Friday, September 19, 2014

The Scots Vote No

So, after an impressively large turnout of just about all eligible voters, the majority of Scots have concluded that eight hundred years of being colonized by the English isn't enough, and can they please have some more.

Be interesting now to see whether the promises made in the final days of the campaign, to give Scotland much more autonomy, are followed up on or quietly forgotten.

--John R.
great, great, great grandson of a Scots emigrant (whence the Presbyterianism).

Mount Adams out my window

So, yesterday I saw a bluebird -- not an indigo bunting (wh. we have in Arkansas) nor a jay, but an actual bluebird.

Today we went for a long walk with two big dogs, wh. is a v. different dynamic from walking cats. Though in both cases it puts the local wildlife to flight.

We saw three natural bridges, as well as the rubble from what clearly had once been a fourth such bridge. These had all clearly once been part of a lava tube, the roof of which had collapsed at all but a few places. The gorge between them was perhaps some fifty feel deep, so it must have been quite a cave in its day.

After that, we went and saw an ice cave (descending into it until I cd stand on and touch the ice--which ominously cracked under my feet), the opening of Cheese Cave (which I descended once years ago but cdn't bring myself to this time, what with the acrophobia, though Janice did), and Butter Cave (which was new to me; I liked it v. much), and Christmas Tree Cave (the stairs going down were all rotten, but we managed to scramble down on the rocks -- you cd get a good idea of a big chamber that must have collapsed, exposing the side-tunnels and alcoves around the edges, but I really cdn't tell which was the main passage).

Then it was back to base, and later a pleasant walk with just the two of us along the Little White Salmon River, which was milky-green from snowmelt and v. cold. Then a quiet evening, dinner, and an early evening -- while I read a little Le Guin (seems appropriate, since today I got a good look at Mt. Hood), some more of the increasingly eccentric Bernard Ackworth, and gave a close skim to one of my pieces that's about to come out soon ("The Missing Women: Tolkien's Lifelong Support for Women's Higher Education")

And tomorrow, more hiking, more visiting, more enjoying being in a Tall House with friends.
And for the cats back home, it's day two of the World Domination Plan.

--John R.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Scots Vote (Poke-'em-with-a-Stick Wednesday)

So, tomorrow is the big day when the Scots get to vote on whether they stay part of the "United Kingdom" or go independent. Be interesting to see how this goes. I suspect the massive fearmongering campaign from the pro-English side will carry the day, but polls seem to indicate the outcome is still in doubt. More later.

--John R.

The Cat Report (W.Sept 17th)

The arrival of LEGO our new three-legged 'tripod cat' and DEXI brought us up to a full house again: ten cats. But Dexi got adopted before I even met her, leaving us with nine and, by the end of my shift this morning, back down to eight.

Started the morning with walks for LEGO (his first walk, I think -- he objected to the collar but found the exploring rather interesting), SMITH / 'Perry'-the-Winkle (who humored me), PHOENIX (who was alarmed but tried not to show it), and MOLINNI (who mistook the glass wall for a door. Twice. Only her dignity suffered).

Back in the room, I discovered that LEGO loves to put himself in a box with catnip and claim it for all his own. He's very friendly with people (myself, visitors, everybody) but hisses when he sees any cat approaching. I think this is not just because his missing leg forces him to stand his ground but that he's the youngest and smallest cat in the room, as well as the only male. He was quite interested in the whole cleaning-up-a-cube business, and supervised closely. A great little cat; despite his injury I think he'll find  home quickly.

Little SMITH [Perry] wanted to go high and then wanted to burrow under not just the pink blanket but under the foam mini-mattress beneath it. She was very pleased with herself when, with a little judicious help from me, she succeeded.  She's been having a lot of trouble lately, throwing up on everybody's shift but mine over the last eight or nine days, so I bought some cat-grass first thing that morning on my way into the PetsMart and put it in her cage with her -- my thought being that if she needed to throw up she might as well do it the old fashioned way, by eating a little grass first. And that by giving her the grass as soon as I arrived there'd be a good chance it'd do its good work before I left. Turns out Cher and Shari arrived to take her up to Arlington for the folks there to see if they can find out what's behind the vomiting (stress? or something physically wrong?).  Hope they'll be able to help her and we'll soon see her back at the cat room in Tukwila. Poor Smith: abandoned by her owner after twelve years so they could have a new kitten instead. Some people . . .

