Too Cute Not to Share

For those of you wondering why I still have a kitten since I’m not a cat person, all I can say is “watch”.

If they didn’t like each other, I would’ve taken Pipsqueak to a rescue place, but Xavi obviously loves having her around. I’m pretty sure this is one of the big signs of the apocalypse.

Kitten Found

On Monday, June 3, while walking Xavi, I heard a mewling up the incline by the sound wall. Going to investigate, I found this little girl wedged between the tree trunk and the sound wall, probably for safety.



Knowing that she would likely be coyote or raccoon fodder by nightfall, I took her home to see if I could find a home for her. Xavi immediately wanted to adopte her, but I’ve tried to talk her out of that.

Xavi and kitten.

Xavi and kitten.

I had to put a bell on her, because I kept losing track of her in the house. She is a darling, little one, but I don’t want a cat. Anyone want to adopt her?
Sweet kitten

Sweet kitten

My Dog Is a Capitalist, Except Her Money Is Treats

I mentioned before that I have random conversations with my dog, mostly because she at least looks at me while I’m talking. Well, lately, she’s been talking back. No, I haven’t finally lost my last sanity brain cell, I mean she’s found HER voice and has decided that she must use it. Loudly. At the sprinklers, a passing bird and other various things. I’ve been teaching her the Hush! command, which works…as long as there are treats available. No treats, no hush. And while I’ve gotten many of the basic commands through, like sit and lay down, she will only maintain them if she knows a treat is coming in the near future. If she even SUSPECTS that a treat isn’t coming, she’s likely to break command.
Now, most of the training books and places I’ve been use treats to “get the dogs attention” and say that after time passes, they will just automatically do the commands without the need for reward other than the “good girl” statement. My dog has learned that “good girl” translates to “I’m going to give you a treat”. Whenever I tell her “good girl”, she immediately sits at my feet and looks up at me expectantly. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, except that when I don’t happen to have a treat on me, she then heavily sighs and either walks away (if she’s off leash) or refuses to move (if she’s on leash). Now, I can pick her up, and sometimes do, but I have to say that I obviously do not do well training smart dogs unless I have an unlimited supply of treats in my pocket. Which nowadays, I do. I think I’ve been trained…

Conversations with My Dog

Let me first say that my dog doesn’t understan English. I know this. But living by myself, I’ve discovered that I can either talk to myself (and let me tell you, I might listen to my own advice, but it really is a crap shoot) or I can talk to the dog and feel slightly less insane. Only slightly. But it’s a vast improvement over the usual insanity going on in my head. Most conversations end up with her looking at me like this:

No, Xavi, I'm not kidding.

Passport Wine Tasting

Every three months, the Santa Cruz mountain wineries hold what they call a “passport” day, when any participating winery opens its doors for public tastings. A lot of these wineries only do tastings by appointment on a typical basis, so it’s a nice change if you’ve been tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains during normal tasting hours/weekends.

This April, James – one of the guys who’d previously worked at my company – invited me to go with him and a group of people I’d never met. Hmm, a whole new group of people I haven’t offended yet? Sounds like a good time to me! (It didn’t hurt that the guy who asked me to go is also good looking and fun.) The only draw-back is the sketchy details about when and where to meet. I’m told I’ll get a call the Saturday morning with more information. O-kay…

The morning starts a bit frantically. The night before ended late (er, actually early in the morning, around 3:00 am) and I’m sleep deprived, but I wake up at 8 am anyway. (I’m actually grateful that it wasn’t the usual 6:30, time may not heal all wounds, but at least it increases your sleep time.) I make coffee and watch some TV. I check on Sarah, who tied one on after the fireman auction. I decide I should eat something. I start to worry. It’s 9:30…9:45…when the call finally comes (I had permission to call him at 10 am if he hadn’t called me). Whew!

We’re supposed to meet at 10:45 and he and a friend will pick me up at around 10:30. Right. I slam through a shower, pick an outfit that’s fun and flirty, but not too hoochie (it’s a day thing and I’m not sure the guy is actually interested in me that way, but just in case…) and start the waiting game again.

I’m antsy. James calls around 10:30 to let me know that they’re still coming, but running late. I wait. Impatiently. Finally, they show up and we’re on our way. Yay!

Then, we get lost. I just have to say, MapQuest sucks. It never seems to list the street names conveniently, so you’re never sure what cross streets are where. James calls the people we’re meeting to let them know we’re on our way, and after a few more false turns, we find the place. The really messed up thing? I’ve actually been there before. How sad am I?

