Wednesday, December 27, 2006


There are days when I feel like it is all too much for me. The world seems too cold and uncaring. The circle of life too cruel. It is like I can feel every injustice done to every creature and it makes me want to pull all my hair out.

No, nothing specific happened. These past couple of days I have been inundated with stories of horrible things that people can do. The stories I heard when learning about Home for Life while they were at Mall of America yesterday. The daily forwards I get from my friends in the cat community asking for help because they have come across an animal the world has been unkind to. I feel like no matter how much I do I can't make a dent in this poisonous heap of cruelty. Usually when these feelings come I go snuggle with Dean and my own little rays of sunshine, or I take a quick walk to the dumpster and see who's milling about back there. Tonight, I will have to comfort myself by crawling into my big lonely bed at Dad's house and trying to distract myself with outside reading.

When I first brought up TNR for the dumpster kitties Dean worried I was too sensitive to handle trapping them and seeing them in discomfort. There are days when it can be difficult but I know that good comes from it. I am watching them feel discomfort for one day of what will be happier lives. I also know that I at times see their emotions through my own humans lens. Something that hurts me much more than them.

Tonight we watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It was excellent but it reminded me there will come a day when I have to say good bye to my dumpster kitties*. I know I will miss them more than they will ever miss me. It will hurt like hell, but that hurt will never make me regret doing something when I could have turned my back. I know that no matter how much I feel connected to my animal friends, they are animals who at times seem much further evolved than I, understanding and accepting nature much more readily.

*Don't worry, I already have a plan for caring for them after Dean and I move away.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'll Have to Remember for Next Time

Yesterday I was in the car with my mom and stepdad, both of whom have been in pharmacy for upwards of 15 years working at the county hospital.

Jokingly I suggested, "The day after Christmas can we celebrate one year of me being boil-free?"

My mom laughed and commented about how often they are seeing strains of antibiotic-resistant infections. They keep filling the same perscription: two strong antibiotics and Vicodin.

"Vicodin! I only got Tylenol with Codeine! What the heck?!"

"If you want Vicodin," my mom said matter-of-factly, "you should tell your doctor you're allergic to Codeine. That's what everyone else does."

Point noted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Silly raccoon. He thinks he's a kitty!

I fed the dumpster kitties tonight and followed my usual procedure:

  1. Turn on lantern

  2. Pick up empty cans from yesterday so I don't piss off the maintenance men.

  3. Rinse out the water dishes and refill with cold, fresh water.

  4. Dump out 1 gallon Ziploc bag of dry cat food.

  5. Open 2 cans wet cat food

  6. Take the empty cans from yesterday and go around the corner to throw them into the dumpster.

  7. Peak again behind the dumpster with the lantern to see who showed up for dinner.

It was during the last step that I noticed the anomoly. At first I thought it was a very pregnant cat I'd never seen before. As I stood there perplexed it turned around and I was startled to see it was a raccoon instead.

The kitties were not happy about his presence. He developed a pattern where he would walk up to the huddle and then all the cats would hiss at him. As a colony, feral cats have a pack mentality where they watch out for each other but do not willingly welcome new comers. Raccoon was not being deterred by their hissing. He would walk up, scoop up two fistfuls of dry cat food and waddle back a few steps while still on his hind legs. Then he'd eat the food out of the palms of his hands, get back on all fours and approach the group again. This continued until he'd had his fill and waddled back into the woods. I stood there stunned the whole time.

Raccoons make me ever so slightly uncomfortable with their dexterity. Plus they look intelligent. Those two qualities make it possible they could make a run for dominance of the planet. Anyway, raccoons need to eat too and I'll gladly let him eat with the dumpster kitties once in awhile even if it causes a ruckus. I just hope he doesn't start bringing any of his friends.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The other day I was thinking about how I'm 27 years old and I don't send out Christmas cards. My excuse thus far has been that I'm a student, that finals roll around about the time I should be doing this stuff and every other aspect of my life gets put on the back burner. Well, I have a confession. This year I probably could have done it and I just didn't. And I don't think I ever will send out Christmas cards.

Please, don't misunderstand me. I'm not a scrooge. I love Christmas because I get to spend 10 days in Minnesota for a white Christmas and then come back to paradise. I love the music. I may have been turned off of organized religion years ago, but the sound of a choir singing Christmas music can still give me the chills. I love the food, the excess of sweets and drink. Most of all, I love seeing my family at Christmas time. Letting go of all our worries for a few days and just enjoying each other's company to me is the meaning of Christmas.

But I can't bring myself to sit down with a stack of cards, sign Dean's and my name to them, write out addresses and return addresses. Hell, I can't even bring myself to decide to whom I should send cards.

So please, forgive me family and friends. I love receiving them from you, but if you wish to stop due to my lack of reciprocation I don't blame you one bit. Here is my half-assed attempt to send my holiday greeting to you, my family, my friends and my faithful readers.

Happy Holidays!

Natalie, Dean, Nellie, Wrigley, Allison,
and the Dumpster Kitties

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


When I was a junior in high school, my social studies class was History of the Americas. My teacher was Ms. A (not "Miss", not "Mrs."). She was petite with salt and pepper hair cut close to her head. All we really knew about her was that she loved cats. She started within our high school a chapter of Amnesty International. For class she made us read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

We thought she was a total nut job. It only took me 10 years to realize that she was actually quite enlightened. I hope that despite being misunderstood by her students, she kept trying.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Difficult Choices

Yesterday was the second Sunday of the month. Spay Day. Which meant more trapping. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the “whore’s” belly bulging again. When she started poking her head around the traps, I had to make a very difficult choice. The Animal Coalition of Tampa, an absolutely phenomenal organization in every respect, will destroy pregnancies of cats brought in for Spay Day. They repeatedly tell you to try to trap pregnant ones to stop the cycle of homeless animals. Logically, I understand this. I really do. But my heart was torn.

