Nowhere Men #6

Nowhere Men #6, by Eric Stephenson & Nate Bellegarde, Image Comics, October 2013

Nowhere Men #6 Nowhere Men is an interesting science fiction title from Image. It seems both the writer and artist have both been working for Image for a while (I’ve probably seen Bellegarde’s work in some of the Invincible titles, but I don’t remember it clearly), but Nowhere Men is different from anything they’ve worked on before.

The core of the book is a quartet of scientists who formed a global corporation, World Corp, back in the 60s. The scenes from that era evokes imagery of the Beatles (the book’s title presumably comes from John Lennon’s similarly-named song), without there being an explicit match of the scientists to the original Fab Four. But most of the book takes place in the present day, where there’s an ongoing theme of the optimism and wonder of the founding of World Corp having rotted through: Emerson Strange, once a dashing man with long hair, is now old, bald, and seems crushed by the weight of running World Corp. Dade Ellis has spent years in a coma. Simon Grimshaw seems not to have aged, and has split from the other two with plenty of hard feelings. And Thomas Walker apparently succumbed to drug addiction and dropped out of society, not having been seen for years.

Worse, experiments on a space station which Strange was overseeing have gone badly wrong, and the crew of the station barely managed to escape, while all being mutated in various ways (some of them grotesque).

This issue features a confrontation among the station crew, Strange, Ellis and Grimshaw, in which all hell breaks loose. The World Corp founders clearly aren’t used to being challenged by people they regard as inferiors (both Strange and Grimshaw have huge egos, though Strange at least has some basic empathy), and whatever plans they’ve had in motion are clearly falling apart in the face of developing events. (There is at least one, perhaps two, loose cannons around, as well.) And what exactly happened to Thomas Walker is an ongoing question.

Nowhere Men contains several text pages in each issue, providing background on World Corp and their accomplishments over the years, often in the form of magazine articles and interviews. It’s surprisingly effective; I recommend reading the one-page piece at the start of this issue from start to finish, as it has a nifty kicker in the final paragraph.

The book sometimes feels a little distant, like the founding members of World Corp are gods (the presumed irony is that Thomas Walker is perceived as having disconnected from the world but that he’s probably closer to it than the other three), and the hapless mutates from the space station are normal(ish) people caught in a situation beyond their control. That the story is largely concerned with the ongoing machinations of the principals, as opposed to smaller escapades of individuals, reinforces that feeling. Overall it works, but it is something of a sprawling epic which keeps barreling forward, rather than a careful character-driven narrative. It feels like the series is about half-done now, but the premise is so far-reaching I could imagine them doing more with it after this story is over.

It helps a lot that Bellegarde’s art is outstanding, capable of both drawing ordinary people (with a diversity of faces and ethnicities!) and fantastic entities and effects. His clean linework and the effective colors by Jordie Bellaire make this one of the sharpest-looking books on the market.

This particular issue isn’t easily read on its own, given the backstory, but the first six issues will soon be collected, with the appropriate title “Fates Worth Than Death”. I recommend it when it comes out.

(Coincidentally, the blog Second Printing also just reported on this issue.)

This Year’s Biking-to-Work Experience

Biking to work this year can be summed by saying that I’ve had to overcome several bits of adversity to keep going. Nothing huge, but enough to be a drag on my enthusiasm.

Last year I had planned to reach 40 rides for the season for the first time. I bike in twice a week (rarely more, since I often need to drive somewhere after work), and with 7 months in the season (between Daylight Savings Time changes – I prefer not to bike home in the dark) that gives me about 30 weeks, so in theory I could get as many as 60 rides in without adding extra days (minus time spent on vacation, at WWDC, etc.), but I think I’ve topped out at 35. Debbi suggested I aim for 50. But then all the business with my Mom came up, and I ended up at around 35 again.

This year I was back east in March during the DST change (“Spring Forward, Lose Sleep”), but I didn’t bike in until May because we were working on selling her house, and I wanted to make sure I could dash home and take care of anything that came up where I needed some specific records (it turned out that nothing did).

