Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out of Mind, Out of Sight

It seems that our prickly pear cactus is remarkably unstable, like some leprosy-ridden, crack-stupefied zombie whose limbs fall off for no reason at all, except the cactus has a clever strategy: it can sprout roots from any part of its body that hits the ground, especially when the ground is drenched in the steady rain we've seen lately, spawning hundreds of cactus plants that poked up in a circle 10 feet in all directions from the plant (itself about 25 feet tall), that is until I went to work on it this weekend.

In the picture above, the entire area to the right was overgrown with cactus, spreading under and over the poor orange tree to the left and even attacking its roots underground (at least that's my theory) to cause the oranges to taste pretty awful (also pure speculation, but why else would they suck?), spreading even into the shady area in the rear but unable to fend well there against the vines and other dark-dwelling plant whores that thrive where even the lizards are afraid to go.

In the end I must have carried off a ton of cactus body parts. So I've made vow (yet another) to keep an eye on this prodigious limb-dropper, this prickly procreator, this wildly ambitious sticker plant, so that it does not attempt another takeover of the yard.

On a lighter note, Willow and Berkeley had some fun chasing each other.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Berkeley is away at school today, so Willow and I are making the most of it. She's promising not to be mean to me anymore, and I'm promising not to take her for granted, such is the effect of our cute new hyper-puppy who can't seem to resist chewing on Willow's ears and tail. Of course, I'm promising Willow that everything will get better soon. Maybe we can even start a new project...

It rains and rains, buckets and sheets, morning and night, so much that yesterday I was walking around in the backyard with the dogs and realized that a light rain was falling. It's not like I'm going to ruin my hair-do, but I've never just walked around in the rain before. We noticed the same thing in Ireland--most people walked about freely through the drizzles and sprinkles, paying no attention at all, but Cheryl and I always had our heads covered.

This rain is probably all my fault because during the drought a few years ago I swore that I would never again complain about the rain, no matter how much fell. It was an implicit contract with mother nature. I've got to remember how powerful I am when it comes to the things I think and say. My theory is that the universe is slowly shaping and bending to my will, so I need to be more careful about the consequences.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Voracious Puppy

Our new CIA puppy came with her own satellite link and 24-hour access to feed from the agency, and who knows what crap they are feeding into her head. Sometimes she gets this far-away look, like she's talking to someone else on a cell phone, but it is doubtless some new training software or puppy propaganda downloading into her cyber-brain.

What she doesn't know is that I can sometimes hack into the feed and catch glimpses of the unencrypted stuff. I know, for example, that her code name is Voracious Puppy and that her training is mostly in physics and in Mandarin Chinese.

She sits in my office in the morning, moving her lips and (I'm not making this up) saying stuff like Woh Yow Nay Guh, which might just sound like woof woof arf ggrrr, that is, if I didn't already know better. Every once in a while she looks up at me as if to ask a question, but then she just looks away, as if realizing for the first time that I'm too dumb to know anything, anyway.

A picture of Berkeley sitting by my office chair and being good. I had to grab the camera quick.

Willow won't get near the puppy: code name Voracious Puppy--what's that all about, anyway?

Meanwhile, it rains and rains. Vines threaten to consume the trees, bushes, ferns, etc., and I run out now and then to strangle one of them. Obama calls me non-stop, but there's just too much to do. Why not call the puppy, I feel like telling him, if she's so smart?...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Won't be fooled again--Final

...besides, I like the thrill of hot wires in my hands. Nothing will wake me up faster than a quick fzzzp#@$! electric shock. Not all the time, of course, but now and then it can be a little fun.

I took the light dimmer out from the wall with all the certainty in the world, so confident that I ignored something poking out from the wall only a few feet away and down near the floor. A curious thing on any day, but why look when I had the culprit in my hot hands and certainty in my mind?

The pointy metal stickers of my voltage meter would confirm the truth as I knew it. Power would be going in, but not going out, meaning that all I would need to do is replace the dimmer switch. But no power. No power on either side.

Once again my grasp on reality dissolved, and I'm surprised I had the energy to even move my head--why am I always wrong about this electrical stuff?--but I did manage to look down in the corner, a place formerly hidden by the library card catalog, a thing existing where it should not exist and against all practical sense. There it was, a GPF switch, its little red button sticking out and taunting me, saying "See, all you had to do was push on me".

