Monday, January 31, 2005


I found out on Saturday afternoon that my former sister-in-law, Mark's
brother's ex-wife, passed away in a house fire last week. :o( Reports
are that she died of smoke inhalation while trying to rescue her cats.

I don't know how they determined that she was trying to get the cats
out when she collapsed. But there were two cats, neither of which

My brother-in-law is pretty upset, and my two nephews (one in his early
20s and one in high school) have lost their mother. The entire story
just makes me feel sad.

The family is going to the funeral tomorrow morning. Including me. I
already let them know here that I need to take a day off from work for
the funeral.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

OK, I've been talking to the cats. A LOT. But it's my way of getting them
used to their new home and their new humans.

Every time they do something good, or even just something that they're
allowed to do (such as play with their own toys or sit on a particular
piece of furniture that it's OK to go on), I tell them "Good boy!" I
figure that, since they're 9 months old, and I really don't know what
rules they had to abide by before they arrived at the shelter, I'd do well
to praise them every time they do anything that they're allowed to do.
Then they'll know that it's OK to carry on with whatever it is.

So, anyway... this is how it's been for a week now. Cat comes to Meowmy
for attention. "Good boy!". Cat eats his food. "Good boy!" Cat drinks his
water. "Good boy". Plays with his toys... uses the litterbox... curls up
for a nap... you get the idea. EVERYthing legal gets them a "Good boy!"

But I realized this morning that I have "praise mode" on the brain. Why?
Because when I locked the front door this morning, then checked to make
sure it was completely closed/locked, I discerned that it was locked

And then I told the lock, "Good boy!"

Too bad I can't call out sick from work with a rampant case of insanity.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

When I brought Captain and Stanley home from the shelter, I was advised
that they both love those little fur-covered mousie toys. So of course,
that was my cue to run out and get some.

I put two such mice in the basement, and two in the living room.

Captain discovered them first, and has been playing with them pretty
frequently. Last night was no exception: he has been demonstrating all the
many ways that a cat has at its disposal to kill a mouse. He stuns it with
his paws. He flings it through the air and then pounces on it. He delivers
the killing bite.

Stanley, meanwhile, opted to bring one of the toy mousies from the
basement upstairs. While Captain was beating the daylights out of his
mousie in the living room, Stanley set to work on HIS mousie in the dining

Much later, Stanley had moved on to taking a nap and I went to return the
mousie he'd been playing with to the basement. That's when I noticed that
said mousie was soaking, wringing wet. DRENCHED is an understatement.

Apparently, Stanley's method of killing toy mice involves GROOMING them to
death. :o)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

After being the Meowmy to a senior-citizen kitty for years, I'd forgotten
what it's like to have kittens in the house. For example, there is the
occasional almighty CRASH as they explore something new, and discover the
hard way that the something would've been better left alone.

That's how the boys (probably Captain, since Stanley was curled up in the
cellarway when I went to investigate) met the ironing board at 1 AM today.
You know, the one that WAS folded up and leaned against the wall.

As I said, I opened the cellar door and Stanley was curled up in a little
powder puff in the cellarway. Captain, meanwhile, came RACING up the
cellar steps, mrrrrrping and trilling. Then he ran back down, and back up.
He couldn't have been more obvious about wanting me to follow him if he'd
just finished watching a marathon of LASSIE episodes. :o)

And it was clear why he wanted me to go down there. The Evil Ironing Board
was lying across the food and water dishes. Horrors! (How it didn't
overturn any of them is a mystery.) So were a few books that had conspired
along with the Evil Ironing Board and fallen off the nearby bookshelf at
the same time. I probably don't want to know what transpired to bring that
about. :o)

Captain was all brave once Meowmy picked up the Evil Ironing Board. He
figured I had it subdued, so he kept attacking it. Or at least he kept
attacking the 8-inch-long string that was trailing from the hem of the
cloth Evil Ironing Board Cover. He grabbed that cord between his teeth and
hauled at it with all his wee weight, like a dog playing tug of war.

