24 November 2011

Where have I been? Part 2

Well, the long and short of it is I got a teaching job at a high school an hour away, so I haven't had much time for reading, blogging, painting, or anything else.  I love the school and students, so I'm not complaining too much.

Okay, I do complain, but I think I've finally found a balance between work and home.  This balance consists of only trying to do so much and eliminating the rest.  For now, that means taking care of my cats and working on cataloging my library.  I would like to do math or some painting, but since I may have an extra hour one day and none for the next three days, I lose continuity.  The cats I HAVE to do or they get extremely matted.  And the library stuff is just something fun.

14 August 2011

Book Review: The Pilgrim Glass

The Pilgrim Glass by Julie K. Rose
ISBN:  9780557810741

The Pilgrim GlassA piece of 12-th century stained glass is found in the crypt of a medieval cathedral in France. Jonas, a high-skilled and troubled stained glass artist, is hired to restore it. Once he arrives in Vezelay, he meets several locals, including ex-pat Meredith, whom he falls for. She, however, begins to have strange experiences related to this piece of glass. Jonas, Meredith, and others must piece together the mystery surrounding this glass and Meredith's experiences.

This is a finely written and researched novel. The author has a gift for capturing small details, such as how Jonas works on the glass, which add immensely to the novel. The scenes in France are richly detailed, leaving the reader with a clear impression of the French village, for example. The historical references are accurate and unobtrusive. The characters are interesting, mainly because they are all flawed with common problems. For example, Jonas had a troubling childhood which he is trying desperately to escape. The plot builds to an interesting and, to me, unexpected climax. While there is some channeling of a 12th-century pilgrim, which could have easily been over the top, it is done in a subtle and suitable manner which seems natural for this story.

My main complaint is that occasionally the story moved too fast and I had to re-read small sections (one or two sentences) to be sure I understood what exactly was happening. Another minor complaint is that I would have liked a bit more narrative. Not only would it have helped with clarifying the situation in spots, but I greatly enjoyed the author's attention to details and wanted more!

Overall, I was very happy to have read this and will gladly recommend it to others. More importantly, I will be looking for the next novel by Julie K. Rose!  )

05 August 2011

Book Review: Death Before Swine

Death Before Swine: Ben Hart Mysteries #1 by V. K. Scott
ASIN: B005BYV0G8


Death Before Swine (Ben Hart Mysteries #1)I received this book through the Member Giveaway at LibraryThing.com.

Ben Hart was a science teacher in a small town when his classroom was bombed, his friend nearly was killed, and another teacher was killed. To top it off, he was fired. So, now unemployed, he turns his curiosity in to why things happen into an investigation of the murder, which leads to more trouble than he bargained for.

This book was a fine, light mystery. The characters, such as Ben Hart, were made more interesting because of their flaws. The dialog was crisp, with enough non-dialog included to follow the conversations. The plot had many interesting turns and subplots to hold a reader's attention. And the mystery's solution was actually a surprise to me. As a former teacher myself, it was interesting to see how a teacher was portrayed in writing.

Having said that, I did find the book either lacking or too much. I would say lacking in that there needed to be more development of some of the characters and explanations of their behavior. The transition from teacher to detective was a missed opportunity to explore Hart's personality. The narrative and descriptive sections were too brief -- only 2-3 sentences per paragraph in many areas -- and could have provided a lot more details. The too much would be concerning the plot, which I found to be too complicated to believable at times. Each time I felt the story was heading towards a conclusion, a new wrinkle in the story popped up. After about the third one, I began to wonder if any of this would ever be resolved, and some of them weren't. The plot felt very contrived.

Overall, while I did enjoy reading the book -- I like a light mystery now and then -- I won't re-read it. The author has potential and I would consider looking at a second book. (This was a first novel.)  )

04 August 2011

Book Review: Shadow Cats

Shadow Cats:  Tales from New York City's Animal Underground by Janet Jensen
ISBN:  1580627528


Shadow Cats: Tales from New York City's Animal UndergroundThis book chronicles the journey of its author from someone concerned about stray cats to manager of feral cat colonies. Along the way, she rescues and cares for many cats, while learning many lessons. Many of the stories in the book are humorous, some very tragic.

The passion of the author and of other rescuers comes through clearly in this book. I found it very heartwarming that in a city like New York, known for its toughness, there are networks of people dedicated (sometimes to extremes) to save cats which will never be pets to anyone. For people outside cat rescue groups, this book is a fine introduction to what it takes to rescue cats, both financially and emotionally.

My biggest complaints with this book are the overall writing and organization. In many places, the writing could be more clear, more descriptive, more detailed. She missed many opportunities to elaborate on humorous situations or to explain why certain actions were more appropriate. The book is generally told in chronological order, but this is not always adhered to. Some chapters seem almost to have been inserted later, to fill out the book. Maybe it was her passion and her emotional connection to the subject that led the author astray, but I would have liked the book more had it been better edited.  A minor complaint is that I wished she had included more details on handling these cats -- taming a feral cat -- so that I could learn something useful when dealing with my traumatized shelter cats.

Overall, this is a good book. Someone had recommended it to me and I'm not displeased that I bought and read it.  I probably will not read it again, because of some of the tragic stories -- stories which I take too much to heart. If, however, someone came to me and asked for a book about cat rescuing, I'd have them read this one so they understood more of what they were getting into.  )

31 July 2011

It's Been Slow Here

Nothing like humidity in the desert to sap all one's will to do anything.  For the last several days, it's been hot (normal) and humid (not normal).  Yesterday, it felt like a sauna even in the house with the air conditioner running.  Last night we had a pretty good thunderstorm and rain.  So, when the sun came out, it was horrible!  Thankfully, we had another set of thunderstorms this afternoon that seems to have lowered the humidity level back to bearable.

