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Prague - Trial by Walk

St Vitus Cathedral on the Prague Castle grounds Trial by walking - that's how I'll remember today for the rest of my natural lif...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oooo I would murder to have a picture to go with this post!

December 3oth, exactly one month from yesterday, around 6 am I was at my desk when I heard a noise, and looked up to see a raccoon entering the cat flap into my livingroom.

Apparently some some creatures do not forget anniversaries.

Last night, January 30th, I was again at my computer armoir, writing away, absorbed. I caught motion out of the corner of my eye, assumed it was one of my two cats but I turned my head and surprise, surprise - BIGARSE Raccoon was stared up at me. He was standing in front of the fire place, headed towards the cat flap six feet away.

In other words, whatever Rocky had come in to do - climb the carpeted cat tower to eat cat-food - his business was done and he was on his way back out the cat flap.

As far as I can tell, the happy eating noises I had listened to over the previous half hour or so was not from one of the cats, but was from flippin' Rocky Raccoon!

Aww... our aniversary - he remembered.

We looked each other up and down for what seemed like a minute or two. Then I remembered my camera was next to me on the end table so I reached for it. As I did so, Rocky high-tailed it out the cat flap. Only then did Kola-kitty waltz out from behind the armoir to gave me a look that indicated - 'Don't look at me, I didn't invite him in.'

Right.

So, I have reason to believe all my earlier assumptions made after Rocky's first appearance in December are correct, i.e., I am the sole support and bread winner for myself, my two obnoixious cats, one or two stray cats and a raccoon, all of them in my house, all of them taking from the dole on the carpeted kitty tower next to my kitchen.

My initial response is to leave well enough alone and just feed the furry bastards, but someone brought up an excellent point. Just because Rocky is tidy and considerate occasional dining guest, doesn't mean that his invited buddies will be.

'Hey! Come on over Claire's on Waldron. She's got good eats!'

I do not fancy coming home to a ravished kitchen and the ensuing clean-up.

So, reluctantly I've made a compromise. The cat flap will only be open when I am home, and when I go away for weekends. If Rocky and the others are down with that, we'll get on all right.

Someone told me 'now don't pet Rocky'.

As if! *shudders at thoughts of Grizzly Man documentary. Do not wish my personal legacy to be the crazy cat lady found dead in her home and half devoured by wild raccoons, possoms and stray cats.

You know it's amazing the critters my poor old doggie Chiquilla kept out of my yard. I never knew what a good job she was doing. She probably didn't either. Chiquilla - Sit. Stay. Good dog!

She's much better at that obedience stuff these days. I mean, being dead and all.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Presenting Newest Member of my Family

In the past week I became a great-Aunt for the 5th time. My sister Dolores is now Nanny, five times over. Her new grandson lives in Balitmore, his dad is my Nephew Kirk who also has a daughter, Sidney who is about 2-years old. I have only met one of my five great nephews/nieces. The oldest is Ain and I haven't seen her since she was four - last May she graduated from Northeastern in Boston. I'm a bit behind in seeing the relatives.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

R.I.P. Cody

UGH! Had a hormonal morning.

Was out driving this morning and PBS mentioned that a trained buffalo named Cody died. Cody is famous for his staring role in Dances with Wolves. He was in the bit with the buffalo bull charging the little Cheyenne boy; naughty bison. Cody was trained with oreo cookies as his reward treats.

At that point I was getting snively.

Then the announcer said Cody was buried with a box of Oreo cookies.

I lost it. Boo hoo hoo...

I am a bone fide nutcase.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Attack of the Vacuum People Revisited

I just got around to researching the price of a Kirby vacuum on line, just to see the difference between the 'buy-it-NOW-damnit' sales people at my door, and on-line sales or prices on line from dealers in general.

Remember, I was offered the machine marked down from $1913 to around $1,400.Finally, after wringing their hands with despair at my refusal to buy, they gave their bottom offer of $1,100 for a used demo model.

