Monthly Archives: March 2006

cue: chirping birds

What a weekend!
Spring truly is a fabulous time of the year. My little world is so full of life right now. We’ve been planting like crazy, and when the sproutlings and seeds began to take over the kitchen, we got a greenhouse and put it on the upper deck. All the baby sunflowers, poppies, morning glories, basil, dill and whatever else was in the dozens of tiny pots were nestled safely into their new warm and sunny shelter. There were a few casualties when 30 mph winds blew the greenhouse over, but a little twine should remedy that. I found two new wind chimes, one of which is very Asian and has a rubber mallet that makes the brass bells sing. The tone is earthy and deep. The other wind chime is celestial themed with little stars and suns on springs. I also acquired several strings of lights, including steel dragonflies and beautiful opaque globes hand painted with stained-glass flowers, and eight brightly-colored Chinese paper lanterns. I’m tres excited to get started decorating.
Lunabelle Violet is still quite ill, so she did not come home from the shelter on Saturday as planned. The kitten may also now have calicivirus, since her next-door neighbor in the sick ward has it and it’s highly contagious. It is also resistant to sterilization and lives in the environment for up to 10 days. So you can wash a bowl and use it a week later and it will still have the virus on it. Awesome. To complicate the issue, she is in mad, rolling-on-the-floor, tail vibrating estrus. A cat in heat is a terrifying thing to behold. When I was visiting with her on Saturday, she was face-butting me so hard and got so carried away that she bit my chin. Purring, of course. Loving me. Dancing around on skinny little hind legs with her rear end held high in the air, pleading. It was difficult to leave her, but me being there was just making her worse and she’s clearly uncomfortable. As of Saturday, her spay surgery was rescheduled for today. But that was before the vet witnessed the excessive drooling – supposedly a sign of calicivirus… though I imagine it could also be a sign of a young cat in heat. Poor Lunabelle. When she finally comes home, she is going to be so thrilled.
As the season demands, it is time for me to throw out all my furniture. I don’t have any furniture, so I cut off all my hair instead – more than a foot of it. Whenever I have short hair, I think I want long hair, and spend years growing it out. Long hair, especially when it’s as monstrously thick as mine, is like having a pet. You have to feed it, and bathe it, and spent quality time with it or it gets unruly. It needs to be tamed, taken in for check-ups, and you have to buy all sorts of supplies and accessories for it. So may daily wrestling match with my long black hair was beginning to dominate my schedule. And it’s spring. So off with her head.
I went to Hair Masters on Broadway in Capitol Hill, mainly because it’s exceedingly cheap, and also because it’s the only place I’ve ever gone to in Seattle and they accept walk-ins. They never do an exemplary job, but it is consistently decent, and the stylists there don’t take creative license over your head without your consent, like they do in posher salons around here. I don’t need an uberkool hipster with violent magenta bangs implementing her agenda on my scalp. I’ve done the punk thing. I’m growing quite utilitarian in my old age. Make it short, and cut it so I don’t need a brush, hairdryer, styling aid or product. I’m not going for hip. I’m going for an extra hour of sleep every morning.
The no-nonsense self-proclaimed Suburban Housewife who cut my hair pulled it from the massive clip and combed it down my back as I held a hand level with my cheekbone to show her the length I wanted. She snapped her gum. “I saw you kissing a boy out there,” she nodded toward the enormous window framing the sidewalk. “Does he know you’re doing this?” I laughed. “He does. He promised he’d still like me.” We’re talking about the boy who says makeup on a girl is at best unnecessary, and often overkill. “Take it all off!” I announced.
It reminded me of the exhilaration of standing in my bathroom a couple of years ago with my head over the sink as Bee and Ruby supervised the removal of serious baggage from my skull with #2 clippers. Funny, too – now I remember Ruby and I going out for sushi right after I shaved my head. And Saturday the Boy and I went out for sushi as well. There must be something about ditching your locks and consuming raw fish. This requires further investigation.
I took much delight in disposing of the millions of elastic bands and scrunchies that lurk all over the house on every surface. And I will surely be enjoying my newfound sixty-minutes daily. Perhaps I’ll even use it for writing.

