Archive for August, 2009

Cats Rule, I Mean Cat Rules

August 29, 2009

Cats Rule, I Mean Cat Rules, Part III

It’s Friday. The weather’s awful. Time for a bit of levity. The first part of Cat Rules appeared on July 24, the second part on August 5.

Toys: Any small item is a potential toy. If a human tries to confiscate it, this means that it is a Good Toy. Run with it under the bed. Look suitably outraged when the human grabs you and takes it away. Always watch where it is put so you can steal it later. Two reliable sources of toys are dresser tops and wastebaskets. There are several types of cat toys:

Bright shiny things like keys, brooches, or coins should be hidden so that the other cat(s) or humans can’t play with them. They are generally good for playing hockey with on uncarpeted floors. My addition: Especially at 3 a.m.

Dangly and/or string-like things such as shoelaces, cords, gold chains, and dental floss also make excellent toys. They are favorites of humans who like to drag them across the floor for us to pounce on.

When a string is dragged under a newspaper or throw rug, it magically becomes the Paper/Rug Mouse and should be killed at all costs. Take care, though. Humans are sneaky and will try to make you lose your Dignity.

Within paper bags dwell the Bag Mice. They are small and camouflaged to be the same color as the bag, so they are hard to see. But you can easily hear the crinkling noises they make as they scurry around the bag. Anything, up to and including shredding the bag, can be done to kill them. Note: any other cat you may find in a bag hunting for Bag Mice is fair game for a Sneak Attack, which will usually result in a great Tag match.

Food: In order to get the energy to sleep, play, and hamper, a cat must eat. Eating, however, is only half the fun. The other half is getting the food. Cats have two ways to obtain food: convincing a human you are starving to death and must be fed *NOW*; and hunting for it oneself. The following are guidelines for getting fed. My addition: Isis does NOT follow any of these rules.

When the humans are eating, make sure you leave the tip of your tail in their dishes when they are not looking.

Never eat food from your own bowl if you can steal some from the table.

Never drink from your own water bowl if a human’s glass is full enough to drink from.

Should you catch something of your own outside, it is only polite to attempt to get to know it. Be insistent — your food will usually not be so polite and try to leave.

Table scraps are delicacies with which the humans are unfortunately unwilling to readily part. It is beneath the Dignity of a cat to beg outright for food as lower forms of life such as dogs will, but several techniques exist for ensuring that the humans don’t forget you exist. These include, but are not limited to: jumping onto the lap of the “softest” human and purring loudly; lying down in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, the Direct Stare, and winding around people’s legs as they sit and eat while meowing plaintively.


This and That

August 27, 2009

Cleaning up loose ends today, so here are some highlights:

  • Glad to see Colin McEnroe will return to the airwaves.  NPR is brave to let him loose for 58 consecutive minutes a day.
  • It’s 2009. Why does black women’s hair remain a source of angst?And leave the Obama girls alone. They’re little kids!
  • The weather, Hallelujah, has finally broken. Now we have to worry about Danny.
  • Pirates old and new were in the air this a.m. I turned on NPR and got Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point,” featuring Richard H. Patton’s book “Patriot Pirates”  about the privateers who harassed British shipping during the American Revolution. Then I picked up the NY Times Arts section from Sunday (yes, I’m behind again) and read about “At the Edge of the World,” the documentary about saving the whales in which the rescue ship flies a modified pirate flag.
  • I had intended to devote an entire entry to the subject of over-the-top commentary, but Michael Malone said it better than I can. I especially liked his notes about people who can only disagree by calling him a traitor or a Nazi. Also liked his list of types – the troll, the droll, the skimmer, etc. who inject their views online. There’s a sidebar to this issue having to do with whether Google should “out” people who write potentially defamatory material, but it’s too complicated for a quick hit.
  • Again a topic I had meant to cover in depth, but the opening summary and first paragraph of “America’s Worst Drivers” are distressing enough: “Nearly 10% of America’s drivers couldn’t pass a DMV licensing test if they had to take it today. … At least one of every five drivers doesn’t know when to use bright lights, how to follow directional arrows or when highways are the most slippery …” I guess the only surprise here is that there aren’t more crashes.
  • I don’t understand the purpose of wOw. It seems to be a combination of fluff, fizz and gossip. The headline “Paul Podlucky: Get Scientific With Your Hair,” drew me into the photo essay and the article. Here’s what I learned: use a well-lighted mirror, keep it simple, and post an ad for skin products when you don’t have enough to fill a photo essay. wOw’s weather chart includes temp, forecast and the type of hair day, though I couldn’t seem to find Hartford. And in the last article I looked at, Miss Manners, Gossip Girl Liz Smith and a couple of others discuss Sarah Palin: she’s likely to stay in the public eye, just not in Alaska and not in politics.
  • Here are two sites that I click on daily to donate to people and animals. The Hunger Site sends 1.1 cups of food every time you click, though each person  is limited to once in 24 hours. I’m probably going to buy the Wakami Eight-Strand Earth Bracelet, which will count for 50 cups of food. Plus it looks terrific. And even though the photos often break my heart, I click daily on Animal Rescue, too.
  • Ikea Hacker came across my radar screen quite some time ago, but I haven’t looked at it in a while. The products just keep getting better. The idea is to take Ikea wares and “hack” them into something completely different. Among my favorites: An $8 stand for a laptop computer made from shelf brackets and a drawer handle.  And I’m definitely looking at all those ideas to hide cat litter boxes.  What I like best about it all is that Ikea gets in on the action with ads and special offers. After all, people are buying their stuff even if it’s morphing into something unexpected.
  • A site that I don’t look at often enough is The Guardian’s book blog.  Its appreciation of Dominick Dunne captures the essence of the site: “Trash from the top drawer.”
  • And here’s one that I was sure I had mentioned before but didn’t. I’ll probably do a whole entry on The Moth, but in the meantime enjoy the great storytelling.

