Monday, February 6, 2017

Ah, Valentine's Day

Oh, good grief, they're at it again: The Vermont Teddy Bear Company is running those ads for Valentine's Day, where gorgeous young women get all hot and sexily bothered when their man gives them a gigantic four-foot-tall (and damn near as wide) teddy bear. They snuggle up to it, wriggling seductively, with smoky-sexy eyes....

Yeh, right. A normal woman's reaction to being handed one of those things? "Just where the HELL do you expect me to PUT this?!? Bend over, HONEY, and let me see if it will fit!"

Friday, January 27, 2017


What the...? I have Twitter account, almost never used. I get emails from Twitdom offering me links occasionally to the tweets from one or two people I follow (not always by any means) plus suggestions of who Twitter's algorithms seem to think I'd like to follow.

Lately there've been a lot -- a LOT -- of them that are clearly from right-wing tweeters, even though I don't follow anyone like that. Makes me wonder if there's some sort of propagandist push going on.

Or maybe I'm just paranoid?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Veggie Boys, sunbathing

Squash, brother of Pumpkin, has taken to living in the basement thanks to torment from his former best buddy Peanut, with backup bullying from Schooner and Stanley. He's actually been quite happy down there and thoroughly enjoys my visits to bring food and water, clean his box, or just schmooze in passing in and out of the garage. But he does miss me.

Lately I've been putting his food dish near the top of the stairs instead of at the foot before closing the door to let him eat in peace. Lately he's been lurking at the top of the stairs at mealtimes, even venturing a few feet out into the living room, before scuttling back when he spots one of his enemies.

And last night, very late, while I sat reading in the living room recliner, while Schooner and Peanut slept in a cozy lump in the recliner in the front dining area, I looked up from my book to discover Squash in the middle of the room, looking longingly at the tinfoil I'd just removed from a (damned good!) chocolate gold coin.

I knew what he wanted. I wadded up the foil and threw it and he gleefully chased it, then returned to demand more. We played that game a few more times, then, visibly gathering his courage, he scurried up onto the recliner, stretched out behind my head, and shoved his little skull forward over my shoulder for skritching.

We enjoyed some together time before his courage tank ran dry and he scuttled back to his basement refuge. But this morning he came a little way out again at breakfast, and I'm hoping that he'll gradually rejoin the upstairs life, though I suspect he'll never again really trust the dire Peanut.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Alas, Pumpkin

I brought Pumpkin in to see the vet on Saturday, concerned because he seemed even thinner and his appetite had become increasingly erratic; then too, there’s the frequent vomiting. Turned out he’s lost about another pound from his already scrawny weight a couple of months ago; he’s down under seven pounds now, skin and bones, and he ought to be closer to ten. They managed to draw blood for testing despite his near-collapsed veins, and then Dr. Montesano and I sat down to discuss where to go from here.

It’s more than just thyroid that’s the problem; given the improvement in his coat, it’s not likely even primarily thyroid right now (depending on the blood results). Most probably it’s some kind of gastritis or inflammatory bowel disease, perhaps even gastric lymphoma, which would have to be confirmed by biopsy. We’re not going to do a biopsy, of course, let alone chemotherapy if it is lymphoma; we agree given his age and condition it’s palliative care only, and we’re looking at months, not years, and quality of life at this point.

So what to do? The vets and I had previously discussed steroid treatment but been reluctant given his heart murmur; steroids could push him into congestive heart failure. But that treatment could shrink an inflamed and thickened gastric lining, help him to absorb nutrients better, in fact it’s part of the suite of treatments for lymphoma anyway, so what the hell? I could give him a daily pill or he could have a shot good for a month (though if anything went wrong there’d be no way to take it back); I said go for the shot.

He also got a dose of mirtazapine (Remeron). In humans it’s an antidepressant; in cats it stimulates appetite while helping to suppress nausea, a half-pill every three days. A short while after I took him home I offered him food – and he devoured it, as much as I thought safe to give him. He wasn’t too keen on supper but ate more small meals in the evening. On the vet’s advice that at this point it’s calories calories calories we need to worry about, not balanced nutrition, I’d stocked up on baby food, those teensy Fancy Feast cans, and some deli sliced chicken breast on the way home, and he liked what I offered of that.

Sunday he ate eagerly, again frequent small meals. He was more vocal than usual, a bit more charged up, but those are known side effects of mirtazapine, and overall he was doing way better, behaving normally, snuggling up to me. Success! For however long, success.

Dr. Montesano called earlier this morning for mutual updates, while slugabed me was still transitioning from awake to get out of bed. Mine: as outlined above. Hers: His thyroid and other blood levels looked good. Keep on as planned, his next dose of mirtazapine due tomorrow.

