Friday, October 10, 2014

How NOT to end up in a horror flick

Ah, October. Usually, I blog about my scary movie pics for the month. This is when my husband and I usually pick four horror movies and watch one each Friday night during the month. We are a little late picking our films this year although Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a gimme, and The Corpse Bride is already under our belts.

However, all this got me to thinking about how I can make sure that I never end up in a horror flick. I've come up with a list guidelines to follow to that end.

1 - No scary basements - Basements can be frightening, even without the threat of underground monsters and corpses. This is where normal household disasters such as floods can occur, and the ever present fear of finding some hitherto unknown giant insect only adds to their creepiness. I do confess that my own basement can be frightening. Those dark corners where you store things you never use (and let's face it that should mean you don't need to keep them) are unexplored territory. Who knows what doom awaits you when you do finally pull them out - for whatever reason.

At any rate, given their inherently spooky nature, it's best to minimize the risk by avoiding completely scary basements. It's much better to go for a finished basement, preferably one without those root cellar-style doors because those always seem to lead to an appearance in a slasher film complete with an eerie soundtrack and a masked villain who was abused at a summer camp.

2 - No scary attic This is only slightly less important than the basement issue. Attics are also breeding grounds for usually unseen insects, not to mention families of squirrels, raccoons and other interlopers. They are also classic places to find haunted items. They tend to have boxes that contain creepy old clothing, photos, books, and other mysterious items that might further the plot of a horror movie. It's harder to finish most attics, due to the necessity of town permits and expensive construction, so think carefully before purchasing a home with a creepy attic. For the record, crawlspaces are not much better.

3 - No weird street names Listen, when you're out shopping for a home, street names matter. Be straightforward with your realtor. Tell him or her that you do not wish to live on any streets containing the words Death, Kill, Blood, Bloody, Grave ... I could go on, but you get the picture. It's just better not to give any supernatural entities out there that might be looking for a new roosting spot any reason to think that your place should be their place.

Oh, and thanks to the Nightmare franchise, Elm Street is no longer an acceptable name. For that matter, since some otherworldly creatures like to behave in a manner contrary to our expectations, streets like Happy Place, Smile Path, and Wonderful Way should probably make it to the no-go list, as well.

4 - No town named Sanctuary Do I really need to explain this one? If there is one thing that generations of horror flicks should have taught us it is that a town named Sanctuary offers anything but. Ditto for places like Point Pleasant, Sunshine City, Happy Town, etc. As with street names, the reverse also holds true for town names. Avoid any townships that thought including words such as Devil, Slaughter, Kill, Blood, Grave, Skull or Witch in their name was a good idea. Oh, and any combination with the word 'Haven' is right out.

5 - No creepy collections (dolls, clowns/ventriloquist dummies/etc.) Even if I were a ventriloquist, I would have to find some spot outside of my home where I could leave the dummy.Everybody knows that someday, that doll will get up on its own and walk around stabbing people with a sharp blade (although for some reason, most of its murders will occur in silhouette). The same goes for antique dolls and clowns, which seem to be especially dangerous.

6 - No garbage disposal many a bright, cheerful, sunny day has been ruined by the impending doom of a clogged garbage disposal. If Hollywood is to be believed, it is impossible to clear one without some hapless plumber or well-meaning do-it-your-selfer losing a hand or at least a few fingers. Nope - it's far better to stick with the much safer sink strainer to dispose of food waste.

7 - Avoid Cemetery Proximity Never ... ever move or live near a cemetery. Now, in practice, I love cemeteries. I find them peaceful. I love to wander through the headstones and reflect on the lives lived by those memorialized on tombstones. However, let's face it, if Hollywood has taught us anything, it's to never live near one. First, there's a rainstorm, then some lines go down, and the next thing you know, dead people are calling you up and freaking you out. Interesting that though some of the occupants of older, historical graveyards probably never even knew what a phone was, they seem more than able to communicate via these phone lines. Death must endow our spirits with an innate supernatural knowledge of technology.

Several years ago, my husband and I drove by this cemetery sign. I was horrified. Perhaps the name is meant to express the hope that those interred there are enjoying an afterlife with the hosts of heaven, but I immediately thought, "My God! This will be Ground Zero for the Zombie Apocalypse!"