Blame the Brits

August 27, 2009

First, RIP, Senator Edward Kennedy. He was a giant of a man in so many ways, with his assets and his faults. As someone said earlier, in lieu of flowers, reform health care.

Given Kennedy’s ethnic heritage, it is perhaps fitting that today’s entry deals with the sins that Great Britain has visited upon the rest of the world. The theme for our topic arrives courtesy of the “Back Story” in last week’s Newsweek. The headline reads, “Did Britain Wreck the World?”  The online version omits one of the best parts of the piece, i.e., the visual of used tea bags leaving stains all over the page. (Anyone who has tried to remove tea stains knows how permanent the color is. We used it as a dye when I did costumes in the theater.) The tags of the bags in “Back Story” are the flags of various nations that Britain controlled and then screwed up over the past few centuries. The list includes Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Israel and Palestine, Somalia, and Nigeria. In most of these places the British created artificial boundaries based on no logic.

Much of the legacy was the result of overt meddling and tone-deaf favoritism for certain groups, combined with benign neglect of infrastructure. Now these places are all powder kegs with the potential to ignite into larger conflicts.

The two Stanford University professors who provided the sources for this piece could have added a few more places. Even though it’s quiet now, Northern Ireland should go on the list since resources from both sides of the Atlantic fueled a conflict that still festers. Elsewhere, Australia is just beginning to clean up years of oppression of the Aboriginal people who suffered at the hands of the convicts that Britain sent as far from its shores as possible in the days before space travel.

We here in the Western Hemisphere suffer as well. Canada still deals with the impact of misguided treatment of First Peoples, as they call Native Americans. And the British-settled colonies in this country practiced the worst forms of slavery since they regarded their slaves as chattel on a par with horses and other livestock. That idea was grafted into our law for centuries. The French and the Spanish for all their dreadful treatment believed that the people toiling in their fields were human beings with souls. Of course part of the motive was to increase the population of the Catholic church; nevertheless they baptized their “servants” long before the Brits thought about the benefits of conversion to Christianity. It’s a whole lot easier for me to find information about my slave ancestors in Louisiana than it is in Virginia or New Jersey.

Post-racialism notwithstanding, we continue to see the impact second-class citizenship for the descendants of former slaves in low rates of employment, income, and of course education.

Even our legal system suffers from the remnants of bad British law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s bone-headed decision in Kelo vs. the City of New London was based on the theory of eminent domain, the right of the government to take private property. Until Kelo most people thought that the taking was limited to truly public purposes such as roads and schools. Justice Stevens said nope, people’s houses and land could be taken even if the “public” benefitted were shopping mall and hotel developers, because the overall plan promoted economic development.

