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[sticky post] Change in commenting policy

I didn't bother mentioning this when I wasn't posting, but I've set the comments in this journal to friends-only in the wake of a truly impressive level of spam over the past few months. I always used to screen non-friend comments and then let through anything obviously human, but the spam was such a hassle I gave up. I plan to leave it this way for a few months and then change it back to see what happens.

Sorry to anyone who might see an old Flashpoint entry or something and want to comment. :(


Also, racing weekend

So Saturday was the Belmont Stakes, and Sunday was the Canadian Grand Prix. By now everyone has heard about California Chrome's owner going off on a rant when his horse didn't win the Triple Crown. And by now most of us have probably heard that sense prevailed and he apologized (in print at least it looked like a thorough and handsome apology, so let's chalk that up to "live and learn, no matter how old you are.")

One thing, though: I don't follow modern racing, because I'm afraid of seeing a disaster. This was the first year in a long time that I watched the Triple Crown races-- I didn't follow Funny Cide or Smarty Jones's campaigns at all. But I do love reading about and looking at video of the classic races, probably because whatever happened has happened and I can avoid anything I don't want to see.

All of which is just to say that I'm interested in Coburn's comments more from the point of view of history than the future. There are horsemen who are sure that modern management and breeding strategies mean there won't ever be another Triple Crown winner. If there is one, the accomplishment will be proportionally greater-- and it's already a pretty damn big deal.

But make no mistake: while spreading out the races more is probably a good idea, given that modern race horses don't run on the compressed timelines they used to-- the idea of limiting the Preakness and the Belmont to only horses who ran in the Derby would, in effect, mean that a Triple Crown winner is now merely the best colt in a field of twenty. Set aside, for the moment, the fact that some trainers and owners deliberately aim at a race like the Belmont, and don't want to run their colt on the first of May. (Or, in the case of Tonalize, can't because the horse got sick and they laid him off to recover.) If you make a rule that a horse only has to beat a specific pool of colts who all took the same path he did, then that's all you're proving.

Up to now, a Triple Crown winner is one for the ages, and that's why there have only been eleven of them since 1919. It's not supposed to be easy.

All Triple Crown winners to date have faced all comers, and the fact they could reach down and beat fresh horses is what makes them great. Changing that practice would put an asterisk next to the name of any future winner. Which is fine if that's the decision made, but future owners would need to accept that their horse didn't do what Count Fleet or Citation or Secretariat or any of the others did, which is face all comers.

If a horse deserves to be named in the same breath as those eleven, then he has to do what those eleven did. (Even if it's on a longer time frame.) It's not enough for a horse to be good, or very good. He has to be great.

And if a trainer or breeder thinks they have a good (or very good) horse, they get to enter that horse in the races they choose, knowing that they could, possibly, be beaten by greatness. That's the deal.

And as long as I'm thinking about this, here's a short video about Citation. When I was in grade 5, the word appeared on a spelling list. Our teacher defined it for us. And then one of the boys pointed out that it was also a kind of small car made by Chevrolet (mid-70s!) And then I commented that Citation won the Triple Crown in 1948, because all kids are weird and I liked to read books by CW Anderson.

I also remember when Cigar was bidding to equal Citation's record of 16 consecutive wins. One of his old connections was asked what he thought of the attempt.

"I like Cigar," the old horseman replied. "But Citation... he was a nice horse."

A lovely bit of understatement!


Hmm, I did not mean to vanish for so long. After my last post, in which I was very angry about some disorganized faculty putting me in a position to work through the holiday weekend, I discovered that bad temper brings its own punishments, or something. In short, on the Victoria Day Monday I was doing nothing in particular when I felt a tearing sensation in my lower back and lo: herniated disc!

So I was off for the rest of the week. mostly lying face-down on my bed, or the couch, or a blanket on the floor. I couldn't stay still for long so I kept moving from place to place, and Vlad the cat faithfully trundled after me for as long as I seemed to be in distress. That was May 19th, I've been working from home part-time and mostly lying on the floor when I'm there, but I've got some good anti-inflammatory drugs, a physio appointment for later this week, and a consult with the doctor on Friday regarding the results of my x-ray. And I'm feeling a lot better.

