29 July 2008

Careless in Red - careless is right!

So as I mentioned here, I didn't like the new Elizabeth George, Careless in Red. In fact, I haven't really thought she's produced a decent book for several years. So why read it, you might ask? Well, I am a voracious reader and my to-be-read pile is perilously low and Mom gave me her copy when she'd finished with it; also, in order to pay for the cleaner who comes in twice a month, I've stopped buying books ... and, uh, haven't gotten to the library yet either.

So that's why I persevered with Careless in Red despite thinking it was badly written and knowing from the outset that I'd find so much wrong with the book. My initial expectations were not disappointed, I assure you. I think she suffers from Best Selling Author Syndrome, wherein an author is such a huge cash cow for a publishing house that their editor becomes afraid to actually edit the work. The prose is overwritten and full of way too much explication about people's motives. She's doing that thing that writing teachers say not to: telling rather than showing. And while I do think she's got some psychological astuteness, it's overshadowed by the clunky writing.

Kerra felt as if she would weep, and the very thought of weeping because of this, because of her, because of them, caused all of her anger to come roaring back, swelling within her to such an extreme that she thought it might explode from her mouth, a foul effluent capable of polluting whatever remained between her and this man she'd chosen to love. Because she did love him, only love was dangerous. Love put one where her father was, and that she could not begin to bear.


All I can think is that during George's early years she must have worked with a better editor, because I'm guessing that if she hasn't learned not to write crap like that after about twenty books, she's probably been writing like that all along.

But bad writing can be forgiven if you've got a zippy, interesting plot ... which this doesn't. George ties the plot threads together capably enough and plants a few red herrings, but she takes six hundred pages to accomplish something that would have been better at a third of the size. I didn't find the whodunit to be particularly plausible, but I was totally out of patience by the end of the book anyway, so that might have been my bad.

So ... if anyone still wants to read this, I have a copy that you're welcome to! The book passed the time, just not as enjoyably as it could have.

28 July 2008


So so so motherfucking cranky.

That is all.

25 July 2008

Aye, my Eye

Probably should have started the title of this post with Oy instead of Aye, but I can't resist terrible puns. So I went to the optometrist last night (he lives in Marblehead, where I grew up - it's on Boston's North Shore - just a few streets down from the house I grew up in. But since I never went to Marblehead's public schools, I didn't know his kids or anything. I asked about his commute, since Marblehead to Somerville can't be fun, and he explained that his business has been a family business since the 1920's, so he couldn't very well move it. But funny that I fled Marblehead for Somerville and he stopped living in Somerville to move to Marblehead.)

Anyway, he's a very good optometrist. He had a cool machine that figures out your prescription (or gets him about 95% there.) You just rest your chin on the thingie and it shines different amounts of light into your eye and it figures it out from there - basically when it shines the light into your eye, your retina reflects the light back. The machine measures the particular shape of your retinal reflection and compares that to standard 20/20 vision, calculates the differences and from there produces a prescription in about 30 seconds. Pretty cool. I didn't know the specifics of the retina reflecting part but I guessed there was some kind of reflection/light intake measurement involved and figured out the rest of it from there. Then I felt smart for the rest of the appointment. Hey, I gotta give myself props where I can, okay?

I went for contacts but because my right eye has an astigmatism with nearsightedness, I need a weighted contact - the contact is unevenly shaped to correct for the astigmatism and the contact is therefore heavier at the bottom so that it stays at the right orientation. Except my eyelids are too tight, or something, and both the contacts he tried were moving all over the place. I had this problem with my last batch of contacts, too - I had about a 50% success rate on the right contact (monthly disposables) so every month it was kind of a crapshoot. So there's one more standard lens he was thinking of trying, or we could move straight into custom. I'm disappointed not to have new contacts - for one thing, I can't take an Ashtanga class with glasses because I sweat so much they'll slide right off; also I can't wear mascara with glasses - but I'm happy to know what the problem is and to be on the way to solving it.

And also, TGIF.

Kitten update: Zoe isn't dead yet but she's not eating much and nature is taking its course; I finally feel like this is the right decision (she doesn't seem too unhappy.) Simone is settling in well - she keeps trying to be friendly to Inty and Zoe but they both persist in hating her; however, Simone likes to crawl under the covers and both Inty and Zoe are happy enough to sit on top of a chirping, purring lump. I guess as long as there's a sheet separating them, they don't realise that there's another cat under there... which made me realise that I totally give my cats too much credit for brains.

23 July 2008

Too tired to think up a catchy title

Today was like that Tom and Jerry cartoon where Tom goes out carousing and then can't keep his eyes open the next day. (Video embedded at bottom. I dunno what's up with the asian subtitles but it's the complete unedited video, complete with racist depiction of old timey housekeeper.) No carousing involved in my case, but our CEO did catch me sleeping at my desk.

When the alarm went off this morning, I made the decision to keep hitting the five minute snooze button twelve times instead of getting up and blogging (or just resetting the alarm to wake me in another hour.) Totally counterproductive, of course, because not only did I not blog, I also didn't really get any extra rest.

By the time I got to work I'd had enough caffeine to pry my eyelids apart and everything was fine. I got a migraine after lunch but no big deal, I caught it early and took my medicine and that was the end of that. Until about 5:30, when despite being in a good working groove I was just overwhelmed with this wave of fatigue and figured what the hell, it's after 5, I'll put my head down on my desk and have a wee kip. So I did, for about 15 minutes, when someone leaving said goodbye and that woke me up.

