Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beware the Candy

I'm here today to talk about the horrors of addiction. Not to drugs or alcohol or even Nutella--that would be far too serious for this blog. No, I'm talking about the soul-crushing, life-ruining horror that is Candy Crush.

If you've never played Candy Crush--and if you haven't, for the love of God don't start now--it's a member of the Bejeweled family of Horribly Addictive Games where you swap pairs of pieces to create matches of at least three in a row to eliminate those pieces from the board. Four or five in a row will create one-up pieces that explode larger portions of your board. In Candy Crush, the pieces are shaped like--you guessed it--candy. As you progress, the game presents new challenges like weird bottlenecks, portal squares, bits of chocolate that creep across the board like some kind of brown gelatinous ooze, and licorice strings that introduce your bits of candy to the joys of bondage. Cut scenes feature frightening little girls, whales, bunnies, and other creatures that appear to be constructed of cut paper fastened together with brass brads. I don't even want to know what kind of post-apocalyptic world this is, where everything has transformed to permutations of sugar.

I don't know why this type of game is so damn addictive. I went through a thankfully short but intense relationship with Bejeweled a few years ago that I was able to end fairly gracefully after spending hours swapping jewels while watching original series Star Trek. But Candy Crush? Man, I wish I could quit you. Instead I fritter away hours swapping bits of candy that look like Chiclets and Good n Plentys and smacking myself on the head when I accidentally waste one of those cupcake things with the sprinkles. If you do play--and PLEASE don't, I beg you--you'll know you've hit rock bottom when you're up at midnight paging through the app store looking for a game that's similar to Candy Crush that you can play while you're waiting for your allotment of lives to replenish. My not-Candy-Crush game of choice is Jewel Mania.

I've done my time in addiction and recovery with Farmville, Words With Friends, and even Angry Birds. I've justified time spent with these games because often I work out plot tangles while I'm feeding my bunnies or crushing pigs under complex architectural constructions. But Candy Crush is well on its way to becoming my undoing. I can't warn you strongly enough to stay away from it. And if you succumb to the allure of the bright candies--well, that's between you and your god.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How We Became a Cat House

You could say it started with the mice. I lived in this house for I think about three years before they started showing up, running around like they owned the place, staring at me while I was trying to watch TV, sitting in the dog's food dish chowing like there was no tomorrow and leaving gross mouse deposits in my expensive stoneware under the stove. Our ferrets seemed to deter them a little, but this tactic only seemed to work consistently at the back of the house where the ferrets actually live. The kitchen and living room, not so much. Traps? Yeah. One week I caught seven mice. Then they started just eating the peanut butter out of the traps and going on their merry way. It was like I'd wipe out one generation only to have them breed up the next generation better, stronger, faster, and addicted to peanut butter. Natural repellant worked for a while, too. But when I replenished that, it seemed to lose its effectiveness. This generation has added the characteristic of enjoying the scent of very strong balsam pine.

So for the last few weeks, every night between about 7:30 and 9:00, this mouse would run across the kitchen floor, plant himself in the dog food dish, have dinner, then run off. I killed him once. Another mouse came back and did the same exact thing. The dog would sit next to me and watch. Seriously. This is the most useless dog known to man when it comes to pest control. Okay, once she smooshed a spider. Give her props for that.

Everybody kept telling me to get a cat. And I kept saying no, I can't get a cat. I'm allergic. Cats make me miserable. It s a valid reason. But damn, the mice.
So I started doing some research. A few breeds of cat produce less of the enzyme in their saliva that causes cat-specific allergies. One of these is the Siberian cat. Another is the Russian blue. I looked at Devon and Cornish Rexes. My sister, who also has cat allergies, had a Cornish Rex or two. But I didn't really want to hunt up a breeder, spend a ton of money, and, most importantly, miss the opportunity to rescue a cat that might otherwise end up euthanized.

Next step--allergy testing. My daughter was off visiting a friend, and I needed to go pick her up that day, so I took a Claritin in the morning and planned to make a side trip to PetSmart to find a kitty and cuddle it and pet it and call it George and see how the Claritin held up.

My daughter kept delaying. Apparently they were lounging around the house watching Star Trek and Firefly. I couldn't really condemn that behavior. But what I'd anticipated as a lunch trip turned into dinner time.

Eventually I made it to PetSmart. And there, in their larger cage, was a passel of kittens. One was sitting near the back, a little gray girl with green eyes. She looked straight at me and blinked. And I went oh, shit.

I think we all know how this story ends. We've all been there. We take home the cat we know we probably shouldn't take home. We name it Pond, then Storm, then argue that neither one is quite right. But here's the kicker--the cat had arrived at PetSmart an hour before I walked in. If my daughter hadn't been forced to consume geekery, I never would have seen the cat at all. And, as my daughter and I looked over the cat's records, we discovered she'd been fostered by a friend of the friend who had force-fed said geekery. It was one too many coincidences for me.

So here I sit, typing this blog post on my iPad while Stormy-Pond (sorry--my daughter says it's more properly "Stormageddon Sharknado") tries to attack the iPad. She keeps missing and biting my knee instead. The dog is sitting in the living room wondering what the hell is going on. And I'm praying to the gods of allergies that the Claritin and the Zyrtec hold up, because damn, this cat is adorable.