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Because I’m trying to give you fits, is why



Heh. Sorry to do this to you two posts in a row, but I’ve been screwing around with Photoshop’s .gif animation tools. I’ve resolved to learn all I can about CS6, since paying for it gave me a nosebleed. They changed the interface a little between CS3 and CS6.

This, for those who haven’t been hanging out on my blog for years, is Damien. Isn’t he cute? Gosh, he was an evil fucker.

He disappeared when he was about two, causing my nice blog to go all emo and angsty for a while. Thing is, people all over the neighborhood said they’d spotted him. One lady even took him in and fed for a few days.

Anyway, here’s His Wickedness waking up from a nap when he was just a tiny wee slip of an evil fucker.





March 21, 2013 — 11:35 pm
Comments: 12

You say ‘domestic’ I say ‘opportunist’


So the story goes that cats self-domesticated at about the same time as we began to practice agriculture. Agriculture makes granaries, granaries make mice, mice make cats. Plausible enough, but for a language quibble: I don’t think cats self-domesticated; I don’t think they changed one stripe from the Wild Kingdom version. Self-selected, more like. The ones that, on the whole, rather liked the company of man came out of the wilderness and settled in his granaries.

charlotte in pencils

The fact is, some animals naturally rub along pretty well with people (and some don’t). They say you can’t tame a Felis silvestris grampia, no matter how hard you try. But catch a Felis silvestris lybica as a kitten and he’s anybody’s. They look exactly alike, but they’re different under the hood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about aminals lately. Sorry to drag you along on my middle-age what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up journey to the center of my navel, but I’ve been trying to figure out if “animal artist” is interesting enough to last a lifetime. In the course of which, it occured to me that my favorite animals are the ones that rub along pretty well with humanity. Pets and livestock, of course, but I have a real soft spot for the vermin and the opportunists of nature, too.

Partly because they’re the only animals I get to see and interact with, I guess. But opportunistic animals also have a cheerful, bluff, “hey lady, you going to eat that french fry?” kind of attitude. They can take care of themselves just fine, thanks. None of this weak, whiny, candy-ass “woo, don’t even look at me, I’m endangered” stuff.

I don’t know. You think there’s much call for S. Weasel, famous painter of rats?

July 30, 2008 — 2:42 pm
Comments: 40

…and another thing…


Here’s how that kitteh study happened. A decade ago, a man in Scotland was taken to court for shooting a protected Scottish wildcat. Remember those? And he got up on the stand and said, “looks like a cat to me.” And they let him go because…well, yeah.

So scientists realized they needed to figure out the whole cat DNA dealio, especially if they wanted to protect some wildcats by law.

So dude went out and sampled almost a thousand cats, wild and domestic, from all over the world. There are five major flavors of wildcat, and the domestic cat can and does merrily interbreed with them all, because she’s a dirty, dirty girl. Which is why it’s so suprising that modern housecats can be traced not just to a single type of wildcat, but five specific individual cats.

Most domestic animals were domesticated simultaneously all over the place, from local wild stock, but not the cat. All the tens of millions of American housecats are the children of cats brought over on ships from the Olde Worlde — despite all our lovely lynx and margays and ocelots, the American domestic shorthair is all lybica. Isn’t that odd?

Okay, back to the Scottish wildcat for a second. One of the reasons they’re endangered is that they merrily interbreed with housecats. What researchers have found, though, is that over time the wildcat genes are stronger. That is, subsequent generations become, genetically, more and more like Felis sylvestris grampia and less like Mister Fluffybutt.

So I’m thinking that must by Lybica‘s trick. That despite inbreeding with some very dubious gentlemen, the line always moves back toward the original. Tabby breeds true.

A lot of cats have some stripeyness. Catch her in the right light and you can see faint bars under the black parts of Charlotte’s fur. But, other than that, Lybica characteristics aren’t usually sold separately. They all come together or not at all — the black lips, the brick red nose and paw pads, the long, blunt, wavy tail. It’s the whole Franklin Mint set, plus the beautiful mahogany display case.

All the slutty behavior and the silly shapes and colors cats have mutated into, it’s extraordinary how common cats like Schroedinger and Damien are — animals that have slap-bang regressed ten thousand years to the prototype.