I’ve resorted to standing behind the dumpster with a squirt bottle to dissuade the already fixed ones from going in the traps. Certain ones just don’t learn and I can count on them to get trapped several times. Saturday night I had to call my mom to ask her for her always wonderful advice on matters of conscience. I knew that the best thing for the situation was to trap the mama, but I still had to weigh the pros and the cons.

The pros:

  • Maybe she is sick of being pregnant. I know she is the mother to at least two litters already. Maybe she just wants to be done with the carrying and the nursing and wants to be carefree like the rest of them.

  • The worst thing you can do is trap a mother cat who’s nursing. Days away from her litter will cause the kittens to starve. By how far along she is now, I’m certain she can’t be nursing another litter somewhere.

  • The kittens could be born sick.

  • The weather is getting colder and they might struggle.

The cons:

  • She can’t tell me any of this. All she knows is what nature has taught her. Maybe she’ll be sad.

  • She could give birth in my apartment which would be terribly traumatizing for my entire household.

  • I love kittens too much. I don’t want this on my conscience. If I know they are out there, I can look for them in 6-8 weeks and try to save them for Cat Call.

My mom helped a lot. We discussed the options and ultimately it was my decision. Realizing that doing this to her babies was my decision and not hers made me make up my mind for certain. Without delving into very touchy subjects, let me clarify I am pro-choice for us people. Not knowing what the mama’s choice would be I have to err on the side of life and let nature take its course.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Boys are Stupid.

Dean and I decided that we weren’t going to buy each other anything big for Christmas this year. We just got married (admittedly very inexpensively) and bought a new laptop and are in the midst of sterilizing a colony of feral cats. Plus, we don’t need much and are easily satisfied. However, during our conversation, Dean made a very startling assumption.

“I don’t even know what I would get you if we did want to buy nice things for each other. I mean, I bought you a diamond ring six months ago and since we’ve been together I’ve bought you a necklace, a bracelet and two pairs of earring. There’s nothing left!”

“Dean! What’s the number one rule about jewelry?”


“The major thing I’ve taught you. Besides cut, color and clarity and no heart-shapes?”


“A woman can never have too much of it! If you are EVER, EVER at a loss for what to get me you can ALWAYS get me JEWELRY!”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Yes, I'm Still Alive (Barely)

I survived my candidacy. But not without emotional and physical injury.

On Thursday, I dropped off copies of my candidacy proposal to all the members of my Ph.D. committee to read before my presentation on Tuesday. On Monday I got a message to go see Dr. R (one of the members) because he had some comments on my manuscript. He had gone through the document with a fine tooth comb, starting with page one.

Although the phenomenon of exchange bias was discovered almost 50 years ago, its microscopic origins are still not understood.

His comment:

“I looked up your reference for this. The landmark paper on exchange bias was published in 1956. That’s not almost 50 years ago, it's exactly 50 years ago."

Okay. So I had taken a lot of my information (including this opening sentence) from a paper I published last year, when exchange bias was 49 years young. Oops.

Most if his comments were grammatical in nature. For the most part I really appreciate having my grammar corrected. It should make me a better writer. However, this meeting gave me a full blown anxiety attack. If he was so thorough reading this manuscript, what would he be like during the presentation? I pictured making one trivial mistake and that being my downfall, flunking out of graduate school. When I got back to my lab I was crying and the boys had no idea what to do.

Luckily, the presentation itself went well. There were lots of questions. The good, brainstorming kind, not the bad, doubtful kind. It was pretty informal. Dr. R had resolved all of his issues with my manuscript before the presentation so he stayed quiet until I showed one graph he had a problem with. Dr. Hari jumped to my defense immediately and offered a pretty good explanation. After it was over, Dr. Hari took James and me out for Indian food. It was awesome.

Incidentally, Dr. Hari sent out an email shortly after the presentation to all the other members of my lab, asking them to join him in congratulating me for my promotion from lowly grad student to Ph.D. Candidate. I wasn’t on this list. About five people hit “reply all” to congratulate me, but since I wasn’t on the original list I didn’t receive any of them. Periodically the past two days James has gotten the emails and hollered, “So-and-so says congratulations!”

I mentioned there was physical injury as well. Like many people, when I am under stress I break out with cold sores. However, unlike many people I get them in my throat rather than on my mouth. It hurts like a beast. Oh the pain. So I felt them coming on Monday night. It hurt Tuesday but I persevered. Today I am still in a lot of pain, hoping it’ll turn around soon.

Things don’t really slow down much despite my efforts to stop the world from turning. I mentioned I had a final Tuesday morning only a couple hours before my candidacy. I didn’t open my notebook once to study and I ended up getting a 27/30. One of the points I missed because while plugging in numbers to a formula I wrote:

1 x 0 = 1

This is apparently not a correct statement. The TA, who knew I was probably concentrating on my candidacy, circled it in red and wrote “Nervous?” next to it.

I have a final presentation for my marketing class tomorrow and then trapping kitties on Saturday. Oh, and we have helium. I am actually looking forward to getting on a plane and flying to the frigid, arctic North just to get away from some of this stuff.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Buckle Down

I'm sorry, dear readers, for being a rather negligent blogger. Those of you that are still students or not far removed from your student days know that this is prime crunch time. I have finals on Tuesday and Friday and my candidacy on Tuesday as well. I've been glued to my computer working on my proposal and my presentation. When I'm not doing these things, I'm glued to my family, all of whom get noisy when my attention is focused on other things for too long.

After I turned in my 40 page paper, Dr. Hari read it and made seemingly minor suggestions. Now that I'm a senior student, his editing doesn't come with written-in sentences. Instead he says "add a paragraph about this or that" which results in more reading and references. He also wanted me to switch around the order of the sections, bringing the last three sections up front and sending the first three to the end (not counting intro, etc). All these changes mean a complete reordering of references, figure numbers and all that piddly crap that will bite you if you don't pay attention. He also initially suggested I cut out a lot of content to make it a more manageable 30 pages. Five minutes after I left his office though he came running down to the lab breathless, a copy of a fellow grad student's 70 page proposal in hand telling me NOT to shorten mine after all.

