Sunday, September 25, 2005

We went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Here's a shot via the camera phone, taken prior to the joust. has an interesting feature, where you can set up your blog to accept text or picture messages from your cell phone. That's how I sent the shots taken from the Prayer on the Parkway a few days ago, and this shot of the joust area.

I love the RenFaire. This is the second year in a row that we've gone. Last year, it was just Joe M., Betty, Mark, and I. This year, Betty couldn't come, but we added Karla, Al, John R. and Ann Marie. Great food, interesting performances, BEAUTIFUL setting (Mount Hope, PA). I think we're going to end up attending this at least every other year, which is fine by me.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Captain's mad at me.

It seems that the back of our computer desk really doesn't HAVE a back, at least not behind the part where the drawers are.

I might have gone forever without knowing this, had it not been for Captain going into Inspector Gadget mode, and having to get his little pinkie nosie into everything.

Here I sat, at the computer, surfing away. And typing. And suddenly, hearing the crumple, crumple, crumple noise of paper being squashed.

Now, it wasn't ME crumpling paper. It wasn't Mark crumpling paper. So my immediate thought was that one of the Resident Felines was crumpling paper. "HEY. Stop that!", I called out, and went back to surfing.

Moments later... crumple, crumple, crumple. "I said KNOCK IT OFF", I called out, looking around and wondering just where the sound was coming from. There was no sign of anything amiss. I resumed surfing.

Crumple, crumple, crumple. This time, I was pretty sure that I'd IDed the direction from which the noise was emanating. It seemed to be coming from our bottom desk drawer, which is pretty large and also happens to be where we keep our store of computer paper.

I pulled open the drawer. Up popped Captain like an orange-and-white fuzzy Jack in the Box. He had that classic feline, "What just happened here?" bemused expression on his face, looking around to determine how his hidey-hole had suddenly opened wide into broad daylight. The crumpling noise had been caused by a certain stripey critter, who'd gotten into the desk drawer by way of the open BACK of the desk, stomping around on the computer paper and its paper wrapping, to fashion it into a cozy nest.

I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing. Captain sulked his way out of the computer room and curled up in the hallway, just outside the computer room door.

So now Captain's mad at me.

Or, at least, he WAS mad. During the time that it took for me to write this anecdote, he decided to come BACK into the computer room and curl up on my Box of Stuff that's next to the computer desk. Nothing like being within arm's length of Meowmy, who doles out pettins while she's surfing, right?

Short attention spans can be a Good Thing, sometimes. :o)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

When it comes to convincing a kitty that something's good to do, it's all in how you phrase it.

Take, for example, Stanley. He is turning into the biggest attention sponge I've ever seen in my life. When he wants doting, he will stand in front of you, arch his back, and do the "pet me!" dance, where he kind of crab-walks around until you notice him and give him a skritch.

Mark would look down in amusement and, while skritching Stanley, tell him, "You just want AT-TENNN-TIONNNN". So then I started telling Stanley that, too, in the same tone of voice. "I see a kitty looking for AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, yes I do...", etc, and all the while I'd actually be paying him at-tennn-tionnnn. Um, I mean "attention". ;o)

Last night, Stanley really, *really* needed his claws trimmed. So I waited until he was napping. Then I took the claw trimmer, scooped him into my lap, and told him, "Look at the good boy getting lots of AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, everybody wants to pay him some AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, yes they do..." as I stealthily went snip, snip, snip and trimmed his claws.

It took less than two minutes to get it all done, and he never griped once. Why should he? He was getting AT-TENNN-TIONNNN, his favorite thing in the whole wide world. :o)

Stanley doesn't like getting his claws trimmed, but he loves doting more than anything. So all I had to do was tell him he was getting attention, and he was fine. Like I said, it's all in how you phrase it. :o)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

There might be a new kind of cat toy around here, although I sincerely hope not.

This morning, our next-door neighbor asked if we'd seen any mice recently. The answer, fortunately, is "No", and I hope it remains that way.

