Monday, August 30, 2010

Augh! Moving!

My faith in the rightness of our decision to leave this neighbourhood was reinforced in spades yesterday...two power failures before noon, and it was a Sunday! We moved boxes and small items for two days, completely filling the lounge (living room) of the cottage attached to the house. Today the moving company is supposed to about an hour...and start packing up the furniture. They are supposed to finish tomorrow and deliver the stuff to the new house on Wednesday.

So far, it has gone smoothly. Nothing lost or broken, no lollygagging workers, just schlepping boxes to the trailer, taking them to the house and schlepping them inside the cottage. No tempers, no huge stress, just fatigue and a completely freaked Yorkie.

The bad news, however, is that our seller (now our tenant) is being a prick. We were supposed to have access to the cottage for our boxes and he locked both the bedroom and the bathroom and the kitchen was littered with crap so we couldn't use it, either. He lied to the estate agent, saying he would be out of town this weekend while we were shifting boxes when, in fact he was actually home...Hubby saw him in the back garden momentarily. When Hubby rang the bell to the main house to ask the man to unlock the bathroom, they refused to answer.

We got a glimpse of the back garden and it is a disaster. The pool is green and full of dirt, the plants have brown tips (means they haven't been watered in ages), the flower beds and paving is littered with leaves, indicating no raking or sweeping has been done for weeks, maybe even months. When Hubby gets the house keys Tuesday, I am hoping he will have some sharp words for the man. The guy acts like we screwed him out of his house and he can only get satisfaction by being passively aggressive towards us by neglecting the property and obstructing us at every turn, but the truth is, the price we offered just squeaked past the appraisal...had we offered any more, the house would not have appraised high enough to secure the loan. In other words...we offered what the house was worth, he didn't get screwed on the price.

So, I have to get going now, get ready for the moving van that should be here any time now, and start packing my life up yet again. I moved only twice in 26 years in California...this is my fourth move since 2003. Hope it is the last for a very, very long time!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time to move on...

The house in Cape Town has sold, just as we are about to move into our new house in Joburg. It is a bittersweet moment for me, as it was costing us R12K month to make the monthly payments on it while it sat empty and forlorn, so we needed to sell it. But it also marks the death of that faint flicker of hope that we may someday return to Cape Town. Cape Town, in terms of property prices, is a lot like Silicon Valley...if you manage to be lucky enough to buy a property there, once you sell and move away, you are unlikely to ever be able to afford to move back.

It has been an eventful...not happily so...winter. I have learned I have cataracts and must have surgery on both eyes, I am diabetic and so far, that is not going very well. Saturday (two days from now) we begin moving into the new house, but the seller is being difficult...we still don't have keys...even though the transfer is complete and we now own the house.

I am just getting over a stomach bug and, of course, there was my foot giving me fits and bed rest until I thought I would go stir crazy. I'm trying to find the upside, but so far it eludes me.

I have been here just under nine months. I am sorry, but Joburg does not touch me the way Cape Town did. I've found little positive and tons negative...and it's not that I'm look for itm either, it just comes up and slaps me in the face. Like potholes in the road that are so bad they rip the front license plate off an SUV and that was in one of the expensive, "up market" neighbourhoods.

Hubby's car is hanging in the balance...the insurance company wants to scrap it and pay us out R164,000 even though it would cost only R100,000 to fix it and it is fixable. How's that? They want to spend more to scrap a car that can be repaired? How does that work? We don't want to scrap it...I feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole or have stepped through the Looking Glass. Since when to the insured have argue against more money from the insurance company?

Final packing surge, bathroom, closets...they've been reduced to bare essentials, now it is time to empty them out. Saturday the move starts, it will take five days (two days of us moving boxes, two days of the moving company loading the furniture, one day for delivery). By this time next week I'll be in my new house, but since the telephone company around here is best known for its indolence and incompetence, it will be as much as a month before I have an internet connection again.