I haven't gotten much done these last several days -- some reading, video games, chatting with Persian cat folks, and thinking.  I really need to get doing something other than filling time between cat feedings.

27 July 2011

Premeditated Peeing!!!

[I've been doing a lot of book reviews and such lately, so I thought I would return to my cats.  With 10 cats, there's always something weird or interesting going on!]

I know animal behavior experts say cats don't have real emotions, they don't hold grudges, or they don't reason things out. What I have to say to the experts is

HA!!!  Talk to Spencer.

One of my Persian kitties, Spencer seems to have ear mites again, so I'm cleaning and oiling his ears. He hates this -- not dislikes, but totally hates it. What normally happens when he gets mad, he pees on the floor in the bathroom when I feed him.  Now, he only ever pees on the floor in the bathroom during the day with the door closed -- not over night, not with the door open, and not anywhere else.  So I got the idea to clean his ears right after breakfast which is usually after he's used his litterbox. Thought it would work like this -- bladder empty, clean ears, Spencer forgets/forgives over the next 3-4 hours, so no peeing on the floor when he's in the bathroom for lunch.  I mean, for an animal who isn't suppose to hold a grudge at all, after 4 hours any inkling of a grudge is gone, right?

Well, I cleaned the ears and he growled and hissed through it all. We then sat around all morning with no problems -- 4 hours of him being friendly. At lunch, I give him a snack in his bathroom (after cleaning the litterbox so he could use it because he CAN'T use a dirty box), figuring everything was cool. Nope, the little stinker peed 2" from his box and, when I opened the door to let him out, he strutted out and flicked his tail at me!

Premeditated peeing!!!  He had to have held his bladder until lunch and then remembered that he was upset at me.

And to think for the next 2-4 weeks, everytime I clean his ears, I'll get to clean up cat urine. The things I do for these guys.

25 July 2011

My Kindle Adventure, Part II

After such a struggle to get the Kindle for PC installed, working, and filled with a few books, I had a chance to use it today.  I finished reading one novel in pdf format and started on a new novel with the Kindle.  I can see that it has some advantages and some disadvantages, both regarding physical books and pdf format books.

Advantages:
  • Books take no shelf space.
  • You can take notes in the margin, so to speak.
  • You can put a bookmark at the top of the page.
  • There are a lot more free books available as ebooks than as physical books.
Disadvantages:
  • You still can't use it to read in the bathtub, or outside, or in bed with a cat on your stomach.
  • It bothers my eyes and neck to sit here and read for any period of time.
  • Math books don't translate well to ebooks.
  • I suspect that the Kindle is sending information back to Amazon because suddenly their recommendations reflect the non-Amazon Kindle book I'm reading.
So, will I ever be hooked on ebooks?  No.
Will I buy a Kindle or Nook? Probably not.
Will I consider buying ebooks? Probably for newer authors, where they either don't publish in a physical form or I'm too cheap to spend $20 on an unknown.

And now, off to bed and a nice physical book!

Book Review: Crazy About You

Crazy About You by Randy Attwood



Crazy About YouWhile the very core of this story is simple -- a teenager becoming a man -- the actual story is anything but simple. A high school boy begins to care for a young female inmate at the asylum where his father works. In the nearby town, an older woman is murdered, and an inmate is suspected. The young man's feelings for a high school girl, his friendship with his father's new girlfriend, and a terrifying encounter with an inmate all complicate his life further and lead him to interesting insights into what it means to be an adult. 

This book has a lot to recommend it. The plot moves the story along briskly with many surprises. Admittedly, with the location being in or near an asylum, one would expect a few unusual events. The writing is wonderful. The sentences are carefully crafted and have a natural cadence to them. The background on the history of asylums is expertly woven into the story and adds to the richness of the novel. The main character, Brad, a high school student, is real, not just a flat created person, and comes alive in the pages.

As far as negatives, sure, one or two typos, but that's it.

One thing that should be mentioned is that this book is not a light read. It does explore several dark topics and made me uneasy or uncomfortable in several places, which is something I do enjoy in a book. Also, there are a couple of brief violent and sexual scenes, which were tastefully done and truly necessary for the story.

Overall, I was extremely glad I read this book! If I were to write a book, this is exactly the type of book I would love to write -- a book to make people reflect.  )

24 July 2011

My Kindle Adventure

Because several friends love their ebook readers and I won an ebook, I decided to try reading the ebook on the Kindle for PC, just to see if I liked ebooks.  That was at 12:32pm.

Problem #1 -- Downloading the Kindle for PC software was simple to begin, but long to complete.  It only took 1h30m, but who's counting?

Problem #2 -- After successfully downloading a couple of free books, I downloaded another one.  Some idiot forgot to read the file size -- I, er, this idiot, didn't see it was 116MB not 116kb.  Since said idiot is on a 22kbps modem, well, let's just say it wasn't working too well.  I tried to stop it by deleting it off my account on Amazon and the book stopped downloading and went away.

Problem #2.5 -- The huge book came back and started downloading again!  Some choice words were muttered at this whole ebook idea.  I tried doing what I did before and I tried deleting the partial file on my computer.  It just kept downloading!  So, I called Amazon (didn't know you could do that!) and had them kill the book from their end.  This was after convincing the techie that yes, I was on a dial-up modem and still live in California.  But he did fix the problem.  The book is gone, it's still gone, and it will hopefully remain gone!

Problem #3 -- The nifty math book by Archimedes I found is worthless, if possible.  It was free, so can it be worth-less?  All the equations are written out in weird English so instead of 3x+1, it is "three times the variable x quantity added to one".  I can decipher it, but paying 99cents for the version with the gif's would have been better.

