Category Archives: I Have Too Many Fucking Half-Assed Hobbies

The Cookiest.

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It has recently come to my attention that I have readers. Readers! And here I thought I’d been jacking off with the window open all this time but that no one was looking. I’m not nearly as funny as Miss Doxie and I cuss way too much; I also famously have no life. (I’m beginning to get one, and it’s freaking me out.)  But I can tell you about my Cookie Rat.

I started getting into pet rats in what, February? because Tony wouldn’t let me get a dog, and I needed a familiar, a companion. My life is a very lonely one. I started with the pet-store variety: you know, the white ones with the brown hood and stripe, usually — that’s called a hooded agouti. They are meaner than hell and do not much like people. One of them, Sprinkles (Boolie named her), got loose in the house a couple of months ago and remains a problem. She outwits all traps, both humane and kill; we leave the front and back doors hanging open and she never leaves. She does, however, enjoy using my jeans drawer as a toilet, which makes me homicidal, and as you know it takes a lot to do that. Toward a non-human, anyway.

But then in mid-May I adopted a trio of breeder-produced hand-raised pet dumbo rats from Cup of Tea Rattery. They are peaches and cream; they are cookie! My kids used to use cookie as an adjective; sadly, they’ve outgrown it, but when something was really great they would say Wow, that is so cookie! And these rats are really, really cookie. I adopted the mom, Olive, a black self (meaning all-black), whom I’ve sort of renamed Olivia. I’m always singing her the theme song from that stupid cartoon Olivia that Boolie used to watch.

Second is one of Olivia’s babes, whom Sam named Fudge. She’s a black self like her mama, and as she gets bigger I have trouble telling them apart. The stupid song I sing to her is Fudgie Wudgie was a rat; Fudgie Wudgie wasn’t fat . . . Fudge is a crazy little ratty, can hop super high and fast like a mini kangaroo, and she loves me. As does Olivia.

And then there is Cookie. Olivia is her mom, too.

Of course, I named her Cookie because of the three ratties, she is the absolute cookiest. She’s a mink self (meaning a solid sort of lustrous gray color), and it’s Cookie you see in the picture above. She adores me! She’s my love, my new little baby, my familiar. When I cry, she sits on my shoulder and drinks my tears. She takes my lonely home life and makes it cookie. And for that I will love her forever.

 

 

So Busy I Forgot To Jack Off.

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Keeping a blog is like jacking off with the window open. You’re not necessarily ensuring that anyone will watch, but you’re not certain you’re not alone, either; clearly you are rather hoping someone will watch, else you’d have shut the window. All blogging is self-indulgent, hence Self-Absorbed Twat. I like to think that being honest about blogging’s masturbatory nature makes it somehow less narcissistic — but even I know that’s bullshit. It’s just jacking off next to an open window.

There. I daresay we’ve taken that particular metaphor quite far enough.

Anyway, my jacking-off time of late has been considerably inhibited by the spectre of gainful employment, which will one day suck the last of the life from me but which remains necessary if I desire luxuries like auto insurance, bread pudding and telephone service. Which is a pity, but it doesn’t mean I’m not geeking out in my little windows of spare time. Tony assures me that my little obsessions are fascinating only to me, but for those as Poindexter as I, and in the interest of a quick topic, my current pursuits include:

Bitchin’ Sourdough Starter. I’ve gotten into yeast breads lately, which is an offshoot of the soft pretzel project. I baked up some farmer’s white bread and was unhappy with the texture; the Mafia could have used that loaf to put wiseguys to sleep with the fishes. I turned it into bread pudding and resolved to find something better. I adore sourdough bread — love it more than pie, so of course it became incumbent upon me to learn how to make it. Sourdough starter is one of those mystical baker’s things which is meant to be passed on; the recommended method of obtaining one is from a “known” starter, one which has been nurtured and also used with proven success. But of course I don’t know a soul, much less a baker dedicated enough to keep a sourdough starter!

