amazing Ambiance


Jumat, 11 November 2011

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Just Jack

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:46 AM PST

Just Jack

November 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm (By Randy)

The last time I bought a new (or used) car was December, 1996.  As saving for old age is no longer a necessity, I threw caution to the wind and ordered this Mini Cooper S. A friend insisted on naming it – at first we chose "Black Jack" because of the decal I ordered to disguise the sunroof, but we figured that was already a popular name, so we went with "Just Jack."

Jack is actually dark grey-green but need the right light to show it off. The likely ultimate owner of this car was also intimately involved in selecting the various options.

It's a "happy car" and I can't help smiling every time I see it.

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Foothill Fall Foliage

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:23 AM PST

Impatient Impatiens

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:13 AM PST

Impatient Impatiens

November 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm (By Randy)

For the past six years, I've planted impatiens underneath the entry archway to my house. Most of the time, they don't turn out as well as could be. They sure made up for it this year, though!

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Kamis, 10 November 2011

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The Lounge: Crazy Cat Lady Update

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 04:09 PM PST

Now for 2200+ words of crazy cat lady story:

Life is Trouble, and Trouble is spelled C-A-T.

Currently I have nine cats. NINE FREAKIN' CATS!

We have our two (really my two), Trixie and Tribbles. We have Mom's cat, who has been a part of the family since she was a tiny little kit, Nibsy. Nibsy is a coward, and Tribbles thinks Nibsy is the best toy EVER. They do not get along.

Trixie is a grey/brown/orange tabby/tortie. (It really depends on the lighting.) Tribbles is a white and grey bi-color, which is a fancy way of saying that she's got two large, separate grey spots – I think of her as a white cat wearing a disguise of a grey hood and a grey cape. Trixie is an orange tabby, and very large for a female.

Then we have Momma Cat living outside. Momma Cat is/was a feral neighborhood cat. She's a very striking calico, and fairly young, probably around two years old at the most. Mom's house was at the center of her range, so after we moved in we saw her a lot, but she wanted nothing to do with us – truly feral. She was just starting to NOT run from me when she had kittens – under our Camry. (Kim had started to call her Patches, but that has gone by the wayside.)

Last March 30 we had a BIG series of storms – lots of wind. It knocked out power for what would be 30 hours in the neighborhood. On March 31, it started to rain very heavily. We had some things defrosting, and Kim got permission from her office to use their freezer for a day. So I packed stuff up and headed over. Mom was watching at the front door, and when I started the car (which had been moved into the yard to avoid having an oak tree fall on it) Momma Cat came shooting out from under it. When I drove off, Mom saw some things squirming in the rain. Oops. I knew Momma Cat was pregnant (the happy event took place in the back yard, I could hardly miss it) and I knew she was due. Great.

When I got back home an hour later, I went looking for any kits. One had chosen correctly and had crawled under Mom's Hyundai. The other kit had chosen incorrectly and had crawled out into the middle of the yard, where it was getting drenched. When I parked in the driveway, Momma Cat went shooting from the side of the house into the back yard. Turns out she had had two more kits on the side of the house in a pile of tree debris. I didn't realize that until I'd been searching for about an hour and a half in the rain. I almost missed those two. I had already saved the other two (I had to move Mom's car forward slowly and hope the kit didn't squirm under a wheel), dried them off as best I could with paper towels and put them in a box on the front porch. After finding the other two, I did the same with them. With no power I couldn't dry them off any more than I had, but I did put warm water in Ziploc bags and placed them in the box with them. Then I waited for Momma.

I don't remember the events too well after that. Too much has happened since then. But I believe that Momma returned that night and started carrying the kittens off. They started disappearing one by one. The next day I discovered that Momma had actually had a fifth kit somewhere. I knew this because she had all of them under Mom's car which was still in the front yard. Grrr.