Problem #4 -- The dictionary hates me.  It downloads to about 40% and then tells me I have no internet connection.  HUH?

So, it's 8 hours later, I have not read any books, and I'm going to go to bed with a nice, physical book!!!

Book Review: Red Smoke Rising

Red Smoke Rising by Rick Anthony
ISBN:  9780986666100

Red Smoke RisingFor full disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book through Member Giveaway on LibraryThing.com

The basic story of this science fiction/fantasy novel is a group of oppressed people wish to drive out their oppressors. To do so, they have developed techniques using a special drug. Anymore specifics, and the story will be ruined.

And this is one story you want not to spoil. I was hooked from the first few pages! The plot is very fast-paced with unusual complications and surprises. The characters are interesting, especially some of those that appear later in the story. One character was downright chilling!  While not a huge fan of fantasy creatures, such as ogres or a Minotaur, in this story, they worked well and fit perfectly into the story-line. The writing is well done with only a few grammatical problems. The dialogue is terrific!

The only bad thing I have to say is I wished the author would have included a bit more description of his fascinating world. The book depends greatly on dialogue to move the story a long with short paragraphs of description. Maybe it's because I tend to read books with pages of description and only snippets of dialogue, but I would have like very much for more details and more background information on some of the minor characters and on the events. I really want to know more about this world Anthony created!

Overall, I was very impressed with this book, especially considering this is a first novel. I may not read it again for sometime, but I will be recommending it to friends in the meantime. I also will be looking forward to more books by Rick Anthony.  )

23 July 2011

Book Review: Dog Tails

Dog Tails:  Three Humorous Short Stories for Dog Lovers by Tara Chevrestt
ASIN: B004WOYU2O


Dog Tails: Three Humorous Short Stories for Dog LoversThis books is a collection of three short stories, based on the author's dogs. Since they are short stories, it's hard to quickly summarize them without giving too much away, but here goes. In the first story, Thank Dog It's Friday, Lola's human makes a wish which many pet owners have made before and this story is the result. The second story, Pugnacious, concerns the exploits of a pug named Pudgy and her efforts to protect what is hers. The last story, Tail of Terror, shows what happens to Jazzy, a Japanese Chin, when her royal desires get the better of her judgement.

Before I write more, I should state for full disclosure, I'm a cat person. Okay, technically I have a couple of dogs, but they are really my husband's -- I have cats. I should be reading cat stories!

Anyway, much to my chagrin, this was a delightful read! While none of these stories will change your life, they will make you laugh -- guaranteed. Chevrestt managed to capture what might be going on in a dog's head and made it very convincing. This dog's-point-of-view in spots had me laughing out loud! The writing was crisp and clear, with enough detail to really envision the scenes. Of the three stories, the last one, was my favorite, probably because Jazzy's attitude reminded me of certain cats I know.

The only reason I gave this book 4.5 instead of 5 stars was the second story. While it was well written, I felt it was a bit contrived as if the author was trying too hard to make it funny. However, my husband, who also read and enjoyed these stories, said my complaint was all in my head.

My other 'complaint', or maybe 'wish' would be better to use, is that this book would have been illustrated. I wanted so much to see Lola's human eating dog biscuits!

Even though it's about dogs and I'm a cat person, I'm glad I read this book and probably will reread it now and then for a laugh or two.  )

22 July 2011

A $1300 Trip to Borders

Today was a sad day for me.  This was the first day of the Borders Bookstore liquidation sale.  Given my general lack of income (summer, no subbing, not ready with Plan D), I suppose I shouldn't have gone to the sale, but I did.  Most of the books were 10 or 20 percent off, which is nice, but I know I could get many of them cheaper online.

Yes, I'm one of the problem people that helped Borders go bankrupt.  I buy a lot of books online.  Truthfully, I buy a lot of used books online to be exact because I do have limited funds and I do read a lot.

Still, I liked Borders.  It had a great a math section -- much better than Barnes & Noble.  I ended up buying only 4 books because of issues with funding (sounds better than I didn't have the money!).  They were:

  • The Infinite Book by John D. Barrow -- It's about the mathematical idea of infinity, including the countable variety of infinity. 
  • The Calculus Wars by Jason Socrates Bardi  -- This is a history of the development of calculus and the fight between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz over credit for the key issue.
  • Warriors Skyclan's Destiny by Erin Hunter  -- Yes, I read youth fiction, because it's about cats.
  • Warriors Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter -- ditto
I'm not sure when I  will get to start reading any of these as I have at least 3 books to read and review for various authors.  I normally read a fiction book, a math book, and a cat book, so once I finish the math book I'm currently reading, I'll start on The Calculus Wars -- it's a bit easier to read at bedtime than non-Cantorian set theory!

So, you are probably asking how these four books could total $1300?  Simple, when I was done shopping and went to start my truck, it wouldn't start.  The alarm went off (and wouldn't stop -- grr).  I finally got it started and decided I should stop on the way home to have an oil change and have them check the battery and battery cables.  

That all went well until we got to the tires.  I knew the one tire was bad because I can't keep my Ford Ranger aligned.  I didn't know it was so bad that the metal cords were showing through.  Oops!  I also did realize the other 3 tires were almost as bad.  So, add 4 tires (expensive small truck tires) and lifetime alignment to everything else.  

Grand total for the day:  $1300.  The saving grace is because I bought tires and it was over $700, I get free passes to San Diego Zoo!

I think I'll become a hermit again!

21 July 2011

Book Review: All My Patients Are Under The Bed

All My Patients Are Under the Bed by Louis J. Camuti
ISBN: 0671242717


All My Patients Are Under The Bed: Memoirs of a Cat DoctorThis book is about Dr. Camuti, a veterinarian in New York City whose practice is mainly cats. This book is a collection of stories, short anecdotes, and remembrances from his 50+ years of practice.