And then I kept working for a bit longer and was getting ready to leave at 6:15 or so when the CEO passed by and said, "Long day?" I thought he was referring to the time and I said, "they're ALL long these days" and he said, "No... I noticed you sleeping at your desk." Oh yeah. "It was after five!" I said. "I just got really tired all of a sudden and figured why not put my head down for a little while?" And he said, "Everyone has had days like that ... next time, knock on the door of my office and if I'm not doing anything important you can come in and close the door and nap on my couch." Which was super duper nice of him, and I'm sure he meant it completely genuinely. I'm also sure I'll never, ever take him up on it.

I think my sleepiness might have been the migraine, actually, but I bet the migraine itself was triggered by lack of sleep (and lunch at a restaurant with bad, loud unst unst music.) I don't know if it's the medication or the headache which makes me sleepy. Certainly when I can, I retire to bed when I've got a migraine after taking my meds and usually nap and that knocks it out; also the tendency is also to fall asleep if I'm out of meds, although that's hellish because when I wake up the migraine is usually a great deal worse and then I start looking around for ways to cut off my head, because it hurts that much. (Seriously. One time I asked a friend who suffers from migraines and has had two natural childbirths which was worse, and she said migraine because in labor you are working towards a goal, so it's a positive sort of effort, whereas with a migraine you are trapped in your own head.)

Good article in the current issue of Scientific American on migraines, although it was pretty jargon-y for me and all I really got out of it was that migraines aren't my fault, I'm not imagining them (thanks) and they still don't know what triggers them but they think it's a malfunction in the brain stem - something to do with cortical spreading depression, which isn't a term I understand.

And now I'm home and I totally don't feel like doing a load of laundry or making dinner or dealing with my paperwork and bills ... but if I don't do it, who's gonna? And I'm out of clean underwear. Though I think dinner will just be a tomato sandwich - I made some whole wheat oatmeal bread last night, planning on using it for sandwiches later on in the week, but later on has apparently arrived already.

22 July 2008

File Under: Be Careful What You Wish For

Dammit! I had a whole post nearly all written and then Inty walked across the keyboard and erased the whole thing. Fucker. Good thing she is cute or we'd be eating cat steaks for dinner.

So anyway, what I was writing about was how recently we found a cleaner* (via the friend of a friend) and how now I feel really unmoored without my long list of tasks to do at home and constant pressure. I spent last weekend reading and feeling lazy and guilty about it. I could easily generate another list of tasks, of course, but the point of hiring a cleaner was to get away from that. And I've been telling myself for months now that when Dave is busy doing band stuff, since that's basically him off with a hobby (it's not really, but you know what I mean?) I should spend the time that he's away doing something I really like to do, not cleaning ... but I always ended up spending the time cleaning because if I didn't do it then, it wouldn't get done, and then I'd have to listen to Dave freak out about how the house was dirty and cop to it being partly his fault for not being around, which just made me feel worse about everything, which is why it was easier to just keep the place clean.

But now that I don't have to do that, I don't quite know how to use my new spare time, and I don't know how to stop feeling guilty about not being busy every second of the day - equally as busy as Dave, who works full time, goes to school 1/2 time and is in a band - unless I create more stuff for myself to do. So ... I find myself in the familiar position of having what I wanted but being too neurotic to enjoy it. I'm sure this is something that I'll be discussing with my shrink, but in the meantime I'll be taking deep breaths and telling myself that it's OKAY to take some time for myself. Really. It is.

* it took a long time to find someone partly because I wasn't that aggressive about searching and partly because I wanted someone independent, not like Merry Maids, where you pay the service a decent hourly rate but the people doing the actual work get minimum wage - but then I was also a little skeeved by the idea of just grabbing a flyer off a lamppost and inviting a stranger into my hours for a few hours while I wasn't around. I read Nickel and Dimed like a good liberal. I heart Ehrenreich anyway. So I pay our cleaner about twice what my own hourly rate, which seems fair to me - she's got to pay for her own health insurance and plus cleaning toilets and vacuuming is hard, gross work.

21 July 2008

Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

It's much harder to write intelligent stuff about a book when you really loved it, so this will probably be short. Tearing into a book is so much easier (and rest assured, the new Elizabeth George and I are not getting along so I will be getting sarcastic on that ass.)

Anyway, Black Swan Green. Fantastic. Mitchell's got a marvelously assured and flexible voice, with a grasp of idiom that's to be envied (and yet he doesn't overuse it or use it in a gimmicky fashion.) It's narrated from the perspective of a 13 year old boy and Mitchell does this trick that Diana Wynne Jones always manages, which is to get the complicated inner feelings of a child across without resorting to exposition or breaking voice and giving the child insights and maturity beyond its years.

The book isn't particularly plotty in terms of a huge plot arc or schoolbus tragedy or something like that, though I kept waiting for for something enormous to happen and bum me out. Instead there is plenty of incident to keep the narrative flowing along nicely and no single event to hang the denouement on. Don't get me wrong, the book has the usual dramatic arc that novels generally possess, just in a more muted fashion. I enjoyed that, actually - for one thing, I'm not fond of books that unexpectedly turn into tragedies, and for another, I think it showcases Mitchell's skill better at constructing an interesting story from many small events.