Now I am working on my presentation. That is sorta fun since I get to draw pictures, play with fonts, colors, etc. My creative side can shyly peak its nose out a little. But this all takes time and I've put blogging on the back burner. I'm not consciously taking a break or anything. Just prioritizing. For now. Bear with me, and expect me to be back in full force after my real life slows down.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


In the past couple of months since I started getting proactive about my colony, I've noticed some changes.

Before, I gave them two stadium cups full of dry cat food a day. This was double amount I was giving when I found the initial litter of kittens way back in July of 2005. Every evening about five of them would come running to me when they heard me coming. Sometimes I'd find new ones and get a knot in my stomach thinking about the situation getting out of hand.

Now, I give them four stadium cups full and two cans of wet food. This was Heather's suggestion. I was a little hesitant at first. Do I really want to keep doubling the amount of food I'm giving? That would soon get expensive. But, with the two spay/neuter events I think I've gotten just under half the population. I have an appointment to bring four more in on December 10th and there's a slight chance I can bring in two for free this upcoming weekend. Transportation will be an issue. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Four cups dry food, two cans wet food and I have a permanent water dish back there that I rinse and refill every evening. Now, they don't come running. They wait (relatively) quietly back there for me. One still mews at me, but it's more of a greeting than a demand. We do have a pond at the complex and lots of puddles on a regular basis. But I learned to give them water to help keep them for scavenging around the complex too much. Kitties with full bellies and enough water have no reason to crawl under people's cars or howl outside people's windows. And largely, I haven't seen them out and about as much as I used too. But they're still all accounted for, I take attendance at dinner. Hopefully within a couple of months I can be confident the population won't grow anymore and I don't have to keep upping the food. And maybe, just maybe they'll stay away from the baby ducks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

How Quickly We Forget

Thanksgiving I worked. Yesterday (Friday) I worked. I had my candidacy proposal due by midnight Friday/Saturday (after much negotiation with Dr. Hari). Admittedly I put it on the back burner a little bit. I had a lot of deadlines this past week and I knew I could talk Dr. Hari into just about anything. Still, I worked my booty off on Thanksgiving and that sucked. But I finished. Dr. Hari recommended a roughly 30 page candidacy proposal in which I write a brief summary of my masters' work, a moderately detailed summary of the work I've done since I was awarded my masters' degree and a detailed plan of what I wish to accomplish before I get my Ph.D. Last night at 10 pm I emailed him my 40(!) page document and then went to bed for 12 hours. Next Tuesday I have to present this work to my Ph.D. committe in an hour long closed-door presentation. At that point, I will no longer be a grad student. I will be a Ph.D. candidate. I'm excited and nervous. I'm nervous because I will be the one talking to six professors that know a lot more than I do. I'm excited because I love my reearch and always enjoy the opportunity to share it. I realize that makes me a big dork.

Friday I took a short break to get some materials from the lab and then go to Panera to bring home some lunch. I was expecting it to be pretty busy what with everyone being out and about. When I walked in I headed straight to the register (1/2 Fandago salad and a bowl of garden vegetable soup, I didn't need to look at the menu). There was one person working the register and one person placing an order. I stepped out of the way and patiently waited, pleasantly surprised at how slow it was. While I was waiting a woman got in line behind me with a little boy. I think the woman placing the order mucst have ordered something from the bakery as well. The cashier made eye contact with me, put up a finger signaling "Give me a minute" and I smiled and nodded. No problemo. The woman behind me, however, was quite upset by this development.

"Don't they know it's the day after Thanksgiving?!" she said loudly. I ignored her.

"Isn't there anyone else to work the register?!"

I turned and looked at her, noticing there were a couple more people in line. The little boy was getting antsy, tugging on her shirt and whining.

"She said she'd be right back." I said firmly in case the woman didn't understand what was going on.

"I don't care! There should someone else taking orders! Get the manager up here!"

At this time the initial cashier came back looking weary and gestured for me to approach the register. In the meantime, the woman behind me was still caryying on.

"I mean, geez! Aren't there more people here? It's the day after Thankgiving!"

The cashier turned to me and said under her breath, "And how quickly we forget to be thankful..."

I smiled knowlingly and apologized to her for having to deal with that crap. She thanked me and we proceeded to do business.

Besides displaying an utter lack of class, this woman in line reminded me of a vow I made about ten years ago. In high school and part of college I used to work at a garden center in suburban Minneapolis where I was verbally abused on a regular basis by retired people and housewives who felt they had nothing better to do than display their authority over high school students. I vowed that no matter if I was a stay at home mom, a doctor, a lawyer or the president of the United States I was going to treat people in the service industry with respect. I know what it's like to have a shitty job that doesn't pay well. I know what it's like to be on your feet between 8 and 12 hours in a day and get no appreciation. When it's busy and people are impatient and more than willing to take their frustrations out on the faceless person behind the register.

And it wasn't until the day AFTER thanksgiving this year until I remembered to stop and think about it. I was taking a break from a job I love. I was working from home with my own little cat family while my dear husband at work periodically sent me text messages reminding me how much I am loved. What did I do to desereve this?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


So even though my Boys got swept in the first round of the playoffs (which traumatized be to the point of not even being able to blog about it), I found comfort in the fact that players are not judged by their post season performance. Despite shitting a huge brick in the playoffs, the Twins had a phenomenal year culminating in one of the most dramatic final season days I have ever seen. These facts did not go unnoticed.

Exhibit A:

Baby Jesus Won the Batting Title.
Okay, people don't vote on this. But it was awesome he got it because he is the first AL catcher ever to get it and his performance was a big reason they did so well. Plus, I just can't resist posting a picture of him.

Exhibit B:

Johan Santana Won the AL Cy Young Award.
His second one in three years, he was voted the winner unanimously. He led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

And now....

