Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Just like Seattle

My mother spends the winter in Naples, Florida. She reports that a trendy new coffee place has opened near her condo. Apparently it is decorated in the style of Starbucks and Tully's. My mom went in to check it out, and remarked to the barista "it looks like Seattle." The woman glanced out the window at the unseasonably gray sky and replied "Oh, it's supposed to clear up tomorrow."

Madness not limited to cows

A story on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon contained a mind-boggling piece of information. The background: Japan banned imports of U.S. beef after the discovery last year that a cow in a U.S. herd was infected with mad cow disease. Japan will import only beef from cows that have been tested.

The obvious solution, one would think, would be to test cows being sold to the Japanese market. Which is exactly what one beef producer, Creekstone Farms, proposed to do. Now here's the mind-boggling part: The USDA has forbidden U.S. beef producers from voluntarily and at their own expense testing all their cows and giving the results to the Japanese purchasers. Don't believe me? Check out this report from the National Council for Science and the Environment.

The FDA and the USDA feels that voluntary testing by some "is not scientifically warranted" because the tests are for "health surveillance" and cannot guarantee that the beef is safe. Note, however, that the Japanese aren't requiring the producers to guarantee anything. They are just requiring them to test the beef and provide those test results.

This government stance is obviously intended to prevent scrupulous farmers willing to pay for testing from distinguishing themselves from their unscrupulous colleagues, who want to sell possibly diseased beef for as long and for as much as possible. (Don't test, don't tell.) Certainly, if the Japanese are clamoring for tested beef, certain segments of the US population would also be willing to pay premium prices for tested beef, and would likely shun the producers who declined to test.

Isn't it nice to know whose side the Bush administration is on?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Browsing the bargains at Martha's tag sale

One hallmark of a reversal of fortune is the garage sale, yard sale, or, as we called them when I lived back East, tag sale.

is closing its online retail unit, and doing it with a tag sale. I couldn't pass up this historic event; it turns out there are quite a few great deals. I just bought some fabulous wire wall organizers for displaying postcards and memorabilia. Thanks, Martha!

Countertops by Hagrid

The natural gas project for our street started with a loud bang at 9 a.m. I opened the backdoor just in time to see a terrified cat (Betaille) dash out of the yard. There were several trucks, guys with jackhammers, plus a vehicle with a small claw that was digging rectangles in the sidewalk. By noon they had tunneled from the street to the rear of our side yard, and the meter was installed.

It's not exactly invisble work. Though the tunneling is far underground, they dug up part of the lawn and garden in back of the house to bring the line to the house and up to the meter. Nothing serious, but they didn't seem aware that plants like hostas die back and are not visible in the winter (and now are probably buried two feet deep!) Oh well. It was definitely the least elaborate part of the garden.

Now they are roaring away two doors down.

Meanwhile, the Corian company called and ask if they could swing by. Our so-to-be-disposed-of electric stove is surounded by Corian countertop, including a couple of inches in back. The new Wolf stove will sit flush against the wall, so that extra countertop in back had to be sliced away. The Corian guy was about 7 feet tall, hefty and looked like a Northwest cousin of Hagrid. The normally shy kittens loved him. After he trimmed the counter, he helped me analyze why the adhesive between Corian counter and Corian backsplash over the dishwasher had separated. Answer: the guy who built the counters skimped and didn't put any supports for the Corian at the back of the dishwasher, so the counter was sagging. We agreed that Hagrid would recaulk and I would have the plumber pull the dishwasher so that I could install some supports against the studs at the back. Yes, I could do this myself, but it would be wiser to have the plumber here to make sure I don't damage the water hookup.

And, of course, the plumber will be here next week. The half-hour of Corian work was cheap, but the plumbing price (for running gas piping and valves to a dryer, a new hot water heater, and the stove—-plus venting the hot water heater to the outside) is mind-boggling.

My only gripe with our plumber (who is a very honest and savvy fellow) is that he always assumes the customer wants the basic appliance. During the original kitchen remodel two years ago I had to specially request a quiet dispose-all (for about $15 bucks more) and this time I had to grill him to get him to reveal that there are several types of 50-gallon hot water heaters, some of which have notably faster recovery (meaning that while you are taking a bath, they are heating up enough water for someone else to take a bath in 30 minutes). Of course, I requested a fast-recovery hot water heater.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas blur

The Christmas holiday was certainly different this year. Zorg came out to social events with me three nights in a row, wrapped gifts, had me watch The Muppets' version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and even blogged about the pagan origins of Christmas.

We also watched The Happiness of the Katakuris, which I really enjoyed. I'd describe it as the Japanese version of the madcap and surreal British TV series The League of Gentlemen (under no circumstances to be confused with the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Best Christmas gift received: The book The Art of Looking Sideways.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Washington Post Style Invitational

Each week, the Washington Post Style Invitational invites readers to compete at clever word games, and publishes the bon mots of the previous week.

Last week's contest asked readers to send in quips beginning "If God had wanted..." My favorite was one of the honorable mentions:

"If God had wanted the people of the world to live in peace and harmony, God should have stuck to just one name." (Michael Levy, Silver Spring, MD)

This week contestants are given a list of the last names of the newly elected members of Congress and the members they displaced and asked to come up with a bill sponsored by any combination of these people and explain the purpose of the bill. Example:

"The Tauzin-Cleaver bill to promote safety in the kitchen."

You can do better! Dive in using this week's URL.

Thanks to our friend Mike in Bellingham for reminding me about the Style Invitational! He forwarded results of the most famous of the Style Invitational, in which readers were challenged to take a word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some of their inspirations:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

5. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

6. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

7. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

8. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

9. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

10. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

11. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come very quickly.

12. Arachnoleptic fit (n. phrase): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

13. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

14. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

15. And the pick of the literature: Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

...and the cat came back

Kitty cloning. They say people don't understand that the cloned cat is not the same as the original. But I suspect it would be pretty darn close, particularly if you raised it in the same household. A cat's breed determines quite a bit of its personality (loyal Russian Blues, gregarious Abyssinians, gentle Ragdolls, our Kaylee and Zoe--with same upbringing, different fathers, and very different personalities) and the upbringing does most of the rest.

On the other hand, the $50,000 spent to clone a cat could get you a wonderful pound kitten plus pay for spaying, neutering and veterinary care for hundreds of strays. I miss Sam every day, but I wouldn't have preferred a Sam clone to any of our subsequent kitties.

Blame it on New Yorkers?

New York Times online requires that you sign up for a free subscription to read most articles. This piece, on the origins of American Christmas giving and the origins of protests about excessive commercialization of the holiday, is worth signing up for.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rogue Waves

Glad I read this after the cruise, not before.

Obsessive, but not compulsive

Fixated on a ring? Medical students have diagnosed the mental problems of a "single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode". Credit to Clive Thompson's blog for pointing out this medical journal article about Gollum.

A friend in the news

I'm a big fan of Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert L. Jamieson, who writes about the stories behind the news. Today's column is about our friend Sally O'Neill and what happened when she and other South Seattle motorists came across the scene of a horrific hit-and-run accident.

Santa Claus is coming!

On our street, the signs are all there. And they say "NO PARKING 12/27 - 12/30."

The moment I've been anticipating for nearly four years--the gas company is running a gas line to our house and I can get a gas stove! Actually, I've had a gas stove since October...but it's been in a warehouse, waiting for the gas company to install service and set in motion a chain of events involving the plumber and a Corian contractor. I estimate that by February 1, I'll be ready to cook my first pizza.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade

Christmas in Seattle wouldn't be Christmas for me without listening to Lord Buckley's "Scrooge." While other people trill Scandinavian carols or rock out with Bruce Springsteen or John Lennon, I let one of the grandmasters of rap bring a huge smile to my face.

If you think rapping began with young urban hipsters with extremely baggy pants, I invite you to look back 30 or more years to one of the wildest characters (along with Lenny Bruce) to wreak havoc on the New York (and Los Angeles) cabaret scenes in the 1950s.

I first encountered a Lord Buckley track on a Frank Zappa-produced sampler in the 1960s, but didn't discover "Scrooge" until Christmas 1984. I had just moved to Seattle with my first husband, a post-doc at UW, and I was working as a phone order-taker for Eddie Bauer at their Redmond headquarters (now a part of the Microsoft campus). It was Sunday afternoon, and I was driving to my shift on a near-deserted stretch of 520 (well, that certainly dates this story) while the DJ at KBCS-FM was interviewing Bryan Bowers. Bowers was telling a story that involved Christmas, an autoharp, and a refrigerator, and that segued nicely into "Scrooge."

"Scrooge" is a 9-minute monologue, and not something you can interrupt--particularly when it's the first time you've encountered it and you're trying to determine if your radio has been taken over by aliens. I turned into the parking lot at Eddie Bauer, and sat there in my car, listening to the strangest version of the Dickens Christmas story you could possibly imagine. It begins:

"Yes, me, I'm Scrooge and I got all Marley's barley,
and I'm the baddest cat in all dis world.
I been studyin' all my life how to Scrooge people,
and I guarantee I done some fine work in dat direction."

The Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade, with "Scrooge," is not available on iTunes. But you can purchase a used copy of the CD on Amazon. Unfortunately, the audio sample on Amazon doesn't give a very good idea of the originality of Buckley's approach.

