Saturday, May 31, 2008

Culture Shock

While weeding through my possessions in preparation for the eventual move to Texas, I’ve been wondering about how to prepare for social integration. I do know they prefer a more direct approach to solving problems as opposed to California’s idea of sensitivity trainings, contemplating crystals, and in the end not getting a thing done. This is especially true in the case of personal conflicts, where you are expected to feel the other person’s pain and understand his or her anger.

Texans would resolve the conflict by something like, “Do we hang him or just shoot him?” And if it’s someone they’re really ticked at they may just shoot him while he’s hanging.

So I devised a personal questionnaire to see if I’m really ready.

“How’s your shooting arm?”
“Couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.”

“Can you barbecue an entire side of beef at once?”
“Without blowing up half the town from having no idea how high to turn the gas on the grill?”

“Do you drive a truck so big it takes up three lanes on the highway and has dualies for front wheels?”
“I drive a car that would be swallowed by the tire treads on such a truck.”

“What’s the best way to get into real trouble in Texas?”
“That I do know, wear an Ozzie Osbourne t-shirt at the Alamo.”

“What do you do when someone cuts you off in traffic?”
“Wave politely, he may be better armed than you.”

“How do you deal with strange folks from California?”ti
“Isn’t there a bounty on them? Uhmm… wait a minute, let me reconsider that answer.”

Friday, May 30, 2008

Family ties

While California has lost a lot of its appeal, I’ll still leave with a lot of good memories. Growing up in the East Bay is one of them. Livermore was a pleasant rural valley town that was quite content as a wine growing region with an annual rodeo to liven things up. When the government decided to locate large weapons research and development labs there, it became much more suburban, something hard to avoid with the population quadrupling almost overnight.

But it was still a safe and for the most part sedate environment to grow up in. Like most of my father’s friends, mine worked in weapons research. Well, at least that was the assumption. Considering how classified everything was he worked on, I always assumed if I did ask what he really did he’d say, “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you.” Since that would have put a damper on our father –son relationship, I decided to change the subject.

With seven of us in the family and a not very large house, quiet time was hard to find. Though somehow, Dad was always able to have his before dinner nap in his living room recliner, despite the TV playing and my siblings and myself doing whatever we really weren’t supposed to be doing. The recliner was his private domain, if you were sitting on it and he pointed at you then jerked his thumb over your shoulder, you vacated. Since Dad was an engineer, I figured it best not to find out if the recliner really did have an ejection mechanism.

The house also had a built in burglar alarm, and I don’t mean the dog. Mom is a light sleeper, and I had to get past my parents room to get to my own. No matter how stealthy I was sneaking in after being out past curfew, I would almost always get a sharp, “Do you know what time it is?” Replying, “Yes, it is precisely 3 AM, thanks for asking,” didn’t go over very well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Living With CRF

As mentioned before, Squeak is a senior citizen, and a year ago was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure, (CRF). It’s possible she was exposed to the tainted food that affected a number of other cats and dogs at the time, but that doesn’t change anything. She is very affectionate, active and alert, so after the initial shock of learning of her condition, I decided to treat her as well as possible.

CRF is a chronic condition as the name implies, and eventually the cat’s kidneys will deteriorate to where they cannot function. Counting Squeak, I’ve had six cats, and four of them eventually succumbed to CRF. My vet at the Central Veterinary Hospital,, said despite her kidney problems, Squeak was remarkably healthy, and with proper treatment would have more quality time on this earth. I also did some online research, and found an excellent site .

First was a change of diet to low protein foods. She’s fond of the senior canned formulas from Max Cat and Natural Choice. She will eat Hills Science Diet KD formula reluctantly, but is more enthusiastic about the first two brands. She also needs sub cutaneous fluids daily. This was the biggest hurdle to get over, not just for her, but for me steeling myself to give them to her. It took several tries to get it right, but while it’s still not a joy, it works.

The hardest and most frustrating problem is she gets buildups of stomach acid, and when it gets to be too much… well let’s just say the shower curtain covering the carpet in the room I’m renting is there for a good reason. Odd thing is these incidents should be debilitating. Yet she treats them as a minor annoyance.

I give her Reglan and Alternagel twice a day, and grind up a quarter tablet of Pepcid AC in her food, but have yet to find a magic formula that works on a consistent basis. However, as long as she has the spirit, I’ll gladly make the sacrifice to keep her going.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mobile Air Raid Siren

Traveling with pets is one of things you can research until the world ends, at which stage it’s a moot point but I digress, and when the reality begins your faithful pet will manage to do everything you never anticipated.

In January 2006, I was finishing an eight month long assignment in Washington, D.C. Two months previously, I had returned to California to fetch Squeak, an elderly but still feisty Siamese who should have had the more accurate name Air Raid Siren. Her vocal chords must be bionic because no cat can produce as many sounds, and at the intense volume, that she can.

