Sunday, July 31, 2005

Keanu, Past and Present

It was another slothful Saturday today, consisting of not much other than eating, lounging, watching TV/movies, reading, and playing video games. (We did wash a humongous pile of dishes, but that's really beside the point.) Comedy Central was airing Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and since neither Tom nor I had ever seen it, we decided to give it a shot. It was very silly, extremely campy, but entertaining enough overall for a slothful Saturday such as this. It was pretty funny to see the much-mocked Keanu Reeves at essentially the beginning of his career (Bill & Ted was filmed just 4 years after Reeves made his first movie), to see the role that he never quite managed to shake, in spite of his best efforts. He's still got that "Whoa, dude!" airhead sort of reputation no matter how many times he's played FBI agents, Christ-like heroes of the future, or other "serious" characters.

So we watched Bill & Ted, had a few chuckles, and continued channel surfing. Later in the evening, I put in the DVD of Constantine, which I'd borrowed. Talk about polar opposites; watching the two films in the same day made it even more obvious that they could not be more different from each other. And yet...it's almost as if Ted grew up, gave up on his rock 'n' roll aspirations, got a job in an accounting firm, got married, caught his wife in bed with Bill, and decided now would be a good time in his life to become a surly bastard and hunt demons - the characters couldn't be further apart, and yet there's still that little twinge of Ted in there. There's also more than a little Neo in John Constantine, which doesn't really surprise me. Keanu is just one of those actors who can't quite manage to lose himself completely in his characters. I enjoy his movies well enough (The Matrix was the first DVD I ever owned), but each of his roles reminds me of one or two of his other roles, more often than not. I'm not saying I mind, necessarily; that's just how it is. But now I fully "get" where the reputation comes from, having seen where it all started. It's hard to gain credibility as a serious actor if your audience still sees you, even if it's just in some small way, as a goofy metalhead who thinks Socrates is pronounced "sew-crates."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Have I mentioned how much I love The X-Files?

I began watching The X-Files near the beginning of season 4. It started out as "Dad's alien show" - we bought him the first season on VHS for Christmas that year and after watching it from the Pilot, I got hooked. Hooked big time.

I became a huge fan of the show. My dorkdom was unparalleled. I contributed to the online message boards, I spent hours reading fanfiction (even wrote some). I could watch half a second of footage and immediately match it to episode name and season. I was the quintessential x-phile.

After Duchovny left at the end of the seventh season, the show started to slide. The writing wasn't nearly as good, the absence of the Mulder/Scully dynamic kind of tore out the heart of the show as far as I was concerned. Yet still I remained a dedicated phile; I gave the show the benefit of the doubt and unfailingly tuned in week after week. Eventually, the show went off the air after nine years (ended well in my opinion, but I'm still waiting for the promised second movie), and I moved on. I owned 3 or 4 seasons on DVD, watched episodes on occasion, but my obsession subsided, and I found other ways to spend my time. No show since has captured my devotion in quite the same way, but I suppose that's a good thing. ;)

Recently, I got a co-worker hooked on The X-Files. He's started buying the seasons on DVD, and we trade; I loan him the seasons he doesn't have and vice versa. His latest purchase was Season 7, the episodes of which I haven't seen but once or twice, when they were on the air originally. Once he finished watching them he passed them off to me, and I've been making my way through the season for the past few weeks...and I remembered what a damned good show it was. In its hey-day, The X-Files was brilliant. High production values, extremely good writing, excellent character development, generally kick-ass all around.

This evening I watched an episode with the commentary track on; it was an episode I already liked a lot, one written and directed by Gillian Anderson (Scully) called "all things." I discovered a new respect for the story, above and beyond what I felt for it originally. Not just goofy fandom, but respect - for the process as well as the end result. It's neat to be able to rediscover this show that was such a big part of my life, to be able to appreciate it without being in the throes of all-out obsession. ;) I can still feel the little thrill that accompanies a particular line or scene, but I don't have that addiction, that need to go online and analyze every little moment of every episode with like-minded philes. (Hey, I already admitted to being queen of the dorks where The X-Files was concerned. I wasn't kidding.)

