Breaking orbit: the Lander’s maiden run

Research paid off. It paid off by making the quest for a new vehicle much simpler and affordable. Once we decided on the attributes we needed, the features and niceties would just be icing on the cake so to speak. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs but there is one thing they helped improve, at least in my opinion, and that is useable inside space.

Our Mercury had a lot of room out front and in the trunk. But leg room in the back seat was airline tight. Vehicles such as the Honda Element and the Scion Xb, which came after the SUV craze of the 90’s, are limos by comparison to the Merc: you can easily cross your legs without touching the back of either front seat. As compact as these cars are on the outside, they are rangy where it matters.

Other than usable space, other parameters we used were:
– Reliability
– Economy
– Functionality (with an eye towards the comfort and safety of the Catonauts)
But I won’t bore you with what brands and models we put on our short list… A few days ago, Rudha-an put together a list of local dealers to visit based on the size and variety of used inventory.

At the end of a long day, we almost passed on the last dealer. As it happens, that is where we found our “Lander One”, a Mazda CX-7. Appropriately, I thought, the brand’s name is derived from a deity’s: Ahura Mazda, god of wisdom, intelligence and harmony in ancient Western Asian civilizations.
Just as Mercury, god of communication, business and travelers, inspired the other car brand.

Mazda 004

From there, differences are notable and interesting: while both vehicles weigh nearly the same, close to 4000 pounds, the Mazda’s engine is half that of the Mercury. a 2.3 liter four cylinder motor, versus a 4.6 liter V8. The Mazda moves its mass with help from a turbocharger and a six speed automatic transmission. With the rear seats folded down, its cargo capacity exceeds the Mercury’s. In terms of economy, the Mercury had better gas mileage on the freeway as long as it was flat. But the Mazda’s more frugal in town and combined driving. It also fit well within our budget limit of $10.000 or less.

Mazda 001

As for insurance, full coverage cost us hundreds less than what we were quoted for a Hyundai Sonata sedan of the same year.
We expect several years of service out of it.

Mazda 002

It also has a moon-roof, which comes in handy when my head gets too big…

We took the Lander on its maiden trip up Mount Diablo, a very scenic drive requiring some concentration due to tight turns on narrow roads, shared with the occasional pick up truck and bicyclist. It performed flawlessly, being easier to handle on its shorter wheelbase and tighter turning radius, as well as its excellent brakes and suspension. Mission Control approves, and we expect the Catonauts to do the same.

Mazda 005

What a view
What a view

And we found it in one day..!

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Caturday: noisy construction and bolt-holes

It’s the weekend and so far, the noise in the lot next door is at a minimum today. They aren’t stopping for the weekend, but they aren’t as noisy. Back in the day, the lot was a gas station and the owners lived in our building. Since then, the lot was cleaned up, rezoned and sold along with our building. The new owners are going to fill the empty space with offices and shops on the bottom two floors and apartments above. There’s a plan to add two more floors to our building to do the same. That will mean eviction when the time comes, so we’re trying to get ready now.

We’re furiously thinning out everything IN the apartment and the builders are noisily building outside. The pointy eared people are NOT amused. We’ve tried to help by creating bolt-holes and other places to hide. The Feliway helps a lot. In addition, Lastech is changing from graveyard shift to swing (3 to 11 pm). That way, we can work in the apartment during the day when the furry ones are already hiding from the racket next door. With any luck, it will be a bit less traumatic for them. I know what stress does to humans. I can’t imagine what it does to them. The change will also help Lastech as it’s impossible to sleep well with construction going on a few feet away.

In spite of all that, they still managed to pose nicely for us.

Beautiful Tito
Beautiful Tito
Happy Miss Jenny
Happy Miss Jenny
Titanescu awash in the glow of the television as he contemplates world domination
Titanescu awash in the glow of the television as he contemplates world domination

Here is a good video from The Mean Kitty at Youtube. Cory’s explanation at the beginning of the video is why we’re trying so hard to make it easy for the pointy eared people. Dogs go through the same thing when there are changes in the home, but as most of them spend time outdoors, their world is just a wee bit bigger.

