Friday, October 31, 2014

All Hallows Eve - Don't Blink!

The Monkeys have recently become enamored with an ancient Sci-fi tv show, Dr Who.  I say ancient, because it is as old as me!  So that makes it at least as old as dirt.

Since it is Halloween today, aka All Hallows Eve, they decided to decorate the yard.
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

Just remember...Don't. Ever. Blink!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Power Company Roulette

Here in Texas, we have a totally deregulated power delivery system.  What that means is there are dozens of power company providers out there, all of whom want your initial business.

If you come from a background of only one power provider (KP&L anyone?) then this whole deregulated concept is puzzling.  It took me years of overpaying for electricity to figure out I could power-company shop every year, or less!  That way, if you keep changing companies, between the two lowest, with the best customer service histories, you tend to get the lowest possible rates. 

The catch is, the company with the cheapest rate for a "new customer" will not offer you a great rate to renew.  So much for customer loyalty, I guess! 

So if that is how the game is played, I can play it too.  There is a website, that all the companies list their teaser rates on, and all their plans.  It has all the legal details worked out, so you are not getting slammed, etc.  And you can compare and pick your plan from all the offerings. 

Since the plan I chose last year is about to expire, I went shopping for a new plan, and a new power company.  Easy!  We should get a better plan rate this weekend, and we will do a plan just long enough to see us through winter into spring (6mo).  Then we play roulette again, and pick a summer plan from whoever has the best rate then.  By doing this, we can expect to roughly halve our electricity bill from what it would be if we stayed with the same company every year. 

Hey, I never said the deregulation system made sense, only that I eventually learned how to game the system!

Friday, October 24, 2014

How not to bathe the Princess of the Universe

Cat Bathing As A Martial Art

Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick themselves clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in their saliva that works like new, improved Wisk - dislodging the dirt where it hides and whisking it away. 

I've spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind believers, I've been able to discount all the facts to the contrary - the kitty odors that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that cling to the throw rug by the fireplace. 

The time comes, however, when a person must face reality; when he must look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and announce: "This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez." 

When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under you arm and head for the bathtub:  Know that although the cat has the advantages of quickness and utter disregard for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower (a simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions). 

Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask and a long-sleeve flak jacket. 

Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the water. Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.
Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish (cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a product- testing experiment for J.C. Penney). 

Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to your survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life. Cats have no handles. 

Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more that two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He'll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off (the national record is - for cats - three latherings, so don't expect too much). 

Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait (occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg). After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat. 

Do NOT try to use a blow dryer. You might as well use a vacuum cleaner.
In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psycho-ceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.
You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath. But, at least now he smells a lot better.
    - By Bud Herron

This was scrounged off the net.  There are several variations of this out there, including one involving the toilet.  There was a time in my life when I lived with cats.  Five cats, all related to each other (we were initially inexperienced in sexing young cats, which is why 2 cats became 5 cats!)  My 2 friends and I shared a duplex with these 5 cats.  Most people can figure out quickly that I am a dog person by nature...cats know this instinctively.  But these five tolerated my presence in their house well.

However, at one point we had an outbreak of fleas.  This was before the advent of cat-safe topical flea killing drops.  Our only defense was Siphotrol for the house, and Mycodex for the cats...Mycodex, a wonderful, cat safe, effective...shampoo.  Yes, using Mycodex involves bathing your cat(s).

Each of the cats had a very distinct personality.  Willie was El Gato del Sol, the Sunshine Cat.  Warm, affectionate and loving, he never hurt anyone that I know of.  Zoe, the Enforcer, she was Mama cat to the other 3, and the Great Disciplinarian.  If any of her offspring got out of line, she was quick with a paw to smack some sense into them.  Noa, the largest of them all, as wide hunkered down, as a 24pack of Diet Coke laid flat...she was sweet, but don't occupy HER chair, or else!  Smackie, the smallest, and my personal favorite.  He had some health issues, probably Fatty Lipidosis of the liver, but with some intensive home care, managed to recover.  And then there was Siminy...the blue eyed, mushroom colored, long haired Princess of the Universe. 

For reasons I can no longer recall due to the passage of time, I got it into my head one evening, to give Siminy a myself.  That was my initial mistake.  The next was forgetting to buy a pair of long welders gloves.  I put about 3" of warm water in the tub (yes it had sliding glass doors even!), and got my supplies arranged, and deposited Siminy in the tub.  The Princess of the Universe was displeased by this turn of events.  However, I prevailed, for this was not my first cat rodeo.  I got her wetted down, soaped up and de-flea'd.  Then came time to rinse her off.

It did not go as planned.  As I poured warm water over her to rinse, she panicked, and attempted to back our from my hand.  In doing so, she inadvertently stuck her whole face down into the bath water, undoubtedly getting water up her nose.  This resulted in a full-on freakout of a fully clawed feline.  I scooped her up out of the water, each hand under her forelegs (think armpits), holding her up out of the water, thinking this would calm her down.  My mistake.  This maneuver merely placed my hand and arm within easy bite range.  First bite was to the back of my hand, but she couldn't really get purchase on me there.  She looked at me as I had yelped, the look in her eyes not a loving one, and turned, biting my arm just above the watch band, in a nice tender meaty part of me.  She did not let go.  I howled!  I admit, many unkind thoughts and actions flashed through my mind in those moments, but I did NOT fling the cat across the bathroom.  Understanding and sympathy prevailed, and I waited until she let go.