It's really hard to maneuver an ironing board to a new wall on the other
side of the basement when you're laughing uncontrollably. Did you know
that? I didn't know that. I know it now. :o)

This morning, I went down to check on them. The Evil Ironing Board was
right where I'd left it. I hope they continue to give it a wide berth.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

My MO, when I bring cats into a new home for the first time, is to set
everything up in one room for the first few days and let them get used to
that. Once they've made that room (usually the basement) into their safe
haven, THEN I introduce them to the rest of the house.

Captain and Stanley looked ready to come upstairs, so I decided that today
would be the day. This afternoon, I opened the basement door and left it
open, then woke the little guys out of their respective naps to show them
that they could come upstairs now.

They're so outgoing. They came out of the basement and were interested in
everything. Rather than being fearful, they were more in a state of,
"Oooh, what should I sniff first?"

Stanley sat back and watched Captain exploring under the kitchen table, as
well as a couple of other nooks and crannies. He did the same thing when
the cats first arrived on Friday night, and Captain made the rounds of
some parts of the basement. He appears to be quite willing to let Captain
demonstrate whether various things are cat-safe. :o) But he's sitting out
in the open while this goes on, so it's not like Stanley seems to be
afraid of anything. He's just letting his brother do all the work.

At first, they would check out a few things, go look in the cellarway for
a moment, come back out and check more things... it was like that was
their security blanket.

Then they switched over to using ME as their security blanket. They'd
check out some things, stop by the sofa where I sat for a skritch, explore
some more... :o)

This was when I noticed that they were responding to their names. If one
of them was out of my line of sight for too long, I'd call his name, and
that particular cat was the one who would come to me for attention.
There's no such thing as too much praise when THAT happens, so they got
mega-doting as their reward. They love that. It's been a long time since
I've seen cats who REVEL in attention like this pair does.

I'm actually pretty impressed with them both: BOTH of them have come to me
for skritches when I've called their names. They've only been here for a
day and a half, and they not only recognize their new names, but they
respond to them.

I think it's the mega-dote sessions I had with them on Friday night and
several times yesterday. Whichever cat had parked himself on my lap at the
time got his name repated to him, in a loving voice, many many MANY times,
while I gave said cat the fussing-over of a lifetime. They LOVED it. And I
noticed that yesterday, Stanley started to look up at my with That Soft
Gaze. His facial expression was changing from "Oh, it's the nice lady who
pets me!" to "Meowmy". Which I encouraged by looking back with the kitty
Slow Blink and praise and more petting. And more repetition of his name,
of course.

This morning, it was Captain's turn to start looking up at my face with
That Soft Gaze. I responded the same way I did when Stanley was doing it -
slow blinks and half-lidded-eyes and petting and praise and repeating his

Anyway, I think that's why they're answering to their names after living
here less than 48 hours. :o)

They didn't get into much mischief. Stanley tried to sharpen his claws on
the love seat. The first time, I went over, took his paws off the arm of
the love seat, said a stern, "Stanley, NO. No, no." He looked like his
little fuzzy feelings were hurt, so I carried him over to the
carpet-covered Kitty Tower. I mimicked kitty scratching with his paws on
the side of the tower, to try and indicate that scratching THAT was OK.
Then I put him atop the tower so he could look out the window. Problem
solved -- no-longer-hurt-looking kitty was no longer scratching

Well after that, he tried to claw the love seat again. This time, DH was
closer and did the honors of, "Stanley, NO." Stanley stopped what he was
doing, went over to the Kitty Tower, and jumped up on it. LOL. Fast
learner, isn't he? :o)

Most of the rest of the time, if Stanley wasn't exploring or sitting in
the window, he's been napping. First he purred himself to sleep on DH's
lap. I think that's a first for DH, who didn't grow up with pets. Then,
when DH had to get up, he carefully placed Stanley on the love seat
cushions. From then on, Stanley napped NEXT to DH. Or, right now when DH
is outside shovelling some snow, Stanley is still snoozing on the love

Captain, meanwhile, started out by alternating his exploration with coming
to Meowmy for attention. The only time I had to correct him was to tell
him not to go into the opening under the sofa that's created when the
recliner is up. (Both ends of the sofa, as well as the love seat, have
built-in recliners.) He went in. I took him out and said, "No." He went
back in. I took him back out and said, "No.". He hasn't gone back in.

