Monday, April 19, 2010

We Cat Sat

This weekend, we had a cat visitor. The idea was that the cat will need rehomed sometime this year, and it would give us a chance to get to know each other. If things worked out, we would adopt him after we move to a home that allows for pets.

He is everything I like about a pet, and I'm a self-professed dog person. Here he is playing in the sink while the faucet is running. Many cats don't like water. This one thinks it's a riot.

He spent a lot of time rearranging Tom's closet. Usually in the middle of the night, he would slide the giant mirrored door open himself, scale up the shelves and fling clothes about. Then ... how to get down....hmm?

He enjoyed chasing the light from the laser pointer that Tom uses for work presentations, was interested in just about everything we were doing and he's a real cuddler. Clearly, this cat is very smart and social.

Other activities included throwing litter out of his litter box, tipping over every half-full beverage he could find (particularly dark, stainy ones), and meowing for several hours straight (1 am - 8 am).

To make important decisions, we try to both rate how we feel about them on a scale of 1 to 10. As a professional forecaster and generally objective person, Tom rarely polarizes his rating. He also seldom changes the number, not unless new information comes along.

The chances that we adopt this fun cat may improve after we both catch up on some sleep. Grrr...meow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The stranger

On my 45 minute commute to work each way, I've taken to listening to courses on tape. I like the teaching company. I did their American History course, Great ideas in psychology and now I'm doing Existentialism and the meaning of life.

The first couple lectures about existentialism are talking about Camus' The Stranger. In it, there's the phrase "I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe". (sometimes benign is translated as gentle). I think it's a delightful phrase and it ties into my philosophy on forecasting nature. At the end of the day, you just have to know to not take life too personally. I don't think it's a cynical quote, it's quite empowering actually.

A lot of the course so far talks about how the meaning of life is life itself. I'm not sure I understand this. Just try and substitute another word... The meaning of "shoe" is "shoe" itself?

There's also a lot of talking about being in the moment and how reflection and "meta-thought" can ruin an experience. Last night I saw a number of people experience a concert while making a movie of it on their iphones, just looking through the equivalent of a viewfinder the whole time. If you weren't "there" to begin with, I'm not sure what's the benefit of having a record of it later? Tom

Friday, April 9, 2010

Recent photos of us

Tom is rooting (the American definition) through gear on our canoe trip. We both love to wear travel pants that have zip-off legs. Unfortunately, the week after being on the water for two days, he had peel-off legs. The mammoth sheets of harvested, sunburned skin laying on our coffee table right now are equally impressive as horrifying. I keep thinking there is an art project calling out there, but it's probably saying something more like, "You guys are truly the definition of gross."

Our neighbor, Laura, took this at dinner last night. I'm wearing a paisley gold-sequined kameez that we had custom made in India a few years ago with flowery lace tights and purple boots. If I were to describe my style, it would be something like "Transitional, eclectic six-year-old left to her own devices to dress herself." My bangs, or "fringe" as they call it here are at that awkward growing-out stage and pinned back.


Our next-door neighbor, Laura, invited us over for dinner last night. You can read more about her story, and her daily blog here.

Laura suffered from a spinal cord injury during a swim meet when she was 12 years old. She is confined to an electric wheelchair, paralyzed in her lower body and has limited use of her arms.

Last year, she started seeing a nutritionist and eating healthy low-fat foods. She lost well over a hundred pounds in 16 months and is now at her goal weight. It's amazing how sane and rational she is about cayenne/lemon cleansers or carb-free deep-fried bacon, really? Fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, huh? It's like all that stuff they've been talking about all this time could be true.

We had fruit salad with non-fat yogurt....

...and Laura's mom-chef, Robyn, made delicious home-made crab, ham, pineapple and capsicum (red bell pepper, it's in everything here) pizzas.

Her discipline and positive attitude are inspiring - when this girl says she's going to make a video diary entry every day, she ACTUALLY does it ... every day! Though she's moving to Sydney in a few weeks, we're going to keep tabs as she continues to achieve great things.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

the fine print

In the cafeteria/canteen at work is a microwave (featured in a past post, actually). I probably use it every other day. It's a little white LG.

To me, a microwave should really only have 3 buttons:

1. One more minute
2. Go
3. Stop/cancel

Don't need anything else. If you're cooking for less than a minute, chances are you're standing there and can just open the door when there's 37 seconds left if you need that precision. And have you ever used a power level less than 10? Or defrost? Or set it to start running 4 hours from now? Actually, I could go for a "totally power off" button- over its total lifetime, your microwave in standby (e.g. the clock) uses more energy than the cooking bit.

Today something about it caught my eye. At the top of the microwave are the "shortcut" buttons. Here you'd you'd typically press "popcorn" and it would automatically run for 8 minutes or however long it takes to turn your popcorn into a charred brick. I often wonder if they test their shortcuts on what they're really designed for, or if that facility burned down years ago.

The header of these buttons read "Aussie menus". I thought that strange coming from a South Korean company. Is it different for every country? I'm pretty sure they don't have a button for "American menus" in the US. Or so informal? What's the equivalent? "Yankee vittles"? "Kraut fare"?

So what's on the aussie menu? To quote:

dinner plate

Does this seem particularly Australian to you? No kanga bangas (kangaroo sausage), meat pies, anzac biscuits, chika rolls, fish and chips, or afternoon tea. No button for damper- not even a button for popcorn!

I reckon that "pizza" is vague- frozen or reheated? And what is a "dinner plate"? Isn't what's on the plate that counts? And how much different is rice from risotto that you'd need two buttons? Who is cooking risotto in the microwave anyway!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dandenong Range

One reason we bought the new car is so we could get out of more active in the great Australian outdoors. Oxymoronic? Perhaps. I swear though, we really do need to hike.

Today we went on a quick two hour hike through the Dandenong National Park. It only took about half an hour to drive to the trail head, which had this sign:
Tom kept wondering who is bringing their cat hiking and what kind of lawsuits ensued that brought cats to be pegged to dogs in the 'unwelcome' guest list?

My favorite part of the 7 kilometer loop was when the trail started to get more crowded with folks walking towards us, leading us to believe we were getting close back around to the car park. First, a woman running (how far can anyone run? surely not more than a kilometer or two). Then some people even more out of shape than us (they can't be the sort to get far from the gift shop / milkshake-serving-cafe). When we saw the three elderly men walking with canes, we could almost taste the spoils of a successfully completed trek.

Oh and forget about all the "new car rules". All the talk about keeping the car clean are so last week. We oinked down blueberry cider, iced coffees, crackers and dip the whole way home.

I did read the owners manual though. The transmission shift knob was driving me mad. Clearly, "N", "P", and "D" are "Neutral", "Park" and "Drive". So what the hell is "B"?! Is every other Prius driver scooting about in "B", reaping some kind of mammoth "benefit" that we've self-selected ourselves out of in ignorance? Was every minute of misuse shaving off pieces of some golden brick, deep inside the "bonnet"? (That's what we call the hood here. The trunk is the "boot".) Is the electric part of the hybrid triggered somewhere in the "back", turned on only by shifting into "B"?

It means "engine brake", to be used when going down steep hills. Who is using this?