So I am starting a couple of starters, and it’s ever so interesting. Basically what you are doing is mixing whole grain flour with water and allowing it to ferment in a sealed container. I’ve got one started with whole wheat (Gold Medal, sadly, so it probably sucks and won’t work) and one started with cornmeal just to be a wiseass. The really cool thing about sourdough starter is that you have to feed it. Yes, just like a little organic Tamagotchi, it will grow ill and die if you don’t keep it fed. Meanwhile it is meant to bubble and sprout odd patches of liquid and develop that distinctive San Francisco smell. It’s like a science project in my kitchen! I’m in dork heaven.

The Reproductive Cycle of the Malaysian Trumpet Snail; Aquatic Genetics. Recently a snail appeared as if from nowhere in my aquarium. He is small and has a pointed shell, like an ecru ice cream cone with golden brown dapples. I wondered and wondered about him — he was very hard to spot visually at first, as Malaysian trumpets like to burrow into the gravel, and by the time I spotted him for the second time I was firmly convinced I’d hallucinated him the first time. It took me a bit to get the search right, but Google finally led me to his identity and how the fuck he got into my aquarium: he’s the Malaysian trumpet snail, and he probably came in when only a couple of millimeters long on a live plant or in some gravel or water from new tank residents. Now that a few weeks have gone by, Boolie and I have recently spotted a tiny Malaysian trumpet in addition to the original. Come to find out they reproduce asexually! I got to thinking I have no idea how that goes down; my apple snails have been multiplying, but they’re egg-layers who fuck the old-fashioned way. (See Facebook for several photos of apple snail penis. It’s fascinating.) So it’s off to read up the reproductive process in the Malaysian trumpet snail. I want to find out the physical process, and how the heck they’re built. How is it that I’ve reached the age of 51 and can’t even tell you how asexual reproduction works in logistical terms?

While I’m at it, the guppies have been breeding as well, and I’ve been studying the colors of the juvenile guppies and apple snails, because they are of known parentage and their parents are of contrasting colors. Apparently no one has really studied the genetics of apple snail shell color; I’m certain in guppies it’s been studied half to death. The whole genetics thing is sort of at a standstill unless I’m prepared to start extracting snail DNA, but it makes for lots of entertaining observation time.

Buddy Holly. I’m so ass backwards about music: I didn’t even discover Elvis Costello until 1991. Buddy Holly’s music was burned into my brain, as it is into the brains of all baby boomers, but I had never really sat down and listened to the guy until after the night The Buddy Holly Story happened to pop up on cable. As a movie it was nothing to write home about, but suddenly the music knocked my feet out from under me. The guy is, after all, the source of absolutely everything in rock, a musician’s musician if ever there was one. And you knew that, and I knew that, except that suddenly in 2012 I am listening to Buddy Holly, everything he ever did. Amazing. And the recordings are so charming — one day I heard a noise I couldn’t quite place, and suddenly realized That’s tape hiss! And I love the sound of tape hiss.

Next Time: Of Dumbo rats and El Niño probabilities.

Startup.

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Doesn’t everyone want to go into business for himself? God knows I always have.  I’m a little too unconventional for the law firm environment, and just when I think I’m blending in I use a word like draconian in conversation and everybody starts looking at me funny. The problem is that I’m too yellow and too spoiled to go into business.  I see what Tony goes through with his receivables and his hired divers and so on, and I just don’t have the strength to sign on for it. I like having that steady paycheck and health insurance, even if it means I die a little bit every day. It’s only a little bit. I can handle it.

I’m back in the law firm environment after two months of unemployment, but while I was out of work I was one busy little beaver. I think I mentioned I was making sugar scrubs in my kitchen.  Those sugar scrubs have taken on a life of their own.  The first couple of weeks back at full-time employment, I could often be found in the kitchen at 1 a.m. concocting scrubs.  I couldn’t keep up that schedule for long, of course, so most of my unemployment projects have gone by the wayside.  But the sugar scrubs are going strong, and I think I may have developed my first keeper, the prototype.

And I’m thinking about trying to sell them locally on a small scale.  The marketing would have to be geared toward quality and economy — department store bath and body products at food co-op prices.  Something like that.  I have a package design in mind, and a brand name: Beach Hippie Botanicals.  Made by a hippie in a kitchen, not a corporate researcher in a lab! Something like that.