Well, there was the time when he discovered a radio while exploring and
decided that the antenna was a good playtoy. Wrong, of course. So I got a
cat toy and distracted him with that instead. Issue resolved. He liked
chasing his own toy better than playing with the antenna.

Speaking of chasing his own toy, I thought it was time to help burn off a
little of his excess energy. So I took out Harmony(RB)'s personal
favorite, the Feline Flyer. That's one of the fishing-pole sort of toys,
with two feathers on the end of the string. Well into her senior-citizen
days, Harmony happily chased after it. So I figured a 9-month-old boykitty
would love it, too, and BOY, does he ever!

So I spent a good while trailing the Feline Flyer all over the living
room, with Captain speeding after it as fast as his little feet could
carry him. I only stopped when he looked like he was getting a bit TOO
tired and breathing hard. (He is still sneezing, and Stanley is still
coughing, but not as much since I started running the vaporizer in the
basement.) Then I put the toy away when Captain wasn't looking, so he'd
have some time to rest.

I watched him rest, and he was stretched out so long that I wondered if he
hadn't overheated himself a bit. So I thought it would be a good time to
try those Kitty Bath Wipes we got at PetSmart. I wiped the little guy down
with one of those, and though he meeped a couple of protests, he let me do

After the moisture dried from his fur, he seemed like he was resting more
normally. And he came over and napped next to me on the sofa. :o)

Right now, Stanley's still snoozing on the love seat, and Captain is
lounging on the living room floor. Yep, they look like they're feeling
right at home. I couldn't be happier about that.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Well, as you can see if you've been scanning this blog recently, I haven't updated it since the 19th. It's now the 27th.

The good news is, the reason I haven't been posting is that I've been way too busy doting on Captain and Stanley, the new kitties. :o)

So, what I'm going to do, to save time, is copy and paste some posts I wrote to the Usenet newsgroup rec.pets.cats.anecdotes.

I will apply the date/time to said posts on my blog so that it corresponds to the date/time that the post was created for the RPCA newsgroup. That way, the posts are in chronological order and are timely.

So, here goes....
I'm a Meowmy again! :o)

Here are my two 9-month-old boys, Captain and Stanley. They are definitely
brothers -- I verified that at the shelter tonight.

Here's the photo album of their first pictures:

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


So I delivered a fax this morning to a Higher Up. It apparently was
printed out from my employer's job-search-related area of their

The person filled in their current contact and employment information,
printed the webpage out and handwrote the attached note on the page: "I
hope to learn more about your co and to appointmet to write ins your
co". Then they faxed it here.

With spelling and grammar like this, I was surprised to see that the
applicant's qualifications listed a current job title that included the
word "Manager". Don't people PROOFREAD anymore? I don't know if there
even IS an opening here (if there is, it's not posted on the bulletin
board yet), what it might be, or what the Higher Up thought when he
read the fax. But I can tell you what *I* thought. I'd have big issues
with a person who didn't take the time to ensure that their spelling
and grammar were accurate, when they were sending correspondence
related to a job request.

I realize that not everyone is a perfect speller or has perfect
grammar. But that's what proofreading is for. And if necessary, that's
what your friends/family are for: to lend a fresh pair of eyes to
review a document and catch the errors that the original author might
have missed.

On another subject: here we go with the good news/bad news again.