So, keep well all of you, and I'll try to steal a bit of Hubby's cell-phone connection to the web if I can, otherwise, see ya when we get back on line!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Machine pranks

It all began when I woke up: my computer was whinging that it needed the anti-virus software updated. So, knowing that can be a tediously long process, I decided to run the update while I showered. Expecting the machine to hum and moan for at least the next 15 minutes, I was surprised when it declared itself finished before I could get the water hot. A second look at the screen, however, revealed that my connection to the internet was down, crashed sometime during the night.

Hubby reset the router while I wallowed in the hot water (yay! no broken water mains or hot water heaters this day!) and when I came back to the computer, the update ran without a hitch. But the dead router but was a harbinger of things to come.

While Hubby performed his morning ablutions, I got dressed...we had errands to run and we like to do them before the roads and the shops and the parking lots get crowded. Because Joburg rolls up its sidewalks at 6 pm (or earlier) each night, working people are forced to do their shopping on weekends...when many shops close by 2 pm, and many are not even open on Sundays. As Hubby emerged from the bathroom, I was picking up my new Blackberry with which I am not yet fully familiar...and the phone was dead. Thinking the battery was flat, I plugged it into the charger but nothing happened. Hubby, who has a fine engineering mind and is much better and sussing out machine failures than I am, took a look at it for me and decided that the machine had been turned off. Once returned to life, I noted that the battery was not even low, and since I keep the keypad locked and don't even know how to turn it off, it's a lead pipe cinch that I was not the one who gave it an overnight rest...which leaves the question, how did it get turned off?

Naïvely, we headed out to do the errands, not thinking the router and the phone were warnings of things to come. That they might have conspired together, being in the same room all night while we slept, blissfully ignorant of their machinations, did not occur to us.

I did not come to the conclusion that it was a conspiracy, however, until I realized that the rebellious machines in my bedroom, both of which are wireless enabled, had transmitted their evil vibes all the way out to the car. In the boot was a colourful bag with a clever toy for a little boy who was celebrating his first birthday that afternoon. We set off on our first errand, to locate a certain fabric shop reputed to stock a large selection of shwe shwe, an African cotton fabric, that I want to use for dining room curtains in our new house. Now, South Africa is not plagued, like California, with a horde of youths who think listening to offensive music played at eardrum bursting levels from their cars is an inalienable right. Oh, we do have a few of them, but they are few and far between. So, a couple of kilometres from home we pull up to a red light and I hear very faint strains of music...rather similar to a calliope. I look around for another car...or even a business...that might be broadcasting the sound, but can't pinpoint anything. But definitely, the source of the sound is not one of the cars around us.

At the next robot, I hear it again...and still no offender in view. The third time I asked Hubby if he heard it too (I'm old, my eyes are giving out, why not my hearing as well?) and to my surprise, he did! So, now we were both looking for the source, unwilling to believe we were experiencing a shared hallucination.

The music was not played for a while, then it stopped, only to start up again rather randomly. Sometimes it would start at a traffic light, sometimes when we went over a bump, other times when we cornered. Obviously it was somehow connected to our car as the sound seemed to travel with us. Because it was not a recognizable tune, however, we couldn't pinpoint the source. The radio was off (we checked) , our phones were silent, we had no other noise-making gadgets on our persons or in my handbag, and before long, locating the source of the noise became an annoying imperative.

We entered the freeway to musical accompaniment and as we merged into traffic, a merry--but unfamiliar--little tune faintly teased us and then Hubby said "The toy!" Sure enough...the sound had to be the toy...there was no other possible source. But that brought up the question of how it got activated. Hubby has been driving my car all week, the toy has been there since last Saturday and it has been dead silent that entire time. What happened yesterday that it mysteriously activated, the very same morning that my phone just as mysteriously turned itself off?

Unable to bear the now almost constant serenade from the backof the's an SUV, so the boot is not a separate compartment...Hubby pulled off the freeway, parked, and went to the back to silence the offending beast. Somehow, after an entire week of quietly riding back there, the toy had turned itself over so that the front of the thing was face down and every time it was jostled, its "Try Me" button was pushed, activating the sound! Mystery solved, and we got back on the road to find my shwe shwe fabric.