Anyway, I guess the point of my rambling here is that I'm enjoying a nice quiet evening with a once-beloved show, and in my humble opinion, it's a damned good way to end the week. :)

Amused

This morning I reserved a rental car online from Budget. I was very amused at how, in the rental agreement, they covered and re-covered all their bases when stating whom is exempt from the "extra driver" fee:
"The renter's spouse, mate, life companion, significant other, live-in, domestic life partner or similar."
Way to be redundant in your political correctness there, Budget. Hehe.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

In Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Bourdain chronicles his rise from badly-behaved busboy/dishwasher at The Dreadnaught ("a big, old, ramshackle driftwood pile, built out over the water on ancient wooden pylons") to executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. The book should be considered more a collection of anecdotes than an actual chronology of Bourdain's early career, since he jumps all over the place for the sake of telling a good story. This makes for a somewhat confusing read at times ("What? I thought he was working at that place...and who's this guy?") but if you can get past that aspect of it, the stories he shares are completely entertaining.

Reading this book really gives you a feel for the chaos of a busy kitchen in New York during the dinner rush. Here's an excerpt from his "A Day in the Life" chapter:
By eight-thirty, the board is full. Entree tickets flutter in the pull from the exhaust fans. To my right, below the window, plated appetizers are lined up, waiting to get delivered to the tables; the window is full of saute dishes, the work table in front of the fry station a panorama of steaks of different donenesses...The night garde-manger man...[has] got three raviolis, two duck confits, five green salads, two escargots, two Belgian endive and Stilton salads, two cockles, a smoked salmon and blini, two foie gras and a pate working-and the saute and grill stations are calling for urgent vegetable sides and mashed potatoes.
In another chapter, Bourdain talks about what it's like dealing with a fickle management:
One day, I attended a chefs' committee meeting on the East Side and returned to find that the whole menu had been changed back to Italian! This included the listings on the computer, so that when I expedited that evening, I found myself in the unenviable position of having to read off items in Italian, translate them to English in my head and call them out to my Ecuadorian crew in Spanish. I had to learn some fast mnemonic trics to keep up, like "I want to Lambada--just for the Halibut," so that I would remember that lambatini was Italian for halibut, or "I fucka you in the liver" to recall that fegato meant liver.
As you may well imagine, this book kept me laughing. Definitely an essential read for anyone dreaming of being a chef, if for no other reason than to dispel any delusions of grandeur they may have about the profession. For those of us without any chefly aspirations (and a complete lack of any delicate sensibilities, because Bourdain can be downright offensive at times), it's a very amusing and enjoyable read. A+ from me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It's here!

Our new laptop arrived today. :) It is excellent! Very sexy (all sleek and silvery), and it's nice to have 2 computers in the house again.

Slow News Days

Haven't had much of interest to report in the past few days. Another one of my textbooks arrived yesterday (Fundamentals of Forensic Psychology), and our laptop is on its way, so those are somewhat exciting for me...probably not so much for anyone else (well, except Tom of course). Just been working, gymming, eating, reading and sleeping, for the most part. Yippee skippy. Tomorrow I'll post my Wednesday Book Review though, so that'll be something...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What about Egypt?

Four bombs explode in London, killing 57 people. The headlines read "TERROR HITS LONDON!", people are outraged, and it's international news (throughout the western world at least) for several days.

Two car bombs explode in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, killing 83 people. No giant headlines, no "We are all Egyptians today" declarations; oh, the story's mentioned, but there's not nearly the same degree of coverage. And get this:
The bombings occurred on Egypt's National Day, which commemorates the 1952 bloodless revolution that brought a group of army officers to power after deposing King Farouk.
Can you imagine the reaction if something like this had happened here on the 4th of July?

I understand why the London bombings have resonated more with most Americans than "just another bombing in the Middle East." But to say that terrorist acts in the west are somehow more valid and horrible and worthy of coverage than equally-appalling terrorist acts in Egypt, Iraq, et al, just doesn't sit right with me.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Another Sunny Saturday

Slept in til around 8:30 this morning, checked email and lazed about for a couple of hours, and then convinced Tom to check out the farmers' market with me. Neither of us had ever been to the one here; it's pretty small (two aisles of produce stalls), but we found some good stuff. Sweet combo corn (yellow and white kernels together), a watermelon, and some yellow nectarines found their way into our bags. (Tom also got some beef jerky.) This set us to reminiscing about the vegetable gardens we had as kids, which in turn led to a discussion of what we'll want to plant in our own garden, when we escape from apartmentdom someday. Tomatoes for sure, snap peas, green beans, bell peppers (red, orange or yellow...not green), corn, pumpkins, various herbs...nothing tastes quite so fine as fresh veggies straight from the vine/stalk/etc.

