Dogs Versus Cats

The Things We Do In The Name Of Family

I was never around cats as a kid. Dad was terribly allergic which severely limited the selection of animals we were able to open our home to. I grew up with dogs.

But through an unfortunate series of events, my first pet as an adult living on my own was a cat. She came to me by way of a tweeked-out ex who was flying home for Christmas and couldn’t be bothered to bring her indoors while he was gone. That’s how Sasha came into my home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until about three months later—well past the point where I’d ever give her up—that I developed a horrible cat allergy and ended up spending the next two years living on antihistamines and rescue inhalers until I moved to a no-pet apartment building and she went to live out her days with Mom.

The cat allergy has never really gone away. I can spend very brief periods around them without medication, and even being doped up on Benadryl I can last about an hour or so before my eyes turn red and I start sneezing.

All these years I’ve fancied myself a cat person, in spite of the allergy, but after having dogs for the past three years, that’s not so true any more.

This past week I’ve been tending to my sister’s cat herd (she has seven of the beasts) while she and her husband are out of town. I wasn’t going to turn down $200 if it meant taking a few Benadryl now and then—and because she was loading them up with self-watering/feeding bowls I could get away with looking in on them only every other day.

The first day (the day after they left) wasn’t bad. The seven litter boxes (yes, seven) were mostly empty and I was able to scoop out everything and put it in a single grocery bag to be deposited in the trash. I’d pre-medicated and didn’t seem to suffer much.

Last night, however, was an entirely different story. Every litter box was full, and I ended up using four grocery bags to haul the mess out to the trash. One bowl (the recirculating water bowl) had gone empty and one feeder was also bare. I figured since I was in and out so quickly the last time with no lasting repercussions, I could afford to stay a little longer last night and really make sure everything was done completely.

One of her cats (the newest member of the family) is very affectionate. And very talkative. Another one, an older white female who lives in the sink in the guest bath makes it quite clear she doesn’t want to be touched in any way. The remainder are friendly but aloof, with one only being found deep under a bed and who has steadfastly refused to come out when I’m around.

After being at her place about 45 minutes last night (despite pre-medicating again) I went on a sneezing fit that seemed to last forever. I’m not surprised. My sister’s house is clutter central; she has knick-knacks and doo-dads everywhere (it makes me want to come home and start tossing stuff out) and from the looks of it the majority of them haven’t been dusted in ages. Add to the usual stuff are holiday decorations of every size and shape. In other words, it’s a dander-trap. By the time I left fifteen minutes later the areas where Simba (their newest) brushed against me had broken out in hives and my eyes were red and watering. As I locked up after finishing with the task at hand I was ready to tell my sister, “Please don’t ever ask me to do this again.”

I came home, ripped my contact lenses out and doused my eyes with anti-allergy drops. I took a couple puffs from my rescue inhaler and after about 30 minutes I felt more or less back to normal.

This morning, however, I have a scratchy throat and my eyes are itching again.

Thankfully my sister is back home midday Saturday so I won’t have to go over there again before they get back…

The Last Workday of 2017

And I’m here by myself, with both coworkers again being “on leave” at the last minute.

I knew from looking at my supervisor’s calendar earlier this week that they’d be gone yesterday, but there was nothing about either of them being gone today as well. I guess that’s one of the perks of being a beloved FTE who has worked ONE PLACE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE; you get to magically extend your paid leave with little or no notice.

I can just imagine what would happen if I tried that. Nevermind that as a contractor I have no paid or holiday leave (and I only have a meager amount of sick time because of a new Arizona law that went into effect last July). “Uh Mark, there have been some staffing changes, and we’ve notified your agency that your services will no longer be required.” Yeah, we’ve seen that script played out many times over the nearly two years I’ve worked here.

Oh well. There was literally nothing going on yesterday, and based on how empty the parking lot was when I rolled up I doubt much will be happening today either. Heck, all the lights were off in my section of the building when I arrived…


The Ongoing Keyboard Saga

I know y’all are probably as tired of hearing me bitch about the keyboard issues on my six-month-old MacBook Pro as Ben is, but this is my blog and I’ll bitch if I want to.

This week I finally reached the end of my rope with this fucking keyboard. I got a little cash for tending my sister’s cats over the holidays, so I bit the bullet and ordered a larger hard drive and more memory for Ben’s old MacBook so I can transfer all my data and then take mine in for service and comfortably be without it for however long it takes Apple to replace the entire top case—because just the keyboard can’t be replaced. No, the entire top case and battery (because it’s  glued in place) has to be swapped out as well . The hardware I ordered is due to arrive from Amazon today and tomorrow, and I have an appointment at the Apple Store on Saturday.

It’s as if the machine knows what’s going to happen. Now all of a sudden I have not one wonky key, but five that either won’t type without pounding on them or type double characters. I’ve followed Apple’s ridiculous keyboard “maintenance” instructions and now in addition to the aforementioned keys still not working, two of them are brighter than the others. (Obviously the compressed air loosened and blew away something under the keycaps that controlled the brightness.)