Here in New England, Britain left a lesser but no less outrageous legacy: bland food of roast beast with Yorkshire pudding, overcooked vegetables, and such “delights” as steak and kidney pie. That particular sin has been mostly washed away, thank goodness, by frittatas from Spain, gallons of pasta sauce from Italy, gyros from Greece, hummus from the Middle East, and New World cuisine from Mexico and Latin America. I found it funny when I searched “English cuisine,” the sponsor was Tabasco sauce! But still the blandness lingers. If one goes to a chain in the south, the same food has a whole lot more flavor than it does in “New” England.

Quick Hit

August 25, 2009

Update on the charley horse: Much better, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the quinine, the Benadryl, elevation for a good part of the day, or a change of computer chairs. Did some yoga, which seemed to help, too.

This entry is quick because (1) I don’t have much to say on the subject and (2) ranting against the NYTimes has filled too much of this of this blog anyway.

I missed the original story that prompted Clark Hoyt to write “The Insult Was Extra Large” in Sunday’s paper. But Cintra Wilson infuriated a great many people. Among other sins, she called J.C. Penney a “dowdy Middle American entity in … big old shorts and flip-flops.” She even insulted the mannequins, calling them obese and saying they probably needed special insulin to keep their limbs on.

The sad part was that she seemed to be clueless that her comments would upset people. Even her first “apology” really wasn’t. She told readers to “remove the knot from your panties, join me for a cigarette and several Pucker martinis.” She finally acknowledged to Hoyt that it was “kind of provincial” of her not to figure out that readers might be upset. If she’s that clueless, maybe she shouldn’t be writing for the Times.

One of her fans thinks that the alternative to nasty and inaccurate is boring. This guy believes Hoyt and Times Exec Editor Bill Keller deserve to be pilloried for criticizing someone who thinks that stores like J.C. Penney don’t deserve to be in Manhattan since they cater to real women (as opposed to the Size 0s of the world.) This is also a man who seems to spend his day commenting on his own blog!

Charley Horse

August 25, 2009

Quick update: The musical washer does well, though the loads take twice as long. Drying time on heavy-duty stuff is less than half. All is well on the laundry front.

The otherwise quiet weekend of cleaning and reading the paper and trying to stay cool had one rude interruption. I woke up about 5 a.m. Saturday with a charley horse in my right calf. I guess I screamed because Larry came popping out of his study where he’d gone to watch the early news. I stretched and pulled and stretched and pulled. The serious hurt finally subsided but now I’ve got episodic pain. Sometimes when I get up it’s fine. After that’s happened a couple of times, I forget the injury and then the next time it hurts almost as much as the first time. Sometimes when I get up it’s just a little twinge.

The first thing I wanted after the serious pain subsided was to figure out why it happened. I get cramps in my toes if I’ve walked around all day in high heels. But I’d been in flip-flops, the same two pairs that I’ve worn all summer. Friday evening I had donned on a pair of sandals with an inch-high heel, the same pair I’ve been wearing on and off for the past three summers.

So I began searching the web for answers.

The National Institutes of Health focuses on cramps that occur during physical exercise and stress lack of hydration as a cause. I really don’t think that was the problem since it happened while I was asleep, and the only exercise I had done on Friday was walk up and down stairs (a lot of stairs) in the library at Wesleyan. But I’ve done that before, too, without any problem. Because of the hot weather, I’d been downing massive quantities of water all day for days. We’d had fish for dinner, and Mother always said that afterward we had to “make the fish swim,” so I’d had one huge glass of water right before bed.

About Orthopedics listed six possible causes of which five did not apply: muscle fatigue (I was asleep), heavy exercising (ditto), dehydration (see above), high weight (my BMI is 21.5), and medications (not taking any unless you include ridiculous amounts of vitamins). So that left electrolyte imbalances, which is a possibility since I’d been drinking so much water.

It was still bothering me enough Saturday evening that I gave up going to hear Guitar George Baker, which I really wanted to do. It’s now Monday and I’m still getting twinges and stabbing pain in no particular order.

So I tried to figure out what electrolyte or vitamin deficiency might be the culprit. Body and Fitness listed several possibilities.

I immediately eliminated calcium because I take what Larry refers to as several “horse pills” daily to ward off the osteoporosis that plagues the females in my mom’s family. The other one that I knew about was potassium. Since I don’t like bananas that was a possibility. I scarfed up some baingan bartha (Indian eggplant stew with tomatoes, both high in potassium).

