a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: October 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Music for the Shoe Addict

SUMMARY: Something you can sing while stocking up. (Stocking up... right.)
From Facebook: Originally created Oct 30, 2013!

I am not a shoe addict, but I concocted these lyrics for friends and relatives who are. Interspersed with random shoe photos I've taken over time.


(If you need music to sing along to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrI-UBIB8Jk )

Oooga chucka Oooga ooga ooga chucka...

I can't stop this feelin' deep inside my feet
Guys, you just don't realize shoes can make me sweet
When I wear some brand new Vans or pumps
I'm no longer way down in the dumps

I-I-I, I'm goin' shoe shoppin'
And I won't be stoppin'
Till I have five new pairs!

Shoes as pink as candy, points might hurt my toes
But for another Blahnik pair, girl, any fashion goes!
I got it bad for shoes, girl, but I don't want a cure
I'll just stay addicted and hope my cash endures.

Buy some slingbacks or some furry Uggs
If it's Gucci, it's like taking drugs

I-I-I, I'm goin' shoe shoppin'
And I won't be stoppin'
Till I have eight new pairs!

Open sandals, even saddle shoes, [tune of: All the good love when we're all alone]
I'm on Zappos, fending off the blues

I-I-I, I'm goin' shoe shoppin'
And I won't be stoppin'
Till I have twelve new pairs!

I'm goin' shoe shoppin'!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sunrise, sunset

SUMMARY: One from valley looking towards mountains through smoke of a fire; one looking down on valley from mountains.

(Nearly wordless Wednesday.)

>>  Visit the Wordless Wednesday site; lots of blogs. << 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Goodbye, Charlotte

SUMMARY: She was only a volunteer spider, but still--

After my previous renters moved out in August of 2018, leaving empty kitchen cabinet shelves here and there, I opened my cereal cabinet one day to discover a messy web taking up an entire empty shelf, populated by a small brownish spider.  I don't mind spiders in my house as long as they're not somewhere super inconvenient or if they're likely to fall on or bite me. And all of those are rare, so for the most part, spiders stay.

That's because I clearly see that the spiders are finding critters to eat in my house, and I'll bet bottom dollar that I would not welcome those critters if I ever met them.

So I left her there. Her: Gender actually unknown, but after a couple of weeks, I named her Charlotte, because what else would one name a spider with whom one would have daily conversations?  She didn't stay small all that long.

She had long spindly legs and a huge abdomen. Hmm, said I, she has the shape of a (erk) black widow, yet she looks brown to me, not black.  Still, black widows have messy webs, none of those pretty ones you can take photos of.  I tried to take photos of her to identify her provenance. It was difficult, because every time I opened the cabinet door, she'd race across her web and tuck herself into the corner. (Note that when I say huge abdomen, her whole body was still still plenty smaller than the pegs that hold up the shelves.)

And I couldn't ever clearly see her belly to determine whether she had that red hourglass.  She was *always* upside down on her web, and near the back of the cabinet, and the web was pretty close to the upper shelf. Tried a couple of times.  Best I ever got, with my camera on a tripod, attempted prefocus, was this:

Sure looked like whitish markings, not red, and not a solid black body. So I took to the internet for more info. After perusing many, many spider sites and photos, I tentatively IDed her as a "false black widow."  (Note that there are many species of black widows, and many species commonly called "false black widow.") Posted the photo at spiderID.com, with my best guess about her species, and got this response, which set my fears to rest:
Hi, your description is very good. She’s probably a false widow, Steatoda grossa, I’m not certain from the side view. She has been eating well, which is exactly what you want from a spider in the house. The web is always messy looking and it gets dusty. They like enclosed spaces and darkness. Their sight is poor, they mostly use vibrations and basic light/dark sight to find prey and avoid large animals like humans. I’ve tried photographing the Steatoda species spiders that I let live in my house and it is difficult, they run from the flash or any other light source.

So, for 14 months, typically twice a day (open cabinet to get out cereal or whatever; open it again to put it away), I spoke to her.

"Hi, Charlotte."
"Hello, Charlotte."
"You're looking well fed today, Charlotte."
"Seriously, it's been months, don't you trust me yet?"  She never did trust me.

As time grew nearer for me to get a renter again, and knowing I'd need that shelf, I looked online determinedly for info on how to move a spider who has served me well, without tangling her in her own web, and without dropping her somewhere else in the house.  I found no help, and so I agonized (mildly) about it and did nothing, but the problem nagged in a tiny spot in the back of my head reserved for trivial things to be nagged about.

