Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Leo was neutered and declawed last week. He took it in stride, mostly. By the time we picked him up from the doctors office, he had already yanked off those little gluey caps from his toes. He was all, “Yo. I don't need no stinkin' bandages.”

Truly a King Leonidas moment.

They gave us antibiotics in liquid form, and pain killer pills. The antibiotics were no problem, they slide right down. But the pills? One quarter of a pill every eight hours. Not a lot - but honestly, have you ever tried to give a pill to a cat?

Let me explain. Leo gets a can of Fancy Feast at dinner time, and kibbles during the day. Did I tell you he can tell time? Leo knows exactly when 6pm rolls around. You'll find him camped out in front of his bowl waiting for that sweet, sweet softie food.

So we tried mashing the quadrisected pill into subatomic particles, and mixing it into an ENTIRE CAN of kitty food. I don't know if he could smell it or taste it, but he refused to eat it. He'd just look at us like, “You're kidding, right? I know what you did. C'mere, I'll cut you.... YARRRGH! Wha? No claws......damn.”

Eventually, he'd nibble at it. Enough to get some painkiller into his system. At least I assume he did, because he certainly didn't act like anything was bothering him.

My biggest fear was that he'd try to jump or climb up something while healing, and miss badly. I shouldn't have worried......within 24 hours he was vaulting to all his favorite hang outs as if nothing ever happened. He effortlessly launched himself to the top of the front room shutters, reclaiming his territory, and resumed glowering at the neighbors.

After a few days, we noticed he was much less aggressive, probably due to the sudden lack of testosterone coursing through his kitty veins. He's been very affectionate, and not attacking my head when I sleep, so the nad-loss wasn't a big-loss.

Now that Fall is here, it's been chilly the last few days. Leo's not liking the colder weather one bit. Last night he crawled under the comforter, attached himself to the back of my knees, and wouldn't come out. At some point during the night he must've surfaced, because I found him asleep UNDER the edge of my pillow. Because he's becoming a bit of a lard-o, all that fit under there was his front half.

It's 48 degrees outside today, and maybe 62 in the house. Leo's been spending the day between the thick, fleece blanket in the front room, and his kitty tube in my office.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Wolf Spiders

Too funny. This guy's wolf spider encounter is MUCH worse than mine!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Open House

My daughter's school had Open House last week. This is where we get to tour the school, meet her teachers, and basically see what she'll be studying this year.

Well, I must be getting old, because I was not impressed.

She's taking all advanced placement classes. I figured this would be the year they'd finally start treating the kids like young adults, and focus more on preparing them for college. No more reports in collage or papier mache form. Sadly, this is not the case.

This is junior high school, and the teachers still mark good grades with smiley faces and stickers.

The “advanced” reading teacher gave us an overview of the books they'd be reading. "The Outsiders" is one of the books, and the most recognized from my generation. Pretty much everything from S. E. Hinton was made into a movie during the 80's.

In addition to "The Outsiders", they will read three other books, making it a total of four. FOUR. Over the course of EIGHT months. One is about racism in the 1930's, and the other two are about outcasts in grade school, which, "The Outsiders" kinda qualifies for that category as well.

When she signed up for this class, they sold it as an “intensive reading experience” where the student would be reading “many” books throughout the year. Four books doesn't sound all that "intensive" to me, and it's nowhere near the amount of reading that was dumped on me when I was in junior high school.

In fairness, I have to say they are “studying” the characters in these books, and I'm sure they'll also be tested on them. I've already seen homework assignments where they're using vocabulary words from "The Outsiders" book. So I suppose this is where the all the time will be spent. Two months for each book.

Oh, and there will be book reports. In collage form. Again. Because we need to keep the kids interested!

They'll get out their Crayola 64 pack, some glitter and paint, and decorate each report page with a character from "The Outsiders". For serious. The teacher showed us an example. I couldn't believe my eyes.

So, to review: FOUR books in EIGHT months, three of which are about damaged people and victims. And 8th graders. With Crayolas.

