joanna irl

Toiletgeddon 2012, or I Got My Parents a New Bathroom for Christmas. (The exploding toilet saga.)

Throwback Thursday! Exactly a year ago TODAY, I got my parents the MOST EXPENSIVE CHRISTMAS GIFT they will EVER get from me: a fully remodeled house! How did I do it? By exploding the upstairs toilet, of course! Read more… ^_^

Joanna Volavka

So here we are. It is December 5 and I finally have a story for you. I’ve already told it partly on twitter, but feel that it should be EXPLAINED. Here it is, as I wrote it, commentary added as needed.


3:28pm: Twitter I just got attacked by a TOILET.
3:40pm: Seriously, there is an INCH of water on the floor. I had to grab the rug and RUN.
3:42pm: And THEN I had to barricade the door with towels to save the hall carpet and THEN I had to run for rubber boots and wade back in.
3:42pm: Because SOMEONE had to shut off the water.
3:42pm: I deserve a metal. Seriously.

And here is where we take our first commentary break. Seriously, after I flushed it, the toilet started filling (it’s old, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) and then… then it DIDN’T STOP. It just kept…

View original post 785 more words

joanna irl

Monday and I have food in the house again.

So, yesterday I watched the Twelfth Doctor reveal and then went about my day, which mostly consisted of running errands because I was out of EVERYTHING.


When I told a friend that, and got back: “Oh, so you’re living on bread and water?” I said, “Nope, I’m out of bread.”

And that’s just what happens sometimes during deployment. I was down to a box of macaroni and two cans of soup, both of which I’m saving for when I’m sick, assuming I’ll get sick sometime in the next six months. I know it’s going to happen. Probably around some holiday or another. Anyway, I’ve digressed…

So I was not only out of food for me, I was out of food for the kitties. I should qualify this and say I had ONE more can of wet cat food, and a little kibble left, but I woke up yesterday morning to SIMULTANEOUS cat puking: one on each side of the bed. They both lost their suppers, so I can only assume the food is bad and I tossed the very last can I had. I was also out of cat litter (NOT a good state in which to find yourself), razor blades, and filters for my water pitcher. My list was short-ish, but kind of ridiculous:

Razor blades
Water filters
Cat food (both)

So yeah. I was so out of stuff, I literally wrote “Fruit” and “Vegetables” on my list and called it a day. Go me.

joanna irl, story spinning

North Dakota Conspiracy, Revisited

In a strange and yet kind of AWESOME turn of events, my blog now appears only SECOND to Wikipedia when you search “North Dakota conspiracy” in Google. Seriously, go try it.

I noticed because my blog host tells me what search terms people use to find the blog, and there have been consistent (if in low frequency) hits on this post I wrote almost two years ago in which I posit my personal conspiracy theory, namely that I don’t believe in North Dakota.

For years now (at least a decade) I have been telling anyone and everyone that North Dakota is just a government conspiracy to house giant secret military bases, probably to protect us from Canada. And people keep insisting that they know people from North Dakota, to which I reply “THEY’RE JUST IN ON IT! DON’T TRUST THEM!”

Personal conspiracy theories are important. Much like Shakespeare, sometimes you need them at parties.

What? Don’t tell me you’ve NEVER been to a party where someone has a Shakespeare-related problem or where someone can’t quite remember the correct quotation? Am I the only person who can’t leave a “To be or not to be” just hanging there, unfinished?

Anyway, you never know when you’re going to need a good conspiracy theory in the course of a conversation, and North Dakota fits the bill.

Incidentally, I have found that I am not the only one. Just keep digging through that Google search, and you’ll find things like this


DISCLAIMER: Believe me, this post and the original North Dakota post (and a good number of other things on this blog) were written in satire…. and yet people keep coming here. I love the internet.

conservation ftw, joanna irl

Some funny things from the zoo

This weekend J and I went to the zoo with some friends from out of town. Since you’ve been inundated with enough animal and nature photos lately, here are some just fun (or funny) ones. Maybe I’m the only one entertained by them, but hey, that’s all that matters!

Zoo J in a keeper cut-out

OH NO, there’s a GIANT HAND coming out of that kid’s FACE! Maybe J should’ve looked at the front of this photo-op thing first…

Zoo, orangutan lounging

Chillin’ in the sun…

Zoo, monkey on a hippo

Dear Monkey: That thing you’re sitting on that you’re treating like a rock is not a rock. That thing is a HIPPO and they can be very BITEY.
(Mixed exhibit with monkeys and pygmy hippos made for some entertainment.)