Sunday, June 1, 2014

5 Kitchen Principles My Husband Doesn't Think We Need (but we do)

I used to think the success of a marriage depended heavily on how well you and your partner slept together. I don't mean sex, I mean sleep. Issues such as who snores, who steals the blanket, who bends their leg up in the middle of the night resulting in their partner being kneed in the kidney (sadly in our case, it's both of us) ... you know - that kind of stuff. However, I now think kitchen etiquette may be equally or more important. We rarely fight over sleep issues, but discord in the kitchen can start a war. I confess that I have a lot of rules - ahem I mean suggestions - that facilitate cleanliness, orderliness and happiness, although my husband seems to be under the impression that these are things I brought with me when I beamed down from the mother ship.

1 - Balanced Eggs - Does anyone remember being taught in Driver's Ed to remove and tighten lug nuts opposite each other when changing a tire? I do. And for some reason, that logic and the notion of balance led to my Egg Removal System. I start by taking one of the outer eggs out. The second egg to be removed is the one opposite the now empty spot at the other end of the container. This results in a nicely balanced egg carton.

Beautifully Balanced

My husband on the other hand, seems to thrive on the precariousness of chaos. He takes eggs haphazardly from random locations in the carton. Sometimes, he removes all of the center eggs. This isn't too bad because at least the container remains balanced. However, other times, I have picked up the carton only to have it tilt dangerously under the weight of the remaining eggs all being on one side. If I were a more suspicious person, I might even think his pattern wasn't random at all, but part of some master plan designed to make me crazy, even though he insists that 'this is the way we do it on Earth'.

This is madness!

2 - FIFO vs LIFO - The most important principle in my kitchen. When I first began shouting FIFO at my husband, he accused me of speaking in my alien tongue, and it took me some time to realize that I must have learned the principles of FIFO and LIFO in economics courses I took in college. Apparently, they don't teach that in standard high school educations (a glaring oversight in my humble obsessive compulsive opinion).

FIFO (First in first out) ensures that I will not have to engage in one of those horrid sessions where I end up discarding food items that somehow expired before we even bought our current home. My husband's LIFO (last in first out) system means that he will always be using our freshest ingredients, which might sound like a good thing but actually brings wastefulness to new heights. My obsessive compulsive stocking up plan directly clashes with his LIFO plan. More battles have been fought over FIFO/LIFO than I care to recount.

3 - Manual pre-wash - This brings us to Antoine. Who is Antoine, you ask? He is my dishwasher. No, I don't have a servant, it's the name I gave to the automatic dishwasher (because the perfect man would do dishes, right?) Anyway, Antoine was only named after the TV incident. Let me explain.

A few years ago, we decided it was time to join the 21st Century and buy a digital television. We lugged the old heavy clunker off the TV stand and went to the store. Hubby's eyes glazed over in euphoria as he envisioned himself sitting on the couch watching the latest action flick that starred a marine, a firefighter, and a cop chasing an alien monster through a city in hovercrafts on a screen three times the size of our old clunker. I snapped my fingers to regain his attention and we set about selecting a big screen television. He hugged the box the whole way as we wheeled the big cart through the parking lot to the car, where we realized that the box was too big and clunky to fit in my little Saturn. So we removed the large packaging right there in the parking lot and with a lot of grunting, cursing and 'be carefuls' barely managed to fit the television in the back seat. I drove home while hubby knelt on the floor holding the TV to prevent it from falling into the seats or windows. As I struggled to navigate the mean streets without the benefit of being able to actually see anything in my rearview mirror, I heard him murmuring to the newest member of our household. "What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm telling Gladys that everything will be okay," he replied. (And he thinks I'm the one who's crazy?)

At any rate, since he had Gladys, I named the new dishwasher Antoine. However, though Antoine does dishes, he is not a superhero. He cannot remove stuck on food, and if no pre-wash is performed, he spits plates and utensils back out still carrying remnants of the prior evening's meal. Just last week, my husband asked if I had unloaded and rinsed off the dirty dishes in Antoine because he recalled them having a lot more residue on them. "Aha!" I attempted to use this as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of dish-scraping, but I think the message was lost in his insistence that I am insane for sneaking around behind his back to rinse and reorder the dishwasher.

Because of course there is a set pattern for loading Antoine in the most efficient manner possible. Unfortunately, I have been unable to properly convey these rules to my husband. For the most part, I simply wait for him to leave the room to reconfigure the load pattern. Never, ever disrupt a man when he is loading the dishwasher. This might discourage him and result in an even worse condition ... dishes left in the sink.

