Thursday, November 19, 2009

Huh, well, I'm halfway through the week, and this one has been tough.

Sunday I got to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world! Charles and Sara had us over for a little family and friends time, and I had a blast drinking all of Charles' beer and talking too much, while Paul tired the kid out, probably whilst teaching him all sorts of things that Charles will get a call from the daycare center about.

Monday's highlight was MEGA huge. They had vegetarian chimichangas at one of the cafes at work, and I about died of happiness. Seriously. I have not had a chimichanga since I was 16 and I pine for them regularly. See, the kitchen at my high school was run by this Mexican woman and she made bean and cheese chimichangas everyday and I ate the hell out of them. My uniform skirt was covered in chimichanga stains from the fact that it doubles as a napkin. Monday's was heaven. Then I watched some band that is apparently famous play at my work but they were not my style.

Tuesday I got nothing done, as I had a department meeting in the morning, and then a team offsite the rest of the day. My team is totally the best, and we had flaming cheese. Oh yes, flames and cheese, very nice. But! returning to the office to find all of my queues overflowing and projects long thought dead resurfacing was kind of a downer.

Wednesday I had no highlights. That was when I realized I was falling completely behind in a lot of important stuff. poop. This week is out of control, but I will beat it into submission ASAP.

coming up? My best friend from my early teenageish years visits for the weekend!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Teh internets, they haz the scammers

I just had to send out the following email because someone close to me had their email and facebook accounts compromised:

Hi everyone,
You may have received a strange email from [redacted]'s email address this morning ([redacted]

[redacted] is not in London, and she has not been robbed at gunpoint. She is perfectly fine.

Her account has been stolen by a scammer with a well known scam

This scammer has also taken control of her Facebook account, and is attempting to get her friends to give him/her money. It's possible that the scammer might access other accounts to try to contact people and get money.

Please ignore any requests coming from [redacted]'s accounts. If you've given any information to anyone pretending to be [redacted] in the past 12 hours, consider changing passwords as necessary.

And please secure your own passwords.
There are lots of articles about securing your passwords, but at the VERY LEAST: do NOT share a single password for your important accounts (gmail, banks, etc) and anything else. In particular, don't share the same password with Facebook, as it is very easily phished.

I don't know who was in [redacted]'s address book, but I'm emailing everyone I think *might* have been. I apologize if this reaches you in error

- Hide quoted text -

On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 4:19 AM, [redacted] <[redacted]> wrote:
I'm sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling. I am presently in London, United Kingdom and I'm stuck here.
I was mugged on my way to the hotel and my money,credit cards,phone and other valuable things were taken off me at gun point.
I need you to lend me some money , I need to sort out my hotel bills and get my tickets straightened out .
I would be glad if you can help me and I promise to pay you back Immediately I get back home .
Waiting to hear from you.


PLEASE, please, if you ignore all the rest of the advice about password security, at least do this.

I personally dislike Facebook in particular because it so often asks you to allow account access for stupid shit, and it is so common to get messages (emails) which you click to go to Facebook and then it asks you to log in. With your password. From a link in your email. How many times do you have to do this before it becomes so routine you forget to be careful?

I am not a security expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel this lulls Facebook users into a sense of complacency in giving up account information at the drop of a hat.

I don't know for sure how this hack happened, but I would put money on this:
  1. the user was phished with fake Facebook request to log in, providing the hacker the user's account credentials.
  2. the hacker used those credentials to log into Facebook and found the user's email address and maybe other info.
  3. the hacker guessed (because this is unfortunately common) that the user might use the same password for their other accounts, and successfully logs in to the users other accounts (email, etc... anything that's listed in Facebook! and then anything that's listed in the other accounts they are now accessing!)
  4. the hacker changes secondary email addresses and phone numbers that are in each account which the user could otherwise use to recover their password. Now the user is completely locked out.
  5. the hacker starts spamming/phishing all contacts in the users various accounts

It is not that difficult to get a user to give up a password. Therefor, don't re-use passwords, so if you do make a mistake, you won't be handing over the keys to everything you own, all at once.

UPDATE: ok, this is not the one I was thinking of, but I found a funny transcript from one of these scammers chats here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Forty Years!

So we were moving and fixing the cat, and at the same time, we were working on celebrating with my parents. They've been married FORTY YEARS!. I've never done ANYTHING for forty years, so I can't even imagine!

Paul and I made invitations to send out for the party:
From 2009

And then, September 12h, we celebrated!
We baked and cooked and decorated, and finally, there was a party!

