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Friday Cat Blogging Short Subjects

Feline Fascination

This may be hard to believe, but I am fascinated by cats. Sure, I—and seemingly the entire internet—am in love with every kitty, but emotionally entwined with my two furballs. However, I find the animal, and its relationship with humans, enormously interesting.

It’s funny, but there wasn’t much research science done on cats until a couple of decades ago. I imagine that was because there were far more pressing areas of research than trying to find out why cats hold humans in utter contempt. Pet cat? Cat scratches. Feed cat? Cat scratches. Give scratching post to cat? Cat continuously scratches anything else but.

Back when I was growing up, no one was really sure how cats purred. I’m sure it was difficult to get a cat to purr in whatever scanning device they’d try to put it in. (Cat scratches research intern.) Now, we’re almost sure about the mechanics behind the purr, but in researching that, we’ve discovered what most veterinarians knew—cats purr when they’re scared or injured, too. They purr at a frequency that makes New Age holistic practitioners jealous, or rather their purr helps them build and repair bone and tissue. This brings up an interesting conjecture. The purr may benefit the lazy lifestyle of a cat, as it can gently keep itself in good tone while its relaxing. Living the dream!

We tend to think of cats as solitary animals, but that’s in a mistaken comparison to dogs. Cats have a very complicated social structure, which makes it difficult to study and understand. Cats tend to not be solitary, just aloof. Feral cat colonies run a bit like lion prides, with similar habits in resource sharing, protection of territory, and community support for raising kittens. Cats seem arbitrary and capricious, and they’ll seemingly turn on their human or animal companions in seconds. This tends to drive non-fanatics crazy, but cat fanciers know that swiping, hissing, biting, or outright attacking are actual moods and understand the triggers, probably better than the cats do. But cats socialize with humans on their own terms.

Researchers wanted to see why cats don’t seem to react negatively to someone threatening their humans. A dog generally dislikes someone who is aggressive with its human. And dogs tend not to forget either, and so will continue to not trust the aggressor. Cats, however, seemingly do not care. If I got punched in the face, my two cats would still react with excitement if the puncher then gave them food. (This is simplifying a bit. If there was a ruckus, both cats would probably skedaddle before the violence went down.) But cats don’t understand human to human interaction. Amongst themselves, cats may act aggressively towards each other, but a lot of it is territorial or mating related. My two cats do not like each other. But they can be in the same room, same bed—I’ve even had them both relaxing on the same lounge chair. But they’ll have occasional spats, and I usually chalk it up to the younger cat being bored and looking for someone to hassle. The howling and pouncing and beatings by paws of fury happen when the female is in her territory (two very specific chairs) and the male encroaches. They know why they hate each other, even though it’s inscrutable to us. If two humans are fighting or getting in each others’ way, maybe cats consider that territorial scuffling.

Sure, I anthropomorphize my cats. We communicate mostly by feedings and lap sittings, with the occasional petting party, the length of which is determined by cat and shall not go beyond. My wife and I talk to them, as if they understood, and as if the male cat weren’t deaf. But this helps our relationship with them. Just like they approach us with their feline outlook, so do we accept them with our humanity. I have to imagine the majority of households with cats in America do not keep them for their vermin catching abilities. Instead, we hire our cats to eat disgusting cans of meat parts that they semi-efficiently turn into poop that we’ll dispose. What’s in it for the humans? We bring our compassion and love and comfort and let them act as furry mirrors for us.

Jinx, the female cat, is currently sitting on my lap, after about a half-an-hour of trying to get me to stop typing out these secrets that cats do not want us to know. She was sitting next to me, meowing with a purring undertone, to get me to pay attention to her, until she gave up and moved to my lap. It’s comforting, although it forces me to sit in an awkward position away from my keyboard. And I love her for it. We communicate with each other, not completely understanding what we’re saying to each other. But the warmth transfers between us, and I pet her, and she purrs, and we’ve told each other all we needed for the moment.

Categories
Short Subjects Silliness

Those Damned Kids on the Copy Side

In the waning days of the last century, I worked a copy shop called Kinko’s. It was right in the sweet spot of my “adult” youth, what is now referred to as “your twenties,” but back then we called it the “swahballa years.” (Look it up.) Anyway, not the point.