There were a few other highlights to Open House. The presentation by the crunchy granola AP Science teacher was fab. He doesn't believe in text books. Nope, he believes in teaching the kids by inquiry. Telling them stories and getting them to ask questions. Okay, fine, but can't we do that in conjunction with text books? Apparently not. He said that no one ever learned anything by reading the text book and doing the questions at the end of each chapter. YES. HE. ACTUALLY. SAID. THAT.

The History teacher was the only one that impressed me, and is the same one my daughter declared “really tough”. I suspect this is because he actually expects junior high school students to behave like young adults. He started off by saying this was an advanced placement class, and he treats the kids as such. He assigns plenty of homework, more difficult assignments, lots of reading, etc. Which is more in line with the “average” teacher I had in school.

I don't know..... I guess I'm officially old enough to see the benefits of hard work, and want the same for my own child. And I'm tired of the bullshit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Come As You Are

I cannot get this song out of my head:

Come As You Are by Beverley Knight

Unfortunately, I can't embed the video from YouTube here. Looks like it was disabled. But, I can still link to it.

Anyway, I heard it on a TV show called Hex. I hear she's pretty big over in Britain.

New Jersey Almost Ate My Car

My Jeep is old, but it's a good car. It does, however, need some minor repairs. For instance, when I go over the dip at the end of my driveway, the back end creaks and groans like it's losing structural integrity: RRRrrrrreeeek.....THUNK!....rwapbapbapbap.

Potholes are even worse.

The source of the noise is actually the clamp that holds the tailpipe in place. It rusted through two months ago. I've ignored it, because I don't drive very far on a daily basis. Besides, it probably needs a new muffler and tailpipe anyway.

Then I found out I had to go to New Jersey for a meeting. Like, immediately.

I figured it couldn't be that bad, I'll take it slow and try not to hit potholes. Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahahaah!!

I haven't driven in Jersey for a while, so I forgot just how bad it really is.

I-78 in Pennsylvania was nice and smooth. Which is saying a lot for PA, because our roads generally suck. Once I crossed into NJ, it was a whole other ballgame. First off, you cannot drive slow and just do the speed limit - you'll be run over by a fleet of tractor trailers. On the other hand, you can't speed too far over the limit because the state police are everywhere.

You're forced to keep up with the pack. This puts you somewhere between 70 and 80 miles per hour, depending if you're just cruising along, attempting to dodge that 18 wheeler, or some jackass in a Mercedes S600 cuts you off with only inches to spare: “Dude. Your $150,000 car looks like a shiny Ford Taurus. Is it really a status car at that point?”.

So. Car rattling apart. The problem wasn't even actual potholes, it was the texture and seams in road. There were uneven, cracked off sections that appeared to have been paved over so many times that the pavement resembled crumb cake. Other sections had deep, grotty seams every 10 feet so the tires make a Thwap! Thwap! Thwap! noise.

I'm trucking along, and my car is making some serious rattling, moaning and shaking. Not to mention the Thwap!-ing. I also notice along the side of the road (and sometimes IN the road), there are car parts. LOTS of car parts. A muffler here, a few tire treads there, a wheel, some twisted metal bits, and an entire front hood. Like, how does that happen? Even if it was an accident, don't they usually clean up the big pieces? How does one miss a 4 x 6 piece of sheet metal? Or do car hoods fly off regularly in Jersey, possibly due to corrosion from all the toxic waste fumes?

I figured if I lost a tailpipe or muffler here, it probably wouldn't even be noticed. So there I go, merrily down the Jersey Autobahn, with my tailpipe waving in the wind.

I got to my destination and home again, in one piece. Which is good, because it looks like I'll be making this commute on a regular basis from now on.

So yeah. I'm getting the Jeep fixed. Soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ongoing Diet Project

I've been using the Gymnema for about a week now, and I'm still not craving sweets. I'm not craving much of anything else either. It could be psychological, and I've convinced myself that I don't have cravings. Either way, I'm happy.

