Friday, September 13, 2013

Talk Like A Pirate Day is Coming!!! What's Your Pirate Name?

My pirate name is:
Mad Anne Kidd
Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Wednesday with the Doctor at the VA

I had another medical appointment on Wednesday. I've had this appointment before, but always missed it. The appointment was important because I've been suffering from chronic fatigue for a couple of years, and I really need to find out why. The irony is that the reason for the appointment is also the reason for missing the appointments in the past. I'm not sure the people at the VA care about that or not. Of course, all they see is someone missing a whole bunch of appointments. But this time I made it.

First I had to go for some lab tests: blood and urine, as usual. My lab appointment was for 9:00 a.m., but I wasn't scheduled to see my doctor until 3:00 p.m. It's an hour drive and over a gallon of gas to go from home to the doctor's office at the VA, so when I go, I plan to stay all day. I'll find something to do between appointments. The lab appointment time is not really carved in stone. It was my understanding that the tests they do take about two hours, so I planned to get to the lab by around noon at the latest. I actually got there at about 11:00. There was no one ahead of me so I went right in. (I found out, later, when I saw the doctor, that the labs take a lot longer than two hours. Some actually require a day or two. So I wondered why they scheduled the appointments for the same day. Why not do the labs four or five days before the appointment with the doctor?)

 It was a "fasting lab" appointment, which means I didn't get to eat that morning, or drink any coffee, so by the time I had my appointment, I was quite hungry, and starting to get what was probably a caffeine headache. I headed off to my favorite when-I'm-in-Temple fast food joint, Jack in the Box, for a spicy chicken sandwich, some seasoned curly fries, and a diet Dr. Pepper. After I finished my lunch, I headed up to Petco. A friend of mine gave me a Petco gift card for my birthday, so I used it to make ID tags for Buddy and Sadie. (Sadie is a new dog I've adopted. I should have blogged about her sooner, but I didn't. I'll do so in a day or two.) 

I'd been wanting to get some tags for them. Buddy is a wanderer and sometimes wanders out of my sight, and Sadie is new, so not real familiar with the neighborhood. I haven't let Sadie wander too far, but now, if she does, she'll have the ID tag with my phone number. (Just in case you're wondering, I don't intend to let her wander off.)

After I finished at Petco, I went back to the VA with my Kindle. It was only about 1:00, so I had a couple of hours to kill. I had my Kindle, so I started to read Stephen Kings non-fiction essay, Guns. He'd written it after the killings at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. I got about half way through and decided to check in. By then it was about 1:30. I figured if they were ahead of schedule maybe I'd get in early. I was right. I went back to reading, finished Guns, and was called in to see the doctor shortly after 2:00 p.m.

It was very productive. I got some consults that I needed, and renewed my prescriptions. We talked about my chronic fatigue and the doctor said she'd send me to the sleep clinic. So one way or another, we're going to find out the cause of my tiredness. She was surprised to learn that I hadn't had a colonoscopy when I turned 50, and so I will be scheduled for one. Whoopee.

The doctor - a different one since my last visit - wasn't real comfortable renewing my prescription for antidepressants, so when we were done she had me go over and talk to a psychiatrist. That was a good thing because she suggested that she may be able to help a little with the fatigue, as well. She suggested that I start taking Wellbutrin which, when taken with the other antidepressants, should give me a little more energy. I certainly hope she's right. I'm so tired of being so tired!

I ended up not leaving the VA until just after 4:00. After the hour-long drive home, I was completely exhausted. (I don't think I'd gotten any real sleep Tuesday night.)

And that was my exciting day doing medical things. I await appointments with the sleep clinic as well as a couple other clinics, and the results of my blood and urine tests. Since my life is an open book, I'll share any bad news I get. Let's hope I don't get any.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Passwords - Easy to remember but hard to guess

I've been meaning to write this for some time. It seems like people still use simple passwords that are easy for hackers to guess because they're easy for the user to remember. You may think that, using your granddaughter's name is smart because, after all, how many people - hackers - would think of it? Well, have you ever mentioned your granddaughter on your Facebook or MySpace page? If you love her enough to use her name as a a password, you've probably mentioned her elsewhere. But you have several grandchildren. How will a hacker know which one is your password? Well, hackers do a lot of guessing, so they will guess all your grandchildrens' names before they get to the right one. How about your birth date? Or your street address? Easy things for hackers to guess.

