Sunroom Cats – Watch the Birdie Show

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen
Shadows on the screen

Our two cats, Mist and Smoke spend a good deal of time in our sunroom. This room used to be our open-air patio — that is, it was outdoors and Mist and Smoke are indoor cats.

Now, however, they are allowed into the sunroom and can get some ten feet closer to the birds. We have lots of Mourning doves, hummingbirds, sparrows and similar birds and the occasional crow, Coopers hawk and squirrel. Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen

In the morning they crowd the feeders and the ground under them. In the afternoon their shadows appear on the shade which my wife has lowered to prevent the sun from shining in her eyes.

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screenMist, the female and smaller of our cats, finds these shadows fascinating. She watches them from the floor, the chair, the TV table and Charlie’s “wheelie/walker.” For about two hours, until shortly before sunset, we can find Mist, and occasionally Smoke bird watching while Charlie reads or watches TV. Sunroom Cats

We enclosed our patio and built the sunroom so Charlie would have a room of her own to read, play games, watch TV, drink tea, smoke and enjoy her garden. It’s nice to have a room that her cats also enjoy and can spend time with her.

Sunroom Cats

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen

The Cat.

By Oliver Herford

OB-SERVE the Cat up-on this page.
Phil-os-o-phers in ev-er-y age,
The ver-y wis-est of the wise,
Have tried her mind to an-a-lyze
In vain, for noth-ing can they learn.
She baf-fles them at ev-er-y turn
Like Mis-ter Ham-let in the play.
She leads their rea-son-ing a-stray;
She feigns an in-ter-est in string
Or yarn or any roll-ing thing.
Un-like the Dog, she does not care
With com-mon Man her thoughts to share.
She teach-es us that in life’s walk
‘T is bet-ter to let oth-ers talk,
And lis-ten while they say in-stead
The fool-ish things we might have said.



Sunroom 4 – Finished?

Mist and Smoke at home in the sunroom

Our sunroom is finished–well, except for a TV stand and new cable outlet.

Yesterday, the room’s shades were installed. The shades are on the outside of the west and south walls and will block the sun so the room will not get too hot and not so bright as to drown out the TV picture.

South Sunroom Shade
South Shade

The shades are motorized with a remote control so Charlie can operate one or both of them from her chair. They are also on wire-guides to make sure they go straight up and down and do not flap around even in a Santa Ana wind or rainstorm.

Sunroom Shades Partway Down
Shades Partway Down
Sunroom Shades' Wire Guides
Wire Guides

Sunroom Interior South and West
South and West

Last week her two new chairs and footrest were delivered. After the installation of the shades yesterday, I took her shopping for a new table to replace the glass-topped outdoor patio table we’d been using for the last two decades. She found one at Living Spaces in Huntington Beach to be delivered today between 10 and 1. The store has a couple of battery-powered scooters for those with difficulty walking and I didn’t have to unload Charlie’s from the back of the Buick.

The delivery guys–two young men in their twenties–arrived early, a little after nine, before I’d finished clearing Charlie’s table and moving it outside. (They offered to come back a little later if we weren’t ready. Yeah, like I’d accept that offer.) After I finished clearing the table, they moved it outside and quickly assembled the new drop-leaf table. And before the start of The View, we were back in business.

Sunroom Interior West and North
West and North

This afternoon Charlie finally found a corner TV/media cabinet she liked and ordered it. So, we should be finished with furnishing her new smoking/sunroom shortly.

Meow–thumbs up!

The cats (Smoke and Mist) have already laid dibs to the visitor’s chair as their own–either basking in the sun on its back or sleeping in the seat itself. Facing out the window also provides “cat TV” and a good look at the birds and squirrels at, around and under the feeder.

Sunroom Shades Down
Shades Down

Root Beam Float

Here I am on vacation again. I know some of you think this is a redundant statement as I have been retired some three years now, but it is not. There is something about being away from home that adds to the experience.

While reading today’s edition of the Grand Forks Herald, I came upon the following recipes:

White Wine Sangria:

  • 2 bottles of dry white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of brandy
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
  • 3 cups of assorted sliced fruit
  • Combine all ingredients in a clear glass serving pitcher. Stir gently and let ingredients sit for 8 to 24 hours. Serve chilled.
  • (Wine snobs, please, omit the brandy, agave nectar/honey and fruit.)

Root Beam Float:

  • 8 ounces of root beer
  • 1 ounce Jim Beam or bourbon of choice (here’s a chance to get rid of/use the bottle of Old Crow your great-aunt Matilda gave you twenty years ago)
  • 2-3 curls of zest from an orange
  • 1/2 cup vanilla bean ice cream
  • Combine the first three ingredients in a float glass. Stir gently to combine bourbon and root beer. Top with vanilla bean ice cream and serve.

Ah, well, time to take the wife shopping. will return in an hour or three. Will open a beer and resume reading one of my books–either Phoenix in Shadow by Ryk E. Spoor or Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume III by Sharon Lee.