The adventure started when I took her in her carrier to the office of the apartment I was renting to turn in the keys. A woman was standing at the desk talking to one of the staff, when she turned and asked, “Who has the crying baby?” Her look was one of bewilderment on not seeing anything remotely resembling a baby. Yep, it was Squeak, and when upset Siamese do sound much like a cranky baby.

Fortunately and unfortunately she’s nocturnal. Fortunately because she usually sleeps between 10 AM and 2 PM in the day, so I had some peace and quiet while driving. Unfortunately because she started pitching a fit by 5 PM, which was when I almost always hit rush hour traffic in an unfamiliar city. Since this was January, I took a southern route to avoid getting stuck in blizzards. This added a couple extra days to the trip. My eardrums have not been the same since.

After getting to my hotel for the night, I would set up her food, water and litter box, and hope she’d be so worn out she’d sleep next to me until morning.

Not a chance.

The second night I was in Meridian, Mississippi. I went out to the car and had the door to my room open for maybe five seconds. Fifteen minutes after returning to my room I thought it was unusually quiet. I looked under the bed, her usual hiding place. No Squeak. I looked everywhere else for 45 minutes with the rising panic she had freaked out and bolted as soon as she saw the open door. Seeing as how she’s an indoor cat, her chances of outside survival were not good. But I looked outside anyway, frantic that she was gone forever.

Then back inside I glanced at a recliner. It hadn’t dawned on me there might be enough space for her to sneak inside. Upending the recliner revealed one cat looking so smug she could hide that well as well as stay absolutely motionless and silent the entire time. As for the rest of the trip, it got to be a pattern with her finding more hiding places, usually under or inside the bed where getting her out was going to take some serious explosives.

But there was still a lot of furniture moving and the occasional mattress removal to flush her out.
Before checking out I did my best to make sure the room looked like it had been hit by no more than an F1 tornado. I still kept a list of the hotels I stayed at, because they may not be welcoming me back if I have to repeat this trip.

However, come November, it’s quite possible she’ll be taking one more cross-country drive with me to Texas. Though on a serious note, that depends on her health. She’s seventeen and a year ago was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), meaning her kidneys are failing. Next installment will talk about treatments and links to sound advice…

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So Why Texas?

Good question. I like cool weather, Texas is beastly hot in summer and even more beastly humid. I like mountains, Texas, especially the Houston area, is flat. But Texas has the one thing California doesn't, my lovely wife. For the last two years I tried to get a transfer to my agency's Seattle office but that didn't work. So, Texas started looking more attractive, especially since things like no State income tax, far more reasonable property values, and my wife already being well established there, having spent half her life around Houston. The other half was spent in England, but that's another story.

Unfortunately, once again there weren't any jobs open for my rather specialized experience. But, retirement then looked like a viable option, especially if I could do some consulting on the side. And, with real estate being priced so people who bought homes did so with the intention of actually living in them and not as speculative investments, (what a concept!), I could finally afford a home I'd be very comfortable in for a long time.

This will be a transition, but I'm looking forward to it. My office isn't so sure, since thanks to Congress and Bush slashing our budget to the bone my position will not be backfilled. It's kind of fun hearing, "We're in panic mode!" from those wondering how my services will be provided after I leave.

My answer, which may very well be the truth, is to cough up some contractor money then hope that contractor passes that on to me. Probably in exchange for some work though, funny how some people insist on that. But before then, there is a lot of preparation to be done for the actual move. I'm planning to drive, and with a bit of luck, will have a companion in my elderly Siamese. Stay tuned for my last adventure driving cross country with her.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why California Is No Longer Golden

I've spent almost my entire life in the San Francisco area, primarily the East Bay, and for the most part it has been an enjoyable experience. The Peninsula, however, was this mysterious place never ventured to except in alternating years when Cal played Stanford at Stanford's now fortunately replaced disaster of a stadium. But after my divorce over two years ago, I needed a place to stay, and accepted the offer of renting a room in a private home. The owner was a co-worker I'd been friends with for over 20 years, so it seemed like a good deal.

Well, financially it worked. It also exposed me to life on the Peninsula, which has a some physical attractions, but unfortunately is populated by a heavy concentration of rude, arrogant, self absorbed, pretentious hypocritical jerks. I can almost always count on being tailgated by a BMW or SUV, and if out hiking the usual reaction upon encountering another person is a taut face and an unspoken "Why are you violating my space?" Well excuse me, this is a public park and all your arrogance and money can't change that.

There is also the phenomena of people with more money than sense or taste buying lots in the hills with perfectly good, if obscenely overpriced, houses, then tearing the houses down and building an ostentatious mansion in its place. All to impress the neighbors of course, who will then proceed to tear their own places down and build something even more grandiose in its place.

The entire attitude is one of entitlement and superiority that is hardly justified. Needless to say I'll be quite happy to leave early November for my next destination of culture shock, Texas. More on that later...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Seeing if this works

Ok, so the first post is not likely to generate much excitement. Sort of like when in high school drivers training your very first time behind the wheel is not meant to be exciting. At least that's the fond wish of your instructor.