4 - Recycling On a serious note, recycling is very important to me. I am afraid that our abuse of the environment is stealing the future from the next generation.

As such, I have tried various techniques to enforce recycling in my home. I set up a composter, which I really liked until I realized that my dogs would always know that the composted material was originally food as evidenced by their tendency to eat the dirt.

I try to limit the number of paper products we use, however convincing my husband that it shouldn't take 15 paper towels to drain the grease and oil from chicken cutlets has proved to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Our town collects a lot of material in its recycling efforts, and I've tried to keep my husband updated on the latest changes, but his memory program must need updating because he keeps reverting back to Recycling version 1.0 in which only minimal amounts of material are collected. This means I actually have to REMOVE items from the garbage in order to redistribute them to the appropriate recycling container. This is not - I repeat NOT - a task that I am fond of.

5 - An Easy Retrievable Inventory Plan  I have OCD. I admit it. I'm not ashamed (most of the time), but that's only because few people actually see the extent of my madness, which only becomes visible when one opens a cabinet and sees 20 plus cans of tuna. This would be less problematic if I were a Doomsday Prepper, but I'm not.

My madness revealed

Now, in keeping with my FIFO standard, the cans are stacked in order of best by date, but that's still a whole lot of tuna. (On a side note, I have resisted the temptation to further organize them by brand name, unlike my aging CD collection, which is still stored in Genre/Artist/Date of release order.)

And that's just one example. I currently have 31 rolls of paper towels and 42 rolls of toilet paper, yet somehow I managed to run out of tissues at the height of allergy season. And that's because of improper Inventory Storage. My husband believes that if you're able to close the freezer/cabinet door or the shelf doesn't collapse under the weight of its massive supplies then all is well. However, as you can see, not only does this violate my FIFO principle, but it makes it very difficult to tell when you are running low on something. Now, my husband believes this wasn't a problem because we have enough toilet paper to see us through the decade and that can be used in a pinch as a substitute, but TP is a poor substitute for tissues, especially when your trees are dropping enough pollen to make your car seem as though it is glowing with nuclear waste.

The quest for an easy inventory management system continues.

I suppose some people will read this and conclude that I am either insane or an alien as my husband insists, but I believe order in the kitchen to be one of the keys to personal happiness and marital bliss.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Christmas Chronicles - Christmas with Cats

Seven years ago, I welcomed a Siamese mix one-year-old rescue, two Siamese kittens and a new puppy into my home. Though I'd had dogs and cats for years, I had little warning as to the absolute devastation these furry little creatures would wreak upon my home. I was regularly updating a blog for the kittens at the time. I have decided to compile all of the Christmas posts into one this year rather than have to scroll up through an archive to follow it.

The Christmas Chronicles

Day 1
Since this Christmas season finds us with four new companions, one dog and three Siamese cats, we will begin the Christmas festivities with some test decorations.

First, we put out the plastic poinsettias (real ones are toxic to cats). There, those look nice.

The day passed uneventfully. I have hope!

Day 2
Wake up and pick up pieces of plastic poinsettias and reassemble plants. Re-place on shelf.

Today's agenda is to progress decoration process with some lights in window. Two battery operated candles held on by suction cups are placed at top of window. Strings of lights are detangled and plugged in to check for outages. All systems are a go. Husband begins attaching lights to window with more suction cups, but Benton starts chewing on light string before it's up. Sight of the cat with entire Christmas light bulb in mouth is alarming, to say the least. Lights are taken down and re-packed.

Agenda modified. Will string plastic bell garland up in bay window instead.

Garland is up.

Cats discover wonderful clinking sound of bell against window.

Hourly restringing of lights necessitated.

Day 3

Wake up. Reassemble and re-place plastic poinsettia.
Restring garland in window.

Notice completely destroyed-by-puppy slat on brand new Futon. Does not bode well for Christmas tree.

Hide chewed sofa with blanket.

Pull out boxes containing Christmas decorations.

Put up artificial tree. Make quick run to pet store to buy bitter apple to spray tree and discourage chewing.

Decorate tree. Before decorations complete, Jack climbs 1/3 way up tree. Remove cat from tree. Remove broken string of beads that cat got stuck on.

