Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Wrap-Up

I don't think anyone would argue that 2008 has been a year to remember, for good and for bad. For the most part, I feel more than ready to kiss this year good bye and see what is waiting for me in 2009. It's been a big year with big moments, big stress and big emotions. While in general the feelings I'll associate with this year of my life cannot be pinned on particular moments, I was trying to think of the best and worst of 2008. I'll spare you the anxiety and frustration I have felt this year in the form of the worst days and give you instead my best five days of 2008. In chronological order.

April 4
- The day three little letters were tacked onto my name. Granted, the first few hours of the day found me more nervous than I think I've ever been before. But the rest of the day, starting with the minute I started my defense presentation, were amazing. I enjoyed my defense, that time-honored ritual in which you walk into a room a lowly grad student and emerge a Ph.D. I loved having my mom and step dad there to cheer me on as well as to take us out for a celebratory dinner and some much needed letting loose.

April 19 - My surprise Girl's Night (+Deano) on the town. Di and then-pregnant Geb flew to Tampa to surprise me as a congratulatory gift for graduating. Di and I realized pregnant women make the best designated drivers but have the appetite of someone who's been drinking heavily. And it was awesome that Deano could be there. It used to be no guys allowed but that became impractical when we started marrying off. But usually it's Paul (Mr. Geb) that gets to witness the spectacle. This time, Dean got to be an honorary "Girl" for the night and he had a blast.

July 19 - Our weekend getaway. My birthday present from Deano: a hotel room in downtown St. Pete along with tickets to the Rays game and the MC Hammer concert afterward. It was an all around perfect day, you can read all the details here. But what wasn't in the original post was something else that happened that day. I got a text message while at the game that my two cat friends had finally trapped the limping wounded kitten I had found two days earlier. McLovin would turn out to be my best birthday present and definitely one of the best things to happen in 2008.

September 7 - My last full day in Paris. At the start of 2008 I would have never guessed I would have spent a weekend alone in Paris. But we never know what life is going to throw at us. And even though I was terrified I'm so glad I did it. That Sunday I felt like I belonged in Paris. I went to the little bakery next door to my hotel for un pain du chocolat (a chocolate croissant) for breakfast. I took the ferry to Musee d'Orsay. I went to la Tour Eiffel and l'Arc de Triomphe. Yes, I felt like a tourist at these places, but my little bit of French, and my increasing confidence at using it, left me feeling like more than the average American floundering among the French. And my dinner! Not only was the braised lamb and mashed potatoes to die for, but the cute, flirty waiter and his willingness to speak French with me while resorting to English with the other tourist patrons was a major coup.

November 4 - Of course. Totally predictable, but I would be seriously remiss to leave it out. Now that the euphoria of that day has passed, I will confess. I almost voted for John McCain. Dean, another ardent Obama supporter begged me to vote for McCain. Shocked? Well, until November 4th 2008, every single candidate for major office that I had voted for had lost. Like any devoted baseball fan I was willing to take one for the team. But in the moment it counted, I went with reason instead of superstition. Hope instead of fear. That day in the lab we had the cable news feeds on the internets, listening to interviews of voters and their experiences and how they felt casting the most important votes of their lifetimes. I was so proud to be an American that day. We were both crying after the announcement. This unlikely candidate, who we both followed from the beginning, had won it all. I put my voice out there, and it wasn't always comfortable. But it was all worth it. Truth be told, I'm still giddy. And our next president is a big reason I feel good about 2009.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Crazy Cat Lady and her Elves

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Perhaps the alternate title should be, She's Finally Gone off the Deep End.

Either way, Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Catblogging - Indignity

Sometimes if I have a funny cat picture, I share it on Fridays in solidarity with fermi's Friday Catblogging events. But I won't commit.

Last Friday, Deano noticed that Nellie's tail had a mysterious wound on it that looked bad. It was about the size of a dime, and was matted with fur. Despite the fact that I am nearly thirty, I did what I always do when I am unsure of how to proceed. I called my mom. Of course, I was expecting Mom to tell me to keep an eye on it and if it gets much worse think about taking her in. Instead my mom said, "I think you need to take her in." Because I didn't know where this wound came from, and because Nellie is eight years old and overweight, my mom was concerned about feline diabetes. In people, an early warning sign of diabetes can be sudden abscesses, wounds incurred by loss of feeling in the extremities (e.g. the tail, my initial thought was Nellie accidently burned herself sleeping too close to the radiator), and wounds that are slow-healing or not healing at all. Of course I panicked. But I decided to keep a close eye on her over the weekend and avoid taking her to an emergency vet unless things looked really bad.

Luckily, one of my first days in Providence I met another cat lady who has four cats and two are special needs so I asked her to recommend a regular vet and an after hours/emergency vet. She recommended a cat only clinic downtown that she warned "wasn't cheap." Despite the warning, I went with them anyway. For six years I went to a low-cost vet for routine procedures, but three different vets at that clinic had mis-diagnosed Allison's eye goop for herpes virus. Only the fourth got it right (blocked tear duct from infection as a kitten on the streets). For McLovin's amputation I went to a cat only clinic and despite the cost, he received exceptional care, and I enjoyed fantastic customer service.

I kept an eye on Nellie over the weekend and made an appointment for Tuesday since Monday was going to be awful at work. The vet there was outstanding. She was very friendly and not at all judgmental about Nellie's weight (I've also experienced the occasional chewing-out for not keeping her slimmer), but admitted she was "on the chubby side", which was always a challenge in a multiple-cat home. She said she thought the wound looked like an infected bite and that a diabetes screening wasn't a bad idea at all, especially since Nellie has never had any blood work done. Then her and the vet tech took Nellie into the other room to get her "all fixed up". When they brought her back to me, her tail was shaved and she had been fitted with a cone!!! The vet said that after getting a closer look at the wound, it definitely looked like a bite and that she'd call me in the morning with the diabetes results. In the meantime, she was put on a course of antibiotics. Poor thing - it wasn't even her fault and she has to suffer this indignity. Someone is in trouble, but it's tough to say who it was.

When the bill came I was in utter sticker shock. First, I thought they would simply do a blood glucose test like Patti LaBelle does. Instead, they did a full work up. But based on the pre-surgery blood work they did in Tampa for McLovin, the bill was still twice as much as I was anticipating. And I thought I was estimating liberally. Dean had a shitfit over the phone when I got Nellie home. But said it was worth it when he saw our poor girl with a lampshade and a shaved tail. And given the light tone of this post, you probably deduced that there were no signs of diabetes. ALL her blood work looked great.

Last night, I was snuggling our wounded one, scratching all her spots since she can't do it herself while she purred wildly, I remarked with mock bitterness that Nellie's blood work would just have to be my Christmas present this year. Immediately, Deano shot back, "watching her wear that damn cone is mine."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Different Kind of Christmas

For the first time in my life I am not spending Christmas with my parents. I'm not going to Minneapolis at all for the holidays. There were many reasons I made this decision. I will tell you the biggest reason. In years past, Dean's dad flew to Florida for Christmas, so I didn't feel so bad that while Dean didn't get more than a couple days off around the holidays (he never built up the seniority to take the time required to make a trip North worthwhile), I was a grad student and could take off for at least a week without batting an eye. This year I would have had to leave Dean by himself for Christmas. He swore to me that it was okay and that I should go to Minneapolis to be with family. He quit his job in Florida and took a lesser job here so that I could have this opportunity. It hasn't been easy here for us these past three months. But the whole time, Dean has been amazing and reminded me that we are in this together. And he's absolutely right, we are. Which is why I won't leave him for Christmas.