With the watermelon thudding against the back of my seat at every stoplight, we made our way to Borders so Tom could pick up some beach reading (I still had the last few chapters of Kitchen Confidential). We were surprised to see that they'd completely reorganized the store, moved entire sections upstairs, creating big empty spaces downstairs. Seems like a pretty good setup. We wandered around there for a while, got some Quiznos subs for lunch, and returned home to pack for the beach; it was just past noon and getting unpleasantly warm out, so we were glad we would soon be escaping the heat.

I love that the coast is less than an hour away if there's no traffic. I hate that there's always traffic. The drive out wasn't toooooo bad though, and once we got there, it was of course much cooler than it had been inland. It's actually rather extraordinary how hot it can get just 30 or 40 miles from the coast. Anyway, we did the usual beachy things of lazing around, eating those nectarines we'd bought earlier (so good!), reading, and taking occasional dips in the water. When it was time to head home (after 6:00), we were out of luck for good radio (A Prairie Home Suckfest....er...Companion...was on NPR), which was unfortunate since the traffic was particularly nasty. Ah well. Home eventually, we made some burgers and boiled up our tasty combo corn for dinner.

All in all, a good day.

Time once again for......Catblogging!


Hmm...it seems he's misplaced a negative sign, and this final value is clearly an order of magnitude off...

Come on. Tell me that ain't cute. I dare you.

Heeeeey! Why are you scratching him when you should be paying attention to meeeeee?

Loki does a pretty good impression of those crazy hawk doors at the end of the levels in Mario Bros. 2

TGIF, my friends. TGIF.

I am really glad it's Friday. I've had trouble getting to sleep the past few nights and as a result have been fairly draggy at work. The added soporific factor of 100 degree (or more) weather hasn't been helpful. Tomorrow, I intend to sleep as late as the cats will allow, maybe check out the farmers' market, swing by the bookstore to get Tom something to read, and then escape to the coast, where it will supposedly be almost a full thirty degrees cooler than it will be inland! There, I intend to bask and read and make the occasional obligatory dip in the ocean before heading home again. 'Twill make for a fine Saturday, indeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

New Toy

About a week ago, Tom's computer started giving us the stink-eye (specifically, the "Operating system not detected" stink-eye). The last time this happened, the computer was out of commission for many moons, and I don't even remember what Tom ended up having to do to fix it. As my laptop has also been on the fritz for a few months now, we decided to start looking around to see if we could find a reasonably priced laptop to replace our uncooperative computers.

As luck would have it, Dell was having one of their sweet, sweet sales, and after a bit of hunting (and drooling) we put together an order for a laptop of our desired specifications. It's got all sorts of bells and whistles - a DVD burner, a speedy processor (1.6 GHz), a rather nice graphics card (with 128 MB of dedicated RAM), and a fair bit of RAM (512 MB) - and we didn't have to break the bank on it! Yay for Dell.

Coincidentally, a couple of days after we placed the order for this dream machine, Tom's computer miraculously rose from the ashes (it's not at all clear why) and started behaving again, but we're still going ahead with our purchase.

We received word that our new toy was being built yesterday and that it's in testing today. Should be boxed and shipped soon, whereafter it will arrive in our hot little hands. :) I'm excited.

Blog-o-rific

Here's a list of some of the blogs/other sites I visit every day (besides what I've got listed over yonder in the sidebar), just in case anyone's looking for something to read:

  • Ezra Klein - Mostly political stuff, with other interesting tidbits thrown in for good measure.
  • Through Ezra's site, I discovered his girlfriend Kate's blog - she doesn't post very often, but she's usually got an interesting take on health policy issues I don't know much about - and The Alley Notebook, which frequently contains some insightful commentary on current events (and life in San Diego/San Francisco).
  • Kate's blog led me to Sue and not U - usually makes me laugh - and Alley's pointed me toward Citizen of the Month, which I find ridiculously amusing.
  • In the non-blog realm, I make sure to visit Toothpaste for Dinner (a web-comic), and various news sites (CNN, NY Times, Slate, etc.).