Take picture of mostly intact tree (with new living cat ornament).

Day 4

Awaken, re-assemble poinsettia, restring window garland, hide chewed sofa slat with blanket and spray tree with more bitter apple.

Release the kittens from bedroom where they spent the night to keep tree intact.

Slip on piece of broken beaded garland left in hall by cat.

Throw broken pieces away and fix garland strings on tree, leaving bottom branches bare. Moved all ornaments to higher level on tree. Count blessings that only Jack is messing with tree, Benton is content to play with fallen ornaments and tree skirt.

Day 5

Awaken, find plastic poinsettia intact!!
Restring window garland, cover chewed sofa slat with blanket, restring tree beads and rehang ornaments from the floor.

Find puppy chewing on hard-to-find plastic-with-attached-plastic-hook cat-safe ornaments. Plastic hook now missing. Throw out ruined ball. Respray bitter apple on tree.

Find puppy chewing on another ornament after cat knocks it off tree. Throw out second ruined ornament.

Take last picture of tree with all ornaments and Jack. Remove all plastic ball with attached plastic hook ornaments from tree.

Day 6

Awaken and find that tree has come to life.

No, wait, not come to life ... full of squriming cats. Benton has discovered tree and has climbed 3/4 of the way up it. Unlike Jack, who climbs calmly from the bottom, Benton leaps at tree from a distance and starts to climb.

In act of betrayal, the normally demure Stuff Kitty is under tree playing with fallen ornaments.

Find Siamese cat tree ornament on floor missing attached hanging string. Remove all Siamese cat ornaments from tree.

While typing up day's entry, puppy brings what once was a knit Santa ornament made by Mom, but is now merely chewed red and white yarn. Must now go and remove all knitted homemade ornaments from tree.

Day 7

Awoke, restrung window garland, covered chewed sofa slat with blanket, picked up all tree ornaments and re-hung on tree, and picked up stuffing from puppy-chewed throw pillow.

Startled short time later by vigorous ornament clanging from living room. Make way to room to see Benton hanging out mid-way up the tree shaking it. Not sure of mechanical ability that allows 7 pound cat to shake 50 pound tree, but attempt to gently remove kitty from tree. Benton unhappy with removal attempts. Knocks all ornaments around him off and watches as silly human tries to catch them. Catching process a miserable failure. Retrieve broken ornaments from floor and place on TBG (To Be Glued) pile. Scare kitty out of tree through cunning use of piercing shriek of frustration.

Remove all breakable ornaments from tree. Wooden soldiers and plastic candy canes remain. Restring broken beads. Make note in calendar book to go to after Christmas sale to purchase new decorations for next year.

Startled again by sound of Christmas tree branches moving. Run in to see Benton defy the laws of physics and scale outer edges of tree branches vertically. Attempt to stop bead garlands from breaking and falling as Jack dives into tree from window sill. Evil Cat Fred accompanies the merriment by running up and down piano keys. Dogs find chewed throw pillow again and play tug of war with it.

Have realized there is no alcohol in house. Must rectify this situation pronto!
Day 8

Sad day here.

Christmas Tree has been beheaded. Attempts at reconnecting head of said tree succeeded but with considerable disfigurements.

Defeated, collection of remaining ornaments, plastic candy canes and wooden soldiers undertaken. Of wooden soldiers, five remain intact, one has lost both arms and six are AWOL. Although desire to retreat from attack of giant paws is understandable, desertion is never acceptable. Remaining soldiers will be awarded Medal of Honor in recognition of attempts to hold the Christmas Tree and stave off attacking feline army and double arm amputee will receive Purple Heart. AWOL soldiers will be shot (if ever located) and dishonorably discharged from Christmas army as punishment for desertion.

Day 9

Awakened in middle of night by marauding kittens. Since nothing left to knock off tree, instead removed (previously thought to be) permanently affixed door stopper from bathroom door. Spent hours knocking it around floor. Dogs fought in doorway, slamming stopperless-door into tile. Not broken yet - phew! Must rectify situation post-haste.

Took picture of post-reconstruction-after-unfortunate-decapitation-incident tree. Additional procedures appear necessary.

AWOL soldiers not yet located.

Day 10

Have lost all hope. Ornaments ... gone. Beaded garland ... broken. Tree ... destroyed. BAH HUMBUG!!

