Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Long Road Ahead

Dean has a favorite dumpster kitty, although technically he isn’t a dumpster kitty per se. I never actually saw him back there, we always just saw him prowling around the complex, sleeping up against the buildings or on the bank of the pond in the sunshine. Dean calls him his “other black kitty” and he has been here as long as we have, putting him at least at the ripe old stray-cat age of five years old.

Yesterday morning while I was on the exercise bike, Dean came running in after leaving for work a couple of minutes before.

“My black kitty is hurt! Please come! Please help!”

My heart sank as I went downstairs to find a woman with a dog on a leash. The dog was up in the black kitty’s face barking at it. At that moment, I wanted to absolutely strangle her for doing that. I didn’t think her dog had been the one to hurt the kitty, but seriously, who does that?! What kind of heartless bitch lets her dog antagonize a hurt animal? I had never felt so enraged towards a stranger before. She’d better hope I don’t run into her around the complex. Anyway, the black kitty was badly hurt. He didn’t want anyone close to him, and when I went to inspect him he hissed and spit at me and tried to run away dragging his totally lifeless back leg. Dean was hysterical and wanted to call in sick to work. I told him to just go. I could be late to work if needed and I promised to get his kitty some help, knowing full well that sometimes the best, most loving thing you can do for a kitty is to end it’s painful life.

I contacted Heather knowing she would have traps or anything else needed to actually capture this kitty because even though he was lame, he still moved quickly and I didn’t want him moving too much. She was at work but she often left her back porch unlocked for just this reason. Rather than let me try to handle a scared, injured cat she sent her boyfriend over to help me. He brought a regular trap and a drop trap but it was apparent neither trap would work since the cat had no interest in eating. I had given him a can of food while I was waiting in case he was really hungry. Nothing. So Don ran back to Heather’s for a net. It went a lot better than I was expecting. He laid the net over the cat and even though the cat was quite agitated, Don picked him up by the scruff and laid him in a cat carrier which I held upright. Don then took him to the vet for me saying there was no point for me to go. They knew him there, knew the cat would be a feral and special care needed to be taken, plus they might be willing to drop the price knowing Don and knowing that people can’t put a lot of money into caring for a stray. At this point, admittedly, I did start thinking about money. Were Dean and I going to have to make a decision about this cat’s life based on how much money we could spend on it? I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I couldn’t wipe out my bank account, but how could I live with myself if I had to end his life because of money?

I went to work where I distractedly got some paperwork done waiting for word from Don. It wasn’t good. The kitty had some broken bones. He also tested positive for FIV. FIV is not itself a death sentence, but it puts a wrench into a lot of options for a hurt cat. And it again brought into question the reality of me putting money into helping this cat. And what if I did help him? I wouldn’t feel right about releasing him back into the complex around my 20 other disease-free dumpster kitties. I was distraught. I started bawling. Donald said he was going to have the vet take another x-ray and see if his internal organs were damaged. That might make the decision easier. In the meantime Dean was calling me, Heather was calling me. It was a mess. Finally I got in the car and drove to the vet to discuss the cat’s limited options in person.

By the time I got there, Don had left and I was on my own. The vet showed me the x-rays where it was actually the cat’s pelvis that was broken, not his leg. Most certainly the result of being hit by a car. She said she couldn’t perform surgery though she did know a specialist that could put a plate in his hip. When I heard the words “specialist” and “plate” I knew money would likely be the limiting factor in this option. She said the bones could heal to a good extent on their own but it would be inhumane to put him back outside to hunt and fend for himself as he would always be slow. He could still live a good, long, pain-free life as an indoor cat. Again, being FIV positive would be a problem. He certainly couldn’t live with us, or with anyone who has healthy kitties. But, the fact that in her opinion he could heal on his own and be okay made me think that I shouldn’t decide immediately to end his life. She said regardless of where he ends up, he would have to be secluded for several weeks out of contact with other cats, disease-free or not. This was to give his hips time to heal without getting agitated. She asked if she should neuter him while he was still sedated and I gave her the go ahead. I conveyed the information to Heather, who promised to find a solution.

As a crazy cat lady, I live a lot of my life angry at people. I realize this isn’t healthy. But until people realize the impact their existence has on the natural world, I will side with nature. I kept thinking of the bastard that hit Dean’s black kitty, most likely driving through the parking lot way too fast (not to mention we have children here, too!!). My mind kept going back to the lady with the dog that morning and my blood pressure rose. But every time I get disgusted with humanity because someone has done something deplorable, someone else steps up and shows exactly what the human spirit is capable of. Awhile after Heather had advised me to exhaust all our options with this cat as long as his quality of life stayed tolerable, she called again finally with some good news.