Better to check out the Lord Buckley website which includes transcriptions of his best-known routines, including "Scrooge." A convenient mouseover feature provides translations of the hipster jargon.

Merry Christmas!

What's that on the lawn?

Why the extension cord that fit under our garage door for exterior Halloween lighting doesn't fit now for Christmas lights is beyond me.

Meanwhile, some neighbors I've always thought of as fairly normal people have put something very strange, and extremely large, on their front lawn for the holidays. I looked out the window at midnight and couldn't believe my eyes. Here's a picture. (Click on page's "slideshow" icon to see the full-size picture.)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Holidays with cats

We've given up on the idea of a Christmas tree this year, though it might divert Kaylee from her current obsession with removing all the push-pins (and, thus, all the items they were securing) from my office bulletin boards.

Sheba is the perfect holiday cat. Not only is she white, and very seasonal-looking with a green collar, but being deaf, she isn't bothered when I blast Christmas music from iTunes or one of the Live365 Christmas radio channels. She's purring along right with the Blue Light Christmas show now.

Enjoying the season vicariously, I took pictures of our friend Deb's elaborate Christmas decorations last night.

The return of the hummingbird

The hummingbird is back, enjoying the red flowers of our profilic pineapple sage. Our coastal climate allows me to grown pineapple sage year-round. It's currently in our back yard, but I plan to plant it in the front and side yards as well, cutting it back in the summer (it's invasive) but letting it fill in the empty spots during the winter.

According to The Hummingbird Project, Pineapple Sage (aka salvia elegans) is #1 of the top ten hummingbird plants, and the one most likely to be in bloom in cooler climates.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Who's Who

Seattle journalist Clark Humphreys (www.miscmedia.com) offers a fascinating and comprehensive history of the Dr. Who series. I'd had no idea that many of the early TV episodes no longer exist on video. Or that the first episode was filmed in 1963 and the series ran nearly 30 years.

Eek! Humbug!

Next year the Nation cruise is in November, which is ideal because I've arrived back from this year's Demember cruise with the feeling that I missed Christmas. What I've actually missed is the time I'd have spent shopping, attending parties, writing cards, decorating the house, and baking.

It feels like walking into a fancy party and realizing you're wearing your workout clothes. ("What's wrong with that?" Zorg will ask.)

My plan is to triage Christmas 2004 based on age, guaranteeing timely gifts and greetings only to people over 70 and figuring I'll have many years to make it up to everyone else.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Back on land

Delivered from the solicitous care of Holland America into the callous disregard of Continental Airlines, I know I'm on my way back from vacation.

Thanks to an unguarded wireless network in the nearby dignitaries waiting lounge, I've posted our trip pix.

The Nation seminars on the cruise were great, but the people were even better. We sat with fascinating people every night, culminating in last night's dinner hosted by Bob Scheer of the LA Times and his wife, Narda Zucchino, deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Though clearly tired from the week of presentations, Scheer steered the table into a lively discussion of each person's experience with the current political climate. Participants included an 82-year old activist from Southern California who stood up to the police while trying to register voters outside a Target store; a liberal couple from Blue Earth, Montana; a career Air Force officer whose assignment includes critiquing the Air Force from the inside; and his wife, who is embarking on a second career as a political activist, changing minds one at a time.

Yesterday wound up with a poetry slam, an ad hoc session dreamed up by Harvey Pressman, who had been entertaining all of us through the week with his progress in the cruise's Karaoke contest. Here's one of the winners:

The quality of discussion on a Nation cruise--
Is it better when we've won, or when we lose?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Slow boat to Ft. Lauderdale

You know it's time to leave the cruise when you have chocolate on your room card.

Last night was the dessert buffet, which is less food than it is semi-edible sculpture. I skipped the artworks and had a Grand Marnier crepe, then sneaked off to the theater, curled up in a banquette, and watched Tom Cruise in Collateral.

Today we were scheduled to moor off the private island Half Moon Cay and get ferried over to the island for a variety of activities. My mom and I were slated for the morning glass-bottom boat trip. Skipping the "swim with stingrays" adventure, I'd then opted for the two-hour guided nature walk in the afternoon.

The captain came on the PA at 8 a.m. to announce that he was cancelling the island visit because the swells were too high, and they couldn't safely open the gangways to get us onto the little ferries (called tenders). Looking out our windows, I could see two of the tenders bouncing around below.

So, we are now slowly steaming--well, dieseling--toward Ft. Lauderdale where the cruise ends tomorrow at 8 a.m. The cruise director, a former stand-up comic, is printing out a new daily schedule of on-board activities and the staff, who had likely been looking forward to a day free of passengers, are beaming as cheerily as possible.

The lost lady of Deck 5

Cruises are stereotypically full of elderly. The Nation cruise is full of feisty, left-wing elderly. (For readers who are long-time residents of Seattle, just imagine the Group Health Cooperative's annual membership meeting)

In general, I'd describe these folks as slow-moving but quick-thinking. But I did encounter one old gal, the lost lady of Deck 5, who is rapidly approaching her pull date.

She was wandering around the maze of the spa/salon, looking for the swimming pool. While nudging her in the right direction, I asked if she were traveling with her daughter (as some of the old folks, like my mom, are). No, she said, her daughter lived in Germany--but was coming over at Christmas.

"She's coming to make me sign some papers so she gets all my money," the woman said. "I want to leave it to the Nature Conservancy and the Environment Defense Fund and the ACLU."

I suggested she set that up with a lawyer before her daughter arrives. "My son's a lawyer," she said. "He wants my money, too."


She went on to say she was sharing her cabin with a woman who snored loudly and kept her up all night. But I suspected there was another side to the story, as she related that when she woke up in the morning, she found that the roommate had already dressed and "sneaked out."

Upon reaching the pool, she decided she wasn't going to go swimming, but back to her room to get a book. I escorted her to one of the many banks of elevators on the ship, got in with her, stopped her from toddling off with me at floor 8, pressed 5, and told her the doors would open at her floor.

Oh, dear.

Facial voodoo

I signed up for a facial on the cruise. What utter voodoo! The woman covered me in a series of lovely scented gels (lavender, mint, and rose), then used little metal rollers on my face while I held a magnet in my hand. Then a tool that went "buzz" for deep cleaning.

The real voodoo came at the end when she explained to me why I desperately needed four little bottles of their products. The price? $247. I was sure I'd misheard her...no wonder they employ aestheticians with thick foreign accents.

Boo, Holland America.

At dinner I encountered two other women who reported similar experiences...in one case the aesthetician/sales vulture had simply handed her a bag with three bottles of product and a bill for $300. We all agreed to write letters, liberally cc'd, when we get back to shore.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Mom discovers Karaoke

Last night at dinner I sat next to an elegant older black couple from Northern California. She wants to get an iPod, and we were talking about music media and how it has evolved. I mentioned how valuable record album covers are, giving as an example the R. Crumb cover for Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Turns out the couple had been neighbors of R. Crumb and his wife Aileen for several years and her R. Crumb collection includes a portrait he did of her daughter.

Last night after dinner we stopped by one of the nightclubs, which was having the first round of a Karaoke contest. My mother had never seen--or heard of--Karaoke. One of the men from The Nation group was singing Sinatra's "My Way," and then did "If I Was a Rich Man," from Fiddler on the Roof. He was truly excellent, so my mom was not prepared for some of the painful performances that followed his. Eventually the club switched to dance music (contemporary, as in diva and hip hop) and my mom left and I went dancing until 1 a.m. There isn't that much of a nightlife on Holland America, but the upside is you don't have inebriated people crashing around the decks at night. At least, not yet.

Last night was the first "formal night" and some of the woman really dressed up. Emphasis was more on gowns than on expensive jewelry, so it was festive rather than elitist. Ironically, the ship also did a Monday night football (with hot dogs, etc.) in the theater, so quite a few husbands were absent from the dining rooms.

This morning I went to a digital photography seminar given by one of the ship's phalanx of photographers, a young Indian man with an Italian surname. I learned quite a bit--including how to use some features on my Digital Elph that had eluded me, and that there are some great features the Elph doesn't have.

The powerpoint presentation was done on a 14-inch iMac. Yes!

I'll try out some of the camera tricks when we go ashore tomorrow at St. Maarten.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The true value of the electoral college

The audience behavior at the first The Nation magazine panel on our cruise didn't make you optimistic about the left getting it together before the next election.

Fortunately, the panelists were far more coherent.

Some highlights:

Robert Scheer characterized the Bush voters as "an alliance of greed with phony Christianity." He was the most optimistic of the panelists, noting that "Bush is now clearly responsible for a mess: Iraq and the fall of the dollar."

Molly Ivins called for election reform so we could elect the president by direct vote, quipping "the only reason to keep the electoral college is so high school debate teams will have a topic."

The moderator, Calvin Trillin, confessed that he is not a First Amendment absolutist: "I think people who show slides of their trips to Europe should be arrested."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Out to sea

The flight from Seattle to Houston was unremarkable. Continental has some of the skimpiest legroom in the industry, so we sat stoically in our little spaces. Cornflakes and milk were a refreshing breakfast, and the movie was Jet Li in Hero--the downside was the horrible color calibration of the dozens of tiny video screens on the plane.

