Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Glitches, Glories, Goodbyes

The red sky on Sunday morning infused the landscape with pink. It was the second morning of Red skies in the morning, Sailor take warning. We're all hopeful that it portends rain. Weather men began to cautiously predict . . .

* * * * *

You won't remember me. We met more than once, me, as one of a crowd of teens and young adults who sat around you on the ground and on floors, on benches and on rocks, at hootenannies in California and Ohio, singing in support of peace and social justice and civil rights. And hanging around just to be in your presence. Your voice and your struggle fueled our enthusiasm and our dreams. You never gave up the fight for the dream over these many years. You've had a long life and a good one. You will be missed.
 Le from California                     x

Link [ Goodbye Pete Seeger ] to an article reposted from Variety
about Pete Seeger's life and times

*   *   *   *   * 

It's that time of year to buy 2014 season tickets for Stage 3 Theatre in Sonora, California. I purchased my regular season ticket, but hesitated a bit before deciding go ahead and get a ticket for the Saturday preseason Special Engagement, Looking Over the President's Shoulder. I didn't know much about it except that it's a one-person play about the man who'd been butler to several Presidents. Was it reminiscent of The Butler, on a similar topic? I haven't seen that one either.

Photo from Stage 3

There's usually a standing ovation for any play, but it unfolds slowly as cast members take their bows in order from minor characters to the stars. I will look cautiously around, not wanting to be the first to rise.

This was a one person play, so there's no unfolding, but I leaped to my feet instantly, applauding as loud as I could.

Alonzo Fields was a butler to the four presidents and their families from 1931 to 1953, presented as his reminiscence as he retires. The audience sits on three sides of the central stage, simply dressed with a bus stop bench, an elegant dining table, a sideboard, a service cart, a movie screen, and, out of view, coat hooks whence the actor, Dwight Mahabir, gets his change of jackets. Mr. Mahabir's deep voice can ring his words through the ceiling girders or drop to a whisper as he shares confidences with the audience. Oh, and his singing voice!

I wanted to race home and do a review that would send you all running to the theatre for the final performance on Sunday, but it was too late to make online reservations.

Material for the play by James Still came from interviews with family members, private papers and diaries, and Fields' book My 21 Years in the White House. Publication of books by domestics was subsequently banned.

At the end of the play, audience members look over the dining table.

Audience members exit the theatre to line up to meet the actor.

Dwight D. Mahabir, as Alonzo Fields
For a professional review, see here.

Sunday was devoted to a project for Soroptimist that was due by the 28th. I worked until I was beat, then realized that the deadline is February 28th, so I didn't have to stay up all night to finish.

Two chairs arrived to replace the tattered love seat in the living room. I'm not even sure what day they came. They're in boxes. Some assembly required. There are two 4-tier shelving units in boxes in the basement. Some assembly required, but those should be a snap. I've already done two much bigger versions of those for my quilting studio. I dawdle around until Monday afternoon to assemble the shelving.

I see why people tear the boxes apart. The "slipping it out the end" method took me 20 minutes.

First item of business is to count all the parts. I almost breezed by that step, given the smooth way that had gone on all my prior assemblies. Most of the counting is completely obvious. Four shelves, 4 top rods, 4 bottom rods, 32 spacers. The first bag of spacers has 6 in it and there are only four bags. I see a prospective problem. We are two spacers short. That takes care of one corner of one shelf. I had one missing sticker, cosmetic only, for the DVD shelf I assembled. A replacement arrived in a hurry and I assumed spacers would, too. Meanwhile, I could either swipe two out of the other box, or see whether the leftover spacers from the quilting studio shelves would work.

I finished it using two not-quite-identical spacers from the quilt studio shelf set, and got the second set out of the box much more quickly.

Hmmmm. Is that one spacer set upside down???

I launched into the second box, this time actually counting first. All the numbers were right so I started putting the corner rods together and ran immediately into a problem. The double-threaded joiner on one of the top rods had been started hard and crooked into the rod. I couldn't get it out. I don't think anyone could have, especially without demolishing the threads. Thwarted! I was too late to call for the day.

