Friday, November 28, 2014


Well, today is the proverbial "Black Friday" here in the US... the supposed start of the Christmas shopping season. The blogosphere is full of posts about how to abstain, meanwhile, the airwaves are replete with ads for sales & the news is busy reporting about crowds and chaos.

And, I have to admit that my reaction to all this is mostly just one of bewilderment. I have such a hard time getting worked up about it - any aspect of it, because I honestly just have a really hard time believing that people actually do this sort of thing.

Perhaps I just live further on the fringes of society than I realize, but I simply can't imagine what would motivate someone to squander what, for most Americans is a rare day off from work, pushing their way through crowds at some retail establishment in the hopes of saving a few dollars on some stupid piece of junk that nobody really wants in the first place.

I mean, I can barely tolerate stores even at 10am on a workday when they're practically empty. I just cannot imagine subjecting myself to something like that.

Besides, by in large, I just can't imagine giving someone a gift that was purchased at a shopping mall. Really? Does anyone really want a new sweater, or electronic toy, or whatever other sort of schlock can be had at these places?

I mean... yes, one does need a certain amount of "stuff" to function in this society, but is that really something you want to give as a gift?

I dunno... call me a Grinch if you will, but I just can't get into the whole gift giving frenzy. Don't get me wrong... it's not that I don't buy a few things for the people in my life - but they're generally not the sort of thing one can get at a shopping mall. I guess I just figure that if the thing can be easily had at any retail outlet, then anyone who really wants it probably already has it.

I mean, there are exceptions of course, like getting someone something that they probably would enjoy and use, but would think was too extravagant to buy for themselves, but for the most part I think that this whole I'm gonna wander around the shopping mall until I find something that xyz person might like approach to gift giving just strikes me as completely bizarre. I dunno, somehow I guess I just think that a good gift should be a bit more personal than that.

So anyhow, I figured maybe we could all list some of our favorite gift giving and receiving experiences. Somehow I'm willing to bet that most of them didn't come from a day at the mall.


OK... I'll start...

I think one of the most successful gifts I ever gave was the year I got CatMan an antique gold coin.

We'd read a fair number of historical accounts, and he always talked about how neat it must have been when people actually carried around gold in their pockets. We were also both coin collecting fanatics as kids, and he'd told me how he always had a fantasy about finding a gold coin with his metal detector. Anyhow, he totally loved it - I think I even saw a tear in his eye. And the bonus was that the price of gold skyrocketed shortly after I bought it so it's a gift that keeps on giving!

But a close second was the year I got CatMan an account on a mainframe computer so he could host a webpage. This was back in the 1990's when just getting on the internet was a pretty big deal, let alone having your own website.

This is what a modem used to look like "back in the day"

I knew he wanted to experiment with it all, but couldn't justify spending the money. He totally loved it!

My brother loves opera, so one year I got him a gift certificate for tickets to the National Opera (he lives near DC). He raved about the whole experience.

But special gifts don't have to be expensive. When I was a kid, I had a thing for stuffed animals. So one year my step-mom made me a stuffed elephant. To be sure, I already had a room full of stuffed animals, but that one was special because she had made it just for me. I think I slept with Elphie the elephant every night until I graduated from high school! (shhh... don't tell anyone)

And one year in college I had spent the summer with my dad & step-mom. Near the end of the summer Dad & I were waiting in the local Walgreens for some prescriptions to be filled. The store was full of back to school stuff and I remarked how I'd always wanted one of those big boxes of 64 crayons, but my mom would never let me have one because we already had a big box full of old crayons at home - never mind that they were all the same few colors over & over, and that they were mostly broken etc.

Anyhow, shortly after I returned to school that fall, a package arrived from my dad. At first I was horrified because my brother's birthday is in September and I thought he'd gotten the birthdays mixed up. But when I opened it I discovered a box of 64 crayons with a little note telling me how proud he was of everything I'd accomplished with only "broken & sub-standard tools." It still makes my cry thinking about it. And yes... I still have them.

And I think the best gift I ever gave my father was Christmas dinner the year his mother died, I prepared his favorite meal of gnocchi, just like Grandma had taught me to make it.