We landed a little early in Houston, and I hiked to the far end of the vast Continental terminal to gate D3. Where, I found out, our plane to Ft. Lauderdale was no longer arriving. I hiked back to the new location, D8, and they loaded us on the plane. There was no air conditioning, and they announced the plane was being delayed for a repair. Then they announced that the plane was canceled. We got off, sat down, and then they announced our new plane would leave from a remote area of the terminal--an older section of the airport I recalled from previous plane changes. We hiked to the new gate, were I wrote a few Hanukkah cards, and then we boarded the new plane.

The passengers, a generally large and loud bunch, were pretty surly and rude at this point. The movie, Cat Woman, looked ghastly, so I sat and read Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson's classic SF novel). We arrived in Fort Lauderdale and waited, waited, waited for the luggage. I got a cab right away, though the driver was kind of creepy. It was only $10 to the Embassy Suites, and the hotel is a nice one: Spacious suite, great view over the city, good temperature control, great ilghting, and plenty of accessible electrical sockets for charging the computer, iPod and Treo. Though I usually avoid hotel restaurants, it was 9 when I got in and I didn't want to go wandering around the busy strip and end up at a chain. The restaurant was pretty much empty except for a loud party going on in the bar. I asked the waitress to put me somewhere quiet, and she took me out to the terrace in the atrium, where I ordered a small salad and the daily special appetizer: scallops and shrimp in a white wine sauce with tomatoes and basil. I called Zorg in Seattle and he put his cell phone on speakphone so Zoe and Kaylee could hear my voice. He said they clearly recognized it and were very excited. Too bad we can't do that for Sheba.

After I talked with Zorg, the dinner arrived. The salad was your basic overdressed Caesar type but the scallops and shrimp were one of the best seafood dishes I've ever eat in an American restaurant. The ingredients--the scallops and Roma tomatoes in particular--were top-notch and flavorful. But the preparation was exceptional as well. I'm guessing the seafood was gently sauteed in butter and then the sauce made up by deglazing the pan with the white wine and adding fresh minced garlic and basil (maybe some parsley) right at the end. My only question was if there might have been a seafood stock used, because there was such an abundance of sauce (and no signs of any artificial thickener, such as flour or cornstarch). I'd also guess that the wine was a sauterne--it did not seem particularly dry or tart, and was quite cooked down. Anyway the dish was a complete surprise, and perfect with the fresh, normal (no mango flavorings) iced tea. The waitress got a huge tip and I went happily up to my room to charge all the electronic gear and search (in vain) for the Sci Fi channel.

Not a bad 50th birthday.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Off to the islands

I'll be cruising on the MS Oosterdam through December 12. They supposedly have WiFi; you can reach me by email.

MSN Spaces constricted by censorship

I'm aghast and appalled but why was I surprised? MSN Spaces, the new blogging app from Microsoft, censors user blogs. We are being protected from offensive words like "cocktail," according to a Microsoft evangelist who does not appear particularly impressed by his employer's new product.

Of course, everyone agrees MSN Spaces is sure to catch on big. Bland and mediocre is the American way. If anything could stop blogs from being hip, this'll be it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Grinches, unite!

I love the holiday season, but I know some people who don't. This year, those grinches needn't grouch alone. Apparently there's a whole organization, with a website, devoted to Christmas Resistance. Ho, ho, ho!

Buy stickers and other agitprop, or read the amusing letters to Satana (and, no, that's not a typo) from both pro- and anti-Christmas visitors.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Let there be (better) lights

Thanks to my favorite local electricians, our Thanksgiving table was beautifully lit and I am newly enlightened about light fixtures.

The back story: Two years ago, I purchased a dining room ceiling fixture by Murray Feiss at Harold's Lamps in Seattle. The fixture was featured in Seattle Magazine a few months later, so I was mildly amazed that I'd selected something so stylish (nicely frosted and marbled glass and a brushed-pewter metal).

Sometime this past summer, three of the five light bulbs burned out. I noticed this a few weeks ago and trotted off to the store to buy replacements: 40-watt, thin stemmed small clear globes. When I got on a ladder to remove the burnt-out bulbs, to my astonishment, each of them twisted right off the stem, leaving the broken glass stems wedged in the sockets. My attempt to remove the jagged stems with needle-nose pliers worked for two of them, but the third just wouldn't budge. I called the electricians (feeling silly, it was such a small job) and they said they'd try to get to me before Thanksgiving.

In the interim, I fumed, and considered calling Harold's to complain. However, I'd purchased the lamp two years ago, and they are notoriously rude. The last lamp I bought at Harold's, a pole lamp, came in a box clearly marked "lightbulbs included." Since the bulbs were a weird compact fluorescent style, I'd called them to report that the "included" lightbulbs were missing from the package. There was a brief silence on the other end, and the saleswoman said, "oh, well, go get some at a drugstore," and hung up. Nice.

The electrician turned up just after 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and fixed the fixture. Even better, he told me a few interesting things about lighting that will help me prevent future fixture frustrations:

  • Standard incandescent bulbs like the 40-watt bulbs that broke say "120v" on them, meaning they are rated for 120 volts. However, power companies now run voltage closer to 123 volts. He recommend buying a brand of bulb sold at Home Depot that is rated for 140 volts and can better handle the highter voltage.

  • Many expensive fixtures, such as my designer ceiling fixture, use the same plastic sockets as very cheap fixtures. He recommended that if you are investing in a fixture, you purchase one with more durable ceramic sockets.

    Now if only the electricians could fix our stove...

  • Thanksgiving recap

    Thanksgiving was: friends, relatives and pies, pies, pies! (The turducken breast was nice, but not very Thanksgiving-y. Next year, back to the regular bird.)

    Sally brought three pies: mincemeat (not Crosse and Blackwell mincemeat, but the real thing from de Laurenti's at the Pike Place Market); four-nut pie (from a Greg Atkins recipe in the Seattle Times Sunday Magazine); and Japanese squash pie. I made traditional pumpkin pie with 2/3 the sugar and used a new pie crust recipe that turned out to be just fabulous. It includes rice vinegar, which imparts a lovely, flakey lift to the crust.

    Here's the crust recipe from Puyallup Fair prize-winning baker Carol Lagasca, as published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

    No-Fail Pie Crust
    (makes four single crusts for 9-inch pies)

    1 egg
    1 TBSP rice vinegar
    4 TBSP cold water
    3 cups unbleached flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 cup Crisco
    1/4 cup butter

  • Mix egg, rice vinegar, and cold water; set aside.

  • Mix flour and salt. Add Crisco and butter, mix with fork or pastry cutter until coarse and gritty.

  • Poke a hole in the middle of the flour mixture, and add liquid mix, a little at a time. Form into large ball.

  • Divide into four equal parts. Roll each crust out on a floured board.

  • I made one pie, a couple mini pies for another household's Thanksgiving, and used one crust to make little flower-shaped piecrust "cookies" to decorate all the other pies. Since pumpkin pies have no top crust to decorate, I baked the flowers on a cookie sheet (20 minutes) and dropped them on the pumpkin pies when those came out of the oven. Next year I hope to have a set of leaf-shaped cookie cutters to make fancier decorations.

    After Thanksgiving I took the extra raw cranberries and dipped them in sweet Dolci Frutta dipping chocolate (usually used to make chocolate strawberries). The contrast of sour cranberry and ultra-sweet chocolate is a real kick. (If you make this, be sure to use fresh, crunchy cranberries.)

    Saturday, November 27, 2004

    Walmart, watch out!

    Target has a product very hot in certain areas--previous obtained only in boutique environments, now at your local mall.
    [Editor's note: Target finally spotted this prank page on their site, a low-key listing for a modest amount of marijuana, and removed it. But it's captured for posterity here.]

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    Cy Coleman

    Just spotted the obituary for Broadway composer Cy Coleman, whose compositions included the amazing "The Best is Yet to Come." There is not a particularly good Sinatra rendition in the iTunes Music Store, but I did find great performances by Nancy Wilson and Shirley Horn (also Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Sara Vaughn, and Peggy Lee--you get the style). If you're a dancer or a musician, "The Best is Yet to Come" is memorable be cause the melody tumbles along over the beat like water over rocks. You can't imagine anyone singing this tune a cappella--the tension, the swing, would be missing.

    Coleman also wrote "Witchcraft" and "Big Spender," and scored movies, among the The Heartbreak Kid.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    F1:E2 means we're ERC-ed

    Beep! Beep! Beep!

    As soon as I took the cornbread out, our oven beeped at me, shut off and displayed the message F1:E2. Eventually it calmed down and the rest of the controls became accessible again.

    Our KitchenAid electric stove is the Chevy Vega of cooking appliances. Epinions reviewers have targeted this model as a classic lemon, though it can't quite match the KitchenAid electric model (also memorialized on Epinons) that activated its oven door lock while the owners were making a roast for a dinner party. Three days and multiple repairmen later, the door was still locked and the kitchen redolent of rotting meat--apparently KitchenAid has the door screws on the inside of the door, where no one could get at them.

    But back to our KitchenAid...thus far, the occasional F1:E2 problem has not prevented me from cooking. But it hit with a vengeance tonight while I was making cornbread for stuffing. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I started to panic. While a couple error messages are mentioned in the KitchenAid manual, this is not one of them. (But, of course). Thanks to Google, I was able to get the complete list of KitchenAid error messages from doityourself.com. There I learned that E1:F2 means that the ERC needs to be replaced.