Overall, the book was entertaining.  The true character of Camuti as a crusty old vet comes through clearly.  The good doctor had some interesting patients and owners to deal with, including many well-known celebrities. I found myself chuckling in a number of places, when the doctor, the cat, and the owner are having difficulties. And since the chapters were short with breaks in them, it made for a delightful bedtime reading.

On the down side, the writing could have been better. I suspect it was written from tape recordings as it has a rambling, disjointed style in many places. The chapters are only slightly centered on one topic. 

While the writing wasn't the best, the stories were fun and about cats, so I probably will reread this book at some point.  )

20 July 2011

Playing Librarian

I spend most of the day playing librarian.  Over a month ago, I found a web site, Library Thing, where you can catalog all your books.  You type in the ISBNs or authors or titles and then add it to your virtual library.  It's very handy, or it will be, once you have all your books listed.  Then, if I want to know if I have no. 8 in the Ramage novel series, I can quickly find out, rather than hunting threw stacks of books.  In addition to the main purpose of the site, your book catalog, there are also groups, book giveaways, and tons of info on the books themselves.  The neat thing is the site is free if you have less than 200 books.

So, today, I spent most of the day inputting the books that are in the bedroom.  I had already done the my studio and ended up with ~400 books.  I have one more box to do in the bedroom, so I should be a bit over 600 books.  I will have to go through these books and make corrections, add tags, write reviews, etc. but I'd rather get them all in once and for all.  After today, that leaves the living room/kitchen books with all my cookbooks, and <gulp> the study.  There's at least 40 boxes of books and a huge bookcase in the study.  I have no idea what the final count will be, but I'd guess around 2500 to 3000.

That sounds like a lot of books, but there are hundreds of people on that site with libraries that size or larger.  The 50 largest libraries are all over 11,000 books.  I like reading and books, but that seems an awful lot!

While I was entering things, Maggie and Isabel both snoopervised.  (I love that word -- snoopervize.)  Apparently, I wasn't entertaining enough, because they both fell asleep after 20-30 minutes.  The only problem I had with that is every time I moved, Maggie would wake up and wander around.  So, of course, I sat there in one position until I could barely stand up rather than wake her up.  But I was just thrilled to sit there and work, looking over at her now and then and seeing her peacefully sleeping.  Melted my heart.

19 July 2011

Why Olivia Owes Me $49.95

I'm not sure how this is going to work, but Olivia owes me $49.95. She doesn't get an allowance nor does she have a job, so I'll probably never collect. But she still owes it!!!

Olivia helping me write this blog.

Maybe I should back up a bit.  Olivia is a wonderful black Persian who inhabits my studio because, well, she likes to beat the other kitties up.  Here favorite thing is to be hugged and scratched, which means she's on my lap while I use my computer, as in the photo above.  So, I'm sitting here at my laptop, reading an email, with Olivia in my lap. She's half asleep so I stop scratching. At some point she realizes I have stopped so she encourages me to continue scratching by stretching up and then moving around. I get done with the long email, go to reply, and the cursor won't move. D* my laptop broke.

I dig out the old manual for the old computer since the laptop came with nothing. (Hey HP, some of us did read the manuals at times!) I tried a few things. Nothing -- that little buggery won't move. So, out comes the battery, wait, reconnect,... hmm, cursor will move when I log onto the computer but once it's to the desktop, nope, not going to move. Then I notice the strange icon in the lower right side. D* my laptop has a virus.

So, I call a local computer place. They are not open on Mondays, which of course, it was. I call another place. Well, we can work on your laptop on Thursday. Great. Finally, I breakdown and call HP Tech Support. Of course, this laptop is out of warranty but I'd rather pay $49.95 now to get it fixed than wait forever. Besides, if it was a virus, they weren't going to charge me. Nothing to lose. So I'm transferred all over the Indian subcontinent and I finally get Amy. (Thanks to years of Indian math professors, I'm fluent in Indian English.)Bless her heart, she calmly walked me through this procedure. Nope, not working. So she has me do this other stuff. I didn't even know you could do it, so it was neat to do, but it didn't help. She starts talking about touch pad failure. D* my laptop is back to broken.

Finally she says, is there a red button on the touch pad? DUH, the stupid sign goes off above my head. I poke the tiny red light, it changes to white, and my cursor is now freely roaming all over!!! Problem solved.

But wait, there's more. Since Amy is new, I have to talk to her supervisor about the service and the problem. So, I have to explain to Crystal (interesting how these Indians have such normal American names?) all about how stupid here didn't know there was a way to lock a touchpad. I've program VAX's, I've coded in 6 languages, heck, I've used keypunch cards -- I felt like a total idiot -- not knowing there's a way to lock a touch pad.

I suppose I should be grateful to Olivia for helping me learn something new about computers, but hey, I wouldn't have had to learn it if she hadn't locked it for me in the first place. She owes me $49.95!!!

18 July 2011

Book Review: Raising Cats Naturally by Michelle Bernard

To create optimum health in a cat, one should feed the cat what is closest to it's natural diet. This is the premise of Michelle T. Bernard's book. She has painstakingly researched the diet of cats and how to create the best diet for the domestic cat. This diet is based on raw meat with added supplements. While making cat food takes longer than opening a can of commercial food, Bernard points out many of the benefits from this diet, including lowering vet bills. The recipes are long, but composed of simple ingredients and easy to follow.