So what are some good passwords? Many sites now want you to use upper and lower case letters, numbers and/or special characters. Good idea. But they're hard to remember! Not if you use them in a way that's easy to remember. Duh!

Don't use things a hacker is probably going to guess, like anything dealing with your public life. Don't use family names, addresses, birth dates, or anything else someone can find out about you.

Here are some ideas of what you can use.

What are your favorite TV shows or movies? Take something from one of those and "scramble" it with special characters. Do you have favorite actors, authors, singers, poets? I'll bet you do. Think of one that not many people know about and use them. How about an event that you can easily remember? Use it and some form of the associated date.

Here are some examples.

Let's say you really liked the TV show "Lost." The "Dharma Initiative" was an element in that show. So let's use "Dharma," but we're going to use the special character "@" in place of one or both of the letters "a." You can capitalize the first letter, but that would be easier to guess than captializing, say, the second or last letters. If you capitalize the same letter each time, you'll find it easier to remember.

So for our password, we're going to start with "dH@rma." Now, we want to incorporate some numbers. Again, if you're a Lost fan, you know that there were a few numbers that were repeated in the show, like 108 and 815. So we can use the password "dH@rma108," which would probably be hard enough to guess. But let's take it one step further. Instead of a zero, use the letter "o." Now your password is "dH@rma1o8." As a lost fan, you'll remember that password - as long as you remember which letter it is that you always capitalize.

Another thing to do is use an easy word to remember, but spell it backwards. My favorite dog's name was Rosie, and she was born in 1998. So for my password I could use "eisor1998." But instead of the "s," I'm going to use "$." It looks like an "s," so it's easy to remember which special character I used. You can go a little farther and switch all switchable letters to special characters, and/or switch out letters for numbers and vice versa. And don't forget your capitalization if you need it. So Rosie1998 becomes "eI$or1998."

To confound the hackers a little more, put the year in the center of the word, or alternate letters and numbers.

19eI$0r98 or e1I9$908r

See what I mean? This is something you can easily remember yourself, but that some hacker* is going to take a very long time to "guess."

Do this with your favorite author, or with the title of your favorite book by your favorite author. Or your favorite actor and movie. Or your favorite food. There's no limit. Just keep your scrambling techniques consistent so you don't confound yourself!

The easiest substitutions are a and @, s and $, o and 0, i and 1. But you should work some out for yourself that are not as easy to think of. Remember to be consistent so you won't forget them. For example, let's say you always substitute the "#" for the letter x, or you always use a % for the letter z, or even for more common letters. This way you're making a very complex password that you can easily remember.

Okay, so that's what I wanted to let people know. You can take my ideas and go far, using all sorts of things: favorite words, foreign words, types of trees or plants, bugs, animals. There's no limit.

I hope this helps.

*or ex-boyfriend, or ex-girlfriend, or nosy roommate, or nosy family member, if you get my drift

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Life Still Sucks, But In An Interesting Way

The bank sent me a letter. They do that often because, in their opinion, I use my overdraft protection far too much. They've been sending me letters telling me there are better ways to "borrow" money. Yeah. I know that. But most people who lend you money generally want you to have a good credit score. They want some assurance they'll actually get their money back. My credit score is not good, so these people tell me "no" and then have a good laugh when I leave their offices.

This letter was different. It said, basically, "you're cut off." They're taking my overdraft protection away. I'm not angry or surprised. Frankly, I wondered why they hadn't done it sooner, if it had always been an option.

Ultimately this will be a good thing for me. I mean, it's money I have to "pay back" every month, so there's no outstanding balance like with credit. And each time I "dip into" the overdraft protection I am charged a fee, which only adds to my monthly deficit. Again, this is money they take from me and which is paid back each month. So technically, I can get along without overdraft protection, and now I'm going to have to try even harder to do so. The good news is it will be cheaper for me because there will be no more overdraft fees. The bad news is that there will be "insufficient fund" fees if/when a check bounces.

I'm going to go in to see the people in this very same bank about getting one of the loans they have urged me to get. The easiest one should be an account based on the equity in my home, and that will mean a very low interest rate. I still expect them to say "no" and laugh at me, though, because my credit score is so low.

I'm also planning a yard sale. I have a bunch of stuff that's worth money, and a lot of it I don't even use.

