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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

cats

When All Else Fails, Try Behaving Like an Animal

We tell a lot of jokes about cat pictures on Facebook. You’ve heard them.

Q: What’s the greatest technological invention in your lifetime? 
A: This small gadget that lets me watch cat videos, make phone calls to my cat sitter while I’m away, and take pictures of my cat.

Dog people aren’t blameless, either. I recently attended a small writer’s conference, where I visited with a few acquaintances, met some interesting new folks, and greeted Rosie and Luke as if we were old friends. Yep. They are both lap dogs who go everywhere with their owners. 

This morning, I was reminded of why this is not all as silly as it sounds. The past week, as you know, has been full of horrific news and much gnashing of teeth over how far our civilization has sunk into violence and hatred. I’ve shared in those feelings. If I let myself, I can literally tremble in fear of what we have become and into what disasters we are headed.  I’ve left my blogs sit idle, not because I had nothing to say but because I could not find adequate words.

Then this morning i opened Facebook and found myself smiling. There was my friend Bill, dangerously ill last week, now napping peacefully with a litter of colorpoint kittens. There was Ginger the Cat, pouncing on JoAnn’s covers to wake her up for breakfast. There was a happy dog prancing beside the gentleman who had just adopted him from a shelter. There was Keyboard the Kitten, balancing on the big cat’s food dish to steal a mouthful of crunchies. There was Watson, a wonderful Leader Dog rolling around in a patch of sun while his blind owner was safely seated beside him.

Best of all, Facebook had sent me two “Memories” of what I was doing one year ago. On this day, there was a raccoon who died in Toronto of undetermined causes. As he lay on the sidewalk all day, waiting for animal control to show up, strangers began leaving the raccoon little items to memorialize him—a flower, a childish hand-drawn sympathy card, even a small burning candle. And people walked respectfully around his body.

In Memphis on the same day, a young monkey escaped from his enclosure at the zoo and led his keepers on a merry chase. There were fears that he would run into traffic, get lost in the old forest that abuts the zoo property, or be washed  away if there was a sudden downpour and flash flood in the drainage ditch where he was thought to be hiding. While he was on the loose, someone opened a Twitter account in his name so we could all follow his exploits. The whole city rejoiced the following day when he was found safe and returned to Primate Canyon. My own comment on Facebook was that I was happy he was safe, but i was going to miss his tweets. The world, I said, needs more plucky little adventurers like him.

No, I’m not naive enough to believe that our problems can be fixed by a kitten or puppy, or even a plucky little monkey. But they can help, by putting a smile on our faces, if only for a moment. By reminding us that animals are colorblind—they know nothing of skin tones, or race, or religious dogma. By reminding us to judge people only by their actions and by their hearts. We would do well to follow their example.

Now for the First of a Series of Announcements . . .

. . . . leading up to the launch of my next book. I meant to make this first announcement earlier today, but a nasty storm got in the way.  I didn't have any real damage, and only a momentary power loss. That "moment" however, was enough to knock the air conditioner off again. And with temperatures forecast to remain in the mid-nineties for the foreseeable future, no A/C is definitely not a good thing. Getting it back on takes priority even over a book launch.

So out I went, once the downpour was over, to wade through mud to the A/C, where I have learned to wiggle a thingamajiggy.
I have no idea what I'm doing, you understand, but wiggling the thingamajiggy does not electrocute me and does turn the unit back on. (And now that I re-read that, I can see all sorts of rude comments coming. Please don't!)


Complicating my life even further was a cat who got herself stuck while hiding under the kitchen sink when it thundered.  And then I realized that the traipse through the mud had pretty much ruined my cream-coiored linen-look flats.

Anyway, better late than ever, today's really big news is that I have a firm publication date --  January 3, 2016 -- for "Yankee Reconstructed: Vol. 2 of The Grenville Sagas."  So it's Christmas in July around here, and there will be another couple announcements coming before the end of the week.  Stay tuned to hear what other surprises I'm cooking up.

Where Does All the Cat Hair Go?