I just got around to looking up a the price of Brand new Kirbys up on the Internet - not to buy, just for a look-see.

On line, the top of the Kirby line machine, brand new, goes for $700.

SEVEN HUNDRED! And those bastards offered to 'generously' sell me a used one for 1K!

That doesn't include the extra crap the one I was shown included, but with all the extras thrown in it is $860.

And actually I don't know that the 'extas were even included with the machine as offered to me. Those were probably add-ons they would hit the customer with when they rang up the sale. No wonder they push to sell to you before you have time to think. They don't want you to have time to research.

Daddy was right - salespeople are bottom dwelling, low life, mouth breathers.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Quest for Fire - I get it!

Got a few things done today. Not much, but some. Mostly what I accomplished was to convince myself there is a lot more crap to muddle through, sort, store and/or toss. The back room is so stuffed I'm surprised the walls of the house aren't bulging.

But tonight peace reigns. I've got the fireplace stoked again. Log after quick burning log, into the flames! One thing the soft wood does well is form glowing coals which make fresh firewood explode into flames. And there is the lovely snap, crackle, pop of the logs. Total heaven for a pyromaniac like me.

It is amazing how the fireplace is actually keeping the front room heated. I mean, obviously that is what fire is all about, but for someone raised in a New York flat with pipes for heat, a fireplace is a miracle. Fireplaces were the stuff of old movies and fantasy for me when I was a kid. Now I can watch my red hot embers glowing, the flames leaping. I totally love my fireplace. How many more years before logs on flames are outlawed? New housing in the county have artifical gas fireplaces - standard. So I'm at the tail end of another century, surviving on wood for heat.

Reminds me of the trip to Ireland. My favourite evenings were two during which I spent my time bunging coal and turf onto a 17th century fireplace. Too cool.

I actually still have tiny cubes of peat I brought back with me from Ireland. I burn one occasionally for the thrill of smelling the peat again. In the picture below you can see the coal skuttle on the left under the little table. There was a second one full of turf/peat too.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Crisis Crisis

Holy crap. Totally in emergency mode. This past week really sucked. I'm going to attempt to reverse the unfortunate trend of going from disaster to disaster by thinking of things going well. I mean, what could it hurt.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hair Crisis

Oh dear. Brain is in spin. Want to do something with my hair; am sick of it. At times like this I wish I lived in San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reeling without Music

Nikki, a co-worker passed away over the weekend. I'm in shock, as are my other coworkers. What a mixed up bundle of emotions. Half of me wants to crawl into a hole, and the other half is still reeling from the weekend's birding. Coworkers informed me this morning that I was on television last night - in the news report which was also featured in the 'coming up next on KCRA' shots.

The filming happened at the site where I saw the Ovenbird. The news guys came out to photograph the Snowy owl, which has flown. So the news crew decided to film one of the guys walking around. I was in the background, photographing that Ruby-crowned Kinglet from yesterday and listening to the interview. Whomever they interviewed must have been a student at Davis - he sounded like an ornithologist.

So this morning I came into work all abuzz with the news on the Owl, Ovenbird, Trumpeter Swans, Blue Jay, the Laysan Albatross in Stockton and other signs of the Apocalypse, when I noticed the email about Nikki.

Poor Nikki - she was maybe forty now. She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis but it was pneumonia that overcame her. She was so tiny and frail but feisty - had the heart of a lioness. Haven't seen her much more than a couple times a month now that we're in this hell-hole of a gigantic state building downtown but I always enjoyed speaking with her.

Hey Nikki, I know you're romping around now, caneless, with Thunder the Rottweiller at your heels and and hopping at your side is Mr... what was the name of that HUMONGOUS rabbit she loved? Mr Hunny Bunny. Hop on, all of you.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Duh!

Holy crap. How dumb can I be? Today Barb emailed me. Instead of sleeping on a twin bed and whining and whinging about it, why don't I ditch the twin and buy a Queensize bed now instead of waiting until I get the new bedroom painted and decorated.

