Monday, March 26, 2007


The bathtub faucet is dripping like a nose in January and its starting to get on my nerves as well as my water bill. Since my plumbing prowess is better expressed as free form art with soppy towels however, I am loath to pick up the entirely wrong wrench, strip the thread off a nut and wind up mortgaging the house for a plumber's visit after all.

So I ignore it. Not to say entirely. I work on it the way I work on most daunting projects. I open an access panel.

This seems to do the trick and is a skill I learned in marriage. Opening an access panel to the problem gives all the appearances of addressing and solving the problem. It does however, keep you safely out of range of the problem in that you are not actually working ON it. Just AT or AROUND it.

It was a charm. Plumbing? Open an access panel. Wiring? Flip the door of the circuit breaker. Wash windows? Artfully position a ladder and bucket. Car trouble? Pop the hood. Of course now I'm only deceiving myself but I am taking solace and comfort in that I am doing SOMETHING which is of course better than doing NOTHING.

The back of the bathtub abuts the toilet in the knob and tube palace. So there's a double benefit. Pull off the access panel and use downtime to study the plumbing pattern from a seated position. Did you know there's a whole lot of space under the bathtub? Like a crawlspace or a neat place to hide things. Opening the thing presents a world of opportunity. Its an education, seated.

But that's not the point. I came here to talk about my cat.

Ripley is a kitten, approaching one year but with the kitty intellect of a newborn that's been dropped once or twice. This is not to say she's entirely stupid but you'd think that the feedback from her chomping her own tail once or twice would begin to make an impression.

Apparently not.

I adopted Ripley and brought her home. I've had a number of cats in my life. We, and later I, have always tried to introduce them into their new environment in a controlled and gentle manner. We put Mumble in a spare bedroom, closed the door, let her play with her toys and, it being spring, opened the window for her to let fresh air past the screen.

Did you know that the smallest, seemly most innocuous holes in a screen are usually just big enough for a cat?

She's fine. We dragged her back in as she was half out and mumbling old Jimmy Cagney lines.

We introduced Crittur to the same room and kept her separate from Mumble for a few days. Ruby is his own story and Boomer got the run of the living room where we promptly forgot she was in there for a couple of weeks. That might explain a lot about Boom.

Ripley was going to be done exactly right. I set her cage up in a study, put food, water, litter and toys in the room, opened the cage door and went to get a towel for her to lie on.

And left the door open.

I mean, what the hell. The cat is hunched up in the back of her cage, all these new inputs are causing her to overload and freeze on the spot, what could possibly happen?

Oh, well, she could get out.

Which of course, being a cat she did. Cats are like little testing grounds for the laws of physics. If you've got a concept of a certain mass occupying a certain fixed space you probably also have a cat testing that boundary. Ok, she dashed. Under the couch. I get that. Cats and couches just naturally go together. But when she wedged herself between the wall and the radiator I could only envision a little orange grilled cheese furrball. Talked her out of there and she headed for parts unknown and I lost her for a day or so. But what's to worry? The doors are closed, it's January, windows are shut. The cat can not actually get out of the house.

So I put food in helpful places and let her find her way around the house. Sure, it was an immersion course, but one she had chosen for herself. She found food, the litterbox, string, where all the dustbunnies are kept.

And on the second night she found Boomer. That did not go well. No one was hurt, but Boomer found that she had issues with another cat in what was now exclusively her space. Ripley bolted, Boomer hot on her trail and one chased the other until the other ensconced herself in a really good hiding space. I figured she'd come back out after she'd calmed down and got hungry. So I left more food in helpful places and waited for Ripley.

Who never actually showed up.

After about three days of invisi-cat, I decided to do a room by room toss of the house. Close a door, look under, in, on top of and anywhere around every surface, nook, cranny or physical space too small for a vole but apparently not for a cat.

All rooms accounted for. No cat.

That was interesting. In a disturbing, mess with the laws of physics way. Checked every room again.

No cat.

Even checked the bathroom. Even jokingly looked down the bathtub drain.

Which brings me back to plumbing and access.

Even though the access panel to the back of the tub was off, I had pushed a large cupboard up against the opening. I keep toiletries; razors, shaving cream, mouthwash, fourteen tubes of toothpaste (I don't make grocery lists and short term memory is kind of shot) and paper towels in it. It's a heavy cupboard with a 2 inch clearance underneath.

Like I said, not really enough space for a vole.

A cat, however...


Can't be.

Cat under the tub?


Entertained the possibility but put it out of my mind. Left food in helpful places, even a bowl by the alleged escape route which was now cleared so the cat could, if she had gone there in the first place, get out with relative ease.

Next morning, food hadn't been touched. Cat had to be somewhere in the house I hadn't thought of yet. Well, that was a fun theory until I heard clawing at the ceiling. Well, in the ceiling to be more precise.

Yep, the cat is in the crawlspace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Going for Broker

The stock market is up today, braced by the news that Alan Greenspan puts his pants on one leg at a time. Fed Chief Bernake testified under congressional oath that he too puts his pants on one leg at a time. Perception on the street is that this means a drop in short term interest rates. Not far fetched, it is well known that Paul Volcker, former fed chief used to jump off the edge of his mattress into pants that were propped open on a wooden chair. This of course was during the stagflation of the late seventies when a can of Coke was considered an investment vehicle.