I have one odd side effect, and it's not necessarily a bad one. Food just doesn't taste as good right now. For instance, lunch time comes around and I'm searching for something. Tuna? Salad? Leftover pasta in Alfredo sauce? Nope. Suddenly, none of it looks appetizing, although my stomach is rumbling. Normally, I'd be all over that pasta. Now....meh.

I'm not about to starve myself and create a whole new set of health issues, so I sit down to something healthy like the salad or tuna sandwich. To paraphrase Arthur Dent trying to get a cup of decent tea from a Sirius Cybernetics drink dispenser, “it's not entirely unlike” (tuna, in my case). It's as if the flavor is muted. Which, I'm fine with, as it makes portion control much simpler.

So we'll see where this leads. I may be back to sweets and Alfredo sauce by next week.

But I hope not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This is probably the most brilliant and coherent article regarding the crass politics on both sides:

The Rise Of The Uncouth

Here's one snippet that I found particularly enlightening:

"The historian Thucydides has a wonderful chapter in his third book on the stasis at Corcyra on all this. In short, he says when rules, decorum, respect, and commonly accepted behaviors are jettisoned for short-term advantage, then the thin veneer of civilization, in other words the law, is scratched away and we peer at our natural Rousseauian selves below. And quite a scary sight that is, natural man without civilization.

Even more brilliant is the historian’s irony. When those on the outs, who excel through seeking the ends by any means, soon find themselves as the establishment, they want no more like themselves.....

.......But too late. Once the walls are stormed, and ramparts of decency in rubble, it is very hard to rebuild the stones to fend off the barbarians, given the power of natural coarseness, and the problem of legitimacy and irony (Why should we believe that you are shocked at Joe Wilson now, when you booed George Bush not long ago?)"

There so much more to this article. It should be read in full.

It's not long, go read it.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I have cramps. I feel like Jack The Ripper is pulling my ovaries out through my kidney, and taking my spinal cord with it. So I guess I'm crabby, which may explain my tirade on LLBean last night.

In kitteh news, I'm calling the vet today to find out when Not-So-Little Leonidas can get snipped and declawed. Leo doesn't know how to interact with anyone without using teeth and claws anymore. He's a maniac with razors.

Unfortunately, he knows he's adorable and can play that well.

When caught doing something particularly evil, like kicking all the litter out of his box, or shredding the papers on my desk, he'll roll over on his back, paws up, and try to look submissive. Or he'll crawl into the crook of my arm and look up at me like, “I wuv you!”. Blink. Blink.

It's been a weekend of behavior relapses for him. He hasn't dumped water in over a week, then this morning he flooded the kitchen. He hasn't been keeping me up at night, but yesterday I went to bed early, so he took that as a cue to tackle my head for two hours.

Yesterday he was busy stealing stuffed toys from my daughter's room. He dragged a giant blue monkey downstairs by himself:

So, yeah. Not much sleep last night. Plus we LOUDLY, lost power at 12:30am. All the air conditioners stopped running at once, and the TV powered on (Our bedroom TV does this when we lose power. I don't know why.). It's amazing how loud the sudden quietness can be. Even though we got it back within 5 minutes, I woke up every half hour after that.

In other news, my diet/exercise regimen is failing beautifully. Remember those Slim Shots I mentioned back in July? Remember I said they didn't taste that bad? Well, they didn't at first. After about a week, I couldn't swallow them anymore. Too plasticky.

I'm still trying to maintain portion control, but my biggest downfall is stress eating and sugary snacks. I bought a book on stress eating which sucked ass. It spent the first 200 pages explaining why we stress eat, and gave examples of people's underlying problems.

I hate to self diagnose here, but I didn't fall into any of the categories which included: child abuse, spousal abuse, wanting to go back to the womb, unable to properly assert yourself, etc. etc. It took 200 pages before I got to a simple “eating because of work related stress”, in which case you're supposed to “challenge yourself” to not eat. They give you some examples of reassuring phrases to use when the urge strikes.