The cat situation in my home is becoming unbearably stressful for me. A few nights ago I broke up a cat fight between two of my "pet" cats. I did so without thinking and without gloves. That resulted in a couple of fairly deep and serious bites to my right hand. I know that cat bites are notoriously bad due to the sharpness of their teeth combined with the bacteria in their mouths. For this reason it's always a good idea to go straight to the hospital whenever you suffer a cat bite. I didn't. Several of my Facebook friends are angry about that. My hand swelled, and is still swollen, but feels like the swelling is going down. And I thoroughly cleaned the bites with hydrogen peroxide and have been keeping them clean and, until a few hours ago, bandaged. The bites are drying up and scabbing, which means they're not infected. As long as it doesn't get any worse, I'm not going to see the doctor. I'm sure they'll want to put me on strong antibiotics, which I don't mind, but they'd probably be of the IV type, and that would require either a stay in the hospital or a visit every eight hours for the duration of the treatment. No thanks.

Besides this fight & bite incident, I had a minor meltdown a couple of weeks ago. I have at least three - possibly more - cats that spray urine to mark territory. A couple of them want to climb up on counters and table tops and spray things you definitely do not want sprayed. I mean, no one wants anything to be urine sprayed by cats, but there are things that are not so bad, like walls, which can be easily cleaned, and there are things that are very bad, like the clean dishes in the dish rack, and the toaster oven, and the coffee maker, and anything that isn't easily cleanable. And this was what was happening in my house. I have gone so far as to tape protective pads (puppy potty training pads) to many items in order to protect them: my computer, monitor, and peripherals; countertop appliances; televisions (when not in use); and more. This is drastic and somewhat disgusting, but it has saved me some serious stress. But when I had my meltdown it was because someone had sprayed the coffee maker before I could get the protective pad in place. It was nearly the straw that broke the camel's back, and I was about ready to get out my gun and start "euthanizing" all the cats in my home.

"Get rid of the cats," you suggest. Yeah. Easier said than done, unless you just don't care about cats. And if that were true, I wouldn't be in this situation to begin with. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a home for an adult cat - even a neutered and vaccinated adult cat? It's very difficult. And I didn't take in these animals just to turn them over to someone who will euthanize them. I have put an ad up on a local Facebook page for pet adoptions, and I'm willing to give up most of the cats that are now in my care. But like I said, there are not many people who want adult cats.

My sweet cousin sent me a book called Cat vs. Cat, which I have not yet read but which I intend to very soon. She hopes it will help me with the problems I'm having. I hope so, too, but I confess that I'm not very optimistic. I've researched some of the problems I'm having and have not yet found the answers. But like I said, I have not yet read the book. I suppose the easiest "fix" would be to find a way to keep the cats off the counters and tabletops. Anyone know how to do that? Please don't tell me to put tape on the countertops unless you can tell me a way to keep it on the countertops. I want to annoy the cats, but I don't want the tape to come off the counter and stick to them.

My car has been causing its occasional routine and not-very-expensive-thank-God problems. First I had a blowout while driving to see one of my favorite authors who was appearing in a bookstore about a hundred miles from my home. While changing my tire I discovered that the spare, which was 16-years old (as old as the car), had shredded in my trunk. So I had to call a tow truck to take me and my car home and then I had to buy a new tire and a new spare. My spare is one of those little "doughnut" spares, which is smaller than a regular tire and requires you to drive no faster than about 50 miles per hour for as long as you're driving on it. It also costs more than a regular tire.

I missed seeing the author I'd wanted to see, but I did managed to get a autographed copy of the book he was trumpeting by arranging it with the wonderful people at the bookstore.

I'm his personal idol! Wow!

About two weeks after the tire incident my relatively new battery died and I had to replace it. I say "relatively new" because it was only two years old, and other batteries I'd had lasted at least five years. I didn't get a free replacement from the store where I bought it, but I got a discount. Same type of battery, though, which means it'll probably last just another two years. Texas heat takes a real toll on car batteries. And I don't have any shade over my driveway, so my car is parked in direct sunlight most of the time.

I had to have another beloved dog put down. He was so sick, and having such a hard time getting around. Roscoe came into my life as an adult stray. I'm not exactly sure when I took him in, but I know it was at least 2004. So he was at least ten years old. He was a basset mix. He'd been a stray in my neighborhood for about two weeks when I put him in my backyard and called animal control to come and get him. Needless to say, they never did. He became a member of my family and was a wonderful addition. He got along with all the dogs and cats, and was housebroken. It took him a short time to get used to using the doggy door because of the clicking sound it made when he went through. For some reason he was spooked by loud noises. But he soon got to be a pro! He went to be with Rosie at the Rainbow Bridge on February 26th - just one week after the anniversary of Rosie's passing.

