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Hello, 911?

My next game in the Great Gaming Adventure was “911 Operator” which is produced and developed by Jutsu Games, a Polish crew, I believe. They also developed various other sim games in the same vein. This is not my usual fare, but it came with a Humble Bundle, I think, and as per my Gaming Adventure rules, it was next in line.

I completed the game over 3 evenings, but I think the “Career Mode” can easily be completed in one sitting, perhaps 3 to 4 hours on the Easy level, which is what I chose. There’s a “Free Play” mode, where I think you can pick a city and just play until you get overwhelmed, growing your teams and adding firepower and technical support. (MORE HELICOPTERS! MORE MOTORBIKES! Cue the “Chips” theme!)

Surprisingly, once I got the hang of it, I rather enjoyed the challenge of the game. In career mode, you start out in a small town in Hawaii, with minimal crime and few incidents. Obviously, this is all on Easy Mode, as I prefer “story” over challenge – I’m a bit of a wuss like that 😀 – but there are 3 other modes of progressively crazy difficulty to choose from. Once you successfully complete a few duty shifts in this town, you are moved to a slightly larger town with more crime and incidents.

Loading screens were various helpful REAL LIFE hints and instructions for a multitude of medical or safety issues! Ranging from hostage situations to poisoning, burns, and, as seen below, hypothermia.

You have the 3 services to control, with incoming dispatch reports that you have to send out teams to as needed. Once I played a few rounds, I realised your “efficiency” rating depended on your response to each incident – Did you sent the SWAT team to a pickpocket report? Or did you send a single motor bike team to a gang shootout? Was the main fire truck sent for a cat in a tree? I was then able to prioritise and send the right unit for the appropriate incident level.

Scattered in between these incident dispatches are the bread and butter of this game – the 911 call. You get everything from men trying out their pickup lines (yes, seriously – “This woman must need an ambulance… because she just fell from heaven!” along with some other gems) to stolen cars, illegal parking, hostage situations, bank robberies, burning hotels, terrorists, and random political bombings.

Each city was progressively larger and more complex, or, in the case of your final city, Washington, not the largest, but filled with politicians and intrepid journalists – and yes, they call you, asking for information and comments. Sometimes, people even attempt to bribe you not to send the police, or they inform you that they know “important people” and that they could end your career, and you are given various choices regarding your reaction things like this. One caller wanted us to send someone to sort out her 14-year-old daughter who was throwing a tantrum and breaking things, and another as a politician who had gotten himself into a little pickle and wanted an ambulance, but “no cops!” I sent the police anyway.

The voice acting was pretty good, with about 9 pages of “Voice Actors” with about 4 to 6 actors listed on each page. They did a great job! Some of the calls were repeats, but generally, each call was unique in some way, even if just in the dialog options you were offered, or the location and level of threat that was present.

Overall, I would actually highly recommend this game for people who enjoy the “simulation” genre – and there are more games like this one under the same umbrella, made by the same small development crew.

Stay on the line, help is on the way…

Flying, feathers, and fireworks

I had my third lesson today (if you count the first time I flew as a lesson) with a young man named Derek, and it was INCREDIBLE! Perfect weather, different (newer) airplane, and an instructor who explained everything, helped me understand things, and made the hour pass by filled with information and focus. I did a touch-and-go (where you come in for a landing, but take off at the end of the runway instead of stopping and taxiing off) and he taught me how to bank and turn, and rudder turn, and taught me how the fundamentals of aerodynamics (which I learned while helping my husband with his UAS module of the same name recently!) apply in real time! He also showed me HOW and WHY we adjust the dials and knobs and everything else – it all MADE SENSE! I didn’t feel so overwhelmed by all the “clocks” as my friend Gavin puts it. Many questions were answered, and he made me feel comfortable and clear as I flew, even the touch-and-go was not nearly as scary as I was thinking it would be. I really hope I get to fly with him again! And that we have perfect weather like we did this morning!

This is the little Archer-II I flew in today. I am calling her Scarlett Witch, as they don’t have names for their planes, apparently. She was quite new, and didn’t feel as cramped as the old girl I flew in last time.

