Saturday, December 27, 2008

Found again

Baby Jesus has been restored to the manger.  He was hiding out in the fireplace (fortunately, not the one with the woodstove).  I've told my cats that they are going to be struck down for their blasphemy, but they don't seem to care.

Patches is quiet these days and doesn't seem interested in doing much except sleeping and eating.  I gave her some pain medicine today because she was acting like she couldn't get comfortable.  Poor baby.

My brother HokieMan and sister-in-law TropicGal  were showing us pictures of their house and describing the work they've been doing on it since moving in September.  They have really done a lot, and it looks wonderful!  When they bought it, it had white carpeting throughout, and they have replaced that with beautiful hardwood floors and more neutral colors on the walls.  Very nice!  They are enjoying the 80 degree winter weather in Florida and not so much missing the bitter cold.  Twerps.  

My niece is thoroughly enjoying her first year at VaTech and my nephew will be starting a stint with the Marines the summer.  Yikes!  He's excited, and I think he'll be great, don't get me wrong, but getting paid to get shot at?   Really?  At least Bush will be out of office before he goes in.  Otherwise, I'd be pretty upset.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day

For all of the stress and usual holiday foo-fah leading up to the holiday, Christmas was actually quite wonderful and relaxed.  

BikerDude's boss, whom he has taken to referring to as The Godless Heathen, decided on Monday that the dealership would remain open on Christmas Eve until 8:00.  You know, for all of those last-minute shoppers who buy cars on Christmas Eve.  The problem for us was that my family had planned on having our big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve because my niece and nephew were leaving mid-day Christmas Day to go visit their mom in Chesapeake.  Staying 'til 8:00 would ruin everyone's Christmas because either we would have to drive down separately or Christmas dinner would have to proceed without the turkey, which I had.  Furthermore, my mom, Memaw, wanted all of us to go to their church's Christmas Eve service, which was at 5:00.

By Tuesday, TGH had decided that maybe they'd close up shop at 6:00.  That would put us in Lynchburg at about 7:00-7:30, still too late for the Christmas Eve service, but better.  BikerDude told me to stand by and commit to nothing.

I got off from work at 2:00, picked up a couple of last minute things and came home to finish packing, etc.  When I walked in, I noticed that the fireplace wall looked... a little bare.  That's because the picture over the fireplace was laying in the floor (a large print, done by a friend of mine).  Also, the nativity set was scattered-- the sheep had apparently made a break for it, because the shepherds were all askew and the sheep were found under the Christmas tree.  I'm guessing Razor was this particular culprit, but it's only a guess.

After rounding up the sheep, rehanging the picture and reorganizing the nativity scene, I was ready to hit the road.  BikerDude phoned around 3:00 to say that he was on his way home.  I asked him if they had closed early.  He said not exactly.  He had told his manager about our Christmas plans and told him he had planned to go to a late lunch around 2:45 and not come back 'til Friday.  He didn't wait to get permission, but at a few minutes to 3:00, he told his manager "Hey, I'm going to get a bite to eat" and headed out the door.  He hasn't come back home yet this morning, so I'm assuming that he hasn't been fired.  Yet.  Or he's out looking for another job before coming home.

We had been talking about Christmas Eve services and BikerDude stated that he really missed the old fashioned midnight services.  I agreed:  As a child, my Grandma McCraw's church used to have 11:00 p.m. services, and frequently we would accompany her to those services.  They were usually beautiful:  Quiet and contemplative, with candlelight and lots of wonderful music.  I did a little web research and discovered that Grandma's church (now called Rivermont Avenue Evangelical Presbyterian Church, whatever that means) would still be hosting an 11:00 service, so BikerDude and I decided to go.

Let me say up front that the Christmas Eve service at Memaw and Bobo's church (the church I grew up in) was fine.  They have trended towards "blended" services these days, and this one was no different.  That isn't exactly my cup of tea (certainly not on a weekly basis), but the service was nice, if a little casual for my tastes for a Christmas Eve service.   Afterwards, we went to Memaw and Bobo's house and had a wonderful dinner with smoked turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and stuffing, broccoli casserole and green beans, cranberry sauce and cherry jello salad, Memaw's special rolls and watermelon rind pickle.  Dessert was apple cake, pecan pie and Christmas cookies.  It was all fabulous.  Memaw knows how to put on a spread!

