Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Evolution-Part 1

Furniture and 90% of the office was moved on Saturday, December 12th. Our computers stayed behind because we didn't have service in the new space. At noon, my new office looked like this.

"Yeah, those bookshelves were in my old office so I guess just put them in my new office."

Originally, we were going to use the extra office we have as a library, of sorts. As you can imagine, we have a lot of reference material for construction, mining and demolition. It's a very narrow slice of the publishing world, but there are books printed about these topics and we get a couple every so often. As our area of work is not taught in universities, much of our knowledge comes from on-the-job experience and the rare tome or paper detailing the effects of ground vibrations on structures. Books tended to be scattered about people's offices and we thought it would be better if we had one spot for them.

But, files this idea under "best laid plans". That "library" is going to be someone's office in the next few months so the shelf units were stuck in my office until further notice, since that's where they had started in the old space. On Wednesday, December 16th, with Internet up and running, we moved completely and my computer was set up.

Things are a mess, as you would expect. I had to empty the desk so I tossed all my files and stuff into bags and boxes. The shelf units were moved away from the hole in the wall where the sliding window was to go so I could see anyone who walked in. At this point, I have sorted through the empty box to find all my files and at least get back to working, sort of.

Since mid-December, things have come along. The corner cabinet was moved into place and my photos and mementos placed on it.

That's a paper recycling cube to the right. Our cleaning service doesn't quite understand that we actually recycle here so all of our carefully sorted recyclables have been dumped into garbage bags. But, they are new and we are new and we'll get this sorted out.

The bottom of this unit now has my rocks from various projects. That might seem weird but I've been on some big jobs and I have rocks or chunks of concrete from Soldier Field and 1930's-era Sheridan Road, terra cotta from a building that once stood where Prentiss Children's Hospital is now and rebar from Michigan Avenue. These pieces were scattered about my old office. Now, they have a place to be. The piece of rebar is going to hang on the wall, but I need to get my posters and other wall things up first.

They finally got the window installed right before Christmas. At one point, I was kind of sad to lose a whole wall of potential display area, but I have to say, being able to see people coming in is huge. We don't get many people here; UPS, the mailman, building maintenance; but seeing them and my co-workers come into the building is very important. The other thing that I've discovered is how expansive it makes the office feel. I have huge windows to my east but being able to look out of the office in what amounts to another window is wonderful. I generally don't have claustrophobia but extra light is a good thing.

Two of the bookshelves, of the four I had, were commandeered by Tara. I still have one plus this corner unit. I really had no use for the other ones. I was kind of amazed at how much stuff I kept because my former boss said "It will be useful sometime." Um...no...not really. Back in October, when we started the packing process, we took 8 construction garbage bags of garbage to the dumpster. Since moving and, as we've all settled in, there have been 8 more bags of garbage out the door. In a typical week, we don't generate much. Our data is 80% digital now. Our cleaning service comes every other week. It works.

Beverage:  Water


Evolution-Part 2

In getting my office set up, one of the things was going to be the big tiger hawk on the wall behind me. My boss nixxed that idea. He said it looked like a recruiting statement for Iowa and that's not what he wanted people to see when they walked in. But, I was allowed to put a large tiger hawk on the wall with the window. I was disappointed. I had my heart set on displaying my team. He acknowledged my disappointment but it just wasn't want he wanted our first impression to be. I guess I can see his point. 

In December, while watching the Big 10 football title game, there were ads for Fathead wall decals. I had looked at wall decals but I wasn't about to spend $110 for a logo. On a whim, I checked out the site and discovered their decals were 20% off with free shipping for the holidays. That put the decal I wanted at $60. I thought about it. Was it worth it to me to spend $60 for the immediate ability to festoon the wall with a tiger hawk? Yes. Yes it was. 

I had no idea how big this thing actually was. This is the box. 

It arrived the Monday before Christmas. You might have heard the squeal as I came home and saw it on the front porch. 

The next day, I took it to the office. The decal comes in a heavy duty cardboard tube inside the box. 

You know how you'll still bonk people on the head with an empty cardboard gift wrap roll? You don't want to do that with this. It's really heavy duty and would hurt. Inside the tube is the rolled up decal. 

Again, there might have been a squeal of delight which evolved into a bigger squeal when I unrolled the decal itself. 

It's beautiful. Gene happened to be in the office at the time, so I had him help me apply it to the wall. It couldn't be easier. You peel it off the backing and position it on a clean wall. I admit to having something of an advantage because the wall was a bit over a month freshly painted but you should have a clean surface to adhere to. We had to move it a bit to make it square, but once on the wall, you just press it down. I have other icons on the decal I could use. 

The Iowa name and the tiger hawk "I" don't really go with anything else at the moment. I'm thinking of offering them to siblings for their walls. 

This is what my wall looked like before the decal. 

I have "Historic Chicago" 2016 calendar to the right of the window. The orange cone says, "Give me all your chocolate and no one gets hurt" and my business cards are to the right corner of the window. 

This is post decal. 

