Skip to content

Three cat tales

July 30, 2010

I don’t plan on blogging extensively about my cat, but once in a while, it may be necessary. And this is one of those days. Three amusing cat-related incidences have occurred in the last few days.

A Cat Bath

Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any photos or video of my six-year-old cat’s first bath. It took two of us just to hold him and wash him, so we didn’t have a photographer. But, surprisingly, Cat handled it pretty well. I followed the rules I had read online: run just a few inches of water first, keep it a mild temperature, put a towel in the bottom so he can get a good grip, and trim the claws ahead of time.

When the time came, I bribed him with treats first so he’d be happy and not hungry or whiny to start, then carried him upstairs to the ready bathwater. He whined and clawed a little at first (I have one cat-scratch paw print on my leg), but once he got settled and realized nothing too terrible was going to happen, he seemed to almost enjoy the attention, massaging, and cool water. I am relieved he handled it so well and happy to have a cleaner kitty.

Since I didn’t get a photo of Cat-in-the-Bath, here’s a fun one of Cat-in-the-Box:

Orange and White cat in cardboard box

Fat Cat Food

Besides the fact that Cat likes to squint in photos, you might also notice that he’s a rather plump kitty. To work to remedy this, I’ve purchased “Weight Control” cat food on a few occasions. Cat does not seem to like the diet food very much. A few months ago, he seemed to take to it ok, but the last bag, he all but refused to eat unless he got really hungry.  It sat in the back of a cabinet, forgotten, until I purchased a new bag, and realized, “Hey, I should try to get him to eat up this old food first.” So I’ve been mixing the older diet food with regular food, about half-and-half, until today, when I realized why Cat didn’t like the diet food.

Exhibit A: Two bags of weight control food:

Two bags of weight control pet food

Exhibit B: Why Cat didn’t like the older bag:

Close up of pet food label: reads "dog" with faint picture of dog

Oops. I guess cats are not big fans of dog food. From Exhibit A, you can see how I could have grabbed a bag from the store shelf assuming it was cat food without looking too closely. The bag on the left is actually cat food, on the right, dog food. Hopefully, cat and dog food are nutritionally similar enough that no significant damage was done to Cat by his consumption of dog food for a few weeks. Any veterinarians, dog and cat owners, or pet food manufacturers that can comment? A few takeaways:

  • Pet food manufacturers, especially Iams: Please make your cat and dog food packaging significantly different with large, high-contrast pictures of dogs and cats so one does not have to look too closely to see which is which.
  • Safeway and store stockers and managers: Please look closely at pet food bags and make sure they are stocked in the appropriate shelf area.
  • Pet owners: Please look closely at the bag before purchasing it to make sure it is the right kind of food. Looks may be deceiving.

I hope Cat likes the diet cat food better than the diet dog food. (Update: food bowl empty. Looks like he’s happier with cat food, even the diet kind!)

A Feel-Good Story

A few days ago, as I was headed out on my bike to a Nationals/Braves game, I noticed a guy on his bike calling out, “Slinky! Here, Slinky! (kissy noises),” clearly looking for a lost pet, flyers in hand. I asked him for a description of the lost pet. He described a cat with distinctive black/white/grey swirly spots/stripes; I said I would keep an eye out and headed on my way. After the game, I biked home, sweaty and tired, and dragged my bike back into my basement.

Fast forward to today. I headed down to the basement to take care of some laundry, and noticed “Oh merde, I left the basement door unlocked again!” It had happened once before after bringing my bike back. This time, the door was open a few inches, and I scanned the basement to see if anything was out of place. All seemed fine, and I secured the door and made a mental note to not let it happen again.

A couple hours later, I headed back to the basement to get the bike to run some errands. My cat was nosing around the kitchen. I did a double-take when I opened the door to the basement and there was another cat sitting on the steps! I shut the door, startled, as the strange cat darted down the steps. I realized this strange cat fit the description of the man’s missing cat: black and grey patterns. I went down to the basement, wandering among the piles of junk calling, “Kitty! Here, kitty! (kissy noises).”

I found Lost Cat cowering among some piles of stuff in the front basement area, brought him down some cat food (regular cat food, not diet, not dog food) and water and went out to find the phone number from a flyer. I called the owner and left a message and kept checking on Lost Cat as I waited for them to call back. Lost Cat seemed scared, but happy to have some food and water. About a half-hour later, a lady called back, cautiously optimistic that I had found her family’s cat.

She and her adorable twin boys, about nine years old in matching soccer uniforms, came over, identified the cat as theirs, coaxed him out of hiding, and happily took their mewing cat back home. Lost Cat was now Found Cat! I was happy that my carelessness had resulted, not in an evil intruder, but in providing shelter to a sweet kitty during a couple days of thunderstorms and heat. But I’m still going to lock my basement door next time I bring my bike back in.