Sure, it's just a day. But every year on that day, I go to visit family and friends and think about that fact that after being together nearly nine years, Dean and I have spent exactly one Christmas together. It was our second Christmas, when Dean came with me to my grandparents' house. I can't imagine how foreign it must have felt for him to spend Christmas with people other than his own family. I still haven't even spent Christmas with his family. So this year, I'm excited to spend it with him. I'm not sure how it is going to go, we don't have a tree*, we're not going to exchange gifts**, and there probably won't be much open if we want to get out of the house. I'm not sure if I'm going to cook a fancy meal or if we'll do Chinese takeout and a movie with the Jews. But I know I'm not going to sweat it. There WILL be eggnog and it WILL contain brandy. Maybe we'll make our own crazy Christmas tradition, or maybe I'll book my tickets to Minneapolis 364 days early. But I owe this Christmas to Deano and I can't imagine anywhere else I'd rather be.

* We have attempted to have a Christmas tree only once. Our first year as cat owners, when we had only Nellie, I bought a 3 foot tall fake tree. Nellie not only managed to knock it over, but while we were sleeping dragged it into the hallway, dropped it outside our bedroom door and began howling, much like she does when she "hunts" the stuffed socks Dean's mom makes for her. I can only imagine things going downhill from there.

** We decided on this when we realized there was absolutely nothing either of us wanted or needed. Dean is notoriously difficult to shop for, and I gladly sacrificed a gift from him to me in exchange for not having to think of something nice to get him. Don't feel bad, trust me, it's much better this way.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Maybe I'll Get One for Hanukkah

My job has been keeping me sufficiently busy that Dean has felt compelled to help me in the kitchen lately. He's usually very good about keeping the living room picked up and doing the laundry. Thus far he has also been in charge of putting the dishes away but lately he also wants to help with other kitchen tasks which has forced me to loosen my death grip of control over all things kitchen. Which is probably a good thing.

Last night, after I made a huge pot of vegetable beef soup, I put Dean in charge of ladling the soup into single serving tupperware containers for freezer storage so the soup can be used for a couple quick dinners and lunches over the next two weeks.

Deano, parceling out soup: "Ugh, this takes so long."

Me, washing the dishes: "I know, but there isn't much of a way around it. Besides it saves so much time to be able to grab them out of the freezer when we want one or two."

Deano: "This would go a lot faster if you had a bigger dreidel."

Oy. He's still learning.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

8 Days in Bed, 3 Days in Boston

Another post that begins with my apologies for being MIA. I had written my last post earlier and posted it when I had a rare moment of lucidity last week. But I haven't really visited or kept up with the rest of you for several days. I had a pretty good excuse, I think.

Last Saturday (the one BEFORE Thanksgiving), I came down with the flu. And it wasn't the flu where you think you have a flu but is probably a bad cold that is still miserable but a cold nonetheless. I spent the majority of 8 days in bed with a fever of 103. I don't know about you, but when I feel like I'm coming down with something, I always look at the small silver lining that maybe if I have to stay home from work I can surf the internets all day, or finish whatever novel I haven't spent nearly enough time reading. But this. THIS was 8 days of teeth-chattering chills to the bone alternating with cold sweats and not really being able to do much else but think about how completely awful I felt. I couldn't go to work at all Thanksgiving week, and we of course didn't leave the house for Thanksgiving. And the evening after that, Deano and I had to miss a social gathering at my new boss's house. We were most upset at the last part, me because I'm still trying to make a good impression and Deano because he was desperate for more social interaction than a deleriously feverish wife, four cats and the landlady upstairs.

Sadly, we had planned on actually doing something fun for Thanksgiving weekend. At first we talked about going to New York City for the Macy's parade and Christmas shopping but planning for a weekend in New York is more than a little daunting and it didn't quite get done. In retrospect maybe it's a good thing that we didn't have to try to cancel an exhorbitantly-priced hotel room in the Big Apple. When we failed to make those plans we discussed a day trip to Salem or Newport. But neither of those could happen because I couldn't even make the transition from sweatpants to slacks let alone climb into a car. So instead, my doting husband waited on me hand and foot, ran errands, and assumed all cat duties for the week. Whatta guy. As for Thanksgiving dinner? McDonald's. And my lack of appetite caused me to opt for a Happy Meal.

On Friday I was very tempted to force myself to go to Boss's house for the dinner, but Deano had me on lockdown because the whole time I was sick in bed, the prospect of giving a talk in Boston this Tuesday was looming large over my head. That's right, the only thing worse than being immobilized by a nasty virus is experiencing it while knowing you abosutely must be somewhere to do something important in a short period of time. Ugh.

Luckily, just when I was beginning to believe that God DOES exist and was punishing me for my agnostic post a few weeks ago, things turned around for me on Sunday. By Monday I was able to attend the start of the conference in Boston, I gave my talk on Tuesday despite a hoarse, pre-pubescent-male-sounding voice and yesterday I rounded out the conference with a marathon day of sessions and beer/wine socials that kept me from getting home until midnight. The Providence to Boston commuter train, while awesome for shopping and sporting events, is an evil nightmare when it's 10:30 and you just want to be with your family. I'm beat and actually chose to forgo the last two days of the conference in favor of getting back in the lab. Usually these things are mostly good for trying to get jobs anyway. I've got one of those.

Lastly, the one good thing that came out of my 8 days in bed and 3 days in Boston was a deeply grateful feeling that I am still in academia. My boss was genuinely worried about me and my health. My lab mate gave an account of the group meeting I had to miss where Boss gravely announced I was very ill and went on to describe his own experiences moving to New England from a warm climate. Everyone sent emails checking in on me. And, well, conferences always have the effect of bringing co-workers closer together. My labmates that attended the conference all came to my talk and cheered me on. I haven't disliked my first two months here, but after this past week I finally feel like one of the group.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old Love, New Challenges

Next month, Dean and I will celebrate nine years together. I know to some of you marathon-marrieds it seems like the blink of an eye, but by modern relationship standards it's pretty respectable. I just can't believe it's been that long - sometimes it feels like we're still dating. In these nine years, our love has survived two cross-country moves, grad school, four cats (and countless rescued transients), seven Christmases apart, and three apartments.

But here's the true test: Can our relationship withstand our very first joint bank account? Even after marriage we never saw a need to combine finances since both of us were making decent money and we knew we'd have to close our account anyway once the inevitable exodus from Florida occurred. He looked the other way on my mean feral cat habit and I did the same for his baseball junk collectibles. The cats are mostly out of the picture (except for a small stipend towards the new feeder as a gesture of appreciation and support) and I don't think his baseball spending will put us out on the streets. But I am already feeling much more accountable for my expenses and let's face it, women do most of the spending between groceries, odds and ends (what I call "Target stuff"), and our personal upkeep does tend to require a little more. Maybe in these tough economic times it's good to be occasionally questioned about the massive amounts of money being spent on Pretzel Chips and Skinny Cow Sundae Cones. I'm clearly not the only one eating it (the last bag of Pretzel Chips disappeared before I ate a single chip!). Perhaps we will both evaluate our habits for awhile until we decide that accountability about our eating habits is like lifting up a rock and watching all your nasty vices scurry away to find more darkness and we'll go back to the original plan of looking the other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A President Like Me?

No, I don't mean a woman. I mean an agnostic. During all the arguing over whether the country was ready for a female president or a black president, I was arguing that we would elect both before we would knowingly elect an atheist* or agnostic president. My point was made nauseatingly clear during the spectacle of the Faith Forum at Saddleback Church.

After reading The Audacity of Hope close to two years ago now, I formulated a hypothesis that President-Elect Obama (then barely Senator Obama) isn't technically a Christian but an agnostic. I have kept this theory a secret because I really wanted him to get elected, and apparently even the whisper of someone not being a Christian can be the end-all of a campaign. But now that he's elected and it's too late for all of those who really care about what religion your president is, I'm going to tell you why he is agnostic.

In his earlier writing, he uses words that are very ambivalent about Christianity. He freely admits his parents were agnostics and while knowledgeable about world religions did not subscribe to any organized religion. He talks about the importance of the teachings of Jesus (the golden rule, the whole "what you do unto the lesser of these, you do unto me" bit) which I - and most freethinkers - have always argued are simply ethical codes that do not require the existence of a higher being to be true or important. He never coughs up the big Christian tenet that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected.