My previous lesson was not quite as awesome as this one – the instructor, while exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced, was not very talkative and didn’t really expand on much, probably because I was too overwhelmed by the info and my nerves to ask anything prudent, and the weather was diabolical (for a second flight, anyway) with 60 mph winds and 95F heat making thermals up to 20,000 feet. He did tell me a lot of things during the ground inspection, but I forgot most of them immediately – not his fault! For our landing, after just 30 minutes in the air (because my stomach was so churned up by the thermals and turbulence that I could not handle it anymore) we came in sideways… full right rudder and yoke… flared at the last second and still got blown over to the side of the runway. It was terrifying, and not something I want to repeat – BUT, if that’s as bad as it gets, then I am golden, because I know I can manage if that ever happens again. I brought my meclizine with me, to take when I landed just in case, but I didn’t need it on my lesson today! Everything was PERFECT!

This is the old girl I flew in last time – I’m calling her Betty Blue.

A few months passed after we lost Julia, and, while we enjoyed bonding with Commidus (he came a long way in a short time) we wanted him to have a friend again. This time, we did our research and decided to get a male bird, so that he and Commidus could be “Bros for life” – Roman Legion style. We got the little guy from the same place we got Julia, and he was very young (maybe 3 months old) and we named him Brutus. In the few months we’ve had him, he has taught Commidus even more about being a Budgie, and he has come along so beautifully with interacting with my husband – he’s thrilled! Brutus is more like a normal Budgie, and he has become very good about being brave and trying new things. We let them out every morning and late afternoon for their exercise and fly around, and we work on their interaction as well. It’s going nicely, and progressing well! He’s a little cutey pie! He and Commidus were almost instantly buddies, and they are now inseparable, just the way we wanted it!

July 4th fast approaches, and, just like every year, we brace ourselves and prep for the worst. As usual, people have been setting off fireworks all week at random times – last night we had fireworks at 2 am. Even though the types of fireworks being set off ARE ILLEGAL RIGHT NOW (there were multiple notices in the newspaper) people just don’t care here, and the police do nothing. Tonight will be bad, but tomorrow will be worse, so we are heading to my mother-in-law’s place to hole up there for the 4th itself. It’s a little on the outskirts of town, and a little quieter. Taking all their various calming meds and devices, and hoping it all works out.

Wish us luck! We hate fireworks!


In other news, one morning while I was sorting the cats out at the Big House, as I always do, I came outside to find this little munchkin strolling up the path, bold as can be. We think it’s a little female, so my mother-in-law has called her Sage. (She gets to name her, since the little kitten is now living there – the kitten’s mom did try and come find her, but, unfortunately, the feral cats chased her off. We hoped she would come back, but she hasn’t been seen since 🙁 We would have taken her in too, if she’d come back.)

She is blending in well, and gets along just fine with the other cats now (we kept her separated at first, just in case). She has quite the attitude, and can definitely hold her own. These photos are from the day we got her – her eye was a bit gunky, but it’s all cleared up, so it was most likely allergies, not anything serious.

Farewell to our feisty girl

Unfortunately, 2021 has not been super kind to us. We lost Julia today. She passed at 14:08. On Wednesday, our little diva decided to have a swim in her water bowl. This, in itself, is not a bad thing – she did that all the time – but this time, their cage was next to the front door and there was a lively, cool breeze coming through the house. We think (and the online vet I spoke to confirmed it) that she picked up a cold, which turned into a full-blown respiratory infection. She started sneezing on Thursday – just occasionally, and we didn’t think much of it – and then on Friday she started sneezing a lot, and she started having trouble breathing. Her tail was bobbing as she breathed, and every now and then she would open her beak and breath through it, instead of through her nose. This was later in the evening.

Then this morning, Saturday, husband noticed she was wheezing/whistling through her nose when she took a breath. It got worse quite rapidly, and we called around desperately looking for one, an avian vet, and two, a vet that was actually open today. We did not find either, not even in El Paso. In desperation, I paid to speak to an online vet, and he confirmed our worst fears – she was critical, and even if she got to an avian specialist very quickly, there was no great chance she would pull through this. He did, however, give us a bunch of suggestions and recommendations to try….