What I am thinking about tonight is the amount of pranks we used to pull on fellow computer services coworkers. Since I am a particularly cruel man, I enjoyed setting these up. One of the finest was, at first, subtle. We worked on a computer that made it very easy to customize system beeps, when the computer played a short noise to notify you of something. Yes, well, I recorded the sound of the phone ringing in our department. So when the computer wanted your attention, it would play that ring, and for a couple of days, it had almost everyone in the office laughing when they fell for it, hearing the computer ring, but no one was actually calling.

Yes, until, on an overnight shift, my pal and yours, John Dervin, was working on a customer’s QuarkXPress file. So what you don’t know about Quark is what the heck it is. It’s a computer program where one can create documents to print. These documents were often flyers or business cards or something else a customer wanted to print out using our printers and copiers at Kinko’s. What you also don’t know is, when you added artwork to Quark, it didn’t move the artwork into the document—it created links to the artwork. This meant if you had two dozen different pieces of artwork in your document, there would be two dozen links to the individual files. There was a reason for this, but it’s all obsolete now, so just know, when you brought your Quark file to Kinko’s, you also had to bring all your images and artwork as separate files along with you, but now they were on a differently-named removable medium, which meant that the Kinko’s employee had to update all these links. Know, too, that the computer would beep every single time you updated one of these links. In a file with two dozen links, the computer would beep two dozen times.

Remember, please, that I replaced the default computer beep with something that sounded like the office telephone ringing. So poor John Dervin, on his overnight shift, opening a customer’s Quark document with two dozen links, would hear the telephone ring two dozen times. John, and this is true, picked up the phone almost two dozen times. Of course, by the third time or so, he became suspicious, but not of the computer. Instead, he was livid at the thought of the kids working the overnight shift in the copy side of Kinko’s, pranking him by calling and hanging up. Sometimes, he let the “phone” ring twice before answering again, but, alas, no one was on the phone, because the phone was never actually ringing.

I am a cruel man, as I said earlier, so this story brings me nothing but delight. John cursed me out the next morning when he learned what was happening, but the ring stayed on as the system beep for some time afterwards, because we were all gluttons for punishment—I’d forget too—and it was funny when someone who knew better answered the non-ringing phone anyway. Is there a lesson here? Yes—do not trust me. Also, have fun before you cannot. And if you have fun early enough in life, time and memory make the good times even gooder. John Dervin, cheers, mate, where ever you are.

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Photos Short Subjects

Let’s Vote

We voted early here in New York and waited on a very long line in the rain. Today is the official Election Day, and I hope everyone who is able has voted. I don’t think I’ll watch teevee or go on social media until next week.

A long line in the rain, waiting to early vote in NY on Oct 29

A stopwatch app on the iPhone displaying 1:54
We were in line to vote for almost 2 hours on a Thursday’s early voting in New York.

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Friday Cat Blogging Short Subjects

The Indignity of Being Jinx

Jinx has suffered a lot of indignities in her life. She’s a largely black cat that suffers from huge flakes of dandruff. She’s a short hair, but her coat is thick, especially on her hindquarters where poop likes to stick. She once broke her tail jumping off our bed, or something… we’re still not quite sure what the hell happened there. But one of the biggest indignities is when you try to pet her. Now, “you” is specific here. Katherine and I pet her, give her skritchy-scratches, brush her, generally handle her in anyway, and she rather enjoys it, unless medicine or the cat carrier is involved. But when you come in to our house, I will say to you, “Jinx will hiss at you if you try to pet her.” And you will try to pet her. And she will hiss at you.

Here’s what is confusing to you. She doesn’t run away when you come in the house. She’ll be sitting there on her perch, an ottoman that we’ve long ago sacrificed as an altar for her Highness, and look at you with calm eyes. She seems so relaxed and is a fluffy loaf, so she’s hard to resist. I understand this, and I will warn you, but this will be like a challenge to you, especially if you’re a cat person and know how to introduce yourself to a cat, so you will put your hand out for her to sniff. She appreciates the introduction and sniffs your hand with no fear or aggression. “Oh,” you will think, “clearly Jonathan doesn’t know how good I am with cats—I am the exception. Jinx clearly wants a pat on the head from me, and me alone.” Then you will attempt to pat her head or pet her, and she will rear back, scrunch her face and open her fanged mouth in the way that has scared humans for thousands of years, and give you a proper hiss. At this point, you will probably curse in fear and withdraw your hand. Jinx, in almost all cases, does not swat (sorry, Melissa), but the hiss alone will scare the shit out of you.