After the excitement of the evening, the travel and the wonderful meal, BikerDude and I went to the 11:00 service.  What an experience!  The church had a small brass and string orchestra playing a lovely Christmas concerto when we arrived.  The service was very traditional, with responsive readings from Isaiah and from the gospels.  There was a soloist-- an operatic soprano with a clear, lovely voice-- and lots of Christmas hymns.  The sermon was interesting, thoughtful and relevant.  It was, more than anything else, peaceful.  A small oasis of silence carved out of the busy holiday to remind us of the real message at the heart of the season.  I am so glad we went.  I have a feeling it won't be the last time.

And now I have to go on a search and rescue mission:  Baby Jesus is missing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Christmas Fun

Our plastic tree is the kind that has a central pole with concentric rings that the branches hook into.  When BikerDude got home from work yesterday, Kaos was lounging on his back on the third row of branches while swatting at the stuff above him.  When he saw BikerDude, he scrambled up and leapt through the back of the tree, dislodging three of the branches from their central holder and leaving a fireman's slide of cleared space down the back of the tree.  When I got home a few minutes later, BikerDude was still laughing.  I reassembled the tree, collected the ornaments, and redecorated.

Old artificial tree was definitely the way to go this year.

I went to Whole Foods last night and got the herbal remedy for Patches that was recommended to me.  It's called Essiac, and I got the dried herbs to make the tea (as opposed to the already prepared tea, which was, like, $32 for a pint sized bottle).  Now, I know that homeopathic medicine has a lot to offer and that many of the people who practice it take it quite seriously, but the instructions on how to brew the tea would be best suited to a biochemistry lab.  I'm supposed to use pure spring water, not tap water, especially not fluoridated tap water.  I know enough about consumer affairs to know that spring water isn't necessarily any purer than tap water, and is in some cases worse.  I'm not sure what fluoride is supposed to do (or undo) with the remedy, but me and my teeth are delighted that it is in the tap water.  I'm going to risk that it won't make or break the difference for Miss Patchy.

So I'm in the middle of preparation.  I have to boil it, let it cool for 10-12 hours, scald it, strain it store it in sterilized Mason jars.  That last is probably not going to happen, since I am not set up for the whole home canning operation.  Call me a lousy housewife.

Yesterday I sent an email to the recalcitrant members of my extended clan who have yet to share a Christmas list.  We drew names this year, so everyone kind of needs to share so that whoever has their name has a clue as to what they want.  Since two of the non-sharers are my brother-in-law LawnRanger and my nephew who is almost 20, I threatened that the nonsharers were in serious danger of getting fuzzy bunny slippers if they didn't pony up soon.  While researching for a picture to add to the email, I found this:

These would be the Monty Python Killer Rabbit With Pointy Teeth slippers.  

These are the Coolest.  Slippers.  Ever.  Someone may be getting these regardless of whether they submit a list!

Monday, December 15, 2008

That Christmas Spirit

We finally got the tree up last night.  Ok, correction:  I finally got the tree up last night while BikerDude provided color commentary from the couch while carefully monitoring the football games.  The Skins lost and the Cowboys won, so it wasn't a good football day.  Or to quote ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback:  The Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, or the Persons, a more accurate geographical and politically correct description.

The cats are delighted that we have installed a kitty condo and dangled cat toys in the middle of the living room.  As soon as I had the tree put together (yes, we went with the economical, pre-existing plastic tree this year on the grounds that if the cats destroy it, we're out nothing because the tree is already over 10 years old and I'm pretty sure I've gotten my money's worth out of it already), Kaos climbed it and tried to make a nest on the third row of branches.  After pulling him out of the tree-- twice-- I started stringing the lights.  This gave Razor something to do:  Bite the cords.  So now the exposed cords are covered with jalepeno sauce.  We should be fine as long as he doesn't develop a taste for Mexican food.

This morning wasn't too bad:  Three ornaments in the floor.  But this afternoon when I got home from work, there was a noticable gap in the tree.  This tree is put together by concentric rows of branches that hook into a central post. BikerDude reported that when walked in the door,Kaos was lounging on his back on the third row of branches (from the bottom), swatting at the stuff above him.  He managed to dislodge the entire fourth row of branches and cleared a path in the back of the tree on his way down when he made his exit.