Sadly, she ran out of time before I could try any of them.

Commidus is very confused, but he is singing and chirping just like usual. We will keep an eye on him. Desperately hoping he stays healthy and vocal, the way he is. We would be even more devastated if we lost him as well.

We WILL be significantly ramping up his diet – we will NOT let him meet the same fate. The vet was VERY VERY serious about how much their diet affects their life span.

I sobbed. It felt as raw and heart wrenching as when we lost Hazel. And poor husband was not here when she went.

We buried her at the Big House, and we placed a marker. We will greet her every morning, like we greet Commidus, and Hazel.

This is not our marker, but I wish it was.
If you find this offensive/graphic, sorry, but this was moments after she passed… in my hands. It broke my heart. This was the first time I got to hold her, and the last.

Hair Trim Day

I let my hair grow out rather too much for my liking over the past few weeks – I had a lot going on and I didn’t find the time to get the clippers out to get this done. Today, Sunday, is going pretty easily, so I thought it would be best to give it a shot, as I have a SUPER busy week ahead, and a few things to do today.

My husband helped with the back, and with trimming the edges to make it look a little neater. Last time, he decided to shave it all on #0!!! I was surprised, but, thankfully, it grew out pretty quickly. I prefer a nice #1 or #2, as this looks neat, but I don’t feel weird with my scalp showing. Also – WARMER! It’s the middle of WINTER here! Yes, I feel as tired as I look. It’s been a rough couple of months.

We’re going to go change the oil in the Jeep, car, and truck in a little bit, and taking the dogs with us, as they love to run around the Big Yard and bark at the cats.

Oh, and here is a cool photo of Commidus and Julia! Very happy birds!

All the things

It has been a _very_ long time since I last updated and I apologise profusely to the 3 people who read my blog. Thanks, by the way, for hanging on through my silence.

Quite honestly, the REASON I take so long to post is because so much happens between posts that I don’t know where to START! So, I wait and write a few things down and think, Oh, yes, I need to tell them about that!

And then, something else happens, and something else, and another thing…

Before long there are 20 things on my list of things I want to tell you about and I do not know where to start. Do I go with a timeline? Do I go with the biggest/most important news first? Do I tell you the little things and ease you into the big things?


I am going to attempt to give you an update that includes all the things I can remember I wanted to tell you. They will most likely not be in order, but as they come to me.

Let’s start with what happened while my husband was in Oregon, fighting the terrible wildfires. I sorted the yard out: pulled the weeds, raked up the rocks and glass and bottle tops and junk that the previous tenant left behind. (He liked to throw beer bottles around, for fun) I planted grass and nurtured it and watered it and talked to it and did my best to keep the weeds at bay while it grew.


I had grass! It was beautiful and soft and green and I was super proud. Then the crazy wind storms came, and the monsoon rains (yes, monsoon rains in the desert) and the weeds and I fought a battle royale on a daily basis. We spent a lot of time inside.

Snoozing Odin, out of the wind and rain

After that, it got hot. Stupidly hot. I’m from Africa, we know hot… but this heat here in the New Mexico desert is diabolical. It was also humid for a few months, and the mosquitoes reigned supreme, despite my best efforts. I was COVERED in bites every single day even after dousing myself in mosquito repellent from the moment I woke. I’m allergic to mosquito bites so I now have many more nasty scars to add to my collection.

Mosquitoes… we hatess themsss

I did, however, get a SUPER tan! I also lost a lot of weight and not just because I shaved my 30-inch hair off – down to the scalp – but also because I was outside every day working in the yard and sweating profusely. I used the dog clippers on my head – it was that hot and I was that desperate.

Speaking of the dogs – I discovered a few new places to walk and we attempted to get into a routine of walking early in the mornings at least every second day. One place we found was NMSU, the agricultural section – lots of farms, cows, sheep and goats. The dogs love it. It’s also very shady and there are NO THORNS!