It’s a tempting sideline, because it’s pretty much a no-cost startup. The scrub I’m starting with is made from brown sugar, raw sugar, a touch of maple sugar (that shit is expensive), coconut, olive and hazelnut oils,vanilla and maple syrup.  Stuff from my kitchen.  My first batch was just too subtle as far as scent, so I boiled down my maple syrup and vanilla until it was thick and dense, and that made the difference. (Caveat: mix the syrup into the scrub as soon as it starts to cool, because it hardens into something like taffy and you’ll break your arm trying to blend it.)

So I have my first product: Beach Hippie Maple Blondie sugar scrub.  It’s named for my friend Tina, who is blonde and Canadian.  I’ll slap a maple leaf on the jar if I can afford it!  So now I have to develop some other varieties.  Pure vanilla, of course, although I have to make my own essential oils and it’ll be a while before they’re ready.  (I can make vanilla absolute for about $5 a fluid ounce; it costs about $15/ounce if purchased commercially.) Coconut.  And an all-purpose skin oil called Boolie Oil, because I dream big.  If this ever gets off the ground, it’s all for Boolie to have someday, so I want our little trick product to have her name.

And when they’re all perfected, I’ll get some packaging and start making ’em up — right here in my kitchen.  I have the jars all picked out; they cost $0.80 each, less if you buy in bulk.  The labels I believe will be in black and white, to keep costs down, and I have a vision of what that’s going to look like, although I will probably have to hire someone to do the actual artwork.  I have to get some brochures together or whatnot. I’ll probably start with the swap meets and Fish Fry, local stuff — I hope the tables don’t cost too much. For swap meet sales, I’m imagining a “design your own scrub” option — choose your sugar (white, brown, raw, turbinado, coconut, maple), your oils (coconut, hazelnut, jojoba, almond, shea) and your scents.  Come back in 15 minutes and pick up your custom scrub.  Ah, hell, it might sell.  Sugar scrubs are the best thing on earth for your skin, especially if you live in So Cal and are forever bombarded by the sun.

It’s a no-lose situation.  I’ll start out with small batches and keep it simple.  I’ll try a few tricks to get them to sell: see if a few of the local New Age or health food shops will carry the stuff, go to a few bed and breakfasts with free trial size scrubs they can leave in the guest rooms. Quaint local products: tourists like that. And if no one gives a damn, I’ll stash my stock and have enough sugar scrub to last me the rest of my life.

If, on the other hand, it was to take off — oh, I dream of it sometimes, although I don’t dare to dream very much. Getting out of the legal business couldn’t possibly be that simple.  But then I look at a number of other small local businesses: Hurley, Volcom, Urban Decay. They all started out the same way, and now they’re huge. Nationwide. It can be done, and if I don’t roll the dice, I can’t win.

Now to find the time to finish working on the damned things. And take out a fictitious business name. And run my little product up the flagpole. Maybe someone will salute. Project! I’m stoked.

Baby Snails!

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They are hatching as I write, plopping without a sound into the water from the egg sac above.  I can’t even post a photo; the tank has way too much algae, result of me insisting that no one disturb the snail eggs.  Or the pregnant guppies.

The baby snails are a translucent white, all of them; their colors won’t come in till later.  I think they’re the progeny of a gold snail and a black one, so it will be fun to see what sort of rainbow we get.  They’re about the size of a matchhead.  They remind me oddly of tiny toenails; that was what popped into my mind when I saw them scattered about the glass.  And then I noticed that they were moving.  New life!  Mazel tov.

All this unfettered reproduction in the house makes Tony a bit edgy, and of course I have no idea what to do with a slew of baby snails.  So far I count eight snaillets, but there were three egg clusters in all, laid at different times, so you can bet there are more to come.  In fact, just this evening I suddenly thought There are a hell of a lot of snails in that tank, and went on to count five full-grown snails.  We started with three.  So the shtupping and the toenails have been going on longer than I thought.