I think that’s just so cool.

July 29, 2008 — 1:50 pm
Comments: 29

Danger: catblogging


Minion Scubafreak sent me pictures of Schroedinger the kitten on Friday, and I was struck by how much he looks like Damien at that age. “So what, Weasel?” you’re thinking. “Little gray stripey tabbies are as common as muck.”

Can I just take a second to tell you how very tired I am of reading your minds?

Anyhow, gray tabbies are different. Damien was my first and I observed him closely, after which I started paying attention to shelter tabbies and Cheezburger tabbies. It’s not just gray with black stripes and white highlights. Oh, no. There’s a whole constellation of unusual breed characteristics that go with: their paw pads and noses are a brick red. Their lips and the velvets of their paws are black. There’s a hint of brown undercoat around their muzzles and in other spots. Coarse fur, gray on the body (actually a side-by-side mixture of dark and light, like a badger). Long, wavy, blunt tails with black tips and a black dorsal stripe.

I could go on and on. In fact, I just did. Here, have some more.

There’s a tabby personality, too. They’re friendly, pushy, go-to-hell cats. Damien had a little hitch in his britches, a little trot in his trousers, a little wavey, jivey, slinky, shovy, hissy thing going. It was a cinch that boy would get into trouble; he probably invited an 18-wheeler to kiss his stripey ass. I have always believed he somehow bred true to some long ago wild pusso ancestor.

And I’m right, as usual. That lovely beast top left is a Near Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris lybica. Thanks to the miracle of mitochondrial DNA testing, they have recently discovered that animal and my boy had a common ancestor 130,000 years ago. Well, five common ancestors. In Eye-rack!

Dude. Read it in the Daily Mail. Must be true. (Okay, here it is in the NYTimes, Stuckup McSnooterson. And yes, it’s from last year).

They weren’t domesticated that long ago. They’re thinking maybe that happened maybe 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, but they used to think was 4,000 years and in Egypt, so this is pretty interesting. If you find this sort of thing interesting. Which I do and it’s my blog so you can cut it out or I’ll turn this thing around right now.

They found a cat buried, presumably with his owner, in a 9,500 year old grave in Cyprus. Which I thought was really sweet until I reflected that they undoubtedly killed the cat to accompany his owner into the afterlife. Unless the cat died first and they killed the man to keep the cat company in the afterlife, but I think that’s pretty unlikely.

Links to nice big color versions of the above: prototabby, Damien and Schroedinger.

Added: Did you see the thing Gabe linked at Ace’s, about how women bloggers aren’t popular because they post too much about their personal lives and their pets? Look, bud, there’s some shit about DNA in there, too. I didn’t really get that part, but it had some stuff with Latin words and everything, so ha ha on you. Jerkface.

July 28, 2008 — 10:07 am
Comments: 31

Comfort from an unexpected quarter

my buddy

No, this is not Damien. He’s still AWOL. I’ve been putting off one particular chore — visiting the pound in person — because I expected to be slapped in the face with a yowling slice of pussycat hell. Kitty Auschwitz. Okay, mostly I was bracing to fall in love with every cat in sight and be inconsolable when I couldn’t take them all home.

Instead, it was strangely comforting.

I signed in — name, address and phone number — and they pointed me to the Cat Room. It’s a small room with about 20 cages. Yesterday, there were five cats and one kitten. I was by myself in there. Yeah. It was smoochie time.

For a second, I thought I spotted Damien, but it was a little stripey female with a bit of brown on her coat and a rough, cigarette-y meow. Probably meowed herself hoarse, poor thing. She’d only been there a few days and she had a clear mark where a collar had been. It took me a while to locate the kitten. He was across from the others and coal black. I found him via his progressively angry mew, as in, “hey lady! Kitten being cute over here!”

I’m a hard-core cat watcher. I do my best not to anthropomorphize them or overestimate their intelligence, but I’d love to know exactly what goes on in those little hairy brain pans. There’s no doubt in my mind those cats knew the score. They were auditioning for me, and giving it their best shot (except the kitten, who doesn’t have to try). Not screaming and flailing, but displaying behaviors ten thousand generations of their kind employ to dissolve cat-loving slop-bags such as this writer into puddles of goo.

