Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 2007 Blog Number 30

I sit here at my makeshift desk, in the dark, Kitsu curled between my chest and the keyboard and the Engineer snoring sonorously beside me. I've been at this keyboard every night for the past month, one cat or the other curled up before me purring, typing away. Sometimes the Engineer's here snoring, sometimes he's out of town and I have a light on, but it makes no difference in the blogging.

It's a pretty silly blog covering the cats and the garden, a little nostalgia and the silly trivialities of life. I haven't shined a pellucid light on anything or stimulated anyone's intellect, but it's been fun. I hope fun for my readers too.

Gads, this is sounding like a farewell speech. It's not, I'm figuring this is more of a beginning. I'm pleased with myself for actually managing to go a full month of nightly blog entries without fail. I'll try to do it next month. Don't know if I will succeed or not, but now I do know I can.

One thing I have been doing is checking out other blogs; what a wonderful world of blogs exists. I've been leaving comments too, and getting the occasional comment back. Nice folks out there in BlogLand. Smart folks. I think I'm going to have to be careful not to get too deeply into it -- real life comes first. Even on the frustrating days.

Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thoughts on Gardening With Cats

I love my cats, you know I do. They have me wrapped around their long stripy tails. But I wish they didn't have such a calling to help me with my gardening.

I like to garden in the evening when the cool breeze blows down the canyon and the raised beds are in the shade. I can only really do it when the Engineer is out of town. When he's home I'm busy cooking dinner, washing up and bonding with him like a nice little wifey. When he's out of town, though, I can do what I want when I want. I will usually have a light dinner late afternoon, then when it starts to cool I'll go out and work. The cats think this is the bestest thing ever. They adore outdoor cat/human activities.

When I fill my watering cans, they zoom around me, sticking their heads into the cans and drinking if I put them down. Cat like to get their water from interesting places. Here is a list of the girls' favorite watering spots:

  1. Watering can -- mysterious little hole to stick head through
  2. Mud puddle -- magnificent bouquet and depth of flavor
  3. Bathroom faucet -- makes a lovely trickling noise
  4. Female human's beverage container or glass -- male human drinks beer -- yuck!
  5. Swimming pool -- chlorine gives it that extra zing
  6. Toilet -- not that they have much experience, it's mostly fantasizing, because the humans keep the lid shut.
  7. Inside cat fountain -- moving water is better than still
  8. Outside cat water dish -- bore-ing

They are very good at supervising. They like to get right up there with me and grab any seeds I'm trying to plant. If I shoo them off, they will go lie down on the closest cushy plant, though members of the allium family seem to be the most comfortable for some reason. When I pull up weeds and toss them aside, they jump on them and kill them for me.

The girls also find it very interesting that I dig holes and then don't... use... them. And they think it's hilarious to hop up onto the raised bed and dig their own hole because the human gets so excited when she catches them at it. Kink tail, run away laughing.

Butterflies, bugs, hummingbirds, squirrels and all manner of game can be found 'round the garden. Sachi caught her first yellow jacket last week. It caught her back. Her right front paw swelled up to three times its normal size, but she hasn't given up on chasing them.

She caught a cabbage butterfly this week. Jumped right on it, then lifted her paws to inspect it. Was she ever disgruntled when it flew off. Prey is supposed to stay alive enough to keep things interesting, but not get away, for heaven sakes.

Kitsu ignores bugs and stuff, she's a big game hunter -- birds, mice, voles, snakes. She scared the beegeebers out of me last summer when she went after a six foot gopher snake. I thought it was a rattlesnake because it was striking at her. I turned on the hose and blasted them both, it was the only way I could think of to get her away from it without getting too close myself. It was an adrenalin rush for all involved.

Wouldn't have it any other way, though. My cats are the best, cutest, sweetest, most loving felines ever.


I went to Sam's Club today to buy trash bags and dish soap. I was walking down the aisle in the middle of the store when it happened, when I saw...

A grove, a veritable forest of seven foot tall palm trees with a big sign announcing, "Only $10.97."

How could I resist? I checked out all the palms I could see and picked the perfect one. I put it into my cart and hurried to the checkout, trying to navigate, peering through the fronds.

Luckily the lady parked next to me returned to her car at the same time I returned to mine, so I put the glamour items into my trunk and waited as she pulled out.

With the front passenger door all the way open, I managed to get the enormous palm into the car, then I drove home with my prize, gloating all the way.

When the Engineer got home I made him help me pot it up into a bigger pot. It looks grand.

Then, after having made the financial (well, $10.97 plus tax, recycled pot and soil) and emotional commitment to it, I looked it up on the Internet.

Majesty Palm, Ravenea rivularis, native to Malaysian river sides. Requires warm weather, partial shade, high humidity and lots of water and fertilizer. Does not do well as an indoor plant, but very nicely in the ground in warm humid areas of the country where there is no danger of frost.

Which doesn't exactly describe Utah.

This is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Best Easter Vacation Ever

When I was five, I went to Florida to visit my Grandparents and Great Aunts at Easter. Grandaddy was the coolest companion a kid ever had. He took me places and led me into adventures. Grammy often didn't appreciate our shenanigans. We always knew we'd stepped over the line when we heard her call, "Arm-strong!" We were in trouble then.