The good news: I called the animal shelter this morning and all is
well. The cats passed their blood tests with flying colors (yay!) are
neutered and vaccinated, and are ready to come home. As I spoke to the
lady at the shelter, the kitties were together in the front window,
sleeping in a basket. (See? They're so cute that even though they're
adopted, they're being used to attract interest. :o) )

The bad news: the weather has turned to slop and the shelter, which is
normally open late on Wednesdays, might close early today. DRAT. I want
my cats! I don't WANT to have to wait until Friday night!

I guess we'll see what happens. I'll call the shelter before I leave
work, to find out if they're going to remain open during evening hours
today or not.

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I had to read the headline twice to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding
it. The death toll from the tsunami has now exceeded 226,000. Dear
Lord. :o(

The big jump in the numbers came because nations have begun listing as
"dead" many victims who had previously been classified as missing.

Even so, there are still thousands of people listed among the missing.
So the casualty count, unfortunately, is likely to continue to rise.

We may never know the full scope of this tragedy, particularly in the
hardest-hit regions where whole villages were washed away. Lord have
mercy on all their souls. And on the people left behind.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Aaaargh. Suddenly I'm reminded of one of the parts of the
kitty-adoption process. The fact that waiting several days is enough to
drive a person CRAZY.

At least this time, I'm already approved to adopt. That's a change in
procedure for the animal refuge -- that a person has to be approved
PRIOR to selecting an animal, or even being allowed to handle a pet
outside its cage.

When I adopted Melody and Harmony in 1990, I was permitted to handle
them and multiple other cats, prior to even filling out any paperwork.
That meant that I had to wait a few days to be approved and even *find
out* if I would be able to take home the kitties I'd chosen. If someone
else had applied for the same pet(s), and their application was
approved before mine, they would have gotten the pet. During those few
days, all I could think of morning, noon, and night were my two kittens
and when/whether I'd be bringing them home.

This time, my application is approved and it's just a matter of waiting
for a few veterinary procedures to be done. There are blood tests,
vaccinations, and neutering that the shelter will perform prior to
sending them home with me. The end result of a few days' wait is the
same, but the reason behind it is different. The wait is still driving
me up the walls. All I can think of is the dote session I had with each
of the kitties on Saturday, how much I've missed doting on cats, and
how much I'm looking forward to having felines in the family again.

The shelter was closed yesterday for the MLK holiday. They told me that
they would try to do the procedures ASAP, either today or tomorrow, and
that they'd call me with the results of the tests. (Lord, please let
the tests come out OK.) Once everything's done, we'll know when we can
go pick up the cats. The refuge is open late on Wednesday and Friday,
as well as being open on Saturday afternoons. So with any luck, the
family will go from two to four members at some time this week.

Wish us luck.

And patience. This waiting is driving me bananas.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Good news!

Mark and I visited the Morris Animal Refuge on Saturday. We (mostly me)
met a bunch of kitties, and started the adoption process for two of
them. They're both 9-month old boykitties, and though I don't think
they're related, they did both come in as strays. They have also been
housed together at the shelter, and are already buddies. They're both
IMMENSELY affectionate and outgoing, from what contact I had with them
at the shelter. So I suspect that this pair of purring, cuddlebug
attention sponges will be a good fit both with one another, and in our

I'm actually glad that the cats already know one another and are
friends. It'll save some time for them sorting out the hierarchy once
we bring them home. Plus, each of them will have a familiar face on
hand until they get used to their new humans and their new

Neither of them has been neutered yet, but as part of the adoption
process, the shelter will do that prior to our taking them home. The
kitties will also have their first round of shots, a vet check, and
blood tests to check for things like FIV and FeLV. The medical
procedures should start tomorrow, since the shelter is closed today for
the MLK Day holiday.