As someone who has used her recipes since 2004, I can attest to the health benefits. Several of my cats are alive today because this diet cured their irritable bowel disease, diabetes, and other incurable diseases. Over the years, I have tried other raw food recipes, but this is one I return to over and over. This is the book I tell others to buy when they are starting their cats on raw food.
For those not familiar with homeopathy, herbs, and other alternative treatments, this book also includes several pages of discussion concerning each.  For example, she includes a treatment for ringworm, which is VERY effective, cheap, and, unlike the commonly prescribed vet medicine, harmless to cats.  If I forget the food information, this one thing more than paid for the book in savings!

I have only two tiny complaints.  One is I wish she would update the book with regards to sources.  I know I'm asking a lot, but several companies she suggests are either out of business or no longer carry the product.  The second complaint is include more photos of her gorgeous cats.  See -- I told you these were tiny complaints!
Anyway,  I can't praise it enough!!!  )

Where have I been?

Okay, it's been another long break from blogging or even living.  As I last wrote, I was doing a stint as a long-term substitute teacher in a high school math special education classroom.  With any long-term sub job, I was responsible for everything -- teaching, planning, meetings, etc.  It, well, became my life.  Here was a typical day:

  • 5am -- get up and feed most of the cats
  • 5:30am -- feed Maggie and Isabel by hand
  • 5:45am -- drink coffee and eat breakfast
  • 6am -- feed Maggie, medicate Isabel
  • 6:15am -- pack lunch, change clothes
  • 6:30am -- leave home
  • 7:30am -- arrive at school
  • 8-9am -- should be my prep period but often I was subbing for someone else this period
  • 9-11:45am -- teach morning classes
  • 11:45-12:15 -- lunch, do some grading, supervise Anime club
  • 12:15-3pm -- teach afternoon classes
  • 3-5pm -- "teacher stuff": grade work, enter grades, call parents, tutor, talk to other teachers, etc.
  • 6pm -- arrive home, change clothes
  • 6:15pm -- feed most cats
  • 6:30pm -- hand feed Maggie and Isabel
  • 6:45pm -- eat supper
  • 7:30pm -- play on internet (mainly at http://www.persian-cats.com/)
  • 8:15pm -- clean litter boxes
  • 8:30pm -- groom Isabel
  • 8:45pm -- put cats to bed, feed Maggie
  • 9pm -- got to bed, read for 15 minutes if lucky
As you can see, there's not a lot of extra time in there for anything.  The "play on internet" was the only "fun" thing and it was there because (a) anything else was too tiring and (b) helping others with their cats was what kept me sane.

So, the end of the school year comes, the administration talks about how they want me, the teacher I was subbing for says he's coming back, and I was exhausted. 

I'm still exhausted, actually.  It's all mental stress from not knowing if I will get his job permanently or not.  If I do, I need to go back to school for 2 more years while teaching fulltime.  If I don't get the job, do I still work on a special ed credential?  I've applied for various other jobs, but thanks to my experience in special ed, I'm now branded as a special education teacher.  So do I chuck education all together?  Do I apply for every math job even when I would have to get  an apartment there and barely break even?  (Sorry, I refuse to sell this house!)  I can't decide whether to cry or scream.

Enough gloomy stuff.

The cats are doing well.  I'm going to start doing some art again -- stone sculpture and oil wildlife paintings.  I found a wonderful site on which to catalog my books (http://www.librarything.com/ ).  I have several ideas for Plan C and even Plan D, if this teaching stuff doesn't work out.

17 April 2011

A Moment's Break

I don't know where I left off over a month and a half ago, so I'll just say what's going on now.

Work:  I presently have a long-term sub assignment teaching special education math at a high school.  The students are not the sweet mildly retarded kids one thinks of when one hears "special ed".  Now, these are mainly the emotionally disturbed kids who will suddenly go from calm to punching in 5 seconds for little reason.  They can be nice, they can be horrible -- it makes life interesting and stressful.

Art:  I have a couple of commissions I need to get to work on.

Cats:  Well, most are okay.  Clancy, who I thought was going to die from chronic renal failure (CRF) is much improved to the point of no longer being CRF.  He has thyroid issues.  Maggie is okay and gaining some weight, as you can see from the photo above.  The 13th was her 6 month Gotcha Anniversary so we partied with sardines!   Isabel has the sniffles -- pollen allergies?  And, well, I have a new cat -- Olivia.  She's a black Persian and totally adorable.  She's also incredibly hard to photograph -- only her eyes show up!


Books:  I'm working on several.  One is Bach Flower Remedies for Cats.  I have several cats with emotional problems (either fear or aggression), so I'm reading through this book to try to figure out which remedies to use.  I'm great at helping others pick the right remedies, but terrible with my own cats.

I'm also reading through the Markham of the Marine Series by Tom Connery.  There's only 3 books in the series and all follow British Marine Lieutenant Markham through a siege on Toulon (that's A Shred of Honour), then an attack on Corsica (Honour Redeemed), and, well, I'm not sure what the next adventure is (Honour Be Damned).  It's set after the French Revolution but before the Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon appears as a gun captain, I believe.  I like reading the Napoleonic naval novels, but these aren't as interesting, probably because a lot of the land-based war at that time dealt with sitting and waiting, digging trenches, waiting, and then some fighting.  Connery, who is really David Donachie, doesn't fill the waiting times with much of interest, in my opinion.  I'll finish the series as I'm OCD in that respect, but no more Napoleonic marine stories for me -- I'll stick with the Navy!

Now off I go and we'll see how long it will be before I make it back!

10 February 2011

Cat News: Good, Bad, and Ugly

As the title says, there's good news, bad news, and ugly news about my cats.

Ugly News:  I now have two cats with ringworm.  Ugh.  Well, I know for sure Dante has it.  Whether Robbie actually has it is questionable since he doesn't have large bald areas.  His spots are small, scaly, and could be caused from scratching.  I'm not taking any chances, so I am treating him as if it were ringworm.