So, the human thing: You know, you identify a specific living thing. You name it. You talk to it every day. You give it a job title and monitor its performance. It becomes part of your life.

I cannot tell you how surprised I was when, yesterday morning upon opening the cabinet and finding her dead, I felt an immediate rush of grief and sorrow.  Which hasn't yet dissipated.

For a spider. Who never said hi, never trusted me. But who did a truly noble job of doing what I hired her to do: Remove insect vermin from my home.

Now I can clear out the web, reclaim the shelf, and marvel at an arachnid who, all unknowing, shared my life for a year and two months.  Goodbye, Charlotte, and thanks.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Getting Through Challenges

SUMMARY: Like The Pattern in the Amber series, sometimes things are easy, and then you hit a veil...
From Facebook: First paragraph is a comment I posted Oct 27, 2019.

Lord of the Rings: My dad loved the books, my younger sisters loved the books, but every time I tried to read the first in the trilogy, it bogged me down in, I think, extreme detail, scene setting, and expository text. But in my junior year of college (or possibly a few years later) I picked it up again, and loved every word. At that point I wasn’t entirely sure which part I had had trouble with initially.

It's not that I didn't read: I read voraciously, and much of it was fantasy or science fiction. I'm sure that, by then, I had read the first 3 or 4 Amber books, and the Pattern intrigued me; but for a long time, LotR presented a veil that I couldn't get through.

[Corwin begins walking the pattern--] Then the thing began to curve, abruptly, back upon itself. I took ten more paces, and a certain resistance seemed to arise. It was as if a black barrier had grown up before me, of some substance which pushed back upon me with each effort that I made to pass forward. I fought it. It was the First Veil, I suddenly knew. To get beyond it would be an achievement, a good sign, showing that I was indeed part of the Pattern. Each raising and lowering of my foot suddenly required a terrible effort, and sparks shot forth from my hair. I concentrated on the fiery line. I walked it breathing heavily. Suddenly the pressure was eased. The Veil had parted before me, as abruptly as it had occurred. I had passed beyond it. [Read more of this excerpt.]
- from Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny 

I also hit a veil when learning subtraction (though addition was simple) and division (though multiplication was simple). Eventually I earned a degree in Math, so apparently I made it through that particular Pattern.

I hit many veils in dog agility, things that I had at one time or another believed that I would never achieve: Getting a gamble. Earning a title.  Earning a more advanced title.  Understanding Snooker rules. Doing a smooth front cross. Earning a championship. Having a dog in the USDAA Top Ten.  Earning many championships with 4 different dogs. Still, I often felt that I had never truly completed that Pattern.

Once upon a time, I cared enough about it that I worked at it. But, true to my life's story, I seldom worked at it to the best of my potential. That felt to me like an overwhelming veil that enveloped all others. Sure, there were days or weeks where I concentrated on some particular skill. But then I'd slack off. Over and over.

Still, I'd say that I had a reasonably successful agility career. And I try hard not to think, "If only I had worked harder at _________."  That way madness lies.

But, whenever I hit a veil in any aspect of my life, I try to remind myself that working hard at getting through could help me to achieve the power of the Pattern, and gain satisfaction, joy, and energy to boot.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Loma Prieta Earthquake -- has it really been 30 years?

SUMMARY: Some things you never forget.
Backfill: First posted on Facebook Oct 17, 2019; edited here & added links.
I meant this to be short, but apparently I still have things to say about it.

30 years ago--seems like yesterday in some ways, the images of my life that day are so brilliant--  Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing if they felt it (and people felt it as far away as San Diego, which is about 450 miles from epicenter)... except a weird thing is happening: Adults I know, some of whom have children, have no memories because they weren't even alive! 30 years!

30 years ago in just about an hour from now, our part of the world shook into a different dimension, in which everything around us was affected, people died, buildings collapsed, fires erupted, power went out, people couldn't get home for hours, phone lines were so swamped with people trying to call other people that you couldn't even get a dial tone. Power was out on gas stations, too, for at least a couple of days, so finding a functional station was challenging, and those stations had long lines.

Part of the Oakland /Bay Bridge collapsed, closing THE main artery between the east bay and San Francisco for months, affecting traffic everywhere. Today, that bridge carries a quarter of a million cars daily. Probably less then, but not by a huge amount.