I didn't take any pictures, so I'm stealing this one from my sister:

A good time was had by all, and my parents' friends totally stayed until like 1:30 am, tiring us kids out.

I hope Paul and I will be surrounded by such wonderful people (and food) 39 years from now. But I know it's a lot of work cultivating such a great marriage and community. We'll start with just the cat.

Forty More Years!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Novelty Cat!

Note: the following post is more detailed than most people will find interesting, and that is because this might help someone else, in the way that I found it helpful to read other people's experiences about this. The short version can be found at the bottom of this post.

Over a couple of months, we noticed the cat seemed to be limping slightly. At first, we thought it might be to do with uric acid buildup because she had the beginnings of kidney problems. So we got her the recommended meds and waited a bit, but it only got worse. So, to the vet!

The vet decided to biopsy because it was likely osteosarcoma. The biopsy was fairly major surgery, because, really, anything has to be major on a cat. I think we both thought it would be something like a needle biopsy, but actually, they took out quite a big chunk of bone, and we were both a little sobered by that. The general anaesthesia really messed her up for a few days, and she needed to be pilled.

From 2009

(post biopsy. Shaving the cat is quite eye-opening! This link shows what the stitches look like.)

They referred us to another vet hospital, where there was an oncologist, just for confirmation. We were, at this point, borrowing my parents' car and carting the cat around in a moving box, because this was around the same time we were moving house.

It was around this time we saw the X-Rays they had taken of her before the biopsy, and:
  1. It was obvious from the X-Ray that the bone on the bad leg had a different density or texture
  2. She had a pellet in her hip, presumable from when she got shot in the eye about 12 years ago. Kitty is gangsta!
The oncologist confirmed it was osteosarcoma, and other tests showed that it had not spread.
Osteosarcoma in cats behaves differently from the way it behaves in dogs. While dogs will typically have it spread and kill them, cats often just need an amputation and that solves the problem. There's no need for chemotherapy or anything like that.

We had the option to have the surgery done at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic, where Paul usually takes the cat, and the second clinic, Veterinary Surgical Associates, where we saw the oncologist. This was a more heartwrenching decision than you'd think. The second place was clearly very professional and top-of-the-line. It was also about 3x the price. Sunnyvale is a smaller, more homey clinic-- well worn, but the people are really nice and they love the cat. We took her there, but it was kind of a sad thought to wonder if we were making the decision solely on price...

At this point, we started getting advice, wanted and unwanted, from others. I looked around on the internet for other people's experiences. The vet thought the cat was pretty healthy (other than being overweight) and recommended amputation. There were a lot of people on the internet saying they had done this with their cat, and the cat recovered and rebalanced quickly. Granted, there were more than a few "let the cat go, put it down" on the internet too, but not one was from someone who had actually gone through this.

Point is, if your cat has osteosarcoma, and it is localized, don't believe the folks who implore you to let go for kitty's sake. Cats get along fine with 3 legs. (she can't count anyway, so how would she know? We just tell her it was always like that.)

So we scheduled the surgery, at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic. In the meantime, she was just beginning to recover from the biopsy surgery. The anesthesia, pain medication, and antibiotics cocktail will make your cat pretty sad and pathetic, and royally screw up their digestive track.

For surgery, we borrowed the car again and Paul dropped her off in the morning, and we picked her up together in the early evening.

She. Was. So. Pathetic.
It was totally heartbreaking to open the box and see her in a little knit stocking with a cone on her head, her usually robust voice raspy, woozy, and scared.

So now you take the cat home, and there's nothing you can do to make the cat happy. What you have to do is focus on not letting the cat hurt herself further, from falling, ripping staples/stitches (she had staples), etc. We tried to remove anything that she might want to climb on. She sat around and cried a lot, and in between, she stumbled around loudly and frantically, confused by her meds, on top of the fact that her balance was gone. It was really depressing for a long while. And again with the digestive problems, but now you add the fact that she has no balance in the litterbox-- it's NOT a pretty sight.

It was pretty bleak around our house for a few weeks, but she started to heal, and the thump/drag sound of her getting down the hall got more rhythmic and less interrupted by loud thunks. the staples came out and the doctor gave her the all-clear. (though she does need to lose some weight to help her single leg support her) She started climbing up on the couch when no one was looking, and we wondered how she got down. Rather theatrically, it turned out, as it was a cartwheel every time. She's gotten a little better at that, but we still have to be really careful what we leave for her to climb on, because we don't want her cartwheeling and injuring herself.

