Saturday, August 1, 2015


            It's 6:45 AM. I'm half-asleep. Cindy pokes me, hands me something in the darkness. My semi-conscious brain reads the item as a plastic water bottle, and I assume she wants me to put it on the bed stand. It turns over beside the alarm clock.  I hear the steady "glug glug glug" of liquid splashing...

          "There's no top on that bottle." are the first words I hear today.  

          If you make a mess before you even put a foot on the floor, should you just stay in bed?

          I ask this question because yesterday was one of those rare days that tests a person's religion... and if, like me, you have no religion, well, the struggle is real.

          Here's yesterday, in a nutcase's nutshell:

          We have indoor cats.  They sleep out on the screened porch at night, but that's as close to "outside" as it gets for Casper and Zippy.  I've been noticing that both of them seem to be doing a lot more scratching, so I assumed they were both in need of new, larger collars.  I picked up Casper yesterday, and while explaining to him that it's not polite to disconnect my cell phone charger I noticed a black dot in the white fur under his left eye.  I scraped at the dot, and it crawled deeper into his fur. Then I saw another black dot, and it was moving, too.  A quick inspection of the Zippy confirmed the diagnosis:  my indoor cats had fleas.  And I despise fleas.  The last thing we need in these cramped conditions are legions of blood sucking parasites.  Or visiting relatives.  But I'm being redundant. Sorry...

           So I called the vet's office, explained the situation and asked if I should bring the cats in for flea baths.  The lady on the phone said I could do it myself, but I'd probably spend more on bandages and band aids than they would charge for the grooming fee.  Then she said I could just come by and purchase a topical solution that's applied to the middle of the cats' shoulder area to eliminate the problem.  She also offered to let me purchase a can of flea bomb for the entire house and porch area to kill off any flea larvae that might be in carpets, bedding, or furniture.  Whee...

            My lovely (and dangerous) wife came home from work for lunch, and I took that opportunity to leave our niece with her and dash down to the vet's office for cat supplies.  $65 later was getting back into my car when I noticed the rear tire on the driver's side had lost a significant amount of air. I pulled into the gas station next door to the vet's and put 75 cents worth of air in the tire, then dashed back home, grabbed the nine year-old in mid-sandwich, and told Cindy I'd be back after taking the tire to a repair place.  Nothing's ever easy.

             The tire guys let Sarah and I sit in their waiting lobby for almost an hour, but didn't charge us for the plug since I had purchased the tires at their shop.  Said it had a piece of metal in it.  I had let Cindy use my car yesterday, so I'm blaming her for the foreign material. It's what I do in these cases, and she's come to assume responsibility for insignificant things I want to blame on her driving.  Not fair, I know, but it works for us.  In return, I take responsibility for all the big shit I had nothing to do with.  We have a system.

             The vet had warned me not to let the cats lick the flea solution, which is why it's to be placed in a spot they can't reach.  But we have two cats, and licking one another is their favorite thing, something I can relate to, but on a human level.  I've not yet licked a cat, but I'm not taking it off the list.  They immediately attempted to groom one another, so they had to be separated.  Our cats apparently have separation anxiety, because as soon as they were placed in separate rooms the wailing wall symphony commenced.  I finally opened up doors and let them have at one another.  I'd rather have dead, chemically poisoned cats than listen to a whole lot of that shit.

             My son wrote to say that anti-freeze is great for getting fleas off of cats.  You let them drink a little bowl of anti-freeze and all the fleas will abandon ship.  The only down side to that method, however, is that it might draw flies.  If this happens again I should give that solution a try...

             So we've sprayed the house with flea bomb, put ointment on the animals, fixed a flat tire, and life's good again, right?  Not so fast...

              The router we use for wi-fi has died here at Chateau Squatlo, and just as I was thinking the day might improve, UPS delivered the new one from T-Mobile.  I'd like to meet the people who write the installation instructions on these devices, all sixteen of them, with translators handy to explain my English expletives into their mother tongues.

              Two sweaty hours later, I had the sumbitch working.  Passwords created.  Authorization keys typed into every device in the house.  Internet signals confirmed, and every printer receiving signals and functioning properly.  Only took two hours.  Simple.

              So spilling a little water to start the day isn't all that bad.  After all, it could have been Crown Royal.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

WE'VE HIGH-TECH'ED OURSELVES RIGHT OUT OF BIDNESS! (whatchoo gonna do when the wi-fi turns its back on you...?)