There are other sites I troll from time to time (I stop by The Cat Pack and The NJB - friend from college - about once a week), but those are pretty much the ones I make sure to hit on a daily basis.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No Wednesday Book Review this week

I already complained about Trace, so there's no need to rehash it. I don't want to write about Harry Potter just yet because I'm not sure I can adequately review it without revealing some major plot points that would likely spoil the book for people still waiting to read it. The short version though, would be this:
Half-blood Prince was another very enjoyable Potter book. Rowling's figured out how to write some real page-turners, she has. It's just too bad we now have to wait another two years for the next one!
I thought about reviewing something I read a while back, but I think I'll just leave it alone til next week, when you'll be treated to my thoughts on Kitchen Confidential (which, by the way, I am enjoying immensely so far).

A Year Later...

Well, it was a year ago today that I nervously walked into [company name] for the first day of my temp job. A few weeks ago, I went back and read some of my posts from those first weeks...oh, how young and naive I was then. ;) Let's see how much of the magical promise of my first work experience out of college has come to fruition in the past twelve months.
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7/19/04: I start tomorrow! Looks to be an interesting job; I'll add more info here when I have some. Currently all I know is that I'll be assisting a senior chemist at the company, working on proposals and experiments related to new materials used in transparencies (which is a fancy word for airplane windshields, essentially). So that's all very exciting.

Today: Well, that "senior chemist" quit a few months in, before I ever got a chance to assist her. They conveniently neglected to tell me I was hired in a rush to fill the gap left when the QC tech suddenly quit with no one cross-trained to take over his job. So I started out doing QC, which I'm still doing today.

7/20/04: My first day at work was interesting. My supervisor apparently didn't know I was coming, so he wasn't at all prepared for me to be there today. It was okay though; he got me set up in my office and showed me where my lab benches were located. I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning and reorganizing (the guy I've replaced left only a week ago, and there was still a lot of his stuff sitting around), and then another chunk of the day reading about what I'll be doing for the company. For the time being, I'm a QC (Quality Control) chemist, which means I'll be performing lab tests on materials to make sure they are of an acceptable quality. I begin training tomorrow, and there are already lots of tests waiting to be done. According to my supervisor, I eventually will get additional training in some specific area or other, and later I'll have one or two minions of my own to supervise. So that's pretty durn cool.

Today: Boy, I sounded optimistic then, didn't I? I should have seen the disorganization of that first day for the dark omen it was. ;) My lab benches are again a disaster area because I haven't had the time or opportunity to really clean and re-reorganize them in quite a while (and I'm still finding stuff of former workers' in random drawers and cabinets). That "additional training in some specific area or other" is finally (supposedly) going to start in October of this year. And as for minions? Ha! Haven't seen sign of any yet, and I don't expect to anytime soon.

7/23/04: Well, I made it through 4 days at [company] without anyone deciding I'm unworthy to work there, so that's a good start. I've been basically thrown into the pool, so to speak, and expected to figure out that swimming business on my own. There's been some flailing on my part, but I haven't drowned yet. The reality is that there has been a big backlog of quality control tests that haven't been done (since the guy I replaced has been gone for almost 2 weeks and he was the only one who did that job), so I've had to jump in with very little training and just figure out how to get the stuff done. There's only one other guy (T) who really knows how to do the tests, and he's always busy with other stuff, so as bad as I feel about bugging him for help all the time, I don't really have any other options. There are some things that are just completely unfamiliar to me...instruments, materials, etc. But I'm figuring it out, and by Monday afternoon I should be caught up on all the tests, so that's definitely a good thing.

Today: Wow. How quickly I started realizing how things work around here. ;) I think at this point I was still hopeful that I would get some formal training eventually, but I've spent the last year figuring out how to get by on my own. I'm still asking T for help and advice, but much less often. So that's good.

7/28/04: I'm not sure how many jobs there are out there that afford you the opportunity to sample silicone (the consistency of honey) out of a 50 gallon drum using a foot-long metal spatula. Certainly not boring around here today!

Today: God, how I have grown to hate that task.

(Skipping ahead a couple of months)

9/16/04: Yesterday I got assigned to a failure analysis project, which is about as forensic science-y as this job can get. We've had some problems showing up in some of the parts, so I get to help solve the mystery of why those problems are occurring. Should be fun to get a chance to stretch my brain a bit, I guess.