We found a baby blue jay that had fallen from the nest and rescued it. Grammy was tipped off by the hysterical screaming of the parent jays as they chased us to the house, pecking holes in Grandad's bald head.


Grandad had to brave the parents again to return the fledgling to where we found it. They knocked off the hat he'd slapped onto his head before he was halfway there. By the time he was back inside his whole head was red and splotchy with blood and peck marks. He let me wash it off for him and put Bactine on it.

I was always accused of being "a dreadful wiggle worm", a charge that I denied. Grandad bet me my Easter basket that I couldn't sit still for three whole minutes. I think I could have done it if he hadn't tickled me. Nothing had been said about tickling though, so I surrendered my Easter basket. Grammy came into the room and saw Grandad munching on my chocolate bunny as I watched with tragic eyes.


I got my Easter basket back. Along with a lecture about gambling.

We were out in the garden one day when a big hail storm blew up, so we ran into the shed and watched the huge white ice rocks pelt the ground. I remembered the old sauce pan he mixed his chemicals in -- the perfect helmet. I clapped it over my head and asked if I could go out and collect some hail stones. Of course he said yes, so out I ran. That lasted all of about 10 seconds before I got hit on the foot and changed my mind. We didn't tell Grammy about that.

Sometimes she found out even if we swore secrecy, though. Like the time he took me pony riding. We went out to the farm and he slung me up on the back of a pony with no saddle or bridle and popped the pony on the butt. It took off and the rest of the herd galloped with us. We ran like the wind! I turned around to watch the pony herd following us and didn't see the low branch we ran under.

Whack! Flat on my back on the ground.

The ponies tried to split and run around me, but one of them wasn't able to. It stepped right in the middle of my chest. Left a great big hoof print.

Grandad and I both knew there would be trouble if Grammy found out, We pricked our fingers with pine needles and took an oath of secrecy. Unfortunately, Grammy had no respect for a five-year-old's privacy and walked in on me in the bathtub that night.


Mostly we got Arm-strong'ed for relatively little things like pulling the tails off chameleons when trying to catch them. Whenever one of us did that, we'd be told by our partner in crime, "I'm gunna tell Grammy on you." Our blackmail lists were longer than our memories.

Once I tried to pat a live alligator. It wasn't the biggest alligator at Gator World, it was probably only six or seven feet long. Grammy heard him laughing at me climbing over the wire fence to get at the big lumpy fang-face. She turned around just as my feet hit the ground on the gator side of the fence. The gator saw me too and smiled real big.


Grandad leaned over the fence, grabbed me by one arm and hoisted me out as the alligator came running over to get his pat. Then I had to go sit in the car for a long time while Grammy and Grandad had "An Adult Conversation."

Fortunately that was the last day before I flew home to Michigan because it put a bit of a damper on the fun.

Grandad let me know we were still partners, though. About two weeks after I got back home, there was a box on the front porch after school. It was a baby alligator. A real baby alligator.

I had the coolest Grandad in the history of the world.

The Art of the Blog

I've been looking at blogs since a little before I began this one. One thing I often do is to hop from blog to blog after I've finished my entry for the day. I think that when you click on the next blog link up at the top of many Blogger pages, it takes you to whatever page was most recently updated. Since that's usually pretty late at night when I blog hop, it seems that many American bloggers are asleep and the blogs are in different languages. Some languages I recognize, some I don't. I like the blogs with pictures best.

One thing that consistently surprises me is how many commercial blogs there are. Blogs that want to sell something. I thought that was what formal web sites were for, but I guess they don't control all the turf. Lots of religious blogs too -- which doesn't surprise me. People who have found The Lord frequently want to testify.

When I was hopping earlier today, there were lots of kids' blogs. Again a surprise, I though the kids all inhabited MySpace or FaceBook.

Some blogs are totally bewildering, like this one: All I can say is, "Huh?"

I think what I like the most about blog hopping is I feel like it gives me little glimpses into things I didn't know existed.

Way cool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Is a Day?

If one chooses to be arbitrary, it is the space of time from one midnight to the next. I, however, firmly believe it is from the time I get up in the morning until I lay down to go to sleep at night. The part when I'm actually sleeping (or not sleeping, depending upon how loudly the Engineer is snoring) is something of a limbo. Neither yesterday nor tomorrow, it only exists in the now.

That being the case, even though the clock says 1:29 a.m. and officially Tuesday, it's really still Monday because I haven't gone to bed yet. Therefor, I am still going full speed ahead on doing a blog entry a day for the month of June. Those few times where there is no entry one day and two entries the next day, or the next day, are simply artifacts of an artificial delineation of time. (Can you tell I got a 4.0 in that logic class I took as a college sophomore?)

Sometimes it's darn difficult to make a blog entry each and every day -- as can undoubtedly be discerned from this entry. I have determined not to allow myself to succumb to writer's block or sleepiness. I thought about doing a limerick tonight, but the only rhyme scheme I could come up with was nude, rude, blued and tattooed -- we won't continue on that theme any longer because it was getting truly scurrilous.