The surprise supplement deficiency was Vitamin E, which is in the multi-vitamin. That one helps circulation, which could certainly be a problem since my feet and hands stay cold unless it’s 90 degrees outside, which of course it has been for the past year – maybe it’s only been a week but it feels like a year. I’m a little reluctant to take more Vitamin E and even the Web site says not to stay on large quantities for more than two weeks. Natural sources are probably best, so I’ll return to sprinkling wheat germ on my yogurt and eat more almond butter, which is ridiculously expensive but tastes better than peanut butter. The flavor is so intense that I find myself using a lot less of it.

Next I’ll try magnesium, though here again I’ve been eating fish and tofu, which are two good sources. Guess I’ll go buy some pumpkin seeds.

Also called the doctor who called back just as I was feeding the cat. Betsey prescribed quinine. “Yes, tonic water, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving you permission to add the gin,” she said. I assured her that was not a problem since I’ve never been able to get it past my nose. It smells like some old-fashioned hair tonic that my parents’ friends poured on their heads. Another possibility is Benadryl, which we keep around against the stings of the various bees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets that lurk on the property.

Having now tasted the quinine, I’ll be happy to consider it medicine. I drank some about two hours ago, and it does seem to be working. At least I no longer feel as though someone is putting an ice pick in the back of my leg when I get up.

And finally, who was Charley? And why is his horse involved in this horribly painful muscle cramp? Well the WWW (that’s World Wide Words) traces the phrase back to about the 1880s and baseball. Beyond that, it may refer to a lame horse owned by the Chicago White Sox, or to a player on the team who suffered from the affliction. It’s etymology is as mysterious as its etiology.

What I’m Reading Now

August 21, 2009

Another in an occasional series.

Posting early today because we’re going to a birthday party and the weather looks like it’s about to erupt into another of those thunderstorm with tornado threats.

A quick note about Michelle’s Obama’s vacation attire. Her outfit in that much-repeated photograph were not, repeat NOT, short shorts. Short shorts barely cover the butt and are the sort of thing Brüno wears. Besides, Mrs. O’s legs look good, so why shouldn’t she display them? Plus, she’s on vacation. What’s she supposed to wear, a Givenchy gown and pearls?

The book I picked up the other day is another in the category of “Why did I decide to read this?” That happened with Jessie L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance, and “Apologies to Jessie L.”  gave me a thorough education in Grail studies – and the Grail’s connection to religions dating back into pre-history.

This time I found myself with a copy of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, and it’s giving me an amazing education in ancient Japanese culture and literature.

As to the reason for picking it up, I think it was because of an article in the NYT Travel section in January about the 1000th anniversary celebration of the novel. The author, Michelle Green, even dressed in the traditional layers of garments, in this case amounting to twelve. I’m trying to visualize how they moved around. My guess is not much and very slowly. And since it’s 90 degrees outside here, I can only imagine that the leisure class had lots of body servants wearing much less clothing to fan them when the temps soared.

I vaguely remember reading a piece of this early novel in some long-ago lit class, but  have no memory of the contents. So I started in. Decided as I generally do, to read the introduction after I’d finished the text. In this regard I follow the Ann Petry theory that such additions deprived readers of the opportunity to read and analyze and to think for themselves. See At Home Inside. Mother limited her views to the use of intros in modern fiction, but I believe it applies to all fiction.

Genji is tough going, though, as it is filled with literary allusions. Characters wander in and out, and their relationships are not always clear. The two-page list of principal characters that precedes the novel helps some, but doesn’t always provide the needed answer.

At 117 pages into the first volume (the thing runs a total of 1,000 pages), I’ve had to  reread Chapter 4, “Evening Faces,” after I was five chapters along because I thought I had missed some important information. Turns out it wasn’t there even though the footnote directed me back.

The culture that Lady Murasaki presents fascinates me: men and women of the leisure class who spend hours observing nature; men and women who become expert in playing musical instruments simply for their own amusement; men and women who compose rather self-conscious and overblown poetry to suit each mood; men and women who apparently do not consider monogamy or chastity a necessary value. Genji was more promiscuous than most. Michelle Green calls him “Japan’s own Casanova.” The text makes clear that he also indulged himself with boys on occasion.