    The ERC?!?#?

    According to the Samurai Applicance Repairman at fixitnow.com, the ERC is the electronic range control. He explains that when an ERC fails, the appliance is still in fine working order--just the fancy control system is fried. And you'll pay big bucks--not to fix the oven, but to fix the shoddy electonics system that controls it. On a stove not even three years old.

    Let's just say I've printed out a recipe for roasting a turducken on an outside gas grill. And one thing I won't be giving thanks for tomorrow is the KitchenAid company.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Strange worlds, nu?

    The strong influence of Jewish writers on contempory science fiction is not news to aficionados of the genre. At the Jewish literary site nextbook.org, Daniel Oppenheimer takes a look at what has, and hasn't, happened since the definitive compendium of Jewish SF, Wandering Star, was published in 1974.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Google Dating

    No, this isn't a meet-up service. Google Date is a weird little Google add-on that lets you type in the date, and then Google tells you what things happened then. Obscure things, mind you. You can reduce the level of obscurity somewhat by using the keyword option.

    (Thanks to weblogwannabe for the tip.)

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    The Best of Thanksgiving

    It floors me that I've been blogging for more than a year. Last November, I responded to question from the (now defunct) Friday Five about my aspirations by saying that I "just want to survive Thanksgiving." (Obviously, I did.) And I was ranting about our ghastly electric stove and threatening to grovel, once again, before the gas company and beg them to run a gas line to our street.

    Here it is, a year later, and still no gas line. But the gas company employee who kept telling us the line was coming, and losing all the papers the neighbors signed committing to buying gas appliances, is mysteriously no longer with the gas company. The woman who took over from him now says we will have a gas service by the end of January. Which would be lovely since, believing her predecessor, I purchased a Wolf gas stove, which is now sitting in a warehouse waiting to be delivered.

    Thanksgiving will be at our house this year, for various amusing reasons, and it will just be my mother-in-law, our friends John and Sally, and Zorg and me. I suspect there will have to be a "kittens table" in the garage, since the kittens view our sitting down at the dining room table as their signal to begin "cleaning up" on the kitchen counter.

    Having been ordered by the m.i.l. to get an organic turkey from a particular vendor at the farmers market convenient to her, I instead ordered a turducken from the Cajun Grocer. An organic turducken, of course, cher.

    Since the turducken is by definition already stuffed, I'm making a cornbread stuffing sidedish that includes lots of yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, and apples. And I've tested a fabulous light salad:
  • marinate sliced celery and apple in oil and vinegar, salt and pepper
  • toss lettuce and parsley with that dressing
  • then sprinkle it all with a good blue cheese (crumbled) and toasted almonds

    A pumpkin pie fan, I'm making an extra mini pie to send over to some friends who dislike pumpkin pie but are having a guest who likes it.

    I'd thought I'd blog about a few of the great Thanksgiving disasters of the past--the flying turkey, the return of the stuffed cabbage appetizers, the whipped cream cannister that attacked Nina--but maybe later in the week.
  • Installing Palm desktop for Mac for a Treo 600

    First of all, don't install the new (Nov. 19 2005) Palm Desktop 4.2.1 for Mac if you are going to sync to a Treo 600. Bad things will happen until Palm releases a new version; read all the info on the download page and make sure the Treo 600 has been added to the list of supported devices.

    For the time being, you will want to install Palm Desktop 4.1 for Mac.

    If you are upgrading from a previous version of the Palm Desktop, be sure to make backup copies of up your User file (in Documents>Palm>Users). Things are going to get hairy, and losing your User file could be the element that shoves you right over the edge.


    Start by opening the Palm Desktop 4.1 installer for Mac that came with your Treo 600 or with the software MacDesktop_41_T600.sit you downloaded from the PalmOne site.

    Using Mac OS X, 10.3.x? Alert! Alert! Alert! The installation will choke and you'll get a cryptic system error message from the installer (not from your Mac system). Again and again and again. Don't change those settings! The problem is at Palm's end.

    You could go to their Treo help pages, which will give you a number for TMobile, which will helpfully connect you to their tech support which will have no idea why you are getting the error message but will connect you by some back channel to palmOne's tech support. That's assuming you call during business hours--TMobile is available round the clock, but palmOne isn't.

    You could, of course, search for several hours on discussion boards for a solution to the installer problem. Too busy? OK, here's a hint: You need to download a little file hidden on the palmOne site. It's called the palmOne Permissions Fixer.

    Downloading and installing it takes but a few seconds. However, you won't be able to launch the palmOne Permissions Fixer unless you have expanded its .SIT file using the latest state-of-the-art version of StuffIt Expander. Got it? OK.

    Once the Permissions Fixer is launched and runs, the Palm Desktop installer will, indeed, work.

    If you are going to sync to the Treo using Apple's iSync, make sure you have the latest version of the Apple iSync Conduit (v1.2). Download it, but don't install that conduit until after you have the Palm Desktop 4.1 installed.

    OK, now read the iSync instructions. The worst is over. Tell the cat it's safe to come out from under the couch.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Just call me the Repo Gal

    Today I repossessed my own car and spent $400+ on a cell phone. Neither activity had been on the horizon this morning when I sat down to my desk.

    At noon, I caught the bus down to the detailing shop to pick up my car, thinking I'd zip back home in matter of minutes. "Out to lunch" said the sign on the shop door, with a phone number underneath. I dialed the number thinking it was his cell phone, only to hear ringing inside the garage and an answering machine pick up. I spent a frustrating hour pacing the parking lot and waiting for the detailer to mosey on back. After a hour had gone by, I gave up and went next door to the graphic arts business and asked if they had a cell phone number for him. No, but the owner of the graphics shop turned out to be the building landlord. She let me into the garage and, apparently deciding that nobody would try to steal a 1990 Honda Civic (detailed or not), she let me have my car. I spotted my name and a price on the desk calendar; she calculated the sales tax, and I left the detailer a check where my key had been, along with the note "Ask Rose what happened."

    While waiting for the detailer, I opened my own cell phone and half of the lid snapped off. It didn't really snap...it sort of bent, cracked and peeled (being plastic). This is a common stress problem with Treo 300s. The only options are to send the phone (which has the earpiece in the lid) off to have a new lid hooked up. That means no phone for a week, $70 plus shipping, and every likelihood that the lid is going to break off again in a few months. (No doubt why Treo 300s are not sold anymore.)

    Thus I found myself at the T-Mobile kiosk at the mall after work, buying a Treo 600 (T-Mobile is the only cell phone service that has a decent signal on our street, and the Palm-OS Treo is one of the better phones for syncing with a Mac running OS X).

    I had synced the 300 data to the machine, so, supposedly all I need to do is charge the 600 and sync it to the computer. Ho. Ho. Ho. More later...

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Novels like golf

    Actually, I like Patrick White's writing, but I love this comment from a discussion of Australian literature: "I always like that description of Patrick White's novels as being like golf--great swatches of scenery interrupted by bursts of snobbery."

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    In our wildest dreams

    Here, from a blogger on Democrats.com, is the concession speech we wished Kerry had given.

    Remember the Persian Gulf War?

    I do, every time I look at my UGG Australian sheepskin boots.

    In 1990, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, renewing the claim that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq and asserting that Kuwaiti oil drilling on the border was tapping into Iraqi oil fields. In January 1991 the US came to the defense of Kuwait, putting us into our first international military conflict since Vietnam. The US went into shock, one of the effects of which was that commerce ground to a halt. Shopping, dining out--doing anything but sitting glued to TV and radio--was unpatriotic.

    It was during the first week of the war that a friend and I enjoyed dinner at Seattle's renowned Le Gourmand--as the only party of the evening. And during that same week that I discovered how panicked merchants get if they don't have any customers.

    I'd never seen UGGs before, but they looked warm and cozy up there on the shelf at the funky shoe store in the University District. My old Seattle bungalow was cold and drafty, and sheepskin boots seemed the solution. The price--$120--was too much for me in those days, so I asked if they'd take $89. The store manager, who hadn't had a sale all week, agreed, and I went off with the boots.

    The UGGs became an integral part of my at-home identity. I wore them after work with sweats, and I wore them in the morning with my bathrobe. Since my feet are always cold, I wore them from September to June every year.

    One cold, relentlessly rainy night in February, my cat Betaille rushed in the cat door carring a huge, struggling rat. She dropped the rat in my bedroom, and it leaped into one of the UGG boots. Betaille immediately shoved a paw in after it. Terrified she'd be bitten, I tossed her out of the room. In the chaos, the UGG fell over, but the rat remained inside. There was no way to get the rat out of the house without tossing the boot, too. So I closed the boot with kitchen tongs and, opening the back door, hurled the rodent-stuffed footwear out into the deluge. Two days later, when the rain stopped, I went out to get the sodden boot. Fortunately, the rat had departed. But what had it left in the boot? I brought the boot in and soaked it (and its mate) in Woolite in the sink to eradicate any remaining rodentia. Do you know how much water sheepskin can absorb? It took many, many rinses to get the soap out. I dried the boots in a warm room, and they were as good as new.

