Life


In earlier years, going on a hike with Pup meant grabbing the fanny pack, a water bottle and the car keys. Now that Pup is Old Pup, it involves a lot more. How long of a walk? Is it very steep? How hot will it be?

Although human oldsters tend to like the heat, Old Pup prefers temps in the 40s and 50s. When the temperature rose 10-degrees during the week, we decided to start as early as possible. We were going to Little Yosemite, in Sunol, to see if there was any water or wildflowers.

Got up at 6:30 (with encouragement from Mr. Kitty), and managed to be on the road before 8 a.m. Heavy overcast, but by the time we got to 680, the sky was clear and blue and the temperature was creeping up past 60. A little anxiously, we hit the wide gravelly trail.

When I started commuting in California over 20 years ago, poppies and lupine were a common roadside sight in the springtime. When I returned in 2000, I saw poppies, but only rarely lupine. It was heartening to see the purply-blue sheets of blooms along the Sunol path.

We got to the falls with little trouble; they were closer than we thought; about a mile from the parking lot. The water was already drying up; the falls were babbling rather than roaring. We made our way down to the water via a gentle incline. ‘Gentle’ was an operative word. Old Pup had lost her footing earlier while scrambling up a ravine, and both DH and I had to give her a boost so she could get back onto the trail. It was a little cooler down by the water, and I lured Old Pup into the stream so that I could cool her belly. When she saw the water, her ears pricked up, and she got her ‘Where’s the ball’ stance. Although we didn’t want to wear her out, I couldn’t resist her anticipation.

We took the low road back, to stay as close to the water as possible. We had to bushwack in a couple of places, where the path seemed to disappear into the stream, but it was a peaceful, pretty route. We dunked Old Pup in the water several more times, and she was appreciative. We tossed the ball a few more times, once to distract her from a big rottweiler splashing with an impressive stick. She was moderately well-behaved around the other dogs; ignoring them if possible, and barking (rather than snapping) when they came to give a curious sniff

DH wanted to check out the town of Niles, and we found a shady place to park. The plan was to leave the tired Old Pup (after the hike she needed to be lifted into the car) and come get her when we found a coffeeshop. But as we walked away, a plaintive howl-whine came from the car. DH and I looked at each other. Old Pup didn’t like being left behind, but it usually was better than going to a scary new place. The howl-whine came again. Bleeding-heart that I am, I said, “Let’s take her with us.” We anticipated the heisitancy, the lagging behind, but Old Pup leaped happily out of the car, and speed-walked down the sidewalk. She even let the owner of the doggy boutique coo over her, and performed her repetoire of tricks for some organic treats. She explored Niles at least as enthusiastically as we did. This doesn’t sound like much, but Old Pup has slowed down dramatically in the last couple of years. She still loves to go places, but not for very long and not if it involves a lot of people. For Old Pup to go from a hike (with swimming and ball play) to a hearty jaunt around a strange city and not lag behind or falter or come to a complete stop was awfully impressive. We marveled between ourselves, and praised her lavishly as she snored on the way home.

Naturally, I’ve always had a hometown library card. When my move to the Mainland drifted into being permanent, the card still reflected the address of my childhood. I always expected to have to update it, but it never expired.
Until yesterday.
Okay, no biggie. I would verbally confirm my address, and continue picking out books for beach reading. No, to update the card, I would have to show proof. Of local address.
Busted.
Not tragically, however (public libraries don’t do tragic. They may be treated tragically, but they do no inflict tragedy on others.) My card was changed to Visitor’s Status, which meant it was good for 3 months, and I paid $10. Yes, all well and good, and the Hawaii State Library system can definitely use the money, but it’s another sign that I am an ex-pat, not of the Islands anymore.

One of my favorite authors died on New Year’s Eve.

I first read Donald Westlake close to 30 years ago. I don’t remember what book it was (The Hot Rock? Bank Shot?), but it hooked me on the guy for life.
Westlake will be remembered for the Dortmunder novels, but he was so much more than that. I don’t own many books (support your local library!) but I probably own more of his titles than of any other author. Dortmunder is his most famous creations (other than Parker, who was way too grim for my tastes), but my favorites were the non-Dortmunder, non-crime ones. Adios, Scherherezade; The Hook, A Likely Story were an uncommon look at the writing world. Many (but not all) were comic (Dancing Aztecs made me laugh out loud continuously), and sentimental (Thank god, Westlake was not averse to a happy ending) but all were sharp, clever, and utterly delightful. (there’s a wonderful exchange of Biblical verses in Brothers Keepers) He was a craftsman in the William Morris sense of the word (Romantic, not literary agent). I’m sorry I’m not a good enough writer to do justice to the man.   Others do a better job.

A week before Christmas, my laptop slipped from, yes, my lap, and clunked to the floor. When I scooped it up in some panic, I saw the screen had turned a purplish green, and had a crack running across it. But it wasn’t a crack on the screen itself; at first I thought it was a virtual crack, a tear across the silicon heart. Then I figured out it was the glass/plastic behind the plasma.

