Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Impending Darkness

Well guys... the time is coming near. Soon we'll have to set the clocks back and life in dreary darkness will begin.

OK... the above meme is a tad bit of an exaggeration. At the moment the sun is setting around 6pm. After the time change it will set around 5, and slowly set earlier until about the end of November when it will go down at around 4:30... and hover there until about mid-December when it will slowly start climbing back the other direction.

Yes... I'm a bit obsessed with this topic.

Anyone who's followed my blog for a while knows that I'm NOT a morning person, and that I get really depressed with the darkness this time of year. So every year about this time I vow to reform my night owl ways, and every year I fail spectacularly. Sigh.

This year, things seem to be going a bit better than usual though, so I've got my fingers crossed.

It actually started with my flu shot... or maybe it was the Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria & Pertussis vaccine.) Just in case you were wondering, going for a 45 mile bike ride the day after getting a vaccination is probably not the smartest move. It was such a beautiful day though... and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but by mile 15 my legs felt like they were made of lead, and by the time I got home I felt like I'd been hit by a truck!

The long and short of it is that I felt totally miserable for a few days. Normally I would have just taken some ibuprofen an not worried about it - but somehow I got a little voice telling me that it might not be a good idea, so I took to the interwebs and discovered some new research showing that taking any sort of analgesic before or after a vaccination makes said vaccination significantly less effective. Basically you end up blunting the immune response, which is sorta the whole point of the vaccine!

So I decided to just tough it out... which meant that I've been going to bed really early (for me) at around midnight. And remarkably enough, I've actually been sleeping through the entire night... like several nights in a row... that NEVER happens!

Of course, I've got some extra incentive to get out of bed at a reasonable hour... actually 4 little hungry feline incentives outside...

Plus, with the greenhouse cover on the hail house, it gets really warm in there once the sun comes up, so I need to open the windows lest I fry all of the plants I'm trying to protect!

Anyhow, I'm feeling much better now, and CatMan & I have been cramming in all of the long bike rides that we can before winter sets in.

This was from the ride the day after the flu shot... see why I couldn't say no?

I also ordered a few strings of Christmas lights... the neighbors are gonna die of shock... the grinch is decorating?!? 

Actually, some of them are little solar garden lights that I put on my little kitty cemetery - somehow it makes me feel better knowing there are lights out there. And the others I bought to use as indicator lights because I've decided that it's a real pain to keep plugging and unplugging the outdoor kitty heating pads, so I bought some remote control switches - but since I can't see if the heating pads are on or not, I wanted something that would make it easy.

So yes... cats are really the only thing that motivates me!

Speaking of which... Little Blackie is getting less scared of me, so I finally got a few shots of him/her... Not totally in focus but you get the idea...

And I think there are gonna be some early mornings involved in trapping them and getting them all fixed...

Anyhow, that's how I'm dealing with the impending darkness... how about you? Do you get depressed when the days get shorter? What do you do to deal with it?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Here Comes the Cold!

Well... it was bound to happen. We've been enjoying one of the warmest autumns on record here in the Mile High city, but alas, there is a frost advisory out for tonight. Well, as they say, all good things must end.

Soooo... I've spent the past few days getting ready.

First of all there's the Gray Boy.

Gray Boy
As it turns out, he has a family. Not a human family, at least not one that I know of, but he definitely has a feline family!

Gray Kitten
In addition to Gray Boy, there's a female (who I creatively call Gray Girl) and two adolescent kittens (Gray Kitten and Little Blackie).

I haven't managed to photograph the Gray Girl or Little Blackie yet because they're both really spooky, but the Gray Kitten is pretty friendly, and very bonded with her daddy (I'm assuming it's a girl, might be a boy.)

Anyhoo... I'm not sure where they all sleep, but being the cat lady that I am, I couldn't stand the thought of them out there in the wet and cold, so I now have a little kitty village on my back patio, complete with heated houses. I guess I found a use for Princess' heating pads.

OY! Well, you know what they say, in for a penny in for a pound. I think we're gonna be visiting the alley cat folks for some neutering and shots soon!

But the outdoor kitties weren't the only ones who got some heating pads. The first morning that it was in the 60's inside, I woke up to find Jasper huddled in his bed looking decidedly miserable. So he got a heating pad that goes under the top layer of blanket in his favorite cubby, and he's much happier now.

