Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Latest Fun and Games.

Just got back from an unintended vacation up in Natrona Heights, home of the Denise, where I spend ten days house sitting for the aforementioned Denise and her family while they went down to some sleepy little town in Florida called Orlando and spent 7 days in some obscure backwater resort called Walt Disney World. Why they would go to a boring place like that instead of staying in beautiful Natrona Heights is a mystery to me, but that was their thing, and they asked me to watch their place and the 3 cats and a Dachshund puppy that lived there. My job was to make sure that the various animals didn't kill each other and set the house on fire, not necessarily in that order. The benefits were that I got to raid the fridge, watch all the digital cable I could stand, and I also got paid for the task which was a lot less than having to board the critters for a week.

I spent most of the days working on the small " honey do" list that Denise left for me, and watching a lot more TV than usual. Understand, I don't have cable. I don't want cable. I'd rather take the money I'd flush down the cable rathole and flush it down the rathole that connects my computer to the Internet. It was said that network TV provides five channels of crap, cable provides 50 channels of crap, and satellite TV provides 500 channels of crap. After spending a week watching Comcast's offerings, I can honestly say that that statement could not be more true. I mean, how much Texas Hold 'Em poker and mixed martial arts fighting can one person stand?? I saw at least four different Ultimate Fighting clones, and about 6 different poker tournaments including some tournament involving talking dogs. Geez, I know that those things are the hot events on the tube, but waaaay too much for me. Couple that with some not-ready-for-prime-time reality TV, very stupid cartoons, comedy meant for 16 to 24 year olds and riveting coverage of state and federal government inaction, and I am damn glad that I don't have cable TV.

Admittedly, I did find some stuff that an old codger like me could get into. The History Channel had some pretty cool series: Mega Movers, which was a series about how moving crews moved large buildings and structures from one place to another. As one who likes to see technology and mechanical devices at work, I found that to be pretty interesting. When you think about all that it takes to move a 100 ton house even 50 feet, it's a lot of engineering and planning involved to make that happen, and while it lacks the sexiness of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, I found it enlightening. Another History Channel show was Modern Marvels which went into the history of seemingly boring subjects like cans and generating alternative energy. Yeah, riveting TV, but I like documentaries, and they did it in a way that made it interesting. Oh well, one mans treasure is another's crap. Another show I found fun to watch was Anthony Bourdain's " No Reservations" , which is about a prominent New York chef who's also a great author(Read Kitchen Confidential, and you'll see why, this guy is nuts, then again he's a cook, and all cooks are nuts. believe me, I was one. ) , and his travels around the world to all the spots that aren't on the official tourist maps. Those places that only the locals know about. Like one of the few places where you can still get absinthe in Paris, or a secret meeting of foodies in Seattle that serve stuff you won't find in most restraunts in America because the items have to be smuggled in. That kinda stuff. To sum up, one of the great advantages of cable is also one of its great disadvantages. There's a lot of good stuff on cable, and there's also a lot of crap. It all depends on what your definition of good and crap are. Still what people pay for cable TV and for the customer service horror stories I hear about, Y'all can have it. I'll stick to Netflix and DVDs.

But back to the house sitting, I didn't do a whole lot while I was at Denise's. I went completely off the grid and answered no emails and only surfed the web two of the 10 days I was away. I didn't miss being online, but I did have a lot of catching up on my daily podcast fix when I got back. Considering that I listen to between 2-4 hours of podcasts a day, It took a while. I got to bond with the animals, which was cool. Me and one of the cats, Jasper, an old, sometimes crotchety Morris clone came to an understanding. I would be allowed to pet him and that was about it. For the longest time, I wasn't even able to do that, so I consider that a breakthrough. The other cat, that I had the most exposure to, Lori, a fat, flirty long haired white cat with black spots, was a lot more friendly and we got along just fine as long as she didn't try to take the occasional nip out of my thumb. The third cat Kelly, a sleek black cat, spend all of her time in the cellar hiding in the ductwork, so I only saw her three times during the stay and I knew she was alive because her food dish was always clean. But I spent the most time with Snickers, the cute, very rambunctious Dachshund puppy. He's a pretty dog, reddish-brown fur with black trim along the ears and streaks of black and light brown along the tail. He walks well on the leash and like all puppies, will chew on anything that doesn't move, craps anywhere he pretty well chooses, and eats everything except his own chow. It was a challenge getting him to stop eating the cats' food. I don't think I succeeded. We got along very well, except that he did have a bit of separation anxiety. He always wanted to sleep with me, and considering that I am verrrry particular about my sleeping conditions and that it takes me a while to get used to sleeping in a different bed, the first few nights weren't easy, but I managed.

I have to admit that I liked being away from the ghetto for a while. Natrona Heights is clean and quiet, Denise's street is much more peaceful that Tioga St. There aren't half drunk street people ranting and cursing at two o' clock in the morning because there aren't any bars on Denise's street whereas on my street, I live between two bars and when they let out, the drunks wander up and down the street ranting about no one or nothing in particular. At Denise's there weren't ignorant assholes driving up and down the street with the bass cranked all the way showing how immature and idiotic their musical tastes are. There's no graffiti, the people were nice, and it was great to have a shopping center 10 minutes away that I could go to get away from the house. But it's always good to be able to sleep in your own bed.
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