Thursday, December 5, 2013
FamilyPhoto is of Stein reunion in Oregon.
Going to visit my sisters in Washington state this Christmas... first time up there since 20..? Can't rememer actually. Been about 10 years though. We are not super close, but I sure would like to see them more often. Kristen moves around a lot (works for the forest service) and seems to love her job. Her son is in college now, so she basically lives alone.. good that she moved to be nearer Steph so they can see each more other. I have visited one or both of them maybe 8-10x since I left home almost 40 years ago... maybe a bit more. They have NEVER visited me at any of my addresses (Steph did stop by once on her way to Santa Barbara about 30 years ago when I just started vet school). Guess I am not that visitable... hardly ever lived where I had an extra bedroom for them to stay in... Now that we have a house in Acton with an extra bedroom, I was hoping I could finally coax them to visit... but then my step daughter moved in, so that option disappeared.
None of our lives have been perfect, but mine is certainly the least stable of all three of us... perhaps that is why I am the visiter and never the visitee... I think I have had over 40 addresses since I first started going to college. Funny since I hate moving. Kristen has to be about caught up with me on the number of addresses, but I am not so sure she will ever actually catch me. She must be high up enough in the forestry service to be given some slack when it comes to moving her around again. Steph is by far the most stable and has been in her current house now for about 20 or so years. Lucky. Lives just a block from her work (unlike me who drives between 40-60 miles one way to work... Kristen sometimes even more). Both their kids are in college or starting soon... never had kids of my own... too unstable. Bit too late now anyway. but still would have liked to have been stable enough and done it. At least Tammy had children so I have 'pseudo-kids'... both are pretty great, but just not the same as having your own I'm sure.
Well, back from Washington and a whole new year... nice to see both sisters, though visit always seems too short (probably seems shorter to the visiter than for the one being visited, whose normal schedule is being interrupted). Both seem pretty happy and comfortable in their lives, though younger sister still has to work out things with her old house and recent move. Probably no more moves she says... place she is living in (in northern Oregon) is breathtakingly beautiful. Nice. Cold in Washington... though it's sort of cold where I live now, it certainly doesn't begin to compare. Brrrrrr. Glad in a way to be back... did miss my wife and dogs... not the job really. Be nice to retire and have all family near each other... just not feasible.
Started this blog a few years ago, and the visit was nice... just 7 months later my nephew Daniel decided to end his life with a gun. It was a shock to us all and a very sad note on which to end my last visit to my sister's area of the country. That sort of tragedy is always hard to come to terms with... suicides of teenagers seem so avoidable... but really they are often not. THis was not his first attempt and it seems he has been set upon this goal for some time. Very sad.
Monday, December 2, 2013
PetsWe have too many pets. My wife counters that we have too many plants. I do not deny this, yet we both collect more plants almost weekly. Plants die, I am disappointed (wife is if she finds out about it)... but I am rarely heart broken (though TAmmy is if it's 'her plant'). I do hear the death list over and over the plants she cherished and I murdered. But still the connection is nothing like it is with a pet. And we have too many. Legally as well as practically.
I try to take care of all our pets. They get looked at sort of as needed (often there is a delay). Dentals get done on all of them (nearly so, at least). Fleas are controlled, periodically (less of a problem in Acton now). Food is prescription. Water always available. Sleep in the bed with us every night... no one is cold. No one is hungry. No one is thirsty. But all crave attention- way more than they are getting (though that is perhaps relative to some other people's pets, and certainly less than Tammy would like, but certainly more than any pets were attended to when I was a child). We had rare pets as a kid since Steph and Dad were highly allergic to furry things (so I had snakes now and then). But while in college, we did adopt a kitty and Dad loved it.. never acted allergic either (I think he was making that up all along, as he always had pets as a child... just didn't want the responsibility and mess when we were children?). Sadly at age 10, he ran over Joker in the driveway. He was very sad. We had no more pets after that.