Yeah, I've got enough challenges with just keeping my job. I KNOW I'm not supposed to stress eat. If I need a mantra, I'll start practicing yoga. Which is probably a good idea, actually.

So it doesn't help that I did the grocery shopping whilst hungry, and in addition to the healthful items like lettuce, veg and low fat yogurt, I bought a tray of baklava. It was fresh and syrupy. The fillo crackled “Eat me!” from an aisle away.

I read recently about an herb called Gymnema. Supposedly it was used by herbalists to treat diabetes in ancient India and Africa. Now it's used in some Asian countries as a dietary supplement for weight loss. I got some from the local GNC for 9 bucks. Somehow, it manages to kill the urge for sweets. Or make them not taste quite so good. Since that's my Kryptonite, I'll try just about anything.

So far the Baklava hasn't been calling my name, so who knows. I'll let you know if I'm able to keep my paws off the pasteries. In the meantime, here's a link to the absolute best chocolate brownie recipe I've ever tried:

Baker's Chocolate One Bowl Brownies

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Stopped by the local LLBean today. I haven't bought anything from The Bean in years, except wool socks and hiking boots. Most of their women's clothing usually looks like something my Grandma would wear. However, it seems they're trying to revamp their style a bit.

They had some great fleeced-lined hoodies and non-Grandma sweaters. All the salespeople in the clothing section were very nice and helpful.

They even had some trendier shoes that my daughter wanted for school (they have a uniform dress code, so we're talking brown or black flat shoes).

The shoe department was not busy, yet it took an Act of God to get waited on. Every time I'd try and flag down one of the clerks, I was met with an annoyed, sing-songy, "I'll be with you in a MINute.".

A half an hour later....

We finally get waited on, the saleslady brings out a size eight. Too small. We ask for an eight and a half. The saleslady actually made that disgusted "Tck" noise, rolled her eyes, sighed, then said "We don't carry those in half-sizes.". Read: "You're really stupid and wasting my time, I hope you know."

"Well, how about a size NINE then." I said.

She brings out a size nine in a wacky looking blue and yellow, instead of the brown. And no explanation.

"Oh boy. The school won't allow this color." my daughter says, politely.

"I thought you could use them for size comparison." says Snooty Face, oozing disdain.

I'm thinking, you don't have the brown shoes in a size nine, so what exactly am I supposed to be comparing, other than the vile color scheme? I assume we were supposed to see if the nines fit, then order them online, in brown. Possibly. Who knows? She never articulated that. She just rolled her eyes.

Okay, so if you don't have the nines in brown, and I KNOW the eights don't fit, well then, duh, I'm going to go online and order the next size up. Guess what? That would be a NINE!!

By the way, this was a middle-aged woman of about 50, not a cranky, put-upon teen.

This is freakin' LLBean. Itchy wool, plaid skirted, flannel-wearing, Grandma-pants, LLBean.

I'm not trying to flag down a size nine pair of jewel-encrusted Blahniks at the Short Hills Neiman-bloody-Marcus.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Hate Spiders

Because of the wet weather this summer, I haven't done much gardening, and the weeds have taken over our side garden. It's this tall, spindly, grassy crap that comes from the forest behind the house:

As you can see from the matted down area in the center, something's been using it as a bed. And believe me, it smelled like it too. There was some serious animal funk in there.

It was a gorgeous, sunny weekend, so I figured I'd yank these pests out in about an hour. No such luck. I was simply not prepared for how “wild” the area had gone. For every fistful of weed, there were dozens of spiders running from their webs. I've never seen so many in one small garden. Little brown ones, big funnel weavers, golden garden spiders with their zipper-like webs. It was soooo gross.

To say, “I'm afraid of spiders” is not really accurate.

I'm certainly not “afraid” old eight-legs is going to corner me in a dark alley and bust a cap in my ass. Or chew off my arm.

It's the creepy factor. You never know where they are at any given moment. In the house, in the grass, in my car.

I think it started when I was a kid. I grew up in a house that was close to 150 years old. We were never without our eight-legged friends. They came with the house. Some of the basement spiders had ancestors that fought in the Civil War.

