Archive for January, 2007

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it live, but in the aftermath of my successful failure in wi-fi’d webcam tagger surveillance earlier this week, I have resurrected the “pupcam” that we had in the kitchen after coming back from vacation last summer with the four dogs we rescued in Utah. Only this time the low-res images coming to you live from the immediate vicinity of the cat and dog food bowls has been renamed “Caminalz.”

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Agh, don’t ask.

Sometime last year Susan did some thinning of the planter box by the porch steps and out went a collection of stunted, ingrown aloe plants that weren’t dead but weren’t thriving either. So I picked the sturdiest looking one of the bunch and plunked it down into a hole I dug in the backyard… an equally unideal spot. But as aloe is so often able to do, it grew some roots and kept on going.

With our pup Ranger’s proven ability to dig up just about anything I could see the future of this poor little plant, and it wasn’t pretty. So I extracted it from the ground as carefully as I could found it a pot, loaded it up with potting soil and gave this little long-muddling aloe plant a much-deserved place in the sun:

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P.S. Judging from the large number of babies it’s bearing already the loquat tree (or at least the parts of it that hang over into our yard) looks like it’ll be producing another bumper crop again this spring, too:

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Perusing the inside of today’s Times I found this article about how smoking addiction can sometimes just disappear. The piece goes on to document how a USC/University of Iowa study linked injuries sustained to a specific area of the brain called the insula (which apparently holds sway over urges such as smoking) with the immediate and complete cessation of tobacco use.

One man who smoked an average of 40 cigarettes a day before a stroke damaged his insula was surprised to suddenly lose all cravings for tobacco. He told researchers his body “forgot the urge to smoke.”

In the 10 years since I last stopped smoking my pack-aday cigarettes cold turkey I occasionally think back to how “easy” it was to do so; sure the first few weeks were hellish, but ultimately I just made the decision and stopped. Susan did the same thing before we got married. Though she was a far more occasional smoker — maybe only a pack or two a month, if that — it was nevertheless an habitual behavior that she was successful in breaking.

But during my time as a smoker (from age 15 to 32), having tried quitting plenty of times in between, including once for a year and another time for more than three years, I will never forget how no-quotes easy it is to start back up. I also think back to the several years that I tipped the scales at 260 and how I was unwilling to do anything but bitch about it until I finally and abruptly went on a successful diet this time last year. I was also able to do the same with some brief binge drinking I found myself doing in my early 20s. I recognized that slamming up to eight shots of vodka before going out to drink more was the beginnings of a serious problem and I promptly corrected the problem.
But still I wonder why I’ve had a decade-long success streak in regards to smoking whereas someone like my mother says she can never and will never give up the habit. In her case it might have something to do with her age. Maybe she figures she’s made it this late in her life with them, why stop now. Me, I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to teach myself a new trick. At least I hope I won’t be. I may not work the solution as quickly and decisively as my smoking or drinking, but I hope I’ll always be open to giving whatever it is the proverbial shot.

Let’s just put it this way: I’ll be going to the store for some tomato juice later. That’s right, Susan and I got ambushed by a skunk this morning with me getting the worst of the juicing. We were nailed barely a quarter mile into our second consecutive four-mile morning walk. Trust me on this it could’ve been a lot worse, which I’ll explain below.

Here’s how it went down. Susan and I hit the streets around 5:20 a.m. this morning. We headed north to Sunset then over to Parkman then down to Silver Lake Boulevard. Walking up the west side of the street with Susan to my right we past several properties until to my left was a short retaining wall, atop which were crudely installed some plywood boarding to keep the property’s sloping hillside from migrating.

At about the midway point across the front of that lot from out of nowhere all of a sudden a surprising spritz of something swept over my face from the left side. It hit my cheek, my nose, went in my eyes and on my lips. The succession of my rapidfire thoughts that followed were “I don’t hear any sprinklers” followed by “that’s not a sprinkler that’s rain” followed by “rain doesn’t feel oily like that!” followed by “rain doesn’t burn like that!!” followed by “rain doesn’t smell like that either!!!”

Right about that last thought was when I heard something scrambling across the dirt and weeds about arm’s length from me and at elbow height and so it was at this point that I decided it was high time to alert Susan — who was still assessing the spray that got past me and struck her — to the situation. I believe I said “Skunk! Holy shit!! We’ve been skunked!” And I said it loudly. Then I ran into the street totally like a girly man. Like a shameless stinky gesticulating little girly man.

A few seconds later I managed to regain most of my composure and return to Susan’s side where I pointed out to her our rapidly retreating black-and-white attacker with tail up but only at half-staff heading south away from us. This was followed by a few moments of Susan and I wiping and smelling ourselves to determine the extent of the damage.

Potential denial-phase aside, there just wasn’t all that much in the way of stank. Definitely present was that familiar bouquet of burned rubber with notes of rancid onions, but it was surprisingly subdued. And while never actually having come into direct contact with the projectile anal secretions of a skunk before, I do remember when our dog Shadow did back many years ago. She got hit badly and despite countless baths I swear I could smell remnants on her even after a year later. Plus I’ve certainly had to endure the noxious clouds let loosed on many an occasion by the nocturnal emissions of the skunks around our house… sometimes it’s bad enough to wake us up.

Thus is why I say it could’ve been a helluva lot worse. Given the skunk’s three-foot distance and strategic high-ground position, if Pepe (or Penelope) Le Pew had wanted to unload upon us it most certainly could have brought the rain, baby.

At best we suffered an abbreviated warning stream shot across the bow. Or maybe that’s giving the skunk too much credit and it wasn’t a warning at all. Maybe we just benefited from encountering a skunk that had sprayed recently and hadn’t yet had a chance to replinish its depleted supply of stank. Perhaps we surprised it out of its sleep and it decided to go to guns right away. Whatever the reasons and background all I know is that I’m having a much easier time dealing with the smell than I am with the fact that I had skunk ass juice in my eyes and on my lips.

But anyway, given that after the conclusion of a preliminary olfactory investigation we weren’t terrifically odious Susan and I opted to continue the march, paying particularly close attention to dog walkers and joggers who’d pass us and enter our wakes to see if they’d let out a deep sniff and a “phew!” None did. At least none that we could audibly discern.

Upon arriving home, whoo boy did the dogs take immediate note of the additional aroma and all the compromised clothing promptly went into the washing machine for the first of repeated cycles in they hope they can be salvaged. I’ve washed my face several times, too. With hydrogen peroxide. Like Lady Macbeth trying to get the blood off her hands, baby.

Yesterday might not have been the snap, crackle or poppiest  of clear days for the L.A. basin, but t’weren’t too shabby as balmy winter days go. And having to get up on the roof yesterday for a minor chore I brought my camera with me to see what could be seen (click the thumbnails for larger versions):

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The directions, from left are basically north, northwest and west. In the middle frame I particularly like how from up there the Hollywood sign can be found peeking through the Micheltorena ridge palm trunks.

Molasses-assed as I can be, of course I’d planned on starting the marathon conditioning thing Monday (in despa-preparation for the loooooong training walk I’m taking Feb. 10), but it wasn’t until this morning that I rose from bed about a quarter past 5 a.m. with Susan thankfully rising right along with me (I probably wouldn’t have done it without her) and in the dark-to-dawn together we took a four-mile boomerang march up around the Silver Lake reservoir and back.

All went well. We covered the ground in about 80 minutes and I wore the still-new Nikes that I bought something like a year and a half ago for the 2006 marathon that I never did. ‘Bout time I put ’em to use.

Willing to risk looking like I goofed off had fun today, I offer these video-still moments of truth during a backyard fetch game with Ranger:

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