Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New knobs

We had new, dark brown countertops installed in our kitchen last year, but we kept our old yellow pine cabinets. The color contrast turned out to be a little rough on the eyes, and the white porcelain knobs didn't help (although they had gone well with the previous dark green formica). We looked into replacing the knobs, but the ones we liked were beyond what we were willing to spend. Then it occurred to me that I'm a potter and I could probably figure out how to make whatever kind of knobs we wanted. So I did.

Here's what we had until last night:

The color combo reminded me a bit of the day in 1986 when I went to a physics class wearing an Oxford blue shirt and magenta corduroys and found the color combination so unnerving that I had to go home between classes to change.

This was still during my post-back-brace limited-wardrobe-competence decade, when I was just so glad to find a pair of pants that fit, that my entire pants collection consisted of five pairs of the same style in five different colors (dark blue, gray, tan, olive green, and magenta). I figured any one pair was just as functional as any other, and all five corduroys were interchangeable; add a flannel shirt, and I was dressed in the official team uniform of the physics majors at Illinois. Then came that fateful Oxford blue/magenta day when I suddenly discovered I hate magenta. Anyway, the dark brown/yellow/white kitchen countertop/cabinet/knob combo reminded me a little of that.

Here's the new combo:

The cabinets are still yellow, of course, but now the knobs match the countertops pretty well. We have a grand Once-the-Cat-Is-Dead plan to lightly sand the cabinets, which should soften the color, but it will probably be a few years before we can implement the plan because we have very durable cats.

Every knob is decorated differently, so as a group they look intentionally mismatched.

The one below is on a drawer next to where we feed the cats, so that Homer and Schroeder can see that we love them dearly, despite the Once-the-Cat-Is-Dead plan (of which we have spoken nary a word to either cat).

In retrospect, I'm wishing I had made one with a gnu on it, so I could title this post "New gnu knob." All's 20/20 in hindsight.

Monday, April 27, 2015

One of these things is not like the others

We had such a lovely time on Ocracoke over Thanksgiving last year that we took a quick trip back over winter break. On New Year's day, we walked across the tidal pools on the northeast tip of the island, where we saw many washed up jellyfish that were simultaneously beautiful, glorpy, and gross.

OK, so the last photo is not actually a jellyfish: it's the inside of a wood-fired bowl made by Joseph Sand that I snatched up from the current gallery show at Claymakers. Unlike the jellyfish, the bowl (like pretty much all of Joseph's work) is nothing but gorgeous.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Nominalization du jour

S and I went to an event last night in a building that is known locally as "The Green Weenie." I didn't have my camera with me, or I would have taken a photo of the signs posted on the walls near the elevators. Fortunately, my friend N works in the building, so she sent me a photo today.

I like this sign for many reasons. First, why upgrade an elevator, when you can make an upgrading go on to it instead? Note that the author writes "going on to," not "going onto," so there should be no confusion about what the upgrading is doing. I like that potential elevator users should "feel free to use the three other elevators"; perhaps the other elevators are usually off limits, which would surely make the upgrading particularly popular. That the three other elevators can be used throughout the building, rather than just in the elevator shafts, is a special bonus.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring haiku

Falling from the leaves, 
the gentle drip drop drip drop 
of canker worm poop.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Homer the computer geek cat

I have blogged more in the past few years about Schroeder than about Homer, but Homer is no slouch himself. Nearing 17, he is not as spry as Schroeder and is afflicted with an ever lengthening list of maladies. He has kidney disease, heart disease, chronic constipation, arthritis, and probably feline herpes and a little dementia. These are more or less controlled with daily amlodipine, lysine, and miralax; he recently finished an extended round of steroids. He refuses to drink out of anything that remotely looks like a water dish, and he will knock over any cup his head won't fit in if he thinks it might have water in the bottom. He has taken to scratching the kitchen cabinet doors, bedroom closet doors, glass shower doors, front door, and back door, while meowing and meowing and meowing, because he knows he needs to get through a door, but he isn't sure which one. He claws my nose or the bedroom furniture at 4am every morning so that I'll let him under the bedcovers with me. He sneezes on my computer and has been leaving dry pooplets on the floor for years.

