Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sometimes I Want to Write

Sometimes I want to write something, but I'm not sure if I should because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I want to write about the end of an era, and I want to share about a thing that used to exist in order to commemorate what it meant to me. But unless I am at least equally positive about the new opportunities made possible by the change, I'm worried that I will come across as though I categorically hate the Now or the Nouns involved in bringing the previous era to a close. I might really like the new era, given time—innocent until proven guilty and all that—but I'm reluctant to drive head-on into the future when I can still see glimpses of a pleasant past in my rearview mirror. I want to take a detour down Memory Lane. Perhaps I'll meet you at the corner of Closed Door Rd and Opened Window Ave in a few miles.

Sometimes I'm so unsettled inside that I can't write anything. Conflicting thoughts swirl around in a flurry of unfinished sentences and unsupported arguments. Bits of dialogs I'd like to be having interrupt analysis of situations and events of which I can't make sense. The tiny piece of me still grounded in reality has long since realized I can't think my way through it, but the greater part of the mind is stubbornly fixated on the idea of Sherlock Holmes-ing a discovery and a resolution.

Sometimes when I'm thinking about a thing I want to write but the words aren't making much sense, the white noise in my head gets louder and I slowly slump over onto the couch. I wake to find a cat perched like a mountain goat atop my hip or stretched out like a worm aside my legs.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bye Bye, Little Shermy

Sherman's gone up to the heater in the sky.
Sherman's gone up to the great big heater in the sky.

Sherman Luke Simba Sam Tesla Gump Oram, known to many as "Sherm", 18, of Allegan, Michigan, passed from this life July 18, 2013. He was proceeded in death by his frenemy, Yoda.

Sherman came to us a bit earlier than a kitten should, and we suspected this contributed to his special quirks. As a kitten, his infuriating persistence landed him across the room on more than one occasion and his proclivity for noisily licking plastic shopping bags yielded remarks that he was "tetched in the head".  Indeed, it was his bag fetish that led to the infamous Cat War between Sherman and Yoda.* He never received an official diagnosis, but those close to him surmised he suffered from Kitty OCD and/or allergies, and he would often lick patches of his fur clean off.

Sherman, swaddled in my t-shirt as a kitten

From birth, Sherman had a longer than average tail, which extenuated his bony frame. Finickiness about food and his tendency to binge and purge when anxious contributed to his fur-and-bones figure.

In his later years, which were about the last 12, Sherman was known for being a 'grumpy old man cat'. His favorite pastime consisted of sleeping in a warm place, preferably a lap, and he would meow and meow until you sat down and yielded to his neurotic kneading. A sunny patch by the front door, a large padded mailing envelope on the table, or directly in front of a space heater characterize other favorite napping spots, though he would occasionally choose under the covers so you almost accidentally sat on him or right inside the back door so you had to step over him.

Despite his quirks and conditions, Sherman led a plush life. A goblet of water near his padded envelope and a heated cat pad in the corner represent a few of the luxuries afforded him, not to mention a caretaker who regularly obliged him her lap for hours at a time while watching television or talking on the phone or reading or falling asleep in the recliner, to name a few occasions.

He will be missed not for his less-than-dainty meow or spontaneous vomiting, but for his listening ear, perfect little nap circles, and regular companionship. You were part of the family for 18 years, Sherm, and you will not soon be forgotten.

*No one knows exactly how it began, but one night after we had all gone to sleep, out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter that we all sprung from our beds to see what was the matter. It sounded possibly like a clumsy intruder, for a strange cry had been vocalized and there were empty pop cans strewn about everywhere. Yoda stood at the bottom of the stairs, hackles raised, and hissing. Sherman could not immediately be located, but a thorough search of the house found the poor guy quivering under a bed with his back end stuck through the handles of a plastic bag, which he had soiled. For many weeks hence, Sherman was banished to the top of the steps and Yoda would hiss any time Sherman tried to come down.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kitty's New Friend

My friends Karen and Violet were nice enough to come over and feed our cat while we were on vacation. To see how Violet's perseverance finally won Kitty over, you should watch the videos on Karen's excellent blog. I can't stop watching and giggling as V pursues the darting cat ("Where cat go?") and Kitty finally resigns herself to a little gentle petting.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Show Him the Money

Drafted several weeks ago, but didn't post due to technical and life difficulties...


With subtle exuberance displayed amidst his normally stoic features, CTAY recently declared that his latest metal detecting jaunt had led to his best finds yet. Regretfully, my crazy busyness at home and my continuing journey "on the critical path" at work have caused me to neglect my blog (among other things) for so long. I endeavor to remedy this now.

Several weeks ago at an undisclosed location he would only describe as "a park" (which doesn't reveal much as there are 157 city parks alone in Ann Arbor, not to mention nearby metroparks, recreation areas, county parks, etc.), Chris began his exceptional day by uncovering a 1942 Mercury Dime (a 'Merc' in the biz, though it seems worth noting that it's not actually a picture of the Roman god). Finding any real silver, as I understand, is pretty exciting. Soon after, however, the metal detector screen began to fog up, making the display difficult to read. Spurred on by his early success, Chris opted to attempt a fix himself and broke open the casing--voiding the warranty--in order to dry out the accumulating moisture inside. The break-in paid off immediately when he found 2 more silver coins: a 1964 Roosevelt Dime (aka a "Rosie" and the last year silver dimes were minted), and a 1911 Barber dime (named after the designer).

