Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oh for the love of Mike

You know what this means, don't you?  I have to do it AGAIN.  At the next level of contest.  And this time I have to wear a costume, because it's Halloween.

Dear District 36:  Please field somebody funnier than me.  I'm pretty sure this contest doesn't go to the regional level, but if it does I definitely don't want to go there.  I realize that I'm not that great of a speaker, but Trouble was a really funny cat.  I can't help it.  And I don't want to win.  (The next level involves karaoke.) So get your A game going.

What on earth am I supposed to do with a trophy?  Put it with my best GPA award from 8th grade?  It doesn't look like it would even be good for killing crickets.

JD suffered through today's contest but didn't enjoy the incessant clapping and congratulating, so I'll suffer through the next one alone.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crap. I won.

So, Trouble vs the Roomba won the contest I didn't hold for which speech I should give at Toastmaster's.  I gave the speech.  I won.  Now I have to go to the next level.  I sincerely hope somebody there is better at speechifying than me, or I'll have to do it AGAIN at the next level.  Crap.

I'm including the modified speech below.[1]  This is pretty much the end product.  I probably won't remember all of it for the contest, and you can't use notes, so who knows what I'll actually say.  But what's written below is what I mean.  There is also an awesome powerpoint presentation that goes with it, but apparently there is no projector for the contest so I can't show it.  Maybe I can insert the pictures here, though.

There has been a lot of news in my life, and I'm bundling it all up here.

I am still staying gluten and lactose free, and I feel pretty good when I don't screw up.  Last week I forgot that beer had gluten in it and didn't remember until I felt sick the next day.  And I had been so good!  Doh.  Anyway, it's all gluten free here in me-land, and really gluten free is not too hard to accomplish these days.  A lot of packaging tells you right on it whether or not it contains gluten so you don't have to guess from the ingredients.  My friend Barbara even pointed me at gluten free donuts so I don't have to feel left out on Donut Day at work.  Although I do have to remember to bring the donut from home.

My dad went into the hospital for brain surgery and was released two days later.  To go home.  Not to rehab.  Home, two days after brain surgery.  Crazy!  They probably would have released him after one day, but the MRI machine was busy.

Unfortunately, a few days after that he started to bleed in his brain, and he got very, very sick.  So he went from walking around the block tumor-free, to attached to many many things in ICU in the course of about a day.  After a week and a half in the hospital, he is finally being released - this time to rehab.  Spending a week sick in bed does terrible things to you.  And he was really, really sick.  I went out and spent about a week there at the hospital with Mom, and my brother also came out for four days.  I strongly hope that Dad is on the road to wellville, as seeing my formerly robust father sick and at the mercy of the hospital is painful.  He was patient for the first few days, but he finally started getting cranky.  Which may have helped, I don't know.  Sometimes anger helps push you, and maybe he needed a push to get through the pain.

My October hike has been whittled down to a long weekend.  I have the opportunity to test out a new backpack frame/cushion, so that will be fun.  Only carrying 2.5 days of food means my pack will be a lot lighter.  I like that.

Beauty got bit by something, possibly a flea, and proceeded to chew the hell out of her tail.  She is wearing a doughnut around her neck to try to keep her from chewing it any more, but she is a very long backed dog so it's not working very well.  I have bandaged it up to keep her from making it worse.  She is depressed by this.

Shamika dyed my hair blue, and then purple.  I liked it both ways.  The purple started out dark and then faded through several lovely shades of lilac and lavender.  It's almost completely faded now.  I don't really have the patience to keep getting it dyed, or to take care of dyed hair the way it needs to be taken care of, so I think the experiment is over.  But it was pretty fun.

The Schnork has been pretty good recently, but it's hard to tell with Schnorks.  She might just be saving it all up for an episode of extreme badness.

[1] I'd like to tell you today the story of what happened when a household cat dueled with a robot.

I am an animal person.  At last count, I had four cats, two dogs, and a horse.  Just in case you were wondering, that is in fact too many animals.  I didn't get them all on purpose, is my only defense.  The events I am relating to you today concern Trouble, an ancient farm cat who was retired to my household after he got too old to live outdoors.  By the time he was admitted to the Forinash Home for Senior Animals, he had had a long and eventful life.  As a kitten he was carried off by a bird of prey and returned home days later with puncture wounds down his ribcage.  We still wonder what he did to the bird.  That incident set the tone for his entire life, a life during which he took no guff.  We lovingly referred to him as "Old Man".  If he had been able to operate a cane, he would have been shaking it at teenagers and yelling at them to get off his lawn.