So I have now reassembled the tree and turned on the lights so that the next adventure will involve the thrilling possibility of serious electrocution.

Oh, well.  At least they haven't started peeing on the tree skirt, which my vet reported this morning that her cat has installed as an annual tradition.  

I have also cleared the mantle in order to make room for the nativity set, but Razor has discovered that he can get from the top of the TV to the newly cleared space and artfully arrange his carcass.  I'm not sure how Baby Jesus is going to survive this year... maybe I'll rubber band him to the manger.

Patches update:  The vet worked on her feet this morning and noticed a marked improvment.  There is still some swelling, but they both look much better and she seems to be much more comfortable.  We'll finish up the antibiotics and see where she is.  I'm also going to get a homeopathic herbal formula that supposedly boosts the immune system.  It's certainly not a cure, but it can hopefully improve her overall health and make her more comfortable.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cars and Cats

First of all, the Patchy update: Blood work confirms what we already know, that there is some cancer going on. The antibiotics have helped and the swelling had gone down in her toes considerably, but her toes still bleed a little when she puts pressure on them, like when she jumps down off of furniture or something. If the claws on the affected toes don't fall out on their own, the vet may have to do an amputation (essentially like declawing), but hopefully it won't come to that. Frankly, I don't want to have to put her under anesthesia-- I'm not sure she's strong enough, at her age. Otherwise, though, she seems fine. She's eating and drinking well, comes and finds our laps to snooze in as usual in the evenings, and growls at any other cat who tries to usurp her position. It's still all about that attitude!


I see the bright lights in Congress have failed to pass a bailout bill for the auto industry. Nice to see that this historic election did nothing to cure greed, short-sightedness and placing ideology above actually helping people. Now to address a few myths.

  1. The American car industry did this to themselves by failing to make cars that people want. Horse hockey. The auto manufacturers have always done precisesly what the market dictates. Until this past summer when gas hit $4/gallon and above, fuel efficient economy cars only made up 4% of the vehicles sold in the US. This is not because consumers couldn't find economy cars, it's because they wouldn't buy them. Light trucks and SUVs, on the other hand, made up almost 50% of sales. This is why Toyota, Nissan and even Honda (the Ridgeline) introduced new and/or improved full-sized pickups and SUVs for 2008. If car companies could dictate what people drove, then everyone in the early '60s would have been driving an Edsel. Like every other business in the free market, the car industry makes what people want to buy. Period.
  2. The Big Three can't compete with Japan or Europe in making smaller cars. Two of the biggest selling brands in Europe and Asia are Ford and Opel, a GM brand. The best selling luxury car in Asia is Buick. Seriously. WAY more prestigious than a Mercedes! Europe and Asia have not had the luxury of subsidized petroleum prices, so they have been paying the equivalent of $5+/gallon for years. Therefore they demand more fuel efficient cars, and Ford and GM are happy to oblige. However, the price spike this summer took everyone by surprise and an industry as big as the Big Three can't turn on a dime. They need to shut down their North American manufacturing plants and retool them to make small cars, and that takes time and money. These would be very good loans to make (unlike the bailout of the financial institutions, which doesn't seem to have had any effect on consumers or taxpayers whatsoever) because there is every possibility they would be repaid, and that the taxpayers could even make money on the deal.
  3. Unions are the problem. Trust me, the current crisis is not because workers at the Big Three are seriously overpaid. The Big Three have inherited a lot of financial burdens regarding retired workers, especially their health care costs. Actual wages, worker for worker, are comparable to what the nonunion foreign car manufacturers pay in this country.
Right now, the biggest problem that the Big Three have is directly related to the banking crisis, not to anything they have any control over. They have cars to sell and customers who want to buy, but NO ONE CAN GET FINANCING. The credit markets have frozen. GM will not finance a vehicle for anyone who doesn't have at least a 700 beacon score. 700. That's quite high. The average American has a beacon score in the low 600s-- 620 or 630. Most Americans cannot get financing to buy a car, and if they do, they are paying usurious interest rates, like 15%. The banks who have accepted the bailout money are sitting on it, they are not extending credit to lowly consumers.