Today: HAHAHAHA! What a joke. The reality of this "failure analysis team" was that there was a problem that's been recurring periodically for the past 15 years, the team took a stab in the dark as to what was causing the problem, made some corrections to the process without using any kind of controlled scientific method, and then everyone patted themselves on the back when the problem began to decrease. Unfortunately the problem "magically" arose again in spite of all these corrections, and we were back to square one. Rinse. Repeat.

10/23/04: Stuck working today (Saturday) and tomorrow. Blech. Overtime is all well and good, but I think I'd rather have the sleep.

Today: Sooooooo glad I'm not working weekends anymore. :) 'Course, the OT would be handy now and again, but I think it's better for my sanity to have 2 days off every week.
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So, from my humble beginnings, I have come quite a ways. I've learned what I can reasonably expect from my job (not a lot) and what my job expects of me (quite a bit, some days). I am certainly grateful to have been gainfully employed for the past year, and while I know I don't want to be a "lifer" here (good heavens, no), this'll do for now. ;)

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Reading Weekend

After finishing Trace on Saturday, I spent Sunday reading most of Half-Blood Prince (I'll read the last 140 pages today). I changed out of my pjs just long enough to take a shower and change back into new pjs. It was a good day. ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Patricia Cornwell, why do you hate me?

I'm sorry to report that Trace has been as disappointing as the rest of Cornwell's recent novels. I almost feel sorry for her. I can imagine her publishers saying "Come on, write another of those Scarpetta books and rake in some more money," even though her heart isn't really in it anymore. Sometimes it seems as though she hasn't even bothered to proofread what she's written, like she's just trying to get it on paper and out the door as quickly as possible just to be done with it. In the last two or three books, she's made my favorite character into someone I can't bring myself to like anymore. Her writing is repetitive, the "mystery" so thinly-veiled I can't decide if she is deliberately trying to insult the intelligence of her audience or just doesn't care.

I don't want to sound mean-spirited in my criticism; I really did like the earlier books in the series, and I know Cornwell can do better than this, which is probably the main reason these last few have been such a let-down. I have to hope that I'm right, that she's just burned out and doesn't really want to keep writing these books and if enough people express dissatisfaction then maybe her publishers will let her put the series to rest. Because if she's actually trying hard, and this is the result...well, that thought just makes me sad.

It takes a lot for me to give up on a book halfway though, so I'll go back to the couch, eat some cake (baked in our oven that the landlord FINALLY installed!) and finish Trace, all the while jealously listening to Tom laugh aloud while he reads the clearly-enjoyable Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Pretty Mt. Wilson towercam view toward Pasadena.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Adventures at the Caltech gym

One of my birthday presents from Tom was a membership to Caltech's gym for the summer. For a couple of weeks I ran on the nice rubberized track outside, but this week it was pretty darn warm out, so I opted to try the various excercise machines inside the air-conditioned gym. Here's how it's gone so far -

Monday: 20 minutes on the stationary bike
Observations: Didn't really provide much of a workout, but I suspect I had the resistance set too low. Something kind of funny happened though. About midway through my 20 minutes, a couple of guys sat down at the bikes on either side of mine, magazines in hand. I didn't give it much thought; lots of people read fitness mags or celebrity mags while exercising. Apparently I'd forgotten where I was, because I was amused and somewhat surprised to note that the guy on my right was reading Science, and the one on my left was reading a physics journal. Hehe, only at Caltech...

Tuesday: 30 minutes on the eliptical trainer
Observations: Holy cow, you can burn a lot of calories on one of those things. Also, the machine calculates how far you've "run" during your exercise time, and if it's accurate, I cut my average track mile time by over a minute. And while I felt physically weary by the end of my exercising, I didn't feel like my lungs were going to explode, which I'm going to guess is a good thing. Lovin' the eliptical trainer.

Wednesday: 10 minutes on the rowing machine, then 10 minutes on the bike
Observations: I wanted to incorporate something into my workout routine that would build upper-body strength, so the rowing machine seemed like the obvious answer. Good aerobic workout (burned more calories than the bike), and good for working the muscles. I was tempted to do 15 or 20 minutes, but I am very glad I didn't. My back muscles are really, really displeased today. I kept an eye on my form while I was rowing, so I don't think I did anything to actually do any damage to my back; I think I just used a bunch of muscles that don't normally see a lot of action, and they're protesting (mightily) from the exertion. Gotta get them strong though, so I'll definitely be doing more rowing in the future.