Exhibit C:

Justin Morneau Wins AL Most Valuable Player.
Totally made my day. Anytime a Twin beats out a Yankee is an exceptional piece of good news. He really deserved it, it was basically the first year in a very long time we had a legitimate power hitter. Good job Baby Harmon!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Baby Girls

Dean and I had a wonderful weekend. For the first time since we got married, we went on a date. Saturday afternoon we drove to Orlando for the Magic game. We had rented a room at the Sheraton so that we could enjoy some beers at the game and not have to worry about driving the 70 miles home late at night.

We checked in to the hotel and took advantage of the Starbucks in the lobby. We then walked the half mile to TD Waterhouse Centre because it was such a lovely afternoon. Dean likes to get to arenas early to watch batting practice/shoot around, etc. but we didn't realize that the Waterhouse opened an hour later than we had anticipated. We crossed the street to the Marriott and shared a bucket of beers to kill some time.

Our conversation took a random turn, as usual, and we started discussing baby names. First of all: NO NOT YET. I have plenty more I want to do and learn before I become responsible for another human being. But.... kids names are something I think about quite a bit. I mean, it's as close to defining your child as you can get in the first few moments of his/her life. I want to pick some names and roll them around for a few years to make sure I can live with one, let alone my poor child.

Anyway, I do have a particular name picked out for a daughter that I've liked for several years. Unfortunately, Dean doesn't like it as much as me. It's not that he doesn't like the name in general, but he can't see naming our daughter that name. Plus, it's also the name of a song.

Dean: "I think it's a really pretty name. But I can just see little --- in college getting lured into bed by some frat boy singing that song."

Me: "So? How do you know frat boys will be singing that song in 20 years?"

Dean: "Frat boys will always be singing that song."

Dean had been pushing for a name he thought up for a girl several days ago. I was hoping he would have forgotten about it by now.

Dean: "Oh, c'mon! It's so original! And unique!"

Me: "I don't like it. It's ghetto."

Dean: "No way! It's a lot better than anything you've thought up."

Me: "Yeah right. We can name our next cat that name, but not our daughter."

Dean: "I have an idea. Put both names up on your blog and have people vote on it. Let the people decide."

Me (knowing what y'all would think): "Gladly."

It seemed decided. We turned to watch the Ohio State Michigan game while we finished up our beers. A few minutes later, Dean tapped me nervously on the shoulder.

"Don't put the name on your blog. I don't want anyone stealing it. I can just see you holding the vote and all your friends liking it so much all their little daughters will be named ---. Then I'll really be disappointed."

Sorry guys. I guess you'll have to think up your own names.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Putting Bessie out to Pasture

We bought a new laptop this week and it came in yesterday. I have been scarce in the blogosphere because I have a lot going on at work and trying to set up a new computer has become a full time job in itself.

Why did we get a new laptop? Here are some good reasons. My old laptop (affectionately named Bessie) is 4 1/2 years old. She's already had a longer life than many laptops. Bessie and her accessories weigh in excess of 15 pounds. She earned her name at the last APS conference when I made the boys lug her around half the time. When I went to give my talk, I found out the hard way that Bessie no longer cared to speak with a projector. She also turns off periodically when she's feeling cranky. A couple weeks ago, the little latch that holds in various modules one can plug in (floppy drive, CD write drive, extra battery, etc) broke off, so if one wants to use any of these features, one must physically maintain electrical contact by firmly pressing in the drive. With Bessie letting me know that she wishes to enter into retirement and with some of our wedding money, we decided this was a smart purchase. Recently I'd been having nightmares of being hysterical while someone from the Geek Squad tries to recover bits and pieces of my Ph.D. dissertation from Bessie's hard drive. This way, Bessie is still completely functional but can pass away quietly knowing her job is done.

The biggest reason of all for getting a new laptop? So far the majority of our marital spats have consisted of who gets to surf on the internet while we are both watching TV. Apparently it is not enough to have the TV on and only one of us surfing the net. Dean needs to check basketball stats for his fantasy league while flipping between several games. I need to blog at the drop of a hat when inspiration strikes. Now, we are listening to the Magic game on TV, each sitting at a computer (me at the new one of course), occasionally exchanging a wink over the monitor.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Little Refugee

Spay Day went well. Something came up and Kris couldn't recover them after all, so I've had them since Sunday afternoon.

It turned out for the best that my foiler released the first ones I trapped. I ended up trapping a very little one. I couldn't see how young it was because it was dark when I trapped her and she was frightened so I shined the flashlight on her just long enough to see that her ear wasn't already clipped.

Kris drove the kitties to Spay Day in the morning and Heather's boyfriend Donald picked them up for me in his truck. He was grinning ear to ear when he informed me that the President of Cat Call, a local cat adoption service, wanted to take the little one and foster her until someone adopted her. I was thrilled! She also wants me to call her if I find any more roughly the same age. She was too busy to take her at Spay Day so I had to recover her for awhile. When I finally got a good look at the kitten, I was shocked at how young she was, and that ACT still spayed her. The Cat Call lady was disappointed she didn't get to the kitten in time so ACT still clipped her ear. 1/4" is not much on an adult, but it's pretty much half of an eight week old's ear! She said that if I catch anymore, don't take them to Spay Day, she'll handle the fixing and vaccinating so I don't have to pay for it and the kittens won't look so rough around the edges. Man oh man, this kitten was cute though. She was a little freaked out so her eyes were so big you could see the whites. She was a black little fluff ball, I think one of my long hairs must the mom. She is going to be gorgeous when she grows up and she'll make a nice pet for someone.

I met up with the woman yesterday evening to do the "hand off". I asked the woman if they would have a hard time adopting her out since her ear was pretty much chopped off. Her response was, "I don't think so. We'll tell them she got in a cat fight and someone chewed it off. People respond to that sort of thing." I was reminded of how we got Allie, and I agreed.

The other kitties are doing well. The three left over were two females and one male. The male was the troublesome little guy that got trapped twice and he pretty much ate me out of house and home. I let him go this morning and he didn't run very far before stopping and looking back at me. I don't think he'll be too hard to win over again.

