Friday, August 1, 2014

When Cats Meow, I Jump

Thought for the day: Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

At one time, Smarticus didn't think he liked cats. But that was before we had cats. Now he spoils them every bit as much as I do.

Which, of course, is exactly what every cat deserves. Just ask 'em. They'll tell you. They were once worshiped as gods, and as far as they're concerned, they should still be worshiped as gods. Makes sense, right? This explains their uncanny ability to maintain such a haughty regal air about them, even when they're caught doing something stupid or clumsy.

Anyhow, much to my surprise, it looks like we have three cats now. Yeah, three.

Remember Dash?  This is what she looked like when we adopted her from the shelter almost five years ago.
And this is what Dot looked like. We figured two cats would be juuuuuust right. That way, they could entertain each other. Besides, we had no choice. They picked us. (Anyone who has ever adopted an animal understands exactly what that means.)

This is closer to what they look like now. Most of the time, they get along well, except for occasional bouts of sibling rivalry...

... like over who gets to sit on my lap. I was reading the newspaper... Oh well, what can I say? Their royal highnesses decided it was nap time.

If you'd like to see an earlier post about our girls, including some fun little-known secrets about cats, go here.

Cats work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause the most inconvenience. [Pam Brown]

Anybody remember Cowboy? I wrote about him a while back. Lots of you urged me to adopt him. He was forever hanging around our house, looking in the windows and waiting on our front porch to greet me every morning, so we thought he was a stray. I mean, he was the epitome of the poor outsider looking in. So you might think HE would be our new resident feline. But nope. It turns out, he has a home. He still spends a fair amount of time in our yard looking for some cuddles and some food, (not necessarily in that order) but since his owner got him fixed, he doesn't spend nearly as much time mooning at us through the windows. (Hmmm, methinks it may be possible he was mooning at our girls.)

This is the new Swiderski feline. We named her Daisy. Her previous owners moved away, and left her behind to fend for herself. Before they dumped her, we saw her in our yard a few times, often being chased away by Cowboy. But she was extremely skittish, and not very friendly.

Then we noticed she was getting thinner and thinner, so natch, we started providing her with food, too. Her own bowls on the front porch... away from where Cowboy had his bowls out back. (His and every stray cat from miles around, that is. I swear, there must be some sort of underground communication that enables critters to let other critters know where the restaurants are. A very very large raccoon especially seems to enjoy the cuisine...)

Anyhow, the more we fed her, the friendlier she became. The more loving she became. The closer she came to making us fall on our arses because she kept doing figure eights around our feet whenever we walked outside. And the more she tried to follow us into the house.

Uh-oh. It was pretty clear. She'd picked us.

So we had no choice. We took her to the vet. Got her tested, de-wormed, and up-to-date with her shots. She's spayed, clear of fleas, and has a clean bill of health. Okeydoke. Time to bring her inside.

FIREWORKS! [Morguefile]

Not so okeydoke.

Dash and Daisy don't get along very well. What an understatement! They chased each other around the house like a couple crazed bats outta hell. (sigh) Talk about noisy fireworks!

Oh well. Our fault. We should have taken more time to introduce Daisy into the herd. Especially to our princess Dash.

Now, the new little kitty is in our Florida room, where our other girls can see her... but can't get at her. Dash and Daisy still try to attack each other through the glass from time to time, but I think they're becoming a little more used to each other. I'm hopeful they'll eventually learn to live together, and soon. Otherwise, we're gonna have to find Daisy a new home.

[Would anyone like to adopt a cat? Daisy's about eighteen months old, less than ten pounds, and extremely sweet and loving. Isn't picky about what she eats, either. She gobbles up whatever kind of cat food, wet or dry, that we give her. I guess being abandoned on the street has a way of instilling appreciation, huh? Seriously, if any of you local folks are interested, just send me an email or give us a call. We'll even throw in a big bag of food! Pssst... hey, Kyle...!]

And so it goes. At least for now, we have three cats.

And I swear, we're stopping at three.

I think.

I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It's not. Mine had me trained in two days.  [Bill Dana]

Oh yeah, it's been a while since I posted anything new about the things our pets have taught me. Well, I've learned something else new from our cats, especially Dot. She loves to knead my belly. Vigorously. So what have I learned? It's her fault. I'm not really gaining weight. Thanks to her administrations, my belly is simply... rising.

Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this because of all the time they spend on personal grooming. A dog's idea of personal grooming is to roll on a dead fish. [James Gorman]

As you read this, I'm not anywhere near my computer. (Dontcha love the pre-scheduling feature on Blogger?) I'm actually doing something really really cool. I'll tell ya about it next Friday, but in the meantime, I won't be online to respond to your comments for a while. But I will get back to you. Assuming our four-legged furry kids let me up, that is...

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Will Blog For Books

Thought for the day:  Books are uniquely portable magic.  [Stephen King]

Yes, indeedy, it's that time again. It's Cephalopod Coffeehouse time. Time for a bunch of us book-loving bloggers to sip fragrant beverages while sharing information about some of the innovative, new, and not-so-new books we've read over the past month. Wanta participate? Just pop on over to The Armchair Squid's blog.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.  [Haruki Murakami]

If you're still here, is it safe to assume you like to read? Well then, what do you think about FREE BOOKS? Yeah, I know. Dumb question, right? I'm pleased to say I've won a lot of books through Goodreads' giveaways... as many as three in a single day. But, that's kinda hit-or-miss, and based on the luck of the draw. What if there were a program where you can simply request a book, and (ta DA!) it gets shipped to you? Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But it is true. Allow me to present ...

Maybe you've heard of bowling for dollars, or fishing for compliments, or running for office, but have you ever heard of (Insert drum roll here.) Blogging for Books? Don't worry; I never heard of it, either, not until the lovely Connie told me about it, that is. Now I'm passing the info on to you guys. Would you be willing to write a review on your blog about the books these fine folks send you? (Which, by the way, YOU get to select.) If so, who knows? Maybe you could take part in this program, too. To find out, all you have to do is go to their website and answer some simple questions. You get to select your preferred genres from a wide range of categories, and then if you're accepted, you have immediate access to a list of books from which to choose. Less than a week after I put in my request, I had my first selection in my hot little hands. Am I psyched? You betcha. I mean, come on! Free books? What's not to love? Check it out.

Okay, time to consider some of my reading indulgences from this past month. I read a couple Nicholas Sparks books, which were as enjoyable as a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows... and just about as predictable. Another Iris Johansen book, which was good, but not one of her best. I finally got around to reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, too, and was delighted to find it's every bit as good as everyone says it is. I thoroughly enjoyed Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton, which is about a feisty and unforgettable seventy-five year old feminist. But the book I'm gonna highlight this month is the one I got from Blogging for Books. Not just because I agreed to blog about it, but because I genuinely loved it.

                           The book?

"My Paris Kitchen." Appropriately enough, it arrived on my doorstep on Bastille Day. Kinda cool, huh? Piggy that I am, I devoured the entire thing in one gluttonous sitting.

Is it a cookbook? Yes, but it isn't just a cookbook. It's an intimate cookbook with a myriad of personal touches, and it's written by an accomplished chef who's every bit as talented at spinning a delicious story about what it's like to live in Paris as he is at whipping up a mouth-watering meal.

Lebovitz relocated from California to Paris ten years ago, and with this book, it's almost as though he's taken us with him, because this book immerses readers in the realities of Parisian living.

Does it contain some wonderful classic French recipes? Yep, but that isn't all it contains. Like many other places in the world, the infusion of other cultures and nationalities has greatly influenced French eating and cooking habits. So this book also contains delightful recipes from other regions, too... with a bit of a French twist, of course.

In addition, this book includes clever tricks of the trade that any cook would appreciate, and some spiffy updates on some of the classic recipes found in my old (ie. antique) Julia Child cookbook. The recipes themselves? Extremely well-written, often illustrated, and simple enough for most cooks to tackle with confidence. (However, I don't think I'm gonna tackle the duck fat cookies... You're welcome, Smarticus.)

Oh, yeah. I know I already told you once, but according to the instructions, I'm supposed to add a disclaimer to the bottom of my review. So here 'tis...

DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

For those of you who aren't into cooking, another book I read this month may be more to your liking: The Ghosts of Nagasaki, by Daniel Clausen. Talk about a unique book. I'm telling you, it's a literary Mobius strip. Past and present, real and imaginary, dead and alive... they all seem to coexist on the same plane, so it's a real mind-bending thought provoker. Plus, that dude really knows how to write.

