Category Archives: amusing garbage

Raccoons: Drunk and Disorderly

I’ve got a little grotto on my patio–a small Kwan Yin statue, a bunch of potted plants and a pool. The pool is actually more like a nut dish with water in it, but it looks nice.

Every night a family of raccoons comes to have they way with it. If there’s any cat food left out, they eat that first. Then the like to mess around in the water. It’s always muddy when I get up in the morning, and sometimes I hear them bumping around in the night.

If you see them in the daytime they shrink away from you, most often ducking down a storm sewer. From what I hear, there’s colonies of them down there. Like misers ready for the apocalypse. But at night, they’re bold as anything. I think only half of Mike’s torn-up fur comes from other cats; the rest is from taking a stand against the raccoons.

This morning around dawn, when I went to clean out the Kwan Yin reverential pond/peanut dish, it looked like it was full of bones. It was too dark to see what they were, so I poured out the water, and it was feathers. Obviously, somebody had a nice bird to eat, and they’d washed off the inedible bits in my mini-pond.

I didn’t know raccoons killed stuff. Must have been a chick. And what kind of bird was it, that it was out in the middle of the night? Mike would kill a bird in a minute, but he wouldn’t likely wash the thing. It had to have been the raccoons.

Here’s the weirdest part:

English: Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica),...

English: Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica), mating, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the covered stairway to the house right by my Kwan Yin grotto I keep rubbing alcohol in an old salsa container, to use for killing Japanese beetles. (Nasty little bugs–there are a ton of them, and their favorite food is flowers, though they can take out leaves pretty dang fast too.) When I went to bed, it was about a quarter of the way full of alcohol and must have had at least 20 dead bugs in it. The raccoon had nosed around it before, but hadn’t opened it. I didn’t worry about it, because I figured one sniff and he’d decided he wasn’t interested.

But this time he came back and opened it, and when I found it in the morning there was no alcohol left and no bugs! The liquid alcohol could have evaporated, of course, but what about those alcohol-soaked Japanese beetles?

So now I keep my kill jar in the house. Don’t want the raccoon getting bad habits.


Butterflies, bikes & dreams

Swallowtail butterfly

Swallowtail butterfly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream the other night, which for me is really unusual. I know what they say, Reader Zero–everyone dreams, and people like me just don’t remember them. But I’ve never known what that was supposed to mean. If you said I was kidnapped by aliens every night and prodded rudely with mysterious test equipment, then had my memory wiped, that would mean something. But what’s a passing dream that’s gone before you’re aware of it? Just random thoughts moving through the brain, the same thing as most of my waking time. So why call it a dream, especially, just because I happen to be asleep?

Anyway, I had the first dream I’ve had in about a year. In it, I rode my bike without a helmet.

That was it. Pretty boring, yes? Not quite as boring as the one I had a few years ago about shaving my legs, but still. Who knows why I’d remember such a nothing dream, except that forgetting my helmet is ever more out of character than dreaming. It’s been about five years since I rode off without the thing.

But here’s the weird thing–that’s exactly what I did this morning! I had my hair tied up with a scarf, and got about three blocks before I noticed the helmet wasn’t there. I figured what the heck, this must be my day for living dangerously.

I’m thinking of getting a new bike. The one I have works, but it’s getting old, and is now in the one-problem-after-another stage of its life. Besides, there’s no more room for mini bumper stickers on it. I’m thinking I’ll get a brand new bike (first time ever!), and keeping the old one around for winter and emergencies. I poked around two bike shops this morning, and there are some nice workhorse bikes out there for around $500.

Also went to the Arboretum and jogged around, which is good for me when I’m working on Complexity (my novel that’s set there). It’s quite lovely at this time of year, between winter snow and summer blackflies. And for whatever reason, we’re having a bumper year for butterflies.

First World Problems

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

Image via Wikipedia

Are we all ready to nominate that phrase for oblivion yet? It was funny enough at first, when it was used for things like not having enough room in your wallet for all your credit cards, but lately people are using it to refer to anything short of starving to death.

Anyway, I’ve spent the morning dealing with my large amounts of stuff: scrubbing all my floors, taking all my houseplants out for their first good drenching of spring, laundry, recycling, scrubbing the cat hair and barf off the furniture and windows (you don’t want to know). It took three and a half hours! It doesn’t seem like I got all that much done, but I was working all that time except for a couple potty breaks. Well, and the time I got a little distracted putting a few refrigerator poetry words up on the freshly scrubbed side of the fridge. But only for a minute!