From a personal perspective, I also enjoyed being steeped in Britishisms. That was one of my favorite things about living in Scotland - all the little turns of phrase which seemed quaint and marvelous to me. Black Swan Green is set in England, of course, so a different set of phrases, but I love them all. My ex-husband used to tell me I has "a face like a pan of milk" when I frowned, which is a phrase he got from his granny but which I've never been able to track down, etymology-wise. I'm sure there are similarly charming regional phrases in America (somewhere) but I grew up speaking a very proper and standard sort of English so I'm not familiar with most of them. I love accents, too, and that's one thing I do get exposed to, living in Boston, where many pahk the cahs in Hahvahd Yahd.

I might try forcing this book on Dave. My track record with recommendations for him has been spotty but I'm wondering if this might not be up his alley. Now I really want a copy of Cloud Atlas, which I could have sworn I had, but it's not on the bookshelves so maybe I had it lying around for a while, unread, and got rid of it in one of the periodic purges I have to resort to with limited shelf space and a mania for tidily shelved books (see fig. 1, below.) Dangit.

Also I need to get on GoodReads; I mean, I'm on there, but I haven't entered any book reviews in there yet. People at work are using it, though, and I am always up for more recommendations, so.

Fig. 1. I'd love to say that the desk isn't always this messy, with Dave's school crap piled all over it, but actually it really is that messy most of the time. This is my little office, where I do all of my blogging from. Having a place to write has always been important to me. Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about with that room of one's own thing.

19 July 2008

Suits of woe

So today I have been overtaken by melancholy for no real reason. I think it's my old friend Groundless Anxiety back for a visit. The Lexapro works well for me but you're made how you're made, and I'm prone to anxiety and sadness. The Lexapro just smooths it out most of the time. It's not really a big deal, in the sense that it's a mood I'm familiar with and have lots of coping strategies, except it's 91 degrees and any activity besides sitting still makes me break a sweat. In fact, as I type, I've got the fan blowing directly into my face. It sounds like a 747 but it's better than breaking a sweat typing (which is happening anyway.) It's the kind of weather where talking on the phone makes the side of your face hot and when you finish the call, the phone is beaded with sweat-dew. And the backs of your knees and the insides of your elbows sweat, and you don't really feel clean ever.

So the heat has knocked out most of my coping strategies besides reading and napping, and neither of those has worked. I'm blogging about my mood instead. It never ceases to amaze me how my brain can just completely let me down like this. Oops, it got the mood chemicals wrong today, I'm going to feel shitty for no reason. It took me a while to figure out that nothing was wrong, actually, because normally when I feel shitty there's a least a lot going on to blame it on. Dave's not around so I'm a little lonely but the solitude is nice. (He's at band practice; later on tonight the band has a show at the Cantab downstairs and oodles of people I know will be there, so I'm really looking forward to it. But in the meantime I need to put up with my own company for another 5 or 6 hours.)

The cats are lazing around in the heat. I need to pay some bills but I ain't doing it until the weather cools down or Monday at the air-conditioned office during lunch, whichever comes first. I'm pretty happy with the effort I put in last week at work (as usual, I've taken some home this weekend, but we'll see how motivated I really am.) Zoe is dying, of course, but she's been doing that for some time now and she'll probably stick around for a while longer. No real reason to be all mopey and woeful, but I am.

Although contemplating not having Zoe around is definitely something I am actively trying not to think about, I have to admit, and might be bumming me out just the teensiest bit. She's just so lethargic and cranky. Some of that is probably the heat, but I can't help seeing it as ominous. Humans outlive their pets and that's all there is to it. (I forget if I mentioned and I'm too lazy to read my archives, but while Zoe perked up initially on the antibiotics and painkillers, she stopped responding - i.e. her appetite decreased again - later on in the week, so we won't be going ahead with dental work or any further treatment.)

I miss her perky little chirps and the way she used to climb up on the bed right next to me, even though I ended up trapped and suffocated and hot between her and Dave. She would purr if I woke up in the middle of the night - she has always been an excellent purrer - and she'd just keep purring until I fell back asleep. I haven't heard her purr in a little while. (Not like I could hear it over the fan today!) Mostly she just seems tired and slow and not very interested in anything. My poor button. I miss who she used to be. She hasn't even bothered to boss Simone around, and Zoe has always taken joy in bossing the other cats in the house.

Look at me, getting maudlin. Over a cat. But that's the joy of the internet - deep feelings for your cat are totally legitimate. Anyway, I don't think there's much I can do about either my mood or grieving for Zoe (not that she's gone yet, but I know it's coming) besides ride it out, which is what Ima do. Maybe I will re-read Hamlet again, that usually helps too.

18 July 2008

Mr. Squirrel

This little guy's acorn can actually hold a votive candle, and he was a wedding present from a dear friend. At present, as you can see, he's acting as a door stopper to hold the door leading to the back stair and porch open. He fulfills this role admirably. Much more interesting than a regular rubber wedge.

I am contemplating putting cat treats in there at random times, mostly because I think it would be cute to see the cats check the votive all the time to see if a treat has shown up. Like checking the change slot on a vending machine - it's pretty rare that someone forgets to take their change, but it's still worth checking!

Also, I need a new camera, or at least a tripod, because this one takes really really blurry pictures without the flash, and it sucks to download a bunch of pictures you thought would be awesome only to find that they look like they were taken through a thick veil of Vaseline. Obviously a tripod would be cheaper but - also obviously - I would really like a new camera... one that I could upgrade with wide angle and macro lenses. The current one is a hand-me-down from Mom and it was state of the art in 2003, but it's starting to show its age. I would also like five hundred dollars to purchase said camera, but none of this is very likely to occur.