Along the way I’ve broken two spokes on my rear wheel, and I’m coming to accept that I need to get a new bike. I have a 2002 Bianchi Eros road bike (at least, that’s the year I bought it), and I think I just weigh too much for the bike. I bought a beefier rear wheel for it a couple of years ago, but I’ve continued to pop spokes (just less often), which is pretty annoying (even though I found a store nearby which is able to fix it within 48 hours reliably). So I think I need to get a bike which is built for someone of my weight (as with buying clothes, it’s better to buy for the body you have, not the body you want to have). So this winter I will probably look into getting some sort of hybrid bike. The plus is that I could take it off-road onto some of the dirt trails in Shoreline Park, which my road bike can’t really handle.

Then in August Debbi and I were doing an abdominal workout challenge, and I started having pain in my hips, which mostly went away when I stopped doing the sit-ups. Toward the end I also started having pain in my right knee, which may or may not be related (perhaps I was compensating for the hip pain in a way that stressed my knee). It gets sore when I apply downward power when pedaling – either going up hills or when starting moving. It’s not debilitating, and it doesn’t both me much when not biking (maybe a bit when climbing stairs), but it is worrisome, and the two weeks off for our September vacation didn’t let it heal fully. It felt a bit better this past week, but I have had to be careful around it.

So it’s been a bit of a frustrating summer for biking. I’m on pace to hit 40 rides by the end of the month, which will be a nice milestone; fortunately I had a day’s worth of cushion since I got sick a few weeks ago. I don’t think my knee would take a third day of riding in one week very well.

I like riding to work, but I’ll like it even more if I can get a more reliable bike for next year. Meanwhile, as sunset creeps earlier and earlier, I’m getting ready to switch to going to the gym over the winter, instead.

Rocket Girl #1

Rocket Girl #1, by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, Image Comics, October 2013

Rocket Girl #1 I’ve been doing a poor job on my plan to review a comic book per week, but I’ll try to make up for it, starting with the fun comic book Rocket Girl.

Rocket Girl was the subject of a successful Kickstarter over the summer, and is illustrated by Amy Reeder, perhaps best known for the Vertigo series Madame Xanadu, of which I enjoyed the art but felt it was let down by the story. (You can read a few of my comments on that series here.) I’m not familiar with writer Brandon Montclare, however.

The premise of this ongoing series is that Dayoung Johansson (age 15) is a member of the New York Teen Police Department in the near future, and persuades her boss that Quintum Mechanics has managed to change the past so it becomes the dominant corporation. Dayoung – the title character – arrives just as Quintum is kicking off their first big experiment – and promptly passes out. Taken in by a few of the scientists, she has to maintain her equipment with ancient technology, and then responds to an emergency elsewhere in New York City where she captures a criminal, and then escapes the local cops.

The kicker is that Dayoung comes from the year 2013, and has travelled back to the year 1986. And you may have noticed that there’s no Quintum Mechanics, New York Teen Police Department or Rocket Girl in our 2013.

I like the premise, and the first issue is a lot of fun, driven mainly by Dayoung’s enthusiasm (and nifty costume). Reeder’s artwork is excellent – oh how I love when an artist can draw dynamic panels that have backgrounds!

The story is a little shaky; I immediately wondered how Dayoung could show up and threaten to arrest the Quintum scientists, pass out, and not have them do something nefarious to her – like turn her over to the cops – never mind that she actually ends up staying with one of them in her apartment. It looks like the series is setting up a “hero and her team of supporting scientists” scenario, which feels cliche – especially since none of the supporting characters have much personality at this point – but could work out. And to balance out the plotting issues, the dialogue is solid and often witty.

So it’s a bit of a mixed start, but I’m optimistic that the early bumps can be overcome, while still being a fun, energetic series.

Goodbye to the DC Universe

With this week’s publication of Earth 2 #16, I’m dropping the last three comic books I’ve been buying set in the DC Universe [1]. This despite the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger, but with writer James Robinson leaving, it feels like a good point to jump off.

[1] Earth 2, World’s Finest and Batgirl.

Where DC and I have parted ways is that they clearly are interested in pushing their characters, whereas for me it hasn’t been about the characters for years, it’s been about the creators. I follow the creators I’m interested in, and I want to find people with interesting voices and novel stories to tell, and stories that are going to develop their characters and go somewhere.

But it seems like DC treats their creators as fungible, and the stories in the New 52 mostly have a mediocre sameness to them. None of them have truly excited me – the closest is Gail Simone’s Batgirl, clearly the standout voice of the New 52, but the weight of crossovers and events has dampened my enthusiasm for any Batman title. So I’ve gradually dropped them, until September’s “Villains Month” event presented a good opportunity to make a clean break. (I like to say that “a good jumping-on point for new readers is a good jumping-off point for old readers.”)