It does seem like, for just the two of us here, there are an awful lot of floors.

Cats are nothing compared to kids. They used to make such a mess, especially when their friends would come over–they’d have Playmobils and action figures set up in the house, and all kinds of squirt guns and balls all over the yard. I’d get them to clean up as much as possible, of course, but with little boys ever their clean-up efforts make a mess. After a week of homeschooling the house would be a wreck by the weekend. I’d try to spend the entire day Saturday cleaning house, correcting their work and writing up our lesson plans for the next week. It was so good to wake up on Sunday and have everything clean! It was exhausting, but worth it so we could go do family stuff without me having to worry about anything.

The house stays a lot neater now, so big cleaning days are a lot less frequent. It’s so nice to be able to walk barefoot without getting guck on your feet, and have everything smelling like fresh air and grapefruit spray cleaner.

Don’t worry, I won’t let those robots eat you!


Nirvana (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

You don’t usually think of writing and getting buff in the same context, but this winter a couple fellow writers have inspired me to change up my usual “just run every day and try not to fall down” winter routine. The first was Athena Marie, whose blog I stumbled on just as she was starting to get in shape for a body-building competition. You know how every once in a while you come across about something so different from anything in your world, you just have to find out more? I’ve been following her progress ever since, and decided to try some weight workouts at the local “gym,” which is more like an exercise room down at the community center. Not that I’d ever do a competition like she’s doing, even if they had a senior division. The weightlifting part is nifty, but the rest of it involves way too much money, tilapia, and bikini wax. No friggin’ way!

Then I found out about Fitocracy from J, which despite the scary name is actually a site where you log your workouts, do quests, chit-chat with other people, etc., to make the whole thing into a kind of a game. It’s pretty fun. If anyone’s interested in joining, let me know and I’ll send you an invite.

I doubt I’ll be able convince myself to exercise indoors once spring hits, but for now I’m thinking running on ice and other winter guck is pretty slow going anyway. With all the weight work, hopefully by spring I’ll be able to lift my kayak more easily, so I can get it down to the creek for a row without busting something before I even get into the water.

After the weights comes the elliptical trainer, which has to be about the most boring thing in the world. Especially if you’re not interested in weekday morning TV, and I’m not. The good part is that it forced me to learn how to do mixes on my iTunes, so that I can change up my music every time I work out. It’s more fun when you don’t know what song’s coming next.

Current mix:

Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots, Flaming lips — “She has to discipline her body, ‘cause you know it would be tragic if those evil robots win”
The Lady is a Tramp, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga — Only it sounds like Tony’s singing “That’s why the lady is a champ”
Second Skin, the Gits — gotta have punk
Depression-Unemployment Lines, the Casualties — and more punk
Bottle of Pain, Combichrist — “If we’re goin’ to Hell tonight, I ain’t goin’ without a fight”
My Body, Young the Giant — “My body tells me no, but I won’t quit ‘cause I want more” And yeah, the way he sings it “no,” it rhymes with “more.”
The Girl from Ipanema, Amy Winehouse cover — “Tall and tan and young and lovely” –yeah, that’s me. . . Not!
Cherry Waves, Deftones — a slow song, but it’s got a perfect rhythm going on under the surface
That’s What the Water Gave Me, Florence & the Machine — since we’re already wet. . .

And by that time it would take a live performance from Nirvana to keep me on that damn machine!

Oh look! A picture of my sneaker!

Who’d have ever thought I’d get paid for my . . . photography? This can’t be right. I take pictures of my hand in front of the lens. I take pictures of windows with so much glare in them it hurts. My photos contain red eyes and white blotches and black blackness. I’m possibly the shittiest photographer ever.

But we need photos for our web catalog, and updating the catalog is part of my job. We’ve got somebody’s old camera sitting around the shop, the kind that has a little chip drive you flick out and put in the printer (this makes no sense to me at all) to load onto the computer. The camera has stupid dials all over it with little symbols I don’t understand. Fortunately, off just says OFF. I had to memorize the position of the one that means “on.” The worst part is when, for reasons I do not understand at all, the camera decides to put too many pixels into the picture. Then I have to get into the picture editing program is on our cash register/computer and whack away at it.

Before I started doing this, we’d try to get photos from our vendors, but we’ve got so many vendors it would get tricky trying to find everything. Even then, sometimes there would be more than one item in their photos, or they’d have some protection on them so I couldn’t copy them. Doing our own photos is actually easier, even if my pictures still look like dog barf.