It took me several days to figure out a treatment plan.  Dante is 18 years old or so and not in the best health, so the standard treatment of Fulvin is out -- much too hard on internal organs.  I'm also not keen on bathing cats in fungicides as fungicides are some of the most dangerous pesticides around.  If the cats wouldn't lick it off, it might be a different story.  So, this leaves me with home remedies and related voodoo medicine.  The plan is this:
  • homeopathic remedy sulphur, one per day for 30 days
  • saturate spots with a dilute solution of apple cider vinegar and goldenseal extract (to kill active fungus)
  • add zinc, astragalus, and VitC to food (to boost immune systems)
  • clean house daily and wipe areas with Clorox wipes (to kill spores)
I've already started on it and there is some improvement.  I honestly don't know if it will work totally, but it will not hurt them.  The interesting fact is ringworm is usually self-limiting.  That is, do nothing and in 30 days it will disappear.  Of course, the cat can always get re-infected so...

Bad News:  Clancy, who has chronic renal failure, is getting much worse.  I can and have worked on the kidney situation with homeopathy, fluids, and nutrition, but when that improves, he has other problems.  His other problems are either terrible aggression (lashing out at any cat, dog, or person near him) or overly sexual attacts (i.e., he tries to hump any cat, dog, or person near him).  I can control these problems with small doses of progestrone, but then that screws up the kidneys. Right now, he's nearly panicked all the time looking for food.  If I give him more (he's already eating 4 meals a day), he gets diarrhea.

While he has moments that he seems happy, these are getting fewer and further apart.  I do think it's time to consider putting him to sleep.  Since Monday is a school holiday, I may have it done then.  We'll give him a good weekend and say good-bye to him.

Good News:  Maggie went to the eye vet today and does not have to go back!!!  The graft is healing, the veins are receding, and the cornea is as healthy as it can be.  (Her cornea is a mess from previous eye problems, so it will never be normal.)  It's been 3 months of worrying about her eyes, of eye drops, of trips to Upland to the eye vet.  That is all over, finally.  She can see enough to play, walk around, and bop other cats and that's enough for me.

As for me, I took yesterday and today off from subbing.  I was getting so tired, I just needed a day to do nothing, which is what I essentially did.  (I played some games and had fun blowing things up!)  Tomorrow, I'm back to work.  Course, then it will be a 3 day weekend!

I keep thinking that one of these days I'll get back to doing art, but it's hard to do art when I'm so tired.  I also think I should do something for the quilt class I signed up for -- either do it or not.  And then there's the whole idea of working out and losing weight.  So many things to do!

25 January 2011

If It Ain't One Cat, It's Another

One of the perils of having 9 cats is that usually at least one cat is sick at any one time.  This is especially true since I do adopt older or ill cats. 

Today's turn was Robbie, a Persian and Maine Coon mix.  He's been 'off' for several days and today, right before work, he threw up.  It was his breakfast and, based on the quantity, part of last night's supper.  Well, since he's a long haired cat, I'm thinking hairball or maybe blockage.  He got hairball remedy for supper and I have all my fingers crossed that it will do the trip.  I don't want to have to take him in for an enema or surgery.

It also became apparent to me that while I sub, I'm not going to do much art.  I don't have much time at night and the cats take priority, so there's only the weekends to do the art.  And lately, I've found one excuse after another not to do it.  So, I see no reason to keep beating myself up to do the art.  If it gets done, great; if not, so what.  I need the subbing to pay off Maggie's bills.

And speaking of subbing, tomorrow I sub for a master sergent in the Marine Corp as part of an ROTC program.  This really should be interesting.

23 January 2011

Maggie

I'm somewhat upset at myself for not getting any art done, not writing sooner, and not doing much of anything except worry about Maggie.  That's basically what I've done since my last posting.  Now I said 'somewhat upset' because there's a part of me that could care less about anything else except Maggie.  So, since I have no art to write about, I'll write about Maggie.

I adopted Maggie on Oct 13, 2010 from the San Bernardino County Animal Shelter.  I actually adopted Maggie, a blue Persian, and her sister Maya, a black Persian.  Both girls were in horrible shape.  For starters, they were emaciated.  Not thin, not scrawny -- emaciated!  They looked like cats who had survived Auschwitz.  Maggie weighed 3.5 lbs and Maya 3.25 lbs.  I honestly don't know how they could walk as they had almost no muscle left.  They both had been shaved by a 5-year old, or so it looked.  In spots, whoever had shaved into the skin and down to the bone of their tails.  And to top it off, both had an upper respiratory infection (URI).  These two girls had been used in a backyard breeding operation and when they could no longer produce kittens, they were tossed over some one's fence as garbage.

Since neither was spayed, the shelter sent them to a vet for spaying, despite my concerns about their health.  The spaying went okay, but both had infected uterus' and Maya's had begun to rupture.  I brought them home not knowing whether either one would survive the night. 

With snotty noses and huge amounts of antibiotics, neither one would eat and both had diarrhea.  This meant I had to force feed both of them, which I did.  After about 2 weeks, they were perking up and were exploring the house at times.  Both were super affectionate and loved nothing more than to sit on me and be scratched.


The one Friday, Maya looked off.  Her tummy was swollen.  I took her to a local vet who thought she may have rupture an internal suture.  He did emergency surgery and found that the ruptured uterus has caused massive damage to her kidneys and urethra.  As there was no hope, she was put to sleep then and there.

Maggie was lost without her sister.  I was lost too.  But I was also determined not to lose Maggie, so I carried on the best I could.  She was still being syringe fed.  She was moved into the bedroom to sleep with me at night.  And I spent as much time as I could with her.

