I suppose I can consider myself lucky

October 24th, 2014

Because I fixed breakfast at home today, I found a problem in time to handle it fairly cleanly.

When I eat breakfast at home, I take my vitamins. One bottle was empty, so I went into the basement to get a replacement. Smelling something unpleasant, and knowing that the cats’ litter box had been dealt with last night because trash gets picked up this morning, I looked around and noticed a wet spot at one corner of the freezer. When I opened the door, I found this:

Freezer

The cookie dough on the top shelf I wasn’t concerned about. Everything on the next shelf down and in the door was defrosted. Items on the bottom two shelves were still frozen solid. I took about fifty pounds of meat that had been defrosted for who knows how long out to the trash. It might have still been ok, but I’d rather not chance it – I lost 15 pounds of weight after I got sick in Bulgaria, and I wasn’t keen on losing any more that rapidly.

I say I’m lucky because I discovered it before the trash pickup came; I’d not have liked to have it hanging around for another week. Now, I’ll be looking for a chest freezer – I’ve had to prop weight against the freezer door to keep it closed.

Eastern Europe, part 2: Sighisoara

October 14th, 2014

We left Budapest on an overnight train to Sighisoara, Romania. I did not sleep well on the train, because it was hot and muggy, and the bunk was too short for me. Sighisoara itself has a small “old city” on a hill, which is surrounded by the larger, more modern, main part of the city.

Sighisoara - Looking Up

We stayed at the Hotel Sighisoara in the old city.

Sighisoara - Hotel

One of the entrances to the old city is through a gate in the base of a clock tower. The clock has figures that are supposed to perform actions on the hour, but the clock has been broken for a long time.

Sighisoara - Clock Tower

One building had an interesting architectural feature. I have no idea what’s going on, other than I presume someone thought it was appropriate.

Sighisoara - Stag Building

Sighisoara is the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), a name he was given after his death. There is a picture of this bust of him in the Wikipedia article about him. The plaque reads (with a few Romanian letters I haven’t used):

Vlad Tepes
1431-1476
Domnitor al Tarii Romanesti
Intre Anni
1448;1456 – 1462;1476

It means, “Vlad Tepes, 1431-1476, Ruler of Romania during the years 1448-1456 and 1462-1476.”

Sighisoara - Tepes Statue

The name “Dracula” came from his father, who was a member of the chivalric Order of the Dragon (“dragon” being “dracul” in Romanian back then – we were told it has a meaning more like “devil” now). The house he was born in is now a restaurant, which we ate in the first night there.

Sighisoara - Dracula Restaurant

We took a day trip to see a few old villages and churches. The only photo I’m showing from that trip is of a window – you can see that there is a glass pane that’s been added, but the original window has a wooden block used to “close” it.

Old Window

The afternoon of our second day in Sighisoara, we took a bus to Brasov.

No. Just … no.

October 6th, 2014

I would not do this, but I can watch it in full-screen.

Via The Feral Irishman (often NSFW)

Eastern Europe, part 1: Budapest

September 29th, 2014

Our tour of eastern Europe started in Budapest. We got there two days early, which turned out to be a good thing – the night before the first day of the tour, the weather turned wet, so most of my good photos come from the time before the tour started.

I took about 500 photos in Budapest, so there’s a lot that I won’t be showing or talking about in this post. For those pictures I include, clicking on them will get you a larger version.

Budapest was originally two cities, separated by the Danube, with Buda on the western side, and Pest on the eastern side. We heard a number of references to “the Buda side” and “the Pest side” during our stay. Our hotel was on the Pest side, and we crossed the Danube several times, both on foot and on tour buses. We never did get around to taking a Danube cruise, though.

There were a number of beautiful and historic buildings in Budapest, including St. Stephen’s, the Dohány Street Synagogue (near which I had some wonderful honey-elderflower ice cream), and the Parliament building. Buda Castle was pointed out on the city tour we took, which was somewhat amusing, because it was destroyed during World War II. Some of its ruins are still visible near the Presidential Palace, which is the white building on the hilltop to the right of center in the photo below. The yellow building on its right is, IIRC, a music school, and the large building to its left with the green copper rooftops is a museum. My understanding is that Buda Castle covered that entire area (roughly from the center of the photo almost to the spire on the far right).