The two girls will go tomorrow morning. I want to see one of them eat a little more. It was chilly last night so I draped fleece blankets over the cages. I checked on them in the middle of the night and each of them had pull their blankets in through the bars of the cage and were curled up in them. I would like to give the girls one more night of free food and a warm bed before turning them loose again to the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Tomorrow is Spay Day and trapping did not go nearly as smoothly as last month. Let me recount as best as I can the events of this frustrating experience.

8:30 a.m. Kris brought the traps over. I borrowed her personal traps so that I wouldn't have to pay the small rental fee. The small rental fee I saved was somewhat negated by the fact that I gave Kris a $25 gift card to WalMart. Actually, the gift card was from my mom, who is never lacking amazment when I tell her about all the things Kris does for her kitties, for me and thus for my kitties. The woman is a saint. She had volunteered once again to drive my kitties to Spay Day, pick them up and recover them for one or two nights. She started crying when she got the gift card. Personally, I think she's been a little hardened by the fact that there are a very few number of people who actually possess understanding and appreciation for this type of thing. Most of the time if you tell someone that you do this, they sort of look at you like, "Aren't there people you could be helping?" They have an excellent point, but a vast majority of the world's other volunteers help people. And frankly, I prefer cats to people.

2:30 p.m. I set up the traps. I didn't want to start too early because they sleep all day anyway. Dean helped me set them up. He was much more involved this time. I think he was feeling more curageous.

3:30 I went to go check on the traps. Traps 1, 2, and 4 were full. Trap 1 had the stinker that sniped all the food last month without actually getting trapped. Ha ha. Trap 2 had a beautiful tabby I'd never seen before. I'll take what I can get. Trap 4 had a repeat customer from last month. I had to let her go. Fortunately she didn't eat much tuna so I kept the same can and went back inside.

4:00 Traps 1, 2, 3 , and 4 were full. Trap 3 had a big tuxedo cat in it. A tomcat, and he was pissed. Again trap 4 had a repeater eater. This one ate all the tuna from the can and was dozing lazily in the trap. I had to open the door and tip the trap upside down to get her out. She didn't go very far before stopping for a bath and then a subsequent roll in the grass. Little bitch. I only had one can of tuna left (I started with six) and I used it to reset the trap.

4:45 Trap 4 was full again. This time with one of two torties I've been wanting to trap. You see, I'm mostly concerned with getting the females and over 99% of torties are females so I felt satisfied.

5:30 Traps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were empty. Someone realeased them all. I felt like crying. Kris was going to want to come get them soon. I had already paid $125 to have 5 cats fixed. I had a mixture of fully fed cats, half fed cats, cats who were fixed but obviously willing to roam into traps, there were mostly eaten cans of tuna everywhere and not a cat in sight. I called Kris and she told me to take my time. She wasn't doing anything and she could come pick up the kitties whenever. I took the last two cans with enough tuna in them and reset two of the traps (4 and 5). I hopped in the car, went to Publix to restock my tuna supply and figured the best I could do was try.

6:00 I got home to reset the rest of the traps, and the two I had left were already full. One with this littl girl from last month. Shoot. I let her go and reset the four remaining traps. I decided to stand out there and wait til they were filled so I could catch anybody sneaking out there to release them.

6:30 It was getting dark so Dean came out to the dumpster to keep me company. We talked about sports, the future, having kids, where we wouldn't mind living, what types of things we should save up to buy. In the meantime, traps 1, 2 and 5 filled up. With new kitties. It was starting to turn around.

8:00 Four of the five traps had kitties in them. Trap 1 had the same one I had caught earlier, the greedy one who stole the food last month. Ha ha. Trap 3 was still empty. I called Kris to ask her what I should do. She said she'd head over and hopefully by that time the last trap would be full. It wasn't. I tried a bunch of things including moving all the trapped kitties onto the lawn across the parking lot to keep them from distracting the ones who might want to eat.

8:30 Kris came, loaded up my four and offered to come back in an hour. With my kitties safe and gone, I could go inside for awhile to leave the remaining trap alone. I was certain this plan would work.

9:15 I went back out there and the trap was still empty. But the door was closed. I think my foiler was back. Next time, I will definitely tape signs to the traps informing I am trapping to spay/neuter and safely release. Maybe then the good samaritans will leave me be. Kris also said that if you don't bring in as many kitties as you say you will, you will not be refunded, but you will get a credit for next time. No big loss, I guess. 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To Do...

  • Analyze susceptibility data pending from last helium run by tomorrow

  • Review 5 proposals for MEMS class by Thursday

  • Get battery changed in Green Machine (ASAP!)

  • Meet with Ph.D. co-advisors before writing candidacy proposal I'm probably not going to do this

  • Book plane ticket home for Christmas

  • Write rough draft of candidacy proposal by November 15th or so (per Dr. Hari) Deadline from Dr. Hari has been extended to November 24th

  • Write extra credit research paper (due November 20th) for MEMS so I can slack off on final which is the same day as my candidacy defense

  • Get dress altered for friend's wedding

  • Review paper for MMM conference proceedings

  • Finish The Poisonwood Bible for book club next Tuesday

  • Grocery store

  • PetSMART for supplies for Spay Day this weekend

Monday, November 06, 2006

Exit Strategy

There is an exit strategy for this congress. There is an exit stratgy for this senate. We can change things. We can make a difference. We do not have to settle for the way things are. We can do better. We deserve better. But we have to make it happen. We have to step up and make ourselves be heard.

Go Out and Vote!!!!!

(ps- don't vote for the scary tan guy running for governor)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Plan B

I was up late last night looking for a new template for my blog. Exciting Friday night, huh? I was sick and tired of the old one and everyone else seems to be changing theirs, so I figured it's time. I have long wanted something either science themed or cat themed. I felt like all the templates I found weren't "me" enough. Then I found a really neat one, but it cost $50. It was a black background and the header was the face of a black cat, it's eyes really being all that stuck out. It was plain, not too distracting, not too cuddly (all the other cat ones were too cuddly), it was perfect. I thought about buying it and then I thougt, "What am I doing? I have a black cat, I'm somewhat tech-savvy, I can easily make this!"