This morning it only took one "I'll transfer your call" to get the guy who could help me. Two spacers and a top rod and joiner will be on their way.

Today I upgraded Quicken from 2011 to 2014. I had to do it twice to make it "take." On the face of it, it doesn't look too different but Quicken warns that certain functionalities in 2011 will be deactivated in April. And I've certainly discovered a bunch of old obsolete accounts that show balances that I know are not there, so there's no relying on "the bottom line."

The UPS guy delivered a package this afternoon. I will no longer have the excuse of bad weather or fear of missing a favorite TV show in order to exercise.

This thing got all five star reviews and passed everyone's durability tests. It fits back in the box so isn't a room hog, and it's light enough to move around. Need to use my walking sticks "until" my balance improves. It's untested so far, because just as the UPS guy arrived, I was on the phone with the vet.

The little grey cat seen here on the lower right a few weeks ago, was lying over the water bowl, her face barely above the water. Leaves and dirt were all over her back, her eyes were squinty, she didn't run from me when I touched her. I couldn't see any injuries on the top of her, but she did go hide when I went to get the package from the UPS guy. Later she returned to the water and allowed me to touch her briefly. I've never known whether this kitten is a he or a she, but there have been cats in heat out somewhere, since the big old black male, Black Kitty, father of most neighborhood cats, came around for the first time in months. He is really old, a homeless cat rather than a feral, and I thought he'd probably died by now. The little grey cat stinks of cat urine, so it just strikes me that she's been ravaged. I got a cat carrier and gloves and lifted her into the carrier, without a struggle but several loud meows.

She's in a carrier, with a cup of water and a bowl of food and a towel to lie on. She'll be warm and dry, although her bathroom facilities aren't ideal. Tomorrow the vet is in and if she makes it through the night, I'll take her in and see what's going on.

Well, if red skies in the morning are sailor take warning, does this really mean red skies at night, sailor's delight?

This is our sunset this evening. But the TV weathermen are doubling down on rain coming up in the forecast. We're on the edge of the green rain zones, maybe a tad below the blue snow zones, but we're hoping.

See you soon.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

We'll take some of that extra rain and snow . . .


Clouds. Glorious clouds when I went out to the car to head to NeedleCrafts this morning. There've been days and days of sun and drought. We're on track for the worst drought since . . . . I hear since the 1970s, then a hundred years, maybe ever. Another big snow like we had in December would be good. It would release its water softly into parched soil.

Earlier this week, I got onto the coffee table project. That's the one that came in a box that weighed a pound and a half more than I can lift. I rolled it into the space beside where it will live on my heavy-duty dolly.

Took out and counted all the parts.

Sister gave me a gift one year of boxes that look like big books, in hopes that I'd keep my incoming mail in them and not scattered about the coffee table or the rest of the room. Stacked, they were exactly the right height to support the bottom shelf while I screwed it into the legs.

Et voilà. New couch and new coffee table. I have chairs coming to replace the old love seat.

Back to Thursday at NeedleCrafts, Sandy is working on one of the embroidered greeting cards our visitor from Montana taught them to make last week.

Two of our ladies who arrived a little late reported that two rain drops had hit their windshield as they drove into The Little House where we meet.

Stopping at the grocery store on the way home, I met a dog in a truck. It looked at me out of the open driver's side window as I walked past the truck. It's eyes seemed to plead with me not to come too close to the truck, because it really didn't want to masquerade as a guard dog. It rested its chin on the back of the seat, watching me as I put my groceries in my car.

The sky stayed gray for my trip home, not as beautiful as it had been earlier in the day. I got out of the car and walked down the driveway to pick up my newspaper. I didn't want to forget to bring it in as I noticed it wasn't wearing a little newspaper raincoat. Squee! I spotted rain drops on the pavement. Look!  See!

That was it.

See you soon.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

if I could lift one-fifty . . .