I love them already. :o) One is white with orange tabby spots, and the
other is a grey-with-a-hint-of-brown tabby. Their names at the shelter
are Spencer and Bruno, but I've got a couple of other names in mind.
All I have to do is see if the names REALLY fit them once they come

I'm looking forward SO much to their arrival! I can't wait. :o)

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

So, would you like the good news or the bad news first?

The good news: I filled out an application at the PetSmart's adoption center today. They'll fax it to the animal shelter that's partnering with them to help rehome animals, and I'm to call them on Monday afternoon for more information.

The guy said the application looked fine, and expected it to be approved with no problem. I mentioned that I'd already adopted two cats from the same shelter in 1990, but it turns out that they only keep their data for about 6 years.

The sooner they approve the application, the easier it will be to bring home adopted cats. Last time, I chose the cats first, THEN got approved. This time, if the approval precedes the adoption, I can't see why we can't bring home the cats ASAP after filling out any remaining paperwork for them.

OK, so that's the upbeat news. The bad news is that my PDA had a major crash today and had to be hard-reset. There went my address book and my calendar file.

Fortunately, I have a lot of the addresses elsewhere, but not all. So there'll definitely have to be some tracking down/re-entry of information, no matter what I do. GRRRRRR. But the calendar stuff... that's going to have to be redone from scratch. Crapola. Thank goodness I only really had appointments for the next couple of months to worry about, and most of it, I can easily look up. But the birthdays... they're gonna be a bear to re-enter.

Oh, well. Such is life. If a paper-based address book or calendar had suddenly gone missing, I'd be in the same boat as I am now. (Actually, I'd be in a somewhat WORSE boat, as at least I can retrieve at least 2/3 of the lost addresses from the old PDA I upgraded from.)

I realize that this is hardly the worst thing ever to happen. It's just one particularly big aggravation that I could have done without.

Of course, there's aggravation and then there's aggravation. Donna H. is putting one of her cats through a battery of tests to try and find out why he's having symptoms like losing weight even though he eats, and problems with litterbox output. Already they've found a heart murmur, and by the time the results come back we'll know if the intestinal trouble is caused by IBS, cancer, or something else. I can empathize with her, because I *JUST* went through this with Harmony. It's heartbreaking.

A fouled-up address book and calendar is NOTHING compared to worrying about a much-loved sick pet. So my aggravation doesn't even begin to approach what other people are going through, and I'm well aware of that. I just hope that the vet reports that whatever's wrong with Tristan is something treatable. I wouldn't wish what I just went through with Harmony on anybody.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Boo on false coffee positives.

What's a false coffee positive, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

See these coffee carafes in our kitchen area at work?

Well, when you're standing right in front of them in Real Life, you
will notice that the clear glass tubes in front, which are supposed to
show how full the carafes are, have a problem. They're stained with
coffee and in need of a cleaning.

The tubes are SO stained, in fact, that they actually appear to have a
certain amount of coffee in them. This causes people to THINK they are
about to get a cup of coffee when they push down on the lever, and
results in disappointment when two drops of beverage come out because
the carafe is actually empty.

By this point in the work week, I'm tired and I really don't feel like
dealing with these little surprises. I'd much prefer that things work
the way I expect them to work. So I say BOO on false coffee positives.

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From the "no good deed goes unpunished" file...

I have a relative, whom I'll call "Relative", who owns a house that's
converted into two apartments, which he rents our for extra income.
Usually, all is well, except for the occasional minor catastrophe. For
example, there was the tenant's toddler who flushed a toy down the
commode to watch it disappear, and caused a major plumbing issue in the
process. Whoops.

Actually, there is a third apartment in the basement, but Relative
learned a few years back that the township only allows houses to be
rented to two tenants, not three. He found this out when he let a
friend who was in poor health live in the basement apartment for a
while, until he got back on his feet. Said friend, unfortunately,
passed away IN the basement apartment, necessating the authorities to
come in and make sure that no foul play was involved. All was well on
that score, as the unfortunate friend died as a result of his illness.
However, due to this sequence of events, the township got wind of the
third apartment and told Relative not to rent the basement apartment
out anymore. He complied; hence, the basement apartment has gone unused
for several years.