This morning I got up and started my project. Yes, I have a black cat. But I couldn't for the life of me get her to look in the camera while I took a picture. Here are some of my utter failures:

Watching me attempt to execute my creative project for the weekend was Nellie. And she seemed to be mocking me. So she became my subject. She has a knack for looking straight at the camera when I want her picture. Thus, she is my header. I changed the background to go with her coloring a bit more.

So? Whaddya think?

Friday, November 03, 2006

When I Win My Nobel...

This is a Buckminsterfullerene, or a Buckyball. It is composed of 60 Carbon atoms bound into the exact configuration as the vertices on a soccer ball. It was named Buckminsterfullerene after Richard Buckminster Fuller, a noted architect who popularized the geodesic dome. The discover (and namer) of the Buckminsterfullerene visited my University yesterday and gave two lectures. He shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery which was a catalyst for the discoveries of many new carbon structures including the carbon nanotube.

Dr. Sir Harold Kroto gave two very good talks. The first, a seminar in the Chemistry department was about his discovery of the Buckyball and his other scientific projects, which include spectroscopy of large organic molecules in space. The second talk, which was open to the public, was much more what I am used to hearing from a Nobelaureate. He touched on a myriad of subjects from scientific education and funding to his humanitarian efforts to unite classically embattled cultures as well as the challenegs of moving away from a fossil fuel dependent society.

These types of messages from Nobelaureates to the general public are quite common. They are the rock stars of science and use their unique position to promote their pet causes. I'm undecided regarding how I feel about this. On the one hand, I applaud them for becoming ambassadors of the scientific community to humanity. Winning such a distinction gives them a platform for bettering society. I like that idea. Unfortunately, pointing out things like the harm of continuing a dependence on fossil fuels and Trent Lott's blatant disregard for the value of science to our youth is the epitome of preaching to the choir and is ultimately a waste of time. Us scientists are well aware of the need to develop alternative energy resources. And you can bet on most of us being skeptical of anything the political heavy hitters have to say. Even the laypeople in the audience without any formal scientific training probably read Scientific American, which frequently devotes entire issues to such topics.

This got me thinking. When I win my Nobel Prize I think I will absolutely use my position to educate people on things their demographic is not likely to already feel passionate about. Like...ohh...I don't know... controlling the feral cat population. Could you imagine me standing in a business suit before a group of scientists and showing them slides of Spay Day? They'd think I was a total crackhead, but that's okay. I'm a scientist.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are you Even?

I went out to lunch today with two people in my lab. It was one woman's last day so it was her, me and a new grad student whom I'll call Newbie. We were walking back to the lab from the cafeteria and I noticed Newbie next to me lose his footing resulting in kind of a skuffling of his foot against the pavement. I said nothing but kept walking. Then, it happened again.

"Jeez, Newbie," I said, "can you walk today?"

He laughed a little sheepishly. "The first one was my left foot. It was an accident. Then I had to do it to my right foot to make it even."

I replied, "You know, I totally get that."

The other woman looked surprised. "Yeah! Me too!"

So then Newbie said, "So if you are walking along and you notice your heel hit the pavement crack, do you have to time it so that the heel of your other foot hits a pavement crack too?"

"Yes!" We said.

This made perfect sense, though I've never verbalized that I do this. And apparently I'm not the only one. So I wondered how normal this is. I mean, let's face it. Three physics grad students do not represent a true cross-section of humanity. So help me out guys. Are any of you like this? Do you know someone who is?

Newbie said he's also funny about colored tile. If he steps on a certain number of one color, he must step on an equal number of that same color with the other foot. Now that's just weird, if you ask me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pumpkin Feet

Today my beloved husband looked at me adoringly and said, "I love that you wear funny socks".

It could be worse.

Happy Halloween, Everybody!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


"Get your oxycontin-stained hands off of Marty McFly!"

~Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! regarding Rush Limbaugh's criticism of Michael J. Fox's stem cell commercial


Okay, that has nothing to do with anything. Except it was funny.

I don't have anything in particular to write about, I just figured I'd better write something.


Dad, I've been ignoring your comment on my cat post. Let me just defend myself in one word: Grandma. I mean what did you expect from your daughter? I share genes with the woman who neutered a neighborhood cat that knocked up all the female neighborhood cats. Remember that? AND, she still has cats from an entire litter of probably feral cats she found God knows where several years ago. Did you really think I had a chance? Oh, yeah, and my mom has saved 4 cats from the harsh environment of Northern Minnesota, which exacerbates the situation for me. Considering my dear husband asked me yesterday, "Are we trapping more kitties this weekend?!" I'm going make a bold prediction that your grandchildren haven't got a chance either.


Wednesday was an important day in my academic career. My Ph.D. committee met and concluded that my qualifying exam should be waived. It is a policy at my University that after aPh.D. student has successfully defended a Masters' thesis they are eligible for waiving the qualifying exam. In the past couple years the conditions have gotten more difficult so I wasn't sure if I could slide through. I have six publications (good) but only a mediocre GPA. My first year grades struggled due to moving 1500 miles away and being groped by a fellow grad student (against whom I had to press charges). I 've been deligently raising my GPA since then, but I was still nervous. In the end, it was good enough and my favorite professor (besides my advisor, of course) called me smart. Yay.


Dean and I bought an exercise bike today. We decided it was cheaper than getting him a gym membership and that way he can watch Mike & Mike In the Morning while he works out. And the days I just don't feel like hauling my butt to the gym, I can watch CNN and workout in my jammies. It's the first somewhat big purchase we've made with our wedding money. Well, that's if you don't count the brake job I had to get on the Green Machine last month. But that wasn't a fun purchase.


The weather is cooling down here finally and I love it. I never was excited about cool weather when I lived in Minnesota, but here fall is my favorite. Sure, you guys say how miserable Florida summers are, and for the most part you're right. But this is our time. It's our turn to sleep with the windows open and feel the cool breeze on our faces and wake up just a little too chilly with all the kitties snuggling with us. It's our turn to get the itch to be outside every minute to the point of playing hooky. And it's our turn all the way until March. And by that time, it'll be spring training and I'll be too f*cking excited to care that it's getting hot.