Buda Castle

Some of the older buildings had interesting architectural details, such as these satyrs on a hotel exterior:

Satyrs

There were some whimsical decorative touches as well, like the entry to a teahouse near our hotel:

Teahouse

Also whimsical, or at least strange, is the astroturf topiary that we saw in a few places.

Astro-Topiary

And who can doubt the whimsy of a statue of “Anonymous?” The tip of the pen appears polished because a legend has grown up around it that states that holding the tip of the pen will make you a better writer.

Anonymous

We enjoyed our time in Budapest. We had several very nice meals – we liked one restaurant enough we went back again – and we could have spent significantly longer seeing more of the city. Once the tour started, though, we had one day in Budapest with the group before we took an overnight train to Sighisoara, Romania.

Autumn Colors

September 28th, 2014

We went up the Peak-to-Peak Highway to look at the aspen this afternoon. If this wasn’t the best weekend for it, then last weekend must have been, but probably not by all that much. We drove up Coal Creek Canyon to where it hits the Peak-to-Peak between Rawlinsville and Nederland. We should probably have gone through Boulder Canyon into Nederland, though – traffic into and through Nederland was horribly slow, but coming up through Boulder would have bypassed most of it.

People used to the wonderful autumn colors of the hardwood forests of the east won’t be terribly impressed, but aspen is what we have here, and it’s certainly pretty.

Aspen1

Aspen2

We stopped in Lyons for a late lunch. They’re still recovering from the flooding, but, as they say at the visitor’s center, “Any time or dime spent here helps the recovery.”

Travel photos to follow

September 16th, 2014

Well, I’m back. Been on a trip through eastern Europe for the last two weeks – started in Budpest, then through Romania and Bulgaria, finishing in Istanbul (not Constantinople).

It wasn’t the best trip I’ve been on, because I was ill for most of it. We’re blaming the Australians (two of the Australians in the tour group were ill at the start), but I don’t know for certain how I caught it. I just know that I got a nasty cough and congestion somewhere in Romania. I was satisfied to treat it with cough drops and skip some of the harder activities, but I woke up with my right eye bloodshot and gummed shut the first morning in Belogradchik, Bulgaria, and knew that I couldn’t get away without seeing a doctor at that point.

The group was scheduled to visit a cave and a hilltop fortress that day, so we had a local guide. The trip to the cave was delayed while the local guide took me to the hospital. Unfortunately, the doctor spoke no English, and the guide’s command of the language didn’t include medical topics. I did find out that I had elevated temperature, significantly elevated pulse and blood pressure, and was given prescriptions for the main infection and for my eye. We then went and found a pharmacist who filled the prescriptions, but she didn’t speak English, either.

I had to skip the trip to see the cave (and its paleolithic paintings) and the fortress, but I wasn’t feeling up to the effort, anyway. After a day or so, I could tell that the medicine was helping. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sufficient. I was only given a 3-day course of antibiotics, and when they’d run out, I relapsed. Sunday, our last day in Istanbul, I stopped eating, because I couldn’t handle it. Since then, I’ve had a small dish of vanilla ice cream on one of the flights, and some pancakes this morning.

I had other symptoms kick in on the trip back. I’m sure you don’t need details. In any event, the associated gas and cramping have made me unwilling to eat much, if anything. I bought some juice this evening, but it didn’t really taste as good as it usually does. At least I got new medicine to take with it – I managed to get an appointment at my doctor’s office on short notice today. With luck, I’ll be getting healthy again soon.

One thing – I lost about 10 pounds on the trip. I could certainly afford to lose that much (and more), but it’s not the best way of losing weight.

Musical Evenings

August 22nd, 2014

Last night was the second anniversary of the Adrift Tiki Bar‘s opening, and the Denver Ukulele Community was invited to perform. It wasn’t a bad evening, but it could have been better. We were out on the back patio, and it was crowded, in large part because it was small. It was also noisy – I’m not sure how well we were heard, particularly during the solos after the group performances.

I did two solos: Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World, and The Vogues’ Five O’Clock World. At least one person heard me, and came up afterward to tell me how much he enjoyed my performance of the Brooks and Dunn song. He must have been thinking of some other group that covered one of the songs (Five O’Clock World has been covered by a number of performers), because Brooks and Dunn haven’t done either of those.

Tonight, we’ll be seeing Manhattan Transfer at the Arvada Center. Should be a good evening if the rain holds off, which is not what the weather forecast is leading me to expect. We weren’t able to get seats in the covered area, so we’ll be on the lawn. Might be a damp (or wet) evening.