And, I dragged out the attic fan cover to make it warmer and less drafty in here.

Last year I made a few improvements to my original design and I'm quite pleased with it - much less droopy.

So... then there's the garden. I harvested everything that I could.

What's left of the basil

And then I put up the cover on the hail house/greenhouse.

To tell the truth it was a bit of a challenge to get the cover on and I'm not entirely sure it was worth the effort since most of the stuff inside is pretty much done anyhow. But hey, it was good practice, and now I'll get to see how warm it stays in there.

Besides, I was under doctor's orders to use my arms a lot - well, nurse's orders actually, because while I was prepping for the winter I decided to prep myself as well.

Yup... flu shot in one arm, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis in the other.

So that's what's been keeping me busy around here... well, you know, besides trying to fix everything that's broken lately. Speaking of which, the kitchen was apparently feeling left out because when I went to turn the light on yesterday... nothing.

Fortunately it just needed new lightbulbs so it wasn't a huge deal, but it did require another trip to the hardware store because it's a funky fixture that takes special fluorescent bulbs.

This curse has got to be over soon... doesn't it?

Anyhow, that's what I've been up to. How about you? What have you been doing to get ready for the coming winter?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Land of Constant Crisis

Well folks, I'm not quite sure what I've done to offend the gods, but evidently they are not pleased.

It started when the television blew up, but since then it just seems like there's been a never ending series of minor disasters around here.

So, the day after the TV went, I turned on my computer and it wouldn't boot Windows properly.

Thankfully, this turned out to be a minor problem caused by the fact that the computer was plugged into the TV, and since it could apparently no longer recognize the dead television, its little brain got confused and went on strike. Thankfully I had the tablet to get on the interwebs with and diagnose the problem.

Then a few days later I was doing the dishes and noticed a loud glugging sound coming from the basement. I figured the sewer was clogged again, as it does quite often, and I just needed to snake it out.

Well... I'll spare you the details, but I ended up having to order a special new snake online, which took several weeks to arrive, and in the meantime, I couldn't do laundry, and every time I did the dishes, horrible stuff would back up onto the floor and take an hour or so to drain out. OY!

The good news is that I got the new tool and the sewer pipe is now cleared... and I spent the day yesterday catching up on laundry.

So then... I went outside to do something and noticed that something seemed not quite right with the stairs to my deck.

On closer inspection it turns out that a chunk of the step along with the post and railing have pretty much completely rotted away. They really need to be replaced entirely, but that's not gonna happen this fall, so I shored up the step with some bricks and I'm working on patching the wood with an epoxy filler.

Then, I went out to the garage to do something, and the deadbolt lock fell completely apart. So that meant an emergency trip to the hardware store because I didn't want to leave the garage unlocked over night.

It ended up taking several hours to repair it because the hole wasn't quite deep enough for the lock to turn without friction... which may be why the old one died. But I drilled out the hole and now the new one works great.

So then CatMan and I went for a bike ride a few days ago, and on the way back I started noticing a bit more bounce in my tire than should be there... sure enough, it was flat. So we went to change out the tube... only the replacement tube had a hole it it too... and the tube of glue in my patch kit was dead. Arrrrggghhh!!!

Luckily I had a self stick patch, which won't hold over the long run, but was enough to get me home. So I ordered new tubes (and a new patch kit) and fixed the tire...

Then this evening I was outside feeding the Gray Boy when I noticed that the fluorescent lights out in the garage were flickering. Then they went out completely and there was a horrible smell of smoke.

I was seriously worried about the garage burning down...

So I called CatMan and he had me shut off all of the electricity to the garage. I sat outside for about half an hour while it aired out (didn't want to leave the door open with it unattended because I didn't want to risk a skunk or a raccoon getting in there.)

Anyhow, the smell of smoke cleared, but CatMan said I should leave the power off and check it a few more times before I go to bed just to be sure nothing's smoldering out there.

OK... so that brings us up to the present moment. Good GAWD!

Now, I know shit happens and stuff breaks, but Holy Moly! Does it all have to happen at once? Seriously, it just seems like stuff is breaking faster than I can fix it!

So I guess my next project is figuring out how to either repair or replace the lights in the garage...