The other place was the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. It’s wild and strange but beautiful, nonetheless. We only walked the one path we found – about a 25 to 30-minute walk and just under a mile – as the other path was always under water after all the rain. We recently started walking the other path and it’s FAR longer (nearly 2 miles) and takes us almost an hour to walk. The dogs LOVE it too! We met our first rattlesnake last year and we politely and respectfully turned around and went back the way we came after I realised it wasn’t moving from its spot in the middle of the path. Just to be safe, we got the dogs vaccinated against rattlesnake venom. We also clipped the dogs earlier in the year before husband left for Oregon, just as it started getting hot. They all got puppy cuts – well, the girls did. Odin we just brushed well and I clipped down a little bit.

I applied all over town at every conceivable place I could think of. I got rejected for either NOT being a student or being overqualified until I tweaked my resume a bit and excluded all my I.T. work. I then worked, briefly, for a budget hotel chain. The pay was crap, the work was EXHAUSTING and seemingly pointless (to me) as you just repeated the same thing every day, but it was a job and I stuck with it as long as I could. I continued my search though, while I worked there. I got a job, eventually, at a father-and-son-owned health food store as a cashier. Through them, and the experience I gained with them, I also got a call back from Walmart and I began working there as well. I enjoyed the work at the small store, even if it was a bit boring sometimes – it was a nice quiet pace and I learned a great deal. Walmart was crazy – busy, loud, frenetic, but excellent money. Mind-numbing and exhausting at the same time.

I worked at both for a few months and then, on a whim – I really wanted to be back home with my dogs and my husband as I was working late night shifts and long hours and I missed them – I applied to a few positions back in the Medical Transcription field. I got two or three responses and wrote their entrance tests and aced all three (according to the recruiters who responded with a firm offer) but the first one offered freelance inconsistent work (I’ve been there, done that, and I didn’t want to be left in that predicament again) even if it was well-paid. The second, and the one I actually responded to with a view to beginning a career with them, offered shift work (afternoons/evenings) but also had many convoluted and specific tech requirements. On paper, my computer and I were a perfectly reasonable match, but the three weeks it took to try and get it working was ridiculous and I had to tell them thanks, but no thanks. I spent those weeks at home, unable to work, as they needed me “available” during office hours in case the tech people wanted to ask me to do something to tweak a setting, etc. I responded to the other offer I got from the third company and that’s who I am working for now! I went through their intense and rigorous training program and did well, and now I am waiting on the next step – being assigned my own doctor! While I wait, I am doing more training and BEING PAID FOR IT. It’s intense and detailed work and while I do enjoy the meticulous attention to detail needed, and the chance to work in the medical field again (I’ve always loved it!) it is mentally exhausting sometimes. Also, I’m a perfectionist, so I beat myself up over the slightest error even when my trainer tells me I’m doing great work. But I’m getting there and enjoying it, and just counting the days until payday.

My husband has finally transferred from Oregon to here, so we are now truly “settled” in one place for a while. Now, we just need to get all our “stuff” down here – from Oregon storage and also my stuff from back home that I’ve been trying to get here since I left in 2011!