And the best gift CatMan ever got me was the time he snuck into my house when I was away (he has a key) and photographed my cats. He framed the photos for me and surprised me with them. I was beyond overjoyed.

So tell me, what are some of the best gifts you've ever given or received?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Morning Update

So, I thought I'd write and give y'all an update on my efforts to get myself out of extreme night-owl-land.

You might recall that this past spring, I attempted yet again to reform my night owl ways using the cold turkey method. The experiment was more successful and longer lived than most of my previous attempts have been, but alas, as always, I fell off the wagon after a few months and found myself back in "up all night" mode. Sigh.

So, when Courtney over at Be More with Less wrote a post entitled "A Gentle Guide to Help You Wake Up Earlier" I eagerly clicked over to read it. Unfortunately, there wasn't much new information there, or anything I hadn't already tried about a million times, and the responses from the morning people about how wonderful and awake they feel in the AM hours made me a tad bit... um... well, let's say it makes me grumpy.

But, there was one little comment by someone named Inanna that really got me thinking. The gist of her comment was that instead of trying to make herself get out of bed immediately after waking, her strategy was to make herself stay in bed doing things like reading and drinking tea for an hour or so until she felt fully awake. Now... THAT is something I have not yet tried.

Further insight came when Dar over at An Exacting Life wrote a post about her daily schedule and how she goes about carving out time for herself. What really struck me about the post was that she allocates 7 hours for sleep - which incredulously includes the time for getting ready for bed, getting out of bed etc.

Somehow reading that made me realize that I just don't sleep the way most people do. I literally cannot remember ever sleeping straight through the night... EVER. Even as a child, I always awoke at least 3-4 times throughout the night, and that pattern still holds. It's not like something wakes me up, it's just that after each sleep cycle, I seem to just naturally wake up and then have to go through the whole falling asleep thing (which usually takes 15-20 minutes) all over again.

Somehow, I just never realized that most people, if they spend 8 hours in bed, they actually get 8 hours of sleep! For me, when I figure in the time that I spend awake each night, I need to spend about 10 hours in bed to get 8 hours of sleep. Hmmm... No wonder I'm just never able to make myself stick to the kind of schedules that most people keep!

So anyhow, all of the above gave me a new approach to the whole sleep thing.

First of all I've decided that I most likely cannot change the fact that I don't sleep through the night. I mean, it's been that way my whole life, I just don't think this is something that I can will myself to do differently. So I've decided that I just need to accept the fact that in order to get 7-8 hours of sleep, I'm gonna need to allocate at least 9-10 hours of time in bed. And really, I'm OK with that. So no more self-flagellation over how lazy I am!

And secondly, I've decided to give Inanna's system a try. I don't currently have a way to make tea in my bedroom, but I've started keeping my tablet by my bedside so that when I wake up in the morning I can just grab it & spend a half hour or so reading either news, blogs or an eBook.

I have to say that the difference this has made is nothing short of miraculous! I'm not sure if it's the light from the tablet that is waking me up, or the process of engaging my eyes and brain, or just the fact that I'm no longer beating myself up with internal statements like "Get UP you lazy bum!" but it has completely transformed my relationship with waking up.

So at this point my schedule looks something like this. CatMan and I generally get off the phone from our evening chat at around midnight. I'm trying really hard to start heading to bed right after we get off the phone. It usually takes me at least an hour to get there including time for my evening ritual and finishing up any chores that I've put off, but I'm generally making it into bed by 1-1:30.

I'm now just planning on waking up several times throughout the night. I usually get up once to pee while it's still dark, and once a bit after the sun comes up to open the curtains so the kitties can have their sunbeams. Then sometime in the 10-11 region I'll wake up "for real" grab my tablet and spend some time reading before I'm ready to actually face the day.

I'm under no illusions that it will completely "stick" this time, but I do have to say that this is the kindest I've ever been to myself on this topic, and if nothing else, it's really nice not to have to beat myself with a stick every morning to force myself out of bed!

I'm still mulling over the idea of making tea in bed. It sounds perfectly lovely, but will require the purchase of some sort of electric kettle or hot water device. Anybody out there have any experience with those things? Any features I should look for or avoid?

