pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: September 2013

27 September 2013

Another Big Orange Spider

Yet another orb weaver
Orange County, California
28 August 2013

Here's another big orange spider for all you big orange spider fans. They must be out in force in your yards (in Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania) because you are showing up in force looking at them here.

They are good spiders. This one was busy eating a fly.

(I can take a photo of the brown widow in my mailbox if you like...)

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

24 September 2013

This is a test

Aquatic sausages
Monterey, California
8 August 2013

I wondered, looking at them, how lying sideways on a rock could be comfortable in any way. And yet, there they were.

Recently, we attended an event, a sort of reunion, and there was much about it that reminded me why I never attend reunions. In the intervening time, I've gone on and done other things in the world and so have other people, and never the twain shall meet and the reasons why we intersected in the first place are gone so...

So, I found it uncomfortable.

And weirdly, I ran into someone that I met some years ago in circumstances that had nothing to do with the group in which we both currently found ourselves, and the part of me that is quasi-extroverted didn't hesitate to open her mouth, while the part of me that is utterly introverted was silently trying to beat the louder half into submission. It was a when-worlds-collide moment in more ways than one.

And I found it awkward.

Finally, after the spouse had the opportunity to talk to the requisite folks to whom he wished to speak, and the daughter had been introduced to the people she regularly sees on TV (which made her blush and stutter), it was time to go.

All in all, a bit like lying sideways on a rock. Awkward and uncomfortable in all ways.

And yet, there I am.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, Nikkor telephoto lens.

23 September 2013

Let sleeping otters lie

Zen paws
Monterey Bay, California
9 August 2013

The shower is tiled and the vanity is installed. Tomorrow the painters come and the roofing company bashes a hole in the ceiling to install a skylight.

There was no damage to the subfloor, no mold (a thing of nightmares) in the damaged wall. Still, the expenses mount with unexpected and unwelcome finds.  Whatever, I tell myself. It was necessary. This was structural necessity, not a cosmetic endeavor. It's coming along.

I have been prepping fundraisers, and buying supplies. Familiar territory. I send out peppy emails, and wonder at the disconnect between the content (exclamation points! Terribly enthusiastic!), and the tired, disinterested author of said missives.

Really, this is stuff I could do in my sleep. And I seem to be.

If I can just get through Thursday. If I can just get through Saturday. If I can finish out next week...

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, Nikkor telephoto lens.

09 September 2013

On his throne

9 September 2013

Milton is taking no pleasure whatsoever in this whole bathroom business. There were people on the roof today, and people messing with ductwork (and pulling off part of my bedroom ceiling). While there are workers about, he huddles miserably in the laundry room, glaring every time I check on him. He was probably more put out today by the fact that I wasn't checking on him (I was setting up fundraisers. Always something.).

There is stuff piled everywhere in my house: tile, plumbing, the odd bit of drywall. The bathtub is now in the bathroom (better than in the garage), but the toilet is sitting in two boxes.

Milton loves boxes. This box in particular is just the right size for a cat. He can sit on it and see the room and down the hall. It's convenient for having a good bath. He tried to get into it to see what's inside (to no avail), but in the main, he's content to sit on top of it and look superior.

I know he'll miss it when it goes. The contents won't be nearly so compelling in his book.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

05 September 2013


Many years ago, I stood in my dining room and admired the place settings that I'd laid. My wedding china gleamed and the crystal sparkled.  Our teak dinner table, which basically screamed newly married couple, glowed warmly as the afternoon sun peeked in the French doors that led to our backyard. From the kitchen came the aromas of dinner cooking. I'd worked hard on that dinner, and I smiled at the waiting table, feeling accomplished and very grown up. Two of the spouse's thesis advisors and their wives along with another couple were to be our guests at dinner.

At odd moments, I suddenly become very aware of my life, the strange and wondrous processes that have gotten me to a certain point in time. And as I stood there, I suddenly realized that I was feeding dinner to a lot of pretty famous scientists. In a short time, in fact, the former head of the Jet Propulsion Lab would be sitting at that table. I tried to feel the momentousness of that fact. But the truth was, to us, he was Bruce.

Bruce Murray, one of the founders of the Planetary Society, professor emeritus at Caltech, died last week. With his passing, the world loses another visionary. We lost a friend.

I met Bruce back when the spouse and I started dating. He was one of the spouse's thesis advisors, and if you've never experienced the rigors of living with someone studying for a Ph.D., then you might not know that thesis advisors sort of become adjunct members of the family, whether you want them or not.

(Of the spouse's thesis advisors, several fell into the Do Not Want category. Bruce was generally good fun.)

I am well aware that Bruce was both revered and reviled for fighting what he saw as the good fight in promoting planetary science. Personally, I'm grateful to him for making sure that we had all those amazing photos of space. But there are a lot of other people out there far more qualified than I am to write about his work and his legacy. I can only tell you about the guy I knew: a man of immense intellect and boundless enthusiasm. A man who always had an idea, was ever ready with a plan. When I think of him, I always see his smile.

