Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kitty pix

There's no particular reason for these pix, except I had time on my hands and a fresh camera battery.  :)

I try to get photos of Minnie's beautiful face, but often wind up with pix of her floofy rear end. Oh well, it's nice, too. Here she is on the step in the carport. In the second photo, Minnie sniffs at the vent hole that leads to the crawlspace under my house--all the cats sniff that hole, over and over. The strip of wood nailed across it is to keep skinnier cats from squeezing through the hole. And in the photo below, Leo shows my Prius some love.

From the department of "What da hell...?"

A very weird thing happened this morning. I got up at my regular work time (yeah, on a Saturday--had to entertain the plumber at a reasonable hour), fed Minnie, went out to feed the ferals, bent down to fill their food bowl inside the food shelter and...no food bowl. I stared at the empty spot for several seconds while Leo, who did not seem starved, wound himself around my legs. Where the devil did the food bowl go...? I fetched a flashlight and finally found it some eight feet away between the AC unit and the pampas grass. Some food had been spilled out of it where it was sitting, but there was nary a crumb between that spot and the food shelter...which, BTW, sits two steps up from ground level and has about a 2"-high lip at the entrance.

I swear I didn't move the food bowl from the food shelter last night. Why on earth would I??? So all I can conclude is that my feral cats have evolved thumbs and considerable strength, at least enough to carry a heavy ceramic bowl over the obstacle at the entrance of the food shelter, down two concrete steps, then drag/push/carry it eight feet away over more concrete.

Or maybe the slugs did it. Or aliens.

[skittering off to make a tinfoil hat, just in case...]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Catch-up day

I've been out of pocket for a few days while Sister A. visited this weekend. We had a great time--didn't even spend too much money or eat too much junk food! One thing we found while out shopping was a much cheaper substitute for the sconces I'd picked out for my remodeled bathroom (ETA spring 2011, now). Below are pix of my first choice (left) and the ones we found yesterday (right) with a quick-&-dirty bronze overlay where I'll be spraypainting the original finish. They were $21 less each than the sconces I chose originally, and they look just as good! Yay for discontinued styles!

I got to show off my little Prius this weekend, of course, but only after a frog-strangler of a rainstorm Thursday evening which threw big chunks of hail at my new car--EEK! Fortunately, I haven't found any damage. Lots of people around here weren't so lucky.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Does your cat do this?

My lunatic cat, Minnie, scares herself awake every once in a while. She'll be curled up against my outstretched arm, deep asleep, then start twitching a little, then twitching a lot, and suddenly she'll launch herself off my arm as if someone had zapped her with a cattle prod! Every time she does that, I wind up with battle scars. She did it again last night, and this morning my arm looks like I've been shooting up heroin--two long scratches that look like track marks, plus assorted single-claw divots. Crazy cat....

Minnie needs to wear her nails down climbing more trees--or let me give her a pedicure!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A little lighter...

...by one more pound. I'm down a total of 10 pounds. Not as much as I'd hoped for by this time, but better'n a poke in the eye. It's taking longer because I'm not exercising like I should. I'll try to do better. Thirty pounds to go....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Goodbye, Fluffy

Fluffy died today, my handsome black long-hair with the white patch at his throat and a white stripe across his rump. Here's his picture from when I was trying to get a look at his neck wound in February. I found him in his favorite napping spot by the corner of the garage early this afternoon--not napping. I'd seen him in that same spot earlier; I stopped to watch him then for a few seconds to make sure he was breathing (morbid, but he was curled up kinda funny), saw that he was breathing fine, and moved on. I really thought he was just asleep. When I came out the second time, hours later, he hadn't moved a muscle--not normal for a cat. Sure enough, he was long gone. Judging by his fur and the many clumps of same in the garage, he must have gotten into a really bad fight; maybe that was the cause of his death.

Unlike with Leo's late big brother, Whitetip, the first feral to die in my yard, there was no possibility of having Fluffy cremated--I don't have the cash and I'm not using credit cards right now--so I buried him in a corner of my yard.

Fluffy was one of my oldest ferals; I think he was in the second batch I trapped to neuter. He and Scarface (whom I haven't seen in a very long time) were originally named Heckle & Jeckle because they were two black critters who hung out together all the time. They both disappeared for a while, Scarface came back and showed his mean streak, then Fluffy returned, but they didn't seem to hang out together anymore. Scarface disappeared completely about a year ago.

Fluffy spent about two years visiting my yard, napping in peace, eating regularly, and drinking clean water. I hope they were good years for him.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Short(ish) hybrid explanation

When people ask me how a hybrid works, I'd rather not give them a blank look in response. So I thought about it and came up with this relatively short explanation:

It has two motors, one 4-cylinder gas and one electric. The electric motor starts the car and gets it moving, then the gas engine starts when you get to a certain speed. Anytime the gas engine is running, it's charging the hybrid (traction) battery. Coasting and braking also charge the battery. For extra power, both the gas engine and the electric motor run at the same time, combining their separate horsepower. The switch between gas and electric is almost transparent--I can tell when it shifts, but I don't have to do anything to make it happen, because it's automatic. Both motors shut off when you stop the car, so it always sounds like the engine died, but it doesn't; you just press the accelerator when the light turns green and take off immediately--no delay to restart the motor.