I was told the basement was blasted from solid rock. Like a dungeon. It consisted of a hallway that opened into a 20 by 15 foot rock-walled room, and 2 coal bins. The “hallway” was more of a deep trough, because the walls only rose about 4 feet on either side. Between the top of this trough and the ceiling, was a long, dark crawlspace of rock. It makes me shudder just to think about it.

Anyway, when my father ran a cable from the basement up to my room for a TV, he made the hole too big. About an inch in diameter, at least. This effectively made my bedroom the underground railroad for spiders.

Before I went to sleep each night, I had a ritual where I checked every corner, under the bed, behind the dresser, and next to the radiator for my little friends. They were always there. It didn't matter if the room was clear when I went to bed, because there'd be more in the morning. At least most of them were your “standard” cellar spiders. Smallish, stick-legged and skinny. Not like the ones I have here.

Now that I live in the country, the woods are my backyard. Spiders are expected. For instance, I expect them in the basement and in the attic. Maybe even the occasional spider on the floor, like a harbinger of Spring. But it freaks me out in the middle of the night when I walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, and I'm eye-to-eyes with Charlotte, hanging from the ceiling vent.

My worst encounter was about eight years ago. We had a heat wave in April, so anything living in the walls of the house was looking for a way out, fast.

Here's the scenario: It's 10:00 o'clock at night, I went to check on my sleeping daughter. There was just enough light that I could see where I was going, and make out the dark outline of kitty toys on the floor.

Catnip mousie, catnip pillow, birdie, another mousie and a fuzzy toy ball. Or was it? I don't remember a ball there before, and this one looked a little strange. There were spokes. Strings? Feathers? Something sticking out of it? At least that's what my subconscious was mulling over as I went merrily down the hall.

After making sure my daughter was fast asleep, I started back down the hall. Suddenly those minute, passing thoughts came rushing to the front of my brain, like The Robot from Lost in Space, “Danger, Will Robinson! ..... NOT a fuzzy ball!”.

I stopped about 2 feet from it in the semi-dark, and tried to get my eyes to focus on it. Yep. Definitely not a kitty toy.

Leaned over and hit the light switch. My brain did somersaults trying to understand what my eyes were seeing: “It's shaped like a spider, fuzzy with eight legs, but bigger than any spider I've ever seen, except on Animal Planet. Wait, we don't have tarantulas in Pennsylvania! Did a neighbor's pet get loose from it's terrarium? Maybe the previous owner had one and it's been living in the walls?”

Then I thought, “I need to capture it, because my husband won't believe me”.

I must've lost my mind.

I grabbed a shoe and smacked it. It did not go down without a fight. It took several beatings before it finally stopped moving.

The exterminator told me it was probably a Wolf Spider. I looked it up online. Biggest eight-legged beastie we have in the Northeast. Hogna Carolinensis.

Oh, and they lie. They say it's somewhere between one and one-half inches long. What they don't tell you is that's body length. Add on those meaty legs and we're talking bloody huge.

Thankfully, I've only seen a few of these. Here's a photo of a smaller one I found on the side of the house. Oh and by all means, please click on the image to get the close up, in all it's spidery glory:

I should note that the vent thingy above it is approximately 6 inches wide. And the ivy leaves are around 3-4 inches wide. So basically, we're talking about a spider about 4 inches across.

Did I mention how much I really hate spiders?

Nature Of Things

So yeah. Violated. Totally pissed off. Still trying to wrap my head around it.

I know people get hacked, but really. Me? Why?

Because shit happens, I know that. It's the "Wild, Wild West" out here on the old InterWebs, and that's just the way it is. I can be hyper-vigilant over logins, passwords, https, and security questions, and it can still happen.

Now I'm going to try to suck it up and move on.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Notice !!

For those of you who know me personally, I'm telling you that my email address has been hacked.

NOT the one for this site, but my OTHER one.

I'll be sending a new one to y'all soon.