From 2009

(here she is after the amputation, several weeks later. Paul would have killed me if I was taking pictures of her right away. It was not pretty, really-- but it gets better!)

The best part is, her energy level is back up to where it was before she started limping. Before the biopsy, she had gotten quite lethargic, which is hard to discern in a cat due to their inherent love of laying around. But it's clear to me that she was tired from fighting the cancer, and with that gone, she has gotten a little of her energy back.

In the end, I wanted to report this in case anyone else is facing feline osteosarcoma and wondering if amputation is really something they want to go through with. If your cat is otherwise healthy, (or not, like, say, if it is missing an eye and grossly obese) then I say definitely consider it without your own baggage about how you think YOU might be impacted by losing a leg. Cats are totally different, and can get along just fine.

And plus it makes a great novelty when visitors come over.

The Short Version
Paul's cat was misbehaving, and we discovered it was because she had too many legs! So we had her altered into a much cooler novelty cat. Whilst in the process, we found out she was shot in the ass about twelve years ago (presumably at the same time she was shot and lost her eye) and has had the pellet lodged in her hip this entire time. Kitty's tough, yo.
Always remember: never pick a fight with the ugly chick-- she's got nothing to lose.


By the middle of August, we were desperately looking for a new place to park our motorcycles and our bed. The neighborhood in Mountain View was nice (as nice as the South Bay can be), but the immediate complex we lived in (a duplex behind a small apartment building) was HELL.

Despite a softened rental market, it's still difficult to find places that meet all of our needs, specifically:
  • Must have enclosed, private, garage
  • Must not share walls (we could hear our old neighbors snoring through our bedroom wall, which was a really unpleasant thought)
  • Must allow cat (this was actually one of the more difficult ones. Many landlords would rather let their properties sit on craigslist for many months, than allow a lazy old cat in the house)
  • And, the one weird thing we had to check at every location:
  • Roof cannot be accessed from any nearby structures. This is something that never occurred to us before moving into the Mountain View pit.
  • Location: needed to be near a work shuttle or caltrain, and within a mile of a grocery, with strong preference for a "downtown" nearby

Sure, there were other nice-to-haves*, but these criteria were plenty to make the whole process rather painful and desperate.

After several weeks of looking and getting more and more dejected, we managed to pick up a place in Sunnyvale, not too far from Murphy Street (Sunnyvale's downtownish district)
And? it was bigger than we needed, and we were thrilled.

The new place is bigger, has insulation, modern wiring and plumbing, a much bigger garage, our own laundry, and 100% fewer people on our roof. The commute to work takes a bit longer, and the area is a lot sleepier, but it is sooooo much nicer.

*A few weeks ago, we discussed adding "no persimmon or pomegranate trees" to our list, because based on our recent experience, they clearly attract tweakers.

Birthday camping!

And then again, first weekend of August, it was Paul's birthday. Paul is impossible to shop for. He just doesn't want stuff.

But, he really does like time with friends, and he really does like camping. So camping we went.

the cast:
Paul (birthday boy)
Me (bad idea generator)
Jennifer (my sweet, enthusiastic, always-fun sister)
Daniel (Paul's best man)
Amy (who gamely took a 3-year old on his first camping trip whilst pregnant, and without the help of her husband for the first half of the weekend)
Quinn (3 year old, not quite potty-trained)
Jesse (who showed up late Saturday night after work, bringing Paul handmade sausage and Amy some respite, and also bringing...
Lola! (the wonder dog)

It was a fantastic weekend. The script went something like this:

Me: ok, here we are. We have three sites, which is way more than we need. Most of our stuff is in Jennifer's car, and she's not here yet, so we can't pitch our tent. Pretty much all we can do is... drink this wine I brought!
From 2009.08.01 Camping in Portola Redwoods

Paul: OK, I can live with that. glug glug glug. OK, no more wine, now what?
(enter Amy and Quinn)
All: yay!
Quinn: These bathrooms are scary.
Amy: that's ok, you can just pee on the tree!
Quinn: (loves it)
(enter Jennifer and Daniel-- can't remember who came first)
All: glug, glug, glug
Quinn: The kids' campfire ranger thing was way lame.
Paul: "Bats eat bugs, they don't eat people"
Quinn: Mom, can I go home and watch Teevee?
Quinn: "We're going on a bear hunt! I'm not afraid!" (repeated ad nauseum)
All: zzz zzz zzz
(end act 1)