I would have spent hours and hours trying to trace something onto this wall; trying to get the colors right, the angle right. I would have put it off because I knew how long it would take me. I am thrilled. 

Beverage:  Water


Evolution-Part 3

So, what does the office look like now, right now. Well, looking east northeast, you have this view.

There is a clock radio and an old lap top computer sitting on top of the bookshelf. I'm taking the clock radio home with me. I thought it would pick up my jazz station but it doesn't. We are very close to the transmission tower for WBBM radio but that shouldn't matter with the signal. It's all staticy. I have several bags of give away stuff to which I'll add it. The framed photo is from our first trip to Walt Disney World back in 1990. It's of a sign we saw in what used to be MGM-Hollywood. We were in line to see the Muppet Babies show. It says, "You are neither here nor there". So many days feel like that.

I have photo albums from old jobs on the second shelf. The third shelf has a clipboard and yellow legal pads for when I go into the field, as well as a dictionary. The bottom shelf has my work boots and my safety vests. That blue bag you see on the floor has a couple awards and a framed cross-stitch. Those were behind me in the old office and will go behind me here. I need to get more of those 3M picture hanging things which simply adhere to the wall. I use them at home and they are wonderful. I don't feel like putting holes in the new wall to hang my stuff.

Here's looking east southeast.

You can see how well the decal works. That's my aloe and geranium in the window. the sill is very wide and they would work to sit there forever, but I really want a decorative plant stand. I have an elephant-shaped watering can and I could put that on the bottom shelf of a plant stand. Right now, I take the geranium to the sink in the kitchen and drench it. I should put it in something other than the green plastic container it was in at the nursery.

I'm not sure about stenciling something along the wall. I had thought of a row of small tiger hawks right under the sill. Then I though about flowers above the window. Right now, I like it plain. The yellow is bright and sunny and is such a mood elevator, even on these bitter cold or heavily overcast days. I like being able to look out and across for a good ways. The sun is in my eyes for about 15 minute in the morning now, but I don't mind. I didn't have much more than a parking lot view in the old office and I didn't put my desk where I could see out because that put my back to the door, which I did not like.

This is looking west northwest.

I love the dark gray. Black would have been way too dark. I got paint to paint the frame for the Fantasia poster and just need to get that done. Once it's done, then I can bring the Hawkeye 12-0 season poster and Fantasia and figure out where to put them. I think I want the corner to be my picture area. I've got this huge ivory wall behind me, but I don't want to fill it completely with stuff. I have a panoramic photo of Chicago that I'm just not sure where to put. I need to get the posters up first and then I'll have a better feel for where to put the Chicago poster.

Believe it or not, my office is the most personalized. Other people just don't seem to be into hanging stuff other than phone numbers on post its, on their walls. Gene is a new dad so he has photos of his daughter on a bookshelf in his office, but he has all this wall space and there's nothing on it. Maybe it's me in that I like to be surrounded by things that make me happy.

You can see into the main office there, a bit. We had a long discussion about the color of that space. Mike had picked out a more muted blue; one that had more gray in it. I wasn't sure that was a good color and suggested the color we ultimately chose. It works perfectly. It's bright and inviting but not loud. We have a skylight in that main area and this blue works perfectly with the natural light. If you're looking for paint, well, they left us the unused gallons.

So, I went from this...

(Those are the awards and the cross-stitch I have to put up.) to this.

(Nancy, your design suggestion was perfect.) Yeah, I think this works.

Beverage:  Water


Sunday, January 17, 2016


For years, I carried tea bags in my purse. I had a tin, a recycled mint tin, which was the perfect size for those bags. I could keep 3-4 bags in the tin and then, when out to eat or at the office, I'd always have, at hand, the kind of tea I preferred. I lost the tin many years ago and then decided to buy boxes of tea to have in my desk, for a hot mug at work. I hadn't thought about carrying my own, even though I have a small sad when I ask for tea and out comes Lipton.

While some restaurants, mostly upscale, have gone to eclectic brands for their tea, I encounter Lipton in most of the places I go. It's okay, but there is such a wide variety of brands and, maybe it's just me, but English Breakfast in one restaurant can taste just a bit different in another restaurant because they have a different supplier. Orange Pekoe, which is Lipton, is what people in the US grew up on. You just couldn't get anything else. Mercifully, as my tea shelf indicates, that's no longer the case.

There is a huge push for herbal and decaffeinated teas. At the office holiday party last weekend, there was no English Breakfast in the tea box proffered for my selection. I chose Earl Grey, not my favorite, but it was the only dark tea choice I had. I didn't remember, until I was soaking the bag, that I did have another option.

Pam gave me this for Christmas. It holds 2-3 bags, depending upon the size. I currently carry a Huckleberry, an English Breakfast and a Scottish Breakfast. I felt the Earl Grey I had tasted a touch "off". I could have just asked for hot water. That always gets a strange look from servers. But I would have had tea I preferred, rather than tea I had to settle for.

The best thing about this, it fits in my clutch purse. I have my tea whenever I want. Now all I have to do is remember.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


First Look Vacation - Wednesday

More vacation photos. It was such a grand time and I have so many impressions and there was just no time to blog about everything so, here we are, some two and a half months removed, and I still have a lot to post.