I photographed all our lotus-shaped candles and candle holders on Sunday. What I do is I bring a white kata up to the counter for the background. (Katas are special scarves you give as a ritual offering to the Dalai Lama, or any other lama you happen to meet.) The kata covers up all our countertop cheat sheets about how much various crystals cost, which credit cards we accept, etc. so I have a clean background. Then I try to take a bunch of pictures really fast, before some customer comes up and dumps a bunch of incense on my photo shoot.

That’s the thing about working for a very small business–you don’t have the luxury of getting out of doing something, just because you’re bad at it. You’ve got to buckle down and learn it anyway.

One Word of German I Know

English: Polish white socks

I still think it should have been Socken.

I don’t really like to travel.  The older I get, the less I like it.  It’s not so much about the airports and gross food and unfamiliar bedding; it’s more about dropping all my projects for whatever length of time.  I’m interested in what I’m doing right here, right now.  I don’t need adventures.Of course that’s not true–everybody needs adventures.  Getting lost has always been my specialty.  And once I get to a destination, I’m as good at getting lost as I ever was, though I can’t promise I’ll remember any of it a year from now.

When I was a teenager, I used to get into trouble for wandering off, even though I never got in trouble for much of anything else.  I was the kind of “good kid” adults ignore.  I could have gotten away with murder.  But when our youth orchestra went to Berlin, I got my chance at being a bad girl because of my habit of wandering off.  I didn’t know any other kids who liked to walk around as much as I did.  And anyway, who needs the company of some other American kid when you’ve got a whole foreign city to check out?  Going out alone meant freedom, and I needed that freedom to focus all my attention on my surroundings.  The English term for my sin is a loan word from German:  Wanderlust.

Once I took the Berlin underground out to some kind of botanical garden and got stuck in a bit of rain, so that my feet got soaked.  I took off my wet socks before heading back downtown, but decided I needed a dry pair so my feet wouldn’t slide around in my wet sneakers.  So I went into a department store.  Not a KaDeWe or anything like that; this was an old-fashioned downtown establishment that catered to older women.  Nothing like the American department stores we have now, where you’ve got to practice evasive maneuvers to keep from being attacked by make-up ladies armed with cologne bottles and makeover kits.  No, this was the kind of place where you asked the three gemütlich ladies on the floor for what you wanted, and they would show it to you.  It was also the only place I found in Berlin where nobody spoke any English.

I had some high school German, but not a word for “socks.”  Google Translate now informs me that I should have tried “Socken,” but either I didn’t or I butchered the pronunciation so badly that the ladies didn’t understand what I was talking about.  I tried gesturing and saying I needed something “für die Füße” or “für die Beine” (for the feet, for the legs), but for some reason they kept showing me everything but socks:

Pants?  Nein.

Stockings?  Nein.

Leggings?  Nein.

Other pants?   “Nein, nicht Hose–unter die Hose.”

The three of them just looked at each other, more confused than ever, repeating “unter der Hose?”  (Correcting my grammar first, of course.)  They were so cute, like three German-speaking Monty Python old ladies trying to work out whether I was looking for panties, some kind of foundation garment,  or just a nicer pair of pants.

Finally I pulled my wed wad of socks out of my bag to show them.  The ladies were all sunshine then.  “Strümpfe!”  And so I bought my pair of socks–a little scratchy, but dry.

Now that my brain’s all mooshy and old, I wonder how I’d do in a foreign country.  One time I asked my German nieces how to say squirrel, and they went into hysterics at my attempts at pronouncing Eichhörnchen. (It didn’t help that I kept trying to say “Einhörnchen,” which if it meant anything would have to be some kind of miniature unicorn.)  Besides, my hearing these days is terrible.  I have trouble figuring out what people are saying in English.  Still, I remember how to ask old German ladies for socks.

I still like to wander, but now that I’ve been on my own for years, the need for freedom isn’t so pressing.  In fact, there’s no kind of freedom that beats a day at home just doing whatever I feel like.  I could see myself turning into such a slug.

That’s why no matter how much I grumble whenever I get shoved out of the nest, in the end I’m grateful for it.

Too much chocolate

White chocolate is marketed by confectioners a...

Image via Wikipedia

I like chocolate as much as the next person, but “Double Chocolate Beer”? That’s just gross! I found the bottle lying in the park, next to a fast food bag and a used dog ball.

Then I went to the store, and they had chocolate covered potato chips. Ew, ew, double ewwww! Where did they find that recipe, Elvis’ grave?