Well DUH.

I must be dumber than a sack o' hammers that I didn't think of that for myself. I mean really.

This was the second great weekend in a row. Went to see Brokeback Mountain with Mommy Nancy. It was dead sad. Tore my heart out. I think it's going to give me nightmares. *shudders*

On a happier note, went birding this morning and saw an Ovenbird in Yolo Co. at Putah Creek.

Also got a nice series of pictures of a cooperative little Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lazy Day

Have been a bit lazy today. I mostly got involved in deleting an old website I made several years ago and starting it up under shiny new titles and such. Why? Well, obviously to avoid the work I ought to be doing - clearing out the back bedroom. GAK!

Don and a friend drove out to see the Snowy Owl but the bird has managed to avoid being spotted. I'm wondering if it headed farther south or is just secreted somewhere in the farmlands. I'm pretty confident it'll show up again somewhere around here. But the drive out wasn't a total lost. Don found the Ovenbird in the same place I looked for it yesterday but didn't see it.

Damn it. Now I wish I'd gone. I'd really like a chance to photograph the Ovenbird. It was a lifer for Don.

My house is freakn' freezing. I've had the thermostat down to 55 degrees all day, all night. Last night was the first night I actually woke up cold. That is rare! I didn't up the thermostat but neither did I dig out the down comforter so I am not feeling too stressed out.

As flippin' cold as it is, I saw a hummingbird flitting around the oak tree today. I suppose I ought to put out the hummingbird feeder for the poor thing. Heaven only knows what the hell the thing is feeding on - it's supposed to be in Brazil or Columbia or someplace else that is warm. Like me I reckon. Oh well. It's twilight. I think I'm going to start up the fireplace.

The green flame on the right looks like an elk antler

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Look Who Came for a Visit!

Ah! Had no intention of leaving the house today; too much to do. Mind, not important stuff, but stuff I feel like doing, such as get digital photos off the hard drive and onto disks, copy out the handwritten Hawaii Journal from my December trip and catch up on my fan fic writing and revamping.

I woke to a phone call that I was too dazed to answer, but shortly afterwards, I slocked to the computer to find out that a Snowy Owl answered my prayers and flew down to meet me! Well how could I refuse to visit with a genuine acquaintance of Harry Potter, eh? Rain or not, I went out and found and photographed the beautiful, snowy white bird. My very own Hedwig.


The pics I took are not that great because the bird was so far off, but still I got my 'been there, saw that' photo. I also got a decent shot of a Yellow-billed Magpie. What with the West Nile Virus my very own namesakes have become a scarce.

I'm hoping to get one or two more looks at the Snowy, assuming the bird decides to hang around for a while. I think it will. After all, it has friends in town.

Western Meadowlark

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Good News, Bad News and My Inner Child

Rats! The bad news is Don isn't coming to bird this weekend. We'll chase cranes come February on the dead presidents weekend. The good news is Don isn't coming this weekend so I can continue moving stuff out of my future bedroom.

I hadn't mentioned it before but when Barbara was here last weekend she took all my Happy Meal toys that I'd collected in the manner of a mad-woman over a decade or so. I never, ever looked at the toys or used the toys, or even remembered exactly which toys I had. I think they were part of one of my 'manias' during which I sink into a genre, let it absorb me and then later walk away from it. Whatever the reason I had the toys, I don't have them now and my 'inner child' was a good little cherub and did not pout or fuss or even seem to notice that her toys are gone.


Barb's kindergarteners will enjoy the stuff. Hurrah! Bigarse empty space in my garage now. Will continue dumping stuff in preparation for retirement and moving. Don't want to find myself moving stuff I don't need or want.

At lunch yesterday I told Mommy Nancy that Barb took all of my toys. Nancy could scarsely believe her ears. She said, 'You got rid of your Legos?'

'What, are you flippin' crazy or something? Hell no!'