    Last year those UGGs entered their 13th season of wear. They'd been washed a few times, and the sheepskin was getting a bit matted. The soles were wearing down, getting stiff, and didn't provide much traction any more. So I decided it was time for a replacement pair.

    That's when I discovered, to my horror, that in between wars my UGGs had become celebrity footwear wear at ski resorts and at the beach. They now came in baby blue, pink, and every color imaginable. And there was a growing backlash against LA bimbos who went trotting around in UGGs and mini-skirts: apparently, they are known as "UGG sluts." As a result of all this fuss, UGGs were selling at full price, or at least they would have been selling at full price if there were any. The black ones I wanted were backordered for a year on the Nordstrom website. Imitation UGGs were springing up all over eBay. It was just too discouraging.

    By this fall the industrious Aussies had been able to dye up plenty of sheepskins, and I was able to snag a pair of real UGGs on eBay for $90 plus shipping. They are identical to, and just as gorgeous as, my first pair.

    The problem now? It's hard to put that old pair into the Goodwill bag. Those boots know more about the past 14 years of my life than even my best friend does.

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Spice up your backups

    I have been patting myself on the back for taking the plunge, buying a superb 250GB external drive, and making bootable copies of my two computers' hard drives on a weekly basis, using the very friendly Carbon Copy Cloner shareware.

    But this would be so much more fun.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Hack the vote

    An overview (with links) of mounting statistical evidence that there may have been hacking of the central PCs where optical-scan votes were tabulated. Oh, arggh.

    Democrats' conundrum

    "If we have to act like Republicans to beat Republicans, then I'm not sure what we win."
    --Stephen Elliott, author of Looking Forward to It

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Cat news flash

    Kaylee the hyperactive kitten went in to get spayed Tuesday and the vet called to say that when they opened her up they discovered she was still in heat. Since her behavior for the past week had been far calmer than the shrieking we'd assumed was heat, this was a surprise to us. It made the surgery more difficult, and Kaylee returned home a very subdued, tired little cat. But she is expected to make a full recovery.

    If you don't look, you won't see anything wrong

    The Seattle group blackboxvoting.org headed by Bev Harris has gone to court asserting that major voting machine errors occured in the recent election and that no spotted them because no one was looking--or knew where to look for the weak spots. They're calling for audits by computer security professionals.

    What makes it weird is that they are warning people about what they call a "deceptive" site, blackboxvoting.com, where there is a lot of yakking but no action.


    Now, let's go to the maps

    A thoughtful, in-depth look at what's behind the red and blue states. And an irreverent one.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Reaction from the blogosphere and beyond

    "The red/blue split first noticed in 2000 looks less like an anomaly of a tight election and more like a long-term alignment of the American people: The coasts, the Northeast, the Midwest -- almost anywhere that people are gathered in big cities -- for the Democrats; the West and the South for the Republicans. The last time the nation faced this kind of split, in the mid-19th century, we ended up shooting one another."
    --Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comments

    "Apparently, my country holds a fundamentally different set of values than I thought we did, and that scares the shit out of me."
    --Wil Wheaton

    "I have no doubt that the pendulum will swing back in my direction, perhaps in 4 years, perhaps in 8 or 12. I only hope that incurious George and his band of imperialistic jingoists do not do too much harm to the US and the world in the meantime."

    "It's over. Let it go."
    --Larry Lessig

    "I’m going to spend time these next few days looking for the America in my heart. It may be a while before I see it anywhere else."
    --comment posted on Lessig's site by adamsj

    "My stomach is a mess. Even though I knew it was not going to be easy, just seeing those numbers come in are giving me agita. I'm smoking like there's no tomorrow--and since I have to go outside my apartment to do so, you know I'm freezing my butt."

    "Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he campaigned for--the use of U.S. military might to bring God's gift of freedom to the world, with no more 'global tests,' and at home the enactment of the imperatives of 'the right God.'"
    --Sidney Blumenthal in Salon (Nov. 3)

    Why we keep losing to this idiot

    If you can choke down just one piece of post-election analysis today, consider seeing what Slate writer William Saletan considers to be the lessons learned--and how we should apply them.

    Crimes Against Nature

    "Your public servants serve you right."
    Adlai Stevenson

    Liberal thinking this go-round was that if we just mobilized all the like-thinking Americans who'd been staying home from the polls from distain or ennui, we'd win this time.

    We were wrong. We did what we told ourselves was our best, spoke out, moved on, assembled our numbers, made sure the choir was thoroughly preached to, affected the disaffected, and--we lost.

    Our best has got to be better.

    It's tempting to fume on the morning-after that the lesson learned is that half of the country lives on the far side of a bottomless chasm, believing that a (Christian) God is on the hotline to Bush, the world environment is ours to plunder, might is right, and women and gays are second-class citizens.

    But the self-righteous right was merely the minority core of the Bush victory, not the deciding factor. I believe that those who cast what were the deciding votes for Bush look just like our friends. And that they voted for Bush not because they believe in his ultra-right views, but because they checked with their budget book and made selfish, short-term decisions about money.

    Bush is the good buddy not only of the rich, but of the upper middle class. He lets you keep more of your capital gains. He's phasing out the inheritance tax. Four more years of Bush can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if you are in mid-level management and have a family with property. I think it was an all-too-easy choice for middle-of-the-roaders to make, particularly if they are sufficient isolated by geography or numbed by consumerism to be able to ignore increasingly poisened water and air and increasing class divisions in the world and in the nation.

    Our mission between now and 2008 will be to bring an awareness of environmental and economic issues to those middle-of-the-roaders and expand their political consciousness so they will look beyond next April 15 and the next quarterly dividend. Your assignment: Read Robert Kennedy Jr.'s new book Crimes Against Nature. Then give it as a holiday gift to a Republican you love.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004


    10 p.m. PST and according to CNN Bush is 21 electoral votes away from four more years of ruining the environment and the economy. I feel like throwing up.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    In the meantime, wear shoes around here

    Many years ago, I was up late working on a fiction writing project when my big orange tabby, Bosco, wanted to go to bed. He began walking along my bookcase, and, selecting a volume, pulled it out and let it tumble onto the floor. The volume? How to Sell What You Write.

    Not long after that, I woke up on my birthday to find a tiny stuffed animal on my pillow, holding a little sign that said "Happy Birthday." I found out later in the day that my cat Betaille had stolen this from my nextdoor neighbor's house—she was a cat burglar any way, but how did she know it was my birthday?

    A few days ago, Kaylee, the little Stripe Sister, began trying to tell me something. It started when I noticed she was coming into my office, standing up on the back of the sofa, and picking push-pins out of the bulletin board. She'd then take the push-pin and bat it around the house until it was lost under some piece of furniture.

    That particular bulletin board is covered in memorabilia: Handmade cards, favorite snapshots, bookmarks, my tags from MacWorld and Northwest Bookfest--you get the drift. The bulletin board gets assembled slowly over time as a collage (similar to those "mindmaps" drawn by the touchy-feely facilitator-types at the non-profit bureaucracies where I used to work).

    So this morning Kaylee is busy taking apart the last three years of my life. She's worked her way more than halfway up the board and can't reach any new push-pins by standing on the back of the sofa. Now she just launches herself onto the bulletin board, hangs there by her claws, and works at the next push-pin with her teeth. When she gets it, she releases the claws, pivots, and bounces down onto the sofa with her prize. Cards and photos are all over the sofa and the floor, where big Stripe Sister Zoe is helping play with the push-pins. Now even Sheba, the deaf white cat, is involved in the push-pin soccer game. (Don't try taking a push-pin away from her!)

    I could get the squirt gun and stop Kaylee, but at this point it's fascinating to watch. Clearly, I'll have to build a new bulletin board--after she outgrows her push-pin obsession. In the meantime, we'll be wearing shoes around here.

    The bulletin board bandit makes her getaway with another push-pin.

    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    The one-click iPod for those who need it

    Apple spoofs abound, but the Ashlee Simpson Karaoke Edition iPod ad is distinguished by the prankster's attention to tone and graphic detail.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    Spring is here

    The Eddie Bauer spring catalog arrived today. Yes, spring. What on earth can they be thinking? Their website appears to know it's still fall, moving in to winter.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    Three cheers for the Bush family!

    A group of distinguished members of the Bush family are been running a website that urges visitors "Please don't vote for our cousin."

    This story got quite a bit of press today, but what's weird is that nearly all of the print and online news stories omit the URL, so readers can't go to the source. It took ploughing through several of the results of a Google search until I hit a site that included the address.

    It was a pleasant surprise. Each of several Bush cousins contributed a photo and a long quote on why he or she had decided not to vote for George. Many of their statements were thoughtful and eloquent, and the site includes some of the most articulate refutations of Bush's "God and Country" blather I've read in the entire campaign. Unless you are a member of the Bush campaign pep squad, you'll relish the observations of people like Chris House, a teacher in Olympia, WA, Jeanny House, of Wisconsin, and Samuel Prescott Bush, who writes "I find it difficult to understand the patriotism behind giving tax breaks to corporations that export jobs overseas, leaving well-meaning and hard-working folks at home without a solid chance to support themselves. I find it incomprehensible that patriotism of the brand our president practices, includes ravaging our environmental policies, resulting in an immediate and lasting degradation of the environment for the foreseeable future, hurting my children and their children, the future patriots of this country."