So five kits in all, all under Mom's car in the middle of the yard – this was not an acceptable situation. So over the next two days I started feeding and watering Momma Cat, trying to win her trust. She was happy for the food and water, still wanted nothing to do with me. After a couple of days I decided I just needed to move them. Kim told me I needed to catch Momma first, and then get the kits. I tried for a little while, but Momma wasn't going to let me near her. Finally I just started reaching for the kits. I finally (with help from Kim, and maybe from Mom, I don't remember) managed to get all five kits in a box. I tried to lead Momma to the back of the house, so she could take up residence either on the back porch or back patio. She followed, but was distressed. After much work, she finally got one of the kits away from me. I gave up and let her take them all. (We had moved the car to the drive way at least.) She took them to some house across the street, to another back yard.

And here's where I screwed up. She kept coming back for food, and I kept giving it to her. The plan was to get her to bring the kits back, and then to try and adopt them out or give them to a cat rescue place. The problem with the cat rescue places is that they only take cats that are acclimated to humans – no purely feral cats. Grrr.

Well, I kept feeding Momma and she kept coming back. After a couple of months we started to see signs of the kits again. Eventually found out from a neighbor that three were left. The neighbor had come home one day and Momma was on her front step with the body of one of the little ones, torn in two. No idea how it happened. She had never known there was a fifth one, maybe the rain was too much.

Anyway, Momma finally brought the remaining three over. Only one of the black & whites had survived, the giant of the litter, whom we called Patches for lack of anything else obvious. There was a mostly black cat that had a perfectly round white spot on his chest, and tiny white spots on some of his toes. We called him Blackie, or Twinkle Toes, or Alger Hiss, but mostly Blackie. (This was maybe not the smartest thing in this neighborhood, but we were just being obvious to go with the oblivious.) The third was a pretty little calico we called Callie. As you see, we were very creative.

Anyway, the cats started hanging out with us. One day only three of them showed up – Patches was missing. Momma came back with his body a couple hours later. No idea what happened to him, but I think he drowned somehow the night before. We'd had a big storm. The cats rode it out under (or in) our cars, nice and dry. But when they went back to the nest that night perhaps he stumbled into something wet. His coat was soaked, in any event.

So we were down to three cats, Momma Cat, Callie and Blackie. Blackie was a pistol, Callie a coward, and now Momma Cat had warmed up to me – she liked her scratches, as I call them. Callie's cowardice proved a problem – she would only let me pet her once or twice when I fed her, and then she'd take off. So I couldn't take them to an adoption place. This was a shame as Callie is a real beauty. I think Momma is more impressive, but most people prefer Callie. (She's got a softer looking face – Momma looks kind of fierce.)

We also couldn't find anyone that was interested in adopting them, unfortunately. But I was playing with Blackie, and petting and scratching Momma, and trying to win over Callie.

While all this is going on, Mom was getting sicker, going into the hospital, getting radiation treatment, etc. In short, she was dying. My sister had come down to stay with us and take care of Mom, which was its own set of stresses. (There's a lot of friction there, and I'll leave it at that.)

Come late August I had to acknowledge the obvious – Momma Cat has gone and got herself knocked up again. Sigh. I didn't hear the 'nuptials' this time, and given that the previous occasion had had a big build up over several nights, I was surprised this happened without my knowledge. I know who the father was this time, though. The stocky black Tom cat that had been hanging around off and on had to be the father. He may have been the first time too, though there had been several suitors. (Most of whom I hadn't seen around before, and barely since.)

But Momma was definitely knocked up again. Mom's health was also failing. On September 15, we saw Blackie for the last time. We still don't know what actually happened, but we have reason to believe the pit bulls next door caught him and killed him. It may have been his father that was killed (we just found out about it a few days ago), and Blackie may have run off, but I don't think so. We just know a black cat was killed and Callie was very distraught – she may not have been much for my company, but she and her brother were running mates. On the 16th Mom went into hospice care. On the 17th Momma gave birth to four kits. Over the next few days I was worried about Momma Cat. I suspect that there may have been a fifth kit that trapped in utero. Momma had bad discharges off and on for the next week or so. I would have taken her to a vet but (a) I had no money to spare, (b) I was afraid to separate her from the other kits, and (c) Mom was dying at this point. So I did what I could for Momma Cat when I was home, and took care of my daughter and visited Mom in hospice.