Then I went downstairs to feed breakfast. And a lethargic Pumpkin wanted none of it. Nothing I offered tempted him. At all. Not even deli chicken. Nope nope nope.

God DAMN. I called the vet’s office, was able to speak briefly with the vet before she went into surgery. Could be the mirtazapine has worn off already; could be.... Well, the plan is to watch him, see if he’ll feel like eating later. If he doesn’t by this afternoon, give him his next dose a day early, and let her know what’s going on by tomorrow.

And if he still won’t eat? Quality of life, not length, will determine what comes next.

Friday, December 23, 2016

That Giving Spirit

So I've been accumulating this massive pile of begging letters lately as multiple charities forage for those end-of-the-year donations. I've been tossing the envelopes onto one corner of my desk, and today I decided to excavate the tell.

So many worthy causes... so comparatively little available to give them... what to do?

Start by sorting the unopened envelopes, discarding the duplicates, into three broad categories: animals, people, nature. Pull out the ones I've given to in the past and set them aside as already vetted.

Take the likely candidates among the rest, pull up Charity Navigator online (making an online donation to them while I'm at it), and investigate each candidate. Firm rule of thumb: Got to be using over 80 percent of moneys received for programs rather than fundraising or administrative. Winnow them down to...

Eighteen total charities to give to. Pull up Quicken and start making out checks to print (thank heavens I don't hand-write checks any more!); print three at a time, sign, match to solicitation, stuff envelope, stick on stamp and return address label. Update Quicken on two other computers (yes, but it catches errors now and then, so it's worth it). Update 2016 financial Excel worksheet.

Finally, after a couple of hours -- done. Ready to drop in the mail and go forth to help homeless critters, homeless people, hungry people, poor women needing a micro-loan to get out of grinding poverty, natural resources to preserve, and so on. Over 900 bucks out, mostly in $50 gifts, and well worth it all.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ah, Holiday Memories

I was chatting the other day with a friend about memories of childhood Christmases, specifically that old standby stocking stuffer: gold coins. Yep, those thin disks of chocolate, pressed into the shape of coins, wrapped in gold-toned foil, and tucked into tiny nets. There they were on the big morning, in the long red stocking, with other little treats and tschoschkes, and the inevitable tangerine down in the toe.

So when, a day or two later, I was shopping at Rite-Aid and spotted them on a holiday display, in a surge of nostalgia I bought a wee bag and bore it home in retro glory. Should I wait till Christmas morning to enjoy my chocolate memory?

Oh, hell no. Of course not. So last night I cut open the bag, spilled the coins out into my eager hand, and settled down to indulge myself. Carefully I peeled the foil away, expectantly I bit into the fifty cent disk....

It tasted terrible. Absolute worst low-end-chocolate horrible.

And so did every one of them, but I ate them anyway, because after all, they weren't that great but they were chocolate.

I guess nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Exciting Life

Yesterday in proofreading, just three jobs:

1. A viciously contentious arbitration over the firing of a racist employee. 258 pages

2. A densely technical deposition of a professor who wouldn't stop answering the questions he wanted to rather than what had been asked. 307 pages

3. A civil but wall-to-wall, long-paragraphed deposition of a psychiatrist in a defamation case related to the Jeffrey Epstein sex slave scandal. 172 pages

Total for the day: 737 pages and melted synapses.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Words to live by

Saving one animal won't change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.

Same for one human.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

More Fun at the Vet's

Today’s vet report: I took Peanut to the vet at 10:30 this morning to see why his pupils are constantly hugely dilated, no matter how bright the ambient light is. Since his bloodwork needed to be fasting he got imprisoned in the half bath while the others gobbled breakfast, which pissed him off. Mr. Grumpy got released; discovered NO BREAKFAST! and stalked about muttering; hissed when I picked him up and swore mightily when I stuffed him in the carrier.

His mood at the vet’s went downhill from there. The vet and her assistant had a hard time of it, even with a burrito-forming towel, even with cat-handling defensive gloves up to the elbows. No one got hurt, blood got extracted, and his indignant eyes got examined despite his furious physical and vocal protests. The vet had wanted to check his blood pressure, but given how worked up he was it would have been futile to even try.

So what was determined in all the sturm und drang? The vet believes there’s a partial detachment of the retina in one eye, though both pupils did react somewhat to light during her exam. We need the bloodwork to confirm it but she believes he’s likely hyperthyroid; among its other effects, it raises blood pressure, which stresses blood vessels, including the tiny ones between the retina and the back of the eye, causing leaks that put pressure on the retina and can detach it.