    Sunday, October 24, 2004

    The awful thing

    When I was in Cupertino for the day Thursday, I overheard people say things like "yeah, he has the awful thing she had last week." It was only when I woke up Saturday morning, violently ill, that I realized what "the awful thing" was, and that I had brought it back with me. At its worst, I was so dizzy I couldn't walk up or down stairs. Couldn't remember being that sick since I was in Poland in 1983. It was apparently only 24-hour bug, because I feel nearly normal now--just a little weak.

    But don't get this thing.

    Interestingly, when I spoke with my doctor yesterday, he said it was a flu "but not the kind you get flu shots for." Which is good, since Zorg and I will be going up to Victoria, BC, next Saturday for flu shots; some clever marketing person at the Victoria Clipper set up a package deal that includes the cruise and the shot. After your shot, you have the day to sightsee in Victoria. (Three cheers for socialized medicine.)

    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Even Republicans are worried by Bush

    Thanks to Mystical Forest for bringing this to my attention: a lengthy NY Times article documenting growing Republican--yes, Republican--concerns about Bush's competence.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    The secrets of tub caulking

    [IMPORTANT NOTE: An updated and more detailed version of these instructions is posted at:http://themysterioustraveler.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-to-caulk-tub-shower.html]

    The caulk between the tile shower walls and the bathtub gets mildewed and every year we try to come up with a better way to replace it.

    First year: Throw money at it
    I called a bathtub re-caulking service recommended by a local consumer group. They sent two teenagers to futz around in the bathroom for a few hours, charged more than $300, and told us to keep the shower curtain open (between showers) to promote air circulation. Well, duh! We installed a more powerful bathroom fan that sounds like a 747 taking off four feet overhead. Neither of these strategies prevented the mildew from returning in a few months.

    Second year: Do it yourself--twice
    Inspired by several do-it-yourself articles, I prepared to recaulk the tub myself. Since the damp, mildewed area behind the removed caulk must be treated with a bleach solution and then thoroughly dried, and the new caulk must have time to cure without moisture, this involves taking showers in our other bathroom. Unfortunately, that's a tiny upstairs shower stall tucked under the eaves, and the shower head only comes up to chest level on my husband.

    So I waited until he had gone on a long mountaineering trip to start the process. I peeled off the caulk with a special plastic hooked tool, and applied the bleach to the grout in the mildewed area. I noted that the grout hidden by the caulk was not only mildewed but crumbling, and took out decayed sections. This worried me, and I consulted a few of my handyman friends to see if I should re-grout before re-caulking. The concensus was "no," so I forged ahead (mistake #1). The last step in the process involved applying the silicon caulk (a tube purchased at the local hardware store--mistake #2) and smoothing it with a little plastic caulk-smoothing tool. It was much stickier and messier than I had imagined, the caulk rapidly drying and getting tacky. Of course, it was a this moment when the phone rang. My husband was calling from the mountain top. Holding the phone with the backs of my wrists while caulk got into my hair, I tried to sound enthusiastic for five minutes (fatal mistake). By the time I got back to the bathtub, the caulk looked and felt like day-old chewed bubblegum; there was nothing smooth about it. I carved off the excess glop with a razor blade, then called a handyman friend and made plans to start the whole process from scratch when my husband went on his next mountaineering expedition. For round 2, I removed the glop with a razor blade (an evening's work) and the next day my friend came and applied the silicon caulk. "It's not great," he said. No argument from me. But it looked slightly less blobby, and cost much less than $300. The mildew returned, on schedule, a few months later, despite fans and cleaning efforts.

    This year: the grout/caulk combo and the miracle of dish soap
    Fortified by more do-it-yourself articles, I stripped the ghastly mildewed caulk, bleached, and then panicked when I saw even more disintegrated grout. I called the experts at the local tile store. Could they recommend a subcontrator to apply new grout and caulk for me? The tile person snorted like a sommelier at the Four Seasons being asked for Kool-Aid and said they did not know anyone who would be interested in such a small job. He suggested that I call a handyman. I informed him that I could do just as crappy a job as a handyman myself, and I didn't want a crappy job. He started to laugh, and told me to come over to the store to get a good grout and a special professional caulk instead of the stuff from the hardware store. That night my husband came back from a trip out of town to find the tub devoid of caulk. The "when can I use the shower?" clock began to tick, loudly.

    The next morning I went to the fancy tile shop and a salesperson listened to my tale of woe. She told me there is a grout/caulk combo used by professionals that looks like sanded grout and is extremely good at filling spaces and keeping a tub wall watersafe (tip #1). She handed over the sanded grout/caulk (a mere $9) and told me to put it on and smooth it. She recommended dipping my finger in a mixture of water and a bit of dish soap to really make it smooth (tip #2).

    The good news is that her technique worked. But it wouldn't have worked as well if I hadn't followed advice from one of the articles and masked the area to be caulked, 1/8" up the wall and 1/8" on the tub, using wide painter's tape (tip #3). My own touches included 30 latex medical gloves (available in bulk at your local drugstore) and a large grocery bag. You'll see why. Here's the drill:

    [IMPORTANT NOTE: An updated and more detailed version of these instructions is posted at: http://themysterioustraveler.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-to-caulk-tub-shower.html I suggest you refer to the new version instead of the following.]
    • Make sure the area to be caulked is clean, bleached, and dried and all traces of loose grout and old caulk have been removed.
    • Tape the area to be caulked, as described above.
    • Apply the grout/caulk bead using a good caulk gun.
    • Place the grocery bag next to tub.
    • Using a series of latex gloves and dipping your finger in a small container of water with a little dish detergent, begin smoothing the caulk bead. If glove gets gunky with caulk, put on a new glove. Otherwise, you will smear caulk on everything. Dump sticky gloves into grocery bag.
    • Once the bead is smooth, remove tape from the tub side of the caulk line and dump the tape into the grocery bag. The do-it-yourself article didn't mention that there will now be a bit of a raised edge on the caulk where the tape was removed. Get out the gloves and start smoothing that border flat. Then remove the tape from the wall, put on more gloves, and smooth that border.
    • You may also want to grout/caulk a few inches up the inner corner (or corners) of the show stall. Apply a short bead of caulk, and smooth to join the main caulking.
    • Recap your tube of caulk with plastic wrap and tape. Dump bag of trash. Wait 72 hours, then enjoy.

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    No on Initiative 83

    How many times do Seattle voters have to reapprove the monorail before the coalition of NIMBY groups in the city "gets it" that most people want an environmentally sensible rapid transit system in Seattle?

    Initiative 83 would ban Seattle from ever considering the building of any monorail systems. Well, that'll certainly save us from ourselves.

    What are people so scared of? Is Seattle so "special" that we can't live with overhead transportation like Chicago or Boston? I grew up in a house on a lovely residential street half a block from the El (elevated train) in Boston, and no one minded it--and that was a low-tech system built in the early 1900s! Mostly, we bragged about the convenience of our location. It was a fabulous connection for our neighborhood into all the resources of Boston's downtown. Seattle's downtown is a place I now avoid because of egregious parking prices, ghastly traffic, and skimpy mid-day bus service.

    I was particularly disheartened by the hysterical anti-Monorail protests of one community group that turned out to be affected by the proximity of a monorail exactly four days out of every calendar year.

    Let's Monorail! (Once again)

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    The Editor sounds off

    some of my young colleagues in the tech industry affect a writing style for email that's devoid of capital letters. when i get messages from them, i'm never sure whether to be offended (because they can't be bothered to reach for the shift key) or flattered (because it's the way they write to other hip young things). at the moment, i'm amused.

    Unable to recall the rules for capitalization in the real world, they apply initial caps with a heavy hand. While editing content for a website recently, I got to deal with gems like "big Savings for new Members" and "take advantage of this Limited-Time Offer."

    If that is the way they think capitals work, I can see why they aren't using them. There were paragraphs that looked liked 18th century poets had come back from the dead and were working in marketing.

    Editorial note: using an initial cap for concepts such as "savings" is called personification. An example is: Big Business. Personification conveys a poetic or ironic flavor, and should be used sparingly.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Zorg, aloft

    My husband, aka Zorg, is on his way to Chicago. Here's his report from Sea-Tac departure, filed via his Treo:

    "Some dolt was annoying everyone at the departure gate by repeatedly and endlessly saying 'testing 1-2-3-4-5' over the PA.

    "Finally another voice came on the PA and said, 'Okay, we all know this guy can count to 5, but can he make it to 7?'

    "We all chuckled. After a short pause a voice started repeating the 'testing' drone again.

    "Wasting no time, the heckler came back on and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, here at United we need to know how to count at least as far as 10.'

    "We didn't hear any more 'testing' after that."

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    That's my cat, not the Thanksgiving turkey

    Your vet might not tell you, but there are two ways to stitch up a cat after spaying. One is "internal" or "buried" stitches. The other is the traditional external skin stitches, in which the cat is laced up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

    Buried stitches seem to be a bit more complicated for a vet to execute but have some advantages: Since they dissolve, the cat doesn't have to go back for a second visit to have the stitches removed. And since they are invisible, they don't tempt the cat to pick at them and rip them out. Buried stitches are used for spaying feral cats that are released into the wild a day or two following spaying.