The Cypress Structure--a section of freeway not far from the Bay Bridge sporting one set of freeway lanes atop others--pancaked and caused most of the earthquake's deaths. The famous As vs Giants World Series baseball game that was just starting you've probably heard about, as the stadium swayed and shook and the announcers excitedly reported on it. Power out there, too, and they weren't sure whether the structure was sturdy, so they eventually evacuated everyone. (Not to mention that everyone wanted to get home to check on family and abode.)

Communication of any kind was nearly impossible: Power out (so many phones didn't work  unless the handset was wired to the phone that was wired to the wall), phone lines impassible... and remember: No cell phones! No World Wide Web!  (Internet existed but only an elite few knew how to use it.)

Enough freeway bridges collapsed that, for months, if you were in traffic and near a bridge, you wouldn't stop under it, so there were always huge gaps in front of people (read: EVERYONE) who didn't want to get caught there. Months!

I posted more on the 20th anniversary about my experiences, with my photos; start there for more links and posts on my blog if you wish.

Following are other links for your viewing ... pleasure?

KTVU/Fox News

Good  three-minute video from 2016. Worth sharing again.

I should note, however, that the news coverage at the time all looked and sounded sensational like this. In fact, very few fires, very few buildings or bridges collapsed. Lots of small damage, but it's the big stuff like this that kept playing over and over and made many of us think that SF was being destroyed all over again, that the Bay Bridge had completely collapsed, that there were fires everywhere, and worse.  It was terrible, but not that much in most places.

NBC Bay Area video

A one-hour version, summary of events.

FULL EPISODE: Loma Prieta Earthquake, 30 Years Later (NBC Bay Area)

KGO TV video

One-hour video, watch it in pretty much real time as if you were actually there.

I just watched about 30 minutes of it. Talk about reliving the trauma!

While you're watching, imagine the ground repeatedly rolling and shaking, and things in your house fallen over or broken (and maybe your house, too), oh, and no power, so you're not really watching it in realtime: you're hearing it on your battery-powered radio while sitting in your safe driveway to keep out of the rocking and rolling house.

10-17-1989 San Francisco Earthquake - First Minutes (KGO TV)

It’s interesting to see how far off they were with the epicenter (first guesses Hollister, which is miles away from the actual under Loma Prieta peak near Santa Cruz) and the estimate of the strength of the quake (first estimate from places that estimate these things: 6.5. Actually: 6.9).

According to this useful calculator: The difference between these two magnitudes is 0.4
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake is 2.511 times bigger than a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, but it is 3.981 times stronger (energy release).

Hollister (first guess epicenter), Forest of Nicene Marks (actual epicenter), Los Gatos (where I was working at the time of the quake), Campbell (where I lived, but close to the border of Los Gatos), and Watsonville, where some of the worst damage occurred because of soil structure and many old buildings. Santa Cruz also lost many old buildings, many of them in the heart of downtown, ripping their hearts apart, too.

Other stuff

Final note

Looking back, now, I wish I had taken more photos of everything: The room I was in when the quake hit, the lines at the gas stations, the gaps where people wouldn't stop under overpasses, me and mother-in-law and dogs sitting in the driveway with the radio; Sheba in a panic for days until the aftershocks abated...   I drove around looking for *damage* but didn't think about lifestyle images.

Let that be a lesson to me!  

The Pusher: The First Visit is Free

SUMMARY: Dad and me and big-people books and science fiction

My parents started me out very young with fairytales and magic. This one is still one of my all-time favorites.

When I was a somewhat older kid (um, somewhere between 3rd and 6th grade, but I think on the younger side of that), my dad took me to the UPstairs part of the library where all the growed-up books were and turned me loose on Bradbury and Heinlein and I was hooked from the start. He got a good talking to from the librarian about how kids would be much happier in the big beautiful bright downstairs library filled with kid-type books. Dad said I could read what I wanted to read. Thanks, Dad!

The library in question--  it's still there. I thought it was one of the most special buildings in the world!

I did love the downstairs library, too, a huge room of wondrous books. From Curious George to the (at the time) new Tripods trilogy, all good. (This article has a couple photos of the children's floor--don't recall exactly what it looked like when I was there, but I remember plenty of sunny windows.)

But upstairs had a whole lot more books with a whole lot more pages! So, shame on the librarian... and now I have several bookcases (of the 7-foot-tall variety) filled with fantasy and science fiction books. Can definitely blame that on Dad, too.

Parents' living room. There are 3 bookcases out of sight to the left, 2 to the right, and several in the family room and in parents' room and in various other rooms. Books. Lots.