I do not recall exactly what happened after that, but I suspect I had help in rinsing the soap off her, and then dressed the bites with antibiotic.  I healed, and Siminy forgave me eventually, I think.  I still have the scars on my arm, and think of our Princess often, and despite my mistakes of that day, with fondness, for Siminy was a dear and precious cat, the Princess of the Universe.

That was also the last time I ever tried to bathe a cat!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Turning over an old leaf

At my age, I can't very well expect to say I am trying to turn over a new leaf, hence the title.  I am decidedly NOT a morning person.  My husband is.  I am, by nature, a night owl, and always have been.  Two of my children are night owls,
though our son, takes after his daddy, not just in looks, but in sleep habits.  So why on earth, am I trying to force myself into arising well before the dawn?

Some of you may know that I am living with Hashimoto's disease.  Essentially, my thyroid is in the process of slowly being destroyed by my own immune system.  It's perfectly treatable, synthetic hormones are readily available and inexpensive, but if left untreated, can wreak havoc on your life.   It can cause depression, brain fog, lower your metabolism, lead to weight gain, etc.  I was tired of being tired all the time.

On meds, I feel much better.  This is a good thing.  I no longer want to sleep all day.  But I still have a hard time getting up in the morning, despite a reasonable amount of sleep the night before.  I also noticed that my cycling has not been improving.  I am still slower than I would like, and that the groups I ride with(behind? chase?) would prefer too.  It bugs me.  A lot.  To the point of often putting me in a dark self deprecating mood that can last all day.  I am unsure if this moodiness is thyroid related or something else, but it has become time to DO something about it.

Since I cannot change others, I guess I have to change ME.  So I've set the alarm for the ugly hour of 5:00am, and asked DH to make sure I am up by then if he goes riding before 5:00.  That way I have an hour to myself to use the Bowflex, to try to add some strength, especially in my legs.  The Bowflex is safe to use without a spotter, and though not as "good" as freeweights, it still will provide a challenge, and hopefully will permit me to improve some muscle tone, and shed some fat.

I am also pushing myself to ride more.  Like cycling great Eddy Merckx said  "Ride lots."  Or was it "Don't buy upgrades, ride up grades!"  I am trying to do both.  Or at least what passes for hills around here... This involves an hour or so around midday, concentrating on cadence and speed.  Plus doing the local bike shop Saturday coffee rides, so I am forced to ride with folks faster than me.  I am hoping it all helps.

Perhaps I will see you out on the road some time.  If you've got a bike buried in your garage, consider dusting it off, tuning it up, and going for a ride.  You might surprise yourself!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A sign of Fall

Jonathan apples from Missouri via the Louisburg cider mill.
What to do with all those apples before they go bad?  Time to peel and dry them. any excess that won't fit in the dehydrator will get sauced.  I think I will have about 3 more full 6-tray batches to dry.  I hope I have enough freezer tubs for the excess applesauce.
One large box of Jonathan apples #2 grade.
Monkeys hard at work, making apple strings to eat (or dry!)
The peeler didn't remove all the peel, but that's OK.
Hey ma, dog loves apple! Please!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A cascade of FAIL

 Ok, most of you have heard the news that Ebola is in the US, and in Dallas specifically.  What you may not be aware of, is the epic quantity of suck and fail that has come about from all this.

1.  A man from Liberia who had extensive close contact with an Ebola victim was allowed to fly to the US with minimal screening.

2.  When he went to the hospital complaining of being sick and having a 103* fever, he was sent home with antibiotics, despite telling the intake screener that he had come from Liberia.

3.  A couple days after that, when he was catastrophically sick, (ie: projectile vomiting, etc) he was transported by EMS to the hospital, where they decided to keep him in isolation.

4.  Although the hospital staff did their best, he died.  Unfortunately, not before infecting at least 2 other persons, both staff nurses who treated him.

5.  It is obvious the minimal protocols of paper mask, cotton gown, gloves, tape and face shield are INSUFFICIENT to prevent transmission of Ebola.  Nurses have complained that they had no instructions, that contaminated waste (bedding etc) was allowed to pile up to the ceiling, and that apparently the pneumatic delivery system for samples was used to send Ebola-contaminated samples to the labs.

6.  Staff treating the first patient, were not restricted in movement or contacts.  Patient #2 spent close time with her boyfriend.  He was recently admitted to hospital for observation, after the nurse-girlfriend came back positive.  Oh, the CDC says they are 'monitoring' all of them (folks who had contact with Ebola) twice daily, with temperature checks.  If that is true, then how in the hell did patient #3 FLY TO Cleveland on a commercial jet?  And then FLY BACK to Dallas only hours before she was found to have a fever (and tested positive for Ebola)!  Did her CDC tester fly with her? *(Actually latest info says she knew she had a low grade fever at the time she boarded the Frontier jet for Dallas...)

7.  Seriously, it is beginning to sound like a bad game of 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon!  Only this time, it's 6 Degrees of Ebola, and it can kill you, dead right there, DRT.

No, I don't think it's time to break out the HAZMAT suit, or hunker in the bunker.  Not yet, anyway.  But it IS time to consider what would happen if this disease gets out of control in this country.  Time to make a plan for you and yours.  Game it out--how would  you deal with a workplace environment, schools, going to church, buying groceries?

No plan is perfect, but some sort of plan is better than standing around, wondering WTF to do next!  Stay safe out there everyone.  Don't panic, that won't help anyone.  As Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify" everything you read, or hear.  The .gov is heavily invested in self-preservation, NOT necessarily YOUR preservation.  Never confuse the two.

Friday, October 10, 2014