Saturday, January 01, 2005 , mid-afternoon
I’ve just finished reading the book Fatherland by Robert Harris. I’d enjoyed “Pompeii” by the same author, which is why I picked up both “Fatherland” and “Archangel” (but I haven’t read the latter yet). I thought “Fatherland” was interesting, but it seemed to drag every so slightly in places. I was also unprepared for the very graphic account of the Holocaust and mass executions which came near the end of the book. While I’m aware such events took place and am horrified by them, I prefer not to voluntarily read about them in graphic detail. For example, I’d rather read a biography of a person who died in Auschwitz than a second-by-second account of their last 5 minutes of life. I read the last part of “Fatherland” right before trying to fall asleep last night, and it was some disturbing imagery to have left in my head.
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My Green Thumb
I forgot one very important thing in my 2004 review—I forgot that I had finally discovered my green thumb. It’s pale green, verging on yellow, but it’s more of a talent with plants that I knew I had. For that, I have to thank the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. The book awoke in me an obsession with orchids and strange plants, not necessarily in growing them myself, but in finding out more about them and the places they grow wild. That led me to read more books about exotic places like Borneo, and eventually I ended up with my own orchid plant growing in a pot on the kitchen counter, a bromeliad from Chile growing in the yard, and a fledgling hydroponic garden setup, also hogging my kitchen space. I’ve learned to grow tomato, cucumber, and cilantro plants, and I’ll try to branch out to peppers as well. It’s been so much fun—it’s like having pets without all the emotional attachment. Here’s a picture of what my orchid (a Zygopedilum from Orchids.com) will eventually look like if I don’t kill it first:
Friday, December 31, 2004 , late at night
New Year’s Eve
It’s 10pm, and as usual, we’re planning an exciting New Year’s Eve celebration. I gave Phoenix a bath, I made a pot of turkey gumbo soup, and we plan to spend the evening watching TV and/or our “Dead Like Me” season 1 DVD set. It’s quite cold outside, so I’m still crossing my fingers that the local idiots will foregore the illegal fireworks. As for the city’s big fireworks celebration, it could be canceled by high winds, but if not, we’ll watch it live from the upstairs bedroom window, then rewind the TiVo to watch it on television. We spare no expense!
Lots of things happened this past year which were unexpected, some good and some bad. Bubbe, Bob, and Sweet Pea are no longer with us, but we did add Chile to the family. Work has been sort of crummy, but I was able to do some fun websites for actor Camden Toy and for the new movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Also, our website about author Dan Brown got some recognition after being mentioned in the “Secrets of Angels and Demons” book. I was published for the first time in the same book, and that was really exciting. I was able to meet my nephew Tanner for the first time this past year when I enjoyed a nice family get-together at my brother’s house in Pennsylvania. I also discovered the joy of Animal Cops, my favourite show on television. There’s no other show I’d rather watch, unless the powers that be decide to put Ami Cusack on “The Amazing Race”.
My goals for 2005 include being published again, maybe taking an online or correspondence course (like the ones offered at Humane Society University), and learning CSS well enough so I can perhaps make some extra income from it. I also want to cook at home more often, and eat out less. I need to be a little less lazy :p
Tuesday, December 28, 2004 , late evening
The leak in my window
The kitchen window is leaking. Not a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination (it’s just a leak, not a 100 foot high tsunami wave), but it’s really a pain in the butt. The home warranty is still in effect and a repair guy is coming over tomorrow at 8am, so we spent the evening cleaning and preparing the house for the intrusion of strangers. I didn’t have to wash the floor as there’s no point with the yard still full of water and the rain still pouring down, but I would say we cleaned and vacuumed and scrubbed about 50% of the house. Whenever we do this we always think, Wow, we should clean the entire house more often, but that enthusiasm never actually manifests itself.
My new computer arrived today but I was so preoccupied with the window issue that all I did was unpack the new monitor and carry it upstairs. The new 19”, flat-panel LCD monitor—it’s very cool. Tomorrow I will bid goodbye to my 17” flat screen monitor which the dog used as a scratching post. It will be a few days before I hook up the new CPU, though—it’s exciting to have, but a major effort to transfer all my files. I’ll save the task for a rainy day, which we’re supposed to have until well into next week. No New Year’s Eve fireworks would be fine with me, as I wouldn’t have to contend with a terrified German Shepherd, so once the window is fixed it can rain all it wants.
I’m intrigued by the fact that no matter how much I write about my dead cat, the Adsense ads on the side of the page only display ads for “chocolate”. If you type the phrase “dead cat” into Google you’ll see a number of paid ads returned in the search results, including one which promises that you can buy a dead cat on eBay.
Monday, December 27, 2004 , late at night
ashes to ashes
We picked up Sweet Pea’s cremains today. I wasn’t going to get all weepy about it, but I did as soon as I spotted the little commemorative print the cemetary made for us, with a paw print and a lock of hair on it. I really do miss her. One of the women at the vet’s office has a cat she’s suggested we adopt, but he’s a bit young (9 months old), he’s not neutered (that’s a big expense), and we’ve already sent our adoption paperwork in to the Best Friends sanctuary. He’s a really cute cat though, and he’s supposed to be well-tempered, so we might try him out in a “sleepover”. First I have to de-Sweet Pea part of the upstairs by removing her old cat tree. She had a bad habit of peeing on the bottom of it (she loved to pee on carpeting, so I’m thankful she restricted it to the cat tree), and I want to move it to the garage where I can douse it with bleach. I was always cleaning it after she had an “accident”, but I know I’ve probably missed a spot here or there and I don’t want a new cat to think carpeting is fair game. I finally got smart after a year or so of “tree pee” and covered the base with a plastic trash bag, and that stopped the attraction. Still, there are a lot of residual urinary memories on that tree.