Momma Cat by this point had the sense to have the kits in our back yard. Also, she was willing to bring them on the porch after a few days. Then she started moving them around again. She took them into the back yard under a large bush – and then she stayed on the porch when the rains came. So I had to go rescue another batch of soggy kits. Momma Cat didn't seem to know that the rains were going to last a few days. Oh well.

On the 27th of September Mom died. She's not in this story much because this story is about me turning into a crazy cat lady. Maybe at some point I'll write more about her, maybe not. But not here on this night, on this forum.

Momma Cat finally stopped having the vaginal discharge. She seemed better, the kits kept growing. And now she has them on the front porch, which has meant that I occasionally have to stare down large dogs. About a week ago two LARGE German Sheppards were out there. They could have done ME serious harm. Fortunately I'm not scared of dogs and I know how to bully them with posture and voice. But it was close for the kits.

So now I have six cats outside. I told you about Momma Cat and Callie. Callie is finally making up with me. I'm afraid I've ruined her as a feral cat. She's been eating the food I put out since she was a few weeks old. Momma Cat had caught squirrels and snakes and such for her kits, and they played with them, but getting free food is easy and I don't think Callie is much of a hunter. I'm sure Momma Cat could go feral again with no trouble, but Callie I'm not sure of. And now we have Rorschach (white with grey spots and the runt of the litter – if you know Watchmen you'll get the picture), Fuzzy (a fat grey and white cat with lots of fur – but she is a fat kitten and has been since the start; I didn't know kits could be fat when they were born), Kumquat (an orange tabby Tom, who will probably grow into a grapefruit looking at his paws) and Tortie (a tortie whose coat seems to change every day, she's got kind of an unattractive face, but her coat will probably be spectacular otherwise). They now do something the other kittens did when they were this size – the climb up into the engines of our cars. At least this batch mostly likes us from the get go. Or at least they like that we feed them.

I've got takers for three of the kits, but I'm not sure if they'll actually come take them or not. I'm hoping they do. All of them will let us handle them, so I can take them to a rescue if I have to. Kim's getting attached to the wee ones, but I'm mostly not. I am attached to Momma Cat, though, and feel protective of Callie, and I need to make certain both are fixed before I get stuck with another litter or two.

So … does anyone need any cats?

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Rabu, 09 November 2011

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The Lounge: Invasion! and other atrocities

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:16 PM PST

The Lounge: Invasion! and other atrocities

November 9, 2011 at 12:16 am (By Amba)

My heart nearly stopped when I saw a single mama roach with a big shiny egg case skulk across the kitchen counter.  It was as horrifying as finding a pod in the cellar in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Because she was logy, probably from the ex-man's gel, I was able to pounce, crush the egg case and flush her and it down the john.  Close call.  And not a good sign: word is finally out that there's cat food here.  What will happen when I'm away in Chapel Hill for almost a week??

Meanwhile, here are a couple of topics du jour I would rather talk about here than on Facebook.

According to a friend, and to this story, Joe Frazier was a much kinder-hearted guy than Muhammad Ali, and was the victim of racism—Ali's own black-on-black racism and pandering to white preference for a light-skinned pretty boy, even though Frazier had made sacrifices to defend him. (I don't know how J, my beloved b.s. detector, felt about Frazier, but he sure didn't care for Ali.)

*   *   *

Why the Cain flap is nothing but entertainment: he wasn't a serious contender for the nomination anyway.

(Since I haven't sought permission to reprint others' excellent comments, I'll just copy some of mine.  If you spend any time in the airport, take a look at theirs.)

The high polls at this point are just for entertainment value, too. Polling pro Herman Cain expresses people's impractical frustration, rather as does OWS.

(Here Jaltcoh asks me whether I didn't think he could have won Iowa)

Maybe; but I think he would have flamed out and would not have won the nomination, and I think that's pretty obvious to all. On the other hand, I have the impression Gingrich might have been courting him for the bottom of a ticket.