Had to put down one of my dogs recently. Taz was about 11 years old.. got him as a gift from my wife since she heard I liked Brussels Griffons.. Taz turned out NOT to be what I expected, though he had more personality than most of our other dogs... but that is just a euphemism for him being a royal pain... still, nice dog most of the time... just loaded with problems. Started out with a hypoplastic trachea and coughed all the time... then developed elbow arthritis (at an unusually early age)... then ended up being extra fond of feces- his own and everyone elses. Preferred them over dog food it seems. Forbid did nothing to dissuade him of his disgusting cravings. He also marked everything in his territory... over and over. Then he developed diabetes and nearly immediately went blind. Got his eyes fixed (was truly miraculous and moving to see a blind pet go from bumping into things back to his 'anointing' everything again... during those brief weeks when he was blind, his entire personality did a change.. he become quieter, friendly, more appreciative of attention, stopped peeing on everything, stopped eating so much poop... he basically turned into a nice, mellow dog. But that all vanished when he magically could see again... oh well... very costly decision, but I would do it again. Lived 9 more years of destructive but entertaining behavior. Then started to wane and become lethargic (elbows were bothering him again).. and his quality of life was not what it used to be... so we let him go. Still miss him several months later. TAmmy always said we looked alike.
End result... one less pet.. only we got two more in the mean time. Oh well. Now we have two puppies along with a slew of older, aged dogs who are probably going to start dropping like flies these next 1-5 years.
I love our pets. But I do not or can't seem to love them the way Tammy does... she REALLY loves them. She spoils them all. ONe of the reasons they feel free to mess up in the house when its raining out side.. or all sleep on the bed (leaving me with my tiny corner... I'm used to that though). Tammy loves all animals. She hates the problem of carnivores having to eat meat.. cannot watch natures shows where this happens (obviously this conflict is common and popular as all nature shows feel it necessary to show some obligatory nature killing off of each other ). I correct that last statement... she loves almost all animals. Hates snakes. Which, of course, or one of my favorite animals. I could never own a snake as Tammy would never be able to sleep... nor can she condone a snake eating another animal. That's OK. I like snakes, but I dont' really get off on that animal eating thing either. And I don't have the time for something like that anyway. If it were not for Tammy, I would probably own a single cat or dog and that would be that. And neither would get the love Tammy gives to all our pets. Oh well.. I do like animals a lot... just not a super animal lover I guess. TAmmy should be the veterinarian, not me.
Well, since writing on this last, has a bad snake experience which has done nothing to improve my wife's opinion of them. It seems we have a few mice that get in the garage, and these attract snakes. And one gopher snake found his way into the garage (no real way to completely 'snake-proof' this area)... and instead of finding a mouse to chase down, he discovered, to his delight, a cage full of canaries (my wife's pride and joy), bars just wide enough to fit through... and ate them all at his leisure. I found him probably 6-8 hours later, stuck in the cage since his girth, now consisting of three large bulges, was far to wide to get back out through the cage bars. I did NOT kill him (something my wife at first got very upset over, but later on decided it was better NOT to take it out on the guiltless snake), but simply let him go far away from our home in the hopes Tammy would not run across him again. Poor canaries... what a way to go.
And it seems our dog numbers have NOT declined, but increased. We now have a new Golden, Chihuahua and French Bulldog... oh well. So much for whittling down the herd.
Monday, December 2, 2013
LiteratureFeel like a bit of hypocrite saying anything I read is literature... most of it is popular junk, though I really am not well-read or intelligent enough to say for sure if it's junk, either... but I like it. Don't read all that much. As a kid I had some learning disabilities (Dad summed it up well- 'you're stupid')... took some specialized reading classes in grade school, but basically my problem was reading was not easy and quickly bored me. My sisters read volumes. I read words. I did manage to read maybe 10 books in my entire grade school life and enjoyed them all after the fact... just not while I was doing it (sort of like traveling... hate doing it, but glad I did it once its over- good memories and learned a lot). Got a bit better at reading later in school, but still struggled all my college life with it. Learned far better from listening, watching and example. In my adult life I read more, maybe a couple books a year (or if I found a series I liked, perhaps a book in a few days or so). But I find it difficult to call most of it literature. Sounds too lofty a term for what I like. Murder mysteries, science fiction, vampire stories, fantasy, animal stories etc... read some classics the years I took a bus from Washington DC to my veterinary technician job in Maryland.. long bus ride and nothing else to do (the days before cell phones with apps). Enjoyed them sort of ... wouldn't read them again, though. Tried reading War and Peace once.. no way.. could not get past the long, Russian names I could not tell apart. My wife read that book several times, sometimes in just a day or so. She loves all Tolstoy. I tried to read Charles Dickens... by the end of each sentence, I forgot how it began, and lost my train of thought all the time... impossible. Tammy read almost all the classics and she loved them all (almost). She is a true, but untrained, intellectual. I am a wanna-be, though more highly trained. I do have areas of strength... I can read a medical text and grasp at least 20% of it... maybe 90% if I am interested. And I can read books on plants and grasp most of it (other than the detailed descriptions).
