January 2007

Main Street

Considerable anxiety has been expressed of late about the commercial future of Shawville in the past two issues of The Equity. Folks are worried about businesses disappearing, particularly in what is risibly referred to as downtown (i.e., along Main Street). Two stores — a general store and an office supplies store — are up for sale because their owners would like to retire, and the local Curves franchise has announced it’s closing its doors at the end of the month. Much worry, then, about whether this town is losing its shops.

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Cosmos (cover) I received a copy of Cosmos on DVD from my brother for Christmas — too late for me to blog about it as part of the Carl Sagan blog-a-thon that took place on December 20, the tenth anniversary of his death, but here it is belatedly.

It’s safe to say that I grew up on Cosmos: portions of the series have persisted in my memory since it was first broadcast (when I was eight); I also had a copy of the companion book which I have since, I guess, lost. It made a big impact on my impressionable mind, but only in its discrete parts; it was only now, when I was able to watch the series, beginning to end, as an adult, that I was able to appreciate the whole.

Sagan was making an argument with this series, and each episode, and each point within each episode, illustrated with an historical analogy or with a simple demonstration, contributed to that argument. To point out that complex organic molecules are easy to make, and that the laws of science — of physics and chemistry — are the same throughout the universe, is to support the argument that life on other worlds is not only possible, but probable. A parallel argument is our connectedness to the greater universe: how, for example, supernovae essentially built us, by providing our planet’s heavy elements and the cosmic rays that enable mutation-driven evolution. And so forth. This was never a mere science program, or even a science program with a lot of neat material on the history of science.

One unexpected reaction — we must be getting old — was that despite our strong interest in the series’s subject matter, Jennifer (and I, to a lesser extent) had real trouble staying awake. PBS programming was slower paced in 1980, and Sagan’s manner of speaking and tone was surprisingly soothing.

Tired of all the cat-blogging yet?

Goober in the kitchen Goober got a clean bill of health from the vet yesterday. Paw damage is superficial and will heal up eventually. He’s lost about a pound and a half since his last checkup, which doesn’t sound like much, except that it’s 10 per cent of his body mass: in human terms, that’d be like losing 18 to 25 pounds in a week. But he had weight to lose. Every day he seems to gain a little more vitality, and Maya hisses at him a little less.

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Cat retrieval aftermath

Goober returned from his week-long adventure with surprisingly few scars. He’s got some blisters on his toes, and he’s lost quite a bit of weight. We’ll have him into the vet on Saturday as a precaution, but it looks like he’s got a cold: he’s running a bit of a temperature if his ears and paws are any indication, and he’s also sneezing and coughing up phlegm even more than usual (remember, we named him “Goober” for a reason: he’s always been a bit of a sneezy cat).

Goober, drying One thing we were able to do reasonably quickly: give him a bath. Goober was quite filthy, covered in the grit and soot and grime that he no doubt picked up from spending a week in the junkyard of a gas station-slash-snowmobile dealership. Our usual method of bathing cats involves a pitcher and the tub, since we don’t have a handheld shower head, but we manage. We missed a few spots, but at least he’s cleaner, if not totally clean.

He’s not eating as much as he used to. He’s been spending most of his time sleeping, which isn’t a surprise — he might be sleeping off his cold as well as his exhaustion.

Maya, however, is pissed: after more than two years of living with Goober, it takes one week apart for her to start hissing and growling at him. I think she got used to having the place to herself.

Found him!

Found him!

We spotted him a few moments ago mucking about the yard of Bean’s, the service station/snowmobile dealership across the lane from us. We ran over and cornered him inside an old freezer unit, where, with a couple of employees helping us, Jen was able to retrieve him.

He’s filthy, but alive. And not a moment too soon: the overnight low is now forecast for -31°C.

And now he’s acting like he never left …

The cat came back, my ass

Since my last report, Goober came back to our back porch twice to eat the food we’d set out for him: once between 12 and 2 PM on Saturday, which Jen missed because she was asleep (we’ve been getting very little sleep lately), and once at 1 AM on Sunday, when Jen spotted him but couldn’t catch him — as soon as she opened the door, he was off.

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Worried sick is not just an expression

When I found out that Goober had disappeared, I did not know where (or how far) he had gone, whether he had been picked up by someone or was still out in the cold somewhere, or even whether he was still alive. Those with more experience with wayward cats — including Jennifer, David and many other friends and coworkers — said that frequently cats would come back after a few days’ adventuring, and that this was likely to be the case with Goober. After all, he’d been fixed, so he wouldn’t wander as much as a tom; and since he still had his claws, he could defend himself as needed. So, odds were, he was alive, all right, probably having the time of his life, and would turn up eventually. I could appreciate the likelihood, but — as is so frequently the case with me — what I can appreciate intellectually and what I feel are frequently at odds.

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One of our cats is missing

The computer finally got fixed yesterday, so all is well at that end.