But it didn't end there. We went to the pharmacy to refill some prescriptions only to find that the medical aid (insurance) had failed to tell the pharmacy that my one diabetes medication was covered 100% and they wanted to charge us for it. We declined, knowing that we have a letter at home, emailed from the medical aid, authorizing this medication as free (as required by the government). We told the pharmacist we would return the following day with a copy of the letter.

Well, the printer had other ideas. Located in the bedroom and sitting on a small table beside the router, it refused to function, telling me repeatedly that it was engaged in printing another job and I, foolish and imperious creature that I was, just had to wait in the print queue until it was done. Unfortunately, there was no other job, it was not printing, it was just sitting quietly on the table next to the router, its green lights glaring malevolently at me. It was then that I realized that the Blackberry, router, and printer were members of an evil wireless triad, out to take over the world...or at least our household.

But we foiled their dastardly plan...Hubby turned the phone back on, rebooted the router and shut down the printer and restarted it, and they have resumed their roles as our obsequeous servants...for now, at least. But we will be watching them closely from now on...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dumb ways casinos lose money

I’ve never worked in the gaming industry, so I know nothing about the operational aspects of running a casino but…and I am just speculating here…I have always been under the impression that casinos are primarily in the business of making money. I’ve been to Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City, and Lake Tahoe, I’ve been to Indian casinos, and I am a card-carrying member of four casinos here in South Africa and, until recently, nothing I have seen in any of these places has given me reason to question my assumption about their raison d’être.

Hubby and I used to go to Grand West Casino in Cape Town on occasion and, when visiting his family in Durban, stop in at Sun Coast once or twice. Hubby likes to play black jack (and is pretty good at it) while I play the slots, the lower the denomination the better. Sun Coast is a little old fashioned in that you use real money…coins…in their slot machines, and Grand West, the most profitable casino in South Africa, uses the epitome of modern technology, a “smart card,” in theirs. To use these cards, which are the size and shape of a credit card, you simply slide them into the machine’s card slot, slip any denomination of rand note into the money slot, and play: the machine credits the money to your card and then debits each bet (and credits each win) as you play. When you are done with the machine, push a button (usually labelled something like “cash out”) and the machine ejects your card from the slot. Couldn’t be easier, could it?

It can, however, be decidedly more difficult and at least three Johannesburg casinos have come up with diabolically clever ways to cheat their own bottom lines while motivating you to keep your cash in your wallet rather than donating it to them via their little money-eating machines. Emperor’s Palace, a plush paean to the almighty buck, is located entirely too conveniently to the airport. All SA casinos I have seen have grand, glitzy hotels attached, and this one is no exception. Between the locals and the visitors to Joburg who have taken shelter in hotels near the airport, the place was jam packed the night we visited.

I don’t like it when the casinos are too crowded. Not only do they not seem to have sufficient air conditioning to keep the gambling floor comfortable, there are few machines available to play. Um…I should amend that to “there are few functioning machines available to play.” We seldom spend more than a couple of hours in a casino, but this night I think we spent less than 45 minutes…if I could find an unoccupied machine, it would not accept my card. “Invalid card” the readout would say, and spit the thing back out at me. I went to the cashier and she exchanged it for a new card but the problem continued. I found one machine that accepted the card but couldn’t get others to work. I finally called an attendant over who demonstrated to me that I was inserting the card incorrectly…I watched closely as he inserted the card in what appeared to be exactly the same manner I had done, only to see it work for him. Unfortunately, the subtlety of his minor manipulation of card insertion was lost on me and the next machines I tried declared the card invalid and rudely spit it back at me. Frustrated, I hunted down Hubby at a black jack table and suggested I was ready to go. Bless his little heart, we left. Foolish, foolish Emperor’s Palace: by allowing the machine’s card readers to become worn to the degree that it took a special trick to get the card to function, they cost themselves a chunk of money on each machine that would not greedily gobble a player’s card and help itself to their money.