So now what? Well, Pumpkin’s T-4 test results have come in, and yup, he’s hyperthyroid, so we’re going ahead with the methimazole gel; my local pharmacy can compound it for me and it should be available Monday or Tuesday. I’ll start using it on Peanut too while we wait for confirmation.

Hopefully treatment will reduce Peanut’s aggressive moods as well. Come to think of it, Pumpkin’s been crabby towards his brother Squash since he started losing weight, so maybe it will help him on that, too. The vet also told me about a dry food Royal Canin makes, a formula that’s supposed to help calm down stressed-out cats, yet is safe for all cats to eat. She’s going to try to get me a sample bag to see if it will help Peanut.

The vet still wants to see Peanut again, try to get a better look into his eyes than she was able to this time, which will likely require some sedation. I’m not looking forward to it.

Here’s a photo from back in July that shows Peanut’s pupils as they were then – already somewhat dilated. At this point they’re even bigger, only a thin ring of iris visible around the black of the pupil.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Poor Pumpkin

Pumpkin endured another trip to the vet yesterday, to see why he continues to lose weight. His appetite is somewhat erratic but he does come faithfully to every meal and eats his wet food, or at least a modestly decent amount of it; he's gone right off dry food. His behavior is normal but he vomits a little yellowish fluid pretty much every day. So the poor little guy got stuffed into the carrier despite his struggles and protests and delivered into the cruel veterinary hands.

Vet: Pumpkin! He's such a handsome little guy, I love him so much!

Pumpkin: You're gonna rend me limb from limb and eat me!!!!

They took samples of blood and urine, checked his vitals, and so forth, and then Dr. Corbett and I discussed possible diagnoses of the skin-and-bones Pumpkin, who's shed a pound plus since his last exam and is now under eight pounds (when he was fat he weighed in at 18 pounds). We had a further discussion by phone this morning after initial blood work results were in. Conclusion:

We don't know!

The trouble is, his symptoms and test results conflict. Symptoms of weight loss but normal energy: look like thyroid. Test results: Not so fast; the thyroid value is in the gray zone, not clearly off; one white cell count is slightly elevated, suggesting something inflammatory; with the weight loss and erratic appetite that looks like inflammatory bowel disease -- but he's not having diarrhea, just normal BMs. He does has a new finding since his last exam -- a heart murmur.

So now what?

It could still be thyroid. Dr. Corbett's going to send a blood sample for a T-4 test, which might show it -- but Punk's previous T-4 in May was normal. If it's abnormal now we'll start thyroid medication. There are pills, liquid, and special foods, but knowing Pumpkin, the pills or the liquid are most likely no go. I brought a can of the special food home to try and he rejected it. That leaves another possibility --transdermal methimazole, a gel you rub on the back of the cat's ear twice a day.

Or maybe the T-4 is still normal. Then what? Despite the lack of diarrhea it could still be intestinal inflammation, and one treatment would be steroids -- but the heart murmur makes that dauntingly risky.

Dr. Corbett is frustrated! She so very much wants to help the little golden guy. She's planning to do research over the weekend to see if she can figure out exactly what's going on and what if anything we can do about it -- keeping always in mind we're dealing with a 15-year-old feline with a heart murmur here, who shouldn't be put under anesthesia. At least his teeth are reasonably good, not much tartar and not much gingivitis; surprisingly good, in fact, for an old guy like him.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It All Adds Up

How much proofreading of transcripts do I do? How much have I done over my career?

I started doing this full-time in 1987. Page totals vary quite a bit from day to day, week to week, but 400 to 500 pages per day isn't uncommon, more is not unusual (998 in one day is my peak in the last decade) and I normally work at least six days a week, pretty much every week all year. And I've been doing this for call it 29 years.

So figure, say, 2000 pages a week to be conservative, 52 weeks a year -- that would be 104,000 pages per year. Rough estimate total for 29 years?


I wish I hadn't figured this out.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

It's Project Time Again

The painters are coming tomorrow. They'll be doing selected walls and woodwork on the first and second floor and in the basement. I've been moving stuff off and on since yesterday to clear their way; still have to vacuum the cleared areas tomorrow, and move the first floor plants in the window seat area -- that'll be done last thing -- so it's all GO for Monday morning.

It isn't the first time I've had Ross and his son in to paint; I've been redecorating in stages for months -- just too much crap to move for me to get the whole place done at once. Monday/Tuesday's project in fact has expanded since I had Ross in to discuss plans for the upcoming work. I decided to add one small stub wall in the living room, but doing it required moving a four-shelf glass-front bookcase (which is why it didn't get done along with the matching wall on the other side of the doorway in the previous paintathon).