The LITTLE SISTERS (Little Pants and Little Feet) are still shy but came out more, and enjoyed joining in games. They're beginning to suspect that Lego's hisses don't mean they have to run away but just circumvent him. The bolder of the two enjoyed a roll in the catnip.

MAEBE and BUXTER were majestic and mellow, each atop her own preferred cat-stand at opposite ends of the room. Buxter enjoyed snoozing, being petted, and snoozing some more. Maebe enjoyed games -- any game anyone else was playing, she wanted to play too, but without having to move from her comfy spot (what my wife and I call a Lazy Predator).

TAWNY stayed in the first hour or so I was there, then came out and explored a little, played some, and rolled in catnip with great enthusiasm. She and Molinni no longer seem to like the bench -- not sure why. Her back-up place is the mid-level of the cat-stand by the cabinet (between Phoenix below and Buxter above).  She lets me pet her a little now, sometimes.

MOLINNI is standoffish as usual, but calm and well-behaved. She's been here long enough that she knows what she wants; the only things that throw her is other cats sometimes getting in the way of her plans and my wanting to pet her (she would Prefer Not To). She did get quite interested in a game, and took her turn politely.

PHOENIX was her usual quiet self: came out, went directly to rondel, slept curled up in rondel, reluctantly went back in at end of shift. It's not a v. exciting routine, but seems to work for her. Maybe I shd add a petting session for her while she's in her favorite place and see if she likes it.

Great, great, great news that Mr. Scruffs finally got adopted, after nine and a half months (most of it at our cat-room in Tukwila). A happy ending for a great cat who had to wait far too long for his turn to come around, but is enjoying his new home at last.
--John R.

Mr. Scruffs Goes Home

So, for readers of my 'Cat Reports', a few days ago came the great news that Scruffy (a.k.a. MR. SCRUFFS) has now finally been adopted. I forget his backstory -- whether his owner moved away and decided to leave him behind, like Kaboodles (who came in about the same time, and has still not been adopted), or whether his owner lost his home and cd no longer take care of him (which has been the case with several cats this past year), or if his owner simply decided he didn't want a cat anymore about eight years (which unfortunately happens more than you'd think) -- but he himself was a memorable cat: large and black and very much king of all he surveyed. His name was something of a misnomer, since he was in fact well-groomed, with long black hair that had brownish highlights.  The fact that he was the alpha cat yet never bullied the others defused what might otherwise have been battles for dominance: so long as he could hang out by the door, enjoying the breeze that sweeps under it, along with the occasional paper bag, he was content.

It took me a while to realize that he was different from all the other cats who came and went. They all knew, and acted, as if they were in temporary quarters, either making the best of it or (in some cases) very much on edge at the weirdness of living in a cage in a room with up to nine other cats. But Mr. Scruffs was different: watching him I realized this was his home. In his mind, he'd made the adjustment that here was where he lived. It wasn't the home he'd have preferred, but he accepted it and enjoyed what amenities he could.  I found the thought heartbreaking, but I was glad he wasn't turning his face to the wall, so to speak, withdrawing into himself after the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months.

 He arrived at the Tukwila cat room back in December of last year and stayed until sometime around the beginning of August, when they decided to transfer him to a different spot (Issaquah) -- the idea being that, while they don't want to move them around once they get settled, there comes a point where pretty much everyone who frequents a particular store has gotten plenty of chances to adopt a particular cat if they were going to. And that then a fresh spot in another city gives them a chance to be seen by a new set of people, one of whom might be The One who'll take him home.

 Looks like that did the trick; we heard the good news on the thirteenth, so only about a month and a half after being moved to the new spot, he's finally back in a home of his own.  A happy ending, and testimony that Purrfect Pals' policy of patience really does pay off in the end.  Now if only Kaboodle and Perry ('Smith') and Phoenix could be so lucky.