Today: Taking ibuprophen, washing dishes, watching X-Files and/or The 4400 on the couch
My back wins this round. I'm taking the day off.

Tomorrow: Back to the eliptical trainer for another 30 minutes
I figure if I can build up my endurance on this bad boy, it won't be quite so hideous when I do go back to running on the track (whenever that may be...no time soon, anyway).

And there you have it. Back to work now for me...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Book Review: Dune, by Frank Herbert

Truly an epic for the ages, complete with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...oh, no wait - that's The Princess Bride. However, Peter Falk might as well have been talking about Dune.

To be fair, I'm still 50 pages shy of the end, but I wouldn't want to give away the ending here anyway, and the book is more than long enough for me to write about what I've read so far. It's the first in a series of books about the desert planet Arrakis (though I've been told it's the only one worth reading), set in the distant future and yet not very "futuristic." The societies involved are advanced in kind of subtle ways (capability for space travel, protective force field body shields, some advanced weaponry), but at the same time they're rather primitive in other ways (one group of people lives in caves deep under the desert surface, and the societal elite watch and engage in Roman-style gladiator battles). There are power struggles between the various royals, there's a big war brewing throughout most of the 500+ pages, there's a lot of religious mysticism surrounding the main character and his rise to the status of a leader and prophet. And then of course there are the giant sandworms.

The beginning is a bit slow (there are a lot of characters to introduce, and there's quite a large amount of build-up to the initial betrayal of the Duke and his family), but once the story gets rolling, it's extremely engaging. Because Arrakis is, as I mentioned, a desert planet, much of the book deals with how its inhabitants have adapted to a life without an abundance of water, and there are some interesting cultural clashes that occur when the desert natives come in contact with newcomers from worlds with more Earth-like environments. For example, a desert dweller (they're called Fremen) comes to the palace of the Duke shortly after the arrival of the Duke and his family on the planet. There is an exchange, at the end of which the Duke has earned the Fremen's respect. So the Fremen spits at the Duke's feet, and all the Duke's guards freak out a little until a liason explains that the Fremen has done the Duke a great honor by "sharing his water" with him.

Anyway, it's been an entertaining read. I've heard that the movie (made in 1984) was well-acted and did a good job staying true to the plot, so I may have to check that out. Dune gets an A from me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Getting better

Steady improvement from the Lokster. That's a good thing. :)

Pee Patrol

For the past two and a half days, Tom and I have been on constant pee patrol. Loki goes to the box. He digs. He squats. We wait, poised, flashlight in hand. He leaps out, and we peer in. Is there a spot? Did he go? There is/he did! We breathe a sigh of relief and return to the couch to wait for the next time. Repeat, ad infinitum...

Sometimes it's not a lot. Only a few drops, less than a quarter teaspoon. Better than nothing, and we're downright thrilled when there's more. As long as the urine keeps flowing, Loki's safe. Uncomfortable, maybe, but not blocked. His appetite still isn't stellar, but it's gotten a little bit better today. Baby steps are all we can ask for at this point.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Blessing in disguise

It was a good thing we weren't able to get tickets for the Caltech wine tasting trip today. Last night, a day after his ordeal at the vet's, Loki started exhibiting the classic signs of cystitis: frequent trips to the litter box, some urine production but not a lot, and a bit of blood present in the urine. Poor guy. The signs pointed to a possible infection brought on by stress and (my guess) bacteria introduced by licking the site of the previous day's urine extraction (extracted by a needle sent straight through his side into his bladder). This was a pretty obvious diagnosis for anyone who's dealt with an FLUTD cat for any length of time. Unfortunately, owner experience doesn't count for much where emergency vets are concerned.

It was pretty obvious to both Tom and me that Loki most likely needed some amoxicilin (or equivalent antibiotic) to combat the infection and ease his discomfort. However, he didn't start exhibiting these symptoms until well after his usual vet had closed for the day. It's hard to watch your beloved animal be all uncomfortable and know there's nothing you can do for him, so I tried calling the two emergency vet offices nearby and explaining the situation (we've been through this before, we're competent enough to make a home diagnosis, he's violent and way too high-stress to bring him in for something like this, you have his chart and history, can you please prescribe one dose over the phone?), but to no avail. They insisted that he come in for examination before they'd prescribe anything. "It's not just our policy, it's federal law." Blah blah. Yes, I understand, but it's not like we were trying to get hold of narcotics, or the makings of meth - we're a couple of well-educated college-grads trying to make our cat feel better - and it's not as if 100mg of amoxicilin is something anyone can abuse. Give me a break! Gah! Bastards!

