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30 June, 2010

Another reason to avoid Putnam County

It's 2010. It's now almost July. I have come to accept that we aren't all in flying cars yet (link goes to a flying car), we don't have time travel or hover boards, we don't have cloaking devices or hyperspace travel. But what we did invent in 800BC was recycling so you think we'd have everything pretty much worked out in that area by now. Wrong.

In my local area there IS a recycling center. That's the good news. What sucks is that they only accept magazines, office paper, aluminum cans, and brush. This meant that it was a little better to travel further down the road, out of the county and get money for my huge aluminum sack. As we started to recycle our magazines at the house it then became more worthwhile just to dump the whole lot of locally. Now, that's all well and good but what about all the plastic bottles that I (and my local community) get through? Turns out we are SOL.

Up until recently we could drop them off just over the county lines in Nitro (at the recycling place..not just on the side of I-64) but now they have stopped accepting plastic. Wracked with the guilt of plastic bottles laying in landfill for all eternity I went online and spoke to a representative at Waste Management who pick up my rubbish.

"Yes, we do recycling sir. Just leave your container out next to your trash can"
"Great. Can I put plastic in there?"
"We currently do not have any plans for plastic collection at this point in your area"
"Hmm. Ok. Any other suggestions?"
"Have you tried"

By this point I HAD tried it. steered me towards one office nearby (that is JUST an office and doesn't actually collect materials. It sent me to the recycling place in Nitro) and it tried to convince me that Roane County was just 5 miles away. Which it isn't.

There are recycling places in Cabell and Kanawha county but guess what? They are for those county residents only. So, the "Taint" of WV gets screwed again. I have a temporary solution right now which is driving down (or up) to Target who DO collect recyclables from the public. They have smallish bins inside near the customer service desk and don't seem to mind me walking in with a huge bag and filling up their bin for the day.

Maybe it's finally time for me to start drinking from *shudder* the tap.

29 June, 2010

A brief history of violence, by me against ants

As another wet summer rolls around so do summertime traditions such as cooking out, getting sun burned and killing plenty-o-ants. Last year we were plagued by them and so I had many opportunities to try lots of different solutions found on the inter-web. Let me just say this: Many of them are all sitting around right now with their pants on fire.

Some people suggested strong smelling spices. This lead to a rather red looking counter top with ants seemingly rolling around and giggling in it. I tried several different cleaning sprays, some of which would kill the ant instantly, others seemed to do nothing at all except bath them. I used white vinegar everywhere until my house smelled like a cheap seaside chip shop (the best kind IMHO) and this probably worked the best. But still they would come back...and in greater numbers. I also tried just squishing the heck out of them but I really hate to do that (although, after three or four days of it it becomes easier).

Eventually I used a Terro product outside and that seemed to do the trick. Mostly. I wasn't entirely convinced and had to also take care of some ant hills with hot boiling water and a can of raid.

So, this year we get ants in our entryway. I'm not entirely sure why they target us but my guess is that folks like to throw trash up against the side of our house which then invites the little buggers to set up shop and invade the house. Anyway, so I'm down on my knees squishing ants and spraying white vinegar and not having much success. I decide I'm going to have to go buy some ant baits.

I head off to ACE to get the Terro things I did last year (they were outdoor pots of Ant liquid bait) but they had completely sold out. So, I trot off to Walmart (You can see how desperate I was) and they too were out of Terro products so instead I opt for Amdro (a product which is difficult to find even on the mighty google). Walmart had it tucked away in the gardening products section of the store rather than the handy Ant and bug control section they set up near the laundry products (that's how Walmart gets you to buy crap stuff it wants you to buy!). I choose a bait that you can place indoor or outdoor (because of our cat, Cooper) and I chose to put 4 outside around the house. Next thing I know, no more ants! It worked like a charm.

The moral of this story is: Walmart always gets your money.

22 June, 2010

Social woes: Is it me?