I know my guess is right, because they behaved very differently today. They recognized me. They were grateful for the ear skritches, but each one waited quietly and patiently for his or her turn.

Oh, yes. I went back today. The manager is a likeable, upbeat guy and very grateful when visitors spend time with the cats. Keeps them sociable and adoptable. And he’s moving them out, too; four got adopted Saturday. The Damien-like little girl was adopted while I was there. The kitten got snapped up later. New cats appeared in their places, of course. There are always more.

Okay. Yes. It’s sad that I have to leave them there. But I know I made those nice moggies feel better and, on balance, that made me happier than it made me sad.

I can’t go every day. They’re only open while I’m at work, it’s fifteen minutes each way and I only theoretically get a half-hour lunch. But I’m going back.

And next time, I’m bringing string.

UPDATE: okay, this is just weird. I was chatting with my neighbors in back, and one of them asked if that was my cat in the flyer, and when I said yes, she said, “but he’s been here all along. I know for sure I saw him Sunday, standing right there.”

From what I understand, there’s a litter of new kittens (or maybe just a gang of young cats) about, and another of my neighbors is feeding them. If he’s warm, fed and amongst friends…yeah, I guess I could see that. He always liked being around other cats, and Charlotte hates him with a flamey hate (and deservedly. He’s always trying to suckle her or steal her food).

If he’s fallen in with a mama cat who will let him nurse, he’s a very dirty boy. A very dirty boy I might not see again for a while.

May 20, 2008 — 2:40 pm
Comments: 25

Possible Damien sighting


Okay, this is really bizarre.

Damien’s been missing about two weeks now. To get him ready for England, I had him chipped when he was a baby. So, without much hope, I go to his chip-maker’s website to see if they have any advice. They do; they have a little slideshow called Pet Detective.

According to this guy, cats are highly territorial and seldom go far. He must actually hunt pets for a living, because he says, “Around 90 percent of injured/deceased cats that I have found were within a 1-house radius of their own home! Of those, 80 percent were hidden.” He recommends concentrating on the neighbors first. Talking to people. Making up flyers and stuff.

Well, that sounded like bullshit advice to me — if Damien were that close by, why wouldn’t he come home? — but I’ll bounce back quicker if I do my bestestes, so I made up some flyers at work today.

I am neither happy nor optimistic about this approach. When I see a lost pet flyer tacked to a telephone pole, I always think, “ho HO! You poor deluded fool — you’ll never see Mister Whiskers again!” But when you absolutely must eat the shit sandwich, there’s nothing for it.

I was walking to the corner to staple up the first one, and I met a girl two doors down who was vacuuming her car. “What the heck” thinks a weasel and waves a flyer at her.

“Oh my god!” she says, “that’s the cat. THAT’S THE CAT!” Apparently he — or one just like him — showed up at her door some days ago. Skinny, extremely friendly, wouldn’t go away. She said it followed her to the store and she bought it some food. She let it in and out of the house. It hung around for a while. Last sighting, maybe two days ago.

Now, whether that was Damien or not, I don’t know. But I’m as sure as I can be this girl wasn’t lying to me. She was real excited. She called her mother on her cell to gabble about it. Apparently said cat had been an object of some family curiosity. At that moment, of course, it began to rain heavily and I couldn’t fan out through the neighborhood.

Okay. I’m lying, of course. I walked ALL around the neighborhood calling his name and getting soaked, but there were no more humans for me to talk to.

So…how could he possibly be a hundred feet from his own kitty door and still beg for a meal? I ask you! Has anybody else experienced this brand of soap-opera-quality pet amnesia? And if cats really are that scary crazy, will I ever let one outside again?

May 16, 2008 — 5:52 pm
Comments: 82

Lost: adorable fluffy psychopath

adorable fluffy psychopath

What the heck. Might as well give the little knucklehead his own thread. I’m not panicked yet; it’s been about five days. It’s a record for him, but not for tomcats. Stupid testosterone.

I spent some time yesterday calling around various vets and rescue leagues. In fact, I screwed up my list-making activity and accidentally called Providence Animal Control twice in the space of about ten minutes. I didn’t realize it until the guy on the other end said, “call once a day, please.”