(Another is “creators, not characters”, though “creators, not properties” would be more accurate.)

I don’t really know what’s going on in DC editorial, but stories like the creators of Batwoman leaving the book after not being able to have their heroine marry her girlfriend reinforces my perception of it being all about the marketable properties for them. Setting them up for movies and TV shows, I guess (that being where the big money is). And, well, I don’t care about that. The recent Batman films were good because of Christopher Nolan, not because they starred Batman.

So this is goodbye. Not necessarily forever – I’m still buying several Vertigo books and creator-owned titles that DC publishes such as Astro City. But the New 52 is clearly the culmination of plans that DC editorial has been brewing for years, and it’s just not resulting in the kinds of comics that I want to read.

Brain Boy #1

Brain Boy #1, by Fred Van Lente, R. B. Silva & Rob Lean, Dark Horse, September 2013

Brain Boy #1 I have three different introductions to this post:

First, it’s been a while since I finished reading the first issue of a comic book and said out loud, “That was fun.” Brain Boy #1 met that exacting standard.

Second, Brain Boy was actually an early-60s comic published by Dell, which Dark Horse has reimagined. Wikipedia has a little info about the title.

And third, Brain Boy got a preview in Dark Horse Presents, Dark Horse’s fine monthly anthology series, and it impressed me. That story will be collected in a future issue, I understand, but it was on the strength of that story that I picked up this first issue. Anthology comics are good for something!

The title character is Matt Price, the world’s most powerful telepath (also a telekinetic). What do you do if you’re the world’s most powerful telepath? Raised by his parents’ employer after their deaths (hmmm), he now is “on loan” (?) to the Secret Service, where he works as part of the security detail on the most sensitive assignments. Oh, and he hates being called “Brain Boy”.

How do you write a story about a man who can know what everyone around him is thinking? Perhaps taking a cue from Alfred Bester’s classic SF novel The Demolished Man (which is also about telepaths), figuring that out seems to be part of the challenge. Price is approached by a man who claims to be able to deliver information about his parents, but he doesn’t actually have it; he “knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy”, and while Price could track that guy down, it would take time and resources. Or, he can do a job he’s being asked to do, even though it goes against his orders, guarding a dictator who’s visiting the United Nations. Before the first issue is out, there’s a turn, followed by a last-page twist, in this first of a three-part story.

Writer Fred Van Lente is perhaps best known for Incredible Hercules and Archer and Armstrong, both of which I would describe as “fun but light”. Brain Boy feels like it has the potential to be more substantive, especially if Price develops as a character (neither Hercules nor Archer are characters with a lot of development potential, albeit a lot of humor potential). Van Lente has a droll sense of humor, though it tends to result in a whimsical atmosphere rather than a lot of direct laughs. But he mixes in some hefty material here, as the story gets more serious throughout the issue, which is what the story will need to work.

R.B. Silva’s art has a very modern look, and the layouts and finishes are both strong (abetted by a complex coloring job by “Ego”). Some of his figures are a little hard to read (especially the ones with any facial hair), so there’s room for improvement there.

Overall it’s a very strong first issue. It takes place in the same universe as Dark Horse’s Captain Midnight revival (which is itself pretty good), but you don’t need to read that book to enjoy this one (and hopefully it will stay that way, as I’m pretty much done with crossovers at this point). While I could imagine the challenge of trying to keep coming up with clever ways to challenge Brain Boy might eventually wear thin, hopefully Van Lente can get at least a year’s worth of neat stories out of it.

Roulette’s Difficult Summer

It’s been a couple of months since Newton passed away. I’m not sure Jackson and Sadie really noticed. I mean, I’m sure they did in some way, but it didn’t slow them down. They both started lying in Newton’s spot on the couch pretty quickly (to be fair, so did Debbi and I). But he was not a big part of their life for very long.

Roulette has taken his passing harder. It doesn’t help that Jackson still chases her from time to time, and doesn’t take her hissing at him as a signal to stop. She spent several weeks mostly upstairs, and mostly under the guest bed, which seems to be her safe spot. She would come down at night and sit on the back of the family room couch and mostly try to avoid Jackson. She recognized that Sadie is not a big threat, even though Sadie would chase her too, sometimes.