Being a foreigner in a different country can be weird and confusing sometimes. When you visit another country on vacation it's easy to start assuming things. Like all Brits have a cockney accent, or all New Yorkers say "Forgetaboutit" in every sentence, or that France really smells, but these observations are often based on a brief snapshot. When you are in a different country for a longer period of time you soon learn that some things are different and some thing appear different at first but are really the same. OR you learn that some things are this way in WV but not the whole USA and vice versa.

Even after 3 and half years, though, I still struggle with some aspects, especially socially, and often times I'm left wondering if it's just me as a person or me as a foreigner. This weeks particular social woe is the fact that I seem to suck at telling stories. Even interesting stories. Twice this week I have attempted to tell a story. One about my heroic efforts in getting rid of ants in the house and the second was about Barnaby. I was in a one on one situation both times so I had their complete attention. It was two separate people. It was my turn in the conversation. Yet, when I began "Well, we started getting ants in our entryway. A few times during the week I was up early squishing them but then I found this great product...." (or something along those lines) I was interrupted. Not once or twice but maybe 5 or 6 times I would get interrupted and drag out an otherwise pretty short but helpful/interesting story.

I still can't work out where I was going wrong. Perhaps it was my subject matter. I think what makes things worse is I have a really difficult time of knowing when someone is about to stop speaking. This means I often talk over someone or if it's someone who doesn't stop talking I can barely get a word in edge ways. It's tough when I am just speaking one on one but it becomes a nightmare when speaking in a small group and everyone else seems to just know when to say this piece. This often leads to a perception that I am quiet or shy where in fact I usually have a lot to say I just wait for the right time or wait until spoken to.

So, I'm looking for some suggestions. Perhaps it just takes practice and I need to work on my story telling. Or perhaps I need better subjects. I've noticed that sometimes people will embellish details which I don't tend to do intentionally (unless I say "Man, that bridge was a million miles high!") so maybe I'll try that...

"So, there I was...a knife clenched between my teeth, leaning over the deadly amazonian fire ants. Sweat dripping off my brow as I prepared for the kill"

18 June, 2010

"Two Guys and Three Movies" - My very own podcast

Hey there.

I've really been getting into listening to several podcasts on a weekly basis and constantly find myself with too much time and not enough podcasts so I thought I'd give it a crack myself. So, check out my new movie review podcast featuring The Film Geek! We talk about three movies on our mind and a whole bunch of other stuff that wasn't. This week we tackle Iron Man 2, Avatar and The Lovely Bones.

Iron Man 2, Avatar, The Lovely Bones and why 3D sucks

17 June, 2010

Bad news comes in threes: Part 2

Part 2 to the whole bad news thing actually occurred on the same day as part 1 but thankfully wasn't as awful. When we returned from the emergency vet we climbed back into bed and tried to get some sleep. I didn't have much luck even though I was exhausted. I kept thinking I could still hear him breathing or feel him moving on the bed and it would just bring back so many memories. Still, we rested a few hours, had a late lunch and suddenly noticed that the heat was creeping up in the house. By about 7pm it was 76 degrees despite the thermostat being set to a chilly 68. Something was obviously wrong.

This wasn't the first time we lost our A/C. In fact I think it was the third time in three years so we were a LITTLE more prepared this time (i.e. we have a big ass fan) so the fan came out and the windows opened up and we tried our best to stay cool. For the next four nights it was at least 86F at night as we tried to sleep. I had grown up without A/C and put up with sleeping through hot nights but once you have it it's hard not to be spoiled by it.

In the end the A/C guy showed up and fixed it without even coming in the house.

Technical Explanation coming up:

Turns out the compressor (or something) had burned out (or something) and therefore was preventing the fan (or maybe something else) from sucking in air (or blowing it) from outside (or somewhere) and cooling it (or doing something with it).

The timing was kinda spooky. I knew the A/C was working that morning because I was freezing trying to look after Barnaby. He always did like it warm and at least it gave us something else to focus on. A tip for any of you who lose your A/C this year, make sure your ceiling fans are spinning in the right direction for summer. I think it's supposed to look clockwise (or something).

Thank you for all the comments about Barnaby. I really appreciate it.