This blog entry isn't particularly edifying, but it is a demonstration of self discipline, a quality I am sadly lacking in, so be happy for me.

Here's a picture of one of my orchids to say, "Thank you for putting up with me." Providing, of course, that you've read this far...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Garden Is Growing

For the most part. Only the beans seem truly unhappy. I planted four short rows of bush beans and four trellis feet of pole beans. None of the pole beans have sprouted and only a very few of the bush beans. I think I'm going to sprout some between paper towels this week and put them into the garden as soon as the tips of their roots begin to show. See if I can get a decent stand that way.

The sugar baby watermelon are doing very well and have cute tiny babies to show. The squash and cucumbers are up, the cucumbers starting to vine. The horseradish I transplanted is recovering and putting out green leaves. The shallots, however, are suffering from being laid on by cats. Why cats like to lay on the shallots, I don't know, but they seem to find them a delightful bed.

The tomato plants are finally starting to take off and the first Black Prince (a Russian heirloom variety) is setting.
I have basil to go with the tomatoes.

Of course the bindweed is trying to make a go of it too.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Home Again, Home Again...

The Engineer got home Friday evening. After dinner and early to bed, he arose ready to take on the world Saturday morning.

The first thing he did was to mow the lawn while it was still cool (relatively) out. The next thing was to inspect the new swamp cooler. Which, of course, required dismantling it to see everything. Then he had to make a few minor adjustments and lubricate some parts. It's running more quietly now.Then he got out his sledge hammer (though it was no longer relatively cool out) and went looking for the source of a leak under the back patio. As you can see, he found it. Tomorrow he'll go to male Mecca, Home Depot, for supplies to fix it.
He's a hard worker, can't deny that, but sometimes I suspect he's a bad influence on the cats...

The Big Day

We have finally have a working swamp cooler. It's about darn time!

The heating and air guys came yesterday, hoisted it up onto the platform and did the duct work and plumbing. The electrician came this morning, pulled power and control wires and hooked it up. It's noisier than the one that was torn down last fall, but I don't care, I don't care, I don't care.

It's supposed to be 102 tomorrow, as long as I can keep relatively comfortable, I'm happy. And since the humidity right now is at 8% (!), it's working like a champ.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Baking Cookies

I was one of two people in charge of refreshments for tonight's Master Gardener meeting. (Yes, that's how Kate and I know each other.) Jenny and I decided to go basic -- milk and cookies.

The one problem with that is you never know how many people will attend, and you sure as heck don't want to come up short. Jenny said she was going to make her famous peanut butter crispy bars and bring the milk. I said I'd make cookies.

First I baked a batch of Sour Cream Stealth Cookies, my Mom's favorite. Then I baked a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Engineer's favorite. Then I decided that I might not have enough cookies and that I wanted something different: Pumpkin Spice Cookies. I was pretty sure I had a recipe around someplace.

Sure enough, there in the Recipes folder on the Personal drive of my computer was a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cookies that I'd concocted a couple of years ago. So I printed it out and began assembling my ingredients. One and a half cups of softened butter -- you betcha, I know how to use a microwave. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Had all those. I buy whole nutmegs and grate my own. I really think it adds something. One 15 ounce can of pumpkin -- in the cupboard.

Not in the cupboard.

I knew I had some pumpkin someplace, so I tossed the cupboard. No pumpkin. Drat! I remembered that I had some frozen pumpkin left over from one I'd baked for pumpkin bisque last fall. Pulled it out of the freezer. One and a quarter cups. Dang!

I tossed it into the microwave to thaw anyway. Too bad I'd already eaten the last banana for breakfast, I could have mashed that up and used it to fill in for the missing pumpkin. Oh, wait, I had some individual serving cups of unsweetened applesauce that I keep on hand for making oatmeal raisin bread. Throw in 3/4 cup of that.

All of the disparate ingredients were being thrown into the big glass bowl. Two eggs, sugar, brown sugar, mix it all up. Geeze, did it ever look gross. Looked like it had already been eaten and rejected. I guess I hadn't softened the butter enough. Note to self, next time, zap the butter a little longer and cream it with the sugars before tossing the rest of the stuff in.

Flour... Oh crud, the recipe didn't have flour listed. It had three cups of "raw oatmeal" instead. This did not seem at all promising, but I dug out the Quaker Oats and dumped in three cups.

The mess in the bowl looked even grosser and really runny besides. And what about salt? And baking soda? Okay, let's guess and dump it on in.

There's got to be flour in cookies. That's when I realized I didn't have that extra bag of flour I'd though was on the upper shelf of the cupboard. Should have noticed that when I was searching for the pumpkin. I had a little regular unbleached flour, a little bread flour and a little cake flour.

Hmmm... Bread flour has too much gluten in it for cookies. Cake flour has almost no gluten in it so that cake will come out with a tender crumb (how's that for technical?) Mix up the cake flour and the bread flour and pretend it's regular flour. Works for me.

Three cups of hybrid flour made a soft dough, but it still looked kinda gross. I don't buy quick cook oats, I buy the old fashion kind and the individual oats looked like little bitty plates poking out at all angles from my dough.