As a bonus, here’s the song that made The Mean Kitty (Sparta) famous. 🙂

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Looking for Ceiling Cat, from attics to foundations

For the past two to three months or so, the pain in my hands and fingertips made it virtually impossible to sit down and type. But I’m finally getting used to spending the day wrestling with tools, cutting sheet metal, pulling and bending recalcitrant panels off furnaces in order to service them.

With my current job, the first stop of the day’s a warm up, working out the kinks and pushing through the aches and pains. I do enjoy climbing up into attics and crawling under foundations, places with a gothic feel, in spite of rat turds, fiberglass insulation mixed with rodents’ crap and sometimes their decaying carcasses.

Blake was right, long is the way, and hard that leads to Ceiling Cat…

Keep your head down or look like Hellraiser's Pinhead...
Keep your head down or look like Hellraiser’s Pinhead…

I once had to scrape off Mickey Maus’ dessicated corpse off a furnace blower it was ‘stuck’ to, almost rested my head on a mummified rat which looked like gloopy foam insulation, and breathed the stench from the bloated, whitened corpses of a bunch of rats laid in rat poison.

mummified rat
The rat formerly known as Squeaky Fromage…

I could have used a cat or two at times, especially under foundations, if only for the company. Last week, I had to use another technician’s van since he’d called off sick. On my second appointment, I finished after the customers had left the house. I duly locked up everything, got back in the van and realized I’d left my clipboard with paperwork and payment on the kitchen counter. Ooops. I Walked around the house, trying windows (all locked), in a hurry in case neighbors got suspicious, until I found the doggie door in the back. I reached in and unlocked the handle, but the door refused to budge, stuck as it was in its misaligned frame.

The dog even stopped barking, cocking his head sideways “whatcha gonna do?!?

I managed to wriggle myself through the doggie door, made it to the kitchen, grabbed my stuff and back out through the front door again… At my next and last stop, I inspected the furnace, and went to check what size filter they would need. The intake was on the ceiling, but no problem! I’d grab the ladder from -… Ooops. I’d left the ladder on the porch of the previous home. In another city...

I’ve found a couple of sayings in HVAC to be true. One is “on this job, you’re gonna bleed”. And sure enough there’s dried blood stains on our seats and steering wheels. Another expression is “get ready to s..k the day’s d..k”. As Bart Simpson put it,  sometimes “it blows and sucks at the same time, what I thought was a physical impossibility”

Oh but, this is what I look forward to, coming home to this every day, in this case, Miss Jenny on catnip…. Until

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Public transportation: a must, or a choice?

Do you perchance enjoy people watching? I thought I did and this made using public transportation tolerable if not appealing.

Well this very afternoon, I got more than I bargained for.

Concentrate… Do you feel a rant coming? It was an old dude. Hell, I’m an old dude, but this guy… This guy was evidently so old, he reverted to child-like.

Right hand plugged and dug in the right ear. Gross, but not as gross as the left index finger exploring, scraping his nostrils to the point where a deviated septum became a real risk.

Scratch that. His septum was probably bent five ways from Sunday decades ago. Anyway, he scraped the result of his excavations onto the stainless steel pole passengers are supposed to hold on to.

Nice. Very nice.

Then, he danced the cavity Macarena: right hand, right ear again, left hand pinching nostrils, with occasional index forays into the nose. In between exploratory moves, he looked at his fingernail’s harvest and spread the results on surfaces for all to enjoy.

Oh, you nasty @#*&&%#@$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Meddling with forces of nature: working in America

I am typing this with the old tingling feeling down my left arm. No, it’s not the tick-tock man in my chest, it’s nerve damage, although the ticker could be in better shape, too.
Damage from performing data entry hunched over a less than ergonomic keyboard-desk-chair combos, like well, so many of us “working wounded” today.