            Some days I think it would be better for everyone if I just stayed in bed.

            Here at Chateau Squatlo things operate on the thinnest of margins.  Even on good days, we're usually only about one hiccup away from dead in the water... and there are always hiccups. Yesterday's adventures in customer service are a great example.

            We employ a company called T-Mobile for our phone service.  My cell, my wife's cell, and our niece's cell phone all function through one service provider, and that's T-Mobile. When we were signing up for their cell phone service they talked us into bundling our home phones through the same contract, which meant our home phones would be wired through the same wi-fi router used to internet-ify the laptops.  Seemed like a more economical way to pay for the phones.  
             The problem with having your home phone wired through a router is pretty basic: when the internet goes down, for whatever reason, your home phones are inoperable, too.  But since we had working cell phones, we figured we could live with the occasional loss of service to our home phones.  

             For about the past three months we've had almost daily interruptions in our home phone service.  The phones will have a dial tone, but won't connect if you dial a number to place a call. If someone calls here during one of these outages, their call goes directly to voice mail and we never know a call has even been made... until someone calls us on a cell to tell us our home phones aren't working again.  Fixing this problem has required a reboot of the router, since it serves as our phone jack.

             Yesterday, the router wouldn't reboot to connect the home phones, despite at least twenty restarts.  So I called T-Mobile from my cell, got a customer service representative in New Mexico, and discussed the recent hail storm my buddy Mooner had written about from Santa Fe.  The guy on the phone said hail was common in New Mexico, and he blew off my friend Mooner's observation that it never hails there.  I started to dare him to call my good friend a fucking liar, but figured we should probably talk about the router issues instead.  The weather in The Land of Enchantment didn't seem as pressing.  He told me the router we had purchased was an obsolete piece of shit, and that his company no longer serviced or even carried such relics anymore.  In fact, if he agreed to send us a new router, free of charge, it would have no phone jacks on the back for our home phones, meaning we would have to get another phone service carrier for our home phones.  That's when he told me this:

            "If you want to switch your home phone service to another carrier, you can do so at no further cost to you from T-Mobile."

             No shit?  If I hire another company to provide phone service for our house, T-Mobile won't bill me for their service?  How kind of you folks!

              So they're sending us another, much improved router.  One that doesn't have phone jacks for our home phone system.  What that means, among other things, is that the phone number my lovely (and very dangerous at this moment) wife has had for the past twenty-seven years is no longer functional... and those two thousand business cards we just bought have the wrong number on them.  Heavy sigh...  I've asked T-Mobile to forward all of our calls made to the home number to my cell, which means I'll start getting lots of telemarketer calls on a phone I already despise.  I foresee a terrible accident in this phone's future... because I have a history of destroying cell phones that annoy me.

              The dead router also means that Cindy's computer and Sarah's computer are off-line until a new one arrives.  Not only that, but (and here's the real crisis) the Roku television's internet capabilities are inoperable, too.  That means Sarah can't sit in front of the wide screen and watch endless youtube videos of other people playing Minecraft.  Trust me when I tell you, this is a Def Com 4 crisis in her little world, and therefore, in ours as well.

              In the meantime, it's a new day, and it's already been rare.

              I got out of bed this morning, and after feeding the Krakens (my name for the cats in the morning), I decided to clean and refill their water fountain.  After refilling the fountain in the kitchen sink, I turned to carry it back to the office, not knowing that the power cord had wrapped itself firmly around the handle of the cabinet under the kitchen sink.  I proceeded to spill a gallon of cold water down my leg and onto the kitchen tile.  The cats thought it was hilarious...

              I'd go back to bed, but my cell phone keeps ringing...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

TOO BAD CECIL THE LION WASN'T A REFUGEE CHILD (America's all about blessing the beasts...)

              Want to take a snapshot of modern America for posterity to examine at some point in the future? Today's social media shit-storm over the death of Cecil the Lion might be a great place to point history's camera...

              You can show the average American a news clip depicting the plight of refugees fleeing a conflict in some third world pisshole, and if you're lucky you might elicit a yawn.  Provide footage of a Palestinian child being pulled from the rubble of a building destroyed by a missile or bulldozer, and most Americans are even less concerned.  In fact, you can put the sad eyes of starving children into a fundraising commercial and have Americans diving for the remote control all over the nation.  But let those sad eyes belong to a mistreated animal in squalid conditions, then layer a mournful Sarah McLachlan song over the video, and you've got yourself a million dollar's worth of donations... and Kleenex tissues mopping up tears all over America.