The tree sits pathetically dark in the corner of the room. Fear of possible chewing damage and/or decapitation breakage prevents test lighting of happy Christmas light strings. Its branches hang shamefully bare as if the tree lacks the strength to offer any safe haven for festive holiday decorations. The beaded garland strings are broken and hanging down, in mournful depiction of tree's holiday shame. Its skirt has long since been removed by vicious, spiteful beings who hide their vindictive nature behind soft fur, long tails and misleadingly sweet purrs. Their daily attacks remain relentless, though there is almost nothing left for them to destroy.

This I vow to my tree: I will return you to your glory ... as soon as I get new decorations and some energy back!

Days 11 through 14
Kittens continue to climb tree. Badly twisted beads have been removed from tree.

Bare tree caused marauding kittens to pull down window garland and drag through house. Battery operated candle also removed by kitten. Batteries found but remain alarmed at failure to locate bulb. All window decorations removed.

Two AWOL soldiers have been located and are awaiting trial.

New unbreakable ornaments await placement on tree scheduled for Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve
‘Twas the morning ‘fore Christmas
I awoke and I stared
At the little furry faces
That thought that I cared
That they were quite hungry
So I got out of bed
Went into the backroom
So they could be fed
As I entered the room
Shuffling my feet
I saw the cat smile
His joy was complete

He’d found the bag
in which I hid some toys
some mousies and teasers
for my cat girls and boys

He stood atop a chair
So that he could reach
The bookshelf I’d used
To hide the toys out of reach

As I reached for the dishes
There arose such a clatter
He grabbed the bag and ran
Like a freaking mad hatter

Through the hall and each room
He pulled his bag
With Jack close behind
Chasing the toys Benton dragged

The others soon heard
And the chase was begun
Cats running to and fro
With the dogs looking on

The tree shook and shivered
As the cats ran around
Wrapping the toy strings
‘round the tree base on the ground

Quick as could be
I tried to pull the bag free
But that my dear friends
Just wasn’t to be

The bag was all twisted
And tied in a knot
So I crawled ‘neath the tree
And I cursed quite a lot

Now listen my kitties
You listen to me
Stay the **** away
From my poor Christmas tree!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

October Movies

Well, October is fast approaching, so my husband and I selected our October movies. You see, once a week throughout October, we watch a horror flick to celebrate Halloween. Now, the movie I want to watch most every Halloween is an old Melissa Sue Anderson movie called Midnight Offerings. This would be absolutely awesome to watch on Halloween. I confess that the first time I saw the movie, I was baby-sitting for the church curate's baby (Episcopalian) in a nineteenth century home's attic, surrounded by old spinning wheels and other artifacts. It was a suitably spooky environment in which to watch a horror movie. Oh yeah, and I had just received a scary prank call so I was primed. I don't remember much about the movie, except that Melissa Sue Anderson (Vivian) was a bad witch and another girl from school named Robin (played by Mary Beth McDonough) didn't know that she was a witch (I think it was passed from the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter or something like that). But Vivian did. And she didn't like Robin. Ah well, it's a moot point because the movie doesn't seem to be available anymore.

So I will concentrate on movies that I can see. The envelope please ...

The Seventh Sign

I'm really psyched to see this one again. I haven't seen it more than twenty years. From memory it's about a pregnant woman who finds out that the birth of her child will start the Apocalypse. I remember her working with a Jewish scholar and consulting other religious officials to see if she was reading the signs properly. This led to one of my most favorite movie lines ever. She asks a priest how he can be sure that his beliefs are correct. I don't recall most of his answer, but I do remember him giving her a look of mock horror and saying, "What if only the Hari Krishnas have it right?" For some reason, that line just cracks me up.

Practical Magic

Okay, what's sad is that the thing I remember the most is that when the previews were on television, they played a clip that wasn't in the movie. I mean the scene was, but the way Sandra Bullock delivered the line in the screen version was different from the way it had been on the commercials. I know, it means nothing, I just find it odd that I noticed and that it stuck in my mind all the years. Unless I'm wrong. But I don't think so. Anyway, it's a good classic Halloween movie: witches, horror, dead things ... perfect!