If you really want to help yourself in this environment, do yourself a favor, close your bank accounts and join a credit union. Credit unions are nonprofit. They don't charge ridiculous fees, and they are much more interested in individual account holders ("members") than they are in trading in shady mortgage packages or investing in credit markets that they don't understand.

Put your money in a credit union and let the banks go under.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fun in politics

On today's "Talk of the Nation" on NPR they are discussing the most corrupt states. They haven't revealed #1 or 2 yet, but Florida and Texas have to be up there. It's true that other states have governor's resigning in sex scandals, but Florida and Texas have a certain style about them. An air of circus folk. Being from Virginia, I've always been a little dismayed at how dignified our government tends to be-- it's admirable, but it lacks something in entertainment value. The late, great Molly Ivins once observed: "If you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in Texas politics." The same is true in Virginia, but they tend to maintain that Jeffersonian air of dignity, despite the best attempts of some individual members, like the extended session where every time a certain delegate rose to speak, the entire Assembly would make various barnyard noises, honoring the fact that this delegate was a veterinarian.

Florida, though, has it all: Convicted felons being voted into office, occasionally while still in jail; dead people voting (Miami); legislators hiring hit men to take out members of another family; corruption; vote rigging; you name it.

Today the talk is about the soon-to-be-ex-Governor of Illinois who has been arrested and charged with trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. What elevates this story to the stratosphere of stupidity is that he was already being investigated at the time FOR CORRUPTION. And he KNEW IT. What was the train of thought that lead him to say, "You know, I know that they're looking hard at me for corruption charges, so I think I'll make a phone call from my office phone and discuss the fact that the person Obama wants to succeed him in his Senate seat hasn't yet coughed up a big enough bribe." As BikerDude aptly pointed out: When you start taking bids for a public office, you have to know that the person who places the second-place bid is going to report you!

I agree with Molly that politics is the greatest form of entertainment that our country has ever come up with, and that we're going to have to pay for it anyway, so we might as well enjoy the show. Here's to Governor Blagojevich for providing this week's stunning entertainment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Not happy

I mentioned before that our Grumpy Old Lady cat Patches had managed to injure her paws.  Yesterday we went to the vet because the toes seemed swollen and infected and discovered that the problem with her paws may not be an injury, but a symptom of a much bigger problem.  She may have systemic cancer.

There is a lump of some sort in one of her lungs and she has various lumps on her body.  The vet agreed that old cats (and dogs) are sometimes just "lumpy," and most of the lumps are just benign fatty tumors of one sort or another, but the thing on her lung makes everything suspicious.  They're going to do lab work and we'll know where to go from there.  Poor baby.  In the meantime, regardless of whatever else may be going on the priority is to get her toes healed.

The good news is that the antibiotics and the pain killers have definitely started to work.  She came and sat in my lap for a long time this morning while I was reading the news on the computer and stayed until Cinnamon got into my lap, too, crawled on top of her and bathed her to within an inch of her life.  Since Cinnamon was licking the fur on the back of Patches's head the wrong way, after a couple of warning growls Patches finally got disgusted and jumped down.   I think the pain killers were working, though, because Patches was sitting in my lap for about an hour with well-dilated pupils, purring away.  Kitty opiates.  Good stuff, apparently.

Anyway, we'll keep her comfortable and healthy as long as possible.  Poor baby.  And poor BikerDude.  Patches came with him from California when he moved out here, and she's like an old friend.

Meanwhile, Tweak has lost some weight, especially since her week on the lam, and she's definitely feeling friskier.  She has started to follow the boys around, but Kaos in particular is much more agile than she is, so where he will, say, levitate gracefully (more or less) onto my dresser, she will leap up, land with a slide and clear the deck of everything movable.  I find myself going from room to room picking up small objects from the floor next to every flat surface.

This morning, watching Tweak perched on top of my jewelry chest, we finally realized what she most resembles:  A penguin.  Check it out:

Thursday, December 4, 2008


BikerDude is talking about plans for a cross-country bike trip when he finishes seminary in 4-5 years. When he was younger and stupider and living in Southern California, he used to take off with his friends for a couple of weeks at a time and ride their bikes up the West Coast, through Canada, through most of the Western national parks, and all around. He hasn't done any long-distance biking since he's been here in the East, but he still goes out on weekends, sometimes with his daughter MonkeyChild, sometimes by himself, but so far not so much with me because we need to modify the bike before I can ride long distances.