I have all my BlizzCon/Disneyland photos in a folder and I go through them to see what is worth blogging. I took a lot of photos from the airplane window. It was clear both going to and coming from Los Angeles. I love looking at the ground from the air. There is so much diversity and difference in our country. It almost takes an airplane flight to appreciate the change from the lush and green Midwest to the tan of the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains with snow to Los Angeles. But, because there is no giant line on the ground delineating where one state ends and another begins, I sort of have to guess that we might be flying over Kansas at the moment or maybe this is western Colorado. The photos, while interesting to me, aren't going to be interesting to anyone else. So, I've decided to go with a "first look" theme. I can say something about those photos.

Wednesday, November 4th, was a travel day. I got up at 5 a.m., showered and finished packing. The limo to the airport would pick me up by 6:45. I wanted to be completely ready. I had cats to reassure and feed and one last swing through the house to make sure it was reasonably clean. I hate coming home to a dirty house.

I set my luggage on the sidewalk in front of the steps. I saw a limo drive down the street, go to the next intersection and turn around. When I got back to the front door, the driver had parked and claimed my luggage. One last chin and ear scratch with a promise I'd be back soon, and I left. It was foggy.

Sometimes I think I should print this or have it made into a print. It was an accidental photo taken more to document that it was a) fall in Illinois, b) foggy and c) before sunrise. Generally, I don't try for an arty photo. My photos are to document things. When something like the above happens, I'm quite surprised. It looked okay on my phone, just what I needed.

My flight left at 9:45. I got to the airport at 7:30, owing to the limo being at the house at 6:25 and me ready to go. Thanks to an app, I had curbside check-in of my luggage and a boarding pass all ready. The guy at curbside checked all my paperwork and pointed me in the direction of the security line. Yeah...about that.

There are debates and debates about whether this makes us safer. When you have something like RA, standing in lines like this can be tough. Three years ago, this would have been a nightmare for me. I found, at the end of the day on Sunday, November 8th, when we were waiting for the evening light show and the security personnel from Disney were telling everyone to stand, it was too much. I had to sit down, irrespective of calls to stand up. It's about knowing your limits.

Here, it was early morning. I hadn't had a whole day to be on my feet and the line was moving, albeit slowly, but it was moving. The one thing I don't "get" is the person who has a 7:45 flight, arriving at the airport at 7:30 and expecting to make said flight when the security line is this long. There was one guy walking this middle row, calling out flight times and then pulling people for special fast screening. But after this was the metal detectors and there was a line for that. I cannot imagine those people made their flights. Some comments from people around me were quite "colorful" in their opinion of folks who seem to think they can just run up to the gate. Those days are 15 years behind us. I wasn't happy that the limo company said 6:45 for pick-up, but I see why. And TSA people, when you finally got to the screening point, were shouting that there would be more restrictive screening upcoming "for the holidays".

Once I got through all that, I found the gate and got breakfast. As early as I was, there were empty seats near the windows. Airports are fascinating places, akin to hives. Planes are the worker drones who bring their cargo, passengers, to the hive. On this day, the hive was slightly obscured by fog.

Had this been a clear day, you would have seen the Chicago skyline. As it was, sky and ground merged. The backlash of a foggy day in Chicago is the delays across the country as planes have to land in a slow fashion. My flight wasn't delayed getting out, but others were because their planes were stuck flying circles over Memphis while waiting for permission to proceed north. I thought the seats next to me would stay empty but the couple who finally occupied them made it on at the last minute. They were coming from Traverse City, Michigan, and had been delayed because of the fog in Chicago. Every seat was filled.

It's a 4 hour flight to LA, give or take a new minutes depending upon the weather. I took a nap and read. I packed a Discworld book and wound up coming within 50 pages of finishing it on the flight back. After my nap, I had no idea where we were. The ground was brownish green. There were foothills and eventually, towns merging into one another. The pilot informed us we were 30 minutes from arrival. I looked up.

In the distance, the sun glinted off the Pacific Ocean. I'm here. Excitement started building.  We flew over some of LA's Interstates.

I have an aunt in Pasadena. I haven't seen her in decades, other than photos on Facebook. I tried to arrange my schedule so there was time to visit, but I would have had to rent a car and drive to and from some point. When we flew over this interchange, I could feel anxiety rising. Generally speaking, give me a map and I can find anything. But I looked at this and decided I was very grateful I opted not to rent a car and try to drive. If I lived out here, eventually, I'd probably have to navigate this, but I'm just a tourist and I know how I feel about tourists who suddenly discover they have to be in the right lane to go south on the Dan Ryan and they are in the far left lane headed into Chicago. I made the right decision. Terror is never a good passenger.

And then we landed.

Hello LA! Hello Disneyland! Hello BlizzCon 2015! I have arrived. With signs and people from whom to get directions, I found my luggage and got to the SuperShuttle. The Shuttle was filled and everyone was going to BlizzCon. The guy in the far back was from Germany and was staying at the flagship hotel, the Hilton. I was the last passenger picked up so I got to ride in the front.