Speaking of baseball, yay Cardinals! I am living vicariously through Lefty and her Post-World Series bliss. I'm so jealous. Ah well, maybe next year. Pitchers and catcher report in 117 days.


That's all I got. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SWF Seeks Honda Owner

Dean and I have two Honda Del Sols. They were both mine when we got married and they were both given to me by my stepdad's mom who owned them before me. The Green Machine, as she is affectionately called, is a '93 and I got her when I was a senior in high school. My Stepgrandma upgraded to a '97 Del Sol and didn't want to sell off the Green Machine, so I got her. The second year I lived in Florida, Stepgrandma decided to get a Honda Hybrid, and my friend Di and I drove the Red Machine down to Florida in a Thelma- and- Louise- type fashion (another post entirely).
They've been good cars to us, and I'm sure they like it much better in Florida than in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. It's always a little embarrassing telling people we have two of the same car and it can be a pain when we have visitors since we can only each have one passenger.

Anyway, the other day I was leaving for work when I noticed a police car parked across the parking lot. I drive the Green Machine to work since she doesn't have AC anymore and I only work a few miles from home. I opened the passenger door and set my laptop and my lunch bag on the seat. I shut the door to walk around to the driver's side when I noticed a rather large, intimidating cop walking to the police car. And he was staring at me.

"Good morning," I said nervously.

"Good morning," He replied thoughtfully. "Can I ask you a question?" For some reason I felt this must have something to do with the cat situation.

"Okay...." I said walking towards him.

"Does your husband drive a car just like that, only red?"

"Yeah..." I was apprehensive, but secretly glad I didn't have to correct him with "boyfriend."

"Oh. Because I always see those two cars parked here and I always wondered if it was a married couple that drove those two cars."

I laughed, relieved and a little surprised that he had taken note. "Yep, that's us!"

He continued, "I always imagined two people brought together by their love of Hondas." Now I was really surprised. He was a huge cop that had thought up a whole romantic story about our two little cars! I was so sad to burst his bubble.

"Actually, they were both mine before we got married. They both belonged to my grandma!" Usually the grandma part gets people surprised and a little amused.

He was clearly disappointed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Promise, One of These Days I'll Quit Blogging About Cats...

but not today.

I have a few more updates, for those of you who are sitll vaguely interested in my exploits as a feral cat colony caregiver. Sure, you all say you are vacationing, working too much, and watching your team go to the World Series. It's okay, if I were you I'd be sick of this too. But it's my blog.

Tuesday night I had the five fixed kitties recovering on the balcony. I was apprehensive about leaving them alone with Dean- who was scared of them- but I had book group and I missed last month to go get married. I'm glad I went. One of the ladies brought a bottle of champagne to "toast the bride" and we shared it. I was so touched. We decided that each month we should find a reason to celebrate.

Well it turns out those kitties are little bottomless pits. I had given them each a half a can of food when I got them. When I got home the balcony was littered was dry cat food. It looked like a bag exploded out there. I asked Dean what happened and he said the kitties ate all their food and were crying. He didn't know what to do so he took handfuls of dry food and threw them at the kitties. I asked him if throwing food at the kitties was really necessary. He said he was afraid they would lash out at him if he got any closer. I think he's going to need a crash course on recovering the cats.

Those kitties ate and ate and ate. Finally I left them each with a whole can of food when I went to bed that night. I was going to let them out at 6:30 Wednesday morning before I went to the gym. But when they woke me up with their restless crying at 4:00, I got to thinking: If I released them then, I would definitely see less people out and about to try to explain exactly what I was doing. Turns out there was one drunk college kid stumbling around and I doubt he remembers what he may have seen.

I didn't think there was anything more satisfying than letting them go. It was almost cathartic kneeling next to the cages, lifting the doors and watching them trot away, back to their lives. Only their lives won't include bringing countless of homeless kittens into the world. They ran off with full bellies and not liking me very much, so Heather said not to be surprised if I don't see them for a few days.

Speaking of homeless kittens, I got a frantic call from Heather at around 5:00 yesterday afternoon, shortly after I had gotten home from work. She said she had run into the maintenance man from my complex who found a small kitten under and abandoned couch by the dumpster. She took the kitten and called me. She said she is currently fostering several kittens right now and simply didn't have room for any more. Was I willing to take the kitten just until she could find a rescue group to take it? Against my better judgement, I agreed.

She and her boyfriend brought the kitten over along with some canned kitten food and some formula. I was shocked and terrified to see the kitten was probably about three weeks old. It's ears were still stuck to its head and it could barely stand without wobbling. What the hell was I doing? I was in way over my head. Heather said the more she thought about it, the more the kitten should go to an emergency room, but the boyfriend said it seemed healthy and that if it would eat, I should keep it until someone else could be found.

Needless to say, Dean was not thrilled to come home and find a three week old kitten locked in the bedroom, mewing and squeaking and our gigantic grown cats milling around the closed door, scratching and crying. I knew immediately I had crossed a line. I felt like I had taken advantage of Dean's graciousness about my new "hobby". Please don't misunderstand, Dean loves kitties and thinks what I am doing is noble. But he doesn't want to end up with 17 cats in a two bedroom apartment. He doesn't want to live with closed doors with recovering feral cats or litters of untrained kitten on the other side. He doesn't want our home to smell like a barn. He doesn't want our savings to go to dumping thousands of dollars into sick strays. And least of all he doesn't want to see our cats distressed or put into danger to catch diseases. I know he's right and I'm grateful one of us has some sense.