No, no, it’s true, well…. Truer, that it is better to work than not. I mean, the media’s not turning the spotlight on suicides/murder suicides/tent cities around the country, a word which certain politicians pronounce as though the letter ‘o’ was not part of it.
No, I’m happy to be working. It’s just that the nature of work in America sucks and blows at the same time, something Bart Simpson thought a physical impossibility.

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Trailblazers: Stories of the Explorers

When I was a very young girl, I read a biography of John Muir. I developed a tremendous respect for him and his accomplishments.   John Muir was an extraordinary explorer and naturalist.  Later, I read his writings.   Thanks to him, I have always loved reading about the explorers or their journals and books.

Excerpt from My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

After[Pg 118] withdrawing from such places, excited with the view I had got, I would say to myself, “Now don’t go out on the verge again.” But in the face of Yosemite scenery cautious remonstrance is vain; under its spell one’s body seems to go where it likes with a will over which we seem to have scarce any control.
After a mile or so of this memorable cliff work I approached Yosemite Creek, admiring its easy, graceful, confident gestures as it comes bravely forward in its narrow channel, singing the last of its mountain songs on its way to its fate—a few rods more over the shining granite, then down half a mile in showy foam to another world, to be lost in the Merced, where climate, vegetation, inhabitants, all are different. Emerging from its last gorge, it glides in wide lace-like rapids down a smooth incline into a pool where it seems to rest and compose its gray, agitated waters before taking the grand plunge, then slowly slipping over the lip of the pool basin, it descends another glossy slope with rapidly accelerated speed to the brink of the tremendous cliff, and with sublime, fateful confidence springs out free in the air.
I took off my shoes and stockings and worked my way cautiously down alongside the rushing flood, keeping my feet and hands pressed firmly on the polished rock. The booming, roaring[Pg 119] water, rushing past close to my head, was very exciting. I had expected that the sloping apron would terminate with the perpendicular wall of the valley, and that from the foot of it, where it is less steeply inclined, I should be able to lean far enough out to see the forms and behavior of the fall all the way down to the bottom. But I found that there was yet another small brow over which I could not see, and which appeared to be too steep for mortal feet. Scanning it keenly, I discovered a narrow shelf about three inches wide on the very brink, just wide enough for a rest for one’s heels. But there seemed to be no way of reaching it over so steep a brow. At length, after careful scrutiny of the surface, I found an irregular edge of a flake of the rock some distance back from the margin of the torrent. If I was to get down to the brink at all that rough edge, which might offer slight finger-holds, was the only way. But the slope beside it looked dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture farther, but did nevertheless. Tufts of artemisia were growing in clefts of the rock near by, and I filled my mouth with the bitter leaves, hoping they might help to prevent giddiness. Then, with a caution not known in ordinary cir[Pg 120]cumstances, I crept down safely to the little ledge, got my heels well planted on it, then shuffled in a horizontal direction twenty or thirty feet until close to the outplunging current, which, by the time it had descended thus far, was already white. Here I obtained a perfectly free view down into the heart of the snowy, chanting throng of comet-like streamers, into which the body of the fall soon separates.
While perched on that narrow niche I was not distinctly conscious of danger. The tremendous grandeur of the fall in form and sound and motion, acting at close range, smothered the sense of fear, and in such places one’s body takes keen care for safety on its own account. How long I remained down there, or how I returned, I can hardly tell. Anyhow I had a glorious time, and got back to camp about dark, enjoying triumphant exhilaration soon followed by dull weariness. Hereafter I’ll try to keep from such extravagant, nerve-straining places. Yet such a day is well worth venturing for. My first view of the High Sierra, first view looking down into Yosemite, the death song of Yosemite Creek, and its flight over the vast cliff, each one of these is of itself enough for a great life-long landscape fortune—a most memorable day of days—enjoyment enough to kill if that were possible.

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