So I moved all the tschochkes sitting on the shelves in front of the books; moved all the books; took the bookcase apart and moved it; then stepped back and looked at the wall (end wall in the living room). And looked at the other four-shelf glass-front bookcase, and the three-shelf vertical glass-front cabinet with all the DVDs and more books, sitting against that wall. Thought about how I'd really like to get that wall painted someday, too.


Sighed, and got to work clearing all that stuff out of the way so yet another wall can get done.

Three-quarters of my living room is now cluttered with moved stuff. There are more clumps of moved stuff in the basement and upstairs. It will all have to be restored to its usual place when the painting is done.

But it's gonna look GREAT.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Yet More Fun With Technology

I work at home, proofreading transcripts for court reporters, receiving jobs via email and returning the corrections pages ditto. I print out the files, do hand corrections, then scan PDFs to send back. This requires computers Internet-enabled and printer/scanners, and being OCD about backup I always have multiple systems.

My primary scanner, capable of producing good-quality 30+ page correction files that yet don't break the MB bank, has begun misfeeding pages erratically; could be wearing out on me. So yesterday I trundled off to Staples and bought a new HP all-in-one; got it home, installed it -- and the damn thing had a printhead error. Had to drive back to Staples and swap it out for a replacement.

The replacement installed just fine -- but when I tested the scanning function, the files it produced were monsters, and no amount of tweaking the settings brought down their size to anything remotely useful for emailing corrections. GRRRRR!!!!! Also GAH. I went back to using the dicey scanner for the work I had to get done yesterday, with no problems (could be the particular paper on the misfed pages rather than the ADF, maybe....) and went to bed mulling over technology options.

So this morning I've been shuttling around various elderly printer/scanners. First, I moved the old Canon Pixma in the upstairs office from my main Win7 computer to the elderly XP computer -- and it wouldn't install, probably because the XP's no longer online so I couldn’t download updates for the software. Oh, well, if I run a long USB cable I can still use it off the all-in-one Win7 where it formerly worked from.

I put the disappointing new HP printer/scanner in its place on the Win7 and it prints fine but still produces monster PDF files, sigh, so that was basically a waste of money and effort.

However, where the Canon now sits (hulks, really; it’s big) was an aged HP 4500 all-in-one, twin to one I had downstairs as part of my work complex surrounding the living room recliner where I work now (sitting in an office chair upstairs for too long bothers my left hip and leg, sigh). Yep, on little side tables, to my right are two laptops (a Dell and a Gateway) and to my left are two printer/scanners:

One, the Lexmark scanner that does good work but might be slipping on page feeding; doesn’t print except when the printhead decides randomly it can work after all; turn off the machine and next time you power on it’s “There is a problem with the printhead” again. The other, a newish Brother, prints fine but doesn’t hold much paper; scans well but only takes up to 20 pages in the ADF.

Across from me on top of the low cabinet where the old CRT giant TV used to live (upgraded to a flatscreen on the wall, woohoo!) are two more printer/scanners. One’s an Epson that no longer scans but prints fine. The other used to be the HP 4500 that was moved from a left-hand table over to there to make room for the Brother when I brought it down from the upstairs office, where it wasn’t getting much use. Alas, that 4500 decided to stop printing AND scanning and take up life as a plastic cinder block, so it will shortly be taking a trip to Staples recycling. I’ve put its twin in its spot. The twin is working fine in both functions, hurrah!

So I now have, here in reclinerland, three working printers and three working scanners (out of four machines) running off two laptops. Because I never get rid of technology that still functions for something.

So, got it all straight, class? There'll be a test later!

Friday, October 14, 2016


So, I haven't been around much lately, right? Work's been heavy.

And yesterday I hit one of my all-time proofreading peaks:

998 pages.

Yes, that's right: 998 transcript (24/25 lines per page) pages.

Aw, c'mon -- why not go for the grand? I hear you say.

Well, finishing around 4:00 a.m. might have something to do with it.

I won't be good for much today.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Poor Little Guy

Alas, poor little Pumpkin -- another day of dread and misery, snatched from his peaceful post-breakfast nap, stuffed into a carrier, and hauled off to the lair of the Cat-Eating Vet Monster.

The little guy's been vomiting a lot lately, you see; especially when he gets into the litter box in pursuit of defecation. His appetite's been off and on, too. So away we went, and after initial consultation and examination, he was taken Out Back (oh noooooo!!!!) to be x-rayed. They called me in there in a bit to show me his x-rays, which revealed a largish clump of fecal matter resisting expulsion and a somewhat odd area in his intestines.