--John R

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Praise of Dr. Terry

Late last week the current issue of Southern Arkansas University (SAU*) alumni  magazine arrived. I usually put this aside to skim through later but wind up never getting to, but this time my attention was drawn by the cover story, to the effect that the university president, Dr. Rankin (whom I remember from the days when he and his wife were sponsors of our church youth group), has announced his retirement, effective next year. There was also a tribute (and terrible photo) to the late, multitalented Jake Whitehead, who I remember in the SAU production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (I was in the pit band and so saw each night's performance; he was far better than Zero Mostel in the same role). I was interested to see a former junior high/senior high classmate of mine and her husband giving a large check for the 'naming rights' to a pavilion being put up on campus. But the item that really threw me was all but the last line on the last page, listing as among the recently deceased with connections to SAU (students and faculty) "Dr. Robert Terry (Former Professor), Feb. 12, 2014"

I hadn't seen Dr. Terry in years (since about '86, I think), but he was once a big part of my life. I took more classes from him than anyone else during my undergraduate days (May 1977 thr August 1979). I remember taking Classical Roots from Dr. Smalling** (which included reading the Illiad, the Odyssey, Greek tragedies, even a late Greek romance), and both Shakespeare and also Transformational Grammar (where I learned all about sentence structure) from Mr. Whitman, brilliant and sardonic and occasionally scathing. But I took at least three classes from Dr. Terry. Memorably, in one of them where we were to select and critique a famous work of criticism (I think Lowe's ROAD TO XANADU was one***) he let me choose C. S. Lewis's THE ALLEGORY OF LOVE, which I found hard going (never having read the works Lewis was discussing) but was grateful for the chance to slowly read and absorb.

I also owe Dr. Terry a great debt in that he taught the first Tolkien class I ever took. It came about like this: about half-way through my time at SAU (which was accelerated because of CLEP, summer school, and taking 17 hours of credits most semesters****) I found out there was a process by which students cd petition the department to offer a special studies course. The requirements were to get a certain number of students to sign a petition stating that they wd take the course if offered, and to find a faculty member willing to teach it. Dr. Terry was willing, so that semester (fall 1978, I think) we had a course on Tolkien. Since Dr. Terry wasn't a Tolkien expert (though he'd read all the major works), I consulted with him on the syllabus -- what books we'd study and in what order. I know my copy of BEOWULF: THE MONSTERS AND THE CRITICS (the Arden Press facsimile edition) dates from that class. I taught Tolkien in other contexts later -- using THE HOBBIT as the book my freshmen wd write their research papers on at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) in the fall of 1980 or spring of 1981, and again twice at Marquette in the mid & late '80s (including the last semester I taught there, spring of 1991), and taught or co-taught a series of continuing ed. courses at Marquette on Tolkien, on his precursors, on his followers, et al from 1988 through about 1992 or thereabouts.

Dr. Terry also helped me understand part of Tolkien's life that hadn't made much sense to me from Carpenter's biography. Dr. Terry was an outside grader of standardized tests, and spent a few weeks each summer gathered somewhere with other graders, working their way through some 200 tests apiece a day (or at least that's the number that sticks in my memory). Tolkien was famously grading just such a batch of student papers when he fortuitously came up with and wrote down the line of gibberish "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit".


The last time I saw Dr. Terry was when I asked his advice during the period when I was going through dissertation proposal hell,***** so this wd have been the summer of 1986. I'd hoped he might be able to give me some advice, an outside perspective. In this I was disappointed -- he spent the entire time waxing eloquent on the wonders of Amway, to which he was a recent convert. Still, I'm grateful to Dr. Terry, a great teacher who was willing to help a student pursue his enthusiasm even if it didn't lay along the same lines as his own interests.  I still have THE GOLDEN HIND, the fine collection of Tudor poetry and prose he had co-edited; it's from Dr. Terry's class that I was able to recognize and put a name to Emerson Lake & Palmer's use of skeltonics. I'm sorry that I didn't keep in touch after that, but I'm grateful to have been in his classes, and to have had him as a professor.  I suspect he, more than any other teacher, was responsible for my going into English as my major and subsequently making it my major course of study in graduate school.