    Our sweet-tempered cat Zoe, spayed a couple weeks ago, was so pathetic in her plastic collar than we asked the vet if her high-strung sister, scheduled for spaying later this month, could have internal stitches. He said absolutely yes. And he urged us to let our friends know they can always ask to have their cat spayed by a vet who uses that option. So: Spare everyone the grief, ask for internal stitches.

    Sunday, October 10, 2004

    Now this is hot chocolate

    It's not just the calories and cholesterol that are dangerous when you serve these chocolates. Chocolate Roulette promises an unforgettable experience, particularly for the individual who selects not one of the praline-filled bon-bons but the jalapeno-filled bomb.

    Suggested antidotes include fat, milk, banana, cider-and-milk, and olive oil. Bon apetit!

    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    Seattle Industrial Chic

    Friends were over to dinner Friday night and we were discussing the extreme artsification of the formerly industrial areas of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. My husband, who used to have his law offices in the Pro Lab building, was saying something about a building that had been across the street, Fremont Bolt and Screw.

    "With that name, they probably turned it into an ultra-hip nightclub," I said, thinking myself very clever.

    "No," he corrected me, "that would be The Screw and Bolt."

    Domestic notes

    Cat updates: Zoe has been released from her cone-collar. She appears to be fully recovered from being spayed.

    Washing machine: After reading up on the Maytag Neptune washer and learning that a sizeable number of owners are complaining about mold growing in the gasket around the door, I bought a Whirlpool Duet instead. It uses very little water (apparently this is a characteristic of front-loaders), is gentle on clothes, and has fast, medium and slow spin options. Now, if the gas company would just stop losing all of the applications from people on our street (they've done it three times already), we can get the matching dryer delivered.


    I like to go to bed early and lie there listening to the seals barking down at Shilshole Marina and the rumbling of the trains heading north to Canada on the tracks three blocks west of us.

    I don't often get to bed early, but Thursday night I did. However, if there were any seals or trains, they were drowned out by the sounds of a commerical truck going forward, backing up, and idling loudly. Our street, which dead-ends in an alley, gets so little traffic, and most of that local, that we can recognize nearly every car that goes by. This truck was definitely not on the approved list.

    We got up and went to the French doors and saw an open flatbed carrying an enormous glistening white SUV. The truck appeared to be offloading the SUV in the alley. We watched, puzzled, as the strange SUV was placed in front of the house across the street, because it certainly did not belong to the family in that house. The truck continued loudly maneuvering around and seemed to be positioning itself in front of the small brown truck that belongs to our nextdoor neighbor. He's been in hospice for the past week, dying of bone cancer. His teenage daughter had reported that afternoon, as she played with our kitten on the lawn, that her father was in a coma.

    "Repo," my husband said grimly. "They're taking his truck. They always come in the middle of the night, or when no one's home."

    Sure enough, the nextdoor neighbor's wife's car was gone; she was visiting him at the hospice.

    There was no possibility of sleep with the ruckus out in the street, so I went out and asked what was going on. "He didn't make payments on the truck," the burly repo man said, defensively. By now several other folks were out on their front porches, watching. Call me sheltered, call me middle class, but repo men were something I've only seen on TV or in the movies.

    Eventually the repo folks got our neighbor's truck loaded, and drove off with it, and at some point they removed the huge SUV as well. When we got up in the morning, there was an odd, empty space on the street where our nextdoor neighbor's truck had always been parked.

    Friday, October 08, 2004

    It gets worse (the debates)

    Four years ago, watching the Bush v. Gore debate, I noticed Bush pause with that deer-in-the-headlights look of his. I was struck by how much he looked like someone listening to something else...like a prompter. I speculated uncharitably that Bush had been implanted with a device that allowed his handlers to tell him what to say, and his bizarre pauses were caused by malfunctions or slowdowns in the transmission.

    Apparently, it's true, though he wears the device rather than has it implanted. Read this sobering story in Salon. If you don't need as balanced a report, check out the site isbushwired.com which includes gossip, speculation, and reports of broadcast equipment at Bush appearances accidentally picking up a channel with a prompter's voice (a different voice, saying many of the words of the speech) during Bush's speeches.

    It's only a matter of time before someone figures out a way to hack Bush's prompting channel while he's mid-rant--even just a nice blast of loud noise would be delightful to watch.

    Monday, October 04, 2004

    Ready for the recount

    This should interest Zorg, J Leroy, Moonlion and all the other election geeks: I just got email from the Kerry campaign (I'm a contributor) notifying me that the FEC has issued a ruling that authorizes the campaign to raise money for a GELAC fund. Translated into English, the Kerry campaign can now begin to raise money for a General Election Legal and Compliance Fund that will be used to finance recounts. The Kerry message to donors is "we'll be ready this time."

    I was sort of mystified, as I thought "the government" paid for recounts. But I can see how you wouldn't want to rely on that these days.

    Saturday, October 02, 2004

    Zoe is a brave little cat

    Zoe is back from the vet, wearing a big clear plastic cone-shaped collar on her head so she won't be able to chew on her stitches. In spite of running into everything with the cone, she is purring away and trying to live life as usual. We took off her cone and let her go running in the backyard and fed her dinner (no fun in a cone). Unfortunately, when she stops running around she sits down and tries to chomp at the stitches, so we had to put the get-up back on again. Kaylee is being a jerk and hissing at poor Zoe. Little does she know that in three weeks, it will be her turn to get spayed and collared!

    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Mount St. Helens webcam

    If you are following the hot air from the volcano, instead of from the debates, check here.

    Two kittens are better than one

    In June we got a pair of kittens and all summer we've enjoyed watching them tear through the house and play. They're cheerful, affectionate kittens. Today, Zoe, the larger and more mellow kitten, went off to the vet to get spayed. Kaylee, the small, high-strung kitten, couldn't go because she went into premature heat and just got out of it yesterday. So I'm home alone with Kaylee. I have had my ears washed three times, my toes bitten, and found myself breaking out the catnip at 10 a.m. in the hopes of getting a respite from my new job as stand-in for sister Zoe. Sheba demanded to be let out of the house, and Betaille is hiding somewhere upstairs.

    We should have arranged for a "loaner" kitten, I think.

    Plain and simple

    Here's a link to one of my favorite websites: Well written, easy to navigate and easy to use. Decidedly unglamourous, but it follows the basic principles of good web design for small businesses. The phone number is the most prominent feature on every page and the answers to basic questions (what are the services, how do I pay, etc.) are in a lefthand nav bar and thus always just one click away from the page you are on. Plus, there's a sense of humor throughout--check out the FAQ.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2004

    Only two more days til BlogACatMas

    According to the Accordion Guy blog Friday is BlogACatMas, celebrated by posting the picture of a kitty on your blog. Don't ask me, it was his idea.

    What's next?

    Kaylee the kitten went into premature heat yesterday, and by last night was crawling around on her elbows and knees, trilling. It was pathetic. Even more pathetic--and somewhat alarming--was her sister Zoe, who was trying to help Kaylee out by performing the male role without the necessary equipment. By this morning both of them seemed exhausted. We're told Kaylee's first heat could last anywhere from two days to two weeks, and she can't be spayed until she's completely out of it. They were scheduled for spaying mid-October, but I immediately called the vet and got them to take Zoe this Friday, hoping she won't follow her precocious sister's example before then.

    The phone, which lately seems to be controlled by a cosmic routing system that knows exactly when I'm in the shower or asleep, rang at 7:45 a.m. this morning. By the time I got to it, the caller had hung up, leaving no message. Caller ID showed it was our housecleaner, who then didn't show up for the weekly cleaning gig at 9.

    It's probably just as well. By noon a garbage bag had leaked in the kitchen. At 1 p.m., a horrible "hrorrrping" sound had Kaylee and Zoe and me all standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at the bedroom. When it stopped, we crept upstairs to find the walk-through closet, the bathroom, and the bedroom covered with cat barf, and Betaille glaring at all of us. I set about cleaning that up with spray cleaner and a roll of paper towels, with Kaylee and Zoe "helping." That, of course, is when the phone rang again. One of my contractors is coming over to look at the fence posts which are rotting out from under the fence (another reminder of the previous owners and their artsy cosmetic construction techniques).

    After the work day (yes, I work full time from home) is over, I have to go down to the basement and have another go-round with the washer. It's objecting to full loads, and making its feelings know by accessing a cache of old dirt and adding that to the rinse water. I'm coddling it with medium loads and planning to buy a Maytag Neptune or a Whirlpool Duet. Recommendations, anyone?

    Wednesday, September 22, 2004

    Why Bush is going to stay in office

    Bush is going to stay in office for two reasons:

    1. Because he'll stop at nothing. Florida 2000 was just a taste of the nasty polling-place antics that will be going on in swing states (face it, the other states were written off months ago) in the final few days of the campaign.

    2. Because, in our heart of hearts, most Americans want Bush in power. Even plenty of Americans who will go quietly to the polls and cast a sanctimonious little vote for Kerry will do so because they're secure in the knowledge that Bush's camp will figure out a way to stay out on top.

