I was getting angry. 

He continued on to say that he wouldn't prescribe any medication "at this time". I didn't say anything.  I decided it wasn't worth the effort.  But why would I take medication if I don't have a problem.

Then he said he would see me in 6 months. 


If my insurance hadn't balked, they would have gotten the money for a medically unnecessary procedure.  Echocardiograms are between $1000 and $2000.  I'm sure trying to frighten me with tales of what could be going undetected was a ploy to get me to pay out of pocket.  And telling me to come back every six months seemed like a way to schedule income.

I felt like I had a session with a used car salesman, not a cardiologist.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Crafty Flicker

I have three hummingbird feeders I keep filled.  Partly to attract hummingbirds.  Partly because I like the gilded flickers that also frequent the feeders.  

Notice the yellow spots on the base of the feeder in the above picture.  Those are the plastic flowers that cover the feeding ports.  Supposedly they serve to attract the hummingbirds.  They also keep the birds from completely emptying the feeder.  Probably not the intent. 


I was quite surprised when I took this feeder down to refill it.  Completely, totally, bone dry.  Then I realized all SEVEN of the plastic flowers were missing. 

I admired the cleverness of the flickers, since they are the only birds big enough to remove the flowers.  I figured I would gather up the discarded flowers and reinsert them.  

Nope.  Not a single flower could be found under the hanger stand.  Every single flower had been taken somewhere else.  

Outfoxed by the flickers, I hanged the feeder up with its flowerless holes and told them to help themselves.  

Friday, August 3, 2018

I love, but not their commercials

I have an Autoship with for dogfood and treats, so it's not that I'm not a fan of the web site.

I mean how can you not love a company that sends such a cute note with your first order.

But I HATE one (or is it more than one) of their commercials.

You know, the one that says "No more lugging heavy dog food bags."

Well, yeah, you don't have to lug it from the store. 

But unless you keep your dog food at your front door, you are still going to be lugging it from the front door to wherever you do keep it.

And I think it's harder to carry the box of dog food than it was the bag of dog food.  In fact, I generally open the box at the front door so I can just carry the bag.  Then the empty box.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop ordering from Chewy, but the commercial does irritate me every time I hear it.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Elderly or ailing dogs can be expensive

I'm happy to say that Angel's latest foray into acupuncture is going well.  (Further adventures in Canine Acupuncture) She can get up from the floor more easily and her muscles are less tight.

We stopped the laser treatments after only two visits because doing them after the acupuncture seemed to stress her rather than assist. 

But yesterday we did the treatment BEFORE the acupuncture.  It seemed to help relax her and let the acupuncture needles do their work more effectively.

Yesterday was her 12th acupuncture treatment.  And we are booked weekly for the next couple months.  I love that it gives her some respite from the pain and stiffness.  But it's pricey. 

One acupuncture session is $68, with my United Pet Care discount.  Add laser treatment for an additional $29.  Per week.

On top of that, she has developed an itching problem.  Neither Zyrtec nor Benadryl have helped so we are trying a shot that is supposed to last a month. For $120. 

Plus, she has these two weird sore spots on her back and shoulder.  The oddest scabs the vet or I have ever seen, all crumbly instead of flat.  One course of antibiotics helped, but not completely.  We thought they would go away on their own after that. 

They didn't. Topical antibiotics helped, but not completely.  So now we are going with a human antibiotic.  I looked it up on GoodRx.  $80 for 30 tablets. 

Of course, part of the reason treatments are so expensive is that I have large dogs.  The anti-itch shot dosage was based on her 104 pound weight.  As was the dosage of the antibiotic. 

Large dogs are just more expensive in general.  More food, bigger treats, higher dosages. 

But I love my large dogs.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

This painting was my idea.

My friends and I had a painting class last night.  I decided I didn't want to paint the class picture.  So I brought in my own idea.  The instructor was very sweet and gave me advice on texturing. 

Pretty happy with the result.  No idea what to call it.  Desert Sunset #1?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

I love working from home

Two years ago I started working for a software company that encourages working from home. 

My prior company allowed you one day a week. And it was nice to save the commuting time.  But working from home full time was eye-opening.

Firstly, the dogs *love* having me home during the day.  And having them interrupt me for attention means I get up from my desk a little more often.  Which is good for my neck and back.

I work upstairs.  And keep the liquid refreshments downstairs. (After a close call with a glass of water and a keyboard.)  So I get more exercise going up and down the stairs.

And no one brings in treats, or cajoles me into going to lunch with them, so it's easier to maintain a healthy diet.

Being home all day with the dogs means I don't feel guilty when I have an appointment after work.  When I worked in the office, I tried to schedule things close enough to my quitting time that I didn't go home first. Because going home after a long day, giving the dogs attention, then leaving for an appointment inspired lots of guilt-inducing looks. 

Now when I leave, the dogs are like, Meh.  See you when you get back.

Without interruption and distraction, I feel like I can focus on my code work more effectively.  But that same isolation means that there is no one to consult when I get stuck.

I had to realize that if I wanted to talk to someone, there was no more rolling my chair back to look at my cubicle neighbor.  Now I actually have to call to talk to someone about work. 

Or about non-work.  I do find I know less about cars and sports than I did when I could overhear conversations in the office.

Meetings are all done via WebEx or Skype.  And it works just as well as having everyone in one room. 