17 July 2008

Spook Country - more like Kinda Boring Land

Spook Country by William Gibson

So Neuromancer was the first Gibson I ever read and it's still his book I liked best. I didn't much like Idoru - I found the premise creepy and way too likely. But I loved Pattern Recognition.

Spook Country fell more along the lines of Idoru for me. It's probably partly my fault - I like an hour or two at the start of a book to really immerse myself in the story, and if I don't get that I have a harder time following the plot and caring about the characters. I'm also not that close a reader, and the immersion thing helps me pay better attention. I'm lazy, if you get me.

And Spook Country follows three main characters, all told from 3rd person, and each character is embroiled in a different set of mysterious events. It wasn't until page 188 that I finally I noticed I knew what was going on, and that's about half way through. It seemed like the real action finally started around then, too, which was a relief. Lot of setup.

Gibson writes a lot about virtual worlds intersecting with the real one, but there didn't seem to be much use of this concept made in Spook Country, plotwise. Maybe I am just critical because so much of my life is spent online myself and don't find the idea that the virtual can impact the real, thereby making the virtual a force to be reckoned with, that revolutionary. My paycheck comes from the internet marketing work I do, and I use that internet money to buy groceries with. So I might sorta be the wrong audience.

And the other themes of the novel are September 11th, terrorism, lots of money and renegades who work for the government and gleefully thwart the plans of the bad guys (also government agents, in this case.) So kind of standard ingredients for an airport thriller, which I was a little disappointed about.

Oh, and drugs. I think Gibson always has someone with a drug problem and there's an Ativan addict in this book, too. I had a little trouble with that idea, too, because if you're addicted to benzos, Ativan is going to be the mildest. I'd have expected that character to have moved up to Xanax and then Valium long ago. But I'm not at all an expert on addiction, it's just that I've got a slightly better than layman's understanding of psychopharmaceuticals.

I might give the book another chance and re-read it to see if I like it any better, but not right away. I'm going to read David Mitchell's Black Swan Green next; I've gotten raves from several diverse areas of my life. Plus it's about adolescence in a small English town and apparently has tons of great slang, so I'll be interested to see if I've got to resort to the glossary at the back, or if my knowledge of Britishisms will carry me through.

* update to this post from last week, where I talked a little about coming out of a meeting at work with a bunch more to do and working late to get it done. Today's meeting was the follow-up to that one and I did get most of what I needed to done, and I'm tentatively on track to get the rest done on deadline. I feel like I should get an Employee of the Month award, like,"go me!" for actually making a deadline for once. Next thing you know I'll be making it in by nine.

16 July 2008

fishing for topics

So I gave blood last month (one of those mobile blood donation clinics in a kitted-out trailer) and got a letter in the mail the other day from Mass General Hospital saying that I was part of a "special" group of people who are CMV negative. Cytomegalovirus is apparently not really risky unless you're a tiny baby or a cancer patient or otherwise immunocompromised. It's carried in bodily fluids (e.g. blood and platelets) and between 50 and 80% of the population has had it (it's just like herpes!).

The letter went on to ask me to become part of a special CMV-negative platelet donor group - the program is called Platelet Pheresis and I think I'm going to do it. Giving blood has never bothered me - I don't feel faint or grossed out and I never seem to be anemic; plus you get free cookies and orange peanut butter crackers! And I always rationalize that I've earned the cookies by giving blood and therefore they aren't fattening, they are just helping me replace the lost blood.

Apparently platelet apheresis takes about 2 1/2 hours - they take the blood out of your arm, grab the platelets from it, and return the rest to you. So you can donate every three days if you want. Not like I have that kind of time, especially given that it's about 45 minutes each way to MGH, but they do Saturday mornings once a month and I could totally manage that.

I know I use this blog to gripe a lot but I do realize that I have been super duper lucky, in my circumstances of birth and life to date. I've had all these huge advantages which in turn allowed me to land my nice well-remunerated interesting white collar job - so it would be nice to do something for someone else. Especially little babies and cancer patients! How can you not want to help them out? And I get cookies!

So that will be my high minded post for this year.

15 July 2008

The stork brought us a giant baby

A 13 pounder! A diet is called for, I think. Her belly was shaved for spaying and you can see her fat rolls. That's sort of what I look like with my shirt off, actually.

She's also very interested in food of all kinds, heh. She's exactly the same sweet, affectionate girl we met at the shelter, very very gentle and not at all aggressive so while Inty and Zoe aren't exactly thrilled, she's not challenging them at all. Her current name is Patches - although she doesn't seem to respond to her name - and neither Dave nor I are in love with that (so obvious and boring for a tortie) but we haven't thought of any others. I'm taking suggestions, if you've got any. We got her on Bastille day; maybe something French?

house and patches 044
Om nom nom

house and patches 058
These corn nuts seem edible.

house and patches 062
Check out my fat rolls. They're much more interesting than William Gibson.

12 July 2008

Date Night

I was complaining on Thursday that nothing had gone right for me, and it was true. But maybe the universe felt bad or something because all the stars aligned for last night.