Still reading has always been hard for me. But there is something to reading the differs from hearing. I now listen to a lot of books on CD or MP3... much easier and far more enjoyable... I even listened to a lot of classics and they were not all the hard to understand (still get Russian names confused)... but I recall little of what I hear over time (perhaps since I am almost always driving somewhere and have to give the road some of my attention, too... yet I hear the whole story, understand it... just a month or two later I can hardly remember a thing anymore).. if I read something, it sticks with me a lot longer. I wonder why that is. That just me, or is that common?
So when someone asks you if you read this or that... and you heard it instead... d you say you read it? Or just that you experienced it in another way? Do you make the distinction? My list of things I have 'read' via my auditory apparatus is more extensive than my list of books I have actually read I am pretty sure. I feel like I am cheating when I say I read this or that when I really didn't. They did the work. I just sat back and listened. It's like taking credit for something you didn't do. But to me reading is work (that's how things are when you're functionally dyslexic). I hear people say they just like to curl up in front of the fire with a good book... that would be like saying I curled up with a good set of homework. Who enjoys homework? Not many. But that is how I look at reading.. .but LISTENING to a good book is great. Both will put me to sleep (unless I am driving), but reading puts me to sleep in just a few paragraphs. Saying you read a book when you really heard it is, to me, almost like saying you read War and Peace by watching the movie. Hardly the same. One is far more enjoyable, and less work than the other. But it isn't the same, either.. .movies are like entertaining Cliff Notes.. but hearing a book is hearing all the same words the reader reads, but you hear them instead. Still feels like cheating a bit.
Monday, December 2, 2013
GardensI have spent a good portion of my adult life working in the garden. Some gardens I put in so much time I feel like my soul (if there is such a thing) is in those gardens.. did all the walkways, planter boxes, split level planters, grading, plumbing, rototilling, post hole digging, lugging of lumber (including numerous railroad ties), buying and planting etc... and all for what? To lose it to some other less deserving and less appreciative owner.
And yet here I am again, starting from scratch and steaming along at full speed without the concerns of losing yet another one. I am either an idiot, or just unrealistic... or unable to grasp the future.
My first garden in Thousand Oaks took a lot out of me. I hurt my back, arms and fingers so many times that I am sometimes amazed I can still walk or sit upright. I hurt my back so badly in vet school I literally wanted to die for a while there. So reinjuring is no fun. I carried so many heavy things in those Thousand Oaks days... had that garden for a good 10 years. Had thousands of plants and they were doing pretty well. The garden is still there today, but poorly maintained and many things have died... yet I cannot see it well, nor get back any of my plants I worked so hard for (vengeful and grumpy ex owns it all, and rents it out to a family of hillbillies).
Spent some time working on pathways and stairways (live on top of a 'mountain', with really step sides 360 degrees... no easy way to work the hills without paths and stairs, so just starting that monumental project- pretty sure I will never finish that one... not enough $$ or life/time to do that. And getting a bit too old and creaky to haul around these heavy railroad ties... though sure is satisfying once you get something done. Hope the next people who get this property after we're gone appreciate the work I put into it... I know that last two subsequent owners of my last two gardens (one my ex-wife, and the other a property investor) couldn't possibly have cared less. Sort of sad.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
FoodOne of my favorite subjects, though I have never written about food until now. I am not a gourmet. I don't even know how to spell that word. My mother was, and my father pretended to be. My sisters cook often and regularly, and my younger one, Kristen, is actually a really good cook... not that Steph isn't, but frankly I don't think I have eaten much, or anything, she has made in... oh... 30 years? Just never had the opportunity (we are not that close).