For several years now, I have been indulging the OCD side of my personality that demands I keep my desk neat.  That’s doubly hard to do, of course,  when the four felines with whom I share this office insist on parading across the desk, sleeping on the warm modem, or rolling around on top of a stack of papers. However, I have one tried and true solution to the cat-hair accumulations — “Dust-Off” — a can of compressed air that makes cat hair disappear like magic.

Or so I thought!

Fast forward to this morning. My new living-alone morning ritual follows this pattern: Make coffee, feed cats, check overnight book sales, and eat breakfast while watching Good Morning America or The Today show, depending upon what they are obsessing about. Then, when I’ve had enough of the world’s troubles, I take a second cup of coffee back to the office, place it carefully on the two-drawer filing cabinet next to the desk (to keep any spills out of the computer innards), and visit electronically with some my favorite long-distance friends.

But this morning! One cat started seeing spooks. Tail went to bottle-brush position and the race was on. Eventually I was directly in the path. The 20-pound diabolical orange male took a flying leap over my shoulder and landed with one front paw in my coffee cup. (I determined that later when he was fastidiously cleaning all of that black stuff out of the fur on his right front paw, and grumbling about it with a throaty growl.)

Mayhem ensued. Coffee everywhere, pencil holder flying, phone off the hook. papers and books hitting the floor. By the time I grabbed a towel to mop up, the flow of coffee had spread far underneath a tall stacking rack of file folders. And when I lifted it up, I found the answer to today’s burning question. Cat hair never disappears. It just piles up behind the file folders — the better to soak up spilled coffee.

Why Are You Screaming?

It will not come as a surprise to many of you to learn that I have a cat calendar in my office.  This year's version features poems by cats, and while I've enjoyed them all, the one for April really makes me melt down. So here it is, with thanks to its anonymous author:

Why Are You Screaming?

Why are you screaming?
What did I do wrong?
Why are you crying?
How can I make it right?
Would you like it in a different color?
Would you like it in a different size?
Would you like it in a different room?
I just wanted to show my love.
I just wanted to express my thanks.
I just wanted to put a dead mouse on your sheets.
But now you are screaming
And i don't know how to make you stop.

The Ups and Downs of Cat Ownership

There was something of a kerfluffle yesterday when an old document emerged from the US Patent office showing a diagram of a "new idea" — putting perforations in a roll of toilet paper to make it easier to pull off a reasonable amount of paper. That’s so much the “way of things” today that no one thought anything of it. But what was shocking was the diagram that showed the paper unrolling from to top — or “over” the roll. Apparently many households still argue about this today — whether the proper form is “over” or “under”, and people are passionate about their preferences. Here was proof that the “over” crowd was right, and members of the “under” crowd were hopelessly misguided.

I first giggled at those who could get so upset over such a minor detail. (See a blog posting from a few days ago (Friday, March 13th)  when I asked where all the anger was coming from!) And then I checked my house. Yep, I’m vindicated; I’m an “over.” But why?

Then I began to look at the problem logically, and when I did so, I realized that all four of my OLD cats have had a part in this decision. I remembered their kittenhoods vividly. Every kitten I’ve ever owned (and I use that term advisedly!) has passed through a stage of playing with the toilet paper roll. Invariably we ended up with a pile of unwound paper on the floor. The only solution was to use the “under” routine until the kittens got the silliness out of their systems. Then we changed because the paper was easier for us to reach if it came "over."

How does a cat unwind the paper, and what makes it so much fun? The movement is always the same. The cat stands on its hind legs and uses its front paws to make the roll spin. And the paw movement is always downward, from top to bottom.  If the loose end comes over the top of the roll, the paper comes loose and falls to the floor. What would happen if  the loose end comes from underneath?

Nothing. To make it unwind, the cat would have to push up from bottom to top, a most unnatural motion.

Therefore I have to argue against the correctness of the diagram so widely distributed yesterday. It just may be that the decision is dependent upon whether the household does, or does not, have a normally curious and playful kitten.