There is a woman who runs a feral cat sanctuary exactly for situations like these. She lives for the cats that otherwise would be sentenced to death. She has several large, enclosed outdoor areas devoted to handicapped feral cats who shouldn’t fend for themselves but wouldn’t do well indoors either. She has a large enclosure devoted to FIV cats and said that she’d put Dean’s cat on her waiting list. She is currently upgrading her facility, building a bigger enclosure that might be ready by the time our cat can be on his own a little. If Dean’s cat heals up okay, he will go there and be able to still enjoy outdoor life while being cared for. The perfect option for this poor injured kitty.

In my opinion things are still touch and go but I heard from Don this morning while he was at the hospital visiting. Right now the cat is comfortable, resting on a heating pad and looking even better than expected. We’re keeping him in the hospital at least over the weekend to make sure he is hydrated and his bodily functions work alright. Meanwhile, Heather is going to bring a large cage over here to put on our balcony so the kitty can stay with us during his healing. Plus, per Dean’s request, we will visit him frequently in his knew home once he is ready to leave.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

By Request, Visual Evidence

Shortly after I posted about our spring training adventures, my mom and step dad sent me some pictures of the highlights.

In Lakeland, before we saw the alligator we saw this sign, which cracked up my parents to I took a picture of them next to it.

It wasn't quite so funny when we saw this:

(As an aside- he's even bigger in the picture than I remember him being. I was actually expecting to be disappointed after all the reflection I did about my close encounter with a gator. Of course, I had already run away screaming by this point, so this is the first time actually seeing his face.)

Most of the rest of the pictures are from Bradenton. First, Mom and me eating free chips and dip on the curb at the Bradenton St. Patrick's day street Party:


Proof of how close we were to the AL MVP (that's him just releasing the ball during practice):

Torii Hunter, who happens to be hitting a home run in this picture (this is also the same day he signed my hat but I didn't really like the picture my mom took of Torii right as he was about to sign it- I look like an idiot):

And by special request:

(Anon- if you want me to post any from the Sox game, just send them to me in an email...)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Why I Don't Go to the Gym Anymore

Since we bought the exercise bike in lieu of a gym membership for Deano, I have completely stopped going to the gym myself. Having your own bike is a luxury I never thought it could be. And as an added bonus, Dean's work ended up reimbursing us for it as part of their healthy lifestyle initiative. So here are the top five reasons why I hate the gym and am so happy we bought the bike.

5. The gym bunnies. Oh my good God I hate the skinny girls that come to the gym in full hair and makeup wearing a sports bra and short shorts.

4. I can watch CNN rather than whatever music video station the gym is showing with a non-matching radio soundtrack.

3. I can wear pajama bottoms and an old, stained, holey, hideous t-shirt for my workout if I want to.

2. I don't have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn just to be sure to get a machine. Otherwise I'd have to wait until one of the dreaded gym bunnies mentioned above was done barely breaking a sweat. And then if my schedule was messed up from experiments I would just give up and not go at all. I am much more flexible about time this way.

And most of all...

1. Allison does this whenever one of us is on the bike:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Training Report (or: The Longest Post in the History of the World)

My mom and step dad were here last week for a whirlwind Spring Training tour. They flew in Wednesday morning, and right off the bat we had a game Wednesday night. They left Monday morning, but that didn’t stop me from continuing on my manic baseball spree. I have been to seven games in seven days, a feat I don’t think I have ever accomplished. Here’s a (not so) brief rundown of this magical week.


Game: Twins vs. Yankees
Location: Legends Field, Tampa

  • Seeing Biff Henderson filming a segment for the Late Show.
  • My mom and Dean making fun of the grown man sitting in front of us obviously there with his parents sending text messages the entire game rather than watching it. He also had on a pink polo shirt with a popped collar. He was asking for it.
  • Seeing the New Yorkers with their gelled hair, chains, stogies and accents. It never gets old.
  • Seeing Joe Mauer face off with Derek Jeter after Mauer beat Jeter for the batting title.


Game: Orioles vs. Twins
Location: Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers

  • The guy who screamed “You got Neshek-ed!” after Pat Neshek’s two stikeouts (he threw 8 pitches the entire inning).
  • Being amongst “my people” (i.e. Twins fans).
  • My step dad obsessing over not getting the last batting practice hat at the gift store and then questioning if he even wanted one in the first place. (Sorry to tease!)
  • And, as always, the playing of the old school “We’re gonna win, Twins!” song over the loud speaker.