I know, let's put something lumpy in to disguise the oatmeal. Nuts or sunflower seeds. No sunflower seeds and only a very small bag of nuts that smelled just a wee little bit rancid when I opened it. Trash can time! I sure as heck wasn't going to put chocolate chips into pumpkin spice cookies. I know some people like it, but I think it's nasty. Raisins! Raisins are nice and lumpy. Better yet, I had a little over a cup of raisins. In they went.

I wasn't quite sure how this would work out, so I decided to bake a trial dozen first.

Not bad at all! But I decided they were a little too flat, a little too spicy, too crispy around the edges and the oatmeal still showed up too much, so I mixed in another cup of flour.

So what did I have at the end of the day? No eggs, flour, butter, raisins, or ginger left, but seventeen dozen cookies in three varieties. And the last batch of cookies?

They were good.

I've decided to call them Clean the Cupboard Cookies. If you'd like the recipe, just click here to get it in pdf format.
How many people showed up at the Master Gardener meeting?


Looks like I'll have a freezer full of cookies for a while.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

John Cumata Wants Me!

But he seems to think my name's Pavan Kumar and that I'm a guy. Here are the subject lines on a fraction of the exciting e-mails he sends me:

Wait Don't make another payment until you read our ebooks

All orders are accepted $0ma. Vi@Gra*

Pavan Kumar, take our challenge let us build a business for you

Pay your house off in 5-7 years

Like Grass Seed On Steroids

Why be an average guy any longer

Double your salary with a colege degree

Improve ur sexual life immediately

Never Scrub Your Toilet Bowl Again

He offers me cigars, wine, coffee and bushels of Canadian drugs without prescription. He plans to make me a millionaire via Nigerian investments, eBay and Government Foreclosure Houses. He can show me how to win any woman I want. And sometimes he sends me photos of the women I can win, or more accurately, rent. He stuffs my mailbox full to overflowing every day.

So what do I do?

Delete, delete, delete.

Here's an interseting link explaining how Viagra spam works.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fantasy Fishing

I sit here in the hot house just wishin'

I was up on a mountain stream fishin'

To cure summer blues

Simply take off your shoes

Stick your toes in the mud and start squishin'.

The Y Chromosome

First we need to get the vocabulary straight. The hoo-hoo, as I found out about a week ago, is the female particular part. That means that the male particular part must be the ha-ha, because when you put the hoo-hoo and the ha-ha together you get a whole lot of hooha.

Now that we have our terms of reference, let's get on with the story.

I was in a hardware store this afternoon to buy some paint. As I was reading the back of the label, the good ol' boy clerk came up to me. "What can I help you with, little lady," he asked.

I said, "I need to paint my office. I'd like one gallon of flat latex and one gallon of gloss oil in Dove White and two gallons of eggshell latex in Bird's Egg."

"Mmm, hmmm," he said, "did you have someone measure your office for you."

I said, "The can says it covers 400 square feet, so that should be about right."

"Well, now, you really should have someone measure that office for you and figure out just how much you need because when you're getting custom colors you should get it all mixed at once."

"Yes sir, I know that, that's what I'm asking for."

"You really should have someone measure it for you, then we can figure out how much you need here."

I said, "I need four gallons, two white, two blue."

He raised a superior male eyebrow at me as if to say, "yeah, right."

Why is it that some men think a Y chromosome is required to do anything that doesn't involve kitchens, bare feet or kids? Why do they think with their ha-ha's? We women certainly don't think with our hoo-hoo's (at least not usually and not past a certain age.) I know which end of a hammer to hold onto and I know how to figure paint. Sometimes I forget how to hold on to my temper, however.

I looked him straight in the eye and said, "The office is approximately 12 feet by twelve feet, which means the ceiling is 144 square feet. If a can of paint covers 400 square feet it will do two coats on the ceiling.

"There are four walls, each approximately 12 feet by 8 feet high. Two doors, a six foot closet and a six by four foot window, which, all together, I figure equals about one wall.

"Each wall is 96 square feet, I need to paint three walls, that makes 288 square feet. Let's round that up to 300 square feet to be on the safe side. Two coats makes 600 square feet. A can covers 400 square feet, I need one and a half gallons of blue paint. You sell paint in gallons, so I need two gallons. With that much paint, I can repaint the inside of the closet too if I so choose.

"The oil base gloss is for the trim. The doors are varnished wood.

"I need two gallons of eggshell latex in Bird's Egg, one gallon of flat latex in Dove White and one gallon of gloss oil in Dove White."

I leaned forward and raised my eyebrows right back at him.

He stood there gaping at me for a minute, then gave a shake of his head that said, "Women!" but he mixed my paint without further argument.

Men of the world, I am making an announcement. A ha-ha is not required to paint a room. You can't hold the brush with it. You can't think any logical thoughts with it. Frankly, I'm glad I don't have one, I much prefer having a hoo-hoo.

And that's enough hooha for today.

Writing the blog entry was a challenge tonight. The power kept going off. Not just my house, the whole neighborhood. But having a hoo-hoo, I took the easy way out and saved frequently so I didn't have to start from scratch each time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bad Human

I did not take proper care of the cats today. I went into the tool shed this morning about 10:00 to get something and shut the door without thinking.