About a week later, she developed conjunctivitis.  This led to ulcers on both eyes.  As the cause was probably herpes, I started her on antiviral eye drops at $140 a bottle.  Then one Sunday morning, I walked into the bedroom and the right side of her face was wet.  And she was in pain.  It hit me like a punch in the stomach -- her right eye had ruptured.  After a few calls, I found an emergency vet clinic and drove her there.  The vet was wonderful, but very concerned about her weight -- 4.2 lbs.  To me it was great, because it was up!  So after a number of tests and with lots of extra warnings to me, he removed the eye. 

After she came home on Monday, I called and made an appointment with an eye-specialist vet.  The bad news was the left was deeply ulcered and she estimated we had a 50-50 chance of it rupturing.  Well, 10 days later, on a Saturday night, it rupture.  This time I drove like a maniac for 2 hours to get to their emergency eye vet clinic for a graft on the eye.  I've had blind cats before, but Maggie deserved a shot at sight and happiness.  (Okay, this is me projecting onto her, but so what?)


She came home and was doing well, and even adjusted to life in a plastic cone.  There had been a chance that the retina was detached, but it became obvious that she had sight.  And then deja vu.  On the day before an appointment with the eye vet, Maggie started to act  like she was in pain.  Then there was a lot of fluid from her eye.  The bottom line was the graft had perforated for some reason -- probably because the blood supply didn't penetrate it fast enough.  So, we were back to the question of blind cat or another graft.  The eye vet worked with us on the money side, so we went for a second graft.

When she came home with her new graft, she was basically blind.  The vet had sewn part of her eyelid shut to help support the graft.  She had tons of mucous in the eye.  She was in pain.  She also needed various eye drops about 15 times a day.  Plus she had to keep wearing that cone.  The end result is Maggie got depressed, very depressed.  If she was human, she would have killed her self.  You could just see the spark of life draining out of her.  My vet, who does alternative medicine at times, estimated Maggie's life force at 30% or less.  Maggie was giving up and didn't care if she lived or died.  But I cared!!!  I wanted her to live so I could spoil her.  The only thing I knew to do was try Bach Flower essences.  They don't make any rational sense, but I have used them before on depressed cats with success, so I tried them on Maggie. 

And they worked!  A few days after beginning to use them, Maggie perked up.

Since then, Maggie has gained weight -- all the way to 5 lbs 2 oz.  She tiny and I don't know how much she'll ever weigh.  She still won't eat on her own, but she will eat chunks of raw beef.  She grooms herself.  Her coat is slowly growing back in.  She plays with balls and mice like there is no tomorrow.  She even bops all the other cats and dogs, because she is the queen of the house.  And best of all, she can see -- the second graft is healing well and we are down to only 3 eye drops per day.

Unfortunately, she still has minor problems.  For example, she was eating a lot for a while because her system wasn't processing it well.  Once her digestion became more effective, it slowed down.  She kept eating and ended up get backed-up to the point of vomiting.  We have now settled on the amount of food she needs to slowly gain weight without digestive problems.

But every time she has a minor problem, I panic.  I go into 24hr worry mode.  I know it's not healthy or productive, but it's hard not to obsess over her.  She is such a joy in my life!  She has also made me seriously question the importance of a lot of things in my life and even what I want to do with my life.

12 January 2011

Where's the Art?

Well, I haven't written for 5 days.  I also haven't done any art.  Not exactly what I had planned for this year.

This weekend, I was exhausted.  Saturday, I got up, ate breakfast, and had a nap.  Then in the afternoon, we went shopping in Palm Desert.  Sunday, I got up. ate breakfast, did some cleaning, and then had my nap.  By Sunday afternoon, physically I could have done some art but mentally I was still tired.  On Monday, we had an eye vet appointment in Upland for Maggie, so that took most of the day and we had to celebrate the report on Maggie's eye.  Yesterday, I subbed in a special education classroom and came home tired and late.  Today, I subbed in a middle school and came home utterly annoyed and exhausted.

Now, the question really is: what was I expecting?  I know subbing isn't easy -- I have to get up at 4:30 some days, students aren't always cooperative, and I will be on my feet all day.  Is it realistic to expect myself to come home, do art, attend to my cats, and interact with hubby and friends?  I want to believe it is, but I'm beginning to suspect that it's not. 

What is the solution?  I can't quit subbing since it's the source of our income and if  I ever want a full-time teaching job, I have to keep in the 'business'.  If I knew eBay was back, I could cut down on the subbing -- maybe to 3 days a week -- and sell the art to make up for the lost days.  Unfortunately, I don't think eBay is doing well, at least for art.  I have tired selling art online, in galleries, and at art shows and nothing works well.  So, I'm stuck subbing which means I won't get a lot of art done.

The subbing assignment for tomorrow should be easy although it will be boring.  (It's special education for the severely handicapped.)  I should come home more relaxed and less tired than normal, so maybe -- just maybe -- I'll be able to do some art. 

Okay, since I really only need 1-2 hours and the chickadee will be done, here's my goal for tomorrow:  I will work on it for 1 hour.

07 January 2011

The Perils of Substitute Teaching

For the last two days, I've been substitute teaching.  On these days, I get up at about 5am so I can feed everyone, including Maggie who is still eating off a syringe, and arrive at the location on time.  Today, I had to be at the school at 7:30am which is nice since I didn't leave home until 6:45am.  Some of the middle schools require subs to show up at 7:15am and most are further away, so I have to leave at 6am.

The assignment was "Roving Substitute", which translates normally to mean I get to the school without any idea of what subject(s) or what teacher(s) I'm subbing.  This position is used to fill in for a teacher who called in sick that morning or for a teacher whose classes have a reputation for problems.  Occasionally, this can also mean there is no specific assignment because the school had enough subs show up so you fill in period by period where you are needed or as a second teacher in a classroom.