I don't cook. My wife doesn't cook. We eat prepared food, or sandwiches, cereal etc. I am not picky. My wife IS picky. But not a gourmet by a long shot. Seems odd that something I love so much (food) is something I usually eat with barely being conscious I am doing so (NOT good for a diabetic, which I am). I eat at the computer. I eat watching TV. I eat discussing things at a fast food place. I rarely eat thinking about what I am eating... unless it is really good. A meal is often over before I know it, and wonder if I enjoyed it... probably not much.
Unfortunately, like music, what is really good to one person may be horrible or disgusting to another. My wife feels just that way about the things I think are really good (at least for the most part). The food items I lust after are 'sushi and related raw fish kinds of things', and hot Mexican/Indian or Thai food. Not interested in much Italian foods, or German, English (is there such a category?), American... I like Chinese, but probably not REAL Chinese. But little compares to really good sushi. TAmmy would rather die than eat sushi (or says she will die if she does... can't recall which it was).
I really don't know what it is about Sushi... there a few foods that I NEVER had until my adulthood, as my mother's cooking was extremely varied and required a lot of effort/ingredients. That does not mean I like it (most often I did, but often I did not, either). But Sushi was not on the menu, ever. In fact, I barely heard about sushi growing up in land-locked New Mexico where it was almost never offered but at the poshest restaurants (back then.. I am sure it's all over now, like it is here in Los Angeles, where literally every couple blocks there is a sushi restaurant). The thought of eating raw fish was not a good one... seemed really creepy... particularly after I took my parasitology class. NEVER going to eat that (just like I am never going to eat puffer fish)... I thought for years. Had some in vet school, and was shocked out good it was... though my mind told me it was horrible. Eventually, however, my taste buds won me over, and I tried it again and again... figures its expensive... can hardly afford to live on the stuff.
Why do I like the taste of raw fish... I cannot say. I just pleases my senses, and the consistency is nice, too.. Look is OK (doesn't look as disgusting as I thought it would). After 25 years of eating sushi, and not a single gastric parasite (that I know of), my concerns about the health issues are much less. Perhaps I am at risk for accumulating mercury in my brain, but my brain is shrinking anyway... I use only 1% of it, so the chances of the mercury ending up in a part I need is small. And I like rice a lot. Though THAT is not a good food item for a diabetic. Now that I am married to a sushi hater, I eat it way less and the amount of rice I eat these days is not a serious medical problem.
Growing up in New Mexico, we all were exposed to green chile, another favorite of mine. This food item we did eat a ton of and many meals had green chile in it some way or another. We often ate at restaurants that specialized in green chile recipes, and we communally enjoyed the heck out of it... the hotter the better (to a point I discovered.. .there IS too hot green chile).
Why do I like it hot? It is almost like hot is a flavor all its own and without it, some of the nice hot foods I normally like seem dull or uninteresting (like drinking a soda without carbonation). Yet there are limits to hot appeal for sure. Tammy bought some small habanero peppers for me the other day. She took two bites (but no seeds) and said they tasted like plastic- no heat, though. And she is definitely a heat wimp. Having had bad experiences with habaneros in the past, but curious why my wife was able to eat this one, I took as small a bite as I could muster (when your front teeth don't meet, that is not always possible)... and I drooled and whined for the next half hour. THAT was just unpleasant! No flavor to speak of... what is the point? Heat and flavor together are nice (though not that much heat)... but one without the other is always disappointing.
Though some things just shouldn't be spicy. I have tried jalapeno jam on multiple occasions and when my taste buds taste that sweet flavor, they don't want to be confused by spice... never enjoyed that stuff.