    Bush's foreign policy is our dirty little affair. Here we are, with our ultra-luxurious lifestyles, laying waste to the natural resources of the world. Now we've got a president who's doing everything he can to protect those lifestyles by protecting the big corporations that make them possible. It used to be feasible for the U.S. to purchase other countries' resources by purchasing the regimes that controlled those countries. Now that it's become more difficult to keep those rented regimes in power, Bush has cut out the middle man and simply invaded an oil-rich country with the aim of setting up a structure the U.S. will control from the outset. That other nations and the UN would have no part of these goings-on has made it even easier for the U.S. (and even more terrifying for the people being invaded, but that's another story).

    Bush has made it clear to everyone that his foreign policy consists of conquering and controlling the world's oil resources while repeating the words "fighting the war on terror" with all the sincerity of a jerk who, kicking and barging his way through a crowd, mumbles "excuse me."

    The really scary part is that lots of people are secretly grateful. And just look around and you'll see plenty of people who are publicly grateful. They were brought up to believe that Americans have the God-given right to live like kings at the expense of the majority of the world's population. In their view, who cares if Bush is a buffoon, a lightweight, a dim bulb, and a hypocrite? He's defending, perpetuating, and glorifying "the American way."

    Is it any wonder that skilled politicians like Gore and Kerry and even Dean end up looking like wimps and scolding nannies by comparison? What else is the anti-Bush message except: We're greedy hogs and we need to stop buying SUVs, sucking up power, eating strawberries in January, and swimming in a sea of packaging materials.

    Yeah, people really want to hear that.

    No wonder Bush has that smirk on his face.

    Thursday, September 16, 2004

    Today in Afghanistan

    Well, I'm not blogging much, but everyone else is. On the serious side, check out the new Today in Afghanistan.

    On the lighter side, Kaylee and Zoe have started a diary on their Catster page. Look them up on the site and scroll to the bottom of their page to see the world from the perspective of two five-month old kittens.

    Monday, September 06, 2004

    More from Adlai Stevenson

    My husband brought up another Adlai Stevenson quote that's all too appropriate for the current presidential campaign:

    "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." (from Stevenson's 1952 campaign)

    Read more Stevenson quotes, and here's Slate's take on Stevenson's political appeal.

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Why I'm campaigning for Kerry

    During Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign, a woman at a rally called to him, "You have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson replied "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

    Welcome to 2004. If you want to see the last of Bush and the cronies he fronts for, it's not going to be enough just to vote for John Kerry. You'll need to bring someone else along with you. Maybe it's a well-intentioned neighbor who gets "too busy" to go to the polls, or a newcomer to the state who hasn't registered yet. Get off your butt and get out the vote.

    I'm not just voting for Kerry, I'm campaigning. My expectations of Kerry are modest and reasonable: I don't expect him to agree with me on every issue. I don't expect him to end the war, create millions of jobs, rescue social security, institute universal healthcare, legalize gay marriage, or save the environment. I do expect him to turn the ship of state slowly in those directions. Most importantly, I have every confidence that his administration will foster an environment in which we can discuss and work on these issues without the likelihood of being labeled anti-Christian, extreme, or wimpy, or--if we keep sounding off--getting labeled a "terrorist" and swept off to a prison where we will be held indefinitely without access to legal representation.

    Whining about Kerry not being liberal enough for you? Get off it. It's not going to be Kerry's job, as president, to change America. It's ours. His job, leadership, is to return us to an environment in which we can do our work as citizens without fear.

    Walla Wallas

    Cookbook author Maida Heatter writes today in Salon about onion sandwiches. The article includes a recipe from James Beard. Heatter notes "Before Beard became famous for his cooking classes and cookbooks, he ran a catering business that specialized in hors d'oeuvres--and he told me once that onion sandwiches were his most popular item. He'd sold millions of them, he said. That may be, but I later learned that his recipe for them varied from publication to publication."

    I have a better recipe, a non-hors d'oeuvres version, than the one she provides. It came from my late uncle Bob Anderson who demonstrated it one summer when he was visiting me in Seattle during Walla Walla season. Here it is:

    • Black Russian rye bread (such as Bremner Brothers)
    • buttter
    • Walla Walla onion, peeled and sliced thinly
    • Dijon mustard
    • sugar
    • lemon juice

    Cover the bottom slice of bread with butter and the top slice with Dijon. Place sliced onions on the buttered slice, sprinkle the onions lightly with sugar (about 1/2 tsp. for a small sandwich, and 1 tsp for a large sandwich) and then dampen the sugar with lemon juice (1/2 to 1 tsp.) and top with the Dijon-spread slice.

    Caution: It's essential to make this with very fresh, in-season sweet onions. Regular yellow or white onions will taste bitter, and older sweet onions will make you think that Heatter, Beard, Uncle Bob and I are all crazy.

    Monday, August 30, 2004

    Good news in the polls

    The Seattle Times reports today that Mark Sidran is gaining on Deborah Senn in the Washington State Attorney General's race, great news for anyone who watched Senn ride roughshod over the state healthcare system during her notorious tenure as the state Insurance Commissioner. Her name recognition is higher than Sidran's, but for all the wrong reasons.

    I find that Sidran is a sharp, principled guy who can stand up and take it if (gasp) someone doesn't agree with him. I don't agree with all of his actions as Seattle's city attorney, but I respect them. I could go on at length...but Al Franken says it so much more entertainingly.

    Friday, August 27, 2004

    Summer's end

    Summer means fried clams and chocolate malts. So yesterday I walked down to Gordo's on Seaview for lunch. Seaview Avenue looks like the main street of a small, Northern California coastal town; the sort of town where the private investigator in a 70s movie drives to question an obscure and reluctant witness. Restaurants, boatyards, and marinas line the water side of the shore road, and an assortment of shacks, beach cottages, and 60s-era commerical buildlings (stucco with bulbous brown-tinted windows) line the other side. No cross streets--a railroad runs behind the buildings.
    Gordo's take-out is in one of the shacks, with wooden picnic tables on the front and side. Judging from the pop-art font on the signage (listing every item on the menu) Gordo's has been there a good long while. While the food is hardly health food, the portions are modest, and inexpensive. My little bag of clams and a medium-size malted came to under $5, and the clams were as close in taste (though not texture) as you get to Cape Cod style fried clams on the West Coast. The malted had a subtle cocoa taste--not sickeningly sweet like most of the soft ice cream that turns up at more commercial places.
    Next to Gordo's parking lot is Abbondanza, an outdoor lot filled with concrete garden art surrounded by a chain-link fence. The art ranges from the tacky to the chic. They have dark gray Japanese lanterns, elegant green leaping fish designed as fountains, cross-legged Hindu gods, huge Buddha faces, elegant Greco-Roman pedestals, elaborate English planters, and New Age wall plaques of suns and moon. I saw bunnies and, I think, some gnomes and gargoyles in there as well. And some statues of the Virgin Mary. And some Grecian nudes. Every September Abbondanza has a huge 50-percent-off sale, advertised on with posters on phone poles all over North Seattle. Otherwise, it's rarely open. It's definitely where the private investigator would be snooping around, looking for the mysterious witness. Then he'd go next door to Gordo's and get some clams.

    Blogging fantasy

    In the early days of the internet, you'd stumble onto sites that were so esoteric as to be incomprehensible. Today, most sites fall into a readily recognizable pattern. Yawn. Well, here's one that will have you pondering. Check out a couple of blog listings; scroll all the way down to the bottom of a page. Not sure what's behind this, but someone's sure gone to a lot of trouble to create it. And, yes, The Mysterious Traveler Sets Out is listed.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2004


    Mozilla's new Firefox browser gives me access to more blogger composition features and shortcuts. Very cool. Very very cool. Soon I'll be abusing things like font sizes, bold, italics, and lists. And colors.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    Spoiling the kitties

    A few new products for our feline friends:

    Beastie Bands are ultra-lightweight stretch material cat collars with velcro closures. They are the perfect first collar for kittens. (Kaylee demonstrates.)

    You simply cut the collar material to adjust the length (so the poor kitten isn't running around with extra collar flapping). And there's a small grommet so you can attach a little tag. We made "trainer" tags for the kittens on the machine at the pet supply supermarket. These are just tiny metal tags--the big plastic reflector tags the adult cats wear would have been ridiculous.

    The Self-Warming Cat Cushion from Petsmart actually requires a cat to supply the power. This faux-fur plush pad has a lining made out of reflective material (a space blanket?) that reflects back the cat's heat. Our cats love it. Completely washable.

    The big find was the Berber Deluxe Slumber Ball from Drs. Foster and Smith. The 26" medium size slumber ball is an immense ball of ultra-light fiberfill covered in synthetic berber fleece. A big cat like Sheba climbs on and sinks slowly into the middle, purring furiously. Show 'em, Sheba:

    The kittens like it too but since they don't weigh enough to compress the ball, they tend to slide slowly off while sleeping. I'm trying to imagine what the large (32") slumber ball would be like--perhaps if our next cat is a mountain lion...These are completely washable, but you'd have to have a big washing machine.

    Last but not least--we came across tiny round faux-fur throw rugs at Fred Meyers called Faux Katti. Despite the name, these are not in the pet department, but in the rug aisle. They have non-skid backing, so you can put them on the floor or the desk and the cats won't go surfing all over the room on them. We had been putting fleece throws on our desks for the cats to hang out on, but the rugs are much better. The cats think so, too.