The vet wasn't sure if the oddity meant anything. He did seem a bit dehydrated; he might be brewing pancreatic problems and needed bloodwork to check; he definitely needed his plumbing Roto-Rooted; so I left him to be enema'd, vampired and subcu'd by the Dread Fiends while I ran errands, had lunch, and in general heartlessly ignored his abandonment to a cruel fate.

A few hours later I got the okay to return and collect him. I brought him home with a new food (w/d) to bulk up his fiber (if he'll eat it), instructions to start sharing Peanut's unflavored Miralax with him, a subdued but relieved Pumpkin, and a bill for $387. The results of the bloodwork should be back in a couple of days and we'll see if anything more needs doing.

This has not been one of Pumpkin's happiest days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Peanut, because of his megacolon diagnosis, needs extra help keeping his excretory function rolling along properly. He therefore gets two laxatives twice daily, top-dressed on his canned food at breakfast and supper, atop the dollop of high-fat special food for his weight-retention problem, which I spread over the regular wet food like so much high-calorie frosting on a fishy pate cupcake. Believe it or not, he devours it happily, though I do need to encourage him to finish the whole bowlful at times, depending on what the regular-food substrate is.

This entire concoction is served in his own white dish, while everyone else gets a dark blue one -- except Pumpkin, who gets a light blue one since he gets Cosequin stirred into it twice daily for his arthritis. I have a set routine for preparing all eight bowls for the six cats (small dollops in the two extras so Schooner the greedhead can move from his to those instead of stealing from someone else). The cats have adopted set positions for their meals -- Sally and Pumpkin on their own bits of countertop, the other four in their preferred spots on the floor. I have a set routine of how I pick up the bowls for distribution to make sure the right bowl goes to the right cat.

Then when they're all served I stand by to monitor them and make sure Cat A doesn't go to Cat B's bowl, while Cat C.... You get the picture. I also often need to encourage Peanut to finish his serving by twitching the bowl, turning it, etc.

All very carefully calculated to see that everyone gets what s/he should. And yet....

And yet, this morning as I'm standing there watching, thinking about the day ahead, suddenly I notice:

Everyone's in their usual position, but:

Peanut's eating out of a blue bowl.

Schooner is halfway through the white.

Aiyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I snatch it away from Schooner and see to my dismay that yes, all the top dressing and half the regular pate has been enthusiastically gobbled up. I re-top-dress with high-cal food and laxatives and give the pitiful remnants to Peanut (dragging him away from a blue bowl) and continue to block Schooner from getting to the white bowl again till I'm sure that Peanut has chowed down his daily dose.

Schooner I'm sure will take no lasting harm from a dose of lactulose and a quarter teaspoon's worth of Miralax. But I dread the prospect of the coming poonado.

Especially since Schooner is utterly incompetent at burying his dumps.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Deferred Maintenance

My laptop was running soooooooooooooooo sloooooowwwww.....

Webpages were taking forever to loooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaad.....

Everything was sloooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww.........

Then it froze. Webpages loading? Circle of doom...... Email download? Green bar halfway and stuck.......

Try Restart? Noooooooooooo......... Noooothiiiinnnnngggg........

Whack! The computer equivalent of a smack across the face did get it working again -- I pulled the battery to crash it. But why had it been slowing down so much lately?

Aha! Perhaps I should hit the Start button. Type %temp% in the Search box. Open the Temp file it found. Oh, my. Just look at all those folders and files. Just look at how many MBs of memory they've gobbled up. Hit Select All. Hit Delete....

Yes, skip that one. And that one. Go on.... All done? Right. Close the Temp folder. Start Firefox.

BLIRT! It's open in an eyeblink.

Open up a webpage, any webpage, and....


I need to do this more often.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Report

Just finished an excellent book about exploration of the Amazon, by David Grann: "The Lost City of Z". Its heart is the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of legendary explorer Percy Fawcett in a doomed obsessive effort to find a vanished ancient civilization; but there's much more, of the past and the present, illuminated by the telling of the tale. (For one thing, you will never want to encounter the horrors the jungle inflicted on the whites who tried to conquer it.) You can, of course, get it on Amazon; I happened to come across it at my local library and checked it out on a whim, and am happy I did. The section of illustrations is mostly old B&W photos, so I'd suggest going for a large-format print version however you get it.

Now that it's finished and back to the library I've started "The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy" by Stewart O'Nan. It's a superbly written retelling of the catastrophic 1944 fire that destroyed the Ringling Bros. B&B big top in Hartford, Connecticut in which more than 100 people died, many of them women and children. I'm only a chapter into it and already hooked. Again, Amazon has it, in Kindle as well as paper. I bought a used hardcover for the print size and the photographs; Kindle is for me a crappy platform for illustrations.