Lost Cat happily, cautiously eating:

Grey cat licking his lips at a food bowl Grey cat between a box and pile of stuff peering out at food and water bowls


Theater review: Avenue Q

July 24, 2010

Puppets. Profanity. Purpose. (Today’s review of Avenue Q is brought to you by the letter “P!”) Playing now through August 15 at the Lansburgh Theatre in downtown Washington, DC, the Broadway musical Avenue Q had the audience laughing out loud and letting loose at the decidedly non-PC antics of a talented and engaging cast.  A show not-for-kids, I would call it a must-see for adults who know how to laugh. The show came highly recommended by all friends who had seen it, and I strongly agree – GO SEE IT!

Musical highlights include: “It Sucks to be Me,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude,” and “The Internet is for Porn.”  If those titles sound amusing and intriguing, you’ll love the show. If you’re blushing and not sure if you can handle mature themes and R-rated puppets, well, you’ll probably enjoy Mary Poppins, currently playing at The Kennedy Center.

Besides the giggle- and guffaw-inducing adult subjects and music, what makes Avenue Q so enjoyable is how real it is. The actors, through the puppets, lay forth in raw, honest emotion the heartaches, yearnings, pains, and struggles of the human experience, with plenty of wit and humor.  You’re not just laughing at the puppets’ antics – you’re laughing at yourself, and your friends and neighbors.  Having your eyes opened to the humorous side of difficult or taboo subjects and experiences is a relief – a big stress-relieving catharsis.  And most of us could likely use a good laugh right now; I know the show lifted my spirits and made my week.

And even better, Goldstar is offering steeply discounted tickets! Only one performance date is showing availability right now, but they’ve been periodically adding new dates. (Disclaimer: I do receive a tiny credit towards future service charges if you purchase tickets through the above Goldstar link. But I would recommend the show and discounted tickets regardless!)

Congress, you have oil on your hands

July 22, 2010

Oil covered foam hand in front of CapitolClimate activists rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday to demand that Congress enact “Clean Energy Policy Now!”  The BP Oil Crisis spurred many organizations, including 1 Sky350, Code Pink, Friends of the EarthGreenpeace, and concerned citizens to demand that oil money and influence be cleansed from our politics as oil is being cleaned from our shores. Rallying cries included:

  • What do we want? Clean Energy! When do we want it? Now!
  • Oil on your hands, Pollution in the air – Congress, it’s time to show you care!

There were calls to action from environmental leaders and moving speeches by Louisiana residents on the impact of the oil disaster on their lives. An oil-soaked, money-eyed “BP representative” was running around, making a mockery of cleaning off a turtle.  Friends of the Earth had a “Wanted” sign listing “The BP Ten,” the ten Congresspeople who have taken the most money in campaign contributions from BP.  The most wanted list includes well-known names like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Congressional offices of each of the BP Ten were visited by volunteers and activists from Friends of the Earth, who demanded that oil money contributions received in the last two election cycles be donated to Gulf Coast recovery efforts.  Sign a petition on the Friends of the Earth website to pressure Congress to reject dirty oil money.

The women of Code Pink ended the event with a humorous yet poignant song, to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies Theme (posted with permission):

“Let us tell you the story ’bout Company BP
It wanted more oil so it dug deep into the sea
They wanted more profit so they did it on the cheap
And up from the sea came a bubbling leak
Oil, that is. Black Gold. Louisiana Tea.

So the birds and the shrimp and the fish began to die
And the people on the gulf, they all began to cry
They asked the folks in Congress to listen to their pleas
But Congress was in bed with the oil companies
Oh no, get them out! That’s bad.

Get oil money out of Congress, we want green energy
The sun and the wind and the waves of the sea
We can’t stick with oil cause we’re running out of crude
If we don’t make the change, the planet will be screwed.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Movie quick take: Inception

July 20, 2010

I saw Inception this weekend and enjoyed the thrill-ride, but left with a nagging feeling that something was missing, that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the hype, peer reviews, and my expectations had led me to hope I would.  I realized my problem with Inception after reading Roger Ebert’s blog post discussing David Edelstein’s critical review. This line from Edelstein stood out:

“Nolan is too literal-minded, too caught up in ticktock logistics, to make a great, untethered dream movie.”

I agree with this assessment – for me, the movie was too strictly logical for a dream film. I expected and wanted fewer rules, more like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Matrix. I realize, the movie I expected to see was not the movie Christopher Nolan wanted to make, but I had been led to believe from the trailer that there would be more than just a handful of scenes that bent the rules of physics.

If your subconcious does wacky illogical stuff that bends the laws of physics, why couldn’t the Architect and others in your dream? I can buy the dream extractors and everything within the film except that limitation. If an Architect can build a world that’s accepted by the subconscious as one’s own dream reality, that fabricated false-world shouldn’t have to behave and look so normally. I just don’t buy the explanation Cobb gives in the film that your “subconscious projections” start to notice odd physics but are ok with a world created by a different mind.  I guess it’s a nuance of the dream technology.