DH plugged it into his computer monitor, and I could see that the laptop brain was working okay, but like some poor coma victim, could not communicate with the outside world. Since a consult with the laptop repair shop would start at $100 (more than the old Dell is now worth) so the decision was made to pull the plug.

So the frantic search began for a new laptop. I had made a reconnaissance mission to Best Buy, and then came back home to research, research, research (on Dh’s laptop). First thing I found was that ‘laptop’ is 20th century lingo, and you now want to say ‘notebook’ to sound at all credible.  Second thing is that there is now  a ‘netbook’, the Mini-Me of lap..notebooks.  They are about the size of a kid’s paperback, and weigh approximately as much.  I was really, really taken with a netbook, but had concede that the screen was just too small for these boomer eyes.

DH came with me for the final; and we went on a wild goose chase to Frys, where the Toshiba bait and switch ($450) wouldn’t even boot up; then back to Best Buy, where the $399 laptop of my dreams was not  just out of stock, but out of  production.  I was desolate (DH will attest to that; since I wouldn’t speak to him on the ride home).  He said I could use his, but I wanted my own — to load up with all the junk that had slowed my Dell down to a crawl.

Lo and behold, I open the Sunday paper to find out Office Depot is has another model of my dream laptop on sale, with even more memory.  I impatiently go through the motions of farmers market, and hustle DH over to Office Depot.  There’s no notebook on display, which send me plummeting back to despair, but DH asks the nice clerk, who ascertains that yes, it is actually in stock.  I verify that it has a) a media card slot, b) 3 USB ports and c) wireless and I decide to get it.  I even shell out for the Office Depot premium protection that is almost half the price of the laptop, but offers security from any lap malfunctions.   Lucky that the surface doesn’t show fingerprints, because I have no money left to buy this

It’s a great little laptop (‘Laptop’ is easier to type than ‘notebook’, so heck with it, I’m old-fashioned):  sleek, light and fast.  I can actually surf the web while my McAfee virus scans.

Wonder how long that will last.

We went to two holiday parties over the weekend, and both houses were done up to the Christmas nines. Nutcracker scatter rugs, red candles on the mantel, tree-shaped soaps in the guest bathroom. Meanwhile, we hadn’t even gotten the boxes down from the attic.

I used to be good about Christmas. I had tree decorating parties. I made šližikai, I put up stockings. Now I can barely drape tinsel around the giant carp.   How did life get so busy?

I did put reindeer antlers on the dog and the cat. That has to count for something.

Early in the morning last week, Mr. Kitty got off the bed and started roaming around the house.  Then I heard him scuffling around on the rug runner, something he does when he wants to play.  What time was it?  I looked fuzzily at the clock.  1:30 a.m.  Oh god, he probably wanted something to eat.  Well, if I do that, he’ll want a snack every morning.  I’m just going to ignore him. 

Mr. Kitty darted in and out of the room, and Old Pup got fed up and lunged for him.  That roused my DH, who got out of bed and said, “What is up with the cat?”

“He’s hungry,” I said from under the pillow, thinking : you can feed him and then he’ll bug you.

DH went into the kitchen, turned on the light, then said flatly, “He’s got a mouse.”

That got me out of bed, and I got DH a broom.  He trapped the mouse, and then swept him across the floor, away from our fascinated cat.  Poor mousie, he bounced against the baseboard, and stayed there, trembling.  Before Mr. K got his act together, I picked the traumatized mouse up in a hand towel and tossed him out back, no doubt to be a snack for a passing owl.

We went back to bed, but Mr. Kitty prowled the house for the rest of the night.  That mouse was still around, he could smell it!

So even though one of my earlier posts disparaged Mr. K’s hunting technique, he proved that he’s still got it, and continued to prove it when he nabbed another mouse the next morning.  With the consideration that Mr. Kitty is known for, he hunted this one down at 6:00 a.m.  DH shoved his furry orange behind out the door (mouse still in mouth).

I set up traps, well out of paws reach, and Mr. K held vigil in the laundry room, but no mice have been seen.cat_skull

Not to be outdone, on our Tuesday morning walk, Old Pup dashed towards the drainage pond in our local park.  I figured she was chasing the ducks, but then I heard her barking, and, as I got closer, something else snarling.  Oh, no, she’s cornered a raccoon.  I could barely make out Old Pup’s pale shape in the morning gloom.  I called to her, but of course, the prey drive was roaring in her ears, so I paced the water’s edge, and hoped I wouldn’t have to go in after her.

Finally, the Pupperoon gave a final bark and moved away, towards me.  I would like to state, for the record, that I don’t blame the raccoon for any of this.  It was in its territory, minding its own business, when a huge galumphing animal burst through the reeds with murderous intent.