Also in his earlier days he discussed the importance of Church and his decision to join one for the important role it plays in community and that he felt his neighbors were almost suspicious of him unless he joined "the church". That a lot of important business as a community organizer is done on Sunday mornings when everyone gathers to worship in one place.

It wasn't until he made a serious run at the White House that all of a sudden his identity as a well-defined practicing Christian took hold. But us doubters could still see the signs. He still seemed very uncomfortable discussing his faith. I hadn't yet vocalized my hypothesis to Deano, but during the Faith Forum he turned to me and said, "He doesn't believe any of this. He's just paying lip service." Immediately I agreed, "Yup."

I've always thought that this hypothesized core disbelief in the more supernatural aspects of Christianity explained well his bewilderment at the public's opinion of Jeremiah Wright. Not only do I believe this issue exposed the disconnect between white and black Christians and how they perceived the role of the Sunday sermon, but the whole time the Rev. Wright controversy was raging, Senator Obama had this attitude as if he didn't understand the depth of offensiveness to true believers. His deer-in-the-headlights look betrayed the fact that he never took the sermons seriously to begin with. And I think he was caught off guard in is ignorance at the fact that yes, people do take their preachers very seriously. I've experienced this confusion many a times when attempting to empathize with my more Christian-leaning friends and family.

After getting to know the subtly free-thinking Senator Obama from his books and interviews, I was a little disappointed when he all of a sudden he decided faith played such a big role in his life. I can't really blame him, I stand by my assertion that the average voter wouldn't vote for someone who questions the existence of God. But I think most of you know my opinion that such a candidate would make an inherently more qualified leader. But a God-questioning, half-black "elite" named Barack Hussein Obama wouldn't have a metaphorical snowball's chance in hell of getting elected UNLESS he was clearly and undeniably a practicing, worshipping card-carrying Christian. I think even if you do believe him to be so, you would not argue that above all the man is an incredibly shrewd and talented politician.

I don't know if I'm right. Like any scientist I formulated a hypothesis based on the evidence presented, though perhaps the human side of me was internally rooting for an outcome. But the other day while surfing the nets, I came across a just-released interview with then State Senator Obama from 2004. Granted, he still asserts himself a Christian (he was a politician in 2004 afterall), but the language was even more nebulous than in The Audacity of Hope. This passgage is a perfect illustration:

...I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others. I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt.

Read the interview in its entirety here.

*A couple quick definitions for those of you less familiar with the language of doubters.

Atheist: Someone who does not believe in the existence of a God(s).
Agnostic: Someone who is undecided about the existence of God. They generally come in two flavors - (1) Those who think God's existence is unprovable and therefor do not feel a conclusion can ever be drawn or (2) Those who are simply unconvinced by any theological argument of which they are aware but reserve the right the be persuaded either way.
Freethinker: Someone with defined spiritual beliefs that do not fit within the framework of an existing organized religion.

Interesting tidbit: 93% of scientists can be classified into one of these three categories. On the continuum of doubt, I fall in between agnostic and freethinking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Because I Haven't Blogged About Cats for Awhile

In the hubbub of moving, starting a new job, and electing an (awesome) new president, I realized it’s been awhile since I wrote about the kitties. They did great with the move and seem to be adjusting to the new apartment. They love love love the ungodly amount of windows we have. I think the verdict is still out about the hardwood floors, but Dean and I find great amusement watching them tear around corners kicking out their back legs like the road runner.

Our apartment is very old with a layout I still find unusual. I’m pretty sure it’s common for the style of house we live in, but we’re definitely still getting used to it. There are no hallways whatsoever. The living room and dining room are connected though separated by wood columns. From the dining room on the right side there is a door to the front bedroom. Straight ahead is the kitchen. If you go into the front bedroom, there is a door to the back bedroom. The back bedroom is connected on the other side to the kitchen. There are two additional small rooms (the pantry and the bathroom) both coming off our gi-normous kitchen. So if you’re picturing this correctly, you’ve realized that it is possible for one kitty to chase another kitty in a complete circle through the dining room, kitchen, both bedrooms, and back into the dining room. And any combination of kitties is doing this at any given time. It’s like an in-home race track.

As a side note, this unusual layout has presented some difficulties with home décor. Whereas we used to have book shelves lining almost every wall, so much wall space in this new place is just unavailable. I love all the windows almost as much as the kitties do, but that’s a lot of wall space where not much can go. Similarly, with both bedrooms having two doors, plus closet doors, there just isn’t a lot of room for bookshelves and dressers. This problem seems to be worst in the back bedroom since both open doors are along the same wall. Since this is our bedroom, there aren’t a lot of options. But we picked the back room because in the front bedroom the streetlight and the window are at a conspiratorial angle so that the first night we slept in the apartment (in the front bedroom) we were nearly blinded every time the streetlight came on. Plus with no hallways, we feel like the bedroom would be too exposed coming right off the dining room. Strange indeed.

Anyway, as multiple cat owners can guess, the instigator for the majority of the circular chasing is the baby. Well, McLovin isn’t as much of a baby as he was when we first got him in July, but technically he is still a kitten. A kitten who spent the first part of his life in more pain and discomfort than most kittens and is making up for it now. He is completely nuts. And the funniest thing about watching him chase the big kitties is the way he runs. He kind of hops like a rabbit - first jutting out his front leg and then pulling in his back two together.

The best part about a new pet is watching the type of personality they develop. I know that we humans tend to anthropomorphize our pets a little too much and that most cats don’t have any recollection of last week let alone their beginnings. But McLovin’s personality has emerged as a kitty who is truly grateful for where he is and seems aware that he could have just as easily met a horrific end on the streets. Despite being hyper and attacking anything that crosses his path, he can also be extremely docile and purrs immediately on contact with Dean or me. Putting out my hand to try to pet him, he always meets me halfway with his head. At mealtimes, he is the first in line, weaving through my legs purring loudly. He doesn’t turn his nose up at anything, as if remembering that everything I serve to my house cats is a giant step up from what I used to serve out by the dumpster. Except on soup days when I’d bring out bones or trimmings. He seemed to remember that too as he was the only one begging Sunday night when I trimmed the fat from the roast. He’s generally pretty quiet except for right before dinner when anticipation gets the best of him and he lets out a couple pathetic squeaks.

Anyway, since he was a little scary the last time you saw him, here is a recent picture of McLovin the Three-Legged Wonderkitty. He is sitting in the most coveted spot in the house – the kitchen window right above the radiator with the wood board across it. Oh, yeah.



For all the other cat lovers, I came across this great post about adopting tripod kitties. Get your hankies ready.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dear Evan,

Welcome to the world! I won't get to meet you for a little while, which makes me very sad. Your mom and I have been friends for over 10 years. We've been through a lot together, along with our other girlfriends, and maybe sometime I can tell you about the crazier stuff we've done. But that's still many years away. Frankly, I'm still a little shell shocked that one of us actually managed to procreate, but for now I'm still thankful it was your mommy and not me. Hopefully someday your auntie magnetbabe and uncle Deano will give you a cousin, but for now you'll have to make due with your very excited immediate family.

We've all been on pins and needles waiting for you, Evan. You were, um, a little past due. It's okay, I don't think poor punctuality right out of the gates will be a trait that sticks. You did, however, miss a very important event. Two days before you were born, everyone in the world was watching America to see if we could make history. And we did. So it turns out you weren't quite born yet when President Obama was elected. November 4th was an awesome day to be an American. We were all laughing and crying and amazed at what we were able to accomplish. But you chose to come into a world that was very different than it was two days ago. A better, more hopeful world that has already shown it can leave its own past behind and do what was once considered impossible. And it was because we care so much about who was yet to be born that we did it. Your grandma and grandpa (who already love you so much!) weren't born in America. Neither was your mommy. But you were, and from your very first day you can be truly proud. No matter what your world view turns out to be, you were born after Americans showed the world that collectively, our better angels win out over the dark demons of our past.