So thanks Dr. Terry. Much appreciated. Rest in Peace.

--John R.
current reading: THIS PROGRESS by Bernard Ackworth [1934] (C. S. Lewis's crackpot friend)


*just before I attended, they changed the name from the much more euphonious Southern State College. Alas.

**to my fascination, I found that some of the more bizarre ideas CSL put forth were accepted as standard dogma by Dr. Smalling. It was also Dr. Smalling who, upon finding out that I preferred THE ODYSSEY to THE ILLIAD, replied: you would.

***a book I confess I've still never read.

****looking back, I'm surprised I had time to do all this and two part-time jobs too. As Joseph Conrad wd say: ah, youth.

*****but that's a story I'll save for another day.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Cat Report(s)

So, I've been a bit remiss in getting the reports of how the shelter cats up for adoption at the Tukwila PetsMart have been doing these past few weeks; here's an omnibus update

CAT REPORT FOR TUESDAY AUGUST 19th
With eight cats, most of them more or less unsociable, it's starting to feel like the room is filling up again.  I got there late today (was almost there when remembered something I'd left at home and had to go back), and stayed till almost 1 to make up for it. Also forwent the walks, except for a brief outing with Alexi (see below).

Janice and I have two cat-stands we'd like to donate, and I brought the first one in today. Didn't want it littering up the area outside, so found a place for it in the room. Cher, if we don't want to keep it for the room, might the shelter or another volunteer like it?


Glad to report that there were no sneezes, no drooling, no throw-up. Aside from Alexi, who's skin and bones, the cats all seem healthy. Bayou's ears are a little dirty, but I helped on that account at least a little.


This time I was sure to let Tawny and Molinni out first so they could claim their favorite places (on opposite ends of the bench). I put Buxter atop the cat-stand by the cabinet and Maebe atop the cabinet itself. Phoenix put herself in the rondel (the lowest level of Buxter's cat-stand), while Perry roamed around the cat-stands near the door. Tawny hissed whenever Perry got atop her basket, and Perry hissed at Bayou to let him know he was to Keep His DIstance, but other than that no dust-ups. I put Bayou atop the cages, and once he'd thoroughly explored it he decided he liked it plenty good. He even figured out how to use the steps to come and go (haven't had them out in a long time, but didn't take him long to work it out). Alexi stayed inside, but I wanted to make sure to clean her cage this time so I lifted her out and put her in Phoenix's cage while I cleaned the double-wide (Phoenix was a little put out, going into her cage two or three times, finding another cat there, and coming back out again; otherwise this plan worked pretty well). 

A little before noon, I pulled Alexi out from where she was hiding, put the leash on her, and took her outside. I sat in the chair just outside the room and held and petted her for ten or maybe fifteen minutes. She initially buried her face in the crook of my arm and trembled, but after a while she calmed down some and started looking around. Think it did her some good to have a change of pace; once back in the room I put her back into her own cube and she ate some dried catfood and also some wet. Think we should watch her intake v. carefully, since she's so very very thin and it'd be easy to miss the signs because of Bayou eating out of the same dishes &c.

The most affectionate cats today were Perry-the-Winkle, who also wins the Most Talkative award. Buxler was also v. affectionate today; she's really mellowed.

There were lots of visitors, particularly from about 11.30 onward. One woman said she'd adopted her cat from here a couple of years ago, though I didn't recognize the name. One couple said they were looking for to adopt but didn't seem to click with any of our cats. I gather this was a preliminary round;  hope they'll come back and try again.

And that's about it for this morning.

--John R.



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[didn't write up a report for the next day, Wedn. the 20th, but here's the one for the next week:]


CAT REPORT OF WEDNESDAY AUGUST 27th

Great news that MR. KASPER has found himself another home, and taken home a play-pal with him. Hope things work out well for him this time: he needs room to run and play and generally just be a cat.  Now if only Mr. Scruffs cd be so lucky.