My butt's getting a little sore because I've been sitting here for awhile, so I'm going to quit for now.

Peace, love, and umbrella hats.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I Could Easily Cry - Some More

There are a lot of things going on right now - big and small - that are making me very sad. As someone who suffers from depression, I have good days and bad days. I suppose that's normal for everyone who suffers from depression. But today is a really, really bad day. It didn't start out that way.

It started out as a normal day, and all I was really thinking about was the upcoming $250 charge for the tires I have to have put on my car. You see, I had a blowout on the highway Tuesday afternoon, on my way to Austin to finally see and meet one of my favorite authors, Dave Barry. He has a new book out and I was going to meet him and have him autograph my book. I was also excited because I was going to tell him that I was the person behind the moniker Suzie Q. Wacvet when I sent odd items to him for his blog. AND I was going to confess to being the webmistress of his (un)Official Dave Barry website.  I figured he'd either be elated to meet me or he'd hit me. Either way I was looking forward to it. But I barely got out of Gatesville before my tire blew out. My spare is one of those little doughnut tires that limits your speed to 50mph, if I'm not mistaken. I was actually considering continuing to Austin on my doughnut tire until I saw that it had begun shredding in my trunk. (I guess that's normal when you have a tire that's 16 years old.) So the trip was cancelled, and I had to have a tow truck carry me and my car home. So I'm going to have to buy two new tires. Believe it or not, the doughnut tire costs more than the full-sized tire. So money is my first issue today. (It's almost always an issue, anyway.)

My second depressing thought is that it's getting closer to February 17th. I can hardly even type this without sobbing. February 17, 2012, is the day that Rosie died. This will only get worse for nine more days.

My third depressing thought is that my younger brother, who has always been an outspoken republican, and who has always jumped on any chance to bad-mouth our President (whom I voted for, by the way), has finally fallen of the deep end. He has gone so far as to compare the President to Hitler. It's difficult for me to find acceptable words to describe just how I feel about anyone who compares anyone to Hitler. Come on. Hitler was responsible for the annihilation of approximately seven million people. The only acceptable people who can be compared to Hitler are Stalin and Sadam Hussein. (There may be more but my knowledge of history isn't great.) Once people I know - or people I don't know - start comparing the President to Hitler, I put their names in the "completely insane" and "ignore completely" categories of the list of friends and acquaintances that I keep in my head. I never thought my brother would be in either of those categories, but he is, apparently and disappointingly, that stupid. I still love him though. I just don't like him very much.

Fourth is a tiny thing that shouldn't bother me at all, but it does. Someone read something I wrote on Facebook, misinterpreted it, and banned me from a pet-related group. I don't go around trying to insult people, and I don't ever act like I'm better than someone (even though I often think it). But when I wrote something about irresponsible backyard breeders, she took it personally. I don't know why. I'm hoping she will let me know. She is a breeder of Olde English Bulldogs, and I thought I had made a clear distinction between people who breed responsibly (like her) and people who don't. But she, like I said, misinterpreted or misread what I wrote. So, Facebook. So what? Happens all the time. Right? Shouldn't be such a big deal. Right? Right. But I think we all are bothered, to some degree, when someone dislikes us. And Facebook makes it difficult to iron things out with acquaintances who don't know you. There's a lot of jumping to the wrong conclusion. It's one thing if someone dislikes me for good reason, but it's annoying when someone dislikes me for something they completely misunderstood. In fact, in this case, as a responsible breeder I would think that she would have been one of the first to agree with me. What makes it worse is that, after I wrote what I wrote, I asked for the group admins to read it and comment. No one said anything negative. The person who was offended said nothing at all. She just banned me. No discussion. I've contacted her since then, which is how I found out what drove her to banning me. She has said we can discuss it (when she get home, later). Maybe it will get worked out.

Still, I'm annoyed by people - even people I barely know - who fly off the handle about something that didn't happen! There are a lot of them. I confess, they're mostly on Facebook, where I shouldn't give a damn about this sort of thing. I should just get off of Facebook. But I have intelligent friends there who I enjoy and who, I've heard, enjoy me and my posts. I think I'm just going to go over there and quit some groups and unfriend some "friends," and my life will be better for it.

Add all of this to the things that "normally" depress me and you'll see that it's a bad day. It's just a bad day.