Oh, yeah–here are Smoke and Mist, also on vacation. Smoke and Mist at HB North

Crime and Punishment

Aaron Hernandez and Jodi Arias have been convicted of the crime of murder. They were both sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Was justice done? Did their sentencing bring the dead back to life? Did it alleviate the grief of those whose loved ones were killed?

No, the dead were not brought back to life. No, judging by the statements of Odin Lloyd’s family today, their grief was not alleviated.

Crime and Punishment

Was justice done? Yes and No. Yes, Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Arias are being punished for their crimes. (I am assuming for the purposes of this post that they actually committed the crimes for which they have been found guilty.) Their freedom has been taken away, and they will spend the rest of their lives in restricted and uncomfortable environs. They will be unable to ever inflict themselves on the general public again.

Is this just? Yes, at least in some ways.

Society (you, me and the rest of us not in prison) will bear costs arising from these crimes for the next several decades. We will house, feed, clothe and care for these people, and thousands like them, for the rest of their natural lives.

In 2010 it cost about $31,000 to keep a person in prison for a year. That’s close to one and a quarter million dollars apiece for Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Arias over the next forty years.

Think of how many meals for the homeless this would pay for; how many free vaccinations for poor children; how many potholes filled; how many or how much _____ (insert concern of your choice)?

Now multiply this by the more than one million people incarcerated in our prisons.

Is this justice? No, but it is punishment–both for those condemned to our prisons and those of us who pay for it.

What can we do about this situation?

How about we quickly execute those found guilty of murder? How much does a bullet cost? How much does a rope cost? How about a jolt of electricity? And what does it do to how we see ourselves as civilized human beings?

How about we enslave our prisoners to help pay back the cost of their crimes and continuing imprisonment?

No. We see slavery as both uncivilized and racist. Besides, any worthwhile work prisoners (slaves) might do would take employment away from those who need jobs and haven’t committed any crimes.

What about prison laundry, cooking, license plates, office furniture, fighting forest/wildfires? Isn’t this slavery? No, it’s a reward for well-behaved prisoners. It’s physical and mental stimulation; it’s freedom from the mind-numbing sameness and boredom of life in a cell.

Is there a solution to the problem of crime and punishment? Not that I am aware of. A high level of education does not eliminate crime. Religious belief does not eliminate it. Economic well-being does not eliminate it.

How about we change human nature? How? Genetic engineering? Eugenics? Good luck!

Divine Intervention

Even GOD–God, god, gods, goddesses, __________ (insert supernatural being or beings of your choice here)–has not been successful.

Back when the human population of the planet Earth was two, Adam and Eve (assuming you believe the literalness of the Bible) disobeyed divine instructions. Of Adam and Eve’s first two sons one of them committed murder. And he wasn’t executed; he was punished by exile.

Later, again assuming you believe the literalness of the Bible, everyone, with the exception of one family, on the planet was killed by drowning for failure to follow divine commands–everyone: man, woman, child, unborn child. Essentially, GOD started over, and look where we are today.

The coming of Christianity didn’t really change anything. From turn the other cheek we have “onward Christian soldiers” and “for God and Country.” By the late fifth century, we have Christianity as the official state religion of the (or what is left of) the Roman Empire–non-Christians are persecuted.

In the eleventh century we have the advent of the Crusades to “recover” the Holy Land from the Muslims–“God wills it.” Eastern Christians, Jews and Muslims all died in the fighting and the Crusaders fought among themselves.

During the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, Christian was killing Christian for being the wrong type of Christian.

Islam is no better. Forced conversion of pagans, discrimination against non-Muslim “people of the Book” within its domain. Jihad. Muslim against Muslim–Sunni vs. Shiite.

Punishment (Mortal and Eternal)

Most of us have been brought up with some notion of divine punishment. “God will get you.” Lightning strike? Disease? Tornado? Do we really believe this? Is God/god really out to punish everyone who gets ebola, plague, or _______ (insert disease or disaster of your choice here)? And how do we know? The victims are old, young, male, female, deserving and undeserving. Or does the deity take the good along with the bad–bad aim, friendly fire or collateral damage, maybe?

Personally, I like the idea of karma and re-birth. Do bad in this life and be re-born into a lesser and harsher life the next time around. Hitler as a cockroach; Genghis Khan as a beetle; Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Joseph Stalin) as flea; Idi Amin as shark bait; _______ as ________ (insert villain and creature of choice). Some would be squashed lots and lots of time, but they have a chance to redeem themselves. (We have a chance to redeem ourselves.)

Hell and Eternity

What is Hell? Hell is where you go to be punished by your deity for Eternity.

What punishment? The worst pains you can imagine and then some.

For how long? Forever.

What is forever? Longer than the human mind can conceive.

Back in the days when people counted into the tens, hundreds and thousands (and maybe a few into the millions), this may have made sense. Does it still make sense today?