Fortunately, he still purrs, and despite all of his afflictions, he finds new ways to keep himself occupied. Understandably, he has turned his attention away from hunting mice and crickets to less physical activities. In particular, he enjoys typing on my laptop keyboard. He has downloaded files, conducted internet searches (mostly for long strings of repeated letters), opened music notation software, attempted to post to Facebook, read and tagged emails, and changed web browser settings. He has forced me to learn new things--most significantly, how to turn off Windows Narrator.

Yesterday, he turned on the closed captioning for the video of Schroeder playing fetch. Thanks to Homer, I can now recapture some of the former entertainment value of Google Translate (which, for better or worse, has improved significantly over the past few years) through YouTube's closed caption interpreter. (For those more in-the-YouTube-know than I, such poor translations are apparently old hat.) Among the more impressive phrases:

CC: Could kill her yes cat yes.
[Good job! Here, let's try that again.]

CC: My time.
[Bring me the carrot. C'mon. C'mon.]

The complete CC transcript follows, along with my own transcription. Given how often I repeat the same phrases, I'd think CC might have gotten more than just one "Bring it to me" right. On the other hand, I completely understand that CC had difficulty with "Chickabooj" (international Catspeak for "watch that carrot fly!").
CC: We are going to play Karaoke. Since the carrot this is the cast here we go yes. Re back. Before way yes employ. Goal what's me. Carrots me Trish come. Bonnie good kidding. Recap yes yes. Could kill her yes cat yes. Crash could. Kiddie yes good job picture year. Flying my only time. Okay here we go you ready Hebraic night. Communicator. My time. Me. Go can which I gotta. Kathy ready Trish. Bring it to me. Good shahar chahte in like 20. Like I let you down you can you create an issue. Job could she that's awfully nice. Yes job row hearing. Yes done. 
[We are going to play carrot games. This is the carrot; this is the cat. Here we go. You ready? Yes! Mreow. Bring it back. Good boy! Yes, good boy! Mreow! Yeah, whoops. You ready? Got the carrot. You ready? Chickabooj. Good boy. Good kitty! Where are you gonna put that? Yes. Yes, good job. Here, let's try that again. You ready? Yes! Chickabooj! Good job! Good kitty! Yes, good job, good job, good job. Yeah. Mreow. Mreow. One more time? OK, here we go. You ready? You ready? Mreow? Chickabooj. Bring me the carrot. C'mon. C'mon. There you go. There you go. Good job! Good job! I got it! I got it! You ready? Chickabooj! Bring it to me. Good job. Good job. You gonna let go of it? You gonna let go of it? You're done. You're done. You gonna put it in a shoe? Good job, you put it in a shoe. That's awfully nice. Yes. Good job. Mreow. Yes, good job. Good job. Got it, I got it. You ready? Chickabooj. Yes. Are you done? OK. Good job.]

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finishing the ATT

E and I finished walking the American Tobacco Trail yesterday with our friend Z. S dropped us off on Pittard Sears Road, then parked the car at the south end of the trail and went for a 54-mile bike ride. E, Z, and I walked 8.8 miles to the car.

This is the first time I've seen this stretch of the ATT, and I think it's the loveliest part, being quieter and far less developed than the miles through Durham. Dogwoods were abundant and in full bloom.

Dragonflies were also out in full force. I watched a giant dragonfly carrying a beetle carcass; it landed under a dogwood blossom, and I was able to get an impressively decent photo from about 20 feet away, thanks to the wonders of digital camera technology.

Also out in full force were the pollen pixies. We're now in the midst of pine-pollen season; the golden grains dusted everything, including spider webs.

While the boys paused on a bench for a snack, I took photos of tree trunks.

We had gotten a later-than-intended start and were running late for a birthday bash for friends later in the afternoon. After our leisurely start and our bench break, the boys looked at the time and significantly picked up the pace. Having long legs put them at a distinct speed advantage.

To amuse themselves, E and Z sang "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" all the way from 99 down to zero. Getting to zero was a first for both of them; to honor the occasion, they shifted from a breezy Allegro to a dramatic Maestoso tempo for the final ten bottles. Around bottle # 26, we passed through a tunnel under Highway 64.