So we gave him some water to make sure he actually had something to pee and waited until morning to call the vet first thing. By noon Tom had Loki on the floor and was dropping an antibiotic down his throat. The vet also gave us another kind of prescription food to try (which, coincidentally, Loki expelled a few hours after ingestion in a rather extraordinary display). How freaking hard was that? I know, I know, the regular vet knows us, knows Loki, had just seen him two days ago (felt really bad/responsible for this latest bladder attack of his, even though it wasn't really her fault), and feels comfortable prescribing stuff over the phone. And I know, it's technically illegal to prescribe medication without actually examining a patient. It's still frustrating to be completely unable to help your pet (essentially your child), when you know exactly what he needs, and what he needs isn't all that unreasonable. Makes you feel so helpless.

So no wine tasting for us today, though we did open a bottle of Shiraz with dinner. Loki's resting, not terribly enthused about eating after his vomit-fest earlier, but he did get about half his dinner down. He's visiting the litter box less often and always producing at least a little urine with each trip, so that's good at least. Now we'll just keep an eye on him and hope he keeps improving. All right, I'm going to get back to reading Dune now...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Our apartment looks like a crime scene

Yesterday after work, I took Loki to the vet's for a check-up. Everything has been fine with him since the changeover to canned food, but the vet still wants to get periodic urine samples so she can keep tabs on his pH. So in the carrier he went, and we headed to the doc.

No one has ever claimed Loki is Mr. Sunshine, and it's a pretty well-known fact that one might benefit from wearing thick leather gauntlets if one wishes to handle him when he's feeling particularly peevish (though even then there's no guarantee of surviving unscathed). He hates strangers even when he's in the comfort zone of his own home, and hell hath no fury like Loki hath for the vet's office. You can probably see where this is going...

Long story short, Loki was taken away to another room, there was much yowling, a bit of crashing, and then silence. The vet returned him to me in his crate and said, "Well, we got the sample, but then he escaped and there was a bit of a scuffle getting him back into the carrier. We saw some blood on the floor; he may have ripped a toenail, or he may be stressed and have a little blood in his stool. Just keep an eye on him once you get him home." Poor guy. So very distraught. The vet and I decided that it might be better for all concerned if we don't worry about regular pH testing from now on, as long as his clinical signs are good.

When we got home, Loki was shaking one of his hind legs when I let him out of the carrier. I saw that there was some dried blood on his paw and a few smears on the blanket in the crate, so I breathed a sigh of relief that it was just a bloody toe and not a bloody bowel. I gave him some food and left him alone to have some quiet time and regroup. I made some phone calls, checked email, made dinner, etc., and several hours passed. It was time to pick up Tom from work. On my way out the door, I noticed a few spots of blood on the carpet near the litter box and figured he must have tracked the blood out when he first got home. I left to get Tom.

We returned, and Tom went into the bedroom to put his bag down. I'd told him about the whole ordeal at the vet's and he noticed a dark spot on the bed.

"Oh, is this where he bled?"
"Shoot, I guess so. I didn't think he was still bleeding when we got home."

I turned on the light. It looked like a damned murder scene in the room. Blood spattered in a big arc on the wall behind the bed. Blood on our pillows. Blood on the blankets and sheets, on the nightstand, on the carpet. It was only then that I walked back out into the living room and saw the telltale spots all over the carpet out there, too! Apparently, when I left Loki alone earlier, he'd picked at his foot and reopened the wound, and then just bled like a mo-fo all over the place. We locked him in the bathroom for the night and though he seemed to have finally stopped bleeding when we let him out this morning, there were little red footprints all over the floor, tub, counter, windowsill...poor little man. :(

Anyway, we did our best on the stains last night, armed only with surface cleaner and paper towels, but I'll definitely be picking up some bleach-containing stuff and a couple of scrub brushes after work today...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Feeling kind of quiet

In the wake of this morning's bombings in London, I'm feeling saddened, somewhat sickened, but not all that surprised. Mostly just kind of quiet.