furkids and leafbabies

I don’t know if I could handle being a mother. One of my cats gets pissed off at me because I bring home a stray and I’m sobbing in bed for days, shaking my fists and the sky and wailing, “She won’t even talk to me! I was doing it for her! It’s all for her!” Can you imagine how I’d react to a having a teenager? It’s required that they hate their parents for no particular reason. I wouldn’t make it.
Futhermore, I am dangerous when somebody messes with a living thing I am particularly attached too. I mean, I plotted the demise of the janitor in my old office because she bumped my Ming tree with the vacuum cleaner and snapped one of the branches. I was seething. I wanted revenge. How dare she be careless with a little slice of life that I have nurtured from a sprout! I became obsessed with the placement of my orchids on my desk and snarled at co-workers who touched the pots. I drew up little signs threatening dismemberment were anyone to breathe on my phalaenopsis.
And this week I was ready to mobilize the troops because my sick kitten was not getting the world-class veterinary care she deserved — on a Sunday, at an overcrowded animal shelter.
It’s hard when your critter is sick. This kitten – I’ve grown quite attached to her. It was truly love at first sight for both of us. A tiny Siamese purr-machine, vanilla lilac lynx-point with long hair and slanty, blinky eyes. I knew the second I saw her that I couldn’t leave her at the shelter. Even though I’ve already got two cats, one of which is still slightly miffed about the appearance of the other 8 months ago. Even though I risked my boyfriend tossing me out of the house on my ear for dragging home another animal. She came into the shelter as a stray, quite ill, wormy, ear mite-infested, malnourished, runny-eyed, and smiling. She smiles and kneads and purrs. That’s all she does. Blisskitty. No matter what. She was not spayed, so I completed her paperwork two weeks ago Sunday and she was scheduled to have her surgery the next day.
In between me leaving her Sunday and the vet attending to her Monday, she got really sick. Upper respiratory infection, diarrhea, not eating. They canceled the surgery, but because she was adopted, they didn’t put her in the Isolation building where the sick cats are normally kept. As a result, she was overlooked for daily treatment and when I came in to visit her on Tuesday, she was in bad shape. Her coat was matted and falling out, there was blood on her blankets, she hadn’t eaten in days. And no one seemed overly concerned.
I thought I was going to lose it. I’ve worked at this shelter for a year now, and am continually impressed by the cleanliness of the facilities and the dedication of the staff and volunteers. They have a staff vet that is there regularly, which most shelters do not have. In general, they go above and beyond in the treatment of sick animals. So it was probably pure fluke that this kitten was being neglected, and it was just bad luck that she happened to belong to someone who volunteers there. Well, in the end, it was very good luck for her that her adoptee was a volunteer. I made quite a stink on Sunday, and said I wanted to take her out of the shelter and bring her to my own vet because nobody seemed concerned about her welfare. I was really upset. You think I’m protective of my orchids? You should see me with something that has fur.
But they assured me she would see the vet first thing the next morning and get everthing she needed. So we went to visit little Lunabelle Violet on Tuesday. She was looking much better. She still looks horribly ill, but she ate the can of tuna I brought her and seemed more alert than previously. They have her in the Isolation building now, where it’s warmer and each room has a Vic’s vaporizer blowing mentholated steam. The volunteers also spend extra time with the Iso cats. Animals tend to heal better when they’re given physical attention. There’s volunteers who just sit and hold the cats and comfort them. Sometimes they are hand-fed. They get better faster. Knowing this, I’ve been driving up to Lynnwood in rush hour traffic every couple of days to visit with Lunabelle.
She finishes her round of antibiotics today and her spay is now scheduled for tomorrow. So I can pick her up Saturday when I go in for my shift. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me – even though this little kitkat has barely been mine for 2 weeks, I was upset about her illness to the point of not sleeping, worrying myself sick, being distracted at work. Like I said, I’m not sure I could handle having a kid.
I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Boy for not throwing me and my dirty beasts out of the house, and also for being an excellent nursemaid for both the physically ill cat and the mentally ill girl. I am doubly blessed.
Here’s a photo of Lunabelle Violet from her shelter file. It’s not very good, but she is devastatingly cute. I’ll take some better photos of her when she comes home on Saturday. I’m preparing myself now for not just one, but two pissed off resident cats.