Religion plays a role in the lives of the rich and titled, too, but on a kind of Chinese menu basis – one from Column A, two from Column B. When Genji becomes ill, his father the emperor turns to religion for a cure. “Continuous prayers were ordered in this shrine and that temple. The varied rites, Shinto and Confucian and Buddhist, were beyond counting.”

Chinese culture enters in, too, almost from the first sentence, where the emperor’s court is said to look with disfavor on the Chinese emperor’s great passion for a woman of lesser rank that apparently led to revolution a century before the lady wrote Genji. The Japanese seem to rely on other countries to produce their fortunetellers. A Korean reads Genji’s facial features, and an expert in Indian astrology foretells his future.

More than anything right now, reading Genji makes me want to visit Japan, especially the area around Kyoto to see the dew on the wild carnation and the forests “receding into a spring haze.”

Steal This Blog

August 21, 2009

(Credit for the title goes to Abbie Hoffman, author of Steal This Book, which can still be purchased.)

Debate has been raging for months – probably years at this point – about how various web sites handle news and information that they don’t generate. Just as there have been gross examples of plagiarism in the dead-trees-and-ink world, claims fly almost every day about folks stealing material on the web. Of course since the original idea was that information wants to be free, it’s no surprise. The accused thief claims it’s fair use, or worse, says that its web site exists to take stuff from other places.

Mark Glaser hosts Media Shift, a variation of the Media Cloud with more words and fewer graphics. Glaser has come up with a way to gauge what’s theft and what’s “promotion,” his term for giving another person’s work better play than it got on the original site.

Because I like to think of myself as a promoter, here’s the link to the Steal-o-Meter and the story about it. Since promotion also includes some original content, here’s my critique of the Meter.

Glaser gets the easy one right: “Reuse without Authorization” is pure theft because the content is repeated without attribution. Panic Reprogramming, the alleged culprit, no longer seems to exist.

“Drive-by-Summary,” committed by Gawker is also easily id’d as theft. The link is there but so is all or most of the content. There is no reason to read the original. One has the feeling that Gawker’s snarky attitude may have contributed to its inclusion as a thief. I guess Daily Beast would fall somewhere between theft and promotion in the “weak” category because it does produce some original content but also lifts from all major news sources for its “Cheat Sheet.” (See “Reading The Beast,”  and  “Daily Beast Redux,” December 11, 2008.)

Where I have a problem with the Meter (here’s the original content, folks) is that it gives blanket permission to Google News. The site will lead people to the original if they don’t read any other news source, but it did not “drive” me to a single story. I’d already read the big stuff elsewhere: voting in Afghanistan, Ted Kennedy’s request for a change in the way Senate vacancies are filled in Massachusetts, the unemployment numbers. As for the rest, I really didn’t care. Glaser may want to revisit this category as he seems ready to give a pass to any large entity. Guess that lets me out.

Maybe I fall into the “Summary with Spin” category, though I don’t “excerpt heavily” and do generally express strong opinions or an “additional angle.” Glaser’s example is a story in Gawker about the demise of Second Life that lifted huge chunks of his own work. I probably would not have clicked on the links to the original if I hadn’t been writing about it.

And I try to draw on more than just one source for each post, so I’m hoping I can still fall into the promotion category because of some sort of analysis. Have I become a metameme yet?

Understand This

August 20, 2009

First, a quick update on the gremlins-in-residence: 1) Yesterday when I came home from Reiki, the toilet paper roll and cermaic holder were sitting on the radiator. Larry told his sister, Debbie, about our domestic disasters, and she said, “Let it out! Open your windows and let out whatever is in there!” He laughed at her, but I’m sitting here with most of the doors and windows open wide even though humidity is nearly 100 percent. Will take care of opening the rest before the temp shoots into the stratosphere again. 2) This afternoon the new washer arrived. It does just about everything except sew the clothes, and it plays “The Star Spangled Banner.”

So today’s topic is something I don’t fully understand. Maybe by the time I finish, all will be illuminated.

Cloud computing seems to have arrived about two years ago, and basically allowed companies and universities and big government to gang a bunch of huge servers so they can figure out really complicated stuff at supersonic speed. At least that’s what I got from this Business Week article. The most basic examples of cloud computing are the email services such as Gmail or Hotmail. How Stuff Works has the clearest explanation of how it would help a company that has a changing demand for computer access based on the number of employees. One otherwise pretty garbled account made the great point that companies would save money by paying the company supplying the cloud as needed for email, conferencing, finances, and other kinds of services, instead of having hardware and software sit around.