Monte Casino, which is near my house, has the same problem with cards plus a little twist…when you decide to cash out of a machine, it doesn’t program the card with the amount you have left, it prints out a ticket that it spits out at you. These tickets are about 2.5 inches wide by about 4 or 5 inches long, each one custom printed, and you get one each time you leave a machine. Imagine how many trees die each day just to supply Monte Casino with the paper for these tickets for their hundreds of slot machines? These tickets are as good as cash, so if you lose one, the guy who finds it can pop it into another slot machine or he can take it to a cashier and get folding money for it. And if you have played a number of machines, you can end up walking around with a fist full of these things which you must not fold, spindle or mutilate or the next slot machine you try to insert them into will choke and you’ll have to call a non-existent attendant (at Sun Coast I hit a serious jackpot and cleaned out the machine, and it still owed me hundreds of rand…to get an attendant to come to the machine and pay me out, I eventually had to call my husband on his cell phone and he had to leave his black jack game and physically hunt down an attendant to service the machine and bring me the rest of my money!). So cumbersome and inconvenient are the tickets that, when Hubby asked me recently if I’d like to go to “the casino” I asked “which one?” and when he said Monte Casino, I declined.

But nothing, so far, beats Gold Reef City for practices guaranteed to send customers fleeing from the machines and donating their money to their competitors. I’ve been there twice…most recently today…and the hoops you have to jump through to use the majority of their machines are just mind-boggling. Now, this is OK for regulars…they know all the little quirks and foibles, the tricks and the special things you have to do to get a machine to work, but for newcomers, the necessity of doing more than putting in your card and some money in order to get the machine to function can be very off-putting. In fact, a woman sat down at a machine next to me this very day, put her card in the slot and quickly ejected her card and left when the money slot failed to function. She tried a couple of other machines, got the same result, then put her card in her handbag and walked away. I am guessing that was the end of her attempts at gambling for the day, since someone looking for a new machine to play generally keeps their card in hand.

What she apparently didn’t know is that Gold Reef City’s machines require the user to program them. Yup…you gotta program the machine before you can play it…and there are no instructions on the machine to tell you A) this is necessary, or B) how to do it. It goes like this: First you insert your card and pay attention to the readout which will tell you how much money is on the card. Next, you push “0” on the keypad, then input the amount of money you want “downloaded” to the machine. Then you push the √ button on the keypad and, if you are lucky, the machine will now “unlock” itself and allow you to play. Now, if you only had a paltry sum on your card and need to add money, you may put a note in the money slot at this time…assuming the money slot is functioning which, in many machines, it is not. If it isn’t, you must find a functioning machine, load money onto your card on that machine, eject the card, return to the machine you want to play (or have been playing), put your card back in, do the download dance again, and resume play.

Now, this is stupid for two reasons…First of all, the more effort you make people exert to get a machine to work, the more likely they are to become frustrated and/or impatient and walk away with their money still in their pockets. If you want people to give you their money without qualm, you have to make it both fun and easy, something Gold Reef City seems not to have grasped. Second, if the casino wants the best chance at stripping the customers for as much of their disposable cash as possible, they should not be giving the mark…er, customer…a chance to withhold some of his winnings from the next machine. At Grand West, if you pull off a big win on a machine, the whole shebang is credited to your card and, when you move on to the next machine, that whole wad of winnings is available for you to lose. Playing Gold Reef City’s way, not only does the player have to jump through a series of hoops just to get the machine to work, the player is able to download only a portion of the amount credited to the card…thereby saving himself money by not being tempted to play everything he's got. Grand West is not the most profitable casino in South Africa for nothing!

There are still a couple of casinos we haven’t tried up here and I am now curious to discover how they have conspired to shoot themselves in the economic foot. Grand West, in Cape Town, so far seems to be the only casino around that is geared towards making it as easy as possible for the patrons to leave behind as much money as they can…just like any self-respecting gaming house should!

