Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cat Intelligence

Sometimes, I think my cat is a moron.  There are times when I put her food in her dish, and her dish on her mat ... and she'll start meowing because she doesn't know where her food is.  I have to pick the cat up and put her back down facing the food.  Not a genius, is what I'm saying.

So, this evening, it dawns on me that I have to eat dinner and feed the cat.  I say to the cat (as though she's listening), "I've got to go use the bathroom, then I'll feed us both."

I return from the bathroom.  Cat is in the living room.  I say to the cat, "Didn't I say something about feeding us both?"  Cat jumps down and walks into the kitchen, stands in front of her mat, and waits for me.  It looked for all the world like she understood.  Scary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Plan

I need a plan.  Clearly, I need a plan.  As a general rule, there is just too much to do in my life, so the thing that ends up taking the hit is sleep, which is pretty stupid, as that slows down everything else.

For a time (perhaps one might say, an extended time), I allowed myself to stop exercising in the mornings in order to get an extra 45 minutes of sleep when I really needed it.  Result:  went to bed even later; no exercise; still exhausted at work.

Then I thought I'd order myself to be in bed by midnight.  This simply failed on a regular basis.

I may have figured out what the problem is.  The problem is that I keep doing stuff at night, which gets me all wound up, so I have to take a few hours to unwind, and then I don't get to sleep until after 1:00.  

So the key isn't my waking up time, or my bedtime, but my stop-doing-stuff-and-start-unwinding time.

On Sunday, I decided to set that at 8:00 p.m.  It worked!  In bed by something amazing (like 11:30) and bright and chipper at work the next day.

On Monday, there was a bit of a delay (neighbors came over around 9:00 to discuss the shared hedge), and there appeared to be a corresponding delay in the schedule (bed closer to midnight), but it was still largely acceptable.  Lesson learned:  8:00 does appear to be the key time for me to put everything down.

Tuesday night was an abject failure, although there was also a lesson to be learned here.  Which is:  reading a book does not, in fact, count as unwinding.  (What does, apparently, is watching TV, petting the cat, or playing Fruit Ninja.  Not Angry Birds.  I get pretty wound up playing Angry Birds.)  Tuesday was pretty much doomed to failure since I ended up staying at the office reading my book (not work!  just reading!) and didn't leave until 7:30.  And I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home.  So, I mean, no way could I start unwinding at 8:00 -- I wasn't even home until just this side of 9:00.  And then I finished the book.  Started cooking dinner at 10:30.  I tried my best to keep the post-dinner unwinding to a minimum, but didn't get to bed until 1:30.  

So, I'm trying again tonight (started writing this entry at 7:30 and hope to get it posted, and some stuff taken care of in the kitchen, by 8:00).  Even though yesterday was a failure, I am encouraged by early results.  I think that if I actually manage to stop doing anything that requires actual thought by 8:00, I'll be able to fall into bed by 11:00 regularly.  Do that enough, and maybe I'll work off enough sleep debt so that when the alarm goes off at 7:30, I'll actually get up and exercise rather than hit "snooze" for the next hour.

I foresee two potential long-term problems with the plan:  (1)  I sometimes do shit on weekday evenings.  Plays and Dodger games (and reviewing the plays) and stuff like that.  I'm hoping that if I get really used to the earlier bedtime, I can cut back on the unwinding on special occasions, but we'll have to see how it goes.  (2)  If I stick to this, and don't do anything after 8:00, it's going to push a lot of mundane stuff (laundry, bills, etc.) into the weekends.  The possible solution here is the hope that if I really make the early bedtime work, I can fit in exercise before work in the mornings and still get to the office earlier than I do now -- enabling me to get home earlier and have more than a half hour between hitting the door and the magic time.  

I'm pleased, though, that I seemed to have discovered the first thing that needs to change in order for everything else to fall into place.  The Unwinding Hour.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back to the mundane

Yeah, Wednesday was fun.

Drive to work.  Park car.  Turn off car.  Get stuff out of car.  Close car door.  Hit "lock" on key fob.


Hit.  Lock. On.  Key.  Fob.

(Silence again.)


Stupid key fob battery.  Well, I'll just lock the door manually and unlock it with the key later.  Better make sure the key can actually unlock it.  With door open, I hit the lock button inside the car door.  Nothing.  Hell, I can't even lock the individual door (with the lock button which I'd thought was largely manual -- "largely" apparently being the key word in that phrase).

OK, it may be a different battery than the key fob.  And it is -- stick key in ignition, turn key, car dead.


Call AAA for roadside assistance (and their new "battery service").  I actually feel a bit vindicated that I have my AAA card on me, as I didn't have my purse or wallet.  (I had plans to go to the Dodger game that night -- for games, I just stick my license, a credit card, and some cash in my pocket.  Although, because I'm the "planning for emergencies" type, my license is in a little pouch which also contains my AAA card and my health insurance card.  This was the first time I was glad I over-prepared.)