Of course based on the latest round of hacking, I’m not sure I’d trust my data storage to some non-physical realm even if it is double password protected and the passwords are changed daily. Sure I keep some emails on Hotmail, but the important stuff gets downloaded, and then if it’s really important I back up to a thumb drive or better yet, print out a hard copy.

So I think I get the uses and the disadvantages of the cloud, except maybe how it got its name.

But now comes the Media Cloud. It touts itself as a way to see the “flow of information.” I played around with the visualization part with mixed results. The Top 10 and the map worked great for the BBC and the NYT, but when I put those two, plus Talking Points Memo into the Top 10 pivot with “Whole Foods boycott,” a blank screen appeared and did not go away.

The “who is covering what” section has potential, but it led me to terms like Metameme and Semantic Web. Huh? Not helpful.

I went back to the NYT. There I learned that Media Cloud intends to allow people to see who is writing about what, where, and when. So it will be a cyber version of journalism’s Ws. And the article explained a meme is “anything … that spreads by imitation from one person to another.” Memes even have their own follower, called, surprise! MemeTracker. From there I learned that “lipstick on a pig” had a usage curve during 2008 presidential campaign that looked kind of like the chart for the stock market last year, though the lipstick remark has continued to flat line.

And a metameme is a meme about memes. Oh my. And Semantic Web? My head is hurting, and I don’t think it’s the heat, so maybe we’ll visit that one another day.

But the bottom line is that I do appreciate what Media Cloud is doing and will check back with them in a few months.

Boycott Whole Foods?

August 18, 2009

This issue erupted about the same time as my washing machine and bathroom mirror, so I only had a chance to read about it late yesterday.

It started because the head of the Whole Foods chain wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal opposing “Obamacare.” John Mackey led his screed with a quote from failed-stater Maggie Thatcher saying that the trouble with socialism is that “eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Of course people who agree with his position still call him a nut. He tried to game the system a few years ago by dissing his then-rival Wild Oats in anonymous emails. Of course I had no love for Wild Oats, which bought and then closed Cheese ‘N’ Stuff, a great local health food store that served as the only grocery in a marginal section of Hartford.

Mr. Mackey and others never explain exactly how Mr. Obama’s proposals constitute socialism, but the label is a convenient way to avoid true analysis. Basically what Mackey wants to do is create insurance mega corps like the banking behemoths that sent the country into an economic death spiral. His proposal is the meanest sort of total free market for insurance companies so that they could simply collect premiums and never pay for care.

Boycotting Whole Foods will not be a chore for me as I rarely shop there anyway. There is no store that’s really convenient. The closest is more than 12 miles away, and I seldom feel like driving 25 miles round-trip to pay ridiculous prices. (There’s a reason the place is nicknamed Whole Paycheck). Parking is a headache at all of the stores I’ve visited. Trader Joe’s and the local health food store serve my needs quite nicely. I did praise Whole Foods for being early in the campaign to give credit for reusable shopping bags. “Bag Bans

It is a bit upsetting that the top items on Google all support Mackey or are neutral. Since he loves Internet communication, maybe Mackey will notice that since his op-ed ran, Boycott Whole Foods on Facebook has nearly 14,000 fans as of 6 p.m. And the “health care reform” forum on the Whole Foods site is hoppin’! At least Living the Science gave a balanced view.

Of course Mackey wants everyone to remain healthy by eating wholesome foods – but don’t buy them at his store because he admits the chain sells “a bunch of junk.”


August 18, 2009

Two quick notes:

File this one under weird: The first two tropical depressions-storms-hurricanes have been named after my cousin (Anna) and her father (Bill).

And file this one under “How low can they go?” It seems the Courant yanked a column to avoid infuriating a big (sleazy) advertiser. The columnist quit. Good for him.

After last week’s computer upsets – which seem to have resolved themselves – I was ready for a nice, quiet weekend. HA! My cousin Ashley says that Mercury retrograde is responsible. That could well explain the computer problems, but the little mischief-maker isn’t usually powerful enough to wreak the havoc we went through on Saturday. I generally experience Mercury Rx (this program won’t take the symbols) as a quick, single-event hit that doesn’t involve machinery.