Car pool lanes. We don't have those in Chicago. And there are four lanes of traffic in addition to the car pool lanes. My feeling of "I can drive anywhere" faded very quickly. Nope; a big nope.

The only palm trees we have are in the Garfield Park conservatory. Yeah, this landscape is a bit different than a leaf-shedding maple on a quiet street in Wheaton, Illinois.

We drove past the entry to Disneyland.

I grew up on The Wonderful World of Disney. I remember some programs which gave you a tour of Disneyland. It seemed like such a far-off place and here I was, going right by it. I would be there the next day, with avowed "Disney freak", Liz. Even though I was passing it, it didn't seem real.

We went 6 blocks south and made a right turn.

The Anaheim Convention Center loomed into view. You can't see from this distance, but it's festooned with all things Blizzard. Ive seen photos of the convention center with the banners but here it was. It didn't seem real. Everyone in the shuttle got quiet. We were all first time attendees and I think it had now dawned on all of us that we were, in fact, at BlizzCon. I didn't say a word other than "Have fun. Nice to ride with you." as the others disembarked at their respective hotels. I was the last person to be dropped off.

After getting to the hotel room, I sat down and looked at the photo of the convention center. All the planning and saving. I really was here. I had seen the convention center with my own eyes. So this is Southern California, Disneyland and Anaheim. This was going to be an amazing 4 days.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea



aa//m xl'lewwat5r7uip[[]]]rrr    mk6ca

No, that's not in some code. I sat down, today, to do a whole bunch of blogging. It's -15 outside and, with the windows covered in plastic, 70 degrees in the house is very comfortable. It's a good day to write.

Have you looked at your keyboard. Because computers are ubiquitous in society, we've all become something of a "touch typist", rarely looking at or needing to look at, the keyboard. It's not all that necessary, once you figure out where your fingers go. Over time, any keyboard is going to attract the dirt and oils on our fingers. The keys will get dirty. And with someone like me, I don't notice the dirt until, well, I notice the dirt.

I sat down to blog which involves finding and cropping photos, uploading and downloading and finding links. I have no idea what prompted me to actually look down at the keyboard, but the state of the - key bothered me. My keyboard is silver metal with white keys; a standard issue Mac keyboard. Dirt on the keys is noticeable. I got the Q-tips and the rubbing alcohol and started in.

It was just going to be the - key, but the more I started gently wiping, the more I realized just how dirty the keyboard was. The rows between the keys were cleaned. The columns between the keys were cleaned. The silver edges of the board itself were cleaned. You can't see it, but there was dirt and grime in the spaces next to the up arrow at the bottom right. If I could take the keyboard apart, I'm sure I would find another cat, or the fur from one, stuck inside. All I can do is clean the tops of and around the keys.

I went through a dozen Q-tips. Rubbing alcohol is what you need to use if you're going to do this because it removes the dirt and grime while evaporating. Plus, it evaporates quickly so very little, if any, falls into the keyboard guts. While using a Q-tip takes time, anything larger runs the risk of fluid getting into the keyboard. I tried a small cotton ball, but found the ball left strings of cotton. I have enough issues with cat fur. I don't need cotton threads. Q-tips don't shed.

The keyboard is clean now. The above string of characters was from pushing the keys to clean either the top or around them. I'm also washing dishes in an attempt to have a clean kitchen and I've cleaned the litter boxes. We'll call it "Clean the house Sunday" around here.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reading Again. Book #1

There are a lot of readers in my World of Warcraft guild. And quite a few articles have been printed in the last days of 2015 and the first days of 2016 about reading.

There's this article on how to read more books.
http://www.vox.com/2015/1/1/7470719/how-to-read-more-in-2015. The take away from the short list is that I can and should stop reading a book I don't enjoy. I can tell you exactly how many times I've done that. Twice. Period. I have slogged through stuff I really wish I hadn't because, well, I bought the blasted thing. It's wasted money otherwise.

Not all recommended books are going to be to my taste. I need to not feel pangs of guilt for disliking some author's writing. My lord. I can't stand Thomas Hardy or, dare I say it, Jane Austin. I suffered through those because my BA in English required it. Unless I'm taking a literature course, my reading is for me, and if Jane Smiley or Thomas Pynchon do not interest me, regardless of the pennies spent on their tomes, I need to let the book go. Perhaps I can leave it in the waiting room of the lab the next time I go see the vampires for my RA blood tests.

In this article, http://www.vox.com/2015/12/29/10634416/reading-list-books, I first encountered the "don't finish what you start" idea. I also encountered the comment that reading fiction teaches you to be a better person. Admittedly, I don't read a lot of fiction. Oh I have a lot of fiction on the shelves, but I don't read it. I don't know if science fiction is what they are driving at here. I'm thinking straight up pretending based on current times is what they mean. Maybe they lump the pretend worlds into the fiction category, but I'm leaning toward the category embracing the new books by Joyce Carol Oates and Danielle Steele, set on terra firma and not in the stars.