Get rid of my Legos? I don't think so. Let's not get silly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cryptic

Have thought about What the Bleep Do We Know? for days. It fits in to the stuff that scared the crap out of me in the early 1990s. I had an open mind then and “stuff” would happen that was so far afield that I would panic. Eventually I crawled into a back room of my brain, slammed the door shut and assumed the fetal position.

What the Bleep opened the damned door again and at the off, “stuff” began to happen again. As before it starts with little things. In this case, I spent Sunday thinking how I am not “only” lucky in my friendships, but I am lucky in all things. I opened my email Monday to discover I won a pair of tickets to a comedy show this Friday. See? BIG changes are not the rule, only small changes to start, things that are easily 'explained' away by the annoying scientist in my brain; loads of small changes, which perhaps because I had no explanation for the phenomenon before, used to upset me.

Inez, my Crescent City friend, keeps telling me to try and learn to accept it all and just now I’m assuming I can accept ‘it’. Will continue to feed my brain pleasantries on a daily basis.

Yippy Skippy! Had a chat and slide show from Terry. He has the same camera I do, a Canon 20-D and he romps around the same park I used to haunt with Chiquilla.

Terry takes great shots of the coyote, deer and birdlife on the American River. He’s full of useful hints. Right now I can only bow to his expertise because my photography remains hit and miss.

Terry’s latest show had some excellent shots of egrets, the prettiest of which was of a Great Egret in flight over the river – flowing & elegant. There was a nice pic of a coyote that looked so much like a tame dog it made me laugh. The animals in Terry’s Park are used to seeing humans, particularly Terry, roaming in their domain. There is a buck Mule Deer with a notch in its ear that allows Terry to approach quite close. It’s the same buck he photographed crossing the river a month or two ago.

I hope the weather holds up this weekend so I can get some birding in.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Birding Brewer


Yesterday I had my chores all lined up for me. There were boards missing from a segment of the backyard fence. I galumphed out there to measure the board and when I got to it and looked up, the boards were there! In place! Obviously repaired by the neighbors on the other side - and maybe they know why the boards got knocked down in the first place? Huzzah! Suddenly the afternoon was free from the necessity of a trip to Home Depot or nailing boards. What to do now? Start in on the gardening chores? Clear out the ghastly mess that is the back bedroom? Apply myself to improvements in general?

Hell no, time to bird! I decided to head out to Placer County, Brewer Road where the birding is always interesting. The last time I was there was a month ago and I found acres of Wilson’s Snipe, Long-billed Curlew and White-faced Ibis. All of Northern California was deluged recently so I was hoping for some nice shorebirds. I was not far off – I hit the mother lode for waterfowl; Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, White-fronted Geese, a few Cackling Geese, some Northern Shoveler and Pintail Ducks.

There were thousands of waterfowl in the flooded farming fields. The area is not a wildlife refuge but the birds really don’t give a rat’s patootie for official declarations of bird-worthiness. They just want someplace to rest and puddle about, which from what I saw, they are expert at. I never noticed before that White-fronted Geese are like Mallards, in that they love to go arse-up to forage/dabble under the water.




Incoming! Snow Geese. The picture only shows a tiny segment of the thousands of waterfowl lounging about.

The Brewer Road area is fun. I got my lifer Northern Shrike there a few years ago. If I had my spotting scope bet I'd have found a few Ross's Geese. Must get out there again on the weekend.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I watched What the #$*! Do We Know this afternoon. Barbara recommended it. It was mind boggling and actually stopped watching for a bit so stuff could sink into my brain. The movie reasonated strongly for Barbara and she felt it was all something she'd known all along.

For me it was not that I knew that one creates one's reality all along, but more that it was something I've been slowly fighting - yes fighting.

Must think on it all, because assuming it is true, and I do, that means things must happen and things happening always freaks me out.



