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.

  • 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.
  • 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

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.