I swear this is the worst MacBook I’ve ever bought from Apple. Every day I regret not purchasing last year’s model when I had the opportunity. I pray to the gods that the keyboard is fixed/reverted/redesigned on the next iteration of these machines because at that time this one is getting replaced as soon as possible thereafter.

Call Me By Your Name

One of the films I most wanted to see this year (besides a couple of little sci-fi romps) was the independent film Call Me By Your Name. That was based solely on the orgasmic reviews of a certain blogger who had screened it multiple times when it first appeared on the festival circuit (and the fact that Armie Hammer—for whom I have very impure thoughts—was starring). Being in such limited distribution however, I really had very little hope that it would ever make it to the cinematic backwoods of Phoenix.

Well, it did arrive. Not in the first wave of releases or even the second, but nonetheless it did, and we got a chance to see it yesterday.

I liked it. Not on the same level that said blogger did, but enough that I might want to see it again on the big screen and definitely add it to my collection when it comes out on disc. I thought the first half of the film was plodding, and agreed with Ben that they seemed to go into way too much character development that did nothing to move the story forward. But the second half definitely took off and engaged me. Armie’s character comes off as more than a bit of an asshole—but it came from a place of uncertainty. Both Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) are unsure of the intents and affection of the other, so they do a push me-pull you love-hate dance for the vast majority of the film until they finally realize the feelings each of them have for the other are mutual. It’s a situation we’ve all been in at one point or another, but it seemed to me the film spent way too much time building up that tension.

There has been some blowback regarding the relative ages of the two main characters. Elio is 17; Oliver is 26. It should be noted that the age of consent in Italy is 14. So calm down folks. Even though it may not sit with Puritanical America’s ideals (except of course, if it was a girl), Elio’s more than legal at 17 and Oliver is not a kiddie diddler.

Ironically that age difference is mirrored in the actors’ real lives. Chalamet is 23 and Hammer is 32.

Some random thoughts:

  • I know exactly what it feels like to have a love like that.
  • The stillness of the film was refreshing from the usual blow-everything-up fare  at full volume of other modern cinema.
  • I love how they alternated between English, Italian, and French.
  • The wardrobe brought back many warm memories of the era. Especially the short shorts.
  • Setting the story in the early 1980s was genius. They didn’t have to worry about AIDS or social media or posting selfies to Instagram and then feeling bad because everyone else’s life was better than theirs.
  • The languid pace of life expressed in the film and the sense of isolation from the rest of the world was wonderful, although it took some time to get back into that mindset and away from our current frenetic “always on” culture.
  • Their goodbye at the train station and the subsequent followup six months later was heartbreaking, although the discussion Elio’s father had with his son after Oliver’s departure is one that I wish every father could have with their gay sons or daughters.

There is already talk of a sequel.

Shower Thoughts

Naughty kids can easily take revenge on Santa by burning the coal and contributing to the destruction of his habitat via the greenhouse effect.

Merry Christmas!

Shower Thoughts

Staying off Twitter is like quitting smoking. After only a couple weeks away from it you see how disgusting it really is.

Call Me Crazy

…but this non-Apple mockup of a future MacBook Pro certainly seems to be the direction Cupertino is heading. I’m not sure how I feel about a touchscreen keyboard since I hated the one on my old iPad, but as was pointed out by JP earlier today in a conversation we were having, if Apple provides some sort of haptic feedback to simulate actual key presses, it might not be such a bad way to go

And getting rid of mechanical keys would certainly do away with their current crop of keyboard problems that stem from Jony Ive’s fanatical drive to make the thinnest device possible. I mean, you can’t get much thinner than a touch screen, can you? It would also alleviate my own personal bugaboo about keyboards in general, the way the most used physical keys get worn down and shiny from constant use.

What do you think?

Sadly, No Alien Overlords

What was that in the western sky on Friday night that stopped traffic and sparked both alarm and curiosity?

As I suspected—since it came from the direction of Vandenburg AFB in southern California—it was just a rocket, unfortunately.

Sadly, no arrival of our more-than-welcome alien overlords.


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:27 p.m., was carrying 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit. The satellites will be part of a constellation operated by Iridium Communications. All 10 satellites successfully deployed.

Here’s a short video of the launch shot in Los Angeles. Pretty impressive:

Building the Death Star

(Maximize in a dark room for full effect.)

Ben and I saw the new film last weekend. I really enjoyed it, although I didn’t get the usual adrenaline rush when the first notes of the theme rang out and the screen crawl started. By the time the end credits rolled, I wanted to see it all again. Ben was not impressed.

As has been written elsewhere, Episode VIII is definitely not your father’s Star Wars. Sacred cows are slaughtered. And as the movie itself drives home, it’s time to let go of the past and move on. I approve of this.


…as a horny gay geeky teenager in the 1970s, did astronaut and Apollo 17 lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt manage to fly under my radar? (He was 37 when these pictures were taken.)