O'Nan's book was published in 2001; Amazon suggests (as it always does) another book on the story published in 2014 by one Michael Skidgell, but the reviews of that one aren't encouraging. There are books about the Cocoanut Grove fire, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, lots of other dramatic fires. But I'll probably veer off into another genre entirely after I finish O'Nan.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adventures in Cookery

My goodness, this is yummy!

So I went to the hardware store the other day, to get some picture hooks; exited with them and a new 1.5-quart slow cooker. Oh, right; like you can go to the hardware store for A and not walk out with B, if not C, D, and E? Then you're a stronger person than I am.

Now, I'm not into cooking; haven't been for years, ever since I discovered the amazing takeout at Ipswich Shellfish Company. But what's not to like about fill it and forget it cooking? So, what the heck.

My first attempt wasn't more then meh. Might have helped if I'd followed the recipe exactly rather than substituting X when I didn't have Y....

But today's effort? Oh, my. I plucked it from Phyllis Good's "Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook, 250 New Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes" -- one of several cookbooks I browsed through at the local library, and one of the few that didn't start most meat recipe instructions with "Take a large skillet...." Listen, folks, if I wanted to be messing about with skillets and browning and sauteing and shit I wouldn't be looking at a slow cooker to begin with, ya know?

Anyway. Today's effort I actually started last night with fixing the marinade and putting the chicken into the fridge overnight. Popped it into the Proctor-Silex this morning, turned it on, and....

Well. I didn't have chicken thighs on hand, just drumsticks, and I was using a 1.5-quart machine rather than the 4-quart one listed (but it all fit!), so I started it on high for an hour plus. I did take the lid off and rearrange the drumsticks a couple of times rather than leaving it alone. I sort of guessed at the remaining cooking time after I turned it to low, let it go a bit longer than the instructions. And I left out the parsley.

But! The aroma that filled the house was wonderful. When I took out the drumsticks the meat was falling off the bones tender. I stripped the bones and packed the meat away in the fridge to microwave with a side dish for supper later -- sampling as I worked, and OMG OMG OMG delicious!

The recipe's on page 22, "Simple Chicken Thighs," and calls for 2 pounds of thighs (I had 1.6 of the drumsticks), a marinade of olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, minced garlic and ground pepper -- oh, and fresh parsley if you've got it. I ladled some of the marinade over the pulled-apart chicken meat and will probably discard the rest (unless it will freeze and be reusable?) but if I had some cornstarch lying around, the recipe says I could whisk some with water and stir it into the marinade to make gravy.

I've already found several other recipes I want to try in this. Imma gonna buy this book.

Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook

Friday, July 22, 2016

Peanut Has A Bad Day

Poor Peanut. This has not been a good day for him.

I've been concerned for a while now about his occasional bursts of irrational hostility toward other of my cats -- even toward his best buddy, Squash, or blameless Sally, though his preferred target has been Stanley. We're talking bottle-tailed, hissing, pinned-eared, screeching rage fits. Peanut could be puttering about, his usual placid self, then start staring at one of the others. His target would freeze in that baleful glare. Hiss. Hiss back. Growls. Then the target would break and flee, pursued furiously, with caterwauls and flying tufts of fur strewn about.

I tried putting a Sentry calming collar on him. This diminished the attacks but didn't eliminate them. So today I took him to the vet to be checked, see if there were some physical reason for this unsettling change in his behavior -- which arose after the bout of constipation that required a trip to the emergency vet several months ago. He's been on a daily laxative since then, and seemed to be doing fine. But he's also lost weight since then (down now to 15.2 solid pounds). Could something serious be brewing?

He was easy to capture, since I'd prestaged the carrier near the feeding area a few days before. I carried him to the box, swooped him in before he knew what was happening, and got the top shut before he could surge out to freedom.

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Grumble whine mutter. He was quiet in the car, quiet in the waiting room, quiet as I took him out of the carrier and put him on the exam table....

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS............... A surly, flattened Peanut glared at the tech who took his story, then at the vet who came in to examine him, and spoke his mind. The hissing made it hard to hear his heartbeat (but much easier to check his teeth!), but she persevered and got it. She wanted to vaccinate him and get some blood to test, so carried him away to the back area while I waited in the little exam room.

Waited, and listened to the dire cacophany of hisses and growls coming through the closed door. Poor Peanut! I poked my head in briefly to offer a tidbit of information and there he was, scruffed and pinned on his side by the tech while the vet had at his inner thigh. He lay there, immobilized, furious, helpless to do anything about it, vocalizing bitterly.