Top row, from left: Standing Liberty, Barber dime, Mercury dime, Roosevelt Dime. Bottom row: Wheat pennies.

After his hat trick of dimes, Chris also found two wheat pennies. But the piece de resistance from the day was the last thing he found: a Standing Liberty quarter in exceptional condition (for being underground). Research revealed that this San Francisco-minted coin from 1926 only ever saw 2.7 million in circulation, compared to the Philadelphia-minted version circulating 11.3 million.

Standing Liberty, front and back

Chris's digs make me wonder, how long have these coins been beneath the earth? Who brought them there, and did anybody ever notice they were missing from their purse or pocket? Or did they notice but were playing the ol' "It's not worth the time/effort to stop and pick up that dropped change" card?* What's the "half-life" of a coin in circulation, anyway?**

*I went looking for the quote about how much it costs Bill Gates to pick up dropped money and I found someone who's ability to overthink it and miss the point rivals my own
** The US Mint claims the average circulation lifespan is 25 years.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A 15,000 Step Day

Kezia and Matthew set out along the Dune Trail to Lake Michigan.

On Saturday, we decided to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and take a hike over the dunes to Lake Michigan. The guidebook touted the hike as "strenuous", so we followed its advice and took all the prescribed accoutrements listed (water, snack, shoes, etc.). Even so, the trek to Lake Michigan was not without its perilsthere were three stray Band-aids in the sand along the way, and a sticker on the toilet seat of the handicapped stall in the park bathroom, not to mention a ~4-roundtrip mile walk in desert conditions with 9+ giant hills of sand to traverse on a hot summer day.

Kezia, the camper, the one experienced enough with these things to own the type of bag one might want on a strenuous hike of any length, took the first shift carrying the pack.

We began our journey with a 5-minute warmup climb. Many partake of the famous dune climb and go no further than the flat expanse at the top. Some eager climbers see the even larger hill beyond and think that maybe if they just ascend one more hill, the view will yield a gorgeous panorama of the lake. And it does. But not of Lake Michiganyou can still only see Little Glen Lake behind you, just beyond the parking lot and the road on which you drove in.

The beautiful view of Little Glen Lake from atop Sleeping Bear Dunes.

It seems impossible, but each time we crested a hill, another lay in wait just beyond. Past barren sand bowls of brush and up and around curving trails we trekked. We met some travelers along the way, many looking happy even on their return trip, though few said much as they passed. We would eventually discover why. One small boy heading back asked us, "Are you going to the beach or coming from it?" "Going," we politely replied. "You can see it just over the next hill," he said. Our spirits were lifted. We increased our pace. And we found he did not lie, per se, but it was still not yet as near as our hot feet would like.

Endless sand and hills stand between Kezia and the Lake.

At last, after a final descent, we spotted the rocky shore and heard the gleeful sounds of sojourners splashing in the surf. We picked out a stony space and Matt plopped down our bag. Kezia waded quickly into the water while Matt more delicately followed, and I watched as their knees disappeared below the surface. I went ankle-deep in the cool waters, which brought immediate relief to my flaming footsies. Kezia made it to her armpits in a matter of seconds, but I saw Matthew get only waist deep before hunching and howling with discomfort. Kezia reached a sandbar and called out for him to follow, but he had turned and struggled to make it back ashore as the waves crashed into his legs like a pack of begging pups. Still he remained crouched and yet he laughed maniacally as if he were being tickle-tortured. When he finally stumbled to shore, he declared it was the rocks that had done in his bare feet, not the cold as I had assumed. Kezia wore water shoes, and that had made all the difference.

Beautiful Lake Michigan at last!

After resting an hour on the beach, lightening our pack by eating our snacks, I took on the role of the pack mule and we began our return trip. Again, impossibly, the journey seemed primarily uphill. At first when we saw weary travelers headed to the lake, we encouraged them by saying, "It's just up ahead! You're almost there!" but soon we reached a point when we decided it was best not to say anything, for more than one hill still separated their hot feet from sweet relief.

As we plodded along, Matt commented that it felt wrong to his body to be heading away from the life-giving water into the desert wasteland. At least on the way beachward, we had made a happy discovery that following in the footsteps of those who came before us made hill climbing easier. We employed this trick all but once when the grade of the hill made the ascent a scramble at best. Fortunately, a lone tree cast a shadow 3/4 up the hill, and I parked it there for a rest to recover and encourage any struggling along behind. One had a blown out shoe and had never made it to the oasis, and another's swimsuit could barely contain her heaving breast as she panted and flailed and tried to catch up to her every-man-for-himself partner.

The 3/4 of the hill I had already ascended as I rested under a lone tree.

Encouragement now doled out with no more climbers in sight, I made it back on my feet and reached Matt's outstretched arms at the top, a mere ten feet away. As we reached the next guidepost marking the way, and Matt stopped to empty the sand from his shoe, I pulled out my phone and flicked open the camera app. It occurred to me that an opportunity had almost been missed, but there was still time, and "The last 3/4 miles of a Sleeping Bear Dunes hike" documentary film was born.

I noticed after I uploaded my video that there is a "transcript" tab on the YouTube page. I recommend checking that out for amusement value.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pen of the Month Club / Pen #8 / Zebra Z-MulsionEX

(All smears and blobs are a natural expression of the pens and remain uncorrected for authenticity.)