Zoo group photo

The whole group of us!

joanna irl, society of dabblers

Hiking in Blue Sky: aka The Lake is a Lie

Blue Sky welcome sign

Maybe instead I should say the lake was not what we expected. At any rate, the other day, J and I broke out my (until then) unused Hikes of Southern California book and picked one that was relatively close to home. It was in the eastern part of the county, at a place called Blue Sky Nature Reserve, and a level 1 to 2 (so “kid friendly”) and described an amble along one of the river beds that used to be all over this part of the state, until they were dammed for water sources. (This should have been our clue; after all, we JUST learned about that stuff a couple of weeks ago at Casa Grande, where the entire landscape changed after the water was diverted.)

But I digress.

Blue Sky wooded trail

The first part of the hike was as promised, and we descended into a little valley with a small creek, tons of birds and other wildlife, and a few early wildflowers.

Blue Sky tree branches from fire

The area fell victim to fire back in 2003 and many of the old trees are still standing, their blackened, bare branches curled against the clear sky and reaching out from the new growth on other trees. It’s a little strange, but beautiful nonetheless.

Blue Sky honeybees

Then, as the book had described, the path forked and we could choose to go left to Lake Ramona, or right to Lake Poway. We chose left to Ramona and kept walking down the (now wider) track. After a while we passed (very quickly) under a tree that was vibrating with the hum of thousands of honey bees, flying throughout its canopy. Finally the path came out of the trees and opened into its main portion.

And we saw the climb.

Blue Sky hiking to the dam, Lake Ramona

In an effort to be optimists, we thought that SURELY this hike wasn’t up to that dam WAY UP THERE (see it? almost in the exact center?) and the path seemed to curve around to the left and away, so we started.

Slowly the slope increased, and we gained elevation, and the path doubled back above itself…. and over halfway there we realized we were DEFINITELY hiking to the dam.

Blue Sky, the hike back

Dear California Hike Guidebooks: When you SAY “hike to a lake” but you really mean “climb a mountain to a dam,” that’s a LITTLE misleading.

Blue Sky at Lake Ramona

After a last push up the final incline, we finally made it to the man-made Lake Ramona. It’s lovely and blue, but still… just strange. At least the view was spectacular, and we were actually above (the also man-made) Lake Poway, so we could see it across the valley.

Blue Sky western fence lizard

We also saw some really interesting wildlife, including a type of hawk we didn’t recognize, some songbirds, a woodpecker, several types of lizard (including the western fence lizard in this photo), plus evidence of snakes (they leave trails in the dust– see below) and possible tarantula burrows (which are actually kind of fascinating).

Blue Sky snake trail

Overall the hike was definitely worth it, just not AT ALL what we were anticipating. Both of us kept remarking how glad we were that we wore trail shoes and packed sunscreen, despite the “gentle, shaded” description. The rest of my photos (along with some of wildflowers) are in this album, if you’re interested. ^_^

joanna irl


Well, doing it badly, in any case.

I was going to write about our MUCH belated holiday party from this weekend today, but NO.

If you know me well, you know I don’t think much of most ads, especially when I can tell I am the target audience and feel that THEY are pandering to me. This is not one of those cases.

While watching a recorded TV show tonight (I don’t watch live TV other than sports if I can help it, mostly because of the aforementioned ad-induced-irritation), I happened to catch the last ten seconds of an ad at the end of a commercial break.

Of a woman leaning back into a pool.


Let this sink in for just a moment.

Are you with me yet?



I had to go back and watch it again (twice) to make sure.

PRO TIP: If you’re going to ADVERTISE something like STOOL SOFTENER, maybe using a POOL isn’t the best IMAGE.

Just a thought.

Want to see for yourself? I couldn’t find the ad on a video streaming site to embed it here, but you can see it at the company’s website. Click the tab marked “Video” and watch. You’re welcome.

conservation ftw, joanna irl

Well, I SAID I wanted to see the Sonoran Desert.

So here’s the thing.

I’ve been trying to go to as many national parks (or historic sites, as the case may be) this year as possible. I’m excited about my passport stampbook (as I’ve previously posted) and especially since we now live in the half of the country with all of the huge natural areas, I want to see them!

One of the exhibits I’ve always loved at the North Carolina Zoo is their Sonora Desert dome, so when I noticed on my newly-acquired roadmap of Arizona that the interstate went THROUGH it, I couldn’t resist! On the way home from the Casa Grande ruins, we looked it up on our GPS and found a place labeled “Sonoran Desert National Monument.” That sounded promising, so we programmed it to take us there.

And we started driving.

And driving.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert sign

See that? PROOF we were in the RIGHT AREA.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert road

We took a couple of smaller roads, then wound up on a two lane highway going straight across the Sonoran Desert, generally back in the direction of I-8, which we would pick up on the other side after stopping at the monument. The desert was fascinating, with far more plant-life that I expected in a desert, and we drove between two long mountain reaches, watching for wildlife (though we never saw any) and grateful for the full tank of gas and water bottles.