It probably wasn't bad temper that caused this, but let it be a lesson to me that there are worse things than working on a holiday weekend.


...I've been running searches on various food-related issues to see whether we hold the journals they appear in.

Just ran into consecutive articles related to Elevated blood lead levels in urban moonshine drinkers.

I'll consider myself warned.


Oh Vlad...

Some of you may recall that back in January, my cat Vlad had some serious (and terrifying) urinary problems, culminating in surgery. He came through that very well, and this past week he was due for a urinalysis to make sure everything was tickety-boo (as my old flight commander used to say.)

The lovely vet offered me two options: either do the collection at home, or bring in the cat.

Clearly, collection at home was the less stressful path, right? He's seen enough of the vet for a lifetime! So I agreed to that, was given a container of "Nosorb" plastic pellets to take the place of his litter, got a cheap tray (because I didn't want to get into rearranging every litter box in the apartment--yeah, I was lazy, really, and the tray had a weird bottom) and locked him in the bedroom with his food and water.

Several hours later, no pee in the box, so I did what I should have done in the first place and brought in a box he was used to.

And he sniffed and stuck his head in, but didn't want anything to do with the plastic pellets. Because he's used to absorbent cat litter. Absorbent, I tell you!

You know what in the bedroom was really absorbent?


So I washed all the bedclothes and pillows, and made an appointment to drop him off Monday to have the urine sample taken at the hospital. Which wasn't a whole lot of fun for Vlad, frankly, so I hope the satisfaction of thwarting me on Saturday was worth it.

The sample came back mostly fine, ph a little elevated (which could have been stress) and not quite as dilute as we'd like (so I told the vet the sample I found when I leaned my hand on the bed had no smell and showed no stain on the light-coloured comforter, and she agreed that was a good sign.) In six months' time we get to do this again. I think I'll skip the Nosorb.

Damn good thing he's cute.


Two things

House-related: I've been hoping this one would come back on the market. It's the same layout as House #3 in my previous house-related post, only with an addition built on the back to make the kitchen larger, a basement instead of a crawlspace, and two doors on the front downstairs bedroom. No idea how old the roof or windows are, but I'll look out for an open house.

And maybe I should just contact the mortgage broker, at that.

Also, I mentioned going to see King Lear broadcast by the National Theatre, with Simon Russell Beale in the lead role. It was intense--I had forgotten just how long the play was, and I think they may have trimmed any moments of relief anyway. Edmund doesn't get his moment of half-redemption, for instance. (Edmund is played by Sam Troughton, otherwise Much the Miller's son from BB's Robin Hood, incidentally. Bit of a head trip!)

Beale is really, really good in the role. In a short film shown at the intermission he explains that he had the feeling Lear was beginning a slide into dementia when the play begins (which is as good an explanation as any for his volatility toward Cordelia) and a doctor in his fmaily sent him an article positing that Lear suffered from Lewy Body dementia. He and the director actually incorporated some of the physical symptoms into his portrayal. The end results is, we're looking at a man we know was very nasty, but is now becoming pitiful, and it's deeply uncomfortable and quite heartrending. The rest of the play is so over the top, honestly, that it's hard to come to grips with (I need to reread it and see whether they left out bits that would have been emotional ins, so to speak) but Lear and his daughters are very effective. As is the Fool, although there's the problem of what to do with the character after the first half, since he never speaks again after "I'll to bed at noon." This production solved it in a way that, shall we say, does not speak well of anyone in the room at the time and I found that very offputting, but overall it was pretty effective. Although I can't say I slept particularly well afterward!
london, big_ben_tower
Okay, well, in the movie theatres. Last February I had tickets to a broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston. The play was fantastic but there were technical difficulties and the upshot was that I was given a pass to attend another of these special events.

I considered War Horse, I really did, and then I remembered what the movie did to me when my horse was alive and well, and instead I decided I'll use the pass on King Lear, with Simon Russell Beale (who played Falstaff in The Hollow Crown.) It's playing in two different theatres at the same time. I think I'll probably go to Dartmouth, since I should go home and feed the cats first so it'll be easier to just pick up the car and go on.