Post Script: Well, we tried a new casino this evening and I discovered yet another way for a casino to lose money through discouraging its patrons. Grand West is part of a group of casinos and your casino card is good in all of the casinos of that group; naturally we assumed that would be the same for other groups of casinos. We have Gold Reef City cards and tonight we went to the Silver Star casino, which is owned by the same company. At the entry gate, our Gold Reef City card got us into the parking lot for free, so it was a great surprise to find that, while the parking system honoured the card, the casino did not! Hubby, a table games player, was able to play for cash but I, a slots player, spent an hour sitting in the lounge nursing a Coke Zero while Hubby played because when I put my card in a slot machine, it indignantly spat the card back at me with the huffy notation “Foreign Casino Card!”

After I stood in a queue for a good 30 minutes, a clerk told me that my Gold Reef City card was not valid inside the casino despite the fact that they have the same “loyalty” program…the two casinos, he told me, are not linked. And, since I had not brought my ID with me, I couldn’t get one of their cards…which meant I could not play…which meant my money stayed in my wallet instead of being swallowed down by a horde of hungry Egyptian queens and pharaohs, fairies, black cats, frog princes and princesses and their ilk. Just as well, I suppose…I have a birthday party for a one-year-old to attend next Saturday and I’ll just spend it on a gift for him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It’s kinda like having a baby…

Nine months after leaving Cape Town, I will be moving into my own home again. Not the same house, sadly, as the Evil Employer has not transferred us back home, but into a house Hubby and I own rather than this pit of a rental owned by a landlord who may well be related to EE, given his propensity for ignoring the pain of his victims in favour of his own self-serving agenda.

The whole process has taken more than nine months, of course, but even having a baby sometimes takes a while longer than that if you factor in the time it takes to conceive. We learned in mid-November that we had to move, it took two months of effort to get everything rolling and now, nine months later, it is about to come to a close. And this last nine months of living in a rental house at the mercy of someone who literally does not care about our well-being as long as he gets what he needs is uncomfortably akin to gestation.

Yesterday we got confirmation from the moving company that our move is booked, in twenty short days they will begin packing up our belongings, and shortly thereafter, we will be delivered. It is a bit like those last few weeks of pregnancy when you begin packing your hospital bag, make weekly instead of monthly trips to the doctor, and start making lists of the last-minute things you must do. And, since my birth experiences were all Caesarean deliveries, the opportunity to plan and coordinate things for the upcoming event feels familiar, too.

Pregnancy, for those of you who have not had the questionable pleasure, involves a lot of discomfort, unexpected experiences, and an endlessly growing sense of wanting to get it over with. Things happen that you want to have un-happen, like stretch marks on your stomach and invisible (but unbelievably swollen) feet. And backaches. And nothing fits, including your shoes and underwear. As time crawls on, you become more and more focussed on that delivery date, both in anticipation of the new leaf your life is overturning and a desire to be done with the temporary state that has taken over your life. Living in a rented house is a lot like being pregnant…lots of things happen over which you have no control and which you wish would un-happen, from being ignored by the landlord while the hot water heater overflows to being ignored by the landlord while the house is invaded by hordes of biting insects that find your flesh a particularly delectable variety, to being subjected to inconveniences large and small over which you have no control nor the right to change simply because you are not in control. Nine months of living like this is enough to make even an ordinarily laid-back person anxiously anticipate that magical day of deliverance…moving day.

Delivery is tough…preparation for it is no picnic, either. Pregnant women go to classes, re-learn how to breathe, and swallow tons of bullsh!t about how it won’t hurt if you will just follow these instructions. They spend hours practicing, weeks preparing…how is it so different from the weeks of packing and labelling and lugging and dragging and stacking and all the grunt work that goes into getting ready to move? Already my garage is full of boxes…literally hundreds of them…and the cupboards, closets, dressers, armoires, nooks and crannies of the house have not yet been fully emptied. And I’ve swallowed my share of bull these last few weeks, from movers so eager to get the work…actually, our money…that they would say anything just to get the nod. Painless, they promise, we’ll empty your overstuffed four bedroom house in three hours with a crew of two and a donkey cart…but it will cost you double if you want us to keep your stuff on the cart overnight…