Game: Phillies vs. Tigers
Location: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland

  • A 12” Little Caesar’s pizza for $8.
  • Seats only a few rows up from the first base line.
  • The “Detroit Superfan” sitting a couple rows ahead of us wearing a Tigers hat, world series jersey, ticket lanyard, beads, wrist bands, watch, a towel tucked into his shorts for waving when runs scored, and the piece de resistance: prescription glasses just like Nate Robertson’s. The guy was out of control and he was there with his wife, baby and in-laws who were obviously a little embarrassed. And he looked like Dwight Schrute from the Office.
  • Oooh, and after the game we went to the “lake” behind the stadium and saw about an 8 foot long alligator sunbathing on the bank. I’d never seen one without a fence separating us, he was absolutely breathtaking. And a little scary. I ran like a maniac when he roused a little from his sleep and lifted his head.


Game: Twins vs. Pirates
Location: McKechnie Field, Bradenton

  • The St. Patrick’s Day street party before the game in Bradenton. There was free food, pop, iced coffee, free picture postcards of fans, beads, and a dressed up Pirate singing karaoke of Unchained Melody.
  • The St. Patrick’s Day Pirates pin giveaway (I collect Spring Training pins, so this was very cool).
  • I got Torii Hunter to sign my favorite Twins hat. It made me happy even if he probably won’t be with us next year. All Dean had was a blue Sharpie, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to look on my pink hat. It actually turned out purplish, which looks VERY cool.
  • We moved from our expensive seats to the bleachers to get some sun because it was chilly out, and the bleachers were next to the visitor’s clubhouse so we could switch between watching the game and watching the starters hangout in the clubhouse after they were done for the day. Boof played around with some of the young fans and flirted with some of the older ladies. He seems like a good guy, I hope spending more time in the big leagues doesn’t screw with him.


Game: Dodgers vs. Indians
Location: Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven

  • Being comparatively tall and slender compared to most Cleveland fans (sorry, Clevelanders…).
  • Watching my lover Grady Sizemore take batting practice up close at the practice fields.
  • Driving one car ahead of Bob Feller out of the stadium parking lot (he waved us ahead from his gigantic Buick).


Game: Reds vs. Tigers
Location: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland

  • Dean’s birthday (28!!) and his choice for a birthday activity. He has the week off of work and is traveling the state right now with his dad.
  • Dean being mortified at my conversation with a woman who worked in the gift shop. She noticed my handbag (with cats on it) and we got to talking about taking in strays which led to my explaining the TNR process. Apparently not appropriate conversation at the ball park.
  • Arroyo versus Rogers was a fun match up even though Arroyo didn’t look great. Rogers was in classic form already.
  • Pudge and Maggs both played, two of my favorite non-Twins players.
  • The guys that rake the field mid-game at that stadium do a funny YMCA dance. They rake for awhile and when the chorus starts they do the classic moves. Then during the bridge they break it down which is hilarious because they are all pretty big guys.


Game: Twins vs. Red Sox
Location: City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers

Highlights: I hadn’t planned on going to this game at all. I went back to work yesterday and late in the morning I got a call from Anonymous Blog Buddy reminding me she and her girlfriend were going to the Sox Twins game in Ft. Myers and assuming Dean and I were going as well. When I told her that no, we weren’t going and by the way I hated her for getting to go, she said she had an extra ticket. They were leaving at 3 with their roommate to tailgate. The ticket was mine if I wanted it. I consulted Dean, who couldn’t have gone anyway, and he agreed I should absolutely go since I had never seen the Red Sox facility at it SHOULD HAVE been a good game. Even though they were at a visiting park, they were in their home city so all the starters would be in. I snuck out of work early, gambling on the fact that I had already met with Dr. Hari and he wouldn’t come looking for me again. We drove to Ft. Myers, grilled burgers and hot dogs outside the stadium and included a stray Red Sox fan who came by himself and asked where the nearest sports bar was. He was grateful for a beer and a burger and asked questions like “So where were you all in ’04?” I had to laugh to myself as I was reminded what Red Sox fans were like. I had a fantastic time catching up with Anon whom I hadn’t spoken to in weeks, talking baseball with Girlfriend and meeting Roommate. Anon and Girlfriend went onto the concourse for more beer and Girlfriend recognized Torii Hunter signing autographs. She ripped the tag from her new shirt she had with her, and had Torii sign it (the tag, not the shirt) and then gave it to me. She was obviously high from meeting a ballplayer, and recognizing him as one of my favorites. It was too cute.