It was interesting, too, that there weren’t many cars. Most of the “scenic” stops were closed for the season, but that didn’t bother us because we planned to stop at the monument.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert wide

At this point I want to note that there are not that many photos from this drive. That’s because I kept expecting to, y’know, GET to something. These photos of cacti?? Actually from BEFORE we got into the national monument area.

After a while, we reached the point where the GPS told us to turn and drive 11 miles to the monument. We slowed down to make the turn…

…and then stopped. We were facing a sandy track that crossed some railroad tracks that ran parallel to the two lane highway. On the near side of them was a VERY large sign that said: “DO NOT ENTER.” Oh, and some WILD COTTON BUSHES.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert wild cotton

I looked again at the GPS. We’d followed the directions correctly. But then I noticed that the 11 mile “drive” was supposed to take over an hour… across sand… And we realized then that the “Monument” was probably the DESERT ITSELF.

THANKS, GPS. We were now in the MIDDLE of the Sonoran Desert. Well, about 11 miles from the middle, as far as I can tell.

Arizona, Sonoran Desert cacti

To be fair, I DID say I wanted to properly SEE the desert, and not just drive past it on the interstate. And boy howdy, I SAW that desert.

We checked our map and discovered we were closer to I-8 if we kept going forward rather than backtracking, so that’s what we did.

I guess some monuments are bigger than others. I’m still bummed I didn’t get a stamp for it, though.

joanna irl

Toiletgeddon 2012, or I Got My Parents a New Bathroom for Christmas. (The exploding toilet saga.)

So here we are. It is December 5 and I finally have a story for you. I’ve already told it partly on twitter, but feel that it should be EXPLAINED. Here it is, as I wrote it, commentary added as needed.


3:28pm: Twitter I just got attacked by a TOILET.
3:40pm: Seriously, there is an INCH of water on the floor. I had to grab the rug and RUN.
3:42pm: And THEN I had to barricade the door with towels to save the hall carpet and THEN I had to run for rubber boots and wade back in.
3:42pm: Because SOMEONE had to shut off the water.
3:42pm: I deserve a metal. Seriously.

And here is where we take our first commentary break. Seriously, after I flushed it, the toilet started filling (it’s old, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) and then… then it DIDN’T STOP. It just kept on going. Water pouring out onto the floor, racing toward the door. I really did RUN. And then I called my dad who reminded me how to turn off the water, which in my panic I, of course, had forgotten. Sigh. Back to the action.

3:48pm: And NOW, Twitter, it’s leaking through the downstairs ceiling. AWESOME.

Notice the six minute gap? Yeah, I’d collapsed (feeling relieved) on the couch in the upstairs den to wait for my dad to arrive with cleaning supplies. I realized I was thirsty and went downstairs… Only to find the water POURING out of a spot in the ceiling AND out of the (purchased just three months ago) overhead light fixture. Do you get this? OUT OF THE LIGHT. It was dripping off of the five globes of that light like a weird sprinkler. I grabbed my mom’s plastic containers (sitting on the counter to dry… sorry about that, mom) and shoved them under the drips. The light, however, was DIRECTLY over the antique kitchen table… Luckily (if you can call it that) there was a tray on the table that caught and collected most of the water. The tray didn’t make it, but the table seems to be okay, after being sterilized. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the dripping:


So my dad got home and we unearthed the wet vac and (equipped with gloves and rubber boots) cleaned the bathroom. He even bleached it. And then my mom got home. The cleanish bathroom:


By then the ceiling (which, if you haven’t figured it out, is in the kitchen breakfast nook) was leaking in NEW places. See?


She called her homeowner’s insurance… And they arrived about, oh, an hour later. That’s when I learned what MITIGATION means.

7:29pm: Update on the TOILET SITUATION: the emergency plumbers are here. I am hiding in my room with the cats. #notkidding
7:30pm: Also I ate Chinese food (which is my go-to comfort food) and have a glass of wine in my immediate future.
7:31pm: The good news is we get a new bathroom AND a new ceiling downstairs. The weird news is they’re starting tonight.
7:53pm: There is a THING happening downstairs called MITIGATION. I think that’s an improvement, but I can’t be certain.
7:54pm: In other news, my cats still think I’m awesome, which is always comforting.

No joke, people came and started tearing out the bathroom floor, and part of the hall carpet which I hadn’t entirely saved. I saved MOST of it, though, which is apparently quite an accomplishment. Here is the halfway torn up bathroom floor:


They used a sterilizer on everything, including the table and the floors. And then they put a big fan in there to start drying it before the deconstruction crew arrived in the morning. I thought this made an annoying sound. I was wrong.