Around 9:00 this evening, BadStrangerCat assaulted Sachi for the second time in less than an hour. I tore out of the house shouting threats. BadStrangerCat took off over the back fence and away and Sachi slammed through the cat door. I called for Kitsu and heard a faint and pathetic little cry. Sounded like it was in the car port, but no Kitsu.

It took me a while to remember that I'd opened the tool shed door this morning. When I opened it again, the plaintive cries became a loud wailing and one very disgruntled orange cat flounced out.
She has required constant hugs and kisses since. My breathing passages are so full of cat fur I've decided I had best think of it as a filter. No allergens are going to get through the matted maze she's deposited on me. She's so good to me when I was so bad to her.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It got up to 100 degrees farenheit today. That's too dang hot -- especially without a swamp cooler. I can only think of one thing:

Makes me feel a little better to fantasize about jumping in.

The Funny Pages

I have read the newspaper for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid it was belly down on the living room floor, flipping through every section except sports and classifieds. When I moved out of the my parents' home I began subscribing to my own paper. No matter how broke I was, I always managed to scrounge up enough money to subscribe to the local rag. I don't flop on the floor anymore, but I still flip through all the sections except sports and classifieds. I actually read a whole lot more than I did in grade school. As has been my tradition since childhood, I start with the front page and work my way through to desert -- the funny pages.

The funny pages are the real reason I read the newspaper. I have no desire to ever subscribe to the Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Neither has a comics section, what good are they?

I read the funnies in a very exact order, starting with the comics I don't like and saving my favorites for last. Except for Prince Valiant. I loved Prince Valiant as a kid, but haven't been able to read it since moving to Utah and finding it in the Sunday paper. Everything else I read, though.

Some I really don't like, so I give them my own names like "Stupid Pirates", "Sucky Cow" and "Stupid Pigs", but I read them anyway. I think it's because every once in a while they surprise a snort of laughter out of me. I even read Mallard Fillmore which ticks me off big time.

When Charles Schultz died, I mourned him almost as much as I mourned Jim Henson and Isaac Asimov; it felt like there was a little less light in the world. A few of my favorite strips have been retired, but their creators are still around, so I hold out hope that perhaps, one day, they will return to the funny pages. Rumor has it that Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better or For Worse, my all time favorite strip, is planning to retire soon too. That will be a truly sad day.

The Internet has kept me reading some of my favorites which the local paper doesn't carry, and some that are reruns. Here are a few links to brighten anyone's day

Raising Duncan
Calvin & Hobbes
For Better or For Worse

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bed Time For Kitties

The cats are required to come in every night at dark because I don't want them to become KittyKrunchies for coyotes.

"Yeah, right," you might think, imagining I can require cats to do anything shows how solidly in the real world I live. That descriptive saying, "Like herding cats," didn't come from nowhere.

True, cats are not amenable to instruction, demands or even polite requests. If I go out the back door at dusk and call them to come in, they will come galloping up to me. Sachi used to trot right through the door when she first started going out, but Kitsu took her under paw and taught her The Way of the Cat. Now they run up to me, spin around, kink their tails and gallop off sideways, laughing over their shoulders.

I, however, am a mean and tricky human. I don't refill the food dish after mid afternoon. When it gets close to dusk, I get out the crunchies and rattle the bag loudly. I pour the little nuggets from a distance into their glass dish. It makes a lovely tinkling noise.

The girls know what I'm up to, so they still don't come when I call, but the sound of food lingers in their cat brains. Eventually Kitsu will try to sneak into the house through the cat door to have a little nosh. When I hear the clinking of a cat tag against the glass dish, I casually wander into the kitchen. If it's Kitsu, I slip out the human door, lock the cat door, and catch Sachi. The chase game isn't as fun for her if Kitsu's not participating. If it's Sachi, I just wait. I know Kitsu will creep in before too long.

Of course being locked in means that, unless they've had a particularly strenuous day, they have to help me out with everything I do.

Occasionally, like tonight, one or the other, or both, will bound around looking for excitement in all of the wrong places. Tonight Kitsu jumped on the switch for my computer's surge protector. And there went everything I'd been working on down the tube.

So, Kitsu, this one's for you.
What could be better revenge on a female than making her butt look big? And publishing it for the world to see.

Writers' Conferences

I just got an e-mail inviting me to be a work study student at the 2007 Writers-at-Work conference. Sigh, can't do it this year. I went last year as a work study student to get a break on the tuition and found that it added considerably to the experience to be involved in staging it.

This year I'm going to paint the walls and peel the old tile off the floor in the basement and (crossing all appendages) get the new swamp cooler installed. I did volunteer to help out with a few odd jobs, however. It was totally unenlightened self interest; I want to build up brownie points for next year.

Writers' conferences are great fun. I've been to two, Writers-at-Work and, a few years ago, before I married the Engineer, Clarion.

Writers-at-Work is a nice friendly little one week conference. Criticism is gentle. Students workshop in the morning and go to readings in the afternoons. There are real live editors and agents who attend and will read manuscripts and critique them. It's a feel-good sort of a conference. I would love to attend again.