I think to the fiction I have read and it's mostly from my days matriculating at Viterbo. Perhaps I should haul out a list of Dickens. Somewhere in the basement, swims Moby Dick. I enjoyed reading that when it wasn't for class. Perhaps I would be more empathetic if I read more fiction, but my goal this year isn't a wide variety of book genres. My goal is simple. Read every Discworld book, in order.

Pratchett, who died March 12th of last year, wrote 41 Discworld books from the beginning, The Colour of Magic to the final The Shepherd's Crown. I've probably read a dozen of them. The downstairs bookshelves contain my collection.

I've long wanted to read them all. They are like old friends who you visit once in a very great while. When we got to discussing books in guild chat and on our Facebook page, a voice inside my head said, "Why are you hesitating reading all of them?" I could throw up flimsy excuses mainly centered on time, but, going back to the very first Vox post on reading, I have the next books lined up.  I think I have the first 8 books. I'm not waiting on an order. A paperback can always be carried somewhere. I can go back to the bigger purse for those times when I know I will have to sit and wait. I don't really have an excuse, other than lethargy and inaction.

Last weekend, I strolled up to my stash and picked out the first 5 Discworld books. I gave them bookmarks and stacked them on the ottoman in the living room, on top of a burgeoning stack of magazines calling, seductively, "Read us first before you start the books. You know you want to." I hesitated. But the siren call of Discworld was louder and I'm rearranging the ottoman so the books are more important than the magazines. I've decided that, as I finish a Discworld book, it goes onto the shelves in the office and I critically look at what I have stored there. I need to be surrounded by things I love and although I love books, those I really won't ever open again need to go into a give away box. Then, the next book in the series can be brought up from the basement or ordered from The Bookstore. This way, if I need something 5 books ahead, I have it.

The other part of the equation is that Pratchett is so easily quotable. If I like a book enough to review it, I want to have quotes at the ready. Because it can take me more than a few days to get to a review, my head has been filled with other things and, oh dear, where was that one quote. I'd end up rereading again. I found my small post its, the rectangular ones with a side stick. I can easily, as I'm reading, mark the passage I found interesting for comment later on. This has been wonderful.

I've started a list of quotes, too; book, page and quote. I had one a long time ago, but it's been lost. Pratchett was able to coin a phrase for a great many of life's situations. I want to be able to find the right quote for the right situation. Not sure how I'll cross-reference the quotes, but this will be a start. Just start, Deb, just start. There is the meme, "Every journey starts with one small step". Collect the quotes first. Then decide how you want to organize them.

Finally, I joined the web site, Good Reads. I don't like that it pushes Amazon as your source for books, but, beyond that, it's okay. I've added a few books I've read and I can see what some of my friends are reading right now and they will be able to see my progress through this goal. There was much hesitation about sharing this. It's kind of like a resolution. (Raises hand. Intones solemnly.) I do hereby resolve, in the year 2016, to read all Discworld books in order. What happens if life intrudes? Indeed, I have a craft project I need to start work on. It won't take very long but I need to collect the pieces and get it done. It has to be done by June. That's going to impinge on my reading time. Read a bit. Craft a bit. It will work as Discworld books can be read in 3-5 sittings of 90 minutes each. But I must give myself permission to get as far as I can and not sweat that I didn't finish this. So, let's not call it a resolution, doomed to failure, but a desire to try to accomplish this task.

I picked up the first volume and cracked it open on Tuesday. Finished it this morning.

You can read my mini-review here. (books. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1512159133) Deeper reviews of the other books will follow. This is to get started.

Why is Pratchett so beloved? From the Foreword, "You can't map a sense of humor." I think, in a nutshell, that sentence encapsulates why readers flocked to him. On the surface, a story about a has-been wizard, ("...he was, he would be the first to admit, a coward, an incompetent, and not even very good at being a failure..." [pages 173-174]), a tourist from a far-off land, and that man's walking luggage; roaming about a land which was a disc, carried by 4 elephants who stood on the back of a turtle swimming through space, would be anything more than head-scratchingly weird. But Pratchett tapped in the funny ("I've seen excitement and I've seen boredom. Boredom is best." [Page 176]) and the poignant. ("Fate can be one mean god at times." [Page 190])

Perhaps he didn't know the books would take off as they did. Perhaps it didn't matter. He would have written them to be shared around winter fires when the latest Tom Clancy didn't please. Whatever the case, I have 40 books to get through. I'll hope you'll check in to see how I'm doing.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

There Came A Loud Crash

It was the morning of Christmas Eve. We get the day off so I slept in until 8:30. I had some oatmeal and was cleaning things out of my computer when there was a huge crash from the living room. Mija, asleep in the chair next to me, bolted to her usual place when there is a strange noise, under my bed. It was clear to me the cat tree had fallen over. Where was Pilchard? What had she been doing which would have caused the tree to tip? Was she okay?

I dashed into the living room to find the cat tree in pieces and Pilchard behind the recliner. My first order of business was to ascertain if she'd been injured. I wish there was a way to let a pet know that you aren't mad at them and they won't be punished for some things. She had to be tempted out from behind the recliner with a couple of treats. She was fine.