Innocent Blood

Well, this is hubby's choice. I've never seen it. But hey, at least it's vampires. I was afraid he'd pick Dawn of the Dead, The Blob or C.H.U.D, that's Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers in case you don't know. Sadly, I have seen C.H.U.D.- in the theater no less, but we will speak of that no more. Right, back to vampires. I like 'em. Okay, not them per se as I'd definitely stake one if it was in front of me, but as a movie subject, they're pretty good. I'll state right off the bat that I've never seen or read any of the Twilight series - it just didn't strike my fancy, but I love Buffy and Angel and absolutely ADORE the lore that Ann Rice set up for her vampires. In fact, devouring the words of Lestat and Queen of the Damned are among my more cherished reading memories. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Actually, we just watched this movie last year, but it's so good that we've picked it for a second year. Hillbillies, college students, horror, LOTS of humor and ... Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine. Very cool. I wrote a review for it last year so I won't repeat it, but I just looked at it to put the link in and realized that I had wanted to watch Repo: The Genetic Opera, Salem's Lot and Shaun of the Dead this year. Now I feel like Jimmy Kimmel with Matt Damon - sorry, we ran out of time!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thanking The Rescuers and Rehabilitators

Life is hard and Nature can be cruel, but there are people - complete strangers who do their best to help us when we find ourselves in tough situations. I'm talking about the stray dog or cat that shows up on your property looking so pathetic that your heart nearly splits in two at the sight. And then there are the wild animals. Who hasn't gone into the backyard and found an injured or stunned bird? I believe that what you do in those circumstances really defines you as a person.

I used to volunteer with a cat rescue group. I'm not looking for a pat on the back. My contribution was limited to cleaning cages, feeding and helping out at adopt-a-thons. Not nearly as much as others do, but at the same time, probably more than most. At any rate, one day a broken little calico showed up on my backdoor step. She was a runt - filthy, covered in fleas, and had a necrotic eye that bulged and attracted flies. She wasn't going to win any kitty beauty contests, that was for sure, but she broke my heart. I started feeding her and looked forward to finding her waiting in the bushes outside my kitchen when I got home from work each night, even though she wouldn't let me near her. I talked to the rescue group I worked with and the lady in charge seemed hesitant to take on a feral kitty like this. I was disheartened, but determined to keep leaving food out so my little girl didn't starve to death.

When the neighbors found out I was feeding her, the wife told me, "Oh good. My children were asking what we could do for her so I can tell them you're taking care of her." Yeah, I thought. You're welcome. These people wouldn't lift a finger to help a stray, but didn't want to look bad in front of their kids. Whatever. Then about two months later, the husband knocked on my door and told me that they were tired of the cat being in their yard and were going to put poison down if I didn't stop feeding her.

I became desperate to get her in my house before they could harm her. She was letting me get a little closer each day and after another few days, I was able to grab her. I put her in the garage and eventually, got her to the vet. Since the rescue group was reticent, she joined my household shortly after that. As with many grateful rescues, she turned out to be one of the sweetest kitties I ever had. She sleeps next to me every night and sits on my lap while I write. (Eventually, I had to stop working with the group as my personal cat count was increasing at an alarming rate.) Part of me wanted to tell the neighbors' children what their parents were really about, but I never did. Things like that never work out well. I figure the kids will either figure it out eventually or end up just like their parents, in which case they wouldn't care anyway.

Once the vet got her problems sorted out, her inner beauty really shone through.

The point of that story is not to gain kudos for myself. As I said, others do far more than I ever have or will. The point was to show that there are people in the world who will help when you find yourself in one of those situations. And beyond the cat/dog rescue are the wildlife rehabilitators. I think it's far easier for many people to turn their back on a bird or an opossum or other wildlife that's in need by saying, "Well, that's Nature." But not everyone can. A few weeks ago, my husband came home from work and found a baby bird in the gutter. The bird was so young that we couldn't tell what it was, but we knew we had to do something. The poor thing was nowhere near old enough to fly. It just sat there looking terrified, the remains of its destroyed nest laying next to it by the curb.

We made several calls and found the Volunteers for Wildlife at the Bailey Arboretum in New York. What a wonderful group of people! They took the baby (it was a mourning dove) and gave us a case number. We left a donation - I can't believe anyone wouldn't - and were able to email them a few days later for an update. It's been a little more than a month, and we've received several answers to our emails indicating that the bird is now eating on its own and currently being acclimated to the outdoors. When it is, they will release it into the wild.

Check out this picture they took of it when it was still a baby.