I'm so exited to see who you turn out to be. With your mom and dad and big brother and grandparents there to raise you, I'm certain you'll be a smart, funny, caring, wonderful person. Not to mention if you were lucky to get some of your daddy and grandpa's genes, you'll be easy on the eyes as well. And if you spend enough time with your new aunties, you'll be just wild enough to have fun yet stay irresistibly endearing.

Love,
auntie magnetbabe

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Political Post

Those of you who know me personally and through some of your own blogs know that I am passionate about politics. I’ve kept a close eye on this election from the very first candidate to throw her hat in the ring down to the final two in the dwindling days of the campaign. I’ve been a complete political junkie, constantly reading the newspapers, blogs, and polling sites, checking fivethirtyeight.com sometimes several times a day. Frankly, I don’t know how I’m going to spend my downtime (or my stolen minutes at work here and there) once this election is over.

But I have largely refrained from blogging about politics this campaign season. The biggest reason is probably because the most exciting parts of this election have coincided with some very big events in our lives (me traveling overseas, us picking up and moving, starting new jobs, etc) but almost as much, I didn’t want to be just another liberal blogger talking about how much I love Barack Obama and how distressed I am at the prospect of another 4 years of Republican policies. Really, there are plenty of them out there, and most of them do a much better job than I could do. I didn’t want to feel like I was shouting into the abyss.

But this post is a little different. You see, four years ago I voted for John Kerry. I quietly did my civic duty, went in the booth and chose who I thought was the right man for the job. And he lost. And I was really really upset for awhile that we had to live through four more years of having a stubborn, ignorant, close-minded, inept man making every wrong decision he possibly could for this country. And I was more than ready to blame everyone who pulled the lever in his favor. What I didn’t realize was I had a teeny tiny part in Bush getting a second term as well. Because there was plenty I could have done, but didn’t do. I didn’t tell Dean why he should go out and vote for John Kerry. Dean’s former political philosophy boiled down to the cynical opinion that voters do absolutely nothing and lobbyists and the very wealthy are the ones truly running this country. Of course, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy and one I found unacceptable this election cycle.

Chaos theory seeks to describe dynamical systems whose behavior depends sensitively on initial conditions. The old cliché that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can affect a global event. This butterfly should have flapped her wings four years ago. But instead, she is doing it now. I believe taking care of our country means making sure we ALL do what is best. Whether we like it or not, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, Jews, we all have to live here and we are all in this thing together.

If you are not planning to vote this year, please reconsider. If you have not tuned in to the debates, picked up a newspaper, or are counting on 30 second attack ads to get you informed on the most important election of our lives, please take some time and read where the candidates really stand. It is my strong opinion, based on spending countless hours since February 2007 watching speeches on youtube (and in person!), reading proposed policies, keeping track of facts and yes, a little bit of listening to my heart, that Barack Obama is absolutely the right person to lead this country in these tough times.

At first, I felt like I was taking a bit of a gamble on him. I had read The Audacity of Hope and knew him to be fresh, intelligent, communicative, reasonable and willing to work with even with those with which he doesn’t agree. But I was a little worried he wasn’t quite ready. After watching his campaign pull together and inspire so many people, watching him win against the most established Democrat our party could have put forward (still feeling love for Hillary, don’t get me wrong), seeing him choose Joe Biden, another man of profound character and intelligence to help him on this journey, and seeing him put forth a proposal for us as a nation to put this country back together, I am confident he is what we need right now.

People have questioned his patriotism because he dares to point out what is wrong with America right now. If you love someone, you tell them when they are on the wrong path and headed for a train wreck. People have called him elite because he holds degrees from Columbia and Harvard. I want to know when having an education is a bad qualification for presiding over a nation. And people have called him “exotic”. He is half Black and has lived overseas. And to be honest, I love that about him. I love the idea of showing the World, the majority of which is some shade of brown, that we can trust this man with our fragile country less than 50 years after segregation and less than 150 after slavery. People have said that he is naïve because he believes in communication and diplomacy over the pre-emptive war and “if I don’t listen you must not exist” foreign policy of this administration. Lastly, people have called him a socialist because he wants to restore the middle class, the workhorse of this nation and the embodiment of the American dream for millions of immigrants. The middle class is where I live, and where most of you live, and the past eight years have been an uphill climb for us.

Please, if you don’t know him yet, do yourself a favor by just seeing what he stands for. If you are for Obama but think this race is tied up and that you can afford to stay home on election day, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR ERROR. There is only way we can really screw this up and that is with complacency. If you are allowed to vote early DO SO. You never know what can happen, and this weekend is a perfect time to get it done. It could be snowing November 4th, you could have car trouble, there could be trouble with the machines (I’m looking at YOU Floridians!!!), vote early and as soon as you can. Dean and I decided that Florida needs our vote so we didn’t register in RI and requested absentee ballots from Hillsborough County. We have marked our ballots, photocopied them and sent them registered mail. I can feel good about my vote, and now I can feel good flapping my wings, because you never know who will feel it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Changes

So... some things have changed a bit since I last posted. The Rays are still playing baseball (ahem, dr. sardonicus) though probably not past tonight. Despite their epic collapse Thursday and subsequent choking, I'm still proud of them.

No, I'm referring to pretty much every other aspect of our lives. We did the unthinkable and moved out of paradise and into the Northeast. Obviously we are still adjusting a little. I mean, it's freezing here and people talk funny.

I know it's been awhile and I have a lot of ground to cover. Unfortunately, I can't do most of it tonight. We just got the internet this weekend and the computer hasn't left Deano's lap. That's fine because I get it at work and can do a little blog checking. But I will not post to my own blog at work. Too risky. Not that I have anything to hide and I am really enjoying my job. But the comfort level that comes with people knowing I have a blog and weaseling the URL out of me just isn't there.

Anyway, the move went really well. Surprisingly I didn't have a complete breakdown leaving Florida, our apartment of six years, my job of six years or the dumpster kitties. I handled all that beautifully, though I do have a healthy dose of melancholy for my old life occasionally. But the exodus went smoothly. There were three people (Deano, his mom and myself), four cats and two tiny cars. I used my incredible packing skills to fit a ton of crap in the trunks and the kitties hung out behind the seats in carriers after being doped up on tranquilizers. And thank God for those because Allie and Wrigley were still trying hard to complain through their grogginess. Dean's mom did the driving in my car due to by interstate phobia which worked well because I could navigate which wasn't easy in certain parts of the country, namely DC and New York City. In fact Dean and I have decided that if we ever move to a place requiring us to take I-95 South through those parts again, we'd sell the cars, take a plane and start over once we get there.

Anyway, we love our apartment. I'll post pictures once we are a little more settled but basically we live on the bottom floor of a Victorian triplex still in the city but a little on the outskirts where things aren't quite as crowded. We are having a helluva time trying to figure this town out. Both its layout and its culture. But we're getting there.

More dispatches from the Northeast soon, I promise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

9=8

That's been Joe Maddon's motto all year. It takes everyone on the team to make it to the final 8 standing in October. And yesterday, the Rays proved that they could make it by following this mantra.

Every game has seen a different hero. Starters, bench players, bullpen, rookies, everyone contributed and I'm so proud of all of them. We were at the game Thursday and yesterday. We had gotten great tickets months ago for the Twins series and both games we had a lot of fun. But I have a confession to make. Both games I rooted against my Twins, for the first time in the 22 years I've been watching baseball.

The Twins were supposed to have a rebuilding season this year after losing Santana and purging the rest of their starting rotation. Instead, they have put together a winning season and late in September are still in contention for the central division pennant. That's very admirable of them, and I am thoroughly impressed. But if they happen to eke past Chicago, even I wouldn't be stupid enough to bet on them making it past the first round. The majority of the starting rotation has never pitched into September, let along October in a playoff atmosphere. The Twins have choked in the first round of the playoffs in three of their last four appearances. And I stand by my assertion that if they couldn't get the job done with Santana, Mauer and Morneau all having career seasons (still dwelling on 2006), then they need a miracle.