I remember him giving a talk on a theoretical lander for Mars, and while he stood in the projector beam, his arms described huge arcs as he went up on his toes, mimicking how the payload would bounce along the surface. I also remember him calling and waking us in the middle of the night when he'd come up with some important something that he needed to share with the spouse that very instant. At least until the night I answered the phone, and told him--sleepily but firmly--not to call after 10 pm. Which, bless him, he never did again.

Last week, the spouse and I raised a glass in Bruce's memory, and we laughed about the time he gave us two visiting Soviet scientists to entertain. We remembered the fun dinner to which Bruce and his lovely wife Suzanne treated us just before the spouse and I married. We grinned about the time he got Carl Sagan to sit in on the spouse's first talk at a conference, and the BBC science program that both he and the spouse ended up in. We recalled the many reasons for our affection for him. And we drank, not to the well-known scientist or the mover and shaker, but to the man who came to dinner.

04 September 2013

There will be wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper--YAY!
3 September 2013

About 10 years ago, I pulled on a loose bit of corner on the daughter's bedroom wall, and the paint came up and I discovered layers of wallpaper covered in layers of paint.

Didn't anyone ever tell them that you aren't supposed to paint over wallpaper?

Anyway, that discovery led to a month's worth of wallpaper stripping and repainting, and a good bit of blue language from yours truly as she stripped and painted.

Knowing this, I warned the contractor that when he started pulling stuff out of the bathroom, there was going to be wallpaper. And there is! Vinyl wallpaper covered in oil-based paint. And I wondered why I couldn't control the mold despite constant scrubbing.

I'm sure that wallpaper was quite fetching with all the orange tile...

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

03 September 2013

Fun with mid-century bathrooms

Scary brownish-orange bathroom
ca. October 2003

There are crashes and bangs and the tinkling of broken tile coming from the back of my house.

I've been talking about this remodel for close to 15 years, and trying to make it happen for 10. I even entered this photo in an ugly bathroom contest.

(Actually, compared with what it looked like at 7am this morning, it looked great 10 years ago. And the bathroom we lost to? SO much worse. I was happy for those homeowners.)

Why did it take 10 years to make this happen? We aren't entirely sure. At first, it seemed that the economy was so good, housing so hot, that contractors didn't want to remodel a bathroom unless they were taking 1/2 the house with it. I wasn't ready to remodel 1/2 the house 10 years ago, so I would get contractors out here to give me an estimate and they would laugh, not call back, or tell me honestly my bathroom wasn't worth their time. At least one of those has since gone under. Another (who wouldn't return my calls after the first visit) now regularly contacts me ("let's renew our relationship!"), begging for work. Who's laughing now?

Anyway, I persisted, but got side-tracked when the spouse needed surgery. Then, I started thinking about it again (the plumbing started dripping) and in early 2007, the son blew out his knee, and I spent the next 18 months occupied with his rehabilitation, surgery and rehabilitation.

The bathroom only got worse.

By the time the son was back in shape, the economy started to go to hell in a handbasket...

...and the spouse needed surgery again.

Something started leaking inside the shower wall. Contractors were returning my phone calls. I got a guy out here to give me an estimate...

...and three days later, I ended up partially paralyzed.

At which point, I came to the conclusion that there were malevolent forces at work keeping me from remodeling the bathroom. I said it, laughing, incredulous, not really believing it.


So, rehab, rehab, rehab.

Also, life.

November 2012, I opened a website on my computer to look at bathroom vanities being sold by a local designer. The phone rang. My daughter, between sobbing breaths, informed me that she'd just dislocated her right patella.

Rehab, surgery, rehab.

In April, a contractor came to do some work for us that did not include bathroom remodeling. I haltingly showed him the bathroom, and in hushed tones asked if he'd be interested...and by the way, it was haunted and didn't want to be remodeled.

He laughed and slightly snidely suggested that we have it saged. And yeah, he'd do the work.

I ultimately decided that he wasn't a good choice. Called another contractor.

The new contractor came out in late July. I loudly announced that my poor tired bathroom wanted to be beautified. The bathroom did not immediately contradict me.

Contractor submitted a bid. I accepted it and started buying tile and hardware.

My right plantar fascia became inflamed.

I signed a contract and wrote a deposit check, and promptly became violently ill. Friday morning, the spouse was trying to get me to call the doctor. I pointed out I was in horrible pain, but this did not meet my personal doctor-calling criteria: no fever, no blood, no symptoms of shock.

I picked out the granite countertop Friday afternoon.

Saturday morning, the spouse fretted that I probably needed to go to the emergency room.

I yelled at the top of my lungs that it didn't matter if I was hospitalized, if I was in emergency surgery all weekend, that the bathroom demolition was starting Tuesday morning at 8 am WITHOUT FAIL.

Saturday didn't go very well. But there was still no fever, no blood and no symptoms of shock. I slept when I needed to, cleared out bathroom cabinets, made room for the daughter in the master bathroom.

Sunday and Monday were much the same.

The contractor and demolishers arrived this morning.

Demolition has proceeded apace. Dear bathroom, I stopped telling you how ugly you were and started telling you how beautiful you could be.

Hopefully, I will survive the next five weeks.

Tech stuff: Probably taken with an old Canon Powershot S110. And yes, I'll eventually get to the doctor.