With MISTY BUMBLE having come and gone without my ever seeing her (taking the cat-stand I donated with her), we're back to eight cats again in the cat room.

Glad to report that there were no throw-ups today, not even a sneeze. Only health concerns are the ongoing concern over Alexi's not eating and Buxter having carefully deposited some feces on a blanket at the front of her cage. 

Gave walks (fairly brief ones) to Perry, Phoenix, and Tawny, and a carry-around to Alexi. The only thing that interested ALEXI was the little forest of four cat-stands placed together. She went under this and immediately perked up, looking around alertly rather than cringing with that haunted look in her eyes. Once back in the room I put her in the top of the cabinet with a blanket or two for cover.  Interestingly enough, after everybody had gone back into their cages at end of shift, when I left the room to dispose of the trash I came back to find her eating from the food-dish; think she thought I'd left for the day and it was safe to come out. And she'd been stretched out across the front of the cage when I arrived, so maybe she comes out more than I'd thought, just not when there's people in the room who might be Cat Eating Fiends.

For his part, BAYOU was very shy today; came out a few times but dashed back in anytime he thought I might go over to that side of the room. Even hissed at me once or twice. Don't know if this was due to his sister's absence or if he was just having an easily-spooked day.

TAWNY was in good form today. I'd been surprised last Wednesday by her coming out of her spot on the bench to join in the other cats' games (she turns out to be good at Gopher and Bug-on-a-Stick). She did the same today, and clearly enjoyed herself pouncing on an old toy called a Cat Dancer I'd found and brought in (more than a decade ago it'd belonged to my cat Parker, who'd been v. fond of it; apparently it hasn't lost its appeal).  She let me pet her just a little, and some visitors as well, but still prefers the hands-off approach. She did explore the room, both last Wednesday and again today, which seems to me like something of a breakthrough. 

MOLINNI mostly stayed on the bench but spent a fair amount of time around the door. She joined in games some but mostly just wanted to look about, without any interference from me, and see what there was to see. She seems pretty comfortable with her routine (aside from going-back-inside time, which she objects to on principle).

MAEBE claimed the top of the cat-stand by the door, where she accepted petting as Her Right and Due, and showed enthusiasm for games, esp. the Cat Dancer (which she shared, alternating, with Tawny). She  was so pleased that she groomed her blanket as well as herself; something of an odd sight. For her part, BUXTER continues to mellow: she spent the morning atop the cat-stand by the cabinet, very pleased to be petted early and often, and deeply reluctant to go back into her cage at the end. 

PERRY was quiet today (aside from her usual chorus of mews when petted). What an adorable cat. I put her up on the cage-tops and she found a spot she loved so much I wound up putting her and all in cage at end of morning. 

Finally, PHOENIX, well-behaved as always, spent the morning in the rondel, which has definitely become her new favorite place. She too was miffed to eventually have to go into her cage but accepted an apology in the form of a small, low-carb treat.

There were some visitors, but they were casual cat-lovers rather than potential adopters. 

And, on a different topic, glad to hear that the HomeAgain microchips are reliable, since that's what my two cats at home have.

--John R. 




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CAT REPORT FOR W. SEPT 10th
(includes notes for Sept 3rd as well)

Didn't get a cat report written up last week (Sept 3rd), when things were still adjusting from the arrival and quick adoption of Bellah and TL (so quickly that I never saw either one), followed in turn by the adoption of Big Bayou and Shy Alexi. Since there were only six cats, I walked them all: those who did best were Buxter and Phoenix by far. Phoenix really is a sweet cat: she saw a PetsMart employee stocking a shelf and went up and rubbed him, purring. As for Buxter, she was baffled by the size and complexity of the store but very willing to explore and enjoy being out. Her favorite part was exploring the cat stands and especially the cat cushions; she even got some belly rubs.  Once back in we had lots of games. Maebe loved the feather duster, proclaiming it Legitimate Prey. Mollini enjoyed a one-on-one game of bug-on-a-stick, except the other cats kept joining in: Tawny, then Perry, then Maebe.  Tawny in fact several times came out to play whatever game was going on; I forget that she's one of the younger cats in the room -- it's nice to see her begin to act like it. At one point Tawny had a game all her own, until Maebe intercepted it; later Perry (whom I've taken to calling 'Smith' -- she just looks like a Smith) and Buxter were like tick and tock, each attacking opposite ends of a string swinging like a pendulum.