So, now I say thank you to all of you rescuers and rehabilitators. A pale sentiment in the face of all you do, but how can I ever thank you enough for taking the time to care? Whether it's wildlife or a dog or cat in need, it's not just the animals you are helping. Every lost soul like my husband and me who see injured or orphaned wildlife and simply cannot turn away are beholden to you for the care you provide. This thank you is to all of the rescue groups and wildlife rehabilitators out there. We must say thank you because the animals you care for cannot.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Going Viral in the pre-digital age!

Wow, try to find the answer to the question "when did the digital age officially begin" and you'll get all sorts of answers. The best I found was this one on

When Did the Information Age Begin?
Answer: Though there is no exact starting date for the Information Age, the term has been used extensively since the late 1980's and has continued on into the 21st century. The Information Age is also sometimes called the Computer Age.

Having lived through those years and studied computer science waaaaay back when, I can tell you that the only expression I'd heard back in the 80s was the Information Age. And when I recall studying IBM 370 mainframe Assembler using keypunch cards, I have a real hard time thinking of back then as being in the same era with today. I personally tend to think of the digital age as not beginning until the late 90s - when most everyone finally owned or had access to cell phones/PCs, etc. Anyway, the reason I'm thinking about that now is that I've been thinking about things that "go viral" and Andy Warhol's prediction that "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes." Nostradamus could only dream of making a prediction that was so accurate. Post a YouTube video of a spectacular fall or a cute child singing a song or tweet something incredibly insightful or humorous and you have your fifteen minutes. Hell, I saw a tweet that consisted entirely of the word meow hit double digits in retweets. Inevitably, I came around to wondering if something of mine would ever go viral. And all of that reminded me of something that happened in the mid to late-80s.

Life back then must seem pretty primitive to young people today. I had no cell phone, some of our televisions did not have remote controls, and I'd just gotten my first ATM card. I was young, strapped for cash, and lived in an "apartment" with only a toaster oven for cooking and a bathroom sink to do dishes in. In my youthful naivete, I loved it. Then again, we were easily impressed back then. I mean I thought it was great that people no longer had rotary phones, especially after I learned that in some places, the emergency help number was 999! That just seemed cruel to me. I could imagine being hacked apart by a serial killer while waiting for the dial to return so I could dial the second and third nines. Do you have any idea how long it took to dial 999 on an actual dial?

Anyway, my first apartment may have been a bit crude, but I did have cable (although MTV was about the only thing I watched because they actually aired only videos at the time), Nintendo, lots of albums (gasp), CDs and a VCR.

Now, when I was very young, my parents would watch The Rockford Files, and I always thought the fact that he had an answering machine was so cool. Nobody I knew had one - not that I got out much at that age, but it seemed like something out of a science fiction story (give me a break, I was young). Naturally, now that I had my own place, I needed an answering machine. Initially, my boyfriend and I made the typical boring messages, but I soon craved more creativity so I combined two things I liked: music (Black Sabbath) and comedy (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) to make a message that was more my style. I recorded part of the Bridge of Death scene (keep in mind, with the primitive tools available, that meant sitting at a non-distorting distance from the small television speaker with a tape recorder). I only wanted the questions, so I had to play with it quite a bit until I was able to string the dialogue together in a somewhat continuous flow (What is your name? What is your quest? and What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?). I then added my own message using what I hoped was a creepy voice to say "Please leave your name and number at the tone" while the storm at the beginning to the Black Sabbath album played in the background.

Pretty amateurish given what can be done today, but we liked it. And apparently so did other people. Within a few weeks, the machine started receiving hangups. In fact, eventually we would come home to find the machine full almost every day, though we had no idea why. One day, I answered the phone and the surprised person on the other end of the line said, "Oh, sorry, I didn't want to talk to you. I was told to call this number and listen to the message!" At least I finally knew why the machine was filling up. Don't forget that back then, phone service was more expensive. You only had unlimited calling within your area code. I lived in a border town between counties, meaning I had to pay long distance to call friends a few blocks away, so it's actually pretty impressive that we got so many calls. I can't help but wonder if it had been a video on YouTube that got that popular how many views it would have garnered? And like viral videos, I got some hate messages, as well. One caller had mistakenly dialed the number while trying to reach a business and left a scathing "that's no way to talk to customers and do business" message!