As you might guess from his name, Trouble was not a particularly nice cat.  He walked around with an Elvis like sneer on his face at all times.  He didn't appreciate us taking care of him.  He didn't like much of anything.  He didn't start many fights, but he would finish them, if you know what I mean.  His approach to human interaction was to stomp up to you and demand to be petted, and then bite you when he was done.  After a few of these interactions, I let him know that he was on his own.  My husband, when he came into Trouble's life, thumped the cat back after Trouble bit him the first time.  I worried that he would actually break Trouble, who by that point was approaching mummification.  But Trouble warmed up to JD, my allergic and asthmatic husband.  He could respect a man who would defend himself with violence.  Violence was a way of life that Trouble had embraced from kittenhood.  I was astonished to see this elderly cat finally like something, finally like SOMEONE, in his life.  And my husband, who was in no way a cat person, fell a little bit in love with this ancient, grumpy, skinny cat.  Trouble really had no idea how to be nice in his affections, as it had never been an issue.  He and my husband worked it out.  And that is how I came to find Trouble plastered to the face of my husband, whose eyes were swelling shut.  I recommended Benadryl but otherwise left them to themselves. 

Trouble became so attached that he literally got sick every time JD left town.  On the vet's orders I started giving him Xanax whenever JD was away, and discovered that getting a mean old cat high was hilarious.  He wobbled around like a drunk, he got the munchies, and he loved EVERYBODY.  All the other animals in the house were terrified.  They were afraid him nuzzling them was just a trick.

Ironically, Trouble was a very handsome cat so people always wanted to pet him.  As you might guess, that never ended well.

In addition to loving animals, I am also a nerd.  I've been working at NASA for coming up on 20 years.  I was a physics major in college.  Before that I went to a science and technology magnet high school.  My father was a physicist, and my grandfather was an inventor.  My nerd roots run deep.  You can imagine, then, how excited I was when domestic robots became commonly available.  I went out and gleefully bought my own Roomba, imagining that I would never vacuum again.  Unfortunately, I didn't save any time housekeeping, because I loved my Roomba so much that I sat and watched it vacuum. 

I didn't give much thought to the animals when I was getting my robot.  They all hated the old vacuum cleaner and stayed away from it.  Had I considered the issue, I probably would have assumed that they would all run away from the Roomba.  However, it didn't quite work out that way.  The dog looked puzzled by the little robot and made sure to stay in another room.  Our shyest cat, Monster, hid under the bed.  The youngster, Andy, tried to get it to chase him.  But the geezer cat Trouble was another story entirely.  Maybe it was because the Roomba was smaller than him and not very loud, but Trouble was not intimidated by the Roomba.

The Roomba, by the way, is not completely helpless against cats.  It has a few skills.  It has a vacuum, for instance, and I'm pretty sure that could thoroughly annoy and/or dehair a cat who let its tail get to close.  It's autonomous, which means that it could theoretically hunt down your cat and bump it repeatedly.  It's got that "brrrrr" vacuumy noises that cats hate.  And it can spin on a dime.  Also, if you purchased a Scooba (outside the scope of this fight, but we did buy one.  Of COURSE we bought one) it is a mopping robot, so it can make a wet spot.  And cats don't like wet spots.

It's not designed to be a fighting machine, of course.  You won't see it on Battle Bots.  But it has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The first time Trouble encountered the Roomba, it was vacuuming the kitchen.  Trouble stalked into the room, glaring.  He sat down in the middle of the room.  He tried to dominate the Roomba.  Everything else in his world gave him right of way, and the robot would be no different.  It started toward him, and he just stared at it.  It wouldn't *dare*.

It dared.

While he stared at it, now in disbelief, it bumped into him.  Trouble whapped the Roomba a good one.  Its collision detection algorithm noted that it had hit an obstacle, so it backed up, turned a little, and tried again.  From Trouble's perspective, the Roomba was challenging him!  When it bumped him again, Trouble snarled and lit into the little red disk.  He attempted to beat the tar out of it in a flurry of speedy claws and gnashing of fang.  (He only had the one left by then.)

The Roomba held its own for a moment, trying to get away, but eventually the beating it was enduring from Trouble convinced it that it had run into too many obstacles.  It made its "Something's wrong, I can't continue" "bee-yoop", and powered itself down.