I did enjoy the movie, but didn’t find it the “best movie ever.” I loved the layers, the overall plot and character development, the way it left me thinking, the idea itself of invading the mind through dreams. I guess I’m just a sucker for mind-bending special effects and visuals. (My Netflix suggestions have me pegged pretty well.)

Self-aware but not necessarily selfish (or, why we Millennials really are awesome)

July 20, 2010

My slightly older friend recently asked me, “It seems like your generation is more attuned to professional development, finding what you’re good at, and skills identification. Why do you think that is?” Here are my musings on this question.

For me at least, at my university, I had the opportunity to participate in a lot of those personality and skills inventory tests, Myers-Briggs and so forth, that help you identify personality and strength attributes, like creative, entrepreneurial, and analytical on one evaluation, and find career possibilities that would be a good match. I think a lot of people in my generation, Millennials, had the chance to take such tests and self-evaluations in college or high school, or at least on Facebook.  And those of us who took a basic psychology course were introduced to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the concept of self-actualization.

We’ve been told by our parents, “You can do anything you want,” and by advertising, “Have it your way. What do you want? Where do you want to go today?” This makes it harder to accept a job and lifestyle that does not make us happy. We don’t merely aspire to happiness – we expect it.

A recent talk at TEDxPotomac by Cake Love founder Warren Brown encouraged the audience, “Do what makes you happy. Follow your happiness, answer to yourself.” This message resonates with young adults because, one way or another, we’ve been hearing it all our lives.

And more easily than in the past, we can tailor our world to exactly match our preferences, our news to exactly match our interests and views. Starbucks’ recent “however-you-want-it” frappuccino campaign played to the expectation of customization.  Facebook’s instant personalization may have been subject to many privacy critiques, but I would assume that to some young people, it seemed merely another way to access the information most relevant to them, the natural evolution of the internet from a distributive channel to a very personal, interactive, social experience.

The simple act of customizing a Google or Yahoo! homepage asks you, “What do you want to hear about? What kind of news and information do you like?” You have to stop and think, “What do I like to read about, learn about, and stay up-to-date on?” The previous generation wasn’t given this opportunity at every turn to customize their information stream. You could pick your TV channel, your radio station, but weren’t asked what specific topics interested you the most.  Now, from customizing our internet home page, to selecting the news feeds in our RSS reader, to building our Twitter lists of organizations and people we want to follow, we filter our worlds far more granularly than ever before, constantly asking ourselves, “Is this information going to be relevant to me?

The filtered news many of us now receive has been talked about in the context of the echo chamber, selective perception, and an increased polarization of political views.  I believe it has also had the effect of helping us paint a clearer picture of ourselves, as “me” and “myself” become more clear and better defined through many deliberate acts of choosing and defining what we like.  We fill out profiles, list our interests, and write snappy 160-character bios of ourselves, spending more time consciously defining “about me” than previous generations were asked to do.  Sure, this has the potential to lead to a selfishness, a false expectation that the world revolves around that “me,” but this heightened sense of self can also lead to more true happiness, as we have a better idea of how we each define happiness for ourselves.

And in the career realm it can lead to a better awareness of the skills you possess, your interests, the types of work you like, the things and ideas that motivate you, and greater satisfaction and productivity at work. Millennials like to work for a bigger purpose than just mere money. We may not always enjoy taking direction, but we enjoy learning and trying new things and finding creative ways to do something more efficiently or better. And if we can say with confidence that we’re doing something we enjoy, we’ll be happier and more productive employees or entrepreneurs.

Look at Twitter.  There are many people not just sharing what they eat, but what they read, what they do for work or for fun that they are passionate about.  My Twitter stream is full of highly productive people who love what they do, do it well, and love sharing their passion and knowledge with others.

And that is what makes me (and others) hopeful that my generation can and will “change the world” and “make a difference” on the issues many of us care about (like the environment, hunger, and poverty) – our desire to share and cooperate with others. A recent New York Times article and the TEDxPotomac speech by Frances Moore Lappé pointed out that people are wired for cooperation, to be helpful to one another and gain satisfaction from doing so.  We aren’t just more self-aware than ever before, we really are better able to connect with others who care about the same things, who share our passions and our values.  As Steve Moore pointed out at TEDxPotomac, we can harness our instant connectedness not just for mass snowball fights, but for mass action and gatherings to create better neighborhoods and solutions to the problems facing the world that we live in.

Note: This post was written shortly after attending TEDxPotomac in May 2010, but edited and published a couple months later.

Finally entering the personal blogging world

July 19, 2010

Welcome to my blog.  This is looooong overdue for someone in the communications field.  For most of the last year, I was blogging professionally at my former workplace. I became familiar with WordPress, SEO, social marketing, and writing in pithy bullet points with snappy intros. Well, in theory, at least.  So now it’s time to put what I think I know in theory into practice. Thanks for joining me.