So that's where my reform plan currently stands, and I've gotta say that it's making the dark portion of the year much more tolerable than it would be if I was still on the up all night plan. Yay!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Well, That Was Abrupt!

Unless you're living in a cave somewhere... or perhaps not in the US, I'm sure you've heard about the return of the Polar Vortex caused by the big storm in Alaska.

Temperatures have been plunging here in the Mile High city and the flakes have been flying.

Now, in Colorado we're known for temperature extremes and quick shifts in weather, but this is one of the crazier ones I can remember.

We've had an unusually warm fall, and on Sunday it was around 70 degrees here (21C). I spent the morning outside cleaning up the garden, raking leaves and turning them into the soil. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and actually got a bit too warm.

Yesterday around 10am it was in the low 60's (around 17C) and then in a matter of about 2 hours it plunged down to about 20 degrees (-7C)! That's a 40 degree drop over just a few hours! Holy Moly!

But the fun doesn't stop there folks. The temps aren't projected to get above freezing until next week, and for the next two nights they're saying we're gonna have a low around 0 or slightly below (-18C).

So yes... the furnace has finally been turned on! But I've gotta say that I'm really glad I've been working on "being cool" for a while now, because it's making this quick change less horrible than it otherwise might be. At the moment the thermostat is set to 62 (17C) and I don't actually feel cold, just a bit cool. I did allow myself to put a sweater on though!

Anyhow, I hope the squirrel family living in my tree is doin' OK. I've been fattening them up for a while - which is partially because I'm a softie for anything with fur, and partially because the cats LOVE squirrel-o-vision!

Anyhow, I gave them a bunch of extra food today, so hopefully they'll survive it.

So how 'bout you? How's the weather where you live?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

And the Winner is... Oy Vay!

So a reporter walks up to a man on the street, puts a microphone in his face and asks: "Sir, do you believe that the two biggest problems facing our society are ignorance and apathy?"

To which the annoyed pedestrian replies: "Look, I don't know, and I don't care."

And there you have it folks. The American electorate summed up in one silly joke I heard back in Jr. High School!

OK, so I'm in a bit of a funk after the crushing defeat humanity just suffered in this week's mid-term elections. I know conventional wisdom says we shouldn't discuss politics or religion... but in my book this goes way beyond that, and enters the realm of theater of the absurd.

Seriously, I heard something on the news about how exit polling showed that Americans were fed up with most of the economic gains going to the top 1%. Soooo... they voted in a pile of Republicans?!? The  party that believes that the road to prosperity is to cut taxes for the richest people and corporations?!? Seriously?!?

It boggles the mind. Of course, I suppose this sort of thing is to be expected in a society where people know more about "Dancing with the Stars" than they do about their own system of government.

Seriously, there was an ad against our Democratic Senator here in Colorado excoriating him for "voting with Obama 99% of the time." Um... ok, I get the point that he and Obama generally support the same platform, but dudes, Obama doesn't vote in the Senate, he's the president. So how can you "vote with" someone who doesn't vote? You know legislative branch...executive branch... oh never mind....

I know... maybe we need a new reality show called "Civics Lessons with the Stars!"

Well anyhow... the irony of it all is just a bit overwhelming. The UN releases a new dire report on climate change, basically saying "act now or our collective goose is cooked". And in the same breath the American public gives the Republicans the majority in the Senate, making Senator James Inhofe (one of this country's most outspoken climate change deniers) head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - you know, the one that oversees the EPA and other key pieces of US environmental policy.

It's just unbelievable.

So last night I decided that I needed a bit of comic relief and decided to watch Woody Allen's movie, "Sleeper".

My oh my... if you haven't seen it, the movie is about a man who dies in 1973 and is cryogenically frozen, only to be revived 200 years later in a dystopic future where society is controlled by a "great leader" (who is actually dead) and people are kept complacent and obedient through technolgical distractions like the "orgasmatron" and the "orb". I dunno... doesn't seem that far off to me!

Not sure exactly what my point is here, other than to say that if anyone out there was still holding out hope that this country would wake up and do something meaningful about climate change... well...

So tell me folks, how do you keep from descending into the pit of despair when faced with this sort of thing?