Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Highs and Lows

     A few days ago, I realized the Molly the cat was sick. She hadn't eaten in at least three days, which was super worrying. When you're only 4.5 pounds (2 kg), there's not much spare weight to lose. When the vet saw her, he metaphorically shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't figure out what the problem was and was keen to do blood work. With some discussion, I figured out that I could spend several hundred dollars, and then he might not know anything more. He might also figure out that she had something serious that we couldn't treat anyway, like cancer or feline leukemia. So I chose to get her loaded up with fluids, anti-nausea drugs, and antibiotics and then crossed my fingers. Yesterday, in fact, I would have given 50/50 odds that she wasn't going to survive the week.
     Today, I am a bit more hopeful. She is willing to eat yogurt and a few bites of kibble. Her meows, which were faint yesterday, are more insistent and getting closer to the loud complaint that is a deaf cat's meow. If she continues on this path, she'll be just well enough to travel with me to Ohio this weekend. I was going to spare her the four-day trip, but since she still needs medicine every 12 hours, she'll have to suffer through.
     Today was also the day my birthday present arrived. The picture just hints at the delights hidden in those boxes - 49 DVDs with every episode of the seven seasons of Deep Space Nine. They were shipped over from Europe, and I've been waiting for them for weeks. This is my favorite Star Trek series, and I want to watch it from start to finish, using the Spanish dubbed audio track. I used a similar trick in Germany, and it was a fun way to learn. The key is to choose a television show I already know quite well - otherwise I'm too frustrated by my novice language skills. Now I can look forward to months of television viewing which also count as homework.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


     When my brother came to visit, he was (predictably) horrified by my Internet speed. For the record, it was 3Mbps, which was so slow that the company won't sell that package anymore and every time I'd need to call my provider they would tell me that you couldn't stream video with such a slow connection. In fact, you could, but you needed to be patient if the video paused for a moment or two to buffer.
     You can imagine that Shawn the IT guy complained. He not only complained that he was suffering, but also that this was cruel and unusual punishment for my roommates, particularly my current roommate who occasionally games. In the end he wore me down, so I decided to get price quotes and let my roommate decide if he wanted to pay more.
     My roommate thought the prices were reasonable, so I called to upgrade. Thus began my odyssey into a surreal Internet price-fixing world. Every time I called, from every department I talked to, I was quoted a different speed and different price. Sales people acknowledged that different departments could offer different prices and multiple times I was assured that the speed quoted before didn't exist. No one could ever connect me to anyone who could offer me a price and package that I had previously been offered.
      Long ago, things like this drove me crazy. Now I have a more patience and perspective, so I just resigned myself to calling repeatedly. After about the sixth or seventh call, I was quoted a price I liked, so I signed up on the spot. My roommate will hopefully be pleased, but in any case I have earned his undying gratitude, because you can bet I made sure he knew how much I had to go through to make this happen.
     So go ahead, friends, let's schedule a video call! I need to get my money's worth on this new package.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ada's Day*

Since he was in DC for work, my brother S spent part of the weekend at my house. We had an awesome time hanging out together, while he installed Linux on my computer and I taught him how to make fried rice. However, the happiest creature was probably Ada. S loves animals, and has a soft spot for dogs in particular, so she got lots of attention and long walks. But then it just got better.

On Saturday, we had crepes for breakfast, and Ada always gets the first pancake. We decided to go hiking at Harper's Ferry National Park, and of course the dog came along. (As an aside, the road to the park goes through three states in about five minutes, which kept Google Maps busy announcing what state we were entering.) My brother is way more active than me, so Ada not only got to hike, she regularly had to run to keep up with S. Then we went for burritos at an outdoor cafe where S shared bits of his chicken with her. Ada was so worn out on the trip home she didn't even have energy to bark.

*The post title is a nod to a Star Trek episode. Can any of my Trekkie friends name it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


     Although I came back early enough from vacation to have a day at home before work started, I still feel underprepared for my week. We've continued to have tons of rain (rather unusual for August), so I had to mow each part of the lawn twice to get it under control. The basil had bushed out again, so I made a bunch of pesto, and I spent some time getting to know my new roommate. Then I turned my attention to the animals.
     In spite of regular application of anti-flea meds, they both have a few fleas. Again, the rain is probably at fault. So it's all vacuuming and flea combing around here, which stresses me out. In addition, Molly the cat is having some litter box issues (as in she can't seem to find it when she needs to go). This meant a trip to the vet where they couldn't really tell me anything. While we wait for the results of her blood work, she's been banished to the porch - wood floors have a very low tolerance for acidic liquids, I'm learning. I've penned her in with great walls of boxes to a small area with maximum litter box coverage. In fact, she has three types of litter in three boxes right now, because the vet said that giving them a choice helps sometimes. She's an easy going cat, though, and only complains of her hardship when she can see me. I take her out for lots of supervised socialization, but we'll both be glad when this is figured out.