Old Pup turned around; maybe she heard splashing or movement.  She went deeper into the pond.  I shone my little flashlight in the water, but only caught the gleam of two little eyes.  There was more snarling, then a yelp, and Old Pup’s head disappeared under the water. 

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Oh god!  The raccoon was trying to drown her!  I waded into the water, shouting.  Old Pup was  back up, swimming towards me, and I could just make out the raccoon head somewhere on her back.  I swung the metal end of the leash towards it.  I don’t think I got near it, but the raccoon decided discretion was the better part of survival, slipped off Pup’s back and disappeared into the dark.  Immediately, Pup turned around and tried to swim after it.  I grabbed her tail and hauled her ashore.  The Puparoon immediately ran along the shore, trying to track it.  Finally, I was able to grab her collar, leash her, and drag her home.  Riding high on adrenaline and the chase, Old Pup was thrilled.  Her tail was high, her ears alert, her step prancing.  Soaked from the waist down, shoes squishing, I wasn’t nearly so happy.  Back home, I rinsed her under the hose (the pond water isn’t very clean), then had my own shower (with hot water, thank you very much), and related the whole tale to DH.  Under the kitchen light, we could see bloody scratches on her muzzle and ear.  Taking a look into her bright eyes and happy smile, she seemed to consider them worthy trophies.

with apologies to Mr. Sendak

The weeks Lin wore her librarian suit/and made mischief of one kind/and another/the system called it “Web 2.0” and Lin said, “I’ll text you up!” so she was sent to bed without texting anything.

Okay, enough of that, or it’ll tip over from stupidity right into sacrilege.

Since my desk and work area is composed of various stratification of materials, I was very curious about the various To-Do lists: WorkHack, Tadalist, Todoist.

Workhack is very WYSWYG, which made it easy to get going.  It is very, very simple,  and once I found you could visualize by size, the huge font point and glaring colors were manageable.  My design-oriented DH would absolutely hate it.  Bad points:  1)you can’t edit the tasks once you type them in, and you can’t make sub-categories (i.e, ‘Lamorinda Reads’, and all the stuff you need to do under that.) 2) WorkHack is meant to be bookmarked, so most useful if you use one computer.  The other two are accounts, so can be logged in from anywhere (or put on your deli* account if you’re one of those)

Tadalist definitely had the worst homepage.  It was very cluttered, and the you could not see any sample pages, and why would I going to join if I couldn’t see what the pages were like? (Aside:  This reminds me of Blockbusters horrible webpage.  They won’t tell you about their rental plans until you give them your personal info) There are supposed to be links to actual Tadalist pages, but they were either dead accounts or had gone private.  And then there are no instructions.  At all.  A mostly white screen pops up with  ‘My Lists’. What the @#$% ?  After my third try, when my blood pressure went down, I finally saw the little FAQ on the side.  Tadalist (which is quite a horrid name:  ‘Ta-dah a list’? ) and the next one, Todoist, operate on the principle that you have projects, and each project has sets of tasks to be completed. As opposed to WorkHack,  which just has you make a list, hierarchy be damned.  Once I figured out about projects, I was able to merrily create.  You can even RSS your list (to yourself, I guess) if you happen to be one of those.  Bad points:  1)  You can’t sort anything by date or urgency; 2) you can’t show your tasks on the main list page, only when you go into each individual list.  Tadalist does this intentionally, keeping things simple [somewhat]; 3) Tadalist upsells their other programs.  Pretty low-key, but irritating nonetheless.

Todoist.  OMG.  Obviously designed by geeks or engineers.  There are so many add-on-doohickey-web-thingys that it took me a while to figure out how to start a list.  The homepage boasts that it is simple and intuitive, but it is neither.  However, unlike Tada, there is a LOT of help info on Todoist, in the form of screencasts, which show you how things work.  The screencasts are a bit tedious (the creator/narrator could have used a tighter script), and obviously you can’t use it for a quick referral, but essential for figuring out this thing.

Todoist (another odd name) has a learning curve like Lombard street.  You can do a LOT in Todoist.  You can make hierarchies, date them, color-code them, make sub headings.  Bad points:  you have to figure out how to do these wonderful things. That takes time.  Lots of time.  Hope none of your projects are too pressing, or your deadlines will be shot to hell while you try to create your projects lists.  Todo* reminds me of Doug Adams wonderful Last Chance to See.  While observing an obsessive bird, Adams thinks of how he will happily spend the day creating a program that will pop-up a window on a certain part of text.  The creator of Todo* reminds of Adams.

In conclusion, I haven’t quite figured out which of the three works best for me.  They do all have their good points and bad points.  I like the ease and color coding of WorkHack, and the hierarchy of Tada*.  If I get the time to sit down and figure out Todo*, I can see that being very useful.  At present, I will continue to scribble in my calendar, and tape little notes to my monitor and above my desk.

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