Like magic, the circuit sprang back to life. Willow could not help laughing at me...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Won't be fooled again--Part 5

My usual nature tends to keep me in a self-deluded state, one in which I see myself as a smart, handsome and capable young man with thick hair and a chiseled jaw. But my anti-nature is always there, waiting for me on the edges, waiting for me to give up and admit that I'm a complete fraud with a gray beard and in need of a nap, convinced that I Really Can't Do anything.

And in my frustration about having several power outlets dead, I was imagining crazy squirrel wire-biters again, even though I went through that phase once before. But now they're back, these insane rodents with tattoos, a bad attitude and a death-wish compulsion for biting into live electrical wiring. I can see them handing the wires back an forth, spitting and cussing and daring each other to take a bigger bite.

On the phone, my brother offered a more reasoned approach. He said to find the outlet or device closest to the circuit box, then test from there. The closest device is a light dimmer. A light went off in my head--surely the dimmer is the culprit. So in a flash, the squirrels are gone from my mind. It's the dimmer, of course. I knew it...

The light dimmer is behind an old library card catalog that we use to store napkin holders and silverware and the innumerable food-related nicknacks that Cheryl has collected. To move it is difficult because our dog Buddha (may he RIP) chewed off one of the legs, so we have it propped up on an old stool.

Anyway we pulled the card catalog away from the wall and I unscrewed the cover plate off of the light dimmer. "Shouldn't you turn off the power?" Cheryl asked, even though there clearly was no power going to this switch.

More later...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Won't be fooled again--Part 4

A picture of willow sitting in a chair and gazing out the window
By this time Willow had curled up for a nap. Nothing says failure like the sight of your boss so bored with you that she can't keep her eyes open. She would get interested now only if I shocked myself good, and even then it would need to be a very good shock, one of those shocks that makes your eyes poke out and your pee turn blue.

I didn't know what to do next. My attempts with the mirror were inconclusive. I just couldn't see behind my behemoth book case to see if a GPF switch was back there. Beside, everyone knows that GPF switch are not used in the living room. Would I remove all the books and the TV only to find a blank wall (and feel like an idiot)?

I went up to my office to search for the electrician's phone number even though he was pretty snotty to me the last time for not knowing about the GPF switch in the garage. I was feeling pretty low--nothing is worse than calling a contractor.

But wait! My nephew was coming to visit, and I could just call his dad, my brother Ernesto de Blad, who is is a whiz with electricity and such.

Ernesto explained to me that I could use my new voltmeter to narrow down the problem. And then he gave me an important clue. He said "Find the outlet that is closest to the circuit breaker box."

More later...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Won't be fooled again--Part 3

With the power out to the TV, I had to string an extension cord from the opposite side of the room, up over the side doors, up high out of the reach of our CIA puppy, who understands calculus already at three months old but still does not realize that chewing on electrical cords could have unpleasant consequences.

I got it in my head that a GPF switch was hiding behind the bookshelves. A silly notion, maybe, but one that I could not easily dismiss, at least not without taking out all the books and the TV. Willow gave me a familiar look, as if to ask me "What are we paying you for?" But the puppy gave me an idea.


I cut a hole into the back of the book case, then took a flashlight and small hand mirror to look in back along the wall for outlets. There's about 3 inches between the back of the bookcase and the wall, just enough (I figured) to get a look, if I could hold the mirror at just the right angle. (smart)

More later...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Won't be fooled again--Part 2

To summarize: a lightning storm blew through, and one of our electrical circuits was dead, leaving us with no TV, which is not an acceptable state of being, so Willow called me in to Fix It.

The circuit breakers were OK. One explanation (a fact that I learned to my own embarrassment in April) was that a GPF switch had tripped. The GPFs are outlets with some push buttons--they are little circuit breakers usually found in the kitchen or bathroom. Usually not in the living room, but all evidence pointed in this direction.

But I built a big bookcase--floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall--on the wall with the dead outlets, and possibly there could be a GPF switch behind it, but to know for sure I would need to remove all the books and the TV. Are you kidding?? At times like this I usually sit and stare and wait for some inspiration. Willow, the project manager who has no stomach for my indecisiveness, left the room in disgust. Or maybe she just can't bear to see me shock myself.

So our new CIA-engineered puppy took pity on me and stepped in to make a suggestion. (More later...)

Here's picture of Cheryl and Tom, my nephew, and our puppy Berkeley, who was on secret assignment this weekend and was not allowed to be photographed.