So, now that I think about it, things aren't that much different today. The means we use to accomplish tasks has changed, but the overall way in which people seek entertainment hasn't really changed that much. But if Andy Warhol was right, I guess I already had my "fifteen minutes."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Slipcover Incident

I am writing this blog entry with the blurry vision of a slightly concussed person, so bear with me. I will start by revealing that this is my first ever experience with a slipcover.

I have dogs. And cats. Lots of cats. So my sofa count should come as no surprise - I'm on either my sixth or my seventh, but like my vision, it's all a blur. It was finally time for the old couch to give up the ghost. The dogs had eaten most of the stuffing which left the material loose and hanging in tatters. The back and sides of the sofa looked like they were fringed, thanks to the cats completely shredding them while 'doing their nails', which are now nice and sharp. Trust me. I know from firsthand experience. Anyway, as I looked at the sorry state of my home furnishings, I decided that the best way to achieve harmony with my furbabies (given that I'm hopelessly outnumbered) is to try to stop problems, annoyances and damage before they happen. Hey, it sounded like a good plan when I came up with it...

Hence, the slipcover. Now, the specs for said item insisted it would fit sofas from 74 to 96 inches. Mine is 83, so I thought 'cool, that'll work.' I covered the new couch with blankets and sheets while I eagerly awaited the arrival of the cover that would protect my new furniture from my marauding housemates.

Finally, the box showed up on my doorstep. A choir of angels burst into song and I even think I saw an aura of golden light surrounding it. I pulled it inside and ripped it open, desperate to get at my new sofa's savior. Once freed of its packaging, I flipped the cover around several times before I saw the little stickers that read front, back, etc. I followed the labels and soon had my beautiful new furniture covered up. Except that there was this weird puckered section I had to sit on. Out came the instructions from the box - I'm terrible about reading instructions, guides, etc. before I make an attempt to use/install/apply anything new. Plus, who'd have thought you'd need instructions to put a slipcover on? Anyway, according to the instructions, I'm supposed to tuck the elastic strip behind the couch's cushions. Now, the slip cover seemed to fit fine until I attempted to do this. Actually, it still fit, but two broken fingernails and one aching back later, I'd only barely managed to tuck the strip under the top lip of the cushions. No way in hell was I going to be able to get it all the way under them so I left it as it was.

It lasted one day. Not only was it pulled off the back by the dogs' frantic attempts to get out through the window to kill ... I mean lick the mailman, but one had taken her bone onto the couch and drooled everywhere. Good thing I left those little back/front labels on! I put it in the washing machine, more than a little sad at having to wash it after only one day. When it came out of the dryer, it smelled like mountain rain, at least that's what the label on my fabric softener says - frankly, I've been to the mountains and don't remember them smelling like that especially when wet, but I digress. I laid it out and looked for the labels. You know what happens to things that are applied with an adhesive backing in the wash? They move. Now I'm no expert, but though the labels were still on, I'm fairly certain that they no longer accurately marked the back and front of the cover. After a great battle, I had the slipcover in place - more or less. Once again, I tried to tuck the strip behind the cushions. And once again, I failed.

New plan, put the sheet and blanket back on over the slipcover. Sure I had to wash the sheet or blanket or both several times a week, but it beat struggling with the damned slipcover. That worked until the dogs went off in another of their nobody's-allowed-to-walk-on-my-street frenzies. They pulled the sheet and blanket off, leaving my precious cover exposed and vulnerable. They then got muddy paw prints all over everything.

With a heavy heart, I removed the slipcover for washing again. Once clean, I realized that I no longer care to even try to tuck it down. I got it remotely close to appearing to be lined up and covered it with the sheet and blanket again. It may not look great, but it took a whole lot less time than fighting to tuck it. Then I looked down and saw that I had to retie the strips that hold the sides and front and back down. Personally, I no longer cared if it looked nice and neat, but a hanging strip of cloth like that is an invitation for a cat or dog to go to town on it, so I bent over and knotted the strips. And as I stood, I banged my head on the window ledge. Hard. Thus the blurry vision and budding headache.

Remind me again what those furry little monsters do for me? Oh yeah. The news says having pets can lower your blood pressure. Really? because I'm thinking I could have pinned the meter a few minutes ago when I realized that I spent a ton of money on what is now nothing more than a blanket rack. I closed my eyes and repeated my centering mantra: it's a good thing I love them, it's a good thing I love them, it's a good thing I love them ...