But I think she’s been a bit stunned by the last of the three cats she grew up with passing away. It’s been a sad time for her.

We wondered what would happen when we went away for our vacation for 12 days. We found a great cat sitter through a friend, and knew that she would give them all plenty of attention and play time, but still Roulette would be alone with the kittens for at least 23 hours a day.

Oh, and the kittens ceased being kittens early in September, as it turned out their recorded birthday is September 4.

Our first night back we realized that Roulette was coming in to our bedroom, and leaving when she noticed Jackson in there. I suspect she expanded her territory to include our bedroom while we were gone, and that the kittens mostly stayed downstairs.

Also, since we got home she’s been spending more time downstairs, and not a lot of time under the bed. She sits on the couches, and on the dining room table in the sun during the morning. Last week when I sat in the living room reading comics she curled up with me for most of the evening, and even tolerated each of Sadie and Jackson lying with us, for a while.

This weekend she started lying on the family room couch itself, not just on the back, and she’s been cuddling up next to me and Debbi. And there’s been less chasing, and less hissing. And she plays with toys when we bring them out sometimes, too. She’s also joined me in the study to pester me while I’m paying bills. And Debbi even noticed her eating next to Jackson yesterday. Sadie has gone up to her and groomed her a little without any growling.

So I think she’s started to get used to the kittens, slowly, slowly. I think the next step will be to see her and Sadie grooming each other, or at least snoozing together. Perhaps not any time soon, but maybe it will happen.

But we did get some pics of the three of them lying together on the couch, in Newton’s spot, for a little while:

Cat harmony

At Long Last, a Vacation

It’s been a long time since Debbi and I went away on a vacation. Due to Blackjack and Newton’s conditions, we were reluctant to go away and leave them to a pet sitter for any length of time. (And, coincidentally, both of them passed away at times when we had been considering going away, so I guess that was a good call.) After Newton’s passing, we made plans to visit our families this month, and that’s what we did.

We took the JetBlue red-eye to Boston two weeks ago, arriving bleary-eyed as usual. We went down to visit Debbi’s family for part of the day, and then they drove me up to my Dad’s house. It was dreadfully hot the first day and a half, but then cooled off to just about perfect weather (with a couple of rainy days).

This is the first time I’ve actually spent vacation time with my parents since my Mom moved in to assisted living. It was very nice to not be working during the trip, since it got pretty exhausting to have to get up every morning and head over to take care of Mom’s affairs, or get her house ready for sale. Plus it got to be depressing to spend the waning hours of the day in the increasingly-empty house. Now that the house has sold, that’s no longer a concern.

Spending most of my time hanging around my Mom’s house and occasionally having dinner with Dad (or someone else) has now been changed to mostly hanging around my Dad’s house, but driving out to visit Mom every other day. I had sort of thought that we would spend afternoons sitting either in her apartment or on the complex’s back deck by the river reading (i.e., much like what we did at her house, but in a different place). Instead we mostly drove out for lunch, ran errands, did shopping, and did a few chores around her apartment. I didn’t mind doing it, but it made the trip somewhat busier than I had expected (or was used to). I’d also forgotten that driving between my parents’ homes is a bit of a trek, since the road of suburban Boston are both full of traffic and teeming with traffic lights.

I guess this will be the new normal when I go out to visit.

Balanced against that, Dad does live in a very convenient neighborhood, with a great independent bookstore, a comic book shop, and a number of very good restaurants, all within walking distance. Several of them have intriguing mixed drink menus, which I avail myself of whenever I can. And we went on a couple of shopping expeditions to comic and book stores.

Though we stayed with our respective families most of the time, Debbi and I did get together for a few days:

The first weekend I went down to visit Debbi and her family. They arranged for us to have an adventure at 5wits, where we did their espionage adventure. It’s definitely aimed at being kid- and family-friendly, but it was fun for us adults too. (It reminded me of Escape from the Mysterious Room, which a friend of mine has done.) We also watched one of the kids play a soccer game and otherwise hung around and enjoyed the nice not-quite-fall weather. Oh! And I got to meet Lucie, their 4-month-old kitten, who has their golden retrievers completely under her thumb, and is friendly and adorable to us monkeys, too.