              It's pretty obvious we care more about animals half a planet away from our world than we do about children in our own cities.  It's been estimated that Americans spend more on pet food and products than we spend on our own children.  The last study concluded that the average U.S. household spent $500 last year on pet products, totaling over $61 billion nationwide.  That's a lot of kibbles and chew toys and cat litter...

          And that's fine, really.  We do love our animals, and that's a good thing.  But is it rational for American social media to be upside down about the death of a beloved lion in Africa, when most Americans can't be bothered to learn the details of the dozens of fellow Americans who have been murdered since the last time they checked for a Cecil the Lion update?  There was probably a shooting death in the town you call home last night.  There were probably several of them in the past week or two, depending upon the size of your fair city. And I doubt many of us have bothered to look into the circumstances involved in any of those thousands of incidents, mainly because we have so little time for anything that doesn't directly involve us.

              With the exception of animals, of course.  We'll watch cute kitten videos half the day, then wonder why we can't get anything done at work.  We'll tune in for that human interest clip showing a surfing bulldog, or a water skiing squirrel.  And if someone somewhere has mistreated an animal, even one on another continent with whom we have no discernible connection whatsoever, we'll drop whatever we're doing and go into rant-mode on behalf of that creature... signing petitions, blasting the human scum who harmed the animal, making certain all of our friends are aware of the tragedy and are equally outraged.

               Too bad those millions of children starving to death or dying of easily preventable diseases don't have a spokesperson like ol' Cecil.  We might be able to help them, if that were the case.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I THINK THAT I SHALL NEVER SEE A POEM AS LOVELY AS A TREE (yeah, tell that to the cracks in our masonry...)

               There's a saying you might have heard, and it goes like this: "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."

               And that's a great sentiment.  Unless you're looking out at a thirty year-old tree whose root system is slowly but surely destroying your home.

               There's a huge white maple tree growing between our back porch and the tool shed, and it's been there since my wife purchased this house over 23 years ago.  This particular species of maple grows very rapidly, which is why they were favored by landscapers and home contractors back in the day. You could plant one of these in a bare yard, and by the time prospective homeowners came by for the first realty showing there would be a thriving tree for them to admire.

                About ten years ago I purchased two red maples for our front yard, and they're doing fine.  Three summers ago I transplanted four maple sprigs from our garden after that huge white maple in the back had deposited helicopter seeds into the mushroom dirt.  Those transplanted white maple seedlings are now the same size as the red maples I paid $100 each for a decade ago.  And they seem to grow several feet a day, lately.

               The reason I mention any of this is because that lovely tree in the backyard is destroying our home.  I've written previously about the problems we've had with our tile on the screened in back porch, how the grout constantly cracks and allows rainwater to seep into the backing boards and subflooring on the deck.  How we've had said tile replaced and regrouted three times on that six year old porch.  And how it's badly in need of repair again.  For the longest time I just assumed the back deck was constructed over an Indian burial ground or some other unlucky piece of suburban dirt.  Now I'm convinced that maple tree's root system is causing all of our problems.

               There are cracks in the mortar and brickwork of our home, and they seem to be getting worse in this stifling heat and humidity.  The mirror and vanity have pulled away from the wall in one of our bathrooms... the bathroom that faces that maple tree in the back yard.  My lovely and dangerous wife is beginning to make noises about cutting the tree down to prevent further damage, even though most tree people will tell you the root system will continue to grow for a long time after the tree has been removed.

                I don't want to cut down the big tree.  It's a great source of shade for the back yard. Holds about half a dozen of my bird feeders, too.  If it weren't back there, the yard would look barren and the temp on the back porch would soar from the direct sunlight.  I want to keep the tree... even if it's destroying the house.

                Actually, I want to win the Powerball drawing, sell what's left of our house to someone who will love looking out at that monster maple, while we move away to our log home in the mountains.

                So far my plan isn't showing any sign of progress.  The Powerball gods must be dyslexic, or just obtuse, because none of our numbers ever fall.

                Meanwhile, the porch is crumbling away and the walls are cracking apart.

                But it's a great tree...