Tunesday

August 19th, 2014

Been a while since I’ve done one of these. Figured I’d do one to mark Ginger Baker’s 75th birthday. He’s been in a lot of groups – here are selections from a few of them.

No Capes!

Seen on this evening’s walk

August 14th, 2014

Three-Great-Horned

So long, Butch. I’ll hold down the fort.

August 7th, 2014

When I first met Butch, it was at a party hosted by Paul, the guy my friend Sarah was living with. She and her sister Penelope were entertaining the guests with their antics and by generally being cute. The next New Year’s Day, Sarah called and said, “I’m leaving Paul. Can I stay with you for a few days until Marsha can take me in?”

I told her of course she could. She showed up later that day with Orson, Butch, and Penelope in tow. A few days later, she and Orson moved in with Marsha, leaving Butch and Penelope with me. They were both about a year old at that time, and having two not-quite-kittens around was fun.

A week or so later, Sarah said Paul wanted one of the kittens, so Penelope left, because Sarah thought Penelope would be less likely to get into serious trouble there (Butch had a lot more … personality). A couple years later, when Butch sneaked into the dryer after I’d finished my last load and got trapped, I figured Sarah had been correct.

She used to sleep with me. We’d go to bed, and she’d wrap her hind legs around my upper arm and knead my neck for a while. She’s the only cat I’ve known that snored. After a few years, she started putting on a lot of weight, and I acquired Kiki to be a playmate for her. That didn’t work out, and I had to banish both cats from my bedroom at night.

There was never enough lap time for her, and she’d let you know if she thought you weren’t petting her properly. She was a very loud cat until recently, and was a shedding engine from the day I got her. I remember telling Sarah about a week after she left Butch with me, “I had no idea that I had such a cat hair deficiency in my life!” She loved to spend time in the garden, even though I didn’t let her out much or without supervision, since she was declawed before I got her. If I didn’t supervise her closely enough, she’d start exploring the neighborhood.

A couple of years ago, she started losing a lot of weight and her fur got ugly. The doctor prescribed thyroid medication, which stabilized her weight around 9 pounds (down from a 15-pound peak). The medicine helped a lot, bringing back her appetite, letting her put a little weight back on, getting her fur back in shape, and making her healthier overall.

It’s no longer enough, though. Her appetite’s been lessening for a few weeks, and now she’s pretty much stopped eating. She can still get onto her favorite furniture, but she’s not steady on her feet, and sometimes has to try twice or more to jump onto a lap. Last night, she stopped to lie down three times going from her chair in the living room to the food dishes in the kitchen. This morning, for the first time in years, she wasn’t outside my bedroom door to let me know that she was ready for breakfast. She was already in the kitchen, lying down on a rug near the food bowls. She did eat a little, but threw it up almost immediately.

At 9:00 this morning, we went into the vet’s office. Once we were in the examining room, I kept Butch on my lap and petted her until the vet asked for her weight. She was 6 pounds. She lay down on the counter and I continued to pet her until the end. The vet came back shortly with two hypodermics. We put her on a towel and he gave her a muscle relaxant. Less than a minute later, she looked almost as though she were asleep, but her eyes were still partly open. Her breathing was so slow and shallow that I thought she might not even need the second shot. Shortly thereafter, I said “Goodbye, Butch” as he gave her the euthanasia injection. Her breathing stopped almost immediately.

At 9:35, I left with a cat carrier full of about 17 years of memories.

UPDATE: I almost forgot – I wrote a poem for her several years ago.

Partners in Crime
An Ode to US Patent #5443036

A mighty huntress is my Butch, a cat both fast and agile.
I try to keep her occupied, and far from all things fragile.
She is a wild barbarian cat – can’t find a toy? She’ll make one.
If laundry isn’t put away, she’ll find the socks and take one.
But better far than sock of mine is spot of red from laser.
Although she never catches it, it doesn’t seem to faze her.
She’ll chase it ‘cross the floors and walls, and track it on the ceiling.
She chatters when it goes too high, her frustrations revealing.
We have fun; I think it helps to keep her lithe, not fattened.
Although, it seems that we’ve been violating someone’s patent.
Must I pay a license fee, else suffer time in jail?
I don’t think that appeals to me, and Butch won’t go my bail.
The patent office may proclaim they’re only following rules,
But when they granted this one, I think that they were fools.