In the middle of the week we reversed things and Debbi came up to stay at Dad’s for a couple of nights. We went to a couple of our favorite restaurants, and went out to visit Mom, where we went shopping at Frugal Fannie’s. Debbi and Mom found some stuff, while I mostly played games on my iPhone while they were shopping. I remarked that I’m much more patient with shopping expeditions that don’t interest me than I was when I was, say, 12. Unfortunately when we got back, we found that Mom had lost her apartment keys. We suspected that she dropped them when she was trying on clothes. Fortunately, Mom wanted to go back the next weekend, and we enquired at their service desk, and sure enough they had found them! So, all ended well.

Debbi’s stay at Dad’s culminated in us driving down to Cape Cod for a day. I’ve probably mentioned before that my parents have rented a cottage in Orleans, but it’s been close to 20 years since I joined them. Dad and I have driven down for day trips in the past, and I wanted to go down and show Debbi around.

We visited Orleans and Chatham, both of which are fun places to visit even in the offseason (which it was). We had lunch at Cooke’s and had some successful shopping expeditions before driving around. Then we drove up to Provincetown, which was less successful: I remember it has having many quirky stores with neat stuff to be found, but now it seems to be a collection of touristy stores, candy stores, and junk stores. Pretty disappointing. No doubt there’s still some good stuff there to find, but an hour’s walk down main street didn’t find it. (Well, with the exception of Puzzle Me This, which is an excellent casual game store, well worth a visit.)

We zipped back to Orleans to watch the sunset (which was better attended than the early afternoon beach), as it’s one of the two places on the east coast where I’ve seen the sun set over water (the other being over the Gulf of Mexico from Florida), and then went to dinner at Land Ho!, the one place we went on the trip which was wall-to-wall packed. Then I dropped Debbi off at her sister’s house and drove back to collapse into bed. It was a long day, but fun.

With all of that activity, the trip went by rather quickly. Suddenly it was time to head back.

We flew home last Sunday. Our flight was delayed an hour and a half, and we arrived an hour late. And on top of that, they lost my suitcase somehow (despite it being a direct flight). Fortunately it was just misplaced, and they delivered it the next day (6 minutes before the end of the window they gave us, amusingly enough). We took Monday off to reorient ourselves, and Tuesday it was back to work for both of us.

Since then we’ve been getting back into our routine. Debbi unfortunately has caught a cold, which I seem to have dodged (so far). The weather has been gorgeous – hard to believe it’s already fall.

Sunset at Skaket Beach

Head Above Water

I’ve been ridiculously lax about posting much of anything here for a while (something that’s driven home to me whenever Scalzi posts something, i.e. about every other hour).

It’s not like I’ve been ridiculously busy, even. I’ve been normally busy: Mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, raking the leaves (yes, the tree in our front yard has decided that August is a good time to drop enough leaves that I need to rake them), killing the weeds, trimming the bushes, etc.

I’ve taken my car in a few times to have it checked out. It’s almost 14 years old, and it needed a new battery and to have an oil leak plugged. The good news is I didn’t need a new head gasket (which would probably have prompted me to buy a new car instead). And my bike popped a spoke which needed fixing. So that sort of running around has taken time.

But otherwise it’s been reading (finally finished Pete Townshend’s autobiography, and then blasted through Alastair Reynolds’ Doctor Who novel, not to mention an endless stream of comic books and graphic novels), gaming, hanging out with Debbi, cooking, and playing with the cats. Oh, and also working. The usual.

Well, and we went over to visit friends and swim in their pool and tire out their kids on Saturday. And visit some open houses on Sunday (just for fun – it made us very glad we’re not in the market for a house).

We’ve also been doing a 30-day abdominal challenge, which has been, well, challenging. Unfortunately I think the sit-ups we’ve been doing caused me to either hurt my hips somehow, or aggravate a problem I was having with them, as they’ve been intermittently sore for the last week, especially when I stand up after sitting down for a while. So I might not be able to complete the challenge as we’d planned. Still, I never thought I’d be able to do 100 sit-ups in a day.

Anyway, I hope to get back to posting more regularly here soon. I’m starting to wind down the amount of time I spend playing Ascension on my iPad, and that might free up a surprising amount of time for more productive pursuits. Well, assuming I don’t get sucked in to Hearthstone when it comes out.

Home Maintenance

After our whirlwind time last weekend, we wanted to have a quieter time this weekend. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was pretty good anyway.