What I realize is apparent with the highlights is that very little has to do with the game. I don’t even remember who won many of the games; it is the whole experience which makes Spring Training unlike anything else. The starters get taken out after 4 or 5 innings and your attention begins to wonder. You see the little towns who thrive on this time of year for their economy and how they turn into Little Cleveland or Little Pittsburgh because people vacation or even retire there just for Spring Training. The real baseball know-it-alls pay close attention to the prospects (which I do occasionally), the fanatics scope out autographs (Deano) and the vacationers soak up the precious Florida sun before going back to the snow.

My mom and step dad took pictures of most of these things. They did it the old fashion way, you know, with film? So maybe if I’m not too lazy and I get some pictures from them I’ll scan a couple in and post them. But I’m not making any promises. You’ll just have to take my word that all this stuff really happened.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Love This

I stole this from Lefty. The best blog widget I've seen yet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Making Hope

My mom is coming today! Yippee!

A couple days ago I had gotten to thinking about her and my step dad on their last visit here. It was a full year ago (during last spring training). They usually come in the fall as well, but last fall I was busy getting married. One of the things my step dad likes to do when he comes into town is help me with the dumpster kitties. Since feral cats are not the occurrence in Minnesota that they are down here, he is always amazed at how pretty and sweet they can be, their social interactions, and how fast they can multiply. He likes to help me feed them and dawdle back their for a while to see them crawl out of the woods. Mom never used to do this. My mom comes by her sensitivity quite honestly and told me she just couldn't handle seeing all those kitties without homes and no one to care for them. In her words, she couldn't see them knowing they had no hope. I understood.

When I was talking to my mom the other day, in an offhanded manner I mentioned that I couldn't wait for step dad to see the dumpster kitties- and all the clipped ears! I couldn't wait to point out the ones that were ill-behaved in my care, the one (!) that lets me pet her now, each one's quirks and habits. I know he'll really get a kick out of it. My mom, almost offended sounding, said "Well what about me? Can't I come too?" That was the first time it dawned on me that perhaps I had turned a "hopeless" situation into a tolerable one.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Are we the Sharks or the Jets?

I'm back safe and sound in my humidity laden paradise. Denver grew on me and I could see us living there if the right opportunity presented itself. Some overall impressions of Denver:

Everyone has dogs.

The men are sensitive. Every conversation between two men I overheard had to do with weddings or babies.

Denverites (?) like their food. I've never seen so many restaurants in my life. There is a free bus that runs up and down the mall downtown and at every stop, the street name and the restaurants are read off. I totally dug it.

One place we went to, upon Mo's insistence, was Wynkoop Brewery. Apparently a local favorite that came highly recommended from Rachel Ray. Since none of the grad students I was traveling with had any preference and just wanted to drink after presenting, it was a perfect choice. After a round of drinks, we made our way to the pool tables. One, set off in the corner away from the other tables, grabbed our attention. It was a "right-angle pool table" and I had a hell of a time finding a picture to show you guys:

Anyway, not every physicist plays pool, but every physicist knows how to play pool. I don't generally play due to my horrific hand-eye coordination but I know how to set up shots and calculate the important angles. However I was more than happy to watch my fellow grad students while planning to plow my way through and obscene amount of alcohol. A little while later, I was approached by two guys I had graduated with from the University of Minnesota. One is currently at Stanford, the other just got his Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. I usually bump into one or both of them at these conferences since our research is all in the same subfield. Needless to say though, hanging out with them gives me a bit of an inferiority complex since I always need to remind them what the name of my research institution is. Anyway, I was feeling torn so I'd hang out with them for a drink and then go back to my Florida people. Over my fourth (or fifth?) drink I confessed my feelings of inferiority to my Florida friends who became slightly beligerent and defiant about the whole thing. When my Cali friends wandered over to see how long the Florida people were going to hog the right-angle pool table (they weren't interested in a linear pool table apparently), one of the grad students said, "We'll play you for it!"