We went to Barnes & Noble today with a gift certificate and bought nothing. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was seriously ill. I just couldn’t find anything I really wanted to read, and I’m waiting for a huge Amazon order to arrive so I figured I’d save the gc for a reading rainy day. Nancy found The Secrets of Angels & Demons on the “New Releases” shelf and that was pretty neat. I wrote a chapter for it and I doubt the thrill of seeing my name in a bookstore will ever wear off.
Saturday, December 25, 2004 , evening
Books and stuff
I didn’t think the words “too much chocolate” would ever come falling from my lips, but as of this morning, I definitely don’t care if I see any for a while. We were given gifts of candy bars, gifts of sundae sauces, gifts of cookies, gifts of brownies, gifts of boxed chocolates, gifts of products to help you cook stuff with chocolate… it made me crave potato chips. Tomorrow morning it’s all going in the freezer and I’ll sort it out later. I know I’ll appreciate it all eventually, and I love to be prepared for any chocolate emergency, but right now I’m on chocolate hiatus.
I was very excited to receive some great non-edibles as well. Nancy’s parents gave me an ASPCA t-shirt, which I’ve coveted ever since I first spotted it in the ASPCA.org online store. The shirt says, “I found my best friend at at animal shelter”, and I have to admit that might not be the absolute truth. Our most celebrated animal shelter find is Phoenix, and I often think she doesn’t even like me very much, let alone think of me as her best friend. That’s the price I pay for being the one who does the doggie dirty work—baths, ear cleanings, toenail trims, allergy shots, etc. No one ever appreciates the scut work. They also gave me the Dead Like Me Season 1 DVD box set. Nancy and I just love “Dead Like Me”, but discovered the show a bit late and haven’t seen some episodes from season 1. Now we’ll be able to catch up at our own pace. From some other friends (my online “Secret Santa”), I received Life of Pi and A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood. I need to start going to bed earlier so I can get more reading accomplished.
Speaking of “accomplished”, I just finished reading, Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. Not the most grippingly-written book, but a pretty fascinating story about a woman who has incredible endurance and can withstand intensely cold temperatures for long periods of time. Read it while you’re huddled up under a blanket even though your furnace is at 74 degrees so and you’ll really appreciate what she was able to accomplish.
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I ate far too much at Christmas Eve dinner, and I’m so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open. The dogs don’t want to go to bed, though—they’re romping and wrestling and ready to party all night long. I should feel horribly melancholy tonight but I don’t… perhaps it’s the wine. On Christmas morning last year, Sweet Pea was rolling in the wrapping paper and killing pieces of ribbon, so it won’t be quite the same when we open gifts later (oh, at least 9 hours later if I have my way). We’ve talked to the people at Best Friends about adopting an older cat, and they’ve recommended an elderly guy named “Eddie”. We’ll find out more about Eddie next week, but I sure do miss having a fuzzy friend sitting at my feet while I’m at my desk. I’m sure the occasional spider passes by, but they don’t count. They never come when I call them.
Thursday, December 23, 2004 , early evening
Endings and Beginnings
My cat died. This was not the subject I wanted to write about when I first set up my blog software about six weeks ago… I wanted to write about how I’d just met Bill Clinton, or about how I just had my first freelance writing work published, or even about how I hadn’t missed flossing for a single day in over 18 months. Unfortunately, I kept getting distracted by work and life projects, and then suddenly, my cat died. She was 13, and while I didn’t expect her to live forever, I definitely felt she would last at least 20 years because she was such a stubborn curmudgeon. On the morning of December 17th she woke up, slowly walked over to my desk, and let out two horrible cries which could only be described as wails of pain. I tried not to panic (because she’d always been perfectly healthy), but she had no strength to walk and her eyes were cloudy and distant. We rushed her to the vet immediately, but she went steadily downhill, going into shock and then cardiac arrest. We were able to be at her side while she was euthanized—a decision which was easy given that she already looked so lifeless. Before she died I was able to kiss her on the head, something which would have been terribly risky if she’d been her normal, spunky self. I was also able to hold her little white front paw while she was put to sleep—again, something I’d never been able to do while she was alive, as she had very rigid ideas about personal space. A necropsy showed she died of metastisized cancer and a liver abscess which had ruptured, causing septicemia. I’m glad she didn’t suffer for very long, but I also wish I’d had some warning that it was time to say goodbye.
Sweet Pea is being cremated now, and we’ll pick her up a couple of days after Christmas. We really miss her presence and the way she was always skulking around and underfoot—she was independent yet always with us. We didn’t think we were “cat people” (we’re dog and parrot people), but the house without a cat just doesn’t seem right. We’re in the process of completing the adoption paperwork to try to give a home to an older cat from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, but it might be a while before we find a good match. Docile cats who like to watch TV and don’t mind dogs and parrots don’t come along every day. Maybe we’ll get a cat who doesn’t bite—Sweet Pea gave me enough scars to last me through a lifetime of cats. She did love me though… as I was putting her into her carrier to rush her to the vet, she purred when I held her. I like to think she was trying to tell me that everything was going to be okay. Or maybe she just wanted to bite me… with her, you could never be sure.