Saturday, January 18

I walked into the living room this morning and faced this. The far one needs flipping before I can even take on the assembly, and it weighs in at 150 pounds. I suppose I'll have to wait until Monday to get assistance and then proceed with "some assembly required." In addition, I still have two shelving units waiting in the basement to be assembled.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. It's now the end of the week, so I'll go back to the beginning of it.

For the first time in forever, I managed to make an airline reservation that didn't turn into an adventure tale of its own. Except for a balky airline website (forever to load, forgetting my entries), my end of the transaction went well. Let's just say I remembered NOT to reserve on a weekend when there is no one to answer the phone at the airline if anything about the transaction goes amok.

Some projects don't lend themselves to a great sense of progress; opening and processing the mail, for example. It arrives so much faster than I can deal with it, so it piles up. I had fantasies of sorting it on the dining room table and being done with it. That's a dangerous tactic if I don't manage to finish it up in one day. I did get to paying bills, and one more concrete project: lining the drawers in the zinc dressers.

Yes, they're supposed to look mottled, like a zinc bar. It's real zinc. I didn't know about zinc's boho cachet in Parisian bars, which you can find if you Google "zinc bar." Daughter and Granddaughter thought it most appropriate that this Paris-lover should be the one to purchase these from Granddaughter when she downsized her living quarters. Sooo, I need to decorate in some way that goes with . . .

Cutting up drawer lining paper . . .

I don't know how old these are and what has been kept in them in their lifetime, so I like this smooth interior. And I got the liner on sale, which is what largely dictated the color and design!

Early in the week I heard from the delivery company that my couch, AKA the Ravenna Pillow-Top Euro Lounger (convertible into five distinguishable configurations), was in their possession and they would be contacting me with a delivery time. This follow-up contact turned out to be more like an FYI that the delivery would be between noon and four on Thursday.

Thursdays out?  They couldn't come on some day besides Thursday? That wouldn't give me time to eat the noon lunch at NeedleCrafts should they arrive at the early end, and it would push the time too close for a trip to the Little City down the Hill for French class if they arrived at the late end of the interval. I cancelled my lunch reservation at The Little House.

The muscle guys from my landscape maintenance service had hauled away the ratty couch on Tuesday, so a space was ready for the new thing. When the two guys arrived to do the "Threshold delivery" I led them and the box through the house to this spot, hoping they wouldn't object to the distance from the threshold. They stood it on edge at first and it rocked gently. I could envision mashed cat.

Did I mention it weighs 150 pounds and that my luggage-tested lifting capacity is 37 pounds, and that's with a handle and a side grip? A discussion ensued. Assembly was described as pulling the legs out of a zippered pocket and screwing them in, making it seem most logical to lay it down on its top. Cool. Off they went in plenty of time for me to go to French class.

Henley and Jean-Luc watch from the comfort of the other room (obligatory cat picture).

A buck and couple of does were in my driveway when I went out to the car.  Only these two were in view by the time I pulled my camera out.

Although I could see the full moon out during my drive home, it was just coming over the hill behind my house as I pulled into the driveway. I've yet to get a good moon shot, but this was grabbed in an instant and not properly planned. Which is what usually happens.

I had to get up early Friday morning to run back to the Little City down the Hill to have the ever-popular mammogram. I took the winding back road into town in sports car mode most of the way. Felt great. I used to do a whole lot more fast driving, but now I'll lolligag along sometimes as well, with attention to things around me, rather than on the nuances of the road. When I came out of the Imaging Center, I looked at my poor car, covered in dust and dirt, and decided to go crazy and go to the car wash.

As I sat in a parade of cars ahead of me taking turns getting churned up, I figured my poor car hadn't been washed since when I got back from my September trip to France. It sits during a trip in a very dusty spot, without even the benefit of a windshield washer being used, so I always get it some gas and a wash to drive home. Either I need to take more trips, or spring for these crazy no-occasion car washes more often.