I kept the kitten for a few hours. I managed to get it to take formula from a syringe. Once in awhile Dean would storm in the bedroom, look at the kitten with dismay and say, "It's so f*cking cute. What are we going to do?" I knew he couldn't stay mad forever, but we were also both getting attached already. It was f*cking cute. Around 9:00 Heather called saying she found an experienced rescue group willing to take the kitten. I was a little disappointed. Dean was even more disappointed. "Why are they taking our kitten away?!" he wailed. We knew it was best. And part of me felt soooo not ready to have a kitten again. We are way too busy to feed this thing every few hours and I hated to think of leaving it when it came time to go home for Christmas, it would still only be a few months old.

I came away with this experience faced with a couple issues that needed to be addressed:

1. I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I knew that I might have do things like snuggle kittens I couldn't keep and that I would ultimately have to make responsible decisions if I wanted to keep my sanity. I unfortunately didn't think hard enough about how it would affect Dean. He might not be emotionally ready to do things like snuggle kittens he can't keep. We need to find his comfort zone and I need to respect it.

2. When I started this project, I was willing to do whatever I could to help the kitties. I need to recognize that there may be a difference between what I am physically able to and what I am capable of doing without losing my job, my husband and all my senses. I was so exhausted from the Big Fix that I worked from home Wednesday so I could take a nap without Dr. Hari knowing about it. I was MIA for a couple hours that day. If I would have kept the kitten I would have had to work from home today as well. I can't do things like that on a regular basis if I want to finish my Ph.D.

3. Dean and I needed to set up some definite rules. He wasn't happy I took in the kitten without consulting him. But what if I would have found it myself? Do I need permission to rescue a helpless animal? Good question. We came up with a compromise. If I find a kitten in need, I am to use my best judgement. I can take it in for a maximum of five hours after Dean gets home while I find someone else to take it. You might think this is unreasonable. What if I don't think I can find someone? Then I am to tell Dean not to come home, even it means going to a bar or a hotel. Clearly, these rules are set in place to allow my mean old husband to avoid getting too attached.

It turns out there is something more satisfying than releasing the cats. When I went out there to feed them tonight, I flashed my lantern on a black cat hovering behind a tree, waiting for the food. It had a clipped ear- one of the one I trapped, spayed and released. And it came back.

Okay. Sorry this is so long. There is just a lot going on on the kitty front. Like I said before, I am heavily steeped in this right now and I need to find an equilibrium. Be patient, dear readers. Not a lot of people understand this or why I care so much. You guys seem to get it, and for that I'm truly grateful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fix Those Kitties!

Except for one miscue and some miscommunication among humans, the Big Fix went very well.

Heather's friend Kris suggested we start trapping at noon on Sunday. I got a little freaked out about that because Heather said usually trapping is done at dusk when the kitties would be out and hungry- and when residents and management wouldn't be out on the property. But as a novice I was at Kris's mercy and told her to come whenever she wanted. Kris turned out to be the most hyperactive woman I have ever met in my life. No contest. I opened the door to find her wild-eyed and covered with scratches. She is also terribly sweet and dedicated. She did, however, seem a little too excited about finding big tom cats and chopping off their bits.

The traps have two doors, one on each end. One of the doors is attached to a lever mechanism that can raise up a small platform on the bottom of the cage. You place the food slightly under the platform, the cat steps on the platform to get at the food, triggering the door to shut. The other door is to be opened upon feeding and releasing. We set up the five traps behind the dumpster, each trap had a paper plate with about a tablespoon of tuna on it. We stood aside and waited a few minutes. Sure enough, one of the scrawny tuxedo cats came milling around it, sniffing at it. That little asshole managed to slip his skinny paw through the cages and proceeded to scoop out all the tuna in the traps. Then, full and proud of himself, he went and laid in the sun.

"Wow! Yours are much smarter than mine!" I shrugged apologetically, but inside I was a little proud of his ingenuity as well.

The second attempt didn't lure any kitties for awhile. Kris got bored warning it could be hours and decided to go run some errands. I left for maybe a half hour and came back to find two of the traps full. The cats were startled so I got the sheets given to me just for covering them up. I covered them and walked past a still open trap with a kitten in it, eating the tuna. I had eyed this kitten for a few days wondering if it was young enough to be socialized. And it was in my trap. But it was too little to actually trigger the mechanism. It wasn't until the kitten, drunk on tuna, actually laid down in the trap, putting her full weight on the trigger that the door sprung shut. I felt bad for trapping her, but I figured either way she needed to be caught. If she was too young to be fixed we could keep her. If she was old enough, she should be fixed.

It took a couple hours, but finally all the traps were full. And the kitten was the only one I had ever seen before. I wondered if it was the lunch crowd, since my guys don't come out until a little later. Either way, they definitely weren't the five I was expecting.

Kris loaded them in the van and took them all home with her. I was expecting to keep them and then go with her to the clinic the next day, but she said that would be too time consuming.

The kitties got through surgery just fine. Much to Kris's dismay, I ended up catching four girls and only one boy. Again, I was expecting Kris to pick them up from the clinic and drop them with me. She never showed up and I couldn't get a hold of her. I found myself worried about my cats and anxious to see them, make sure with my own eyes they were okay. I called Heather who sensed my apprehension and then we both tried calling Kris several more times.

It wasn't until this afternoon that I heard from her. I told her I was fully expecting to recover the kitties last night as well as tonight. She says that keeping them the night before and the night after the surgery is "part of her deal" and she does it for everyone. She intends to keep them two nights next month as well. Dean was ecstatic. I wasn't as thrilled but if it gets Dean feeling more comfortable with this process so be it.

The kitties are now resting peacefully (and occasionally whining) on the balcony. My kitties are surprisingly well-behaved. They are keeping and eye on the visitors, but there has been no hissing, no puffing up, no spraying, none of the horrific noises I was imagining. They are curious and Nellie gets wildly jealous when I go out there with canned food, apparently a delicacy around here.

In the end, Kris said she thinks the kitten is deceptively small-probably much older than she appears. Dean thinks we simply can't have another cat and I know he's right. And I don't have the time, the energy or the skills to socialize a feral kitten. In the end, she'll have to go back with her cat family and I'll be satisfied knowing I did a good thing for her. But she's soooo cute!