This is good news in that no anticipated twelve thousand point single day drop is anticipated as was a few weeks ago after the market's one day four hundred point drop. It should be pointed out that two hundred points of that day's drop was attributed to a computer glitch. Apparently, some automated stock trade programs came across code left over from a game of "Pong." The rest of the plummet came from international uncertainty. A replacement wheel rim was sought but not found in Xin Hua. A Glorious Fourteenth of March car was forcibly left in the garage and the ensuing panic rippled out to financial markets world wide.

It was, of course, one of the more precipitious drops in the history of the market but nothing in comparison with "Black Monday" of October 1987. That day, the market lost fully a quarter of its value when general annoyance at President Reagan for not beginning to bomb in five minutes was reflected in share values.

I once invested in what I'll call armor plated stocks. Once I had bought, they tanked. This is not to say that I've always taken a bath in the market. Sometimes, just a shower, often just a warm, wet spray. But market trends seem to elude me like finding a seat to stretch out on Southwest.

Or a straight and square wall at the knob and tube palace I live in.

Thus far I've had more financial success in real estate. People seem to be more motivated to buy tangible brick, mortar and a roof over their head. Particularly when you are selling in cold, wet weather. Somehow an IPO or prospectus in a snowstorm lacks the allure of central heating.

None of this keeps me out of the stock market though. Like powerball, someone, somewhere out there is making fistfulls. Your job, pick his or her numbers. Now, its not that basic. Stocks represent money that appreciates as a company increases in value. In essence, a firm sells you pieces of itself in the form of stock shares. As the firm grows in value, the individual shares also grow in value. Sadly, the pieces of the firm I keep buying seem to be the employee of the month reserved parking spot which essentially is a value neutral asset.

There are other financial vehicles. Usually double parked or in the wrong lane of traffic. Derivatives are one of these. They predict the value of a commodity such as corn at some future point in time like July 14th 2103 but discount for St. Bastille day and bet that France won't have been laughed out of geopolitical circles by then. Derivatives are involved, complicated and confusing all intentionally so for their first goal is to separate individual investors from money and keep it that way. Investors are returned a promise of future value at an undetermined point of time and usually that time being on a Sunday morning when the banks are closed. However, should the investor pursue independent research and actually determine how the derivative's value is arrived at then the rules are hastily altered and the investment strategy begins anew. That is to say, another value is published, redeemable upon demand, assuming the office is open that day or we're not having a retirement party for Herb in accounts payable.

Of course, there's always the futures market. This predictive investment seeks to determine the future value of a good or commodity, usually something to do with pigs. Pork belly futures, pork shoulder futures or how Emma the Richfield's prize sow will be feeling tomorrow determines the course of millions of dollars who otherwise would have the good sense to move from the midwest to somewhere sunnier.

New Yorkers, back on the big board, are another breed entirely. They actually choose to live and work in that hell hole. Not only that, they further engineer their office hell hole to be even hell holier than most, concentrating staff and business activity in an area so small that someone invariably gets an elbow in the eye at least once a week. And the flinch from that poke can move the market by up to eighteen percent. The only other thing they can do to make the whole thing more horrible is to flood the trading floor with water.

Tried that in '87. Bad results. Greenspan's shoes squeaked and the prime went up a thousand percent.

Somebody made money. Sure as hell wasn't me.

Bunny on.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Weather Whisperer

So the last time I had five minutes to myself I posted. That was during the great St. Valentine's Day eve storm. Here we are on the eve of St. Patrick's day and the weather is pretty much the same: lousy and bordering on crap.

Mark Twain famously said that everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Drew Carey, aerosol bottle in hand said: "Fuck the grandkids, I'm cold now."

The cubicle rat next to me is trying to re-route her boss's plane reservations for the fourteenth time. The guy is coming in from L.A. to New Jersey. At this point, I'm advising her to put him on the red eye to Canberra and leave town immediately. It'll be weeks before they find out he's enjoying himself immensely.

But we east coast dwellers are left here, ground like so much corn between the millstones of a frozen solid February and the muds of March. There was a meeting this morning with sleet tapping on the skylights to the extent that I thought I was a rice krispy. I kept looking for three maniacal dwarfs dressed as bakers, or dwarfs. I can't remember. It's been too long since I've read a cereal box that DIDN'T tout its colon clearing qualities.

So the question is: Are we subject to sudden violent snowstorms on the eve of second tier holidays? Can't wait for the big Flag Day eve 2-6 inches we're going to get. Yes, small grandchild, I remember the Arbor Day eve blow of '07, yer gran and I were holed up in the house for three days without cable. It was a horrible thing.

The problem with today's storm is that it can't decide whether to snow, sleet, rain or all three all at the same time. The boys and I ran at lunch today and the comment was made that it was like running on the beach. If the beach were cold, wet, uphill and people were running large fans that blew thumbtacks into your face.

Maybe I'm obsessed with the weather, given the last two posts. Maybe I've had enough with a winter that seemed to lay in wait until we all got good and comfortable and somewhere in the third week of January we got it like runny instant mashed potatoes on a prison tin tray.

Maybe I feel that I've been lied to by a groundhog. When your faith in small, feral mammals is shaken, there's little else to hold on to.

Or maybe I'm dreading the big Otago eve perfect storm.

Bunny on.

visited 34 states (68%)