Will try to post about reactions. I've read a couple of reviews of the production and I'm pretty stoked.
When Breaking Bad, which I did not watch, was coming to an end some months back, I discovered that I really enjoyed reading recaps of the final few episodes, which informed my reading of the many many interesting pieces published online about the issues dealt with in the series.

It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons I enjoyed those opinion pieces so much was, I didn't watch the show and therefore had no potentially conflicting opinions of my own about the characters or events those authors were using as illustrations of their points. (I hope that made sense!)

Game Of Thrones is a show I am even less likely to watch than Breaking Bad (haven't read the books either, it's just not a genre that interests me) but I admit, after seeing memes like this one all over Tumblr I actually kind of enjoyed standing back and watching the reaction to "the Purple Wedding."

As a result, I also noticed the commentary about the next episode-- mostly posts about the use of sexual violence in media and how creators don't always create the impression they think they're creating. And, once again, if I had been attached to any of the characters involved I might have been too personally upset (because I do that) to really think about the points being made.

All of which is just to say, I guess, that critique can be really interesting just as a genre in itself, and I should probably remember that when I'm looking for things to read.

House stuff again

I've changed out all the links in the previous entry about houses--I think the problem was that I forgot what the first site I used will let non-logged-in users see. The current links were found on a different site that gives less information but doesn't require a login, and the pictures are all the same!
Edited again: Links should work now.

For the past two years or so, I've been trying to talk myself into getting out of the renting game and into a house of my own. For quite a number of yeas I was convinced I'd never be able to afford it, and then I didn't have a down payment, and then I didn't really want to divert money from my retirement fund into a down payment (which I would then have to pay back.)

It's mostly that it's a big step and I'm nervous. If you've read My Friend Flicka and remember Kenny, when he tried to make his brain turn from imaginary horses to a single real one, you've probably got the idea.

And then a couple of years ago, when sagitare and I got serious about the London trip, I started saving money more seriously. (I also got promoted at work and paid off my consumer debt, which helped.) And it became clear that I could, in fact, save what I needed and maybe wouldn't have to hit my retirement fund so hard after all.

And then of course came the veterinary disaster of this past winter (Vlad the cat finally had to have surgery for his urinary issues but he's been doing really well) which knocked a hole in my savings and slowed down the process again-- although, obviously, the money I spent on Mitzi's board now goes into savings.

I'd originally planned to start looking this summer, but between having less money saved than I had hoped and being on the negotiating team I may wait until fall. God knows I might not be in any condition to move house and bargain in July!

However, the market is slow-ish and there seem to be quite a lot of options in my conservative price range, some of which have been on he market for a while. And here are some (time-sensitive) links to a couple of them:

This one's tiny but cute, on bus routes which is important to me. The upstairs "den" could probably be used as the bedroom, since I tend to use my bedroom strictly for sleeping and don't need a big space. That would leave a downstairs guest room and the other could become the library. (Which sounds delightfully pretentious, but let's face it, I have more than enough books to justify the name!)

Somewhat larger house in the same neighbourhood. Speaking as a cat owner, the carpet would have to go (I think I have the pukingest cats in Nova Scotia, honestly) and also all the Maple Leafs crap in the den. But I love the idea of the upstairs hallway with a window at each end.

And the one I've actually seen in person, which is as cute as can be (in the same neighbourhood) and much bigger inside than the square footage indicates. The problem is, it's at the top of my imaginary budget and even I can tell it needs some new windows and probably insulation. And the furnace and roof probably will need replacing sooner rather than later. However, it's a pretty common house plan in the area I'm looking at, so something more finished might turn up.

I think I like this one mostly for its staircase, honestly. I have a real thing about staircases-- it took me a long time to realize it's because my favourite uncle's house had a particularly old-fashioned stairwell, and so I always find that kind welcoming.

When Mitzi was alive I strongly considered Sackville, which has bus routes downtown and was closer to her. There's a standard floorplan for semi-detached houses in our area, which I actually like a lot. There are a couple for sale in my brother's neighbourhood-- I have promised not to show up drunk at all hours if we became neighbours-- here's an example of the standard layout.

You may notice that some of these houses are listed as "good starter OR retirement home." In my case, that Boolean operator would become AND.

Anyway--not moving right now, so none of these are likely to be The Place, but it's fun to dream and challenging to plan!


Shelley McKibbon