Like I said, every physicist knows how to play pool, so this challenge became somewhat of a pissing contest for both parties. First, the official rules of right-angle pool had to be established, incorporating the fact that the 2 ball was missing. The game was played out with the fervor and intensity that can only be present when reputations are on the line. Which party can better calculate the starting, grazing and final angles of an elastic collision in an inebriated state? I can't say for sure that the Floridians could accomplish it better, but we clearly wanted it more. Mo won with a perfect final sinking of the 8 ball as we erupted in cheers and she was picked up off the ground. Then, we gave the Californians the table for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I am in Denver for this year's American Physical Society meeting. Besides having serious jet lag and dry skin I seem to be a walking ball of nerves. I realize that this meeting means much more than what is on the surface. Dr. Hari wants to show me off to professors and industrial bigwigs in the hopes I can be all but hired next year at this time. I hate networking and never seem to be assertive advertising myself. Dr. Hari gave a talk showcasing much of my work today and it seemed to go over well. Our collaborator whom I have never met before called my data "beautiful" which I think was more flattering than being complimented on my physical appearance (don't get me wrong, I'll take that, too!). Conversations like that make me feel very sad at the prospect of leaving academia.

While on the topic of nerves, I met with our other collaborator today. I'm referring to the one I had a major crush on last year. That was before I was a reserved, married woman. Now, well I still have a major crush on him. I replied to his, "Nice to see you again" with a shrill giggle, a clammy handshake and a beet red face. Very professional.

Before both these experiences could make me too sad about leaving this life, Mo and I went to a panel discussion about female physicists balancing career with family. It was horrific. I know most of you know I struggle with such issues and I am much too tired to get into it right now.

I'm going to stop now. Sorry for the general lack of coherence, I don't have time to sort out some of my emotions. I just thought it was important to touch base and at least let you know of my geographical whereabouts. Now, I must get some rest, I have my talk to give tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

So in Love

Early last week, the sensitive, cat-friendly maintenance man (who I call Maintenance Buddy in real life cuz I don't remember his name) stopped me on the way to work to tell me that the tenants in another apartment had gotten evicted and moved out leaving their kitty behind. He said she was very friendly but he worried she would be "corrupted" by my kitties and turn feral in a matter of time. I agreed. He said there were all sorts of legal things that had to happen before anybody new could move into the kitty's old apartment, so he suggested I feed the kitty at the old apartment where she was still hanging around to keep her isolated. In order to keep an eye out for her, he told me she was all white. Hard to miss.

After discussing with Heather, the cat expert, she instructed me to keep giving the white kitty plenty of food and water to keep her from wandering too far and socializing with my ferals. In the meantime, she would check into foster homes affiliated with local feline rescue shelters.

I spent a couple days feeding the elusive white kitty without actually seeing her. I would notice the dry food eaten, the empty wet food cans pushed into the corner. Finally, on the third morning I loudly shook the box of dry food and turned to see the white kitty looking at me with curiosity. It was love at first sight.

After assessing me, she walked up to me tentatively and began the universal cat ritual of weaving through my legs. I petted her without hesitation and she responded by loudly purring. She was probably starved for attention. I stayed with her for awhile and did the same the next couple of days until Heather said a foster home was waiting for her and we could try to catch her anytime. In fact, not only was a foster home waiting for her to take her, but a woman was already waiting to adopt the white kitty and giver her a permanent home.

We caught her last Friday. I went out there with a carrier, fairly certain we wouldn't need a trap or anything. I picked her up and snuggled her awhile before gently shoving her in the carrier and handing her over to Heather. She mewed and I cried. I cried because this was way more difficult than handing over the two kittens I have rescued from a life of scavenging and parasites. This was someone's cat, a cat who one day relied on people to feed her, love her and care for her, and the next day the door was shut and those same people were long gone.

The following day Heather took her to the vet, had her tested for diseases and parasites. She's healthy except for a mean sunburn (apparently a common affliction for white cats) and will always need to be routinely checked for melanoma. As of a few days ago the tests are still out for ringworm and Heather didn't want to put her into foster care with ringworm where other kitties can be infected. Besides, Heather herself and her house kitties are currently on antibiotics for ringworm so it made sense for Heather to hang on to her until the tests are back. It's looking like foster care at this point will be replaced with Heather caring for her until the adoption goes through. Caring for the white kitty doesn't seem to bother her one bit.

In the meantime, I've stopped by a couple of times to to see her and pay her some attention and Heather teases me about having such a crush on her. It's true, I'm attached to her and I so selfishly want to take her into my home. But the logical part of me knows how silly that is when there is somebody else with more much space thrilled to adopt her. Heather had called the woman personally to see exactly why she was interested in adopting a white kitty (such preferences tend to raise flags) and she had told Heather she had three aging cats and one of them, a white one, had recently passed away. It's a perfect situation, and despite a few rough weeks for the white kitty, a happy ending.