Friday morning I took my car in. I had it in a week earlier for an oil change, and they said they’d noticed both an oil leak (possibly coming from the head gasket) and a power steering fluid leak. They suggested I take my car to have the engine block steam-cleaned, and then come back in a week to see if they could find the leak. So I did that, and they couldn’t find any evidence of recent leakage. So perhaps whatever they saw was an old leak which has since been fixed. They also showed me how to monitor my power steering fluid level to know when to add more fluid, or when it might need to get fixed (which will be expensive). So, that was about as good as I could have hoped for. I did get a new battery, though, since mine was nearing the end of its life.

That night we went out for Italian food and drinks, which I was craving. And then we went for one of our walks around the neighborhood, which we haven’t done recently since Debbi has been hurt (shin splints and/or pulled muscles in her leg), or sick, or we’ve just been busy (after all, I bike to work on the days we did our walks over the winter). We dropped in on my friend Alex and his family so Debbi could see how their black lab Alton is doing. He’s no longer a puppy, is how he’s doing (well, he’s dog-sized by still has a puppy brain). He also got so excited that he peed on my sandal. Thanks, Alton!

Saturday we ran some errands. The filter warning light for our refrigerator’s ice maker has been on for a couple of weeks, so we bought a new filter for it (and subsequently found the one we already had). We then discovered that it didn’t actually have a filter installed! Yet it took two years for the warning light to come on. Weird. Well, there’s a filter now.

We also bought a new area rug for our family room, as we had to get rid of the old rug because Newton had peed on it. (I hadn’t really intended this entry to be about animals peeing, but there you go.) Debbi wanted one that didn’t have shag since the old one was a pain to clean and vacuum. We found one we like pretty well, and put it down. And then we decided to run it the other direction, so we moved it on Sunday. Lots of furniture moving. But it did give us a chance to pretty thoroughly de-fur the couch.

The cats love the new rug. They’ve all been lying on it, especially when it’s in the sun, and we’ve played with them on it. Jackson likes to lie under the coffee table now that the rug is there.

We made a trip out to one of our favorite pet stores to buy some toys for the cats and also for Debbi’s sister’s family’s kitten. And we got Chinese for dinner, trying a couple of new dishes by ordering their prix fixe menu (or do I have to figure out what “prix fixe” is in Chinese to write that?).

We have been a little worried about Roulette since Newton left us last week, since now all three cats she grew up with are gone, and she hasn’t warmed up to the kittens yet. So we gave her some extra attention. We even each got her to play for a bit, and she tolerated having Sadie sleep almost right next to her. I wonder if she knew Newton was not in good shape and if that was stressing her out. Now that that’s been resolved, maybe she will integrate with the kittens a little better.

Sunday I got up and mowed the lawn. The back lawn was looking a little brown, and I finally did what ought to help it: Replaced the solenoid for the valve which controls the automatic sprinklers for that area. I hate doing those kinds of home repair, because it seems like when I do it not only do I fail to fix the problem, but I manage to break something else. But this went smoothly (other than dousing my shorts with water when I removed the old solenoid, not realizing I should have shut off the water to the valves first), and I ran the sprinklers in the evening to let them get some water overnight. Talking with my friend Chad about sprinklers I’ve learned a bunch of things about them recently. I’m not sure I’d want to actually replace one of the valves myself, but maybe I could.

We wound up the all-too-short weekend by grilling pork chops and asparagus for dinner (and I made some sour apple martinis), and then I went upstairs to pay bills.

The weekend flew by, and I feel like we didn’t have quite enough downtime during it, but we did get a lot of stuff done, and between the family room and the sprinklers it feels more comfortable now.

Newton’s Last Days

It was about a week ago that we decided to take Newton in to the vet because of his increasing meowing, apparent trouble sleeping, and starting to pee in more and more places. While I thought we might do some blood tests and see what was up, I also realized there was a good chance that we would just decide that that was it for him (as it turned out to be). I made the appointment for Sunday because our vet was booked on Saturday and I had another appointment on Friday.

We actually had quite a busy week, and I admit that some of it was wanting to be distracted so I didn’t sit around moping about the impending vet appointment. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t want to spend as much time as possible with him, but honestly he was becoming an increasingly grouchy kitty and he really did not interact a lot anymore.