ANd some foods are simply terrible. As a child, I had several food items I could not tolerate... two come to mind now: brussel sprouts and eggplant. It almost makes me ill to write the word egg plant down... horrible stuff. Even though mother was a gourmand, she could not hide eggplant in anything without me noticing. Had it in pies, soufflÃ©s, casseroles, fried, steamed, boiled, baked, made up as dip (some clever invention called 'babaganoush'... NO idea how to spell that!) that looked and sounded good... but one taste and that horrific eggplant flavor shoots through. Sad as I should like the color of it (deep, necrotic purple... the color of an infected wound gone really bad). Not a good looking plant, either. Still, cannot figure out exactly what it is about eggplant that irks me so. It may be partly do to my childhood anxiety about eating something called an egg plant. Doesn't sound good, either. Sisters don't like it either... genetic, or a learned mutual hatred?
Some things I disliked as a child I like now... like avocados... not sure what it was I disliked about them once... think it was that weird, disgusting texture. But after having fresh ones off a tree, with lemon, in California.. no turning back.. And those gigantic ones in Hawaii... half an avocado is a whole meal... wonderful! Also like spinach now... didn't then. Though Popeye's eating spinach helped me to go ahead and eat it as a child. Now I actually like it. Though not enough to prepare it. We are both lazy eaters (another bad thing if you're a diabetic).
Saturday, November 30, 2013
IntroductionThis is where I attempt to philosophize, something that should really be left up to those with complex neurologic pathways and common sense, who might actually have something interesting, useful and/or important to say. Perhaps blabbing would be a better description. But it is an entertainment that not only amuses me, but helps me work out complex issues, as well as set down my current, though constantly changing (wishy washy some would call it) thoughts on simpler things like choices, likes and dislikes and the ridiculous explanations for these. The subject matter will include music, food, politics and religion (yikes!!), gardening (boring, right?), pets and veterinary medicine, my health, family etc. If you are reading this, do NOT expect to read anything enlightening or interesting. Silly is more like it, I think. But who knows. Perhaps I will stumble upon an idea or two I will be glad I had and writing it down will preserve it for later, unlike all the brilliant thoughts (ha!) I have had in the past that just evaporated as soon as I woke up (Ok so those were dreams, but I sure have had some great ones... I think... just can't really remember them... only that they were entertaining at the time).
Saturday, November 30, 2013
MusicLately I have become more obsessed with listening to music. Classical some would guess... hardly! I did grow up in a family where classical music of all sorts was the only music allowed in the bulk of the house (father had over 2000 LPs.. those are records for those who were born after 1980... discs you put on a record player that then played music with an obligatory cacophony of scratches, pops and skips that, until CDs came along, I assumed all music included). The children could play their 'junk' in the playroom on a portable, tinny phonograph on which one could stack nearly a dozen records to be played in a row. We eventually amassed our own collection of music- some 30 records and listened to them until they basically wore thin. Back then the same music over and over and over and over again didn't seem to dull my senses (that i noticed) like it does now. We listened to the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Simon and Garfunkel, the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull and the obligatory singer-songwriter stuff and 'weird' rock and roll that I never liked then but my sisters enjoyed (James Taylor, Jonie Mitchell, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Jackson Brown, Janis Joplin... just never liked anyone whose name started with a 'J'). And dad would listen to his 2000 operas and symphonies over and over and over again (those got old for me the first time... or before, even).
Now, nearly 50 years later, my thirst for new music is never like before. I have thousands of songs now on the computer, some from the old days I still love, and way more from the 'new days'- mostly these last 5-10 years... and most of those from this last year. I tunes and Songza have been a guilty pleasure of mine for some time now and I am constantly adding a new song here and there to my lengthening list of music my wife cannot stand.
It is sad when one cannot share their loved music with others. But like religion should be, music is a personal thing. Understanding why someone else does not share your appreciation for this or that song is simply beyond me... but then I don't even understand why I like some music and not others. What it is about each song I like that makes me like it? I have very varied tastes... they just don't include country, rap, soul/R&B, gospel, heavy metal, latino, blues, classical, opera, jazz, most pop, or harp music. Hmmm... guess that doesn't sound like someone with very varied musical tastes, does it? I tunes classifies most songs as either blues, dance, rock, classical, pop, alternative, electronic, latino, reggae or singer-songwriter. I noticed that 90% of the options I have collected over the years fit under alternative, with the rest being mostly rock, a few pop, a rare dance or electronic or singer-songwriter and a real oddball soul or R&B now and then. Still, I do have nearly 3000 songs on my computer. My wife likes to listen to the same 50 songs over and over, never seeming to tire of them. Most are from her youth though some from more recent times. I just can't do that. I get tired of the same music over and over. Some rare songs are nearly as good now as they were when I first heard them, but part of that is my forcing myself not to listen to them over and over... afraid I will burn out that spot in my brain that loves that melody and ruin it forever. Sadly, our tastes in music barely overlap but at the very corners here and there. Driving anywhere long distance usually requires talk radio to keep us from complaining about each others sad musical selections.