Enter another relative, whom I'll refer to as "Tenant". Tenant had an
apartment with his g/f, but when she broke up with him recently, he was
having trouble managing the rent on that apartment alone. Relative felt
sorry for him, and offered to let him stay in the unused basement
apartment temporarily until he could find another place. Even though it
was rent-free, this arrangement would probably still run afoul of the
township's rules and so all this was supposed to be Kept Quiet at all
costs. I'm quite sure that Tenant was made aware of this need to stay
off the radar screen on this matter.

So what does Tenant do? Fall asleep while smoking and cause a small
fire. No one was injured, thank God, but the fire department did have
to be called in. Once again, the authorities are now aware that a third
party was living in that basement apartment, when zoning only permits
two apartments per house. It was only intended as a short-term
solution, but now it's going to have to be even shorter than expected
because he'll HAVE to find a new place to stay.

So much for Relative's attempt at doing a good deed. Twice in a row, he
found out that no good deed goes unpunished. Sigh.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Whew. It's been a long time since I'd been to an ophthalmologist
(intsead of an optometrist) for a full eye exam. Fortunately, all
turned out well and there wasn't anything amiss. Nothing that's out of
the ordinary, anyway -- I have nearsightedness, astigmatism, and some
floaters, but I knew that already.

The only aggravating thing is that I need to make ANOTHER appointment
to get the actual prescription updated. I'm not sure why there was some
sort of mixup with our appointment, but we couldn't see Dr. H
yesterday. He was already gone by the time we got there.

So, since Mark needs a complex prescription, the doc that did examine
him and me said he was going to let Dr K, who is in a different office,
set up an appointment to do the refraction (by which I presume he meant
"tinker with lenses until we figure out what the best prescription
is"). for both of us.

That kinda ticks me off, because it takes for-freaking-ever for me to
get through that part of the visit now. With the astigmatism, I need a
whole lot of iterations of "Is this clearer or is this?" before I
narrow it down to the ideal vision correction. From previous
optometrist visits, I have gathered that I'm perceiving differences
down to the smallest possible change in refraction that they have to

Well, heck, if I notice a difference, I'm telling the doctor. With the
price of glasses these days, I'm not walking out that door with
anything less than the most accurate prescription they can give me.
Hence, that part of the exam takes eons.

At least I won't have to mess with those darn eyedrops next time
around. It's been a few years since I had those drops: the ones that
dilate the pupils, the yellow dye to test for glaucoma, and another
drop that I'm not sure what it did. But the upshot was that I couldn't
focus my eyes properly for a few hours, and BOY was that ever annoying
as all heck. I realize the drops are a necessary evil, but somehow that
doesn't make their after-effects any less irksome for the next few
hours until they wear off.

I have news for you: if I can't get an evening or Saturday appointment
with Dr. K, I'm not going to him. Now that I've had the regular medical
exam of my eyes, and all has checked out well, there's no particular
need for me to go to another opthalmalogist. I can go to an optometrist
if I like. I'm not missing more freakin' work time for this. I already
missed a half day yesterday, and then didn't get as much of an exam as
I was expecting after I'd set aside the afternoon for it.

Oh, and one more thing. Who here thinks it's borderline rude to play
games on one's cell phone WITH THE SOUND GOING when one is in a
doctor's waiting room? I think they were short-staffed yesterday,
because the wait was interminable (well over an hour for both Mark and
me). One of the other people in the room took out her cell phone and
started playing games on it. First she played bowling, from the sound
of it. (That would be the bowling-ball-hitting-pins noise, which was
repeated approximately every 5 seconds as she continued to play the
game.) Then she changed over to playing Pac-Man. I know because I'd
recognize that opening tune anywhere, as well as the noise when the
energized Pac-Man "eats" one of the monsters, and the sound of the
Pac-Man expiring after the monster catches it. It sounds exactly like
the arcade game. (Fortunately, the phone version of the game does NOT
emit that "wakka wakka wakka" noise when the Pac-Man consumes dots.)