                                              Okay, y'all, have a super weekend.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day Tripping

Thought for the day:  You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.  [Yogi Berra]

When Smarticus and I hit the road, we pretty much know where we're going, and thank goodness, he knows how he's gonna get us there. If it were up to me to do the navigating, it'd be like Yogi said: we might not ever get there... even with a GPS. For someone as directionally challenged as I am, a GPS would simply allow me to get lost with a greater degree of precision.

But no fear. He was behind the wheel when we headed out for a day trip recently, so we actually made it to all the places we were hoping to visit.

This was our first stop... the Georgia Guidestones, which rise twenty feet into the air in the middle of a farmer's field in little ol' Elberton, Georgia. Also known as the American Stonehenge, I'd read quite a bit about this mysterious monument, and even wrote about it in a couple previous posts, but this was the first time we actually visited. Totally cool! Look at that dramatic sky, too. I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail here, but if you're interested in learning more of the background behind the mystery, you can read about it in this earlier post: Stonehenge Whodunits

Why in the world... and who in the world... would pay big money to have something like this built in the middle-of-nowhere, Georgia? Literally in the middle of a farmer's field. (Cattle are grazing on the other side of that wooden fence...) All we know for sure is these Guidestones to an age of reason were built in 1980 to the detailed astronomical specifications provided by an unidentified mystery man who commissioned the work on behalf of an equally mysterious and anonymous group of his friends.

Here's a shot looking up toward the capstone. See the writing? The same message for mankind (Perhaps for a post-apocalyptic world?) is engraved on the stones in twelve different languages: English, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, Swahili, as well as in ancient Sanskrit, Babylonian, Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, and Classical Greek. Talk about covering all the bases, huh?

I can't verify what the writing says in all of the languages, but I can tell you what it says in English:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  • Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
  • Unite humanity with a living new language.
  • Rule Passion - Faith - Tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  • Balance personal rights with social duties.
  • Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
  • Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature. 

Do I know any more about the mystery than I did before? Nope, but now we know firsthand how bizarre it is to see, and how eerie it feels to look up at this mammoth creation, especially in such an unlikely location.

Our next stop was the Elberton Granite Museum. This portion of Georgia is largely agrarian, but there are also forty-five granite quarries and more than 150 manufacturing plants to turn that granite into monuments, memorials, and building stones. (Which I'm sure must have played a large role in the selection of this area for the Guidestones.) There were lots of displays about the industry, how it's grown, the tools that are used, blah, blah, blah, but there were three things in that museum that captured my interest.

This antique camera...

this antique chest...

and... Dutchy.

Elberton's first granite finishing plant was built solely to create this statue after the Civil War, (Or the war of Yankee aggression, as it's known in those parts.) and was intended to be a grand monument proudly honoring the Confederate soldiers. With much pomp, the monument was unveiled to an excited crowd of enthusiastic people in July of 1898. Let's just say their enthusiasm was short-lived, because they were totally unimpressed with the short, squat dude with a moon pie face, short fat legs, and huge feet. But to make matters worse, the uniform and cap he's wearing looks like (gasp!) Yankee garb. He was dubbed Dutchy, which was not intended as a term of endearment, and two years later, poor ol' Dutchy was... lynched. Kinda. A rope was thrown around his neck, and townspeople pulled him right off his pedestal. Broke his legs off in the process, so they dug a big hole and buried him... and his legs... face down. In 1982, the statue was dug back up again... and he now lies in the museum... with his legs and feet beside him. Looks pretty darned good for being buried all those years, too.

Our third stop (after lunch!) was the Ty Cobb Museum, which is located in his small hometown of Royston, Georgia. Some consider the Georgia Peach to be the greatest baseball player of all time. After all, he was the first player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, had a lifetime batting average of .367, won twelve batting titles, scored 2245 runs, got 4191 hits, and stole 894 bases, including 55 at home plate. Amazing numbers, most of which still stand as records today, but as proud as his hometown is of his on-the-field actions, his philanthropy, which created an amazing healthcare system in Royston, secured his position as favorite son.

All-in-all, it was a fun outing, and just goes to show ya: there's a lot to be seen in your own backyard. (So to speak.) So let's not (ahem) take those local attractions for granite...

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. Smarticus and I will be hanging out with some of our grandchildren for the next few days, so it may be a while before I respond to your comments. But like good ol' Arnold said, I'll be Bach!