I picked Dave up at the T around 7:30 and we headed over to Highland Kitchen for dinner. The staff said there was a 20-30 minute wait (they don't accept reservations) but they explained they were erring on the conservative side, so we havered a bit - Dave was REALLY hungry - and ultimately decided to wait. We got a drink at the bar and were seated in about 7 minutes. Our appetizer of calamari with hot peppers was delivered super fast - maybe 10 minutes after we'd ordered it? I have no idea how the kitchen managed that - and it was delicious, crispy fried calamari in a spicy batter with some kind of sundried tomato emulsion for dipping.

Dave made me try a hot pepper ("they're not that hot, really" = fucking lie) and luckily by that time the bread had arrived so I slathered my bread with butter and took a big gulp of beer and that put the fire out. Heh. His tolerance for hot food is way higher than mine, I'm wimpy. Then our main courses arrived - he had a coconut goat curry which was delicious (and also spicy; the top of his head was beaded with sweat by the time the meal was over; he was psyched.) I had a mushroom sandwich with Jack cheese, which I thought would be a portabello mushroom in between hamburger buns, but it was actually a mix of different mushrooms in between hamburger buns. Delicious, although so heavy on the Worcester sauce I couldn't really taste much actual mushroom. But I like Worcester, so no harm done. And the fries which accompanied it were sublime - homemade and hand cut. Om nom nom.

My dad is going to be in town soon and I'm taking him here - Dad will love the spicy high quality food and unpretentious atmosphere. And almost the best surprise of the night was the bill - fifty bucks. Holy crap that's cheap (for my area), especially given the quality of the food; normally a meal like that would end up running about $80. So I'm thrilled to have such a great local joint.

After dinner - the timing here worked out perfectly - we headed over to the Abbey, one of my favorite music venues in the city (it's kind of a dive - sticky floors and totally not hipsterized - but they have some great bands and I love that it's just one step up from a garage.) We saw The Sneaks, which is headed up by Johnny, our wedding photographer. (Johnny, if you're reading this, the new site is gorgeous but I can't link directly to our stuff because it's flash! Waah.) I loved The Sneaks' music, plus it was nice to meet Johnny's wife, who recognized us from the wedding pictures. The band that followed was Buttercup, and they were a tight trio, with great vocal harmonies and - my favorite part - a chick on bass! Rock is so male-heavy, it's always a surprise when a woman is an integral member of the band and this lady definitely was.

And then it was after 10 and we were fading, so we headed home and were there in ten minutes (oh, the rapture! Patronizing local places means you don't have to trek to kingdom come to get home.)

When we got home I gave Zoe her painkiller and her antibiotics - she struggled mightily to avoid these but to no avail. I told her she was "struggling her way to the grave" (Dave's line originally) but I got it all into her eventually. She's not mean about it and doesn't go for me, I think she just really dislikes having anyone mess with her mouth, which with infected rotting teeth is understandable. She growled and squirmed a lot but once it was over, she settled right down and ate her treat and forgave me right away. Same scenario this morning. Gee, only two more weeks of this!

Her appetite seems to have increased already, so while this makes dental work more likely (urgh, expensive) it also makes the prospect of a recovery more likely. We'll still go cat shopping today (for a HEALTHY one, jesus) but this takes the time pressure off a little. I just wish Zoe would quit trying to die already.

11 July 2008

In Which Everything Is Okay, For Now.

So I had my hearing test this morning. At 7 am! I was up at 5:30 and left the house well before 7! I never do that and so I had too much coffee to compensate and now I’m flying! My eyes are wide open and kind of bulging from the unaccustomed levels of caffeine so I pretty much look like a boston terrier. Yay! Arf! Arf!

Anyway, my hearing test results were totally normal, although I’ll get checked again every two years or so because of family history. I’ve got some loss in the high frequency range but this is very common (plus it’s cute when Inty opens her mouth to miaow and it’s off my hearing range so she looks like a goldfish with her mouth opening and closing silently.) It could be that I’m not good at distinguishing sounds, so when Dave talks and I’m in the kitchen and something is spattering on the stove and there’s music in the background, even though his volume might be fine, because of the background noise I just can’t make out what he’s saying and end up saying “what? what?” all the time. I don’t care, I’m just relieved my hearing is normal, and who really wants to listen to their husband anyway?

We are planning on going cat shopping this weekend - Zoe's likely lifespan is "weeks and months" rather than "years and years" so since Inty has separation anxiety and Zoe is pretty stable right now, it'll probably be best to introduce another cat into the household now, rather than ruin Zoe's last days or have a traumatic period for Inty after Zoe has died and there's no companion for Inty and then we get a new cat for Inty but she has to adjust to it while still being fucked up from Zoe's death. And we'll enjoy the time we have left with Zoe.

Cat shopping is fun! I looked through petfinder last night. We have some ideas about what we want - an older cat, 3-5, who's just super mellow and super social and gets along well with all the other cats in the shelter colony. Also I promise not to ever leave a cat alone in the car for even a minute, let alone five minutes, and also no cat will ever ride in my car again sans carrier, since it still stinks like cat piss despite the liberal amounts of Nature’s Miracle. I’ll pour more on when I get home tonight. I left the windows open today, hopefully no one will steal it from the work parking lot – or they’ll just get in and realize how bad it smells and get right back out in search of a less stinky car to hotwire.