Honestly, I just want to throw up my hands at this point and shout UNCLE!

I suppose the reality is just that I've been living in crisis mode for a LOOOONG time now. First Sputty got sick & died, then my mother died suddenly and there was all of that to deal with, then Princess...

Honestly, there just hasn't really been any time to deal with anything other than the emergency du jour for about three years now, so I suppose it's sort of inevitable that things are gonna pile up and eventually you're gonna have to pay the piper.

I'm really, REALLY hoping that things will slow down here soon so that I can catch my breath and maybe get out ahead of a few problems before they become crises...

I mean, it's gotta get better, right? PLEEEASE tell me it's gonna get better....

Soooo, tell me. How do you handle it when life just keeps throwing you curve balls?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reading, Movies and Self-Acceptance

So the past month or so with all of my television troubles, I've been in a bit of a funk.

Part of it was just the PITA factor of having a big unresolved problem to deal with, but there's also another nagging issue that's been eating at me.

When the television broke, I was sorta thinking that it would be a good opportunity for me to "simplify" a bit. Not that I wasn't planning on either fixing or replacing it, but I thought perhaps it would be a good opportunity to explore simpler kinds of entertainment like reading and listening to the radio.

Listening to the radio I actually found to be quite enjoyable, the problem is that other than music and mumbo-jumbo talk shows, there just isn't a lot of good programming out there on the radio these days! I did discover that I really liked listening to Monday Night Football, but that was about it.

Reading, on the other hand... Oy!

Now I know that this sorta falls into the category of simple living blasphemy, but the truth is that I just HATE to read.

OK... perhaps "hate" is a strong word, but reading is something that has been a life long struggle for me. I spent years in summer school and special reading classes, and honestly, none of it really helped. The basic conclusion of all of my teachers was that I was just lazy and not concentrating.

And, since anything other than academic excellence was really not an option in my family, that meant that I just had to push myself harder. Which I did.

But by the time I was in college the misery factor was getting pretty darned high.

I can recall many late nights when I had to lock myself into a closet-sized study room, and walk in small circles reading out loud to myself, just to have some hope of comprehending anything.

And don't EVEN get me started on those horrific microfilm machines! I'm sure some of you are too young to remember that particular form of torture, but basically, anything that was published in a journal was only available on microfilm.

And to find the right article you had to fast forward through the pages which would zip along from right to left causing a nausea disaster for anyone like me who happens to be sensitive to those sorts of issues.

More than once I had to stop and go puke in the bathroom because it was like motion sickness on steroids!

Over the years I've tried many times to get to a place where I could enjoy reading, and on occasion, when there's something that I really, really want to read, I have found that I can enjoy it, even though it still takes great effort. Still, it's more of a case of enjoying the information despite the fact that I had to suffer through the reading in order to get it, if that makes any sense.

I almost wonder if I might not have a mild case of dyslexia, or some sort of an eye-tracking problem, since I have terrible trouble keeping my place and almost always have to read with a piece of paper covering the lines below the one I'm reading, so that I don't skip lines or inadvertently end up back on the one that I just read.

This is why I prefer blogs where people separate their writing into paragraphs that are no more than 5-6 lines long, because otherwise, I just have a really hard time following it.

And this whole idea that good readers always talk about how they can somehow look at a page and magically divine the information without ever having to think about the words... well, I'm not saying that they're lying, but seriously, I can't even conceive of how that could be possible!

Honestly, even on my best days, reading is basically a process of reading aloud to myself in my head, and the comprehension simply does not occur until I can hear the words in my head.

Anyhow, here's the deal. I've spent nearly 5 decades on this planet so far, and I'm just getting really, REALLY tired of beating myself up over this issue. So I have decided to make peace with myself.

I'm not saying that I'm NEVER going to try to read another book, but I think I just need to drop the whole judgmental idea that people who read are somehow good and noble, and people who prefer to watch movies are just lazy good-for-nothin's!

And I'm also starting to think that perhaps instead of seeing my reading difficulties as some sort of a curse, or as evidence that something's wrong with me, perhaps I need to start to honor it as one of the things that allowed me to become the person that I am today.

After all, if I'd been a good reader, I might never have discovered other things that I dearly love, like music and sports.