He must’ve thought I was the queen of all crazy cat ladies.

Anyhow, here’s the next great website idea: a lost and found pets registry. I know there’s Craig’s List, but that’s where civilians go to trade information about lost and found pets. Vets and rescue organizations don’t have any reporting mechanism. I know, because I asked them. I had to track down all the likely organizations in Damien’s territory and call them individually.

This could be big. I’m serial. You could entice vets and city organizations to participate by describing it as free advertising, and support it with paid advertising from, like, Petco. Write the occasional goopy cover article about people reunited with beloved mutts or the latest in chipping technology, and there you have it.

I’d do it myself, but I’m moving away. Also, I’m butt lazy.

May 6, 2008 — 8:30 am
Comments: 36



You know what the adorable kitten means, don’t you? That’s right — Stoaty let you down today. Between the deadline chasing and the fixer-upping of Casa del Weasel, I’m plumb weaseled out. It’s going to be a tight week.

Oh, adorable? Let me tell you something: Damien was born crazier’n a whole boxcar full of homicidal drifters. I guarantee you what he’s saying here is, “I’m going to CUT you, bitch. I’m going to cut you GOOD. You see these here pig-stickers? When I’m done, your own MOTHER won’t know you. Maybe tomorrow you’ll remember to clean my litterbox BEFORE my morning dump. Now git in that kitchen and pour me some FRISKIES.”

Isn’t he the sweetest?

March 31, 2008 — 6:25 pm
Comments: 12

Permissible dual-cat configurations

dual cat configurations

My two cats are like matter and anti-matter: they mixeth not, neither do they mingle. They will, however, appear on the same bed — now that I’ve turned the thermostat right down to save money and nurse my boiler through its last Winter. They will share a bed in two and only two configurations, as pictured above.

A single-cat configuration is always to my right, regardless of cat. Since all cats really are gray in the dark, I try to work out which one I’ve got by stroking its fur (his is coarser). Usually, I get the wrong end of whichever animal and find myself whispering sweet nothings to a cat’s bottom. They don’t seem to mind.

Cat blogging: because it doesn’t make my spleen throb like a native tom-tom.

Also: Garfield Minus Garfield as seen on Innocent Bystanders.

February 28, 2008 — 10:05 am
Comments: 31

Snow day!

snow day

Okay, as snowstorms go, it’s not too impressive…but, as employees go, I’m a complete waste of human skin. So here I am, at home making pizza.

Hey! Want my pizza recipe? I believe I have already mentioned I was once a pizza professional. Yeah. Is there no end to my accomplishments? We made an award-winning, very deep dish Sicilian pie, and here’s how:

Start with raw white bread dough. That bagged stuff you get at the supermarket is fine. One of those (a pound) will make about two pizza doughs. You want to spread this in the bottom of a pie dish. Eight inches, eleven…whatever you’ve got. Press it into the bottom until you have a thin layer in the middle, and a thicker lip all around the edge. Try not to tear it.

The pie plate needs to be very slightly greasy, or the cooked pizza will stick. But too greasy, and it will pull away from the edges before it’s done. At the pizza joint, we simply wiped out the pans and left them unwashed; the accumulated pizza goodness did the trick. Wiping the pan with a very small amount of oil works, too, Mister Germophobe.

Now bake the dough, all by itself, in a 400° to 450° oven for about ten minutes, until the outer lip just starts to brown. This keeps the bottom of the pizza from going all wet and ‘orrible later on. First thing in the morning, we’d bake the whole day’s crusts and store ’em in the refrigerator until called for. You can too, just like a pizza professional!

When you’re ready, smear a layer of sauce on the crust (I use spaghetti sauce, for simplicity’s sake), then your desired ingredients, THEN your shredded cheese. Toppings under cheese — innovations you can really use. The shop used cheddar and mozarella. I like to use muenster. Whatever. Give this about ten minutes in the same 400° to 450° oven, and viola!

Let the pie sit a few minutes to firm up a little, then run your biggest knife underneath, all the way around, to make sure it’s totally unstuck. Leave the knife under the pie, hover over the cutting board, and pull the pan away from the pizza.

There you have it! Two years of my life in a nutshell.

February 22, 2008 — 1:22 pm
Comments: 72