In the city near the airport, the car wash handles the cars more than one at a time. This one doesn't. There's the car ahead of me in the mist.

A recorded female voice gives instructions which can't be heard once your windows are tightly closed and blasts of water and air are pounding you. You can just make out the silhouette of the car ahead departing as soap blasts me.

Then there is the three color polish. I thought this was quite lovely.

There were no tentacles of a giant mop, nor the huge rolling brush. In fact, I think my car was untouched by anything but liquid and air. There may be no humans involved, and we drive our cars through, rather than "put it in neutral and don't touch the brakes." I'm waiting for the green light and I'll be done.

When I arrive home, another delivery awaits me on my deck. The tiny kitty known as Little M came out to greet the car as if to make sure I saw this. It's the coffee table which has arrived without fanfare or appointment or Threshold Delivery. It weighs 38.5 pounds, has no handle or side grip, and so I cannot lift it. Fortunately it's something I can handle with leverage and ropes and pulleys. No, only used leverage and a foot jammed under a rolly wheel to tip the box onto my 3- or 4-way hand-truck/dolly. It just fit through the door lying flat and I parked as you saw back in the first picture.

I really didn't intend to start any assembly projects Friday afternoon. I would let them sit there until this morning and then get to work. Curiosity got to me, though, about just how easy it was to screw the legs on the Euro Lounger. I got scissors. I approached the big upside down box. The bottom of the box, not surprisingly, was fit into the "top." It looked like the tape which had gone all around the edges had been cut, then a lot of perpendicular tape added to hold top and bottom together.

I began slicing tape. I lifted the bottom of the box out of the top. There was the bottom of the lounger. Hard to tell where the zipper pouch for the legs might be among plastic and a bazillion little packets of silica gel taped to the plastic. And, I couldn't see any instructions or other parts packets. I cut the corner tape so I could flatten the "top" and see under the lounger. No deal. My dilemma had compounded. I would need someone(s) who could lift the 150 pounds to find the instructions and parts under the top, then someone(s) to flip it right-side up once the legs were attached.

I appealed to the Woman with Many Handy Resources, the head honcho of my landscape maintenance service, and she knows a guy. She'll have him call me.

I think that was this morning that we talked. I don't wake up very early Saturday mornings. It's usually my sleeping-in day. Then I get out my laptop to get my start with email and Facebook, and blogs posted since the night before. It goes well for awhile, until Henley decides it's time for me to get up. "Okay, Henley, I'm taking your picture with me," I told him. That's Henley and me in bed. I'm reading things. Jokingly I told the Facebook people that I'd publish a selfie with a cat behind in my face.

That didn't happen until later when FB Friends were discussing photo special effects and they were posting "Posterized" pictures. I asked what it was and how they did it and found it's some kind of filter in the photo software.

Filter? Huh? I searched my software. It has dozens of buttons I've never touched. I explored until I found one that did what sort of resembled what I was seeing as "posterized, and applied it to cat's rear end in the face, thusly.

I didn't hear back from the guy until latish this afternoon so I thought I'd be waiting until Monday for the job. He said he'd be over in a few minutes. And he was. He is able to wrangle pianos so a mere 150 pound Pillow-Top Euro Lounger is not a problem. He lifted and I retrieved instructions. He assembled. The special nuts and bolts weren't as easy to install as one would think they would be, and two pairs were faulty. The well-equipped tool box and miscellaneous hardware I inherited from my husband made it possible for him to finish the job, and he flipped the Euro Lounger up on its feet. We ratcheted the back through some of its different configurations. We sat on it and pronounced it firm but comfortable. He does all kinds of handyman things. I know his wife. She is also a quilter.

I sincerely hope the cats won't want to claw it, whether it's real or faux leather.

Next, a coffee table. And maybe some mail sorting. See you soon.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

No, it's Tuesday, not Wednesday

It had to happen some time. The couch is thrashed. Take a look. You can guess why.

My husband introduced the concept of declawing inside cats back with our first kitten together in 1979. This never happened to the furniture, and the cats were adept at defending themselves with the rabbit kick if push came to shove.