Thursday, January 05, 2006

Joy of Joys! Forgot to mention, last night while saleslady was carrying on about the dirt deep in my carpet, I heard a faint calling coming in from the backyard. I asked the girl to hold the noise a bit and I went to the back door.

I heard it again! The 'string of Ohs' which is the Western Screech Owl. Hurrah! I haven't heard one the past two years. Back around 5 years ago a pair of screech owls raised babies in the apricot tree next door. The neighbor's tree was subsequently cut down, but there are other places to nest. Not to mention the screech owl nest box I shelled out for but as I am incapable of figuring out where to hang the damned thing, the next box shall continue dwelling in the bowels of my garage. Come to think on it, there are hummingbird nest doo-hickies in the garage too. Why do I buy stuff then store it away? What a horrid American-consumer I am.

Where was I? Yes, my owls are back! For one glorious summer I could go in the back yard between 9 and 9:15 each evening and watch the two adults and their like fluff-butt babies tumbling in the heritage oak next door. They were so cute. The babies sounded like monkeys and the adults had a sharp 'knock it off!' noise to talk to their babies or perhaps to chase me away, who knows which. I even got a few pictures back then.

I am so hoping the owl stays around and hope, hope, hope, attracts a mate. It would be heaven to have baby Screech Owls tumbling and squabbling in the old oak again.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Trojan Horse... No wait, I mean the Trojan Vacuum

Holy crap.

Had a docent meeting tonight but was soooo very sleepy I just came straight home. Then, about 6pm, knock at door.

Young Lady: Would you like to have us clean your carpet for free? It will help me win a free trip to Orlando.

Me: WTF? [inner brain slogs around a bit and concludes: Salesperson Alert!]

Young Lady: No, really. NO obligation.

Me: WTF? [inner brain still muddled but yelps: Scam Alert! Scam Alert! Nothing is free!]

Young Lady: Free carpet cleaning!

Me: Uh... Ok.

Young Lady: I'll be back in about 20 minutes. See ya!

Ok, we know there is one born every minute (speaking!) So I got on line and googled, 'free carpet cleaning, scam' and such but found nothing inside the twenty minutes.

Turns out it was a free vacuuming & shampooing by the Kirby Company. They used every angle of course, to sell the product including pushing how much crap is in the carpet fibers (no kidding?) , how many dust mites and dust mite crap is in my mattress (no kidding?) etc.

The girl had a boss that came and went every fifteen minutes or so as he went around my neighborhood 'assisting' other 'associates'. Whenever he came in, the pressure was applied to me to buy, buy, buy! You would have thought that I specifically asked them to sell me a vacuum, and not that they decided I needed a new vacuum.

I knew there is nothing for free and allowed them to clean my carpet solely out of greed (free carpet cleaning, yippy) and from curiosity. Happily I'm increasing savvy to hard core marketing but it only comes from having been preyed on by various sales people over time, and from once going through a one day training for selling encyclopedias to people. The sales people were taught what words to never say, for example, never say 'buy this encyclopedia'. No, instead say 'invest in your children's education - mean, I'm assuming you would like your children to go to collage and make something of themselves, am I right?'

I quit the same day I had the training but I've never ever been sorry about the day spent learning how salers work to cooerce people into absolutely needing what is being sold through manipulation of emotions, guilt, whatever it takes to make the sale. One thing I learned is any good salesperson has the heart of a shark and a total dissociation from the actual needs, wants of the person being sold to. In short, as Mark put it some 20 years ago) '... 'salespeople are pond skum' - got that right.

Anyway, as the vacuum was shown to me the vacuum price kept dropping in increments of $100. I was shown that the vacuum could vacuum, shampoo rugs, clean ceiling fans, unclog drains, remove dust mites from your bed, remove allergens, blow leaves off your lawn (you think I'm making this list up? I am NOT!), clean your computer mother board, keyboard, and groom the cat.