I think the main difference is management attitude.  My boss hires people he trusts.  Then sends them off to do their jobs.  He doesn't need to see you typing to be reassured you are actually working. 

We do all see each other "in the flesh" occasionally.  We get together to celebrate employee birthdays!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

And so it blows..

Arizona doesn't have earthquakes or hurricanes, but it has mondo dust storms and wind storms.  Had one of those yesterday. 

Angel, my Belgian mix, gets freaked out by high winds.  Just as she was trying to crawl into my lap at my desk, my internet connectivity went out.  So I couldn't work anyway.  I headed downstairs and saw this.

It's just a tree, and wouldn't be all that distressing, except this is the tree that replaced the tree that got blown over in the last big storm.

Of course, that storm took the clay tiles right off my roof, so one downed tree is a minor problem.

Still, I don't think I will plant another tree in that spot.  Maybe some flowering bushes? 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The digital public library!

I bought a Kindle back in 2011, but honestly didn't see the appeal. 

Yes, easy to hold.  Easier to read while eating in fact.

But the cozy mysteries I like to read were just as expensive, or more, in Kindle format than the paperback editions.

So for a couple years, I only read the occasional Kindle book. 

Then I discovered the Phoenix Digital Library!

At first, I couldn't find any cozies, but there was a lot of J. A. Jance, John Dunning, James Patterson, and David Baldacci. 

Then the library started stocking the cozy authors I already followed. 

Granted, I can't always predict when a book will be available. And  if I want to read them in order, I've learned to put a hold on only one book in a series at a time. 

But I love that the books are delivered to my Kindle without ever having to go to the library. 

And when the loan expires, the book vanishes.  There is no way to forget to return it.  If you've ever had to pay library fines on a physical book, you understand how wonderful that is. 

Now I read just as much as before, but I buy less than half the books I used to.  And I don't have to decide whether to keep a book, and find a place to shelve it, or whether to give it away. 

Admittedly, there were a couple series I already had that I read the next edition via Kindle Library.  So then the dilemma was whether to keep the series or not since it was no longer complete. 

Mostly I decided not.  This freed up some much-needed shelf space.

In summary, BIG fan of the digital library. 

Now I am going to go read my library book before it vanishes. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sometimes completed isn't done

Last weekend we did a painting class for a painting called Sunset Beach.  When I finished class, I had a pretty good representation of the painting.

But the more I looked at it, the less I liked it.

For one thing, what was the reflection being reflected from?  For another, why so much empty sea on the right side.  Couldn't the island have been made bigger?  Or would that still have left it unbalanced?

I have some paints at home, so I started tinkering with it.  Added a sun and another island.

Better, but I was still unhappy with it.  The sand was too dark, and honestly, poorly done on the left island.

So I took one more stab at it.

This one I like!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Further adventures in Canine Acupuncture

Angel's arthritis had been doing better after getting many, many sessions of acupuncture.  She was more energetic and seemed able to move more easily.

Then the acupuncturist quit the vet clinic back in October. 

It wasn't until this May that we resumed sessions.  One of Angel's prior vet's got her acupuncture certification and started doing treatments.

Angel remembered the process well.  We occupy an exam room.  Angel lays on the tile floor.  They have put down a blanket, a dog bed, and a foam pad.  She rejected them all.

They talk sweetly to her and insert the needles, which she doesn't seem to feel, and  let her lick on a frozen bowl of diluted dog food.  It keeps her so distracted that this last session Dr. Swisher inserted 40 needles. 

Bogie lays next to me.  I am prepared to give him treats, but he has become more focused on Angel's frozen bowl.  Once she abandons it, he gets whatever is left.

We chat for 20 minutes or so while the needles do their work.  By that time, Angel is so relaxed that she looks like she is stoned out of her mind, pupils dilated, head woozy.   The needles are removed and we head home.

Twice we did a laser treatment after the acupuncture.  Angel was not a fan.  Everyone had to wear eye protection.  I wish I had the pictures of the dogs in their doggles. 

But they hated the doggles.  And Angel seemed agitated during and after the laser treatment, so we are sticking to acupuncture alone for the time being.

Angel is an on-going case, because her pain is chronic.  But there was a patient who was treated for paralysis that is now running around as if it had never happened. And he doesn't need any further treatments. 

Another dog pulled a muscle and once relief was achieved, he didn't have to return either.

I'm hoping regular acupuncture will allow me to decrease her pain medication a little.  All medication has side effects and I would like to not rely on it so much.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Paintbrushes in can

I've been trying to expand my painting repertoire by doing some painting on my own.  I do find it hard to set aside time.  There always seems to be something more pressing to do.  But I did conceive and create this painting this weekend. Pretty happy with the way it turned out.

I'm painting for me, not to sell, so I splurged on the metallic paint for the ferrules.  Hard to see in the picture, but I blobbed some of the paint drips so they look more realistic.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Valentine's Day paint class

Normally I go to paint classes with two or three other people.  But on Valentine's Day they had planned with their significant others.  Imagine that!

I decided to go to class anyway.  The subject was a split painting so each person in the couple could do half.  I figured it could easily be done as a single painting in horizontal mode.

Class was completely booked.  All couples except me.  I let that bother me for about 60 seconds, then dived into my painting. 

I went off on my own changing the background and the type of tree. Not unhappy with the way it turned out.