In the end, however, if luck is even a little bit on your side, you come away relieved the ordeal is over and smugly proud of your prize. For me it will be a house that is big enough, with a garden safe for my little dogs, and the power to call an exterminator, dig a hole, hang a picture, paint a wall, screen a window, park where I want…even to move walls and change the tiles and fixtures if I am not thrilled with the ones that are already there. Just as a new mum can buy tons of cute clothes and blankets and booties and bibs and change her new arrival’s appearance as often as she likes, so I will be empowered to paint a wall pink or take up an ugly carpet or redress the landscaping. I need please only myself and my husband.

Like most people, I hate to move. I hate the disruption, the inability to use things I want because they are packed up in preparation for the move, the inability to find things I want because nobody knows where they are after the move. I hate the micro-coordination necessary and, in this case, the nine months of living in temporary quarters owned by someone whose only focus is to get his rent on time and screw everything else. But one thing this nine month journey has given me is an eager anticipation for something I would ordinarily dread: just as no one but a card-carrying masochist would ordinarily look forward to hours and hours of pain, no sane person looks forward to moving…unless that pain is the gateway to ending an experience that has grown lumberingly burdensome and unless the agony of the move is the first step out of the greater hell of living in inadequate quarters and into a more satisfactory place.

Oddly enough, most people on walking into our rented house, are positively impressed. It’s a pretty house on a well-maintained street full of pretty houses in a pricey neighbourhood in a good part of town. One would expect to be comfortable here, comfortable and secure. But nine months of intermittent water and power interruptions, insect attacks and rodent infestation, a fire in the field behind the house, security gate failures, obnoxious, noisy and unsupervised kids, and breakdowns of the house mechanicals (can’t light the gas fire, water leaks at the washing machine, broken hot water heater, doors and windows that stick so badly they can’t be used) have left me jaded, disgusted, and embarrassingly eager to move out.

And now I am counting down the days…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That Yorkie...

By now, everybody and his cousin knows I have a Yorkshire Terrier. I wanted one for a long time but now that I've had her a while, I've discovered that she is not the sweet, cuddly little lapdog I expected.

Because I have dander allergies, a Yorkie was a natural choice: they don’t shed. They also don’t smell doggie, even when they look like they could do with a bath, which is a good thing when you have a dog that has made her bed permanently in your pillows.

I’m no dummy when it comes to dogs, and I researched the Yorkie breed pretty well before my practical brain could support my desire for one of these handbag-sized pooches. I am a bit of an intellectual snob, preferring the intelligent over the bumbling dumb, so I was a bit disappointed to discover that Yorkies aren’t very high on the doggie IQ scale…closer to a end table than to Einstein. But their spunky natures and winning personalities—and quite frankly, their lack of allergens in their coats—won me over.

So, now I have my Yorkie. She is 19 months old and I’ve had her since the day she turned six weeks (no lectures from Americans, please…puppies go home at six weeks here, just like they once did in the States). She’s small and silly and energetic and stiff-necked stubborn and more like a little kid than a dog, and positively adorable!

And she has quirks, some of them positively hilarious, even while being simultaneously irritating, Yesterday, for example, Hubby and I took in a book fair. I took along a tote bag because he and I are both profoundly addicted to the written word and we cannot exit a book store without having purchased something…why would a book fair be any different? Sure enough, we bought books and collected a few pamphlets and brochures and when we got home, I put the tote bag on the bed, intending to empty it momentarily. I put up my handbag and took off my shoes and when I returned to the bed, the bag had mysteriously grown much heavier…about 6 pounds heavier, to be exact. I hefted the bag and out between the handles popped a little Yorkie head!

Puddin’ loves bags! But not any bag will do. No, she shuns shopping bags and paper bags and even the cloth grocery bags you can buy at the market. How she tell the difference between a cheap cloth shopping bag and a pricey leather and tapestry handbag is beyond me, but she can. My husband gave me just such a bag as a gift last year and before I could get all of the tissue wadding out of it, Puddin’ was in it! She has even been found perched on a pile of unmentionables in a travel bag, a clear message that she knew what we were about and we were not going to be allowed to leave her behind!