Hope I got my facts straight. Now, if I can remember all that when I'm out & about, I'll be doing well!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Interim bathroom fix

Re: the bathroom I'd intended to remodel next spring, that will be put off again. In the meantime, I'll patch the walls with joint compound and deck varnish, like Sister A. and I did last time. I can also rip out the stupid wood trim around the tub and caulk around it instead. (What idiot puts wood trim around a tub??) And all the windows will get a thorough caulking. It'll do until after my debt is paid off.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Slight change of plans

I meant what I said about paying off my debts by the end of the year--really, I did. But sometimes stuff happens and everything changes....

I'm a fan of hybrid cars; as you can tell by my list of favorite blogs, I read about them regularly, both in those blogs and in news & tech articles. I've been wanting a Toyota Prius probably ever since they came out, and I've been watching the online inventory of my local Toyota dealer for the past two years, even though my current vehicle, a Pontiac Grand Am, wasn't paid off yet. I absolutely intended to wait until the Grand Am was paid off before even thinking about buying any sort of replacement vehicle, let alone an expensive Prius (remember, they were selling for top dollar last summer, when gas was so high). And based on certain future plans involving retirement, moving, and fixing up my house to sell before then, it seemed more reasonable to wait until a few years before retirement to buy another car, so I could have it paid off before actually retiring, so I wouldn't have a car payment anymore. A very sensible plan, that.

Didn't stop me from keeping an eye on Prius deals for two years, though, did it?

I really doubted I'd come across anything good (i.e., not too old, with not too many miles on it) that I could afford. Which is why, last Wednesday, I took a looooonnnnng second look when I saw this on the dealer's website:

That odometer reading ain't a typo. This was a practically-new, one-year-old, one-owner, 2008 Toyota Prius, traded in two days earlier by a fellow who--bless him--has a very active trading cycle. After thinking about it for a few hours, I emailed for an appointment to see this unreal deal the following Saturday. I told myself the car would certainly be snapped up before then, so I was perfectly safe from the perils of car-buying...and then, that night, I lost sleep thinking about missing out on such a deal (check the price--damn fine). I knew I'd kick myself if I delayed checking it out until Saturday, because it'd be gone by then.

Thursday morning, I emailed the salesman who had replied to me the previous day and asked, nonchalantly, if we might move our appointment up to that afternoon. "Sure!" sez he, of course. So I went. The deal was real. It was in beautiful condition and drove great; a low-mileage, pristine, nearly-brand-new beauty of a Prius...which, to make a long story short, is now sitting in my driveway. Yes, after running the numbers of my budget and other financial obligations scrupulously several times and planning how I would handle everything, I bought it.

My Sister the Accountant will think I'm out of my mind, and that's OK, because you don't come across an opportunity like this every day. And after the next rather squeaky six months (while I pay off all that furniture I just bought, never suspecting there was a Prius in my future), I'll be able to handle the payments (which are much larger than my old Grand Am) with no trouble, and still pay off my credit card debt in two years instead of one. And that IS final.

Amazingly, I haven't taken a swarm of loving pix of my new baby yet, so I snagged some from the dealer's site and put them on my Flickr page for your delight and edification.

And now for the driving report: The Prius really drives like a normal car except for the gas engine shutting off at stops, low speeds, and while coasting, and assorted other hybrid-car noises. I had an embarrassing moment Thursday evening, while showing the car off to a colleague, when I couldn't remember how to turn the silly thing on, but I eventually got it together (you have to step on the brake firmly, then press the power button; when "READY" shows up on your line-of-sight display, you're ready to rock & roll). If the 12-volt battery (which is just like that in a regular car) dies, you can have somebody jump the battery in the usual way, just as with a regular car. The traction battery (where all the electric go-juice is stored) is under the back seat, so your back-seat passengers are sitting on it (don't worry, their pacemakers are safe). I sit higher in the driver's seat than I did in my Grand Am, which was surprising. And there's quite a lot of storage in the car, which was also surprising (and even more when you drop the 60/40 split back seat). It has a pull-out tonneau cover to hide your valuables in the back (or, in my case, a scruffy cardboard box of car tools), and more storage space under the deck just above the spare tire. It's equipped with a smart key, which means you can carry the key-fob thingie in your pocket or purse, never lay a hand on it, and still unlock & lock the car, courtesy of a sensor behind the front door handles (to unlock) and a button on all the door handles (to lock it). If you don't have that electronic key on you, you ain't gettin' in; and even if you could, the car won't start. Four doors & a hatchback, a spiffy display with all sorts of info and settings (including an animation of which way energy is flowing during various operations), three knobs on the steering column containing gangs of combined functions which I may need an infusion of gingko to remember, a wee shift lever on the dash, and a button you push to put the car in park, instead of shifting. That Park button is probably the weirdest thing about this car. Oh, and it also has a rear-view camera that shows you on the display what's behind you when you back up, which is just slicker'n snot.  :D

The only thing I'm not wild about is the color--black. But for a deal like this, I can freakin' paint it someday. And it does look sharp.

The Prius is different, but not intimidating (well, only a little, and just because it's still early days for me). I've only had it one day and I hearts it big-time.  :)

I think I'll keep this car 'til I die, then be buried in it.