Trouble returned to his afternoon nap with an air of satisfaction.  We never again turned the poor Roomba loose on the kitchen floor.

And that, my friends, is the tale of how my cat once beat the crap out of a Roomba.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Repost from 2010: Trouble kicked a Roomba's ass

Backstory:  Trouble finally died on November 30, 2010 after years of ancient mummified cathood.  The entire post is here, but the pertinent bits are quoted below.  JD eulogized him this way: 

Thanks, folks. We've often noted, he wasn't exactly a good cat, but he was our cat.

The way I figure it, we wouldn't miss critters so much if they weren't worth it. And, on that note, one of my favorite Trouble stories:

Not long after we got ...the dog, I noticed we were getting drifts of fur all over the place. Since I'd moved in with a Roomba, I decided to see just how well it would do on insane amounts of pet fur.

Beauty didn't know what to make of the thing. She stayed back out of the way, puzzled look on her face. The Monster treated the Roomba as he did anything else: he ran away and hid. Andy alternated between ignoring it and fruitlessly trying to convince it to chase him.

Trouble, on the other hand, got up from where he was snoozing, went smack dab in the middle of the room, and plopped down on the floor as it trundled by. And eventually, the Roomba wound up on a collision course for the Old Man. And the Old Man just stared at it. It wouldn't _dare_.

It dared.

Trouble sprang up, claws out, and whapped the Roomba a good one. The Roomba's collision detection algorithm only turned it a little, and it bumped Trouble again, at which point he snarled and lit into the little red disc, attempting to beat the tar out of it in a flurry of speedy claws and gnashing of tooth. (He only had the one by then.)

The Roomba held its own for a moment or two, trying to get away, but Trouble's thrashing eventually convinced it that it had run into too many obstacles. It let out its "Something's wrong, I can't continue!" bi-tone, and powered itself down.

Trouble returned to his afternoon nap, and I never again turned the poor Roomba loose on the floor upstairs.

And that's the tale of how my cat once beat the crap out of a Roomba.

Repost from 2006: The results of the great field shakeup

Back story:  Playboy, at 29, had gotten very rickety.  He had a bad health problem and was laid up in a stall for a few days.  He was miserable.  We decided to try putting him in with Chocolate, an even more elderly horse who lived in the field adjacent to Playboy's regular field.  We took Ben the Mule out of the field with Chocolate, and put him in with Pluto.  We thought old guys together and young guys together would work out pretty well for all.  We moved them into their respective fields on January 29, 2006.  This is what happened:

Today, a formerly very angry and now very relieved Playboy got to 
come out of isolation. We decided to put him in the field with 
Chocolate the 33 year old Morgan horse, on the theory that Chocolate 
would be less likely to harass him than 6 year old (and bored) Pluto.

Chocolate has been sharing a field with a 6 year old mule named Ben. 
In the shuffle, Ben was assigned to Pluto's field so they could each 
have a youngster to play with.

Here's what happened.

First we moved Ben into Pluto's field.

Chocolate: What the hell?
Ben: Hi.
Pluto: Hi.
Ben: I like you.
Pluto: I like you too.
Chocolate: I said WHAT THE HELL?
Ben: Want to run around?
Pluto: OK!
(there is much running around)
Ben: Want to play nippy face?
Pluto: Joy!
(there is much playing)

Kevin and I went to get Playboy and put him in the field with Chocolate.

Playboy: Hi! I'm Playboy, I used to be in the other field, how are you?
Chocolate: DIE!
Playboy: Um.. I'll just hang out over here.
Chocolate: (glare of death)
Playboy: Look, grass.
Chocolate: I'ma kick your ass, boy.
Playboy: I may be old but I'm still younger than you, you old fart. 
(He thumps Chocolate in the ribs.)

Chocolate spends some time staring at Ben in the other field and 

Playboy investigates the shelter, the grass, the trees.

Chocolate turns back to Playboy. The shark attack music from Jaws 
begins to play in the background. Chocolate charges Playboy at a fast 
shamble. Playboy kicks him again and runs off.

Chocolate: DIE DIE DIE!
Playboy: In case you haven't noticed, you're not fast enough to get 
in front of me so you can kick me. And you don't have any teeth left 
to bite with. Give up or I will kick you again.
(Chocolate glares at the world and at me in my car. He blames me now. 
I start to wonder if he will brave the electric fence to try to kill 

Playboy: I'm just going to go hang out by the trees until Chocolate 
gets tired.