Eventually vet and cat returned, with no one damaged despite the dramatic commentary, and Peanut, still complaining, was allowed to slink into the sanctuary of the carrier while we talked about what she found and what to do. Things were pretty much normal except for a good deal of fecal buildup. The vet theorized that the bouts of temper could be from episodes of constipation despite the Lactulose dose he's getting, so the plan is to up the twice-daily dose somewhat, add a quarter teaspoon of unflavored Miralax to his wet food, and see if that helps. Other than that, the current feeding regimen is just right.

Also, the vet suggested trying a Feliway multicat diffuser to lower tension levels through the chemical miracle of maternal facial pheromones. Since the calming collar uses the same sort of approach and has done some good, I'm going to give it a try.

So, Peanut is home, has had his first dose of increased laxative at supper, and appears to have forgiven me for the brutality inflicted on him. I'll be getting the blood results back tomorrow afternoon.

I sure hope all the bellyaching and lashing out is just, well, a backed-up bellyache.


Update on Peanut, next day: Talked to the vet today. Most of the bloodwork was normal, but:

1. His thyroid levels were borderline for hyperthyroid. Could be why he's shed weight recently. Could also explain the aggression. Can put him on meds to adjust that.

2. His calcium levels were high. Could be nothing; a prescription food could take care of that. Could also be an indication of a mass, cancer somewhere. We're going to do fasting blood tests to check that, and go from there.

Obviously I'd prefer Door Number 1. Odds in fact are good that it's the right one, given what I'm finding online, e.g.:

Has Your Cat Become Irritable?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Update on Ben

Yesterday Ben's long-time masseuse, Lael Cook, came to the barn to give him a good going over. She's very familiar with all the aches and pains he's had over the years, and I wanted to see if she'd find any signs that this going back to work is not right for him.

Well, Lael palpated and rubbed and pressed and pushed all up and down the giant bay body, and....

Found nothing. No problems. No spasmed croup, no flinching back, no neck knots. Not even tight hamstrings that she thought likely given his sagging suspensories. Nada. Zilch. He was in fact, she said, the best he's ever been. EVAH.

We speculated it might be that, given his long history of back and hock problems even when in work, it could be something as simple as having more than a year completely off from work, enough time for everything to heal. And certainly that his previous life on the farm, almost always out on heavy clay soil pastures instead of spending nights bedded on shavings on top of mats on top of dirt, could be a big part of it -- I've certainly seen a marked improvement in his arthritis since he came back to Seven Acres.

So he's got her all-clear to keep working, and she'll come back in a couple of months to do him again and see how he is, but she expects he'll do fine. I rode him today, for about ten minutes total, all walk but with some gentle leg-yielding here and there, and he was solid.

This is wonderful.

And from the Wayback Machine, from 2007, here's Lael massaging Ben while fending off his then paddock buddy, who wanted some too:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflections on Riding Fear

Something that needs saying about riding Ben: That I owe Friday's and Saturday's rides to Finny, and Royal before him, for their steady calm reliable nursing me through of nerves at getting back on any horse, let alone great big powerful (elderly, yes; out of shape, yes; but still immensely powerful) Ben. And to Hillary Prime's endless patience with my irrational fears and dithering over whether to go ahead and ride one of her patient schoolies.

I've always lived with fear when riding, probably a relic of one or two scary crashes in my late teens/early 20s, coupled with the fact that I didn't have much formal instruction back then, went a couple of decades without riding at all, and took it up again as basically a beginner around age 40. I lucked out in Nick, my first horse, my 43rd birthday present to myself, even though at first he put me on the ground more than once; once I learned to ride better, and discovered the unparalleled security of an Australian stock saddle, our trail riding partnership blossomed. Toward the end of our time together I'd even bareback him.

By the time I met Ben I'd developed (through painfully tedious effort; I'm not a natural) some decent riding skills, and with the aid of Sue Edelen, an excellent dressage instructor, I forged a fine partnership with my great spiderlegged Thoroughbred. It helped that Ben is naturally placid, easygoing, eager to please, and had superb training put into him before I got him. We rode all over the local trails, with much enjoyment.

And yet....

And yet, over all the quarter century of my adult riding career, fear has niggled at the back of my mind, no matter how much I knew and loved and trusted my horse. Irrational, sometimes barely discernible, but never wholly absent. After Nick's death in 2005 at age 23, though Ben was still in his riding prime, just age 13, I found myself riding less and less; somehow there was always some excuse or other not to ride this day or that. For a while, a cruelly short while, I had a marvelous Morgan I'd putter about on, till founder lamed him and finally took him, and sometimes I'd pop on him for a short ride and let Ben continue loafing.