And she’s clever that way…for a member of a supposedly dull breed, she is uncommonly sharp. Her love for bags includes a love of my cosmetics bag…well, actually, I think she has a love-hate relationship with that one. On the one hand, given an opportunity, she will remove as much of the contents of the bag as necessary to allow her to climb in and nest; on the other hand, the emergence of that bag invariably signals that Mama is putting on her face and going out…and probably leaving the Yorkchop behind. Locked in the cavernous bathroom. Cold and lonely with nothing for protection from the cold tile floor but a custom-lined, padded basket and two hand-crocheted blankets. And nothing to eat but dog food specially formulated for Yorkies. Alone with only 27 toys and stuffed animals for company. Poor pitiful Puddin’…the makeup bag sings both an alluring siren song and a dirge, and if I am successful in wresting it away from her, while I paint on my face, she secrets herself under the blankets of my bed or burrows beneath the pillows in an effort to hide herself and avoid confinement in solitary.

But she always gives herself away…she has to breathe so that little black button nose is poked out somewhere, and she is as curious as a cat. Invariably, one eye is trained on me as I prepare to go out, one eye that not only gives away her position, but speaks to her fragile hope: maybe I will get to go this time, too.

She watches for me to take out one of her nappies because that signals that she’s going with us. As a puppy, too tiny to get down from the bed by herself and, like little kids everywhere, driven by an urgent call from Nature, she peed on the bed one time too often. My husband is not a huge fan of dogs, having been bitten and terrorized by them in his Apartheid-era childhood, and so I was concerned that her propensity for relieving herself on the duvet might make her a tad unpopular with him. So, I sat down at the sewing machine and whipped up a few pairs of nappies, to be worn with an absorbent, disposable pad, and that problem was solved. What evolved from that, however, was a habit of diapering her each time we took her out so that she couldn’t answer the call of nature on the floor of a shop or the walkway of a farmer’s market or any other similarly inconvenient location. Over time she became house trained (and we got her a step stool so she could get on and off the bed at will), but we continued using the nappies for outings and so the appearance of a nappy immediately following Mama’s preoccupation with the makeup bag became, for her, a harbinger of happier times a-comin’.

I know a number of people who have small dogs and who swear that the moment a winter jersey is produced from the cupboard, their dog makes for the hills. Puddin’, however, because she associates those nappies with an outing, is eager to cooperate. She will bolt from hiding, run to my lap and assume an alert, “attention”-like position and actually cock one of her back legs to give me access to the fasteners over her tummy. Once dressed (and yes, sometimes she get a dress or one of her velour jogging suits in addition to the nappy), she prances out the bedroom door and, after the obligatory pirouette at the top of the stairs, waits impatiently for her slow-pokish humans to get their lazy bums in gear and get the show in the road!

She’s really been an entertaining little minx, “good value for money,” as my husband puts it. She barks at noises, alerting us to possible danger, her rodent-scenting skills are superb (she knew we had rats long before the first one turned up in full rigor in the drying yard), and there isn’t a day goes by that she doesn’t provide us with at least one laugh. We have reached a point, in fact, that we often wonder what she’s planning for us next…

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I have to wonder...

I used to subscribe to MWEB, a kinda AOL-like web presence here in South Africa. There were numerous reasons I switched to another web provider, but one of the chief reasons was that I was frequently unable to access my blog due to "glitches" in the MWEB set up.

Chief glitch was the fact that the blog page was awash in ads and if even one of those ads failed to properly download and image, you couldn't use the page. All functionality of the page was effectively frozen...until all of the ads downloaded and imaged--and if one of the ads got stuck, so did the page. I can remember literally going days without access to my blog because of an errant ad, tech support able to diagnose the problem but apparently no empowered to correct it. Ultimately, this (plus obscenely high tariffs for what I considered to be seriously below-standard service) drove me to another ISP, where I have been a subscriber now for years.