Time to examine the tree.

Well, that's quite the break. I would guess Pilchard was on the top tier or wanted to get onto the top tier and it snapped. As it toppled, she jumped. Agile as cats are, even one as large as Pilchard, she landed safely away from the tree as the top tier went one way and the rest of the tree fell over.

Posting the photo to my Facebook feed, I ruminated that I don't think I can fix this. In actuality, Pilchard preferred the tier below the top tier. It's right in line with the table and with me. The tree was always a bit wobbly and she wasn't always comfortable jumping up onto the top. I've seen her lying on the middle tier quite a bit since the top snapped off.

Friends have suggested Gorilla gluing the broken pieces back together. I'm thinking that's not really going to be a long term solution. I think the plastic is going to fracture again because of the stress of a large cat trying to jump onto the tier. But what I know she misses is the sisal scratching post. What I think I will do is take apart the tier that broke and Gorilla glue the post back onto the middle tier. The stress from scratching is not likely to fracture the plastic any time soon. Maybe put the carpeted top tier inside one of their boxes for use as a bed. There is a ball that dangled from the top tier. Pilchard played with it a bit. Without the tier, there may be more creative opportunities to attach things to the top of the post which could be batted about.

In the days after Christmas, I looked at buying a new scratching post. But I don't have room for one and this is perfect for my small space. I need to put both of them on the post and reassure them that this is stable and they can lie on it. Mija wasn't really one to do anything other than stand on the middle tier. Pilchard had claimed this. I think it still functions for my household and it will be more stable for a 13 pound cat to use.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


I Might Be Predictable

Christmas gift cards this year were a bit familiar.

That's right, dear readers. Three separate people gave me Dunkin' gift cards for Christmas. At least there is absolutely no worry about me needing to return this because it's the wrong "size".

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Well, That Was Fitting

In a column about the California adventure (and there are more columns to come, as I now have time to blog about all the photos I took), I posted a photo of the words of the day for each vacation day. I couldn't, at that time, find the photo of the word for Wednesday's travel day. It was in a different file.

This could be apropos. I'm not sure that saguaros are native to Southern California but who knows. I didn't see a live one. There were fabricated ones in Cars Land in the California Adventure, but I don't remember a live one.

Still, I was headed in that general direction. I remember thinking, when I ripped the day previous off and saw this that I felt it would be a harbinger for a great vacation. I was right.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast Tea


Sock It To Me

I had to come home from the Disneyland trip with socks.

The first store I went into where I was going to spend serious cash (or not so serious cash since I'm buying cat socks) had these. Sold. I didn't look at socks after this. Cheshire chat has always been one of my favorite literary characters. "Here's looking at you, kid"? Or how about this?

(I need to listen to this soundtrack. It's delicious.)

When I got home from Anaheim and went to add the Cheshire socks to the drawer, I took a moment to look through all my socks. I have had some for decades. They wear like cast iron. So as long as there isn't a hole in a toe or the heel isn't threadbare, I will keep them. But there were some I just could wear any more. They hadn't quite reached the point of no return, but were close. I wound up adding 4 pair to the give away bag. This is good because Carole and Larry gave me a couple pair for my birthday.

Cardinals are generally thought of as a Christmas bird, but I'll wear these all year 'round. I wear my holiday themed socks any time of the year. Why keep them hidden?

Oh boy! Penguins!

I should do another run through the drawer. I have some socks that, when I pull them out of the drawer, I toss back in. They aren't favorites anymore. I could replace them with ones I'd look forward to wearing.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Stage One

Saturday, December 12th. That was the day the office began the process of moving. We had to come in early so we could supervise the movers, who were slated to arrive at 8 a.m., and finish packing. Here was my space for 10 years.

This was the northwest corner.

A lot of stuff wound up shoved onto the shelves. The former boss was well known, within the company, for saving everything. "Oh you'll have a need for this some day," he'd say. Never mind that new technologies made instruction books for old equipment obsolete or that the company developed newer PR materials. You couldn't toss anything unless you did it on the sly. By this date, obsolete stuff had been purged off the shelves leaving only the things we felt we wanted to save or were my items.

This is the southwest corner of the office, with my leaky windows.

The corner sill was great for displaying photos and mementos. There are two certificates of excellence and a cross-stitch above the Hawkeye "license plate". My desk was something of a mess. Even knowing I was moving didn't really improve the piles of stuff. I know the aphorism, "A messy desk is a sign of a creative mind", but I do need to be able to find things without having to move stuff to the floor.

And here's the door to the office.

Some things just aren't going to be a part of the new office. There was a photo on the wall to the right, of the rear of cows and an approaching thunderstorm. I don't remember how long I've had it. It was a Christmas gift from people I haven't talked to in years. Giving that away. Most of the stuff taped to the door is gone. There is one photo, taken at Walt Disney World, which has been framed and is in my new office. And there is the Fantasia poster. I got the materials to actually frame it and that's this weekend's project. Next week, it should, along with my certificates, the cross stitch and the license plate, be up on the walls in the new office.