Motorcycle passenger seats were clearly designed for women (and it is always women) who are not, shall we say, of my proportions. I am WAY too tall and WAY too heavy for what they have in mind! The way the pegs are positioned, I end up riding in a position that I rarely assume outside of an OB/GYN exam, which is not one that I intend to maintain for hours at a time. On top of that, I have a bone spur behind my left knee cap which makes bending my knee painful in any event. The problem is that in order to lower the passenger foot pegs (and preferably replace them with foot boards), we have to replace the exhaust pipes with ones that run lower along the frame.

One of the things I have learned in being married to a biker is that asking a biker to modify their bike is like asking 21 year old bride whether to serve the crab cakes at her reception with cocktail or remoulade sauce. Everything is drama! You can't just replace the exhaust pipes because the lower pipes now make the saddle bags look out of proportion, so now we must shop for saddle bags. And if we're going to get new saddle bags, there's no reason not to go whole hog (Hah! See what I did there?) and get a new seat. And really, wouldn't the whole thing look better with a ferring? Then we could install a stereo w/ CD/MP3 player, and how cool would that be??!!

So, anyway, three years later, still no footboards for me.

I did take a motorcycle safety course to see if I could learn to ride, too. Turns out that I can't. When you wreck-- twice-- in the safety class, they are reluctant to pass you. Go figure.

So I'm looking into the Piaggio MP3 scooter:

Note the two front wheels. This is a serious asset.

How bad could it be?

Patches, our old lady, tortoiseshell DSH kitty has managed to tear one of her back claws out from the base (ew!), and now seems to have developed an infection in her toe. The recommended treatment is to soak (HAH!) the toe in warm saline solution, but here on Planet Earth this translates into rinsing it as best as you can with warm water and dousing it with hydrogen peroxide. Then, after you catch the cat again, you can apply antibiotic ointment.

Let me say up front that she's remarkably spry for 14, and still has a bad attitude about being forced to do anything that isn't her idea. The toe looks better, but opening the wound meant that when she got away (inevitably), she left a trail of bloody footprints on my nightshirt, the sink, the carpet, the towels, a washcloth and my pillowcase, where she ultimately stopped to wash herself and glower at me. I also have fresh cat scratches on my neck from where she climbed me to get away.

How badly can a creature be hurt who can put up a struggle like that? From now on, BikerDude can take care of his own damn cat!

Monday, December 1, 2008


I was perusing the latest Virginia Lawyer's Digest over the weekend-- the Disciplinary Actions edition--when I ran across a familiar name: The attorney that I used to work for. Out of curiosity I went to the Virginia State Bar website and looked up the opinion. It was a compilation of 17 separate complaints. Seventeen. That's impressive, even for him!

As I read it, I must admit to a tinge of schadenfreude, but that was quickly replaced by a feeling of sadness. All of the actions in the complaint took place in the last 5 years or so, and I left his firm 14 years ago, but I could have written the complaint. Same stuff, different names. Some were clients who paid him a retainer and he simply didn't do the work. The most egregious of these was a woman who hired him in 2005 to do a no-fault divorce and separation agreement, a procedure that should have taken 6 months to finalize. At the time that the complaint was filed in 2008-- three years later-- the divorce was still not final.

Others were clients where he took the case even though he had no expertise in the subject matter. There was an adverse possession claim, for instance. Trust me, this is a man who knows NOTHING about real property law! There were also employment discrimination, worker's comp, and other assorted claims that I sincerely doubt he knew anything about.

Finally, there was the mishandling of the trust account. That's what he got sanctioned for when I left his firm. Obviously he still hasn't learned how to handle that account.

What is missing from the report, though, is the underlying problem: He is bipolar, and he refuses to take medication or treatment for his condition. I don't know if he is in denial about how serious his condition is or his ability to compensate for it or if he doesn't like the side effects of the medication or if he just enjoys the highs from the manic side of the equation and doesn't wish to give them up. One way or the other, though, he shouldn't be allowed to represent anyone until he can demonstrate that he has this under control or the same thing will happen again and again.

I feel sorry for him, but I feel even sorrier for his clients. I really hope he uses the 18 months of his suspension to get his act together.