Luckily (or not, depending on your view), we’re not the last ones to arrive, so we don’t feel so bad. The final people count is 13. We discover that instead of a 15 passenger van, it’s a 10 passenger van, so we’ll all be good friends by the end of the day, whether we want to be or not! =) Introductions are made, several times. I warn them all, I’m terrible with names. If I remember half, I’m doing well. We load up and the wine tasting journey begins!

I somehow score a front bench seat (apparently someone decided no seat switching during the day, to better keep count of the drunks, I’m sure) next to a nice, young (cute, but way young) guy named Terrence (I think, forgive me if I’m wrong) who is a sailor by profession. We chat about his last race (in Mexico, they did well in their class). We wind around the hills and get to the first winery, Picchetti. It’s very prettily situated. There’s even a peacock.

James buys my passport (as thanks for work-related stuff, still no clue about intentions there), we get stamped and we taste the wines. They’re all pretty good. I end up buying two bottles of the Sangionese (which I can’t say correctly).

Then we’re off to the next stop. It’s the Ridge which has a spectacular view. We decide to taste wine, then have lunch at their picnic benches. The wine is iffy, in my opinion. Two were not bad, but one had a definite off-note. They only offered three. After sating our stomachs, we take a group photo. We are a fun bunch.

We head off to Naumann, but miss the turn-off. So we head to Fellom Ranch. It’s a pretty place. The wind is picking up a bit and the wine is in the shade, but they have a heater, which we huddle by. We get the pour and huddle up. All their wines tasted young, like they needed to age a bit. The best of the lot was the port. It was decent, but how often do you drink port? We still have bottles we bought years ago.

We get back in the van and try to go back to Naumann. Big mistake. It was packed. There’s no way in hell we can get down the driveway. A Cadillac comes out and tells us there’s no way we will make it down. We move on, but the car behind us tries to go down and makes a huge traffic jam, which we see after we turn around and head down the hill to the last winery of the day.

We head to Cooper-Garrod. This winery makes up for the last two. All the wines are good. They have a Cabernet Franc that is fabulous. Even there Chardonnay is good, and I’m not a Chardonnay fan. I buy three bottles of the Franc and one of the Chardonnay. James buys the vintner’s have case, one of each of the wines we tasted. Several other people buy the Franc and other wines. We loiter for a while.

All in all it was a good day. We head back to the Trader Joes where we met. I give the person who was responsible enough to drive a bottle of the Franc. James lets her pick one of his vintner’s pack at random. I like to encourage people to drive my drunk ass around.

James and his friend Tony drop me off. I still have no idea about his intentions, but he’s fun to hang around with, if nothing else. I hope to get to do it more. I walk into the house, put the wine away and fall asleep for two hours. I call that a day well spent.

Loretta’s Flamin’ 40

Loretta turned 40 this year. To celebrate this milestone, we threw her a big party with a luau theme. I ordered decorations (which others helped put up), got Retta to pick a menu, cooked and organized the event and hoped to god that everyone would have fun (which they did).

Retta & Alice



As an added bonus, Retta and I did our first public fire-eating performance, which was really the highlight of the night for both of us. We performed pretty early in the evening, since you can’t drink before fire-eating.

Me Eating Fire

Retta Eating Fire

Retta & Me Eating Fire

Retta was happily smug about her performance. And I must say she did outshine me in the flair department (mostly because I still get stage-fright and was concentrating on not trembling or accidentally breathing in the fire). But we did have a lot of fun and impress our friends.

By the end of the night, we were exhausted, pleased with ourselves, and still had to pack for our trip to Seattle in the morning.

The College of Escher

While trying to distract myself from my meaningless consumer-driven life, I decided to take a painting class with my co-worker Joyce at Ohlone, the community college near work. I’ve driven by this campus when I used to visit my dentist on a regular basis, but I’d never had the pleasure of actually traversing it.

So, with only the information I’ve gleaned from Joyce and the website the previous week, I head off for the first day of class, armed with pen and paper and nothing else. (Some days I’m just brilliant.) Do I know where the classroom is? Or the building? Heck, do I even know where to park? The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO! But do I let a little lack of knowledge stop me from my pursuit of distraction? Hell, no. Not me! I do, however, give myself an hour leeway to find my way around campus, knowing that I may get lost a few times.