For 10 years, I've called this room my office. For 10 years, I've walked in here every day, walked around the corner of the desk and sat down to work. I started packing up the last of the things I really didn't need, taking down all my wall items. I wasn't sad. It felt like it was time to move on.

We did not have internet at the new office. I would need to be in this space until that was hooked up. So, once I had removed everything from the desk, my computer was moved to a card table.

This is my grandmother's card table. It comes with 4 chairs which are horribly hard to unfold and fold up so they stay in my basement until I'm really desperate for seating. It worked fine for the few days I needed to still be in this space. The only issue we had was cords.

This mess was difficult to sort. This is why I love my Mac. One power cord. One cord to the keyboard and one cord to the mouse. I have a cord for my external hard drive and a cord to download my digital camera. And there is one USB slot left to plug in my cell phone if I want to charge it or download photos off it. There is still a mess of cords in my new office. Thank goodness for zip ties.

Once the movers were done loading things up, my office looked like this.

I loaded up the Jeep and headed north to the new space. One load fit nicely in this corner.

Yes. My Fantasia poster is going to look fabulous on this wall. Next step is painting the frame.

One thing I won't miss.

Doesn't look like much on the sill but those are ants. We've had a horrible ant problem for years. I think they have found their way into the walls and, when they do that, can be extremely hard to eradicate. I know from experience, but seem to have the home ant problems under control, thanks to Terro.

I had water seep in one year after some particularly heavy rain storms. The carpet was soggy under the window. The building owner had to do some excavation by my office and caulk the windows. The water warped the cheap laminate on the sill so it bowed up. Ants would get under this in the spring. All I'd have to do is rattle the top and they'd come streaming out the junction between the window and the wall. Call the building owner and they'd come over and...spray. That's it. The ants would move from my office to Tara's, which was next to me. We finally decided we'd just put out Terro ourselves because the building seemed to not care. And the cleaning company would not dust the window sill, so if ants came out of the sill and died, well, they stayed there. Needless to say, I will not miss this battle at all.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast Tea


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Squirrel Food

It took them two years.

That's not raccoon size. That's squirrel size. I have no idea what was in the can that prompted the intensive chewing to get to it. I've seen squirrels sitting on top of the can, but I did not think they liked to chew plastic. After all, they left the can alone for 2 whole years. The hole is right by the handle and, essentially, renders the handle useless.

I'm not sure what kind of repair to make here. The rest of the can and the lid are fine so it's a waste to replace it for a new can and lid. Just dust tape it inside and out, once the weather gets above 45 degrees or so? Any other suggestions? Since doing this, they've left the can alone. I do encourage them to be in the yard by putting out peanuts on occasion. I just never expected this to happen.

Beverage:  Seltzer


Dietary Change

We do it to ourselves and our friends; show love via food. We also do it to our pets. While Pilchard is just a big cat, she doesn't need to be big big, and Mija definitely doesn't need to be defined as big. I'm not the most mobile of people anymore and that's reflected in the lack of play time with the girls. I've been told to get them more active, that they are overweight. I need to clean the living room so there is space for jumping and catching and chasing. All part of the cleaning of my life and, therefore, is done in minute increments.

One of the things I could do, my vet said, is go from a hard kibble diet to a canned food diet. There is a large push from many of the cat web sites I frequent, to have feeder people (I don't like the word 'owner', anymore. I kind of feel they own me, rather than me own them.) go to a homemade food diet, where you can control, precisely, what they eat and how much. Yeah, right. When I don't cook very often for myself, the girls would suffer, too.

The thing we have learned is that there's too much grain in cat food. Yes, cats will eat grass. It's part of their diet in small amounts. Grains, however, were and are used to provide bulk and reduce the cost of the food. They are empty calories and have no real nutritional benefit to cats.

Cats also must have taurine in their diet. Their bodies don't manufacture it. Without it in ample supply, a cat will suffer hair loss and tooth decay and will, eventually, go blind. A cat in the wild gets this amino acid from eating prey. House cats, whose only prey source is the mice that happen to blunder into the basement, must have good nutritional food. And, for the record, they have never, ever, eaten a mouse caught in the basement. They just leave it after it's dead and then look sadly at me. No getting taurine from those critters.

Fortunately, thanks to advancements in understanding feline health, cat food has improved tremendously since we brought Shakespeare home, some nearly 30 years ago. There is a wide variety of good canned cat food out there so I don't feel the need to cook food for them. I can just open a can.

I started feeding Merrick dry cat food several years ago. The girls really like it and it's 100% grain-free. So, when my vet said I needed to add canned, the extra cost was tempered by the knowledge Merrick makes canned cat food. Throughout December, Petco had Merrick canned for a buck a can, if you bought 10 or more. I rearranged my budget and was able to purchase 40 cans at that price.

The girls get half a can, each in the morning, before I head out the door for work. I refill the dry food in the dishes but I don't refill them during the day. If I sleep in, there have been days when the dry dish is completely empty when I get up. That's fine. They aren't going to starve.