Friday, August 18, 2017


In Minnesota, everyone spends their summer vacation by the lake. By this, they don't mean the same lake, of course - it can be any of the 10,000 lakes in the state. The important thing is to buy or rent a cabin and spend a week or two there, preferably with your entire extended family.

In this tradition, I stayed at Leech Lake* with my father's family. Ten families in five cabins and campers. There was swimming and boating and playing cards. I kayaked three times and read five books. I drank coffee every morning while listening to the waves. Including a visit to my mother's hometown, I visited fourteen aunts and uncles and numerous cousins. I ate jello only once, but was repeatedly reminded that vegetarianism is still a bit unusual in this neck of the woods.

I am blessed with a family that is less crazy than your average family, and I'm glad I got to see everyone. But I was surprised how overwhelming I find it to be around people every day. My Aunt G** pointed out that I didn't use to be as introverted as I have become in the past few years. This is true. I was a shy child, but liked playing with kids I knew. As an adult I have always wanted alone time, but this need has increased in recent years. In the future, I'd like to spend some time thinking about how this should affect how I plan vacations or spend my free time.

* Yes, it is named for the blood-sucking worms. A marketing firm is needed develop a rebranding campaign.
** My normal pseudonym methods fail me in this instance, as my paternal grandparents named all six of their children so they'd have the initials GGG.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Las Vegas Wrapup

     I snuck away from the Star Trek convention a few times. Once was for a hike in a national conservation area. Luckily, I stayed on East Coast time for the whole trip, so it was no problem to wake up before 6am and hike before the heat really hit. There was more wildlife than I expected - great masses of frogs singing, and birds and lizards hanging out, which I attributed to the recent rainfall.
     One evening, my friend T, a fairly standard meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, gave me carte blanche to choose a restaurant. With his approval, I chose a nearby vegan, prix fixe restaurant. Since this was Vegas, there was a gimmick, and the gimmick was that you ate in the dark. Like really in the dark. After signing a waiver and leaving all your belongings in a locker, we were led by a waiter using night vision goggles to our table. He carefully seated us, guiding our hands to where our silverware and water was.  We weren't told what we were eating, and this was supposed to focus our experience. It was fun to try and guess what we were eating - the strawberry and walnut salad was straightforward, but we never figured out what the three pureed soups were. They had done a good job lightproofing - I could see tiny light patches after a few hours, but never even glimpsed my table, food, or any diners. It's not something I'd do very often, but certainly resulted in a memorable meal.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Star Trek!

     I just spent the last five days with 3000 Trekkies, and it was great. T and I (picture above, in a Borg alcove) listened to actors wax poetic about their auditions, collected autographs, and bought swag. I am now the proud owner of TOS (the original series) science officer pajamas - a worthy addition to anyone's wardrobe.
     T couldn't stop pointing out that we were the B- students. And it was true. I tend to think of myself as a diehard fan, because I've been in a Star Trek group for over a decade and am the kind of person that goes to conventions. But time and again, we were lost. Who was that guest actor? What alien are they referring to? Did Guinan really have no eyebrows? (Google to the rescue: she did not.)
     The rest of this post will only interest those who enjoy a bit of Trek.
 A Klingon battles with several Starfleet children.
 If I ever dressed up, it would be as a Vulcan. Look at the gorgeous fabrics on those robes!
Those with good eyes and high motivation will see Seven of Nine in the background of this photo.

I did live updates from the convention for my Star Trek group. Here are my favorite trivia facts:
  • Picardo thought that the role of the doctor was the worst on Voyager when auditioning - it was a cold and lifeless role, but would put his kids through college. During his audition, after he read the dialogue reminding someone to turn off his program, he improvised the line, "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight." He claims that he didn't know that was a McKoy trope.
  • George Takei said that everyone on the set of TOS figured out that he was gay, even though he never said anything... except Shatner never noticed.
  • Martok (or rather the actor who plays him) is running for Congress.
I'm looking forward to my next vacation - a family reunion in Minnesota - but think that the number of Klingons and Gorn that I run into there will be sadly diminished.