Sad for the people hurt and the families of the people killed. Sick at the thought that even lovely London isn't safe from being turned into a war zone without so much as a moment's notice. Irritated with cnn.com and their ALL CAPS SANS SERIF HEADLINES to announce today's carnage while all the other ho-hum carnage around the world gets relegated to the "in other news" sort of links ("In other news, a suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 2 US Marines and 5 Iraqi policemen...and 17 civilians we're not going to bother mentioning because it happens every damned day anyway"). Sad that it's gotten to the point where I don't even bother reading those "in other news" stories anymore anyway.

So overall I'm just feeling quiet. Not sure how to explain it other than that.

Here's something that I found rather extraordinary, though. On the way home, I was listening to NPR's interviews with random Londoners on the street and British terrorist experts, and I was amazed/impressed/what-have-you by the manner in which these people spoke about what had happened. It was all very matter-of-fact. A 95 year-old Red Cross worker talked about walking over to the hospital to help out (95!) in whatever way she could, even if that just meant "to soothe someone down or bring an extra cup of tea, that sort of thing." She also said (and I'm paraphrasing this time) that it was wicked, what had happened, but you just have to go on. Life goes on. That's fortitude for you. I'm not trying to belittle anyone's pain four years ago (almost), but kudos to the Brits for not falling apart, for not letting the bombers reap the satisfaction of unchecked chaos. Kudos, indeed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Book Review: Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard

Get Shorty was a pretty amusing read, mostly because it wasn't what I expected. I never saw the movie, but I thought it was about a Mob hitman going after an actor for some reason or another. Instead, the story's about a Mob-affiliated loan shark (or shylock, a new word for me) named Chili Palmer who's in a bit of trouble from this other Mob guy he pissed off years ago, so he takes off from Miami to the West coast to track down a deadbeat client and collect on a loan, hoping to get the other guy off his back. So he follows the guy from Vegas to L.A., and once he's out there he decides he kind of likes the place, runs into this producer/director, and decides to pitch a movie that's basically about his life (or one small part of it). So the rest of the story is about how he deals with the various Hollywood ilk, trying to get his movie picked up while at the same time trying not to get himself killed/arrested/etc. by either the Mob guy or some other guys (drug dealers) with whom he gets tangled up.

Also somewhat amusing to me is the fact that, since the story's set in L.A., the author's always bringing up landmarks, streets, etc. that I recognize.
"Two days later I meet him and another lawyer in a restaurant in a hotel that's Japanese. I mean the entire hotel, not just the restaurant, a Japanese hotel right in the middle of downtown L.A."

Harry said, "Yeah, the Otani."

"Right by the city hall. These two lawyers eat there all the time. I watch 'em dig into the raw fish, suck up bowls of noodles...The noodles weren't bad."
(Yaya used to work at that hotel.) And while the book is written in the third person, you get the feeling that the Chili is actually the one telling the story because even the exposition is written kind of in the same style that Chili talks. So that's entertaining as well.

All in all, a quick read, not a masterpiece or anything, but engaging enough to keep my attention on a warm afternoon. I'll give it a solid B.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Just a little Sunday night catblogging

Below I've posted some photos from a couple of weeks ago, when Loki got a wild hair and decided to make himself comfortable in various objects that were strewn about on the floor (namely a shoebox and my work satchel). This was all very amusing, since Loki's typically much too aloof and jaded to engage in such behavior. So take a gander and enjoy. :)

What? You've never seen a cat in a shoebox before?

Hmm. This may not work out as I'd planned.

Okay, so where do you keep the snacks?

Leo: Do not get too comfortable, my friend. I may be forced to pounce on you at any moment...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gallery Update

Finally got around to scanning the photos Yaya took when she and Aunt Julie had lunch at our apartment. You can see them here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Loooong weekend

Sierracin allows its employees a "birthday holiday" in addition to the few days off each year for national holidays. Said "birthday holiday" can be taken within one week of the actual birthday, so I took mine today to make it a 4-day weekend. Whoo-hoo!

Did the laundry this morning, came home, played Fable for a few hours, and then read Dune and played guitar until it was time to pick up Tom from work. Now I'm considering what to make for dinner. I'm thinking pasta. Or perogies. Either one sounds pretty good.

Happy Independence Day weekend! :)