The early morning sounds are what I love best. The birds greeting the dawn. The trash truck downshifting. Bush on the radio saying that the planned “no-confidence” vote on Gonzalez is “meaningless.”

True, I guess, at least in the sense that such a vote can’t force the president to take any action, but it’s always nice to hear what the man thinks of the opinions of the nation’s elected representatives.

Some people who use the gym at the same time I do clearly don’t know how to use the weight machines. A woman who is there almost every morning puts her elbows too far forward on the biceps machine, enabling her to lift an artificially high amount of weight but defeating the design of the machine, which is intended to isolate the muscles in question. A diminutive man who is also a regular turns the ab crunch machine into a sort of chest press: you are supposed to sit in the machine, push the handles forward, then lock your elbows – holding the weight out from your body – and repetitively bend forward from the waist, but he just sits still and pushes his arms out and back, over and over, exercising an entirely different part of his body than the machine is designed for (and there is, of course, another machine he could use to exercise his chest and arms). How did it get to this point? Why didn’t they ask the attendant for an orientation? Have they never noticed how others use the machines? Have they never glanced at the directions printed on the machines?

Should I say something?

No, obviously I should not.

My mother, who was visiting this weekend, did me the favor of picking up some groceries. I was excited about the matter-of-factness of the label on the bag of coffee beans she bought. “Pleasant Morning Buzz.” Pretty much all I’m ever looking for in a cup of coffee. (This would be like labeling a bottle of wine “Smooth Mellow Drunk.”) The bag was of the stiff plastic variety and looked tantalizingly as though it should just pull apart at the top; there was a little bit of plastic tape, presumably for resealing the thing. But I just couldn’t find my way into the bag. Finally, I grabbed the utility scissors from their holster, magneted to the fridge, and made a tiny incision, figuring this would allow me to pull apart the opening at the top.

The tiny snip instead suddenly enlarged, the whole bag ripped asunder, and I was on my hands and knees sweeping up coffee beans for the next five minutes.

“Whitefish feast in aspic” is, by far, Her Highness Miss Zuzu’s favorite canned food.

She will also never receive it again.

I’ll admit that it’s the most food-like of any of the varieties of canned cat food I’ve seen so far, resembling nothing so much as a tin of white tuna.

But man does it stink. Even though the amount left on her little plate after she was done with her morning meal was so miniscule that to call it “particles” seems an exaggeration, the aroma filled the dining room and kitchen. I could only imagine the olfactory treat that would be waiting for me after the plate had been sitting out all day.

I threw away the rest of the can.

From the “Not One Thing, Another” Department: as we look ahead to renting out our house, we are curious how the insurance coverage will need to change. A call to Amica elucidated that we would just carry fire insurance on the structure. However – if we’re going to insure a house that we are renting out – Amica requires that the insurance for our primary residence be through them, as well (that’s where any liability coverage is carried, too, including for the house we’re renting out). Fine and good – and, yes, rental insurance counts. But apparently, because Montana is “really rural” (in the words of the customer-service representative I spoke to) it’s not a given that they will be willing to cover any possible rental we might obtain. And if Amica won’t cover our Montana residence, this means they won’t insure the Baltimore house we’re renting out, either, meaning that – if we pick the wrong house in Missoula – we’ll need to find a new insurance company.

The customer-service rep recommended that I call the Montana Amica office to find out what parts of the state they cover.

This turns out not to be an easily answered question, even when phrased as “would you cover a house within the city limits of Missoula?” Apparently we will have to (1) get the address of our rental and (2) submit same to Amica; Amica will then (3) “write up a policy” and (4) “submit it to the underwriter” so that we can find out (5) if they’ll freaking cover it or not. I badgered them further and I think that the main potential problems just have to do with the fact that even houses fairly close to the town of Missoula may not be near things like fire hydrants and the like, meaning that they are more likely to burn down, meaning that Amica stands a higher risk of its customers actually needing to use the services they’re paying for, which of course is contrary to the standard insurance-company business plan. So I think we’ll be safe if we stick to places within the town limits (and they may cover places outside the town limits, too), but this is just an unwelcome wrinkle when you’re in the position of house-hunting from 2,200 miles away. “Um, yes, I’ll put a deposit down on this rental – just as soon as my insurance company underwriter gets back to me. In the meantime, please don’t rent it to someone else who walks into your office and puts money on the table!”

Every time I asked the customer-service rep anything, she put me on hold.

Is “Another One Bites the Dust” really appropriate hold-music for an insurance company?

At Safeway, I bought a lime green “water tumbler” to replace my convention-giveaway white plastic mug I smashed against my office wall on Friday.

I love it already.