Then, five years ago, before my hip went to hell and needed replacing, before the long layoff from physical activity and slow recovery of whatever strength and agility survived, this happened.

And my riding courage, never sturdy, finally and fully deserted me. The hip surgery a year and a half or so later merely reinforced what was already a painful reality for me. Ben's own physical infirmities have offered a convenient excuse not to ride him, but the truth was, I was just plain afraid. Afraid, once I was back on my feet, to get on any horse at all.

And yet....

And yet I did miss riding. I did think wistfully of all the amazing, exciting, lovely, fulfilling, wonderful rides I'd enjoyed over the years, and wish I could do it again. So finally I decided to start again, start with something safe, safe, safe, dear sensible little Royal. At a walk. Eventually at a trot. For brief ring sessions -- I wasn't fit for more.

Then, after Royal's tragic passing, along came wee red Finny, safe, safe, safe, in the ring and hacking out, and my tiny riding horizons expanded a wee bit.

And I began to think about riding Ben again.

Now, as I've said before, Ben and I will never again go hacking out for hours at all gaits; neither one of us will ever regain that kind of fitness; but if the fates are merciful, we will enjoy a twilight renewal of sedate rides.

And I will not fear.

Or not very much.






Friday, July 1, 2016

So Very Happy

This morning I went to the barn to ride. It’s been a long, hard week of work, lots of rush pages to proofread, lots of long hours and late nights, but this morning would make up for it, I’d decided the night before. Getting on a horse would be my reward.

Boy, was it ever. Because I rode Ben.



Ben, 24 years old, with arthritic hocks, sagging suspensories, kissing spines, hasn’t worked in years. Paddock potato. Honorably retired years ago. That Ben.

But! He putters about his paddock looking completely sound. His back is still unswayed. The last time I had his hock arthritis checked by the vet, he was remarkably comfortable even off his daily dose of bute. What harm could a few minutes of walking around the ring do?

None, as it turns out, judging by his happy ears during and happy face afterwards. He was unfazed by being tacked up and mounted after his long layoff; stepped right out from the mounting block when I asked, cheerfully went wherever I requested, and had that quietly contented look afterwards of a horse who knows his job, likes it, and enjoys having done it.

So I rode my horse. My own horse. My amazingly responsive horse. As much as I adore little red Finny, as much as I adored the late stalwart Royal, they couldn’t give me what Ben can and always has: Near-telepathic lightness to the aids. Just a shift of the hips, a softly laid leg on his side, and Ben glided into a curving turn. Shift again, lay the other leg gently on his flank, and he curved back the other way. Ditto for response to rein aids; just hint and he responded. Egad, but I’d missed that!

And his walk, oh, his walk, oh, his big, swinging, springy walk! Little horses are a helluva lot easier to dismount from, but they just don’t, can’t give you that long swinging gait. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it till this morning.

Now, this does not mean I’ll be taking Ben out for hours-long hacks. (For one thing, the deerflies are out now, sigh.) If he’s to go back into work at all, other than this kind of one-off once in a blue moon, he’ll need to be reconditioned slowly, carefully, inch by watchful inch. I’m thinking five-minute walk rides for a week or two before I even begin to think about upping the time, and forget about trotting at all for the foreseeable future – got to get his back, his muscles, his joints all used to carrying a rider again. I’ll also be talking to his vet, maybe have her come do an exam to tell me what’s safe to try.

But if he can come back into work, if he can get up to, say, half-hour walk rides, that will be enough to make me very, very happy.

Because it’s Ben. Ben, who looked like this back when he was in regular work with me, and perhaps will look like this again:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sometimes There Is Justice

So the other day I was driving home along the main (sort of; it's fairly rural where I live) road leading to my little side street, and saw a policeman up ahead giving me the halt signal. Since he was on a detail for water line replacement road construction, I wasn't surprised; since between him and me there were a couple of honkin' big water department dump trucks parked on the left shoulder, narrowing the way for a couple of oncoming cars to get by, I halted right away, several dozen yards from him.

This apparently was unacceptable to the driver behind me. How dare I stop way back there? He promptly swung wide around me and zipped ahead, reaching the officer as that fellow was beckoning my side of the bottleneck to proceed and tootling right past him. Son of a bitch.

I went ahead, slowly since I prefer not to run over construction workers if I can help it, and halted by the officer to ask if I could turn right just up ahead to enter my side street. Nope, sorry, newly laid pavement, got to keep on down Linebrook and circle back to enter the other end of Kimball. Then he asked, "Did that guy swing around you?"

I grimaced, resigned to injustice; nodded: "Yeh, he did."

He smiled. "Never mind, I got his license plate number." And he waved me on.

Sometimes there is justice.