Today was a bit different.  The school was having departmental training sessions, so in the morning, I taught English II and in the afternoon Biology.  The nice thing was the teachers had notice of this training so the two teachers I subbed for had prepared nicely -- instructions, seating charts, materials.  The bad parts were the kids knew about the absences so some came in 'excited' to have a sub and most of the students were sophomores. (Remember, sophomore literally means "wise fool".)  The morning went well -- most students worked and no one caused problems.

The afternoon I knew was going to be interesting because the teacher had warned me about her challenging 6th period.  Compared to other classes, 6th wasn't all that bad.  The real problem was most students didn't want to do anything.  Okay, I can live with that.  The problem is they then get bored and start doing things -- usually stupid things.  One girl decided not to work and instead make cell phone calls.  Students are allowed to have cell phones, but not allowed to use them in class -- school rules.  She refused to put it away, started talking back to me, and then walked out of class early.  She left me no choice but to write her up, so now she'll get suspended for a day.  I really don't understand what goes on in some students' brain!

But overall, it was a good day.  Most of the classes were fine, most of the students were okay, and I ended up working an extra class, so I get an extra $15.

Unfortunately, I've come home exhausted both days.  Part of the problem is I'm just not used to getting up so early.  Over Christmas break, I started getting up at 7am, so 5am is a very rude shock.  Another part of the problem is I'm not used to being on my feet all day.  Again, it was Christmas break -- this time my lack of movement.  And still another part of the problem is the stress of subbing.  Remember, I go into classes not knowing if there are sub plans, if the students are nice or out of control, or sometimes what classes I'll be doing.  Then I have to deal with up to 45 students in a class, many who don't want to be there.

Needless to say, I haven't done any art.  I'm not happy with that.  I had visions of doing 1-2 hours when I got home or in the evening, but it's not happening.  I am hoping that given time, I'll adjust enough to the subbing that I will be able to do art at night.  Until then, it looks like I'll be doing my art only on weekends, when there are a hundred other things to do.

And now, off to bed!!!

05 January 2011

Just Not a Good Day

I got up this morning all bright and cheery, and I should have gone right back to bed!

First annoyance -- Isabel, my silver Persian, won't eat.  She has decided that Maggie's food is so much better than hers.  To get Isabel to eat, I now have to put a spoonful of Maggie's food on it to give it some flavor.

Second annoyance -- Hubby suggests we go down to Palm Springs to get some parrot pellets and a few items at Trader Joe's.  Fine, but let's go soon.  So, he reads for a while, walks his dogs, and then gets changed and ready to go.  In the meantime,

Third annoyance --Robbie, my Persian/Maine Coon mix, is really looking pathetic.  His right ear is horizontal and he's scratched it badly.  So, as much as I don't like to drive to my vet in Big Bear in the winter, I make an appointment.  This then leads to...

Fourth annoyance -- Hubby and I have a tiff.  It's not really a fight out loud, so much as both of us are angry at the other.  Fine, he stayed home, I went to the vet.

Fifth and biggest annoyance -- Robbie has ear mites.  Now, if you don't own cats or dogs, this means nothing.  What it means to me is that I now have to treat all my cats -- all 9 -- plus hubby's 2 dogs for ear mites.  This is just going to be so much fun and for 2-3 weeks!

Sixth annoyance -- I was suppose to substitute tomorrow and have Friday off to take Maggie to the eye vet.  That is now changed to work tomorrow and Friday, with the eye vet on Monday.

So, no, I haven't had a good day.  Yes, I understand a lot of these problems are minor or my own creation, and if my attitude was better, they wouldn't be so annoying.  I'm just really annoyed at myself for letting all this distract me and not get any art done.

04 January 2011

First Steps Back

This starting back doing art and selling art is a real challenge.  It's been two years since I've done much with PayPal, eBay, or my website, so I've forgotten much of what I used to know.  I suppose over time things will come back.

The drawing and painting seems to have come back fairly quickly.  I've started on an oil painting of a mountain chickadee, which I should finish tomorrow.  I've got the drawing for a short-eared owl, also in oil.  And I'm in the planning/drawing stages for a western grebe in watercolor.  The painting has gone well, although my biggest challenge is the tubes of oils are dried shut.  I almost totally mashed one using pliers to get it open and at least two colors are totally dry.  Guess I don't really need burnt umber!

One big adjustment is that hubby is home.  Before, he was out driving a truck and I was all by myself.  While I know this is my own paranoia, I feel like he's watching me and trying to figure out if I'm working hard enough.  After all, this is a big gamble since I'm not substitute teaching (which is 'sure' money) and have gone back to doing art (which is not 'sure' money).  The effect so far is that I'm working harder.  In theory, he should be able to take over some of the cooking and cleaning chores so I will have more time to do art.

Another big adjustment is my cats.  Last time I was doing art, I had 4 cats.  And now, I have 9, including one who is on fluids 3 times a week and one who needs to be hand-fed.  Overall, they don't create problems, except that I want to spend some time each day playing with each one or brushing them or just lounging around with them.  The only other problem is Robbie has decided my studio is his favorite room so he's moved in.  All my paintings will be easily identified -- his cat hair goes straight to wet oils!

I'm actually fairly happy with how things are going.  It also feels so good to be back painting.

And now, off to finish the grebe drawing....

03 January 2011

What's This?

Hmm, I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and... what's this stuff?  SNOW!!!  I know it was cold enough last night to freeze, but it's so rare we get cold and wet to make snow.  It's only a light dusting so it probably will be gone by noon, but it looks nice now.