And if I hadn't been so utterly miserable in college, I might not have ever had the guts to reject a more conventional life and to choose a simpler path.

OK! So there you have it. I think I may go lay on the couch and watch something on Netflix now... with No Shame!

So tell me, are you a book person or a movie person? Does any of this resonate for anybody else out there?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Confessions of a First World Whiney-Pants

OK... just a warning here. I'm about to complain about some decidedly first world problems.

Sooo... y'all might remember that about a month ago my television exploded.

OK, OK... the TV itself didn't actually explode, but something inside of it did. CatMan and I had just finished watching a movie when... BAM! It made a loud exploding sound and the screen went black.

Apologies to anyone who's not a
fan of The Jetsons!
Thus began the saga of the television. I'll spare you the gory details, but the short version is that they no longer make plasma televisions, and the LED/LCD TV's don't have the same picture quality that the plasmas did. Sooo... since movie night is sorta "our thing," and since I'm not a real fan of the "disposable world" model, I decided to get the plasma repaired.

Big Mistake.

One month and $650 later, the scam artists repair shop where I took it says it can't be fixed. In fairness, these things can be difficult to repair, but honestly, the deeper I get with these people, the less I want to do business with them.

They offered to either refund half of the money or apply what I've paid toward a new TV from their shop where they would "match the price" of any store in town. But after about a week of frustration trying to get them to give me a price on the model I was interested in - with them insisting that I should just come down to the store to "pick out one that I liked" - it became clear that this was going nowhere.

The kicker came yesterday when they FINALLY called back with a price that was $200 more than the same TV was listed elsewhere... oh, and it would take a few weeks to get it.

Of course, when I went to check the prices at the other stores again, I found out that all of the other stores' sales on this model had conveniently ended the day they finally returned my call with a price quote. I'm sorta guessing they knew more than I did about the schedule of those sale prices, and that's why they stonewalled for a week on getting me a price. Grrrrrr....

That left me with two choices. I could buy the new TV from the people who've been jerking me around for a month, or I could walk away from about $325 and either buy something used off of Craigslist or buy from one of the evil big box stores.

After shopping around on Craigslist for a used plasma, I came to the sad conclusion that going used was just not worth it. I mean, most of the TVs up there were at least 4-5 years old. And since plasma TVs apparently don't live very long because of the high voltages needed to make them work, it seemed likely that if I went used, I'd be back in the same place in a few years and honestly, I just don't want to go through this again anytime soon!

Sooo... while it pained me to walk away from $325, I honestly just did NOT want to get in any deeper with those people.

It remains to be seen if they will actually refund the amount they said they would. At this point, it would not surprise me at all if they come up with some reason that they can't honor the refund. CatMan (who has a slightly more devious mind than I do) even suggested that they might not have even tried to fix it, and that the whole thing is just a ruse to get you to buy a new TV from them.

Anyhow, as much as it pained me to do it, I ended up buying a new TV from the big box store. And you know what... it was easy as pie. I walked in, handed them a credit card, they loaded the thing into my car and in a few hours I was up and running and watching my beloved Denver Broncos eek out a victory in a game they should have won handily! (But that's another story.)

So I dunno. I have terribly mixed feelings about this entire experience. On the one hand, I totally believe that people should fix things, and buy used, and support local businesses rather than huge corporations. But when trying to do those things is expensive, horrendously inconvenient, financially risky, and also forces you to contend with somewhat shady characters... well, it makes me understand why people don't choose that option more often.

And while I know that having a giant home-theater sized television is not exactly a necessity - especially in a world where there are millions of people who go to bed hungry every night - I can't say that I blame people for simply plunking their money down at a big box store rather than trying to navigate the nightmare of other options.

I'm not sure what this all says about me or about our society in general, but I do know one thing. If "doing the right thing" requires this level of hassle and frustration, the vast majority of people are just not gonna do it. Period. And it's hard to blame them.

I just don't know how you get people to behave in a more ecologically responsible manner when the personal price of doing it is so high. I suppose if I was a "good greenie" I'd just get rid of the television entirely - but that's a topic for another post.

So tell me. What do you think about this little saga? Would you have stuck it out with the local repair folks? Do you think I'm evil for owning a television? I'd love to hear your thoughts...