We have three pregnant guppies who have looked on the verge of popping for over a week, but the guppy fry have yet to be born.  The silvery guppy mama is so swollen she can hardly swim, so it won’t be long now.  And I have thirteen guppy fry, born on New Year’s Eve, in a little fry cup.  One of them looks like a cull — meaning a runt, one which probably won’t survive.  But the rest, if I let them get big enough before I put them into the main tank, look like keepers.  The generation of fry previous to that (of which three survived) included one little girl, who is of course pregnant already.  And did you know a guppy can get pregnant again within a few hours of giving birth?

Meanwhile, the snails shtup on the glass as their toenail babies glide past so slowly you have to really stop and look to see the movement.  To be honest, there’s something a little obscene about all this fertilization and birth going on in my tank.  Imagine running an analysis on that water!  Twenty percent snail semen, ten percent placenta.  But I sort of like it.  Through all the bullshit of daily living, there is always fucking.  There is always birth.  There is always life.

Dorky Dilettante.

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Anyone who knows me well knows that the thing I love probably more than anything else — more than the NHL, more than Elvis Costello, perhaps more even than salted caramel mochas from Starbucks — is a research project.  I dive into them at the drop of a hat, and it’s impossible to stop me.  Anytime a question of information or trivia comes up in a conversation, and no one in the group knows the answer, I will inevitably frown and say Shit. Now I have to go research that. Because I truly do have to. I can’t help it.

This week, for instance, it started with the mystery snail eggs. One day last week I found a white sort of honeycomb-looking thing in my tank, sort of oval shaped, an inch and a half long. I knew immediately it was some sort of egg formation, but from which animals in the tank? Not the guppies, because they’re live bearers. I suspected the corydora catfish or the algae eaters, as cats are known to be egg layers. But none of the images I found looked right. Finally, at my wits’ end, I Googled honeycomb thing in my aquarium. This is how completely clueless I was. One of the links which resulted mentioned mystery snails, and I thought Hmm, I’ve got some of those.  I quickly concluded that mystery snail eggs were indeed what we had.  The water level in our tank was down a couple of inches from me forever sucking out water for the guppy fry, and as it transpires, these snails lay their eggs above the waterline.  If the tank is full, there is no space above the waterline and therefore no eggs.

The floating pod I found wasn’t viable, but I knew the snails had been fucking like bunny rabbits.  I knew this because just the other night Tony had wondered What the heck is that long thing coming out of the big snail?  And here we had thought they were playing piggyback all this time. Sure enough, I refrained from adding water to the tank and within two days there was another clump of eggs, and then another. I wondered how long they would take to hatch, the conditions under which the eggs must incubate, and what the babies would be like when they were born. I had absolutely no clue about breeding and husbandry of these things — I just plopped a few pretty snails into my tank to help keep it clean — but at times like these, my mom gene kicks in. There are living things in my care, and I need to know what to do for them. It’s automatic.

In the space of a couple of hours I’ve learned all about the anatomy of pomacea diffusa, which was once believed to be a subgenus of pomacea bridgesii but is really a separate species. I’ve learned how to sex the adults, both by the easy eyeball-the-shell-formation method and by the more tricky make-them-open-up-their-parts method. I know what the babies will look like: tiny snails, right from the time they crawl from their shells. I know that the mystery snail, also commonly known as the apple snail, is native in different subgenera to both South America and Asia, and that it is used in Taiwan for escargot. (Perhaps this is an idea for what to do with the baby snails. Beach Hippie Escargot!)

I know a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff which is absolutely useless except in my limited world — none of it will ever make me a dime, not my snail lore nor guppy rearing minutae nor hockey trivia nor my compulsion to keep statistics on matters so irrelevant as the win percentages in the endless games of gin rummy I play with Tony. (He’s kicking my ass.)

But damn it, the shit is fun. Every day I stumble across some piece of absolutely wonderful knowledge I hadn’t had before, just because I wondered about something and decided to research something instead of letting it go. I’m unemployed, and unemployed girls who fail to keep their minds and hands busy end up getting into trouble. So I read the job ads and send out resumes morning and afternoon, every day. I bake, and devise cool household and cosmetic things, and swear and rearrange and clean and putter. I do lots and lots of ultimately pointless research. What I’m not doing is lying around watching the Three Stooges in my pajamas all day. And if you ever develop a burning curiosity about the sexual apparatus of the apple snail, I can tell you everything you might wish to know.