AAA guy comes very fast.  He has a hard time using his battery meter on my battery -- he can't get a connection to the nuts.  Finally clamps his meter on the battery and gets a read.  Informs me that, yes, the battery is dead.  Now he has to call his warehouse to see if they have a new battery.

I take a peek at his battery meter.  It's a little handheld computery device with lots of buttons -- looks like an overgrown calculator.  I'm expecting the screen to display numbers in volts or amps or something.  It doesn't -- the screen is a (top) semicircle with a pointer arrow.  Half of the semicircle is labelled with a happy check mark and half is labelled with a sad circle-with-a-line-through-it mark.  (High tech for the illiterate, I think.)  My battery arrow is pointing at the very bottom of the bad half of the semicircle -- a diagnosis that anyone this side of my cat would understand to mean "juiceless."

My AAA guy does not, in fact, have my battery in stock.  I ask him the "next move," which is apparently a jump for my car and leaving me on my own.  So he gets my car going and I'm immediately surfing the web on my smartphone, hunting down the nearest Ford dealer.  A call confirms they have my battery and can install it ASAP, so I start on my way out of the parking garage.

I drive a small SUV.  I'm going down seven levels of parking garage and can't help but notice I don't exactly have brakes.  (It would be hard to miss.  My dashboard is lighting up both the "brake" and the "ABS" errors.)  I sort of have brakes -- I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think my power brakes went with my battery and I have to stop (or slow) the car by pushing really really hard on the brake pedal, a circumstance that quickly brings to mind Fred Flintstone digging his heels into the ground.  I catch AAA guy on the way down, roll down my window and ask him if this is normal behavior for a car after a jump.  He says it is.  Lovely.

I get my SUV out of the parking garage without actually taking out another car, but I'm only going about 5 miles per hour.  The Ford dealer is about 5 miles down the freeway and I really wonder if I'm going to have the strength to stop my car from freeway speeds in the space of an offramp.

Luckily, I do not have to find this out, as about three lights down the road, my car adjusts itself and gives me power brakes again.  I have absolutely no idea what sort of self-diagnostic/self-correcting thing went on inside my car to make this happen -- I just heard an unusual sound, the brake/ABS warning lights went out, and my brakes got responsive again.  Hooray.

So, about an hour and a half (and $140) later, I got myself back in business with a shiny new battery.

I'm extremely relieved that this went down in the morning, rather than at 11:00 at night (when my friend would drop me off at the parking garage after the Dodger game).  My options would have been much more limited in that latter situation.  I consider this very lucky -- I've had car batteries die on me before (once in pretty much every car I've ever owned), but none of them have ever been thoughtful enough to do so just when I've arrived someplace, rather than when I'm trying to leave.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Alive!

(see what I did there?)

OK, the website which has been taking up a bit more of my time is finally up and running.  So tool on over to With An Accent and poke around and see some of the work my pals have been up to.

Some of the stuff I've been working on hasn't gone up yet (I've been trying to get ahead of things so I've been pre-writing content like crazy for the past few weeks), but you'll see me represented in the theatre section (natch) with my Frankenstein review.  (You may remember Frankenstein.  It's the play I pretty much went all the way to London to see last month, and then kinda failed to review for you guys.  This was intentional -- I wrote it up for With An Accent and was just waiting for the site to launch.  On the plus side, the delay gave me a chance to update the piece with further developments just last night, so it's all good.)

ANYWAY, With An Accent is aiming to be more than just a fan site -- and is taking a somewhat different perspective on things than what you might have seen before.  I'm having a lot of fun working on it, so if you know anyone who might be interested in reading what we're doing over there, please pass along a link.

Oddly ... well, not all that oddly anymore, I'm actually writing under my real name over there.  Or, at least, my real first name.  Seems that when the internet got started, everyone was all about "screen names" and anonymity.  I think one of the big changes to the world caused by the facebook revolution is that people are actually themselves on the web.  So, in case you've missed it before (I think I sneaked it in once when you weren't looking), hi, I'm Sharon, nice to meet you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You got me.

Wil, eagle-eyed reader that he is, noticed my absence around here.  I guess I thought I'd sneak that by you all for another week or so.

See, whereas I've normally got two commitments which take priority over stuff I just WANT to do (like blogging ... or unpacking the rest of those boxes), I've sort of taken on a third.  I promised to write some content for another website.

Once the place is up and running, the time commitment won't be particularly major -- but getting up to speed for the launch (and having a little bit of a headstart of updated content) is taking more time than it should.  So, basically, when I'm not (1) doing my job; or (2) reviewing shows; I've been (3) writing content for the soon-to-be-launched site.  (Well, obviously, keeping my house going with things like laundry and feeding the cat have been fitting in there someplace.  But I've been getting rather more creative with my wardrobe of late, if you get my meaning.)

The good news is that, as of a couple days ago, I finished my startup obligations for the site, so I'm all set for launch (the only thing I have left is to link you all over there and tell you about how cool it is once we get it going), so I can get back to the usual juggling routine.

Meantime, I'm in Arizona right now (using my monthly "furlough day") celebrating my dad's birthday.  More to follow when I'm back home.