Pluto: Do you have any idea what all that fuss is about?
Ben: Nope.

Playboy, all pumped up with Banamine, is agile enough to fend off 
Chocolate for now. I hope that by the time it wears off, Chocolate 
will have accepted the situation. The mule is very nice but Playboy 
is a good pasture buddy too.

Ben has decided that as a Cookie Lady I'm cool. Pluto is thrilled to 
have somebody who will race around and play gelding games with him. 
Playboy is just happy to be out of jail. So far only Chocolate is 
unhappy. Poor old guy.

&apparently Chocolate and Ben too

I keep saying "glucose free"

I haven't had a lot to say recently.  I've been sick.  It's boring.  You know what's more boring than being sick?  Writing about being sick.

I'll sum up:

Felt horrible
Laid around a lot
Eventually was able to see GI doc
Excitingly, had immediate celiac test and endoscopy
All tests came back negative
.. so I still don't know what's wrong
Decided to go gluten free and it helped
Decided to go lactose free and it helped
Still waiting for follow up with GI doc, where he'll tell me he still doesn't know what's wrong
In mean time, trying to get back to daily life but feeling very much like I've had a long flu

You know how after you have the flu you feel better for a day and you think you're fine until you try to do anything?  And then you realize that you have all the strength and endurance of a newborn kitten?  I've had that going on.  When I first got home from the trail I was too sick to exercise, so I pretty much just worked and lay on the sofa.  But it feels like more than the end result of laziness.  The first time I tried to walk around the park, my knees were rubbery at first.  They failed to get better, and then after a mile I started cramping all over my body.  It was not what I expected.

My back definitely did not appreciate the extended time off from the gym, and started hurting all the time.  So I went to the gym and did the best I could.  The back has been getting better.  And the rest of me too.  I went to the park this weekend and I didn't start cramping up until mile four.  That's measurable improvement.

I never in my life thought I'd go on a gluten free diet, so this has been interesting.  I've been reading a lot of labels.  Restaurants are a problem.  I've been trying to eat at the cafeteria and have chosen poorly a couple of times.  Today, for instance.  But since I don't have celiac disease, I think I can assume that I am only causing myself temporary inconvenience when I have gluten, rather than long term intestinal damage.  Although, as soon as I stopped eating gluten, several awful skin things that had not been responding to treatment started to heal up.  So maybe the implications are more far reaching.

Lactose free I've done before.  I already knew what brand of soy milk I like on my cereal, and if past experience serves I'll be able to eat goat and sheep cheese. 

I'm going to have to start packing my lunch more and that bugs.  I really liked being able to get fresh hot food at the cafeteria.  Sigh.

JD was out of town while I was experimenting with gluten/lactose free living.  Tonight was his first night back where he cooked dinner.  He made us a pretty good dinner with a red quinoa base.  He made enough that I'm dehydrating the leftovers to take camping.  It should be good with savory stuff for dinner or with sweet stuff for breakfast.  A little non-dairy protein powder, a little stevia, maybe some walnuts.. Actually I'm making myself hungry.  Heh.

The camping I mentioned above?  I have a week long trip scheduled for the beginning of October.  I've been planning it for a year.  I have no idea if I'm going to be able to do it.  But if I don't prepare for it and then I'm well enough when October gets here, I'll be pretty pissed at missing the opportunity.    So I'm finding foods that won't make me sick (Packit Gourmet is nice enough to label their stuff if gluten or lactose free) and working out the logistics now.  DeLee and I are going to go on a low mileage trip in a couple of weeks to see if going up and down hills wearing a backpack is a problem or not.  If it's okay, I'll make a motel reservation for a night in Waynesboro so we can stage ourselves for a Shenandoah hike.

Let's see, good news?  I can totally eat chocolate.  And jelly beans.  I found gluten free waffles.  Beer and wine are both being a problem, but scotch apparently is not.  Oh, and I am entered into a humorous speech contest in exactly a week and apparently I'm okay with that.  Trying to decide if I'm going to talk about the Schnork, the day we tried to move Playboy into Chocolate's field, or the day Trouble kicked a Roomba's ass.  I was going to link to those last two but they were a really long time ago and a little hard to find online so I'll repost them here.