Living room from the far end. Dad, disavowing all knowledge of  books. 
(You'd hardly know it...  that the cancer knocked him down completely
over the next 2 weeks and then he was gone.  Dad, who could never resist silly faces or gestures.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Disabilities, Disney, Dissonance, and related musings

SUMMARY: Walt Disney World planning vacation with scooter.

I did Disneyland 2 years ago with a scooter, after two miserable trips to Walt Disney World without one, where I was in agony constantly, making it a challenge to enjoy my dream come true. Seriously--after wanting to go to WDW my entire adult life, I finally got to go, and my body failed me.  It was a weird dissonance between full-on joy at being there and being in so much pain that at times I could barely walk.  Thoroughly having a grand time when sitting, and not so much when trying to move. I did a *lot* of walking those trips, but only a fraction of the miles I used to cover or needed to cover for that park.

I did my best to keep myself functional...

So I finally caved and got the scooter after that for my next trip to DL (see link above). I'd cover the longer stretches in the scooter, then park and walk around a smaller area, stand in line for rides, and so on. Sure wish I could've taken the scooter in some of those lines, but I didn't try. Just learned that at WDW you can take the scooter in many lines! Very happy! The less time standing with bad knees and back, the better.

I still took a lot of photos at that last DL trip, although tougher when managing a scooter.  Like this one of my sis, bro-in-law, and Mr Fox on the train.

Wait... what was sis taking a photo of??

It was good strategy, I think, to get a lot of scooter practice at a park with which I am intimately familiar, before crossing the continent to try at a much larger, much less familiar place.

Earlier this year I got a new hip, and after I get back from my 3rd-ever trip to WDW later this year I'll get 2 new knees.

I just got home from a walk of nearly a mile (on mostly level surfaces, with a couple of brief stops to talk to people) without needing to sit down. By the end, however,  I was wishing that I had taken a shorter route, and I'm not going to do much more walking today. And, BTW, that was to pick up a form from my doc allowing me to get a temporary disabled placard for cars I'm riding in because I can't always walk a long way.  A little dissonance there, too.  Some days are better than others.

But-- "nearly a mile" of walking will hardly get one in the door at any Disney park (historically I think I averaged 10 or more miles a day of walking happily at DL -- good way to burn off all the goodies).

So I'm hoping to be able to do a lot of walking at WDW, but following the same strategy as at DL.  I'm probably the kind of candidate that people might glare at or say something, grumps who don't understand that not all disabilities are full or are visible, but if they do, no worries. I'll be very, very glad to be able to enjoy this trip so much more than the last 2 and not have to cut my days so short and miss things. And then my joy at being there, and delight at doing things with good friends who are also my relatives, shouldn't have to fall into dissonance with my body's other plans. We hope!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Things. Boxes. Dog beds. Organizing.

SUMMARY: I despair of ever having the time or energy.

Oct 2005:
This is what the entry to my office used to be.  Clean, simple, no boxes (well, just one temporary clear plastic one) in the aisle (and Jake). Made me look almost like a neat, tidy, organized person. Plus room to stroll through. I'd love to get back to that.  NOTE that the side of the kitchen table where I always sit is above the big bed. That's relevant here.

Some differences that can't be helped:
  • No Jake.
  • The starry doormat seen at the bottom no longer exists.
  • The purple wastebasket broke (sob!).
  • The boxes on the bookcase are long gone.
  • (Carpet color didn't change; differences in cameras or processing.)

Oct 2019:
Main differences:

  • The dogs almost never used the smaller bed there: Either used the big bed or lay under the table. So I moved that bed under the table.  (The big bed is still there, with that burgundy/black cushion on it.)
  • Therefore the wastebaskets moved farther to the right (can't see them).
  • The filigree metal screen (you can just see its edge on the right in 2005) (it's about 5'x5') moved to the left side because it blocked me from accessing the wires for equipment on the desk.
  • Boxes boxes boxes. On *both* sides (you can't see the right side much). Almost all of them have been there 3-4 years (much related to my parents' estate, but not all). Makes me nuts every time I walk through there. But then, I'd have to look at each one and either make a decision of some sort (hard) or do with it what I had intended (often time-consuming). 
  • Exercise pen unfolded in front of some boxes. Actually it's there so that I can sometimes move it to block their access, either into or out of the office.
  • Too much stuff on lowest shelf of closest bookcase. (Bringing over all my parents' slides & photos is a storage challenge.)