11 June, 2010

Bad news comes in threes: Part 1

I've never really been one to believe that bad things happen in threes. Typically if something bad happens it's likely to lead to several lesser bad things whether it's the car accident and subsequent repair bills and health costs or simply misplacing your keys when you are in a hurry. However, last week was pretty rough and it was due to three key factors.

Number one, as some of you may know is that we had to put Barnaby to sleep. It was one of the toughest days of my life. He was a very sick cat who had several serious health problems such as rapidly declining kidneys, hyperthyroidism, prone to urinary infections, permanent upper respiratory infection, arthritis and anemic but he was also the sweetest cat I'd ever met. He was 16 1/2 years old but still had the face and attitude of a kitten. He loved being around people, especially meeting strangers and service people who would come to the house and he loved sitting on a warm lap, or sleeping on my warm head at night. He rarely meowed and just had a silent, comforting, loving presence.

I remember a couple of months after moving to the states my grandparents died within a week of each other. Another tough time for me and Barnaby also sensed that. He would come and sit on my lap for hours or just sit next to me on the sofa and then follow me around the house when I moved. He was the opposite of the stereotypical aloof and unloving cat that we see on tv and that I'd always experienced with other outdoor cats (we kept Barnaby inside, and his brother Cooper).

He was far from typical in many ways. Apart from not meowing (which made it extra cute when he did) and loving strangers he didn't like catnip or really have an interest in seafood. Instead he preferred vanilla ice cream (Cold Stone's Sweet Cream was his favourite), milkshakes, sour cream, whipped cream..basically anything white and creamy. He even like Wendy's Chili and would prefer ice cold bottled water to anything he had in his water bowl (but of course we gave him all these things in extreme moderation!). He would occasionally be interested in store bought cat food but was more likely to be found playing in a cardboard box or chewing on a piece of material cord (we had one tied up just for him in his toy basket), or attacking a crinkly water bottle label or sticky tape. As he was so sweet it always brought a smile to our faces to see him get fired up when he was in the mood to play with his toys.

His health had rapidly declined in the space of about 8 months really. He had given us a couple of scares as he lost his appetite and a lot of weight. His arthritis and kidneys made him develop a limp and he gradually became less interested in playing with his toys as actively as he used to. He would still make the trip downstairs to greet us when we got home though or upstairs to get a snack several times a day. As his kidney function declined we ended up giving him Sub-cutaneous fluids on a daily basis. He was also taking three different meds and a supplement which involved squirting the liquid down his throat three times a day (which seemed to be a game for him and challenge to avoid bleeding for me).

As we knew he was very sick we had worried about how we would finally know when he was no longer had quality of life. It was so difficult because he would have a bad day followed by a number of good days where he would play, snuggle, be ornery, snack and roll around on the floor in front of the space heater. We hoped that when the day came we would know.

Well, we woke up Sunday May 30th at 9am and he was in the bed having a seizure next to us. He had had a seizure (his first ever) on Wednesday night that last about 30 seconds and he came around and recovered. In fact he had had a really good week, snacking on his dry food, eating his yogurt (to replace his good bacteria from the antibiotics), spending time with us instead of sleeping etc.. That Sunday, however, his seizure lasted for maybe a minute and then he seemed to shake it off for a short while before the next one came. Unfortunately the next one never ended, it just fluctuated in severity.

We gave him a while to try and wait for the seizure to end but nothing was helping. We put him in the carrier and rushed him to the emergency vet in South Charleston where they told us it was him time. They were able to subdue him but that was just a temporary measure and we had to say goodbye.

The house has seemed a lot emptier over the last few weeks. It really feels like a big presence is missing, especially when we lay down for nap or in the evenings when we would snuggle on my lap or by my feet (and the heater!). Barnaby really was a blessing for both of us and we will miss him dearly.

Thankfully(!), two other bad things happened that week to take our minds of our "Boo Boo" so stay tuned for Part 2. I'm sure I will post more about Barnaby in the next few days and I'll get a few more pictures and even video going when I feel more like it.

10 June, 2010

Rough times

Have been absent from blogging for a little while due to some really tough times at the moment. I'll post more about it later when I have fully collected my thoughts on everything.

In the meantime, good luck England on Saturday!