10 July 2008

blah blah blah whining from me

Some days are just so full of petty annoyances that all you want to do is complain about them in like a ten minute rant with a drink in your hand. Unfortunately there are no humans in the house at present who can listen and make sympathetic noises ; only the cats are here and they just keep blinking at me. Le sigh. A normal person would call a friend but even though I actually need to call my best friend since I haven’t talked to her in a disgraceful six weeks, I am phone phobic (I think it’s part of the social anxiety deal) and the thought of picking up the phone is inexplicably stressful to me, even though I know that if I called her we would totally have an awesome conversation and I would be all jazzed just from having talked to her … but I suck and instead I am telling the many-eyed internets.

But maybe I will be able to make this funny! I’m ingesting a twisted dark and stormy as I type and so I’ll probably find myself funny towards the end of this, even if no one else does. Because it has been ONE OF THOSE DAYS.

So all was well this morning – I was grumpy as hell, but that’s normal for Thursday (I'm really tired by this point in the week but I don’t yet have the consolation of saying, “at least it’s Friday.”) And work was fine except I had a meeting at 2:30 which ran way late (some other attendees were late getting to the meeting so we were late getting started.) And then that meant I was late getting out at 3:30, which I had to do to get Zoe to the vet at 4; plus the ran-late meeting was one of those exciting ones where you leave with seventeen new action items and the weight of the world on your shoulders. On the way to Zoe’s vet, Inty’s non-local vet called and we chatted for a bit and dammit, she needs to stay on all 3 medications (prednisone pill, oral anti-nausea liquid reglan and ¼ of a pepcid, which we crush up and mix with milk and give to her in an oral syringe.) Plus I gotta go back to Zoe’s vet tomorrow (which is local) to pick up Inty’s prescription from the non-local vet, which was faxed through.

So anyway, got Zoe to the vet (late) for her x-rays and there was a kind of suspicious mass which could just be a lump of colon or could be something more ominous. So her x-rays showed that she was full of stool and are otherwise inconclusive. The more ominous answer would explain her weight loss; it could just be she’s lost weight because her infected teeth are rotting out of her head. To see if the tooth infection is causing her not to eat, we are putting Zoe on a trial regime of antibiotics and painkillers. The thinking is that if she responds to the antibiotics and painkillers, we can be relatively certain that it’s a problem with her teeth and go ahead with a dental cleaning and extraction. If she doesn’t respond to her new drug cocktail (don’t forget, she gets insulin every morning too) then it’s unlikely that a dental will fix the problem and she’ll have weeks or months of relatively pain free drain circling.

Then after Zoe’s appointment I went to pick up more syringes for her and also a scrip for Dave. SO HELP ME DOG, I was only in there for five minutes and I left the windows open. Seriously. I looked at my watch. But when I came out Zoe was panting, mouth open, and looked distressed and I freaked out, I just freaked out, and of course shut the windows and turned on the a/c and let her out of that hot little cage. And she paced around a little and settled down in the back. And she is so old and slow moving and she was still occasionally doing those scary open mouthed pants that I really didn’t think I should put her back in the cage and I didn’t think she was in much danger of crawling under my foot pedals in a hurry either.

I was sort of right. She didn’t crawl under my foot pedals, but she did kind of explore the car while making her sad distressed “I don’t like being in the car” chirps. And then she climbed up on her carrier with her hind legs braced on the car seat and I was like, “aw, are you riding? Are you checking out where we’re going, Zoe? Are you gonna be my navigatress?” and other stupid shit. And then a minute later I was like, “sniff, sniff” and then a minute after that I had pulled over to investigate the strange and increasingly strong odor in the car and I was yelling, “Are you pissing, Zoe?”. I got out and raced over to grab Zoe from the passenger seat because at this point I was like, you’ll piss on the ground, godammit, and in fact she had finished pissing all down the front of the passenger seat but I was rewarded with a couple of wet plops as fecal matter hit the ground (thank god it didn’t get my car upholstery on the way down. But hey, at least the x-rays were right about the stool!)

And I put Zoe back in her carrier (won’t make that mistake again!) and drove home and had the aforementioned drink and poured most of a bottle of Nature’s Miracle onto the car and I can’t even be mad at Zoe, really. I should NOT have left her in the car, even for five minutes with the windows down, and I should have waited until she was clearly feeling better and then put her back in her carrier instead of trying to drive with her roaming around. Poor thing has had a rough afternoon, so I gave her some food and some love when we got home and now she seems to be resting happily enough.

and now I need to get some work stuff done so I can get to what came out of the meeting in a timely fashion, and I also need to cook dinner. I think I also need a robot slave to do my bidding, since I don't feel much like cooking or working.


So as part of my effort to blog more frequently I decided that I could write about what I'm reading: I read very fast and I read a lot and I always have something to say about what I'm reading, except I never seem to have anyone to say it to. So YOU, lucky blog readers, will be the recipient of my thoughts on mostly genre and sometimes trashy stuff.

Mapping the Edge by Sarah Dunant

This was just an okay thriller. Competently written prose - nothing that set my teeth on edge but no marvelous tiny observations either, competently plotted - there weren't any plot holes a John Deere could fit through or anything - but the characterizations were flawed and kind of terrible, and I found the setup hokey.

Here's your SPOILER WARNING. I am constitutionally unable to write about books without talking about the end, it's such an integral part of how well the story works for me. I don't know how professional critics do it. Anyway. Consider yourself warned, and don't read any further if you're planning on checking this book out yourself.