This is the Rays' year. It is their story that in 11 seasons they haven't had a winning season, and this year they will win 90+ games. I see so much in them what I saw in the 2002 Twins, with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, when they took everyone by surprise and made it to the playoffs. The little guys finally won, and frankly, the Twins aren't the little guys anymore. I rooted for the Rays because for 5 years we watched shitty baseball, and our last season here we got redemption. We went to so many games where the visiting team drew more fans than the home team. And the Rays forgave Tampa Bay because after clinching a playoff spot yesterday, they didn't disappear into the clubhouse to celebrate, they brought the champagne out to the fans. They all trotted around the perimeter of the field giving high-5's and hugs.

I cannot describe how excited I am for playoff baseball this year. It takes the edge off of moving, switching jobs, and facing the cold weather.

But today, on the last game of the Rays-Twins series, after the Rays have secured their place in history, I'm rooting for the Twins. Joe Mauer is in the batting title race, afterall.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

France and Frankenkitty


I got in from France very late Monday night and honestly meant to write sooner, but this pesky thing called life keeps getting in the way.

France was pretty much perfect. After nearly 30 hours of flights, layovers, and trains, I could barely stay awake until I saw the French Alps and realized it was totally worth it. Worth having to give up my cushy aisle seat for a middle seat on an 8 hour international flight to appease a family with screaming children. Worth the 6 hours I had to spend guarding my suitcase at Gare de Lyon train station rather than walking around Paris for an afternoon. And worth the nauseating car ride 5 km winding up the side of a mountain once the train from Paris arrived in the Alps. Because when I finally dropped my suitcase in my room and opened the sliding door to the balcony, this is what I saw:


The conference center was on the outskirts of a small ski resort town in the Alps. The center itself was built specifically for French scientists and can be used either as a conference center or a vacation spot for the scientists and their families. The rooms were small, but since my assigned roommate didn't show, it was fine for just me.

Everyone told me that this particular conference (one of a series on a diverse set of topics) would be entirely different than any I had been to. I am used to going to large conferences with thousands of physicists where there are multiple presentation sessions going on for 12 hours a day. This conference consisted of 102 physicists, all with the same research interests. It was the first year that grad students and post docs were especially encouraged to go, which was why I got the funding and was able to go. There was only 1 session at a time, and only held in the mornings and evenings. The afternoons were free for us to socialize and network. We were
especially encouraged to go hiking in the mountains and visit the small down down the hill.




The first full morning of the conference, I met a French woman who is just finishing her Ph.D. in Switzerland. We hit it off amazingly well and spent the whole week hiking and learning about each other's cultures. The conference was mostly Europeans, so I got a very eye-opening lesson as to what fascinating research is being done overseas and how oblivious American scientists can be at times. The frustration they felt about their lack of recognition in America was palpable and led to a little tension at times. But it was a lesson I am grateful to have learned, and these bigger truths were in a sense far more important than the details of the research presentations.

After and exhausting 5 days hiking in the Alps and listening to presentations, I took the train back to Paris and stayed there for 3 days. Despite my fatigue, I was bound and determined to make the absolute most of my short time in Paris. So after a four-hour train ride and dumping my bags in my hotel room, I set out on foot for le Louvre.

Honestly, visiting le Louvre wasn't initially on my list of things to do, but it was Friday evening and not much else in Paris is open, except restaurants. I overheard someone on the train saying it was open until 10 pm so I thought I'd go see what all the fuss was about. I spent several hours wandering aimlessly through the museum trying to make sense of the layout. And my tour book said they had made substantial improvements in general navigation around le Louvre. But I did see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo along with miles of other paintings, sculptures and artifacts.



The next day was "Catholic Day" as I visited Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. These were my favorite places I visited. I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea Notre Dame was still in use as a church and was surprised to see a mass going on and tons of religious pilgrims flocking to this holy site. In between tours of the cathedral, I took the tour of the towers which consisted of climbing the approximately four hundred stairs of one tower and walking outside along the perimeter of Notre Dame to the bell tower on the other side. This is where I saw the infamous gargoyles that guard Notre Dame and watch over the city of Paris. The view from the towers was absolutely amazing.



But the gargolyes were my favorite.



In the bell tower, you could actually go see the bell that was made famous by Vicor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Next, I went to Sainte-Chappelle, a holy chapel that was build in the confines of the palace of Louis IX. It was built to house holy relics (among them supposedly the crown of thorns) which were only on display to the public on Good Friday. The chapel itself was absolutely stunning, the second floor walls (the main part of the chapel) were mosly made of stained glass. I have never seen anything like it. While the size was nothing like Notre Dame, the beauty and intricacy of the stained glass was just as humbling.



The third day I took the shuttle boat up and down la Seine where I first visited Musee d'Orsay, which houses just about every impressionist painting you can think of. And thousands more you didn't know existed. I also walked along le Champs-Elysees from la Seine to l'Arc du Triomphe, which was pretty cool. I saw some filthy rich people shopping, more people gawking (such as myself) and several beautiful women who were probably models. Lastly I went le Tour Eiffel. It was getting too late for me to go to the top, which was just as good. It was packed.


Unfortunately, since I was a woman travelling alone I was too scared to do much at night. I mostly tried to finish up my sightseeing right around dusk and then ate dinner in the evening pretty close to the hotel. It's not that I felt particularly unsafe in Paris at night, but the streets were so tangly and the stores all closed early and I was really scared I'd get irretrievably lost.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I was scared to death to go and wished Dean could have come with but it was worth all the time and stress leading up to it. I am trying to get the rest of my approximately 3 million photos loaded to share with anyone who wants to see. While I recognize this shouldn't be difficult, I expect it to take a little time and it's not currently at the top of the list so it might have to wait awhile.

Lastly, McLovin had his surgery on Wednesday. His incision is a little scary (we have dubbed him Frankenkitty) but he is already moving better than he was when he still had the bad arm. His posture has improved dramatically and he has made the transition to full-fledged tripod without incident. I can't seem to get a really good picture of him, but I got a pretty close one of the surgery site because it's so freaky. Because he's still so little, they had to practically shave him bald and the incision seems to take up his whole right side. I think he'll look a lot better once the fur grows back. But for now, he's definitely comfortable. The vet said to ease her own mind she opened up the arm during surgery and confirmed there was very little blood flow and the tissue looked unhealthy. Despite my initial reservations, this was definitely the right thing to do.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Au Revoir

Sorry to once again be missing from the blogosphere. As anticipated, things have gotten very crazy very fast. The move is slowly coming together. We put in our notice, arranged for the movers, and Dean's mom is flying down to help with the drive and the kitty-moving. The only thing missing is a place to go. We've narrowed it down to two apartments and we are waiting on some additional photos. Hopefully one of these will work out, but if not it doesn't seem too difficult to find housing, especially through the University affiliated housing exchange where I found the two current prospects. Mostly the people that post there own duplexes they are trying to rent out half of, which will be very comfortable for us. And the prices are much more reasonable than going through a commercial rental property.

Some troubling news to share: McLovin needs to have his arm amputated. I took him to a different vet than the one the rescue group was paying for to get him evaluated for neutering. Given his paralysis, I was nervous about putting him under anasthesia and wanted a second opinion. The rescue group would have paid for neutering through a high-volume, low-cost clinic but I didn't feel comfortable with that in this particular situation. However, to pay full price at the rescue vet was going to be quite expensive. So I took him to a reasonably-priced cat specialist who looked closely at his arm and determined he wasn't getting proper circulation in his arm and he'd be all around better off losing what literally is just dead weight. She showed me the red flags, and ultimately I agree that the arm should be amputated, and she's right, he'll get around much better without dragging it. But I'm very nervous about the surgery, it is quite involved. And it's one more thing that needs to happen in just the next couple of weeks. But I'm grateful she caught it and I can't imagine what I'd do if I hadn't taken him in and his health started deteriorating due to circulation issues.