Cat with mouse But there’s a new problem: Goober got out either Monday night or Tuesday morning, and we haven’t seen him since. If you’re in the Shawville area, keep an eye out for him, would you? Jen is used to having cats come back after a few days; I’m not, so I’m a bit more frantic about this than she is. Actually, “frantic” is a bit of an understatement. So is “apoplectic,” for that matter.

iPhone questions

iPhone The iPhone is one of those gadgets I’m awfully impressed by, and I certainly lust after, but I know full well that I do not need: I’m simply not out of the house enough to warrant owning a mobile phone of any sort at this point, and GSM coverage barely qualifies as marginal where we are. So I’m safe. But I’m still interested.

Two questions that came to mind yesterday while absorbing the information on this thing.

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Apple sizes

It looks like everyone’s obsessing about the size of Apple’s new iPhone, which was announced today but won’t be available for six months: 43Folders, Engadget, Jason Kottke.

Me, I couldn’t help but notice something else. Apple now has three products — the Mac mini, the Apple TV and the newly released AirPort Extreme — that share the same form factor: basically, a flat square. I wondered — are they the same size? Are they stackable?

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Those who served, those who died*

Shawville war memorial An interesting aspect of how small communities remember their war veterans is revealed by Shawville’s war memorial in our Memorial Park. I had been accustomed to such monuments listing a community’s war dead; this one has inscribed the names of everyone who served — the war dead are marked with an asterisk. Few enough, I suppose, that everyone who served could be thus commemorated.

(Note that the monument is relatively new — 1997 — which is interesting in terms of my thinking about the recent development of what I refer shorthandedly as the Cult of the Veteran.)

(Also note the wreath at the monument’s base, and the poppy taped to one name. This photo was taken on the 4th; weather conditions would not have allowed either to stay for very long, so this had been done recently, and is not a holdover from November 11.)

What winter?

Lilac buds Last Thursday we went for a walk around Shawville so that I could take pictures of our freakish weather. It hit 10°C on Friday. These temperatures (and concomitant lack of snow cover) aren’t just screwing up nature: lilacs are budding (see photo), the grass is still green, and earthworm activity is being reported on one mailing list. It’s also screwing up my health: I lapsed back into flare over the past three days, though I seem to be doing better this morning (it’s probably not a coincidence that it’s also snowing this morning). Going almost directly from fall to spring with a week’s worth of winter is not good — I need a few good and cold months for my back to recover. It’s January and I’m from Winnipeg: I expect -25°C!

Wrapping up the holidays

Living room on Christmas morning Jen’s back at work this morning, so our holidays are essentially over. I have an ambiguous relationship with holidays and vacations, because I persist in trying to work through them, at least at a reduced rate: even if I’m off visiting relatives, I still try to get at least some blogging in. I have a hard time relaxing. It’s probably why my holidays have been steadily less ambitious for years: in 1999 I was in Europe for Christmas and the New Year, but in 2000 I stayed home — and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Making travel an occasional and optional part of the holidays, rather than a duty, makes it possible to enjoy them more. The Christmas season is stressful enough and expensive enough without travel adding to both, and I’m trying to watch my stress levels and my pennies. So this year we stayed home and, for the most part, stayed in. We got out, but no more than usual. My mother showed up for the first week and was under strict orders from me to do little and decompress (read, watch movies, go for walks), and was successful at it: Shawville is a good place for that, I’ve found.

No state funeral for last WWI veteran — now what?

Canada’s cult of the soldier continues unabated, but some veterans aren’t playing ball. The Canadian government has agreed to the Dominion Institute’s demand for a state funeral for the last Canadian veteran of the First War, but none of the three remaining veterans wants a state funeral. Veterans Affairs is exploring other, unspecified options, but I wonder what will happen when public opinion clashes with the families’ wishes? Because Canadians are well and truly wallowing in overt displays of support for soldiers of current and past conflicts.

It occurs to me once more that state acts of remembrance (about which I wrote some things a while back) have little to do with the welfare of those remembered. We hold ever-grander ceremonies and fulminate against drunks peeing on memorials, but it’s for our benefit, not veterans’. Wearing red on Fridays, while it may improve soldiers’ morale, doesn’t prevent them from getting killed or improve their care when they come home. All it does is give us a gesture to make without asking too much of us.

Snakes, eating

Further to my previous report: the last two stubborn feeders, a male eastern garter snake and a male albino checkered garter snake, ate with relish this afternoon. Jennifer scented the fuzzies’ heads with worm goo, and the checkered garter had been given additional heat. Which means that every single snake that went off its feed in the fall is now eating again. (Only they didn’t go off all at once: in September it was the glossy, gopher and hognose snakes; by the time they started eating again in October, some of the male garter snakes stopped eating. As I said, all eating just fine now.)

So what’s new with me?

I posted very little here in December, and ought to bring you up to date on what’s been happening at this end.


I declared my flare more or less over in early to mid-December. The pain never really ever goes away, it just becomes a little less oppressive. It’s hard to explain why being in pain this morning is not in flare, even if it’s more intense than when I think I am in flare, but I’ll figure it out at some point. Essentially, it’s a question of how worn out and worn down I am by the experience. I have a bit more vim and mobility lately, at least. I feel better, if still quite sore. A bit more alive, a bit less depressed.

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