A mile or two from the end of the trail, we came across a small group of bicyclers who had just moved a young snapping turtle off the trail.

About three hours after we started, we reached the end of the trail. Ta da!

Our ATT experience has me eager to find other routes for long-distance mom-son bonding walks, but I think local options are pretty limited. Suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Nightly routine

We live with a very talented cat.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Spring flowers and hairy poppy balls

Spring has sprung so swiftly that I'm already a tad too late to photograph the tulips in Duke Gardens. The abundance of blooms is amazing this year.

A small fraction of the tulips

The fragrant snowball virburnum and flowering cherries were lovely.

A few non-tulips snuck into the tulip beds, including poppies and some others I don't know the names of.

When it comes to noticing things that I only notice thanks to macrophotography, the most fascinating finds were hairy poppy buds on the verge of bursting open. Mother Nature makes it easy to anthropomorphize...

Tongue in cheek
It's not easy being green
Feed me, Seymour

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Half marathon stroll

This week is spring break for E. He and I briefly contemplated a mom-son road-trip, but work got in the way of any overnight stays. That didn't keep us from finding adventure closer to home, though. Yesterday morning we set out with our friend A to walk as far south as we could on the American Tobacco Trail.

The first part of the walk took us through A's neighborhood as we made our way to the trail. We spied evidence of earlier human life forms.

It took us a whopping 27 minutes to get to the trail because we were engaged in profound philosophical discussions about squirrels. E observed that they expend a lot of energy burying and digging up acorns, while A felt sorry for them because they don't get to eat things like Oreos or breath mints. Once we made it to the trail, we had to take a 10 minute break on a bench for a snack.

Although assorted wildflowers were starting to bloom along the trail, the most interesting plants we saw were mosses.

One of the advantages of walking rather than biking was that we noticed things we'd never noticed before--like this dilapidated log cabin.

Here's a fascinating fact: when one boy finds a good stick, the other boy must find one too. A's stick doubled usefully as a baseball bat for the pinecones E pitched at him following the much needed Second Snack (after which both kids immediately inquired about lunch plans). Playing pineconeball helped ensure that we didn't exceed the zippy 1.75 mph speed limit we had established in the first hour.

Around mile 4, we took a half-hour break to play in a park next to the trail. After that, A made it another impressive 2.5 miles before tuckering out. We phoned his papa, who met us in a Krogers parking lot. There, we traded A for his older sister K and some Oreos, and our merry band continued on its way. We crossed over the interstate and waved at drivers, who waved back.

We came across a large patch of clover, which led the kids to ponder, "what would the world be like if four-leafed clovers were common, and three-leafed clovers were rare? Would that change St. Patrick's Day decorations?"

We passed a swampy pool that looked like the byproduct of a construction project, and thought about the pioneer turtles who managed not only to find the pool but also to find similarly pioneering mates therein.

We walked and walked and walked, and then we walked some more.

Around mile 9.5, after we were halfway into our second package of Fig Newmans, E realized we had exactly enough cookies left for each person to eat one per mile before mile 13. This became an important incentive. "See that sign up there?," K said encouragingly, "It says mile 10.5. There you shall get your Fig Newman!"

To make the Fig Newmans last, the kids made do with Oreos at mile 10. "What do you call it when the decorated side of the chocolate wafer is facing the icing, and the flat side is facing out?" The wrong Oreo-ntation.

Just before mile 11, we crossed into Chatham County.

The southernmost 8.8 miles of the ATT will have to wait for another day. At 4:30, we phoned K's dad and told him we'd meet him at 5pm at Pittard Sears Road (roughly mile 13.2), which forced us to keep up our afternoon's average 3 mph pace.

"Pittard Sears" strikes me as an odd name for a road. The internets aren't terribly forthcoming with an explanation of why anyone would name a road "Pittard Sears." However, in my Googling, I did come across a site that says "Pittard Sears Rd has high hail risk, which is higher than average for the majority of North Carolina." That's pretty useful to know, even if it seemed pretty safe there yesterday when we finished our walk.