When I got Henley and Ferguson, my first Burmese, I had to pledge not to declaw them. Conceptually, I agree that declawing a cat is a pretty nasty thing to do, but then there's the couch. And the matching love seat. And the throw rugs. And the new carpet.  It really is nicer to live with a declawed cat.

Oh, I read the advice. Have a scratching post nearby and teach your cat to use it. Just to the left of the end of the couch there is a scratching post. On each side of the love seat, there are scratching apparatuses (apparati?), too. And in most of the other rooms. They use the scratching posts, but that doesn't lessen their glee at scratching furniture. It's Henley's joy in life to lie on his back and shred the couch, giving me his most impish innocent grin. They shred the back, too. They are oblivious to instruction.

Ever since Christmas, there has been one sale after another online. I've been looking at couches. I've been looking for leather or microfiber, hoping they're less tempting to cat claws than the loose textured weave. I finally focused in on one and ordered it. It's being delivered by a freight company that introduced itself to me by email and promised to communicate with me to set up an appointment and send two guys to do "threshold delivery." That means they don't just drop it off the truck in front of the door. They will deliver inside a threshold. I'm hoping "threshold" extends into the living room to the same exact spot where the old couch stood so I can assemble the new one on location.

When I got an email that the couch was in the possession of the freight company, I called my gardening service to send some muscle to put the old couch in the back of my truck so I could take it to the dump transfer station. I confirmed with her yesterday to send them today. I almost didn't answer the call with the out-of-town caller ID last evening; I'm tired of fending off solicitations. Fortunately I did, because it was a freight guy, setting up an appointment for Thursday delivery. There goes my day at NeedleCrafts, and maybe even French lessons if they come at the late end of the delivery window.

I measured my truck this morning and I think I would not have been able to close the tailgate. Probably not a problem if it were a flat trip to the dump, but it involves a long climb up a steep winding road and I had visions of any rope I might secure it with stretching, and I'd find myself stuck, blocking the road with a couch I can't lift.

It wouldn't fit through the back door. (How did it get in the house in the first place? I can't remember.) About the only alternative is through the front door. At this point, I decided to take them up on an offer to take the couch to the dump transfer station in their truck. They've got better tie-downs than a stretchy rope, and the ability to pick it back up if it slides out on the road.

The front door is wider but the course is more difficult: one step down out the door and onto a small porch; turn left, down two steps onto the deck; turn 180 degrees to the right and down a stairway to the front driveway. Left to my own devices I would have stood it on end and cartwheeled it down the stairs, but the guys looked askance at the suggestion. (Not everyone catches my deadpan humor.) I demonstrated with the couch cushions. They went down beautifully, but I suppose their symmetry kept them on a course the couch might not have done.

Coincidentally, last night I was wondering why the cats didn't have any toys around to play with. I'm always buying them. When the couch was removed, I found of the answer. There are no doubt other toys under the stove.

Once I let the cats out of the bedroom, they immediately found the missing toys.  Jean-Luc took possession of the toy that most realistically looked like a little animal.

He distances himself with his prey from the other cats.

Plays with it in a blur . . .

 He bites it first, then puts it in a food bowl. He does this with other things: stuffed animals, knotted grocery bags, the lumbar cushion on my recliner . . . chews on them, feeds them, then eventually eats them. I have to take them away from him before he's able to ingest them. Toy animal stuffing is not good for the digestive track of a cat.

You can still see the predator in my hot house flower.

Chloe has been a cranky cat since Jean-Luc joined the family. She'd been friends with Henley and Ferguson, and a pal of Henley's after Ferguson died. But she has always hissed at Jean-Luc. He, on his part, took to laying in wait and attacking her. For most of this time, she has run from him, taking refuge up on a chair or under a table. Lately, she has been standing her ground, hissing and batting at him. Yesterday, to my amazement, I caught her and Henley frolicking and playing together. I'm always a little too late in picking up the camera to catch the action. Henley has galloped into the kitten room, but Chloe, knowing she's on camera, doesn't pursue. Her last blood test came out very well. She is clearly feeling perkier.