Maybe I was just grumpy due to the lonnnnnnng wait, but I found it
inconsiderate for said person to be playing those games on her phone
without turning off the SOUND first. I was actually tired enough to
nap, and I did doze off in the waiting room chair for a while until the
Cell Phone Game Serenade started. That pretty well put an end to dozing
off. The games would have worked just fine with the phone in silent
mode. I should know: I have Pac-Man on MY phone, also, and I *only*
play it in silent mode.

But what do I know? A distressing number of people conduct themselves
as if it's their world and the rest of us just live on it.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I had a nice little surprise on my way in to work this morning.

In Audubon, I ended up driving behind a truck that was towing some sort
of wood chipper that had been used to grind up Christmas trees. I'm
certain that said ex-trees must have been the main, if not the only,
ingredient in the mulch that the truck contained, because an incredibly
pleasant evergreen scent emanated from the truck. Candle,
air-freshener, and pot-pourri companies would give anything to be able
to duplicate THAT aroma. And if that truck driver could find a way to
sell jars of that evergreen-scented air, he'd surely make a fortune.

As far as I was concerned, the ex-tree-hauling truck was more than
welcome to precede me on the entire rest of my commute to work, but
unfortunately he turned up a residential street after driving ahead of
me for about a half-mile. Darn. But what a lovely, aromatic half-mile
it was! :o)

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Monday, January 03, 2005

The new digicat's name is Miaow. Yet again, it's a female.

I set it in the middle of the afternoon, with the hope that there won't be a beepfest at work, nor in church, when it transitions between life stages. Though now that I think about it, there is a chance it'll sound off at some time on Sunday, possibly during or after the hockey game. If it follows the pattern its predecessors did, its digital nine lives are likely to end at some point on Sunday evening or Sunday night. We'll see.

I spent some time today researching wifi, since Santa brought a wireles card to go with the router that Mark bought a few months ago. Now I can use the PDA to log on via the DSL connection, instead of the much-slower dialup or the IMMENSELY slower CDPD connections. This is good.

The Mummers Parade was great. There were 17 string bands this year. I was pretty close to correct in my prediction of the top three bands. I said that the winner was going to be chosen from Fralinger, Ferko, or Quaker City, but I wasn't sure which of the three it would be. But Avalon snuck into the top three, with a performance that WAS very good, and took third. The top four wound up being Fralinger (for the third consecutive year, the band's first three-peat), Quaker City, Avalon, and Ferko (which came in a mere 1.1 points out of third place).

But I do have to say, I never saw so many bands dealing with rebellious props and (to quote Janet Jackson) wardrobe malfunctions in my entire life as I did this year. It's a good thing that our drill spot was about 2 to 2.5 miles away from the judging area, so that bands could make last-minute adjustments prior to performing For Real at City Hall. For example, Hegeman had some dancers costumed as hippos, with ostriches adorning a backpiece a la Fantasia. Each hippo was supposed to have a flat, sequined cutout of an ostrich on its left and its right, attached by a horizontal dowel across the hippo's shoulders. But as soon as the hippos started dancing, the ostriches started detaching themselves en masse from the dowels. At least three hippos lost an ostrich, and one hippo lost both ostriches, during the dance. I saw Hegeman on TV a few hours later (as the bands arrive at City Hall well after they've departed South Philly), and ALL the hippos were sans ostriches. I guess they couldn't determine a way to ensure that the ostriches would stay put, so they removed ALL of them. Now, one wouldn't KNOW that something was missing from the costume, without having seen the before-and-after as those of us at the start of the parade route did. But I knew what to look for and realized immediately how they resolved the problem.