However, it appears that there is a mouse problem in the entire neighborhood. I'm willing to bet that it's because there is a LOT of building of new houses taking place where there was a large empty lot. All the digging and laying down of water mains, gas pipes, etc is probably driving out whatever critters lived in said empty lot. Since my street is less than a block away from all this activity, I'm not surprised that our block (and the next block, as well) are starting to experience a problem.

Fortunately, Captain and Stanley's presence seems to be enough to deter any uninvited critters from trying to move into this house. So far, there's been absolutely no evidence of any rodent encroachment. No sane mouse would take up residence in a house with two cats, not when there are plenty of catless houses nearby to choose from. That goes double for the fact that THIS particular pair of cats is still young and playful enough to be in "Pounce on anything that moves!" mode during every waking moment of their day.

I don't think that any rodent would last long if either of these cats got hold of it. If they didn't actually figure out how to kill it, the poor thing would probably die of fright or exhaustion after being tag-teamed by both of them.

I did promise our neighbor that I'd keep a close eye on just what the cats were playing with. I hope that the only mouse-shaped things that the cats have to play with are actual TOYS, not real mice or ex-mice. ;o)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We just got the attached bulletin in our email. I'll pass it along to
remind people that it's best to give to known charities and avoid the
vultures who are trying to make a buck from someone else's tragedy.


FBI Advisory 9/7/05
Hurricane Katrina Scams Alert

Similar to the Tsunami scams which surfaced last winter, there has been
a rapid increase in websites and associated SPAM being deployed;
purporting to be legitimate fund-raising efforts for the victims of the
recent Hurricane and subsequent massive flooding in the Gulf coast
region. Over the past week there have been more than 500 sites
advertising Hurricane Katrina relief services. On Friday, September
2nd, there were approximately 300 established on that day alone.

The challenge is to quickly analyze and assess those sites which appear
to be illegitimate and to develop a strategy to ascertain the
responsible parties and ensure the safety of the public, who research
these sites. In order to do this, the FBI relies heavily on key
partnerships established with both law enforcement (domestically and
abroad) and in many cases with the well known charitable organizations,
whose good names are being used to give credibility to the scammers.

As with the Tsunami fraud scams, the FBI continues to enlist
substantial cooperation from its law enforcement partners, particularly
the U. S. Postal Inspection Service,
U. S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and a vast array
of state and local agencies. As many of these scams involve
international aspects, our growing partnership with international law
enforcement will be vital in efficiently following and capturing the
evidence trail.

Several matters have been developed and referred out for investigation
throughout the FBI. We expect the number of investigative referrals to
increase over the next several weeks.

Those who desire to contribute to the Hurricane Katrina funds should
carefully research the organizations soliciting funds to ensure the
monies donated will be used as guaranteed. The Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) recommends investigating any charity soliciting a
donation with consumer organizations such as the American Institute of
Philanthropy at or the Better Business Bureau's
Wise Giving Alliance at

Information on suspicious solicitations or websites can be reported to
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) IC3, via Anyone
with information concerning a scam related to Hurricane Katrina victims
is encouraged to contact the FBI at (215) 418-4000.


When it's 9:35 AM and you've already taken FIVE messages, you know it's
going to be an Insane Telephone Day. It's normal to get 5 to 8 messages
between 9:00 AM and *noon*, rather than in the first 35 minutes of the

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Friday, September 02, 2005

In the aftermath of this horrendous disaster that is Hurricane Katrina,
I was glad to see the attached (slightly redacted by me to remove
directly identifying information) letter sent out to all employees of
the organization where I work.

DATE: September 1, 2005
TO: Physicians and Staff

SUBJECT: [Health System] Initiatives to Support Hurricane
Katrina Relief Efforts

We have learned from federal disaster-relief officials that the most
needed contribution we can make at this time to support the victims of
Hurricane Katrina is financial - so that the dollars contributed can be
used by relief experts to make purchases vital to their provision of
necessary food, shelter, and medical services.