So far, they like every flavor except the "Cowboy Cookout". I get the "You expect me to eat this?" look. After several of those, I don't buy that type.

Our other cats ate canned exclusively, only it was Fancy Feast. That brand has been reformulated to be lower in grain content than in the past. It's okay for the occasional treat, but for every day feeding, we're going with Merrick. I don't buy the large can because the girls don't like chilled food. I could feed them half a can in the morning and half a can at night but I'd have to warm it or leave it out to warm up to room temperature. I'd rather just pop a top and parcel it out.

One of the funniest things happening now is they know mornings are for canned food. Mija follows me into the kitchen and meows when I get a can down from the shelf. Pilchard will sit in the living room and meow as she watches me serve up the food. Cats don't meow at each other. Meowing is reserved for us humans. Mija has always been a bit more chatty than Pilchard. Now, they both are. It's pretty funny.

One aggravation is how Mija will take 2-3 bites of her food and then run to eat out of Pilchard's bowl. I keep saying, "Mija! It's the same stuff! Eat out of your bowl." I don't know what's prompting this. Pilchard does not growl, even when Mija sticks her head into the bowl. She usually gives up and wanders away. I don't know how to break Mija of this other than to feed her in a closed room.

Do I know if it's working in the drive to slim them down? No, honestly, I don't. I do think it has helped Pilchard with eliminating hair balls. We had a spate, in November, where she vomited a hairball every 2-3 days. I wound up taking her to the vet because I didn't think this was normal. Giving them hairball remedy has been something of a joke. Since adding canned to their diet every day, I have had one hairball. I'll take that.

If we develop dental issues, then I will go to an all canned diet. For now, this is what we've evolved into and it seems to be working okay. My pocketbook is lighter, that's for sure, as Merrick is not cheap, but I think I'm doing right by the girls and that's what matters.

Beverage:  Seltzer


I Win Christmas

Christmas shouldn't be a game of who wins. Really. It shouldn't. It's about giving happiness and graciously receiving yet another something you don't like. It's about feeling something other than the gimmies, which we were counseled against while children, but then asked, by everyone, "So what do you want for Christmas?" We start the consumerism early, folks.

Yet, there are times when something is given which is perfect. Last year, my oldest niece, Christina, gifted me with an Iowa Hawkeyes mobile. Perfect. Totally perfect. It could be said that she 'won' Christmas with the ultimate gift. This year, it was my turn.

One of the souvenirs people tend to come home with from Disneyland is a mouse-ears hat. The first time Carole and I went to Disney World, we got mouse hats, with our names on the back of them. You can order personalized hats from Disney's online store, but it's so much more satisfying to buy them and watch as the computerized sewing machine adds a name to the back.

My mother is never going to Disneyland or Disney World. Both involve travel which would be tiring for her. Plus, there is the walking. Of all the amusement parks on the planet, Disney parks are geared to be enjoyed by ambulatory as well as people on crutches and scooters and in wheel chairs. It seems to me Disney architects recognized, long before they were required to, people with disabilities shouldn't be left out of the Disney experience and there are wide avenues for travel. But that still doesn't mean mom, even with a scooter, for instance, is going to travel to either park. Enter Christmas and my trip to Anaheim.

I knew, heading out there, that she needed a mouse ears hat. Maybe needed is too strong of a word. She deserved a mouse ears hat. At her 80th birthday, great-granddaughter, Makayla, got her to wear a tiara and carry a wand. Mouse ears were the next step up in head gear. I also knew the hat had to be personalized with "Grandma".

On Sunday, November 8th, when Ashley, Liz and I walked into Disneyland, my first stop was the hat shop. They have everything you could want in Disney-fied head gear, everything; from Elsa's frozen tiara, with mouse ears, of course; to a cowboy or Christmas stocking hat with mouse ears. All of the hats could be personalized. After a good 10 minutes of being overwhelmed, I finally decided on this hat.

This is Minnie Mouse's hat. It's of a much heavier felt construction than other hats of female characters. I probably could have purchased a straight Mickey Mouse hat; mom does remember the Mickey Mouse club; but I really liked the bright color and the bow of Minnie's hat.

Here it is, personalized.

Due to the heavy felt, you have one option for writing. It's more expensive to personalize the hat, but mom is worth it. I wrapped it up, put it in a box and sent it to my niece, Christina. She did not know what the package was. She could remove it from the shipping box but she was not to open it. All the older great-grandkids were to gather around my mom and watch while she opened this mystery gift. Christina was to have her phone at the ready to take photos. They were finally able to open gifts this past weekend.

Mom had already received a "regular" gift from me so this was quite a surprise. Wyatt sits to mom's left. Kalub stands in front of her. Makayla sits on the floor and Lyllie doesn't care and is wandering away. Well, she's not quite 2 so this is all very exciting but what's this over here?

Even though Kalub's face is blurry, I love his look. Wyatt is bemused. Can't tell if Makayla thought it was silly.

She never, ever has to wear this again. It was totally and completely worth every penny I spent. Yes, I win Christmas this year.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea