Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hidden Message

Sometimes, men try to grow facial hair when, really, they just shouldn't. Like when my brother wore mutton chops. No es bueno. I've heard these people told, near the beginning of their ill-advised foray into the world of bearded men, "you've got something on your chin. I have a cat that could lick that off for you."

. . .

I woke up this morning at 6 AM. This was because my hands were above the covers. When Carmen sees a hand sitting idly, she cannot help herself but try to weasel under it to get pet. So for several minutes, I succumbed to her advances and let her sit on my chest while I pet her, half-asleep. I tried to stop a few times but every time she would nose under my palm again, until finally I put my hands under the covers. I let her stay on my chest, since, well, what harm could that do?

Apparently she got bored because just as I started to drift back into sleep, I felt something on my chin and then realized that Carmen was trying to eat my beard.

She didn't draw blood so I gently shooed her off and went back to sleep, but not before wondering whether she was just captivated by the movement of my chin in my sleep or whether she was trying to tell me something.

Maybe it's time to start shaving.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bitter Much?

I'm TAing Nuclear Engineering this semester. I was kind of worried about it because I don't actually know all that much about nuclear physics or engineering. Well, it turns out that the undergrads know basically nothing about it, so I didn't have anything to worry about.

Right now we're in the section on dosing. I was reading through a textbook almost as old as me. My supervisor loaned it to me, noting that the name scrawled on the inside front cover is his supervisor's name.

The author felt it would be useful, in discussing the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation on the human body, to do a quick rundown of cellular biology. I came across this passage which I found quite comical:

The germ cells, which are also called gametes, function only in reproduction. It is the union of the gametes from different sexes that is the starting point of a new individual. The gametes also carry the hereditary material of the species that makes children look more like their parents than their neighbors[sic], and ensure that the evils of mankind pass with little change from generation to generation.
How's that for unbiased scientific writing? That passage was in a textbook! Well, John R. Lamarsh, I shall see that history remembers you as a great nuclear engineer and misanthrope.

And hey, maybe I just found a new role model.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Episode IV: A New Hope

I watched Obama's inauguration speech today. He's a hell of a speaker. I was quite relieved, also, as I had been worried that the speech would go something like this: "Your old government was bad. The new government is good. Now sit back and relax while we fix everything." Y'know, the standard peddling easy answers schtick.

Luckily, that was not the case. I hope the speach will motivate everyone, not just Americans, to think hard about what it is they want from the future and what they can start doing to get there.

Governments are kind of like children. A lot of people seem to have forgetten that you are responsible for your own. When they are misbehaving – y'know, the usual trouble kids get up to, unilaterally starting wars and the like – you must rein them in. I think Obama's speach today reminded Americans of that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hop, Hop, Flump

Since we moved into the new house in September, L has been saying she wants a cat. I continued to say no on the grounds that if she got a cat, I was pretty sure I'd wind up doing all the feeding and litter cleaning and vet taking and so forth. Well, this Christmas I relented.

Meet Carmen!

Sensory OverloadCute FaceMake My Day

On Christmas morning, L got only one box from me. Which I had smuggled to her parents' house by her father, so she didn't even see it til Christmas morning. I had to have the box smuggled because it was too big to fit under my coat. It was too big to fit under my coat because it contained a litter box and a cat carrier. One o' them thar fancy-type litter boxes with an activated carbon air filter and a swinging door, what to keep the stink in.

So on the 27th of December, after making all the family rounds and putting about 8-zillion miles on my friend E's car (which was borrowed for the purpose of driving the entire width of Southern Ontario several times over the Christmas holiday), L and I drove to the local Toronto Human Society adoption centre. We looked at cats. Many cats. Hundreds of them. Possibly more. Of course, L decided she liked the little black one that liked to sleep in her litter box — "Sandy", said the name tag on her cage.

We went to the counter to ask about how the process works. We were told that adoptions were done for the day and we should come back between 12 and 6 the following day. We noticed that they let a number of cats run loose behind the counter. I have a soft spot for cats that like to sit on projects — many a science fair project was completed with the late Muffin sitting on whichever part was least convenient. I pointed to the cat sitting in the paperwork tray.

"Is that how you file the incoming ones?" I asked.

The man behind the counter picked her up, showing us clearly her missing back paw.

"This is Legolas," he said, plunking her down on the counter. "Get it? Legolas? Like from Lord of the Rings?" Perhaps when you spend all your time talking to cats your sense of humour gets a bit... dulled. The man explained that the missing paw was a deformity and not an injury and showed us, much to kitty's chagrin, a partial pawpad on the end of her truncated appendage. After that we got to pet her on the counter for a while. She was very friendly and one of the cutest cats I've ever met.

In any case, we had to think it over for the night. We went back the next day and L decided then and there that we were going to adopt little Legolas. We filled out the paperwork and the man assured us that she had received a clean bill of health. Paper work finished, we crammed her in the cage and drove home, which thrilled her to no end.

It was decided that Legolas was too patronizing a name and a new name would have to be chosen. For a while the forerunner was Trike, which I thought was hilarious, but L couldn't make up her mind, or wouldn't, and kitty's name was Kitty for the interim.

That afternoon, kitty ate a lot of food, which I stupidly continued to put out for her. She then threw it all up a few hours later. We also noticed that she had diarrhea. Fortunately, the Humane Society gives 48 hours of vet care with adopted cats. So we crammed poor Kitty into the cage again and took her right back to where she came from. The vet on duty was not the King of Bedside Manner, to quote a song. Ultimately, he said she would need to be kept, just in case, and so he could put her on intravenous antibiotics.

Like nervous, new parents we called the next day. We went to visit her and pet her in the cage. The poor thing had a bald patch on her arm, but they'd removed the IV by the time we went to see her. The non-weekend vet was much more informative. He said that her belly didn't feel abnormal, as the other vet had noted (but not told us about) which was a good sign, but the diarrhea was a possible parasite symptom.

They kept her right through til New Year's Day. We brought her home and, with the exception of having to cram liquid medicine down her throat 3 times a day for the first 4 days, things have been hunky dory. L has finally named her Carmen, which I think is a nice name. She seems to have gotten over the parasite, fingers crossed.

All in all, she's a great cat. She is extremely friendly and loves company and gets quite worked up when she decides it's play time. Although the best thing about her is her walk. I think hopping around on only 3 legs gets a little tiresome so she falls against the nearest wall or piece of furniture every few steps — hop, hop, flump.