It just seems as if the process is intolerant of colorful (no pun intended), offbeat candidates.

There seems a weary inevitability about Romney.

I don't know a lot about Cain, I'm mostly commenting on the media's and the culture's love of a flap, especially one with sex mixed in. I don't really think it's politically substantive, I think it's a sideshow. Pretending it's politically substantive enables people to enjoy the sideshow with a clearer conscience.

A friend who voted today reports a strikingly dour and unenthusiastic mood at the polls, and isn't sure whether her own political mood is coloring what she saw, or just matching it.

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Senin, 07 November 2011

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The Lounge: Feelings About the Time Change

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST

The Lounge: Feelings About the Time Change

November 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm (By Amba)

It's always a big deal when Daylight Saving ends—a kind of artificial, ritual kick in the pants accelerating the season change. Our unheralded modern version of the Day of the Dead.  Naturally, I'm ambivalent about it. :) Part of me wishes they'd never started with this Daylight Saving crap in the first place. Part of me dreads and enjoys the jolt.  I'm surprised to discover that in a way I like "fall back" better than "spring forward."  I like the cushy extra hour, and I like the prod to withdraw indoors and get convivial and contemplative earlier, the warning to bar the door because here comes the dark and cold.  In the spring, you get robbed of an hour, robbed of the early mornings, and you (or I) generally feel rousted out of hibernation too rudely.

Yesterday evening when dusk fell between 4:30 and 5 I was walking into the midtown city from the river with a friend.  The sky behind the buildings turned dove color, stone buildings were a bloodless pale red, and glass buildings catching the western sky were silver or pale silk green.  (For the initiated, kind of like those evenings on Fort Myers Beach when the Gulf of Mexico is pale green and the sky is deep purple.)  Japanese robe colors.  Stray marathon survivors hobbled here and there in bare legs and Thinsulate blankets; only the one with a completion medal, a woman, wasn't limping. I looked up at the glass towers—luxury river view condos, no doubt—and part of my mind went "I wonder if they're fully occupied in this economy" and another part went, "I need to feel awe."

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The Lounge: Blogger’s Remorse

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 09:21 PM PST

The Lounge: Blogger's Remorse

November 7, 2011 at 1:21 am (By Amba)

I heard from Randy! I will let him tell you whatever he wishes about how things are going, but what's most important, he sounds good in himself.

In my answer to him I found myself expressing regret and remorse at abandoning my "innkeeper" role at this blog:

I haven't been blogging hardly at all, and realize vaguely that this is like being "a bad hostess" — a blog can be a sort of gathering place. I've been posting little odds and ends on Facebook only because they don't seem to make it to the blog post threshold in length or substance; but I think this is . . . inhospitable. I feel like an innkeeper who just walked away one day. I suppose I could post these little dribs and drabs on Ambiance just to form the nucleus of/excuse for a conversation. I don't seem to have it in me to provoke serious discussions, so much. But Facebook is about as cozy a place for a conversation as an airport gate area. Still, I'm becoming very in-turned. I'm getting ready to write something about life with Jacques, I think, and this is preceded by a very long inhale in preparation for sinking down into the depths where such things come from.

I wonder whether, instead of writing those little conversational things on Facebook, I should just write them here in a kind of running post—call it "The Lounge." We need a place to meet and hang out, to come in out of the cold November rain and dark. I would like it to look like the cozy, classy bar I passed last night on the way to nearby friends' place. The lights were low, candles and tiny white Christmas bulbs; the polished oak wood glowed golden. I think it was called "One If By Land, Two If By Sea." It just made you want to turn aside and go in. I don't know if it had a fireplace but it felt as if it did.

By comparison, Facebook is a fluorescent-lit airport concourse. Every time I go over there I smell synthetic carpeting. It seems public, exposed, impersonal, and ugly. It's partly the bad (nonexistent, airport-concourse-like) design, partly the boring, trivial nature of so many of the posts (including my own). Yet, as I told Randy, I don't feel up to starting substantive conversations any more.

Sit down by the fire and make small talk with me.

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