Lunabelle Violet

forgive us our trespasses

One of my friends is going to prison at the end of the month. I’ve been thinking about her situation a lot lately. It makes my heart hurt and I wish there was something I could do. I know we must face the consequences of our actions, if not in the legal system then in our souls. But something about her case leads me to believe that the outcome of her trial would have been different had karma been the judge and not a jaded prosecutor in a federal court.
I just wish there was some “undo” button for life. Or that later actions could override previous mistakes. Because part of the frustration of her case is that in the year and a half since the crimes were committed and she’s been waiting for the sentence, she’s changed. Big time.
To give you some background, here is a slice of the article from the Seattle PI that was published. Her case was big news in the area, so it’s not exactly classified content, but I’m not using her name or identifying characteristics because its irrelevant to this entry.

November 11, 2004
Four former Microsoft Corp. employees, all of them Seattle-area residents, have been charged with stealing $32.4 million worth of software from the Redmond company. All four defendants, if convicted, face five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000.
The four former employees abused the Internet-based system by which Microsoft employees can order software for business purposes at no cost to themselves. They allegedly manipulated the system to prevent e-mail alerts from being sent to their supervisors or managers about their orders, e-mailing one another instead. Upon receiving the software they ordered — including expensive packages such as Visio Enterprise 2000 (suggested retail price: $2,000), SQL Server 2000 ($15,000) and SQL Enterprise Server 7.0 ($29,000) — the four allegedly sold it for personal profit.

That’s the gist of it – or what the media saw. The truth is that she was an addict in the throes of a drug addiction so fierce that both she and I are amazed she is still alive. Heroin addiction is a hideous imprisonment in its own right. A couple of kids in her office came up with this scheme, and asked her if she wanted in on it. She saw it as an opportunity to support her fierce appetite for narcotics. These kids got the software and turned around and sold it to the other shady characters who ended up benefiting far more than the convicted employees.
Microsoft will tell you that SQL Enterprise Server is a $30,000 software package. Did my friend know the suggested retail of the unmarked package when she gladly accepted a couple hundred bucks for this little box? No. But that petty cash seemed like a fortune to someone who was living in her car with a $50/day drug habit. And half of what she did make was stolen from her by the other people involved in the scheme. They were all stabbing each other in the back from every angle.
The kicker of this story is that my friend probably made about $40,000 from this software, half of which was stolen from her and the other half of which was injected into her arm. Do you know what amount she was personally ordered to pay Microsoft when she was sentenced a few months ago? $8.6 Million.
Eight point six million dollars. To Microsoft. Because they miss the money, and the company is going under without it, especially after only making $40 Billion in net profit in 2004. I can’t even begin to do the math, but basically, she could pledge every penny she ever earns for the rest of her life to Bill Gates and it would be a drop in the bucket of her debt to that company which she will take with her to the grave.
Is that fair? I’m not so sure.
I know that she’s also serving 6 months in federal prison and another year on house arrest. I know that she’s sorry. I also know that she’s been 100% clean for well over a year, goes to NA meetings several times a week, has a work-study job, and is finishing school with stellar grades this semester. I also know that I met her while volunteering.
My friend has a special knack for getting scared, ill cats to eat. She hand-feeds them. I watch her every Saturday at the shelter. She hasn’t missed a shift in the past year that I’ve been volunteering with her. She finds the sickest cats at the shelter and feeds them wet food by hand because that’s the only way they’ll eat. She works with the public trying to help homeless animals and educate their people. And at the end of each shift at the shelter, she has developed a binding attachment to at least one particularly large feline and goes home practically in tears because she can’t take them with her.
That was the friend I knew for a while before she disclosed her past – she reads voraciously, is dedicated to her family, builds computers, heals sick animals, is an honest, loyal and selfless friend, shows up on time for everything, has stayed sober through a living hell, and is one of the most up-beat people I know.
Isn’t there some kind of respite? Maybe she earned herself a couple of years behind bars. But a federal sentence doesn’t even compare to the prison she’s going to live in the rest of her life while trying in vain to pay back the corporation she screwed over when she was dying of heroin addiction.
She’s leaving at the end of the month, heading to Tacoma. The thing she’s most upset about is not being able to help the cats while she’s gone. She tries not to think about the amount of money she now owes Microsoft. Instead, she concentrates on the scholarships she applied for so she can continue school when she gets out of prison.
Her story – the specific details of it – is fascinating when she tells it. I think I’m so enthralled because it’s like something out of a movie. I told her to write about it when she’s locked up. There’s not much else to do – why not put together a memoir? Maybe she could publish it and the David vs. Goliath theme of her story would strike the hearts of other recovered souls and she could raise the money somehow. It’s a stretch, I know. But it’s the only thing I can think of to help her.