To that end, [Health System] has made a donation to the American Red
Cross in support of the relief effort ... and we encourage all
physicians and staff to make their own financial contributions to their
preferred charitable organization. To join the Health System's
initiative to get much-needed funds as rapidly as possible to
appropriate agencies, please visit the Federal Emergency Management
website at <> or call 1-800-HELPNOW

To further support the federal response efforts, we have created a
Health Care Professionals Relief Program to register [Health System]
volunteers for staffing assignments in one of the dozens of Field
Medical Shelters that are now being established by federal officials in
the areas hardest hit by the hurricane. These shelters will be used
to evaluate and treat patients emergently; and they will also serve as
medical staging sites for the transfer of critically ill patients to
hospitals throughout the nation that have not been directly affected by
the hurricane and its aftermath of floods.

If you are a health care professional who would be able to devote a
minimum of two consecutive weeks to such a staffing effort, please
register your interest by clicking on [health system intranet link] .
To ensure that operational efficiencies are maintained at all Health
System facilities, volunteer activities by [Health System] personnel
will be coordinated by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and will
be scheduled and approved by relevant supervisors, managers,
administrators, and Chairs. Volunteers will need to use either
Vacation or Unpaid Hours to support their efforts.

While there are still many unanswered questions, interested individuals
should keep in mind that you would be required to serve for a minimum
of two weeks, that you will need to receive all necessary
vaccinations, and that details surrounding travel and lodging
arrangements remain undetermined. In addition, the "field" conditions
under which you would be serving will be very different from what you
experience here at home.

We will communicate with you as we receive additional information about
how our efforts may efficiently support the implementation of the
National Disaster Plan. Meanwhile, we will begin to develop our
volunteer corps of health-care professionals ... and continue to
encourage you to make a financial contribution.

Thank you for your continued interest in helping to support the victims
of Hurricane Katrina. Together, we can make a significant
contribution to our neighbors in need.

I'm so glad that my employer is gearing up to do something concrete for the disaster-stricken area. I'm sure that many more companies will be planning to support relief efforts in some way. But not every company can send actual medical personnel to the areas devastated by Katrina. Medical supply companies of every stripe had better pitch in, too, and donate however many sterile items are needed due to this catastrophe. Ditto for pharmaceutical companies.

The news has been reporting mostly about the conditions in New Orleans, although other cities and states have been devastated, as well. I can understand why -- it's likely that more people have visited New Orleans than just about anywhere else that was struck by Katrina.

I was there in July 1987 for a convention. I loved every minute of it, both the workshops and speakers at the convention itself, and the tours we went on in our free time. We did a tour of a plantation, a ride on the Natchez, Preservation Hall, midnight jazz Mass, breakfast at Brennan's, the Moonwalk, Cafe du Monde, the French Quarter, and other things that I'll probably be able to recall if I think back on those five days... I can't say enough good things about that trip, the people, the city, the food, everything.

Several of the workshops and all of the keynote addresses took place in the SuperDome. To this day, I can't see a picture of that building without thinking of the convention and the wonderful time we all had.

To see the SuperDome with extensive hurricane damage, to read the horror stories of the heat, filth, and mayhem that the evacuees were subjected to in there, to see the wreckage that so much of the rest of the city has become... it horrifies me. I dread the day that the death toll finally begins to be tallied; I fear it's going to be hideous beyond anyone's worst nightmare by the time the counting is done. :o(

I've been looking all over the internet to see what, if any, landmarks are still recognizable from our trip there. I'm reasonably sure, after looking at some online maps, that the hotel where we stayed is in the 80% of the city that's flooded. Sigh.

Just about all we can do now is donate to relief agencies and pray wholeheartedly that as many people come out of this disaster safely as humanly possible. That goes for the entire Gulf region, not just New Orleans.

I feel like I did when the tsunami struck SE Asia last December... the news is heartbreaking to watch, to the point where I almost can't bear to look. But I feel like I HAVE to know what's going on, because so many lives are at stake.

Aid has FINALLY started to reach the region. (Jolly freakin' well about time, considering the hurricane hit four days ago and it was well-known several days in advance that Katrina would make landfall in the Gulf region.) I hope that we start hearing good news of what's going RIGHT for evacuees. After the past few days of disaster and mayhem, that'll be a welcome turnaround.