Clarion however... Clarion is like nothing else. It is the premier non-professional science fiction writing conference in the world. To get in you not only have to pony up the money, you have to submit two manuscripts. You are competing with hundreds of would be writers from around the world for about two dozen places.

I remember waiting for the letter after I sent in my application and manuscripts. Finally the envelope arrived. It was very thin. I held it in my hand for a long time before I was able to open it. It was so thin I knew it must surely contain a rejection.

I think the happiest 5 seconds of my life were the seconds it took me to read, "You have been accepted." I shrieked with joy and victory danced until I was panting in exhaustion.

Clarion is six weeks of pure, unadulterated, exhilarating hell. Everyone is housed together in a university dormitory and for those six weeks you live, eat and breath and write together. Each morning the stories that were written the afternoon or night before are critiqued. And it's not gentle, find the positive, critiquing. It's a no holds barred, go for the jugular, ripping open of stories and guts. Of Clarions survivors, about a third go on to become published writers.

I became so immersed in dissecting and analyzing writing that it was over a year before I could read for pleasure again.

With Clarion, it isn't so much a question of would I like to go again, it's more a question of would I be brave enough to go again.

Part of me says yes. Part of me says no. Mostly I would like to finally publish something and go back as an instructor. That would feel like success.
And, no, this picture doesn't have anything to do with anything. I just like it. It's a ficus tree in the gate area of the Asheville, NC airport.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Walk on the Wild Side

GrumpoGirl had ruled for three days and, while the situation that brought her out of the closet has not changed, life goes on. Fretting and worrying is nonproductive and doesn't make anyone feel better. So I dosed myself with chocolate and decided to take a walk on the wild side.

Years ago, I had my ears pierced. Just one hole in each. I don't think it's a good idea to make alterations to my body that I might not be able to reverse. I'd never get a tattoo even if the President, the Pope and my Mom all had tats.

The hole through the right ear was never quite right. The opening in the back was a little lower than the hole in the front, so any time I wanted to put in an earring, I would have to fish around inside my ear for the hole on the other side. Over the years it became painful as well as inconvenient. My earring wearing frequency decreased until the hole closed up a few months ago.

The problem is that wearing earrings has become my formal declaration of being dressed up. How could I prove to the Engineer or the public at large that I was properly attired unless I sported the exclamation points of earrings. I needed to fix that ear.

So I did my research and discovered that Koi was the best place in town to get a piercing done. When I called on the phone they sounded very professional and knowledgeable. So I took a shower then hied my clean head and hair down to Koi to get the job done.

When I walked in the receptionist was busy, so I wandered around the periphery of the room, examining various pieces of body jewelry. It is absolutely astonishing to me what some folks will stick through their body parts -- and which body parts they'll stick them through. The receptionist had earplugs that were about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. They were silver tubes flared at both ends. Four inch diameter silver rings hung from the tubes, making a shoop-shoop noise as they rocked in their cradles. She had a rhinestone in the V at the base of her neck. I did not ask where else she might be perforated.

I selected a simple opal/titanium stud from the array of silver, gold, bone, horn and lord-only-knows-what and waited to be called into the piercing room.

A man with two-inch blue plugs in his ears and a small horn protruding from his lower lip escorted me into the room and had me sit on the examining table. There were sockets for stirrups at the foot end. As I tried not to appear gauche staring at his totally tattooed arms I commented that I would probably flee the premises were there stirrups in the sockets.

He said, "We only put them in if we need them."

"Oh. Umm... Nice tattoo on your throat. Is it vertebrae or a dagger?"

It was a dagger, he opened his collar to show me the blade. Then he washed, gloved up and examined both of my ears so he could make the new hole match the other side. He was insulted when I asked if he'd use a piercing gun. He obviously considered that technology to be totally uncivilized. He used a needle. The piercing itself was unexciting and not very painful. No blood, unlike the first time when the blood ran in rivers down my neck and onto my collar. He inserted the stud and gave me instructions and a fact sheet on after-care. It was all very business-like.

I told one of my friends later that day that I'd been to Koi.

She gave me a horrified look and blurted out, "Did you get your hoo-hoo pierced? I have a friend who got her hoo-hoo pierced there."

I grinned and let her wonder.

Seems that they really do have a use for those stirrup sockets.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cheap, Cheap, Cheap...

I maintain websites for several clubs and nonprofits (saying no is not something I'm good at.) One club recently had ISP problems and decided to change hosting services. I suggested Lunarpages, a fine and excellent hosting service, which charges $6.95 per month to do everything but polish your derriere. Another club member stood up and said, "I can host it for free on the server in my son's hall closet."

And the club members cheered and decided to host it for free.

Don't folks know that, more often than not, you get what you pay for? Don't they have any conception of what a hall closet server is? Let me tell you, it ain't in the closet for nothing!

So now the web site is up and running on the closet server. Actually, running isn't quite accurate, crawling would be more descriptive. And I, the Official WebWench, cannot make any changes to it, so everything is out of date

Or, as Robert A. Heinlein once said: "TANSTAAFL." There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sun Always Rises

No matter how dark and turbulent the clouds obscuring it, no matter the wind, thunder or lightning, the sun always does rise. Even if we cannot see it, it does rise.