call the starbucks police

I discovered a new café this morning. Discovered it like Columbus discovered America. (Clearly it was up and running just fine before I showed up.) But I decided not to thrust the volumefreak flag down in the middle of the place and claim it as my own. I bought a coffee and picked a table in the back corner, leaving the other customers to enjoy their breakfast. If they’re still there tomorrow, I may try to convert them to good music, but it’s for the benefit of these savages and will only make the café more civilized.
I had a dream last night about Dunkin Donuts coffee. Yes, my friends, I live in the coffee capital of the United States and I had a sultry, vivid nightvision about the Northeast’s equivalent of Jack-in-the-Box brew. It’s partially Ruby’s fault. She sent me a Happy Spring card, saying spring reminded her of me — the biggest compliment I’ve ever been awarded. The card got me talking about spring in Cambridge, and Ruby and me in the Hahvid Squizz… trips to Dunkin’ Donuts where I would buy a vat of iced hazelnut coffee with cream, the spring elixir, with the perfect ratio of ice to beverage (the ice should never be melted before you’ve finished your drink). I have to admit, friends aside, it is what I miss most about New England. So last night’s dream was not unwarranted, though it makes my cup of Seattle’s Best this morning pale in comparison.
There is a joint on Aurora that caught me in its cruel joke once last year. Like a weary desert traveler who sees waves of turquoise water on the horizon, I saw the familiar pink and orange logo, the word “donut” in Arial font, and pulled expectantly into the parking lot. When the mirage stabilized, I saw the word “Dunkin’” had been substituted with “Aurora” – same color, same logo. My heart sank. Still in denial, I pushed through the front doors and ordered an iced hazelnut. “We don’t have iced. I can pour some of this over ice if you like?” offered the counterperson graciously, holding up a pot of Acme Industrial Strength Food Service Coffee. I swear – the coffee was gray. It would be like going to the dealer for a black and chrome Mercedes and having the salesman say, “Oh sorry – we don’t have any in stock. Though I’ve got this fantastic pink ‘86 Ford Fiesta if you’d like. I’ll even throw in the palm tree air freshener.”
Please just look at these pictures and you’ll understand my pain. This site rules and it makes me feel validated in what sounds like a strange rant. I am apparently not the only one.
Speaking of rant, I’ve got a few words for Trader Joe’s. My feelings were recently echoed in the Best of Craigslist, drawn to my attention by the boy after he listened to my venting on Sunday post-trip to TJ’s for some pizza dough. (Sorry, Mon Frere.) But I’m in a good mood this morning and I’d feel inappropriate dragging down this post with not just one, but two retail rants. I’ll save it for tomorrow.

12 and 12

I’ve been walking to work, weather permitting. It takes me half an hour if I take my sweet time. And I do. I put on my chunky headphones and listen to For Ramona, my favorite album of all time, because it makes me dream during the daytime. It’s better than sleepwalking; my daydreams get projected on what’s really around me. The yellow float-plane bobbing at the dock becomes the vehicle of an outcast, picking up June for one hell of a first date. Most of Westlake along Lake Union is private marinas. But the sidewalks have poetry embalmed in their asphalt, and the weathered wood railings have tiny plaques telling stories.

Continue reading 12 and 12

maltitol & dramamine

Oh, so hey. How’ve ya been? Just checkin in, looking for a pulse, perhaps offering one. Yep, still there.
So I got a job. Congratulations, right? And it’s so close, I can see it from the window of my houseboat. I’m wondering if it’s lame that the biggest selling point for me is a four minute commute. I mean, it’s not the only good part. The pay is decent, the people are nice, it’s a small office. And it’s a private biotech doing Good Things. I’ll be playing with Powerpoint all day like the good geek I am and filling in Excel spreadsheets with other people’s important projects.

Continue reading maltitol & dramamine