Anyway, I'm off to France tomorrow morning. I know I haven't made the rounds in a little while, and I likely won't be able to until I get back a week from Monday. I'm really excited and scared all at once. I'm all packed and my arrangements are in place. I'm of course bringing my camera and will share thoughts and pictures when I return. Wish me bon voyage!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lottery Meme

I found this meme over at Jeni's and I really liked it. I think it is very revealing, and let's face it, who doesn't fantasize about having a never-ending stream of moolah.

You just won the mega powerball jackpot to the tune of 150 million dollars...

1. What would be the very first thing you would do?

Pay off my credit cards. Then I'd pack us up and move us out of the ghetto.

2. Where would you choose to live?

I'd choose to be a snowbird and live the summers in Minneapolis and the winters in Florida, on one of the Sarasota beaches.

3. What kind of house would you live in?

In Minneapolis, I'd buy a big old house in the middle of the city with an open floor plan, lots of windows and a huge screened-in porch for the kitties (sounds a lot like my dad's house...). In Sarasota, I'd buy something newer, Spanish style with high ceiling and lots of stone tile. Both houses must have a library and a large basement (or some extra space) for Dean's "man room".

4. What kind of car would you buy?

A Toyota Highlander hybrid. Not too luxurious, but energy efficient and roomy enough to cart the cats back and forth from Minneapolis and Sarasota. ;)

5. Where would you vacation?

I don't know about vacation. To me, vacation equals relaxing so my favorite place to vacation is just at home or the beach. But I would love to travel more. Two places I would absolutely love to see are Alaska and India. Alaska only during the summer time, I'd take one of those cruises that go from Seattle up around Canada to Alaska. And I've always been intrigued by India - the culture, the food. And in general (I hate to stereotype, but it's unavoidable here), in general Indian people are so hospitable.

6. Would you have anything on your body fixed?

Liposuction. And electrolysis. Have I mentioned I'm a brunette of Eastern European descent?

7. What kind of hobbies would you engage in?

I'd buy a boat. Like the one my mom and Tom have at the lake, just big enough to cruise around in without coming off as pretentious. Since presumably, Dean and I would be sharing this money, we'd probably end up investing in more sports memorabilia. Separate from vacation, I'd like to tour the country and visit all the ballparks since watching baseball is already a hobby of mine.

8. What charities would you donate to?

Definitely the MS Society and the American Cancer Society. The big national animal charities, SPCA, Humane Society as well as Alley Cat Allies. I'd also make big donations to the local animal rescues that have helped me out in the past - Cat Call and St. Francis.

9. Would you give money to your relatives?

Yes, I'd for sure pay for my sister's college and help the rest of my family out in any way I could.

10.Would you run away from your current life?

No, but I'd make some changes. I love my life but like everyone in this economy money would make a lot of things easier. I'd definitely hire a maid!

11. Would you continue to work?

I would work half time. Not working at all would drive me crazy, but as things are now I don't have time to do what I afford to do, let alone what I could do with a fortune.

12. Would the money change you in any way?

It would make me more accessible. I could see my family and friends a lot more. But it definitely wouldn't change my values. I'd still be a democrat!

What would you do if you had that kind of money?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Multimedia Catblogging

I'm going to try to post a kitten video so that you guys can see Ray/McLovin. I took a video with my camera because I assumed my parents and in-laws would want to see how he can walk. But the video is 50MB and this was the only way I could think of to share it. Fermi - try to top this for catblogging!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Breathe

Sorry guys, I knew it had been at least a week since I last posted, I didn't realize it had been closer to two. Big goings on here.

On top of trying to plan a move to Providence, I am also planning a last minute trip to France. Yep, nothing like a little international travel ALL BY MYSELF to put my nerves at ease. Funny story... a female professor who happens to be good friends with my advisor, is co-chairing a big magnetism conference in Aussois, France at the end of the month. She suggested I apply for a travel stipend to go since there were special funds set aside for women and minority post docs. So I submitted a general abstract which was accepted. Dr. Hari then told me IF I got the funding, he would help out a little but not all. He suggested that I go to our department chair and see if the department could help out as well, and then I would likely only have to pay a couple hundred dollars out of pocket, which isn't bad for a trip to France.

Anyway, I really doubted I would get the conference travel stipend. And even if I did, I figured with budgets being so tight there was no way the department chair would go for it. Well, guess what. I got the stipend. And the conference chair totally went for it. And now I am off to France at the end of the month.

Don't get me wrong, this is so exciting! But it is a lot of work. This from a girl who planned her wedding in an evening over a six pack of beers. I definitely can't handle planning a trip to the French countryside. Dr. Hari suggested I tack on a couple of days in Paris to the end of the conference and even thinking about Paris is giving me an ulcer. Paris itself sounds wonderful. But all by myself sounds downright scary.

Anyway, I will try to keep you posted about everything.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Decisions

Some decisions are easy to make. Like whether or not to keep a three-legged, beer-drinking kitten. No, I don't exactly let him drink it from a saucer, I just can't help it if Ray wants to lick my lips after I've had a sip of beer. From what I gathered from the comments on my last post, you all knew Ray would be staying. Yes, the timing is bad but sometimes practicality must be forgone in favor of what you feel in your heart. I tried for two weeks to convince Dean that keeping Ray was right for us. His mom and dad tried as well to convince him not to let anyone else take him, that we knew his needs and what was best for him. But I think that in the end, it was Nellie, Wrigley, and Allison that tipped the scale in favor of making Dean (and I) believe this is exactly where he belongs. The "big kitties" love him so much and play so gently with him, it almost makes me proud of them. While I knew saying good bye to him would be hard, I'd would have understood why it was necessary. Ray's "cat parents" can't reason in that way, and it became increasingly clear that we just couldn't bear to separate them.

My mother-in-law, God bless her heart, has agreed to sew up some improvised socks for his gimp leg by cutting the fingers off of knitted winter gloves and sewing around the edges to prevent them from unraveling. I'm certain she thought by this point she'd be sewing booties for a different occasion, but we cannot help the twists and turns our lives take and we'll get there eventually.

There were a couple of terms to the negotiation that Dean and I settled upon. One, Dean got to choose a new name for Ray because he didn't like the name I picked out. So Ray is now McLovin*. But he will still be Ray on his vet records and in appropriate social situations where I feel that people might not see the humor in a cat named McLovin. Anyway, it's a different sort of name for a different sort of cat and believe it or not, it fits him. Yes, he is still the sweet kitty I described to you, but as time goes on and he becomes more comfortable he has proven to be a bit of a spazz. Second, Ray/McLovin isn't really "our cat" for as long as we live in apartment, but instead a "permanent foster". Because apparently four cats in an apartment is absurd. Once we get settled in a house, his status will be upgraded from "permanent foster" to "full house cat" accordingly, though the promotion is in title only. He is currently loved every bit as much as all the others. Below is one of my favorite pictures so far. But beware, he is laying in my laundry basket. I have blurred out the undies.



Some decisions are more difficult to make. Like whether or not to take the job I was offered last week.

I have not talked very much about the job search because it has been terribly stressful and the job market has been so depressing that I had no idea if I'd simply end up flipping burgers. Which is more than some people can do right now. My first choice for a job was to get a National Research Council Fellowship to work in a national lab of my choice for two years at an awesome salary. As it turned out, I got sickeningly close to achieving this, and I've been told that under average funding circumstances (as opposed to the completely anemic science funding that has scarred research the past several years), I would have definitely gotten it. I am still a little bitter about this.

Because I got so close, I was told I'd automatically be reconsidered for a fellowship during the next review cycle. I wouldn't have to resubmit transcripts and letters of recommendation. Only to strengthen my research proposal, which I think I did. However, these decisions aren't made until January, and I can't afford to wait until then. The good news is that if I do get it this time around, I can defer it for up to a year.

None of this would be as important if it weren't for the fact that I didn't get my second choice job (despite being invited for an on-site interview). And my third choice type of job, getting a permanent position in industry, is not going well. The company where I did my internship doesn't generally hire new Ph.D.'s, they prefer post-doctoral experience. I've applied anyway, without much success because I am competing with people much more qualified than I.

So it seemed like a logical choice to take an academic postdoc position. Those typically last a year and the contract can be renewed for a second year. That way, if during my first year I get the job I really want, I can leave after gaining a year more experience, doing research, publishing papers, etc. If once again I am passed over for this fellowship, I have an additional year to really look hard for a job in industry, and hopefully gain ground on some of the people I am competing with now.

This isn't ideal, but it seems like it might be necessary. It is while keeping in mind that I didn't really want to do an academic postdoc that I tell you I got an offer for an academic postdoc at a very good institution. Not the best, but a huge step up from where I am now (sorry, I still love you USF!). Someone planning to stay in academia would be thrilled, but sometimes I can't help but see it as treading water for yet another year. I know this isn't true - this is a place where I can build up a name for myself and work under someone I've admired for a long time. Someone with strong ties to the magnetic recording industry and two of the national labs where I've been wanting to work.

So it's a tough choice. But it's in a great area (New England), someplace we'd like to spend a little bit of time. And of course Deano is being is wonderful, loving, supporting self and is happy to follow me where ever I want to go. Anyway, enough rambling. I'll let you know when this decision is final.

*For those of you who haven't seen Superbad, here is some background.


UPDATE: I took the job. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Can Explain.


Two weeks ago, I was out feeding the dumpster kitties and I just caught sight of this little guy running away from the food. I had startled him. I could tell right away he wasn't moving quite right. Rather than running away, he sort of hopped like a rabbit. I have only one fertile female left (Dixie's mom) and I keep a close eye on her reproductive cycle. So I have no idea when or how he showed up.

When I went to feed I was on my way to pick up some take-out, so when I came home I swung by and sure enough, he was out there eating again. I moved very slowly towards him and got pretty close. Close enough to see that he was dragging his right front paw limply on the ground. My heart sank. He seemed to be a little old to be certain he could be socialized and adoptable. Usually 5-6 weeks its pretty certain, but I pegged him at about 12. It would definitely be a gamble. Not to mention when I saw his poor paw I envisioned dropping huge sums of money to fix him up. But there was absolutely no way I was leaving him to fend for himself out there.

I called a couple of my cat friends, and for three nights we tried to trap him. Finally while Dean and I were at the Rays game last Saturday I got a text message that simply said "Got him!" He stayed at their house until Monday since we didn't want to move him more than once if he was in pain. Dean and I already knew we would probably have to foster since we didn't know how feral he was or even if anyone was willing to take him.

I did get word that St. Francis was going to help me out with the vet bills, which I was expecting to be significant, so I was very grateful to them. Monday morning, I picked him up from my friends along with a large cage and we headed to the vet supplied by the rescue group. After much poking and prodding, it was determined that this little guy has a paralyzed right front paw and arm. It is unclear if it was an "old" injury or he was born that way, but there were no indications of broken bones, all ligaments are in place, but he is devoid of any sensory response in that limb. The vet didn't recommend amputation unless the paw became infected or too much of a burden. There was no point doing an x-ray. But he did recommend a sock or bootie to protect it and stop it from getting scraped up.

So it seems this guy (who I've temporarily named Ray) will live his life as a tripod kitty, with only three viable legs. I guess technically that makes him "special needs", though I have yet to see how he acts any different. The only weakness I've seen in him is that he isn't very good at washing his whole body, which is completely understandable. Unfortunately, since he can't bathe completely and he came to us with diarrhea and fleas, I did the unthinkable and gave him a bath (hence the picture above). That was a first for me!

The very good news is that if he ever was feral (which I am beginning to doubt), he is no longer. He is the sweetest kitten I've ever met, and therefore very adoptable indeed. We are fostering him until he finds the right home. As I said before, he really doesn't need anything special, but since he himself is special I want to make sure the home is perfect. However, I'm not sure how long we can foster before taking him off the market. I am head over heels for this guy, and Dean is getting very close to feeling the same way. He sleeps with us, loves the other cats (he has been taken in as "one of the pack") and generally acts like he belongs here, with us. We know this definitely isn't the right time to take in a new kitty, we are in transition. But I have never been one to believe that you can choose a cat, it is more common that they choose you. We will see what the next couple weeks bring.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Weekend Getaway

Dean and I had a wonderful weekend in St. Pete. Dean booked a hotel room downtown as part of a baseball package through the Hilton for a belated birthday present (my actual birthday was during the Rays' road trip of sucktitude). The package included a room, $20 in coupons for the concession stands (to be used on anything, not specified), a bucket full of snacks and drinks, hats, free transportation to and from Tropicana field, and two free tickets to the breakfast buffet the following morning. Ironically, the actual Rays game tickets were not included, but it was still a hell of a deal. The trip was not perfect, but what it lacked in perfection it completely made up for in humor. And in OUR household, humor, not perfection, is close to Godliness.

We got there around noon and were allowed to check in early. The hotel was quite swanky, more reminiscent of the conferences I go to than the casual overnight trips we usually take. I was giddy over the Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries provided. We walked over to Midtown, our favorite sports bar in downtown St. Pete and had a big lunch. Then we headed back over to the hotel to grab some pina coladas and a dip in the pool. It was only when we were slightly buzzed and still completely stuffed from lunch that Dean announced his wedding ring had slipped off in the pool. He had been treading water in the deep end. So, we mustered all our might and took turns spotting the damn thing and trying to dive under six feet of water to grab it. I haven't opened my eyes under water in a chlorine pool in probably ten years. I think we both tried about four times before Dean emerged, coughing and spitting, victoriously holding the gold ring in the air. I, being more pragmatic and less sentimental, was ready to give up and go buy another. But I'm glad he got it. "All the swimming lessons of diving for quarters finally paid off," he said laughing. There was another couple in the pool and after we caught our breath and wisely headed over to the shallow end, they correctly guessed what we were up to. I'm really proud Deano has lost weight (30 pounds so far!) but I think it's time to get the ring resized.

We freshened up and headed to the game. It was 90s night, which was really sad because at first we didn't realize it, and thought it they were just playing our favorite music. We felt old. We got there early to get autographs, I got Longoria on the program from the last game we attended. I was a little bummed out at the lack of eye contact he made while signing. I always get a smile from C.C. Oh well.

Seeing as though it was Halladay versus Garza, we settled in for a long pitchers duel. By the bottom of the 5th, it was still 0-0 and we were getting hungry again. We got some mini pizzas and as I headed back to our seats (in left field) Dean spotted a high top table and asked if we could stand and eat instead of being squashed into our seats. We started in on a serious discussion on whether or not pizza is ball park food (I am for it, he is against it) when we heard the roar of the stadium. I strained my head to watch the closest TV where I saw the replay of Evan Longoria hitting his first major league grand slam. I told Dean and both of us were quite bummed out we missed it. Not as bummed out as the drunk girl cussing out her friends for having missed "her boyfriend's" first granny, but disappointed nonetheless. And again they played it and I saw it went to left field! I back handed Deano playfully on the chest. We returned to our seats where everyone was anxious to tell us what we missed, as if we weren't aware. AND, it landed in our row. Granted, I would have been freaked out and too scared to go for it, but still.