Still, I do often wonder what it is about a song that makes me like it. Rarely do the lyrics matter much, if at all, particularly now that I download tunes off the internet. Used to be I bought an album (record) or a CD, that not only came with about 10 songs I did not care about along with the one to two I did, but the words were included. I learned the words to most of those older songs since there is no better way to enjoy a song than to sing along with it (ONLY enjoyable for the singer I might add... listeners never seem to get the same level of enjoyment... rather the opposite it seems). Anyway, now that printed lyrics are no longer included with my musical selections, the words are nearly impossible for me to learn, so I 'mumble' along. But it is not ever the words that makes a song. It is the music itself, primarily the tune and the voice, though the instruments matter as well, I am sure (don't like slide guitars, or accordions).
One thing that many people seem to do is fit in certain musical pigeon holes... I probably do, too, but I dont know of a name for mine. While in college, I loved Dan Fogelberg... but hated Jackson Browne. My friends who like one or the other always liked the other, too. Those that didn't, didn't like either. Yet I found one great and one dull and overplayed. These friends found me mystifying and somewhat crazy. Something wrong with my brain? I get a lot of the same sorts of insinuations on I-tunes... it always makes comments like 'you liked this, so try this'... I usually find the two nothing alike and rarely agree with the 'genius' suggestions. First of all, the assumption is that I 'like this group' because I like one of their songs. More often than not, that song is the only thing I like that that group ever did, or ever will do. Not always the case, but rarely if ever is an entire album of any group to my liking (there are some exceptions). That is what is so great about i-tunes.. .I can buy one song at a time and no longer have to shelve CDs full of songs I couldn't care less about just because they include one song I do like. Monumentally, got rid of my entire CD collection recently (filled 8 book boxes)... amazed there are still places that buy those things with things like i-tunes available.. got almost $500 for it... not bad... probably cost me 10x that... but then I only liked 1/20 of the music on those CDs.. and all of it is here 'safely' downloaded, and backed up 2x over on my computer (not always a fail safe I have discovered... bummer!).
So what is it that makes a song sound great? NOw that I listen to Songza a lot, I get a smattering of 'critically acclaimed' new music all the time and I find that I like about 1/4 of it (which is a lot considering how picky I have become)... so I can't be too out in left field as so many others obviously like this music, too. But that still does not answer the question.
I never ceases to amaze me when a new tune hits my ear that does not sound like one I have heard before... seems with the limited number of notes there are, eventually all the good combinations would have been tried by now. I know that statistically there a nearly an infinite variations with the available notes, instruments and voices... but when you consider that 99.999% of all random note collections would be irksome nor harmonic, it still seems amazing that there are enough possibilities left over to make something new and worthy all the time. I used to worry that all the good tunes would have been discovered in my lifetime, but it seems I have nothing to worry about... yet.
Even though I have expanded my list of artists that have performed a song I really like by 100 fold, I have discovered very few new groups that consistently do something I really like. The singers/groups I consistently enjoy the majority of their music are still limited to maybe a few dozen, most of those long since broken up or even dead. Still every once in a while I stumble upon a group or artist who has a lot of music I like, such as Imogen Heap, Cold Play, or Republic Tigers... I can't really think of any other 'new groups' that fit that description. That must be the 'old' in me coming through. I notice that many people my age like the music they grew up with and are resistant to most of the new stuff that is popular today. 'Music just ain't like it used to be'... true... but I still find plenty of good stuff today... just not the main stream popular stuff (hardly ever)... the modern Grammys always seem to be loaded with the sorts of music I cannot stand, when once it consisted of all my favorites... that is the 'old' I am talking about.
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