So Anna, the mother of a small child, goes to Italy for a vacation and doesn't come back when she's supposed to, leaving her worried child and some friends at home. There are three narratives in the book - one from the perspective of a friend at home and two separate scenarios about what has happened to Anna.

In the first scenario of Anna's disappearance, she has been kidnapped by a disturbed man who is obsessed with his dead wife. Anna, of course, resembles the dead wife. In the second scenario, Anna is having a lover's tryst with a man who turns out to be a con man and international art thief. For a while I wondered if the tryst scenario was going to be the drugged hallucination and the kidnapping would turn out to be "real", but by the end I realized it was just a two roads diverging in a yellow wood kind of thing.

Both scenarios struck me as equally hackneyed and I rolled my eyes and huffed with impatience a lot. Not enough to stop reading, though. Heh. Rich crazy photographer in a remote area obsessed with his dead wife who has had his mansion converted into a fortress? Suave lover is revealed as a con man an art thief? Come on.

I give Dunant credit for her skill in timing the narrative arcs of both scenarios, which occur in parallel. Plus she was smart enough to set the book in the mid 90s, before every man, woman and child had a mobile phone (though some characters do, it's plausible that not everyone does) and before email and widespread internet access was common.

My gripe about the book is that Anna's character behaves so inconsistently, while other characters seem like they might have been interesting but aren't really fleshed out enough so you can tell. In a way this sloppy characterization is a plot hole in itself.

In the kidnapping scenario, we are asked to believe that Anna, a devoted mother and experienced solo traveler, is dumb enough not only to get into the car of a strange man - a man who approached her and struck up a conversation earlier in the day - to accept a ride from Senor Weirdo in lieu of a taxi (she's not portrayed as being in desperate financial straits) - but also to drink a strange-tasting espresso in its entirety which has supposedly been left behind, untouched, by the man's supposed friend who just got out of the car before Senor Weirdo approached Anna to offer her a ride. Um. It's 1996, not 1936, and most female travelers alone wouldn't accept the ride, let alone a drink which tasted strange.

In the lover's weekend scenerio, Anna just doesn't try very hard to call home and let them know her plans have changed, which, again, WTF? There are some obstacles thrown up but there are all kinds of phones on the street and stuff, and responsible people who change their plans usually keep calling until they get confirmatin that the folks at home have gotten the message and aren't worried. You hear a ton about how much Anna loves her kid and I just don't think any of the mothers of young children that I know would act like that, blinded by lust or not.

Meanwhile, Stella, the friend who narrates the at home part of the story, seems to have a drug and alcohol problem but that's never really explored, although it would have made the at home narrative more interesting, since it's basically "she didn't call and we worried" and "the phone rang but no one left a message on the machine and they hung up, perhaps it was Anna but we didn't know for sure and kept worrying". Stella also has a contentious relationship with Paul, Anna's live-in gay friend who acts as a father to her daughter, but I never see Paul or Stella behaving in a way which would irritate the other one, and you aren't given any slices of their past together or mutual jealousy over Anna or the daughter to explain why they dislike each other, just a vague "we seemed to rub each other the wrong way" sort of answer.

So ... it was a decent page turner and passed the time, but unless you read fast and are less critical than me, I wouldn't recommend it.

08 July 2008

Split Ear of a Groundling

So I am getting my hearing tested this Friday. Dave has been getting increasingly annoyed when I yell, “what’s that, sonny boy?” or just nod and smile, hoping that’s an acceptable answer. Or don’t know that he’s said anything at all. Or think he’s said, “I’m bleeding” when he’s really said that he’s reading.

It’s a little depressing to contemplate hearing aids at 30. THIRTY, fer chrissakes. (And before you ask, yes, I had the doctor look in my ears to see if there was just a wax build up. Nope.) I’m hoping that maybe it’ll turn out that there’s just a notch in my hearing right on Dave’s vocal range and that’s why I can’t hear him unless he’s ranting or flat-out yelling. (The notch thing happened to a friend of mine after a head injury and now he can’t hear his wife when she whispers in his left ear. Only his wife, only whispering, only on the left. I haven’t had any head injuries that I know of, but hope springs eternal.)

More likely I’ve got damage from a myriad of ear infections before the age of 4. I went completely deaf for a while, actually. This escaped everyone’s notice for a long time because my mom had three other little kids running around and she paid more attention to them. Just kidding, Mom! I know you’re reading! It actually escaped everyone’s notice because as my hearing faded I learned to lip read. Finally my nursery school teachers figured out that if I was at the front of the class and looking at them, I followed instructions well; at the back of the class and not paying attention, I was clueless. So I got ear tubes and all was well. Or hey, maybe I damaged my hearing listening to the Pixies really loud on my walkman through GameBoy headphones when I was 15. (Remember when ear buds were like, revolutionary?) Doesn’t matter anyway, it’s done now.

But I guess in a way I’m lucky to have had braces at 9, glasses at 11 and acne at 22. Because it got me used to humiliation early! Also, I never associated aging with the need for medical intervention on basic functions (chewing, seeing, facing the world without looking like I’d fallen face down through the broken glass factory). So apart from the aesthetics of wearing big pinkish beige boxes* behind my ears and the fun of telling people in bars and at parties that I’m “hard of hearing”, an old person line if I ever heard one, I don’t care too much. My mom just got hearing aids and those things are fucking awesome – they’re tiny and super discreet and her hearing has improved a ton, which is great. Of course Mom has the Rolls Royce of hearing aids, not the BlueCross BlueShield specials I would sport, but whatever. Maybe by the time I’m her age, I’ll be able to afford a better class of hearing aid, too.