And one day the clouds will break and the sun will light the world again. It may be a changed world, but there will be light again.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


What do you do when something earth shattering happens and there's no one you can talk to about it? You can't blog about it either. You just have to stuff it down inside of yourself and shudder.

It didn't happen to me. It happened to someone I'm close to. I'm scared. Down in the bottom of my heart and lungs and belly scared, because I don't know how it's going to turn out. There's probably nothing I can do to make a difference one way or another. I have no white horse or even a rusty scrap of armor, nor do I have any idea of how to find help. I can say I'm here and I'll listen and I love you, but I can't do anything.

And I don't know if the sun will come up again.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Party Time!

I have a vacation starting at 7:00 a.m. Saturday. That's when I drop my Beloved Engineer at the airport and he flies off into the sunrise -- for TWO WEEKS!!! (Well, almost, 13 days.)

Now I do dearly love the Engineer, but he is extremely high maintenance.

I work from home doing web sites, graphics, photography, tutoring, all kinds of computer oriented stuff. My first BS was in Medical Technology/Zoology, my second's in Computer Science. I took detours into Education, Fine Arts and Creative Writing. It's not for nothing that one of my nicknames is NancyNerdette. I also teach Red Cross First Aid and CPR, though that's not a regular thing and I don't get paid for it. I'm a firm believer in paying back and that's one of the ways I do it.

Because of this nonstandard work schedule, my Engineer thinks that I am wholly at his disposal. I usually have a punch list of things which must be done and how, in detail, to do them. Remember, he is an engineer, the type of human that defines anal retentive. As soon as he gets home, but not before, I must begin cooking a nutritious dinner while he does his daily patrol to make sure nothing has gone awry in his absence. When he finishes patrol he comes into the kitchen and regales me with stories of his day at work as I cook. Sometimes I understand what he's talking about, sometimes I don't. Fortunately he doesn't descend into calculus too often, though he likes to threaten me with it. (I flunked calc one three times before I passed it, calc two only took two tries; bad attitude, not lack of brains.) After we've eaten and I've washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, we bond while watching the 9:00 news. Then he goes to sleep and I work on the computer.

Weekends are when I end up doing most of my house cleaning, laundry, etc. because he works so hard he guilts me into it. Every Sunday he nags me until I call my parents. Which is actually kindof nice, he adores my Mom and she adores him. He and Dad like and respect each other, a real guy relationship. His parents are dead, so mine have become his.

But when he's out of town, my schedule's my own. I do what I want, when I want, how I want. As long as I make sure the punch list he's left me is all checked off by the time he returns. I don't have to cook dinner. I can let the dishes sit in the sink over night if I want to. I go out to dinner with friends, see a movie or go on a photo expedition. I leave the lights on after 9:48 p.m.

I love him, but his going out of town on a regular basis helps me maintain my sanity. And the no snoring means I get good nights' sleep.

So, come on down, the party's at my house!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Developing a New Web Site With Cat Assistance

Looks like I have a new client for my free lance web design services. An artist. I like his work. He's very young and innocent. Sachi fell in love at first sight with him.

Since there is still just one livable room in the house, I had the chair in front of the computer and he had one beside it, right next to the bed. This was not the least bit scandalous as there were contractors in the next room, hammering and sawing.

After we'd been working for a while, Sachi jumped up on the bed and batted her big blue eyes at the artist. When he told her she had beautiful eyes, she started rolling on her back and flirting with him. He patted her. She purred like a motor boat. When he turned back to the computer monitor and the discussion of color scheme, Sachi jumped onto his shoulder and stuck her face into his, caressing his neck with her tail and purring. He speculated as to whether they should start dating.

Little hussy!

Or perhaps I should put a kinder interpretation on her actions and say she was helping me make a sale.Maybe it's just that she leans more towards creative and intellectual endeavors instead of construction like Kitsu.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Job Boss

The contractors are back doing the trim on the upstairs of the house. Kitsu is so happy to have guys to supervise again.
Even better, there are ladders to climb.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Weather Ate My Homework

I have just started reading Octavia E Butler's last novel, Fledgling, and was feeling inspired to blog about the deaths and loss to the literary world of favorite science fiction authors, but a big storm front is moving in with big wind and my power has gone out twice.

And here I thought that perhaps June would be the month that I actually made a blog entry every day.

The wireless router went down for the count in the second power outage but, what the heck, I'll give it a try anyway, even if I have to use POTS to do it. So no pictures tonight, just a hope that everything is up and running tomorrow when I arise because I have a long day ahead of me. It may be interesting, according to the weather liar on channel 13 the temperature is supposed to drop from today's high in the 90's to highs in the 50's with rain all day. Snow above 6,000 feet -- there go Kate's tomatoes again.