Armed with the little bit of knowledge I do have: Building 4, I drive around the entire campus. Are any of the buildings labeled where someone from the road can see? Of course not! So, I drive to a random parking area and park. Since Ohlone doesn’t have an online ordering system, I have to buy a day pass to park and find out where to get a parking permit for the semester.

And this is where Escher comes in. Most people have seen the Escher drawing of the stairs that lead everywhere. Well, the Ohlone designer must have been an Escher fan, because this place has stairs EVERYWHERE! I went up two flights of stairs on the south side of the college, only to go down a half flight and up another half flight to get to the central spot where you can take three more flights up to the student activities center. (Mind you, I’ve already worked out once today.) Now, I’m only guessing that’s what the building is, because I can’t find a map anywere. (Most campuses I’ve been on have a map posted somewhere for the new students to huddle around in shared ignorance.) But there is a steady stream of people heading in that direction, so being a student lemming, I follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff. Luckily, this time lemming behavior pays off.

Since it’s the first week of classes, there is an information booth set up in the lobby of the student activities building. So, after looking around for a sign that might signal the purchase of parking permits (which, of course, involved a flight of stairs), I ask at the booth and get directed to the bookstore. Great! Where’s the bookstore? Guess? Up this flight of stairs to a central flight of stairs, then through a fountained courtyard and up that flight of stairs, which will put me on the first level of Building 5 where the bookstore is located.

So, up I go. And I actually find the bookstore without much trouble and purchase my parking permit. I also notice that I don’t get cellular signal inside the bookstore even though I’m near the top of a hill. (I was going to offer to buy Joyce a permit as well, but couldn’t get signal while standing in line.) After the bookstore, I go looking for Building 4 and my classroom.

I find the building without much trouble, but since I don’t know which classroom it is, I’m hoping to see Joyce hanging around somewhere. I walk the base of the building, no Joyce, no classroom information posted. OK. 10 minutes to class.

Plan B. I try to call Joyce and get no answer.

Plan C. I go back down three flights of stairs to the information booth and ask for a class schedule. Room 4311. Great. 7 minutes to class. Up the stairs I go. I look around the building. No room 4311. I see 4211 and there’s a flight of stairs leading up to a door that has a keypad and card lock on it. I go back down stairs. I walk around the whole building again, looking for a doorway that has to lead to the interior of the building, but there isn’t an obvious one. On the other side of the building, after hiking up a steep incline, I see a stairway leading down. Is it the holy grail of stairways? I take it. Nope. I’m back where I started. Class time.

OK. Joyce is probably wondering where I am. I obviously need to tackle this thing more logically. The 4 is for building 4, the 311 means it should be on the third floor. Up the stairs I go again. I look at the door with the keypad and card lock. This time, I actually try the door and low and behold, it’s unlocked. I feel brilliant. (Not really. If I were brilliant, I would’ve tried the door the first time instead of assuming it was locked.) I go inside and right there, is room 4311. And after giving myself an hour lead, I’m only 5 minutes late. I’m just in time for the part about tardiness on the green sheet.

I sit down and realize, no Joyce. Crap. Now I have no one to whine to about my tardiness and the Escheresc nature of the campus. I think about calling her again while listening to the teacher say no cell phones in class. I’m starting to worry when Joyce huffs into class, limping. Apparently, she’s noticed the stairs. (And she’s already worked out today as well.) So, we listen to the teacher drone on until we’re released into the wild of the campus to find supplies and sustenance. We go down two flights of stairs to the bookstore so Joyce can get a parking permit. We whine about the sheer number of stairs.

Joyce’s limping becomes pronounced. The up and down stairs is inflaming her heel tendonitis. We buy some supplies and make plans to get more at lunch the next day. We separate and try to wend our separate ways down the mulititude of stairs to our cars. I don’t have tendonitis, but my feet hurt by the time I find my car and I’m cursing the campus. The architect should rot in a hell made of stairs.

The next day, Joyce is very late to work and looks upset. Her tendonitis was so bad, she went to the doctor because after so many stairs, she was having trouble just walking. He played with her foot, popped something, made her teary and swear in many languages, then promptly gave her a note for handicap parking and many weeks of physical therapy.

Moral of the story? Always be sure to catch a ride with Joyce if you don’t want to climb stairs. Oh, and architects who model life after Escher can suck it! Bastards…