Azzie had a strange issue a few months ago where she seemed to lose peripheral vision in her left eye and was bumping into things, standing on things, and falling off the pavement on the left (that’s the side she walks on) and leaning against walls. We had her checked out by two vets, and also took her to an eye specialist in El Paso, but they could find nothing physically wrong… they all suggested an MRI and other imaging, but told us that it would _start_ at around $5000. We were given a few other options, non surgical and not as expensive, but we were told they were just “shots in the dark” as none of the vets had any clue what was causing it and it was all pointing to a neurological issue. We were pretty stressed about it, and worried about our sweet girl, who was miserable, restless, and not her happy self at all. I spoke to my mum and she reminded me about our dogs back home who had had “mini strokes” at various points in their lives and that Azzie’s symptoms sounded very much like those. So, we told the vet we were going to give her time to recover on her own and see how it went. We gave it two weeks to see if there was ANY improvement. Thankfully, there was. I took them for a walk about 5 days after our visit to the specialist, and Azzie was much more responsive and not leaning on the lead like before. She also didn’t fall off the pavement nearly as much if I checked her, gently, with the lead as she started bumbling off to the left. Fast forward to today, and she’s almost 100% better. She is listening, paying attention when I speak to her (before she was totally ignoring me and would just lean as far over to the left as she could before my arm gave out – she’s a VERY strong dog) and hasn’t fallen off the pavement or walked into anything for a while now. Unfortunately, this means she is most likely prone to these strokes – mini or otherwise, they are still worrying – and we’ll have to keep a careful eye on her. I lost my Mishka to a final, massive stroke, but she was 17 years old when it happened. Azzie is only turning 7 next month. Speaking of birthdays! Gina turned 10 years old at the end of February! That’s a MASSIVE feat for our Bernese! We are so happy! And she’s doing well, with minimal joint issues. I started her on the Vet’s Best Aches and Pains and it (After a few days of an upset stomach, of course – she’s always been very sensitive to new stuff) really helped a great deal, especially in the mornings when she would normally be very stiff and creaking. Odin’s nominated birthday followed a day or so later, and he is probably 6 or 7 years old. I’m thinking 7, as he has quite a bit of grey around the muzzle now, compared to when I look back at the photos of him when he arrived in Germany, frail and timid.

Our neighbour, Hank, has a visitor for the summer, and she is lovely. A wild biker woman but kind and friendly, and she’s an animal lover, so she’s okay in our books. She has a gorgeous little terrier mix called Buddy, and he and Odin are quickly becoming friends. Gina, being Gina, is her usual silly, grumbly self, and Azzie is Azzie – confused and wanting to be friends one moment, and then ignoring him the next.

Husband and I have been working very hard on our yard and garden as well. Everything is neat and tidy and we’ve planted an olive tree – named Olly, of course – and we’ve made space for two fruit trees. We’re thinking a peach and a cherry tree. We’ve also potted some BEAUTIFUL flowering plants – a Carolina Jessamine (lovely yellow trumpet flowers), a Pink Jasmine (tiny white and pink flowers), and the Japanese Honeysuckle is starting to come back beautifully after the winter. We also planted flowers in big pots and seeded our herb garden with Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Sweet Basil, Echinacea, Arugula, Chives, and lots of Mint. We have a lovely English Rosemary plant which we transplanted from pot to garden and we also potted some shallots and garlic, just to see what happened. We’re so excited! We also put grass seed down all over the yard, including re-seeding the empty patches in the already existing grass (which is coming in nicely now) and then a layer of manure on top of it all. Things are looking green out there and we’re hoping the grass finally takes in all the places where it wasn’t before as well. There’s nothing quite like working with your hands in the earth, with living, growing things and watching the butterflies, bees, birds, and bugs come buzzing back into view. We’re trying to keep the birds well fed so that they don’t eat all the grass seeds before they can germinate!

I’m sure there’s more to add, but that’s all I can think of right now.

Hope you enjoyed the update and thanks for reading!

Snippet 17

The Beast raises his shaggy haired arms with muscles twitching and sweat sliding

Between his fingers twines a snake with eyes like sapphires and teeth like diamonds

And pearls of venom dribble from tips of fangs and the hiss escapes like sibilant whispers

Of black words and black thoughts and black deeds with shadowed wings and sharpness

Like knives of iron and quick slick slices and cold plumes of crystal breath rushing

With force of gale and gust and grabbing hands snatching and snarling and scratching

Skeletal branches against the giant Moon’s light with bats alight and eyes glowing

In the pitch black undergrowth with clicks and snicks and snaps and crackles and cackles

Of stooped women in ragged black clothes with gnarled hands and wise gazes that fix

Upon your face they delve and dive into your life and do not allow lies and liars

Betwixt the veil and the shadow and the land you live on and in and over and under

Ground yourself in the old and the deep and the cruel and the kind and the wheel

That continues on even after death after misery after tragedy after loss and tread softly

As the Moon slides down below the tree line and you are left with nothing but the warmth of your heart and the burning knowledge in your head.