She's a pretty girl. She'll be 15 in April. We almost lost her before her thyroid condition was diagnosed a few years ago.

I told the guys who took the couch that they're arrival was very timely, as the new couch is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Then I called the Little House to cancel my lunch reservation. A live person answered and I told her I couldn't stay for lunch at NeedleCrafts tomorrow because of a delivery.

"Tomorrow's not Thursday," she said. "It's Wednesday."  That brought me up short. I thought today was Wednesday, and probably would have trotted down to the Little House tomorrow to open up for the gals and do a quick hello before going home. Only they wouldn't have been there. If tomorrow is Wednesday, this must be Tuesday. (Does that remind you of a 1969 movie?)


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Waiting for something to happen . . .

[Spoiler Alert: There will be cats and kittens.]

This was one of those gray days that seem suspended in time, waiting for something to happen. There are forecasts. For days they've said there was a chance of rain coming through the area on Saturday. As the weekend drew closer, more and more qualifications and parameters were applied to the forecast, until it shrunk into only snowfall in the Sierras at over 7,000 ft. elevation, with maybe some sprinkles in the foothills. That's us. The foothills. The thick air felt plump with rain.

On the other hand, a written weather forecast predicted heavy, possibly dangerous winds in the foothills from 10 a.m. Saturday until midnight.

We had that big snowfall back in early December that stayed on the ground for days. We had one good patch of rain early. At this point, I don't recall whether it was in the immediate run up to the snow, or earlier. I had the ominous feeling that this fabulous start to the wet season would just dry up on us, leaving us water-short for the rest of the season. So far, so bad.

There are cats on the deck, waiting for something to happen. That's the littlest kitten on the rail, the fluffy black one on the table, and you can see a trace of gray ears and back nestled in the chair at the far side of the table.

Inside, Henley and Jean-Luc are waiting for something to happen. I was trying to get them in their nest on the bed and their reflection in the mirror. I miscalculated as I hunkered down behind the bed: the real cats are pretty much blocking the reflected cats. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at my own appearance in the picture, given the non-angle I was shooting from.

Deer are a little more animated. They walk and wait, catching a bite or two of deer brush as they saunter by . . . deer mode for waiting.

Three hours later, the kittens haven't traveled very far for their wait. Note in the lower right corner, a tiger cat is coming up the steps. They will notice . . .

Heads swivel toward the newcomer, whom I can't spot from my angle in the house.

I had a request from Sister, traveling far from home, for cat pictures, so I'll continue with that theme. Henley is looking for something. This is when we arrived at the Man Cave at Sister and Brother-in-Law's where we stayed while carpeting and painting were being done in my house.

Jean-Luc generally looks surprised, or has a vacant stare. Hard to tell what's going on in that little brain.

The kitten in the middle is the one that disappeared. It was turning into such a pretty cat. The black one I call Craig's kitten and the little stripey I call Nina's kitty.

Fluffy black kitty appears to be waiting for a bird to trip and fall off the roof for its edification

Henley at rest at home.

Jean-Luc feigning being at rest. He has found a matching background on the couch I got from Granddaughter.

The outdoor kitties hang out in the collapsed wood-carrying cart. That stripey cat may be the mother of the Siamese. My theory is that fluffy black and fluffy gray are siblings from another mother.

Again. They sure love cuddling in this thing. If I set it up, they knock it down, usually in the middle of the night, startling me awake.

The day remained gray. I heard on the news that there were sprinkles in My Little Town today, but nothing measurable. Sometimes when I looked out the window, rain appeared to be falling, but it never wet the ground.

I don't think I saw a leaf stir. So much for the dangerous winds. We often don't receive the forecast winds. Makes me think we live in an area that's sheltered from those northeast winds.

We're all waiting for rain. (And you were forewarned about cats and kittens.)