11:11pm: This is the THING that is cleaning the air after the TOILET ESCAPADES tonight.



9:38am: Well, Twitter, this morning the GUTTING OF THE BATHROOM commences.
9:39am: Things will be REMOVED. And the little space I had claimed as my writing room is now full of ALL OF THE THINGS.
9:41am: Oh. OH. And we might have to go out the front door, down the porch, and back in through the garage to get to the refrigerator.
9:44am: Sounds like the next week will be an ADVENTURE.

So the people came and started ripping out everything and we learned that the whole thing has to be redone (except, apparently, the tub) and so the bathroom is getting remodeled.

11:43am: Merry Christmas, mom. I got you a new bathroom and kitchen. Hope you like it!
11:45am: Twitter! Look at what’s happening to the CEILING.


11:53am: NOW look at the ceiling!


See how there’s only an eight minute gap there? They took that ceiling down so fast, I almost missed the whole thing. And then it looked like this…


This is the wide shot. You can see falling insulation in the back.


The deconstruction crew left not only another of those noisy fan things, they left a giant HEATER that, when you’re downstairs, makes the house sound like you’re standing on a RUNWAY surrounded by PLANES. See?



2:26pm: I have just had a shower for the first time in over 48 hours. #toiletgeddon2012


So that’s what happened. We’re still waiting on everything to dry before they start rebuilding it, and so everything is very VERY displaced, but at least the kitchen and bathroom get some TLC. And while the ceiling and bathroom were getting torn apart, I finally managed to get our Christmas tree decorated. Silver linings.


And now you know about Toiletgeddon 2012. You’re welcome.

joanna irl

Wednesday Tea Fail

Today I had Tea Fail.

I’ve been making loose-leaf tea for breakfast lately because I can tweak it a little more to my tastes. This morning I came downstairs and put the kettle on to boil, then went to check my email. When it started to whistle, I got up and flipped the lid to make it stop whistling, but left the stove top on because I realized I’d forgotten to clean my little tea strainer yesterday. The other two strainers were in the wash, so I went to dump the leftover pips… only to discover they were still damp (it’s been humid lately) so I had to rinse the tea strainer.

The water in the kettle was still boiling.

So then my strainer was wet, and I usually use it to scoop out the tea I want but didn’t want to put it into the packet of tea while wet. I reached for a spoon, only to discover they were all in the wash, too, except one of my really big soup spoons. I have really big soup spoons, too. I scooped out some tea and the spoon was so big that it snagged on the paper edge of the packet and pips went everywhere. Pipsplosion. So then it looked like there were little, well, DROPPINGS all over my kitchen AND my (also damp) hands were getting stained brown.

And the kettle was still boiling.

I finally managed to get enough into the strainer and got it situated in the pot and poured what was left of the boiling water into the pot as well. I set the timer for 5 minutes (I like strong tea in the morning) and walked off to sit down and check my email.

And didn’t hear the timer because I was distracted.

I remembered my tea 25 minutes later.

When it was almost as dark as coffee.

At that point I was so DONE with making tea, I drank it anyway. With twice as much milk and sugar as usual.

And I was WIRED for a solid TWO HOURS.

Tea Fail.

joanna irl


So, remember a couple of days ago I posted about how either the cats were DVRing things for me or that the DVR itself might have become sentient?

Well, if you recall, one of the shows I’d set it to record was Psych. After discovering that it hadn’t recorded any of those episodes for the last two months, I checked the settings, made sure it was going to record the season finale, and then found the episodes online and On Demand (for several recent ones) and got all caught up on the show before the finale.

Well. I turned on my DVR earlier and saw “Psych” at the top of the list (having been most recently recorded) and went to hit play… and watched (slightly confused) through five minutes of an unusually serious set-up for Psych. I didn’t follow any of the action, didn’t recognize any of the characters… and yet sometimes Psych is a little peculiar and plays with its own genre and such, so I stuck with it….

Until I got to the theme song/intro where I was (finally) let in on the fact that I was watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Not. Kidding.

I know Law & Order (all of them) are popular shows. I know this. But I have never made it through a single, solid episode (except for the time I tried to watch the British version where they wear wigs. I saw three of those and then gave up on that, too.) much less set my DVR to record it.

AND the listing (and the “info” when you push the button) still had PSYCH on it.

What in the world??

So I’ve run the cable box through its reset program, and hopefully the problem will be resolved. You see, I can’t quite take the box back yet because it’s got some shows on it that I’m saving for J and he hasn’t had a chance to watch them… so I have to wait on him to get a new box.

In the mean time…

Does anyone know what to do with a crazy, possibly-sentient DVR? Or how to train the cats to scoop their own box?

Surely if they can program a DVR they can clean their own box.