Other bands had similar problems. Trilby's captain's pantaloons literally dropped right in the middle of a dance. (For those who haven't watched string bands, the captain spends a LOT of the time front-and-center, or as the center of attention elsewhere, during the band's four-and-a-half minute routine.) Fralinger, the winning band, dropped and shattered a crystal ball that was one of their props at some point during a rehearsal Saturday morning. YIKES, haven't they ever heard of clear ACRYLIC balls? I'll have to send them an email to let them know that there are FAR less fragile props available to them than glass/crystal balls. Then they can SAFELY perform their routine at parades for the rest of the year.

I refilled the prescription for the back spasms. I did without for a few days after the original prescription ran out, in the hope that maybe the spasms would be gone. No such luck. Back they came when the medicine was out of my system. Oh, well... at least the meds help. So does the back rest/heating pad Mark gave me on the day after Christmas.

Of course, back pain is nothing compared to the continued news coming out of Southeast Asia... the death toll from the tsunamis has risen to 155,000. Miraculously, they're still finding survivors in the rubble, but needless to say, the death toll is bound to keep going up as long as the cleanup continues. God help those poor people. I remember feeling horrified when the casualties exceeded 20,000. It seems like a long time ago now. :o(

At least there are a lot of people who are using this tragedy as a springboard to do good... websites for relief agencies have been nearly overwhelmed by people trying to send donations. There have been celebrities sending large donations, kids emptying their piggy banks, and everything in between. And speaking of celebrities... a few years ago, there were numerous concerts and albums put together to help the survivors of the 9/11 victims. I expect to see similar projects set up to raise money for this disaster, too. I'm certain that will be another good way to allow people to help donate.

I'd like to turn in early tonight, if possible... I was out of work sick today, and a decent night's sleep will be a big help. I don't want to miss any more time this week than I absolutely must, since I have an eye appointment (my first in five years) on Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year! May 2005 bring health, happiness, and prosperity to everyone.

I'm starting the year by being up at the crack of dawn, because the String Bands are starting WAY earlier than they've ever done. They are slated to begin at 9:45(!!!) at Broad and Oregon. This year, only the String Bands and the Fancy Brigades start this far south. The Comics and the Fancy Divisions both start at Broad and Washington.

I hope this helps keep the parade on schedule. We USED to have it down to a science, with four minutes between String Bands, and it moved like clockwork. (Well, it took some work to get the parade to keep moving smoothly like that, but they managed it.) Then after the parade was moving well for a few years, the city decided to move it from South Broad Street into Center City. Well, THAT made a royal hash of their keeping to anything that resembled a schedule. The few years it was in Center City, they never did figure out how to keep the bands from either having a logjam of several at once, or a long gap between performances.

They finally moved the Mummers back to Broad Street for last year's parade, and what do you know -- that "four minutes between bands" clockwork was gone. So this year, they're trying something new -- the different starting points for the different divisions of the parade, for one thing. If this works, I can deal with the mega-early start to the String Bands. It'll mean the ability to get back HOME earlier and get some rest, rather than sleeping in and everything starting later.

In other news, Yahoo has added links to facilitate people's online contributions to the tsunami disaster. I can vouch for the fact that Amazon's Red Cross donation site is extremely easy to use. I had info stored there already, so it literally took me longer to log in than it did to send the donation.

The casualty totals are approaching 150,000 according to We may never know the true totals, though... some villages in the worst-hit areas were utterly obliterated. I don't know how the emergency workers can even begin to tally the losses in the villages where no one survived.

At least the news is starting to be able to report the ways that aid is arriving, instead of only having news of devastation to report. The scope of this calamity, both in terms of how many people were affected and how large of an area it covered, is almost too much to comprehend. So it's taken longer than usual for aid organizations to mobilize and reach the remotest areas involved. But they're getting there, or at least they're starting to.

Gotta scoot, if I want to get to the String Bands' starting point before they begin marching.