Get out your galoshes and yellow slicker, Gertie, we're in for a big blow!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Yard Art

I have long been an aficionado of yard art. I love to gawk at it -- the gaudier the better. For a couple of years I lived in Mooresville, North Carolina, a place that might not have had a bookstore or a moving picture palace, but was the yard art capitol of the country. Besides the standard gnomes, giant green toads, red spotted mushrooms and pink flamingos, there was home made yard art.
One of my favorite signs:
I grinned every time I drove by.
I once bought a three foot long, coiled and rampant cement Chinese dragon there as a present for a friend. It took both of us to get it out of the car and into his yard.

But I, myself, am oh so mundane and conservative (though occasionally a wee bit profane) in my outdoor decor.

One of these days, when the Engineer is out of town, I'll take a walk on the wild side.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Following the Directions

I've never been very good at following the directions or coloring between the lines. I remember one time in particular, in the second grade, the coloring assignment was a dancing bear. The directions said to color the bear brown and his hat green.

Now green is a perfectly fine color but brown, let's face it, is boring. So I glammed my bear up a bit. Using my yellow crayon I gave him a sunshiny undercoat, then I stroked brown lines over the yellow to look like fur. I put a little red and orange in highlight areas and a little black where I thought the shadows would fall. My bear looked fine. He was the best looking bear in the whole class.

I got an F. "Failure to follow directions."

I tried logic on her, "But it looks brown"

Appealing to her sense of esthetics (though she obviously had none), "He looks prettier and realer."

The facts, "He's mostly brown."

The teacher was a philistine.

Now that I'm chronologically a grown-up, I can do it my way if I want to.

To heck with the philistines

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cats, Collars and Freedom

Last fall the Engineer installed a magnetic cat door so that Kitsu, wearing a magnetic key on her collar, could let herself out but Sachi would be locked inside. This was because when Sachi came to live with us she was deaf. But the medications to clear up her sneezing and infected eyes (she was a pound kitty, they always seem to come home sick) also fixed her hearing -- though like all cats, her hearing is selective. This is very good for many reasons, one of them being that she has decided she will live the life of an indoor/outdoor cat.

When it was cold and snowy in the winter, Sachi had no passionate desire to go outside -- yuck! -- but then spring came and outside became Kitty Mecca. Sachi is a smart and determined little girl. She watched her sister cat, Kitsu, go out through the cat door, so she knew that there was some way to get through that flap of plastic.

She has developed two methodologies.

Number one: While laying on your side, hook the back of the screw holding the wooden knob to the cat flap with sharp claws and pull it upwards. Squirm nose under and slither through.

Number two: Wriggle paw into door mechanism, press down magnetic latch, push on door with head then slide on out.

Last night Kitsu lost her collar with the magnetic key, so now she's the one locked in, dependent upon humans to open the door for her. Ain't that the way it always works?

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Great Swamp Cooler Debacle

Highs are supposed to get up into the mid 90's in the next couple of days and there is no air conditioning in the house other than a portable, one room swamp cooler. Considering we are living in one room, I guess it's not as bad as it could be.

The Engineer and I had quite a tussle over how to cool our remodeled house. He wanted central air, I wanted a swamp cooler. I won.

My overly sensitive nose bleeds all heating season. If we had central air, it would bleed all cooling season too. That wasn't my only argument (though it was the trump) for a swamp cooler: they're cheaper to buy and install, less expensive to run, better for the environment, and they work very well where we live.

The Engineer decided that our new swamp cooler should not go in the usual place, on the roof, but rather be hung under the back gable.This necessitate buying a side draft rather than a down draft swamp cooler. I didn't think it would be too difficult to find one, all the swamp cooler manufacturers' web sites showed most models in both down and side draft configurations.

Was I ever wrong.

After searching the whole Salt Lake valley, I finally located one at a heating and air wholesaler two weeks ago. I drove all the way across the valley to pay for it, only to discover the only one they had in stock was in another city. Not a problem, I was told, they'd just ship it over and have it ready for me on Monday...

Today my general contractor was finally able to spare a couple of guys to come and install it. They picked up the materials to build the platform to hold the swamp cooler then swung by the heating and air place to pick up the cooler.

They were told no order had ever been placed and turned away. I called with the order number and date to try to figure out what was going on and was told that the Orem store had sold it out from under me, but that they had a scratch and dent special, same model, that they could sell me for $50 less. This was not what I wanted, but the Engineer told me to go over there with the digital camera and take some pictures so he could see if it would do.

When I got there, I went to the guy who had sold it to me, He said, "What do you mean they told you we don't have it? It's right in the warehouse."

So into the warehouse we went and, sure enough, not 20 feet from the scratch and dent special, was the still in shipping carton swamp cooler with my name on it. (The scratch and dent special, by the way, looked like it had been rolled down a hill and left to rust for a couple of years.) To make up for the run-around, they told me they would deliver it free of charge that very afternoon.

I drove straight home and not ten minutes later, the delivery truck arrived.

One little problem...

As you may be able to tell from this picture, the swamp cooler is wider than the access door to the back yard where the cooler is to be hung. Oops.
And, of course, Murphy ruling in all things, when the Engineer got home from work he examined the cooler crate on all sides including the bottom. Turns out that the bottom of the package was missing and the bottom of the swamp cooler was, well, more than a little dented. Which, of course, is totally unacceptable to the Engineer.

I feel like I've been visited by that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."