Act 2
All: ok, let's go for a hike!
Quinn: boring!
Paul: Quinn, there are BEARS on the trail! Let's go find them.
Quinn: ok, first I gotta make my poor sainted mom change my diaper trailside.
Amy: I'm so awesome and unflappable, this does not even phase me.
(every time Quinn gets tired and slows down...
Paul/Rebecca/Amy: Quinn! I just saw the bear! It is just around the corner up there on the trail! Did you see it??!?!
(Finally, Quinn is too tired, and makes his pregnant mom carry him up the steepest parts of the hike)
Daniel: ok, hike is over, I'm taking a nap
Boy camping next to us: Hey, Quinn, let's play with the ball
Quinn: yay! (then proceeds to fail at playing WITH the boy by running off with the ball every chance he gets)
Boy: I am so patient and unflappable, this does not phase me. (continues playing with Quinn)
Amy: Dinner time!
Quinn: I'm going to pour salt in Rebecca's wine.
Rebecca: OMG, he really did just pour salt in my wine.
Daniel: (to Rebecca) I am the awesomest friend ever, and brought a cheesecake and candles.
Amy, Quinn, Daniel, Jennifer, and Me: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Paul, Happy Birthday to you!
Paul: OMG, this is so great. Nom, Nom, Nom. I am totally stuffed.
(enter Jesse and Lola)
Jesse: I totally drove around getting lost in the dark, but now I am here, and I brought beer and homemade sausage for Paul
Paul: (already stuffed and drunk) glug glug glug, nom nom nom.
Lola: ball, ball ball, BARK! stick, stick, stick BARK!
All: zzz zzz zzz
(end act 2)

Act 3
Paul: ouch. With the loud noises, and the bright lights!
Rebecca: Let's go for a short hike before we go.
All: Yay!
Quinn: Mommy, can I go home and watch TeeVee!??
Lola: Stick, stick, stick. Why don't you throw the stick and I'll chase it? BARK!
Daniel: Screw you guys, I'm going home.
All: Let's go to Santa Cruz and have beer, I mean, Lunch.
All: Beer was nice, now to the beach!
Lola: Stick, stick, stick. BARK!
All: ok, everyone go home!
(all exit stage)

Act 4
two weeks later, at Rebecca's birthday
Amy: Yeah, so apparently the peeing in the woods thing wasn't a good idea. The next day, his daycare teacher was like "what the hell happened to his potty training??" ... oops.

It was fantastic.
You would think tht I would have pictures of us l camping and hiking and whatnot, but you would be wrong.

Aquarium Weekend Katsup

I kept thinking that if I just had a chunk of quiet time, I would finally catch up on my blog. Saturday and Sunday morning, I had some time, and guess what? I didn't catch up on anything but clearing my Reader!

So, it will never be caught up. But to go back t some highlights...

In late July, an old friend came out for a visit. Even though I've only seen Ethan a handful of times over the years, it's always surprising just how quickly he feels like an old friend. We met at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Saturday, where I was attacked by a giant whale:
From 2009

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is great, but full of really obnoxious people who feel the need to take pictures of each and every tank. Of course, they are not going to look at all 500 of these blurry cellphone pictures ever again, but that doesn't stop them from jamming the things in between you, who are actually looking at the exhibits, and the tanks.... for 5 minutes while they try to get just the right stupid shot. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a good place for kids. My personal favorite was watching the otters gleefully rip apart their meals. Who would have thought entrails could look so cute? (besides Peter Jackson in Dead Alive-- adorable!)

It was a bit of a cat-herding exercise to keep the entire group together but we did manage to get to dinner together at a Thai place across the street from the aquarium, which I thought to be surprisingly un-bad, despite it's proximity to tourist hell. Then we went to Kapp's Pizza in Mountain View for a few beers before calling it a night.

Sunday we went to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which was fantastic, and a little less kid-oriented (that's a good thing, for me) The building is beautiful, the rainforest is fun, and they have set up the large tanks so you can see them from a different angles from the different levels. Paul tried to jump into the alligator pit
From 2009

For dinner, we went to Axum in Lower Haight for some tasty Ethiopian food.

Every few years, I get a picture like this:

From 2009

and am reminded that even though people are far apart, good friends will reconnect almost immediately. I have to admit, I was wondering how awkward it might be to see someone you haven't seen for years, then spend two days with them. It was great to see Ethan!