Forever. A million years? A billion years? A trillion years? A quadrillion years? A quintillion years? A googol (1 followed by one hundred zeroes) of years? A googolplex of years? (Yes, googolplex is a real number.) What crime or sin is serious enough to be punished with the worst imaginable torment for a number of years that exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.

Example: Adolph Hitler

Let us make Adolph Hitler responsible for all of the deaths during the Second World War–I’ve seen figures above fifty million but that seems to me to be a nice round number.

Let’s have Hitler suffer in Hell a googol of years, a googol number of times for each death. A googol times a googol times fifty million. Yet, forever lasts a lot longer than this and his suffering would never end.

Do your beliefs, or does your religion, assign a person’s soul to Hell for a crime less than murder? A person who commits such a crime would suffer as much for as long. Is that justice?

Yet, we–you and I and our neighbors and friends–believe that it is. This is the root of our problem. We can conceive of everlasting punishment and believe that it is deserved.

We can conceive of a “just and merciful” deity that visits everlasting punishment on us. We can conceive of a deity that believes we deserve punishment and death because we do not believe or pray correctly–and many of us believe that we are the instruments of “His” will to enforce, through any means necessary, that Will.

For Myself

If you believe in a deity who punishes people by placing them in Hell and leaving them there forever, you are welcome to him/Him. You deserve what you get–and this world is part and parcel of that belief.

I, however, shall believe in a deity that offers mercy even to the worst of us (though I may not feel this way in the heat of passion and a desire for revenge after a 9/11 or similar tragedy). As long as we believe in a deity that imposes a “just” punishment that lasts forever, we shall believe in, and find, an evil deserving of such–and if we cannot find one, we will create one.

What we need is a rational belief, if that in and of itself isn’t self-contradictory, in a reconciliation between good and evil, God and Satan. We need a prophet to preach belief in a god/God who doesn’t hold a grudge forever. Only then can we banish our demons and become a society that is rational, merciful and just.

For a different take on the nature of good and evil try reading Piers Anthony’s series The Incarnations of Immortality.

Yin, Yin -- Yang, Yang (Siamese cats)
Yin, Yin — Yang, Yang


Retirement Party . . . and other things.

Retirement Party

My wife, Diana (Charlie) AuBuchon retired after 30+ years of teaching. Most of that time

Charlie's Retirement Party
Diana (Charlie) AuBuchon

was spent as a full-time language arts teacher at McFadden Intermediate School in Santa Ana, California. She also taught in Orange at both Yorba and Portola, middle/junior high schools. She also worked as a substitute at both the junior and senior high school levels.

As a beginning teacher, raised in England, she was assigned an American History class at Yorba and wore a red coat to her open house. As seems to be the habit in the U.S., she was given a half-dozen preps her first years–you know, history, English, French (two levels). Our administrators seem to try and break beginning teachers rather than trying to give them assignments that may encourage them to give their best and stay in the profession.

(As an aside, my first year consisted of a wood shop class and a metal shop class in two different rooms–my principal said they were both industrial arts classes, and, therefore, they were a single prep. Yeah. I also had four ninth grade history classes–two in the library and the other two were in Spanish classrooms during those teachers’ conference periods–after the department chairman had cherry-picked the students he wanted for his six ninth grade history classes.)

Diana (Charlie) AuBuchon and Friends.
Diana (Charlie) AuBuchon and Friends.

In addition to her American history class, Charlie was given the cheerleaders–they don’t have cheerleaders in England. Like I said earlier, give the newbie assignments that will break them. Don’t believe me? Look up how long the average new teacher actually stays in the teaching profession. Also, look up how many people have teaching credentials but are not teaching.

I have never met a more dedicated teacher than my wife. Her dedication really hit me in the face in the two and a half years since my own retirement. In that time I watched her plan and correct and grade student assignments again and again and again. She spent more time on her students than she did on herself, her cats and me combined. In spite of her health issues these last several years, her devotion to her students and her profession never flagged or wavered.

Being forced to retire has hit her hard. Life without teaching has left a void that will be difficult to fill–if that is even possible. But we will try.

We had seventy or more people at Saturday’s party. Charlie and I had a good time, and, so I believe, did everyone else.

Commercial Plug: food, chairs, tables, servers, bartender and etc. were handled by West Coast Event Productions.

Photos taken at the party can be found on my Flickr page:

flickr dot com/photos/joe_aubuchon/


Handicapped Access

Any of you out there handicapped? Don’t you love it when

Spec. Ed. SAUSD Bus Blocks Access to Ramp.
Spec. Ed. SAUSD Bus Blocks Access to Ramp.
  • someone without a handicapped plate/sticker takes a handicapped parking place,
  • someone with a handicapped plate/sticker takes a handicapped parking place and remains in the car while the non-handicapped driver/passenger goes into the store,
  • someone blocks access to a handicapped ramp or other access.

At McFadden Intermediate School in Santa Ana the Special Education buses block access to the handicapped ramps (and the drivers refuse to move when asked).


Mist and Smoke on Sunday (Siamese cats)
Mist and Smoke on Sunday