* This makes me wonder if, like BandAids, hearing aids only come in white person colors or “clear” or if there are more options. I’d like mine to be metallic green. A really acidic bile color.

07 July 2008

I wish I had these high energy days more than once month

So today for some reason (probably the long weekend) I had a wild hair and made all kinds of phone calls that I'd been putting off** and went through my mail . Okay ... actually I discovered a huge festering pile of mail in my carrier bag where I'd been hiding it from Dave and that is what put that hair up my ass.

Apparently I'd successfully hidden it from myself as well. See, for some reason a pile of mail is a trigger for Dave and he throws tantrums - and my mail - all over the place. Never mind that there are little piles of his shit all over the place ... ahem. Newlyweds, yay! So if I don't feel like dealing with it that second and I feel him giving my mail pile the hairy eyeball, I've gotten into the habit of stashing it in my bag for the time being. Only the time went and then before I knew it, it was July and I was looking at shit dated back in May. Oops.

Whatever. I dealt with it right then at work and actually no services have been cut off (and won't be now) and then ran errands (got key cut for house cleaner, got eyebrows waxed, yadda yadda lobster bisque) and actually got home and filed the piles I'd made at work and paid the rest of the bills. Self pat!

And now I'm blogging, something else that's been lurking at the bottom of my psyche like the mail at the bottom of my bag. Self pat again!

And I got up this morning and actually got some writing done that wasn't an email or a blog. Self-pat! Granted, it was only a dream (but a very bizarre one, a nightmare involving bleu-cheese-throwing zombies in the Civil War era) but it was super vivid (thanks*, Lexapro!) and I woke Dave up twice in the night because I was screaming. I felt bad when I learned about it this the morning.

And the dream was so vivid and long, with many semi-awake interruptions, that it felt like a short story or something. And that was a terrific realization, since I have been complaining for a while about not having any creative spark or ideas or being able to write anything other than emails, which is basically what blog entries are for me. Apparently my creative well-spring hasn't totally dried up, it's just gone underground. But I know it's there now, and so the nightmare feels almost like a gift. And a wise friend (who is also a writer) advised me to write down the dream before those zombies really started coming after me, so I did, and hopefully it will at least help with the screaming. I don't mind the nightmares so much but for Dave's sake I'd like to not wake him up by yelling. It's his first day of a new semester today, too.

And really tonight I should also call my sister (it's her birthday) and make dinner (Dave gets home late and starving) and finish up a project for work, but somehow the work part of the equation always seems a lot less pressing once I've left the office.

*Vivid dreams and somnolence are my only serious side effects from the Lexapro, so on balance: totally worth it. Especially since my anxiety and depression were starting to impact my ability to do my job, and other aspects of my life.

** calls included a talk with the vet about Zoe. I realise that the last cat I wrote about was Inty, but force-feeding Inty a regime of steroids and Pepcid and Reglan (anti-nausea) for the last two months (plus a couple thousand dollars in diagnostics and prescription food) has finally worked and Interim is beautiful and perky and glossy and has put weight back on and has stopped barfing so much. Not entirely, but it's like four times a week instead of four times a day. Which is good since she was scarily lethargic and scarily thin.

You may or may not be interested to know that I estimate having spent $8000 on Inty for vet bills and transporting her from Scotland to New Zealand and then to the States. She only weighs seven pounds. Ounce for ounce, she is far more expensive than fresh beluga caviar. (Still less than gold, though. Metal market always go up when the economy is uncertain like it is now.) She is eight years old - that's a thousand dollars a year. And now that she's got a chronic condition (IBS), she is uninsurable. She's cost more than the current blue book value of my car. A few more years like this and she'll reach what I paid for my car.

But almost as soon as Inty started to recover, Zoe took a turn for the worse with some kind of neurological episode wherein she circled hundreds of times to the left and rolled over in a leftwards direction, the poor bean. We took her to the vet for a blood workup and found no evidence of lasting neurological damage, so the next step is a cat scan (yes, for my cat) and dental work and of course x-rays to rule out a regular tumor. So those were hard things to think about - the trauma of putting her under anesthesia for dental work at 14 versus the possible benefit from the dental work, the idea that if a tumor showed up we probably wouldn't operate, the expense of all this stuff. I know cats are for life and with you in sickness and in health but I've spent three or four thousand on vet treatments so far in the past twelve months and my pocketbook is empty.

Plus - and I asked the vet this - would the dental on Zoe, at age 14, be the equivalent of putting a new hip in a 90 year old human? How many eating years does she have left, anyway? And the vet was great and talked me through everything. So we're gonna x-ray to rule out any kind of growth and we'll try Zoe on a course of painkillers and antibiotics, and if the main problem is infected rotting teeth then she'll respond to the meds and hopefully put on a little weight and we can do the dental; and if she doesn't respond to the meds, then it's unlikely the dental would be helpful. And neuro work is pretty much out of the picture now - since if we found something, we wouldn't operate. And I wish I didn't have to think about money in all of this but it's possible that Zoe is going to have a better old end of life because I can't just throw money at the problem than she would otherwise.

Apart from being kind of lethargic Zoe has no idea she's circling the drain, so maybe she'll make another comeback. I'll keep you posted. Swear. Thus ends the longest end note to a blog entry ever.