Last Sunday – before I made the appointment – we had gone to the birthday party of our friends’ four-year-old twins, and while there Debbi scheduled a couple of other dates with their parents and some other friends. So Wednesday we met four of them at Flea Street Cafe, in a part of Menlo Park we’d never been to, for dinner and drinks. It’s a pretty good place, rather on the pricy side, and a little ritzy for our usual dinner haunts, but we might go back with other folks sometime.

Friday I had an appointment to take my car in. I drive a 2000 Honda Civic, which I actually bought in fall of 1999, and it is starting to show its age. The battery needs to be replaced (it’s been replaced at least once before), I have an oil leak (which might be at the head gasket), and apparently a power steering rack leak as well. They told me to take the car to have its engine block steam cleaned (I’ve never heard of such a thing!) and I’ll bring it back this coming Friday to see if they can pinpoint the oil leak. But likely it will run well over a thousand dollars to get it all fixed. I will likely fix it, since I’m not yet ready to get a new car, but it looks like I’ll need to move on cleaning out the garage before too long so I can consider getting a new car (which I won’t want to park in the driveway).

Friday night we got together with Susan and Subrata for dinner and games, which is always fun.

Unfortunately, Debbi started feeling sick on Friday, with a sore throat when she woke up, and we had many plans on Saturday. She felt a little better on Saturday, so we went ahead with the plans. In the afternoon we had six of our adult friends, and four kids, over for a BBQ in the back yard. This was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work to keep this kids entertained. The twins live in a house without stairs and so they always want to go up and down the stairs when they come visit. But mostly it was an outdoor party, so they got to run around in the yard, but we adults went out to keep them entertained regularly; they wanted me to swing them around by their wrists or ankles, and to chase me back and forth in the yard. (The five-year-old realized I would cut back to avoid the twins, so I had to zig again to avoid her; fortunately I can still out-think a five-year-old.)

In addition to the BBQ I made mai tais using the recipe the twins’ Mom uses (more or less), which is pretty different from the “traditional” mai tai (it uses pineapple juice) I made a batch, gave it a try, added some stuff to it, and it turned out pretty good. There’s still something missing, but I’m not sure what. It was also stronger than I’d expected, but I think the dark rum I happen to have on hand is pretty strong in both flavor and alcohol content.

When the first people showed up, I let Newton outside with us, and basically just let him roam around the yard – as long as he didn’t go under the deck we let him be. He lay in the sun, lay in the shade, went behind bushes and our Japanese maple tree, sat on the edging stones, and generally had a great time (meowing a lot of the time, too). Eventually more people showed up, so I took him indoors, but he spent at least an hour and a half (including some time before the party) in the back yard, so it was a good last full day for him. He managed to sneak outside a couple of times later, too.

The party went rather longer than we had originally planned, but everyone was having fun and the kids were still full of energy so we didn’t worry about it. Things wound down around 8.

This was good because we actually had plans with the neighbors around 8 to go hang out for the evening. So we were a bit late to that as we cleaned up (and gave Newton his subcutaneous fluids). It was a nice change from the busy-ness of the afternoon, though: Our neighbor enjoys making vodka drinks, so he prepared four different ones for us, and we all sat and talked and noshed on munchies and enjoyed the drinks, which were delicious. Now I’m feeling inspired to make martinis and such. We stayed until nearly midnight, and then staggered home, being very glad we didn’t have to drive.

Debbi unfortunately felt sicker on Sunday (and is home from work today), which was also a drag because she was trying to take care of herself while we took Newton to the vet and then came home after having him put to sleep.

It’s been easier getting over Newton’s passing than it was for me with Jefferson. Partly I think because I said goodbyes to him last year before his hospital stay, and partly because we’ve basically known since that stay that his day was not far off. Really he lived longer than we expected, I think. The kittens have been sniffing around his spot on the couch and sometimes lying there, and I sat there last night to watch the Red Sox game. Roulette I think knew something was wrong with him before he passed; we’re worried about how she’ll handle the fact that the last of the three cats she grew up with is gone, and now she just has these kittens that she doesn’t fully accept. With time, maybe she will.

We’ve been picking up some of the things we had to deal with Newton peeing around the house, and we took up the towel from his spot and put a regular blanket there (our couch is covered in blankets to try to control some of the cat hair). It’s not quite the same and taking away the food dishes when Jefferson passed, but there’s a mark of finality to it. Disposing of his remaining medications is next, I guess. And I can try to return that unopened pack of puppy pads to Petco.

And, life goes on.