Saturday a.m. started hot, humid, and nasty. I got one load of wash into the dryer and started cleaning bathrooms. When I went to take the second load from the washer I discovered that the machine was still full of rinse water. Since the repair guy had been here on Monday, I was miffed, to put it in PG language. Tried another cycle, and machine started to sound like a pile driver. Then it began to smell. Part of the water drained out. Larry came in from taking care of dogs and suggested letting it fill and run through a full rinse cycle. It filled but wouldn’t agitate. We left it alone while I went on cleaning. Larry went back down a while later and said it hadn’t drained but he’d wrung out the clothes. I called the repair guy and went down to get the towels out of the dryer and put the wet clothes in.

Came back upstairs and about 2 minutes later, the repair guy walked in the back door. He went downstairs and came back up almost immediately. Said the motor was fried. He hadn’t caught it on his previous visit because the machine was cold – hadn’t been used in two days. We could probably nurse it if we wanted to let it rest between loads. I said, oh, no. And, dressed in my housecleaning clothes – a pair of ancient shorts and an even more ancient T-shirt and grubby flip-flops, with fly-away hair that would have terrified the Wild Woman of Borneo – I packed up two laundry baskets, detergent and a ton o’ quarters and went to the local mini-mall. I managed to get three machines together and was done in less than an hour. The loads were a lot heavier going out than coming in, but I wasn’t about wait for the dryers at the laundry.

Came home and loaded up the dryer once again. Then took the dry stuff upstairs. When I got to the top of the stairs, I wondered why the bathroom door was closed. The cat’s litter box is in there so it pretty much stays open. There were a couple of black shards on the floor, but it didn’t register until I pushed the door open and heard “Crunnnch.” There were pieces of mirror, large, small and in between, strewn all over the floor. A few had landed outside before the rest of the cascade had slammed the door shut.

I collected my wits and got a bag for the big pieces. The glass cut through it so fast that I barely had time to put it on the floor, so I changed tactics: I carried the big pieces to the trash, put the medium sized pieces in the dust pan, and began sweeping up the little pieces. Escaped with just one tiny superficial cut on my right thumb. I put a big sign on the garbage can that says “broken glass.” We like to keep our trash collectors happy.

By this time, Larry had come in from the “lower 40” where he’d been talking to our neighbor.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. When I came home the mirror was in pieces all over the floor.” Larry said he thought he heard something but he was involved in a conversation with one of his clients at the time. The cat was asleep right across the hall in the bedroom, and I’m surprised she didn’t have a complete meltdown. Or maybe she did and had recovered  by the time we saw her. Anyway she was snoozing in the chair even while Larry vacuumed up the remaining shards and ground bits. Usually she heads for the hills, but maybe it was too hot to budge.

I was in the kitchen debating whether to start cleaning it when someone walked up on the deck. He looked at me as though I was not the person he expected to see. Asked for Larry but didn’t say who he was. It was a client, who had stopped to give a report on his dog that had a minor medical emergency. All is well with pooch. The rest of us, I’m not so sure.

On Sunday I went to the hardware store and bought a stud finder. I asked one clerk who headed toward the front of the store and then asked another clerk who headed in a different direction, and then asked a third clerk, who gave all of us a dirty look and zoomed right to the spot. First clerk looked like he was skipping back and forth at the entrance to make the door open and close when I left.

I also bought some paint to cover the frame of a really nice mirror that my father for some reason painted with a Band-Aid color (I refuse to call it flesh-colored). I painted it Sunday, but the house still smells like acrylics because the thing said to apply the paint at a temp between 50 and 90. When I came back from the store it was 93 outside. But it was a comfortable, dehumidified 72ish in the basement. So that’s where the mirror reposed until today. It has now migrated upstairs, but we haven’t figured out how to hang it since there don’t seem to be any studs in a convenient location.

Also I wanted to make room for the new washing machine, which we purchased today. Sticker shock set in when an elderly customer in the store introduced us to a $3600 refrigerator. The price of the washer didn’t seem nearly as bad after that.

Haiku version of Saturday’s events.

Entropy is setting in

Washer stank then broke

Bathroom mirror falls to floor

Variation of what I posted on Twitter.

Entropy: Washer died. Mirror fell off

the wall and locked itself in the bathroom.

May better days lie ahead.