You may feel put off by this interaction, but what I can absolutely guarantee is that Jinx is much more offended by you than you are of her. After all, when introducing yourself for the first time, it’s rather impolite to just start molesting someone with your big, dumb hands, you dumb, stupid human.

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Short Subjects

Jonny Appleseed

I work out east on the south fork of Long Island. It’s about an hour commute, door-to-door. My wife, to make sure I eat something during the day, will put together a lunch for me that will include a piece of fruit. Otherwise, if I ate anything during the day, it would be something like cookies or a brownie, because I have absolutely no will to eat well. And I would never pack or eat a piece of fruit of my own volition, because, again, no will to eat well.

That it is autumn, I’ve been getting apples in my lunch pack. Apples are fine covered in caramel and maybe possibly in hot apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But I hadn’t eaten a whole, unadulterated apple in some time until my wife started sending me off with one. And the only reason I started to eat them was because I had nothing to eat on the long ride back, and an apple was slightly better than nothing.

After a few days of eating apples on the ride home, I’ve actually started to like them. There are hundreds of varieties, and getting to know the different qualities of each has been deliciously educational. And throwing out the apple cores has been fun. There’s a lot of wooded areas I drive through during my commute, and instead of holding on to the apple core for the remainder of my trip, I fling the core out into one of the wooded areas. I guess, technically, I’m littering, but I’ve thought of it as providing the start of a grove of wild apples for future generations all throughout the east end. I’m the Jonny Appleseed of Sag Harbor.

But I probably deserved it when I went to throw an apple core out and opened the wrong window, causing the apple to smash into the closed front passenger window and create a mess of apple fragments on the passenger seat. I am very lucky to have not broken the window, now streaked with dried apple juice. Maybe I missed an errant seed during clean up and will soon start a grove of apple trees in my Toyota.

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Rant Short Subjects

Where being rational fails

I feel compassion for those who voted against equal rights in North Carolina. I know their vote was wrong and based on prejudice and faulty logic, but I still have compassion for them, because they rationally believed that they were doing the right thing. To many of us in metropolitan areas or with homosexual friends or who are just compassionate people, the vote is astounding. Clearly, rationally, no one should be punished for who they fall in love with. Two rational adults making a decision to merge their lives together should be celebrated, because relationships produce more offspring than just children. Whole families merge and the extended human panoply gets one bit smaller, closer than before; cultures mix and friends are made. What does gender have to do with this? But there are those who believe gender is the overriding factor in relationships as surely as I do not.

And here there are no winners. Obviously, people fighting for civil rights have lost, but North Carolina made a law that was already in effect just a little bit stronger, possibly strong enough to punish heterosexual couples who are not married. Far from protecting the sanctity of marriage, the law codifies it and prevents churches from having their own definitions. Those who strongly support the law see it as a bulwark against sin and modernity, but who declares a wall a victory? They know there is a rising tide against them. They know that history will render the law moot and this battle an aberration. The wall will crumble, but the state will survive.

Why hate these people, then? Why fill ourselves with anger at this loss? The frustration of knowing we are on the right side and that those that would vote against civil rights are doing it for ancient, mistaken beliefs is great, but the frustration on the other side is just as great, because they believe they are on the right side and that those that would allow homosexual marriage are chipping away at the foundations of society.

But wait, I am not getting postmodern here. I do not believe that what is right and what is wrong depends on point of view. I know that granting civil rights, including the ability to enter into a marriage with another consenting adult, is the inevitable progression of any forward society. Once a society grants equal rights to women, something we’re oddly still fighting about, there is no chance to turn the clock back—hinder the clock, yes—but it can never be turned back. Justice and equality will eventually be granted to all people, because when more people have it, compassion for those that do not grows exponentially. Which is why I will endeavor to remain compassionate for those that rail against the future. If I remain compassionate to those I disagree with, I will rationally choose a more inclusive society, instead of futilely attempting to keep people out.

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Short Subjects

Value Added

The discovery of a possible diamond planet got me thinking. What is more valuable, a planet made of diamond or a planet full of wood? A planet made of gold or a planet made of molybdenum? A planet filled with jewels or a planet where we could grow rice?