So, apparently this is not exclusively an MWEB problem, as I have come across it on websites...even my Yahoo mail sometimes suffers from it. And so I have to wonder...why do the people who program these sites require the ads to download before we can use the page? Maybe I am ignorant of some esoteric rule of hierarchy or something, but it seems to me that allowing page functionality first will keep the visitor on the page while the ads download...locking out page functionality while ads download can easily drive people away, especially if they are impatient, have short attention spans, in a hurry, or an ad gets stuck.

There are numerous websites I have visited only once and absolutely refuse to return to. They fall into three basic categories: too many ads obscuring the information I seek; Flash conceits designed to show off the programmer's expertise and artsy inclinations while taking too long to download and giving no informational joy once they finally get there; pages that simply fail to function...or even fully appear...because a cranky ad has subverted my purpose for visiting the site in the first place.

So I have to the purveyors of such sites even consider their potential visitors when they create them? Or is it all ego/pocket driven, with no consideration of what will make a visitor stay, return, and spread the word?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sorry to say, it ain't good news...

Being the incurable optimist that I have long been, I keep expecting things to get better. At this juncture, however, I am beginning to wonder why, since that just doesn't seem to be happening.

I had a doctor's appointment on the 24th and the news about the foot is good...the tendon is healing, the bone seems to be knit, all without cortisone. Unfortunately, however, the results of my blood tests were not good...I have a combinations of conditions that are commonly called "Metabolic Syndrome" or "Syndrome X." In plain terms, I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Yay...just what I wanted.

So, doc put me on a cocktail of pills (I also have a sinus infection, so between all of those, it's been 14 pills a day) and overnight I have gone from feeling pretty good to feeling sick all of the time. Shaky, sweaty, woozy, no energy, queasy...who knew that being well made you feel like crap?

Since Hubby has been a Syndrome X sufferer for eight years, I am relying on him for advice and support. He says my body will acclimatize to the lower blood sugar and all the pills, but frankly, the way I have felt for the last 10 days, I'm having long ruminations about quality of life vs. quantity. You see, in addition to the restrictions that a diabetic diet place on me, I have long-standing IBS which rules out a lot of high-fibre foods, the very stuff that makes up the bulk of a diabetic diet. Syndrome X diet restrictions pretty much leaves nothing to eat but whole grain cereals, broiled, skinned chicken breasts and veggies...IBS rules out whole grains and most of the veggies, especially raw ones.

So, as I struggle with this and try to find both things to eat and times to eat them that don't leave me with my eyeballs spinning in low blood sugar vertigo or sweating like a pig and gasping in a high-blood sugar assault, I get a phone call on Monday morning...someone has darted her Hyundai SUV into a turn lane right in front of Hubby (without looking in the direction of oncoming traffic, mind you) and he has hit her virtually head on. The S2000 is toast. The whole front end is going to have to be replaced...even the license plate was literally broken in half! Hubby is OK...just upset that his beautiful car now has to spend a month in the panel beaters and is no longer pristine, all because someone else was not paying attention.

The move to the new house is coming along...NOT! Hubby kindly allowed the sellers another three months in the house past the original possession date because they had not yet found a place to move to. It worked for us because we needed to find someone to take over our lease on this house so we wouldn't be obligated to pay both the mortgage on the new house and the lease on this one. Well, we found new tenants for this house and they are moving on on 1 September, which means we have to have this house cleared out and clean by 31 August. Unfortunately, our new house won't be available 31 August...we've asked if they can be out before then and were informed that they had a contractual agreement with us until 1 September. So much for being the cost of our move more than doubles...from about R8K to as much as R18K because the furniture will have to be stored overnight. Why this doubles the cost baffles me, but that's what the quotes say.

As noted before, I am ordinarily an incurable optimist and that is doubtless why I expect each one of these little disasters to be the last. Unfortunately, since last October things just seem to go from bad to worse, and pretty much on a weekly basis now. I can feel myself starting to feel discouraged...

Anybody got a spare ray of sunshine they can send my way?