Then when the demos finally ended after nearly two hours, the high pressure selling began. They spoke the two things that END the sale of any item to me:

  1. We can offer this gem to you at a reduced price for TODAY ONLY; and
  2. What can I do to to encourage you purchase this baby today?

NOTHING you mouth breathing, bottom feeders! I was an idiot to let you into my home in the first place, and here you are acting as if because I did let you in I am obligated to spend upwards of two thousand dollars without a second glance at my own bank account?

The entire evening had the feel of letting a guy take you to dinner and a movie, after which you spend the remainder of the evening trying to keep him out of your pants because he thinks 'I paid for the movie, she owes me sex.'

In short, the vacuum's starting price was around $1900 dollars (real cost or a pseudo-price high enough to allow the price to be 'generously' dropped so as to convince the customer that they are getting a once-in-a-life-time-deal?). Gradually I was accorded numerous discounts (via various phone calls back and forth between salespeople and their mysterious headquarters, which I have reason to suspect was a guy sitting in a car a block or two away, and I kid you not!.

I was offered a trade-in for my Eureka vacuum for $200 - oh, and the vacuum would be donated to a charity (they give me $200 for something they donate?) . Then I was given a discount for being a State employee. I was offered a discount because it was the salesgirl's first time in my house (huh?). When I continued to refuse to buy or respond to the bullying I was offered their bottom line - the entire Kirby 'system' for $1100 (a demo model that was used only 8 or 9 times but would still come with a lifetime warranty).

Astoundingly - for the salespeople - I refused.

Now, that said, by the end of the evening I wanted that fecking vacuum! It looked like an impressive bit of work and it now has me thinking when I take out the livingroom/hall carpet instead of one choice (going with the hardwood flooring under the nasty carpet) I might instead get a new carpet which I will be able to keep clean with miracle vacuum. Oh, but I gave up all those price reductions that will NEVER be offered again? I doubt that. I'm certain if I called them up or waited for some other group to offer the same vacuum they'd be just as eager to come down on the artificially high price until we could settle on fair market value, whateverthefeck that is.

So, anywhoo, I still refused to give in to the obnoxious high-pressure sales pitch, and refused to agree to spending so much of my money on the spur just to freakn' make the sales people happy. It must be HORRIBLE to be a sales person and the good ones have no souls and practice the Dark Arts.

On the bad side, the girl who did the demo was a very sweet young woman wearing clothing that was obviously geared toward any men in residence; a black pants suit with one of those off the shoulder tops like in Flash Dance, and when she leaned over the vacuum I had to look away, it was embarrasssing. Anyway, I felt like she was more a victim than I was. She gets a salary of $1,500 per month plus commissions on sales so because I wasn't buying she was being paid maybe... (she works 14 hour days, 6 days a week, that's 84 hours a week, that makes $4.46 per hour?). As you can tell, I purely suck at math. I felt guilty about the poor salesgirl. Then, as she was leaving the house she tripped over the front step (thank heavens I have insurance in case I get sued later) and landed in a sad little heap. I know she was holding back tears until her escourt could get her back to the car.

I felt like crap. On the other hand, the spots are off the carpet.

Talk about your mixed feelings...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Managed a few tasks after all. Whew...

1. Vacuumed house.
2. Hung dining room curtain rods.
3. Hung dining room curtains.

Still plenty of stuff to do by the weekend, the most important of which is to call Dolores, Arna and Doris. GAK! I suck at calling people.

Also found out a virtual buddy from the net is sending me Sex in the City DVDs. YIPPY SKIPPY!
I so love my virtual buddies. : D

Sunday, January 01, 2006

List of tasks for lovely three day weekend:

1. Vacuum house.
2. Clean kitchen and prepare surfaces for painting.
3. Clear off dining room table.
4. Hang dining room curtain rods.
5. Hang dining room curtains.
6. Clear clutter from living room.
7. Move clutter into staging area in garage.
8. Divide clutter into keep, dispose and donate piles.

List of tasks completed for lovely three day weekend thus far:

Uh...