The answers, I think, are obvious. So why do we think that gold and diamonds and jewels are intrinsically valuable here? Gold and diamonds do have industrial applications, so there is some small amount of practical worth, maybe on the same level as copper and graphite, but they’re both artificially kept scarce making us believe that they have value in and of themselves. And really, if a huge hunk of gold rock was found in space, would it be worth anything to go and get it?

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Short Subjects

Minds are made for changing

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were watching Bones and the main character, a scientist, said something that stunned me. I have to paraphrase, but the gist, “I’m a scientist, I can’t just change my mind.”

I cried out, when I heard it. Listen, scientists are people, too, and can be as stubborn as anyone, but the phrase was such that any scientist who said it would have immediately backed away from the totality of the statement. Scientists have to be able to change their minds. Anyone who has a sense of curiosity, who relishes discovery, is going to be able to change his or her mind.

Another aspect of that is accepting that some belief, long held, is incorrect. I argue my position, but if I’m given new information that changes my opinion, I’m much more fulfilled. I’m stubborn and seem intransigent, but learning something new is how I grow.

Over the holidays, Jennifer, my sister-in-law, said that The Beatles sing “Frere Jacques” in the song “Paperback Writer.” I disagreed, and we played the song. I’ve listened to it at least 30 times in the past 10 years. I’ve known “Paperback Writer” all my life. No way would that have escaped my notice. Sure enough, George and John are harmonizing “Frere Jacques” (clearer on one channel of the stereo). I was thrilled beyond belief. I was happy to be wrong.

There’s part of the human condition that prevents us to admit that we’re wrong. It’s a problem, though. Sometimes, we have the truth in front of us, and we still deny it. I hope I never lose the joy of discovering truths and changing my mind.

Categories
Rant Short Subjects Silliness

It’s Alphabetic

Huh. I was going to post that I wanted to get two of ABC’s albums with “The Look of Love,” “How to Be a Millionare,” and “Poison Arrow.” I think these are on two different albums if I remember my 80s vinyl correctly. But not only are those albums not available on CD, but the songs themselves are only available as best-of collections as MP3s.

Now, ABC wasn’t known for their album-oriented rock, so I really shouldn’t have a problem buying a best-of and that’s that, but, boy, is that going to be the toughest thing to give up in our post-album world. It’s not the loss of the artwork or liner notes, which enterprising distributors are bringing back. It’s not the loss of cohesion within a group of songs, since it looks like a lot of artists are still grouping songs to release at once.

No, it’s hitting me hardest that I can’t remain smug when I, as a real fan, purchase albums and scoff at the fair-weather fans who purchase best-ofs and think they know anything about the band or the music they’re listening to. I want my high-horse back!

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As seen in media Rant Short Subjects

Don’t make me Chrysler

On the teevee, there’s been a couple of Chrysler commercials that have really, really annoyed me. The first one is subtly annoying, because I had to pay attention to it before I realized how awful it was. There’s a young waifish boy who is leaving school. We hear, but don’t see, a boy say “Hey, Billy, I’ll race you home.” And you see the waif look alarmed. He runs, and then we see three larger shadowy boys chase after him. He escapes into his mom’s Chrysler minivan.

Clearly, the boy is being chased by bullies, but this probably played poorly with some sort of focus group. Reasonably, who the hell wants to associate the safety of her car with her poor, picked-on child? But it drives me crazy that the fix for this horrible commercial was to have the dumb voice-over in the beginning implying that the child was racing the other kids home. The kid looks horrified, and the other kids chasing him are clearly disappointed they didn’t get to hand him a beat down when he barely escapes. Who thought that was a good idea? And now, the edited commercial is nonsensical and cringe inducing.

The other Chrysler commercial I didn’t even have to pay attention to for it to make my brain matter seep out. It’s another minivan commercial–does Chrysler only make minivans now?–and after talking about all the amazing thing this minivan does, the voice-over says, “Oh, yeah, and it literally gave birth to every other minivan.”

Unless this is about another Michael Bay movie that I’m never going to see, this is literally the worst use of “literally” that I’ve ever heard. Most people may not realize this, but advertising agencies usually have smarter people involved in ad-campaigns. If the ad was literally put together by a 13 year-old, I could understand the usage, but anyone who has a high-school education knows what “literally” means. That ad had to pass through at least 2 dozen people. Not one of them pointed out how wrong that was?

At any rate, I put the kibosh on purchasing any Chrysler products in my household. I’m sure that’ll be the final nail in that company’s coffin.