After the game (Rays won 6-4, the 4 Jays runs coming in the top of the 9th), we geared up for the MC Hammer concert. I made my error of the evening my suggesting we go to the second level to watch, since half of the first level (including our seats) were behind the stage, and the other half was getting crowded. We forgot that the second level is mostly suites and we sat uncomfortably among the older, richer people who were not getting in to the concert at all. We eventually moved to be around funner people. We saw MC Hammer in concert pretty much the only way you would want to, drunk and free of charge. In that respect, it was fun and of course he did his best known songs in between long monologues which we speculated were in place so he could catch his breath. The guy is 46, but he can still move.

After words, we used our free ride back to the hotel, where once again we walked to Midtown for some nachos and a night cap. We were almost the only ones at the bar and we watched the grand slam on SportsCenter. Turns out we could just make out our empty seats on ESPN.

The next morning we enjoyed our breakfast buffet (it was delicious!) and headed home, moving a little slow. All in all it was a fantastic time, a much needed break from everyday life.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2 Legit 2 Quit

The Rays are legit. Despite their 5-game skid, they are for real and whether or not they win the AL East pennant, they will be playing October Baseball. Here's why.

The casual baseball fan last year saw the Devil Rays as the perennial last place team that in its 10-year history hadn't had a winning season. For those of us that watched many games (not all, as we were still baseball package subscribers last year) , we saw something else. We saw the teams that had more 1- and 2-run losses than any other team. It was obvious there were just a couple piece of the puzzle that were missing. And despite a lack of big name trades, the Rays had the most productive off season in baseball.

Since they also had an embarrassing amount of blown saves due to a horrific bullpen and shallow starters, they went out and got a veteran closer in Troy Percival, who has the confidence and experience to save key games. They also took a chance on a couple of relief pitchers who have since shown their worth.

The Minnesota trade was key and the Rays got the better end of the deal for a few reasons. Matt Garza is doing an incredible job. As a Twins fan as well, I don't blame them for trading Garza. He looked like someone who may or may not have blossomed and could have just needed a different team or pitching coach to fit his needs (not to undercut Rick Anderson AT ALL - Johan Santana has Rick Anderson to thank for his 2 Cy Youngs). But Garza has found his stride in Tampa and is a perfect fit in our rotation. Jason Bartlett, while still anemic at the plate, has tightened up our defense. And getting rid of Delmon Young has had a positive impact on team chemistry. Personally, I haven't heard of any problems he's causing in the Twins locker room, which makes me hopeful he has learned his lesson and his cognizant of his place in the baseball pecking order.

Offensively, the Rays have not improved much, but everyone is contributing. The enthusiasm and clutch hitting from rookie Evan Longoria (also excellent on defense) is palpable. He still has growing to do and is going to be a legitimate star in a few years time. He is already an all-star, home run derby participant, and makes habitual web gem plays.

Even though the Rays are not a team of sluggers (only one player hitting above .300), they have more than made up in the defensive changes and solid starting rotation able to go deep into games. While Scott Kazmir, who is often thought of as the Rays ace, got a late start after being on the DL for a month, Andy Sonnanstine (the number FOUR pitcher) has quietly raked up 10 wins.

Lastly, Dioner Navarro. Named to the all-star team, our catcher has been the most improved player from last year to this year. Last year he straddled the Mendoza line, but this year has the best average on the team (.306). He has also stepped up defensively by calling some fantastic games and proving his leadership, notably by knocking Garza down a peg. Garza's start after the verbal beat down - when decided to finally stop shaking Navy off - was a one hit complete game.

This year the Rays found the pieces to the puzzle. And the best part? No one is going anywhere. They are all thrilled to finally be part of a winning team. Those people who say the Rays are too young and inexperienced to make it to the post season or even win a playoff series could be right even though I don't buy that. But next year, that excuse won't work.

As for the post title. One thing the Rays organization did this year to try to attract fans (even though we have the best record in baseball, the attendance is still a little pathetic) was their summer concert series. Every Saturday home game is followed by a free concert for fans. Next Saturday, after Dean and I watch the Rays play the Jays, we get to stick around for MC Hammer. It doesn't get much better than being a Rays fan right now.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Vote Longoria

This year, Rays rookie Even Longoria is a nominee for the all-star final vote. Show your support for the best team in baseball for voting for him. He's awesome offensively, defensively and pretty easy on the eyes. Go Longo!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quiet

Soooo.... I've been a little quiet lately. I don't really have a good excuse. Mostly, I've just been feeling introspective, trying to make sense of things. Trying to find meaning in my current situation and understand the consequences of some of my decisions. No, there is nothing big going on. No crises. I'm just sorting some things out. I know how good it is to keep posting, to bounce ideas and opinions off of you. But I also have to do what feels right. And right now, keeping things in my own head or letting Dean help me get through things feels like the right thing. I'm still around, reading you guys and I'll continue to write when I feel like it. I'm just putting out a warning that I haven't really felt like it much lately. But, like all things good and bad, this too shall pass.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Adopt a (BLACK) Cat Month

June is "adopt a cat month" and while I do not condone the impulsive adoption of a pet (despite doing it ourselves), perhaps I can plant a little seed in your mind that will start with you pondering if you are able to open your homes to a first or additional kitty. Dean and I are in agreement that taking in another kitty while renting an apartment is not a good idea, especially while our lives are in transition. But we are also in agreement that once we own a home, our furry family will grow bigger still.

In case you still weren't convinced that the anemic economy affects literally every aspect of our world, let me assure you that our four-legged friends are feeling the pinch of our pocketbooks as well. The shelters are full and there is a long turnaround time. I have spoken with several rescue groups and no one is taking in new cats for adoption because cats and kittens are not being successfully adopted from shelters. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay alone has a waiting list of 300 cats that will continue to roam the streets until the cats that are already in that shelter start getting homes. With gas prices prohibitively high and grocery prices seemingly following a similar trend, taking on the financial commitment of caring for an animal is the last thing on people's minds. And, as witnessed by feral cat feeders, some people who can no longer afford the pets they have are abandoning them at feeding sites.

So are you thinking about whether or not you can give a loving home to a needy animal? May I suggest a black cat?

My first two cats as a child were black cats, which until I learned more about cats I thought was a coincidence. Both times they were the only kittens left for adoption. It was no coincidence, it seems that black cats statistically have a tougher time finding homes. First, the black pigmentation is a dominant trait among cats and was genetically selected for due to the camouflage it allows while hunting. As I have mentioned before, a good fraction of the dumpster kitties are black, including my favorite one:


I don't usually pick favorites, but this one actually lets me pet her on occasion and will eat from my hands. So not only do more black cats end up needing homes, but fewer actually end up in homes. People generally aren't as excited about adopting black cats and kittens, so they actually get adopted at a slower rate than cats with other types of markings. I'm not really sure why that is, maybe their plain coloring just doesn't grab the attention of perspective adopters. I don't imagine people are still superstitious about black cats, but who knows. And if things weren't tough enough for the black ones, even if you wanted to open your home to a black cat, you likely can't do it if it is October, because most shelters will not allow black cat adoptions close to Halloween (you can thank the cat-torturing psychos for that).

It seems that black cats have three strikes against them, which is why I am having such a hard time finding a place for Oscar. Oscar is a kitty who was dumped at my feeding site. He is all black and extremely affectionate. The kids in my complex named him Oscar and love him because he joins them on the playground everyday after school. But he still deserves a real home with a real family and his own food that isn't served behind a dumpster. That's how I know so many shelters are full. One group I contacted - they are run straight out of people's homes so can always take animals they feel are needy enough - were willing to listen to Oscar's story but promptly rejected him after asking about his coloring. I was so frustrated that I shrill-ly told the lady that animals should be afforded the same rights from discrimination that are afforded to people. She hung up on me.

So, to sum up: The economy sucks. People are not adopting pets. Now is an especially good time to go to petfinder.com and adopt a black cat, so says Allie.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cleaning Up

In the absence of anything useful or interesting to say, I thought I would point out the obvious. That is, I made some changes. I will likely add some more stuff but got tired of working on it today. I couldn't get rid of my header though, Nellie's eyes are just too hypnotic.