This week (Sept 10th) brought two new cats into the mix, bringing us back up to eight: PERRY (Smith), MOLLINI, PHOENIXTAWNYBUXTERMAEBE, and newcomers LITTLE PANTS & LITTLE FEET (or, as I like to call them, the Little Sisters).  No walks, since I wanted time to get a sense what the room was like with the new bonded pair in it. Pleased to say they're all getting along fairly well. Smith and Mollini had a hissing contest at one point, which Smith won, greatly to her satisfaction, but other than that all was quiet: the cats snoozed, explored, played, permitted themselves to be petted, and generally just hung out.  

The two newcomers, LITTLE PANTS AND LITTLE FEET, mostly kept to themselves. The bolder of the two (the bobtailed one -- Feet?) came out several times, explored, and played, dashing back to home base when spooked. The shy one (with the corkscrew tail -- Pants?) stayed in most of the time but came out for a few cautious explores around that side of the room. She was nervous at having to come out when I did their double-wide but didn't panic or anything like that; she just hovered nearby watching my progress until all was ready for her to go back in. One good sign is that before I'd let them out I was playing the bug-on-a-stick game with Smith (with Maebe and Mollini both joining in with enthusiasm), and when it swished past their cage Little Feet reached out and managed to snag it and draw it into their cage, where both sister proceeded to paw and play with it. So even as shy as they are right now they're still interested in games.

PHOENIX had a very quiet day. Didn't want to sit on my lap or be petted; just went to her rondel and stayed there. Maybe a little gloomy? Have to make sure she gets a walk and some one-on-one time next week.

BUXTER was mellow. She went to her favorite place, the top level of the cat-stand by the cabinet, and stayed there all morning (Buxter above, Phoenix below). She enjoyed the occasional pet, stretching and getting into position for what part of her she wanted petted, but sat out the games. 

TAWNY was very playful; any game I started with any other cat she came and wanted to join in, abandoning her basket-on-the-bench to do so. While I was cleaning cages she entertained herself by the door, pouncing on anything stirred by the breeze. She's quite willing to share a game with another cat or two, so long as she gets her turn with whatever they're chasing or pawing (string or bug-on-a-stick or laser pointer). She'll let me pet her a little now but still very much dislikes a hand reaching into her basket -- may be some bad memory there? I always just pick up the basket and elevator-carry her over to her cage when it's time to go back in, which avoids all the upset.

MOLLINI actually let me hold her in my lap and pet her a little when she first came out. She later let me reach a hand out to her, both while she was in her cubbyhole and when out and about, and didn't swat or pull back. She does revert to her don't-touch mode when she thinks she's going to be picked up. Found one trick she really liked: having the short cat-stand before her open cage, so she can sit on it seeing all there is to see but with a quick retreat ready to hand. She spent a lot of the morning playing around the door area and seemed to get along fine with Tawny, Little Feet, and Maebe, though she and Smith exchanged hisses whenever Smith thought Mollini got too close. She loved the crinkly paper, the bug-on-a-stick, the string games, and laser pointer, though looks like bouncing balls do nothing for her. 

SMITH claimed her spot and defended it from all comers (Mollini, who jumped up there unawares and beat a hasty retreat). It turns out she only talks when being petted, whereupon she becomes very vocal. She loves games but wants the game to come to her rather than have to chase after it on her own. She's about the age of my two cats at home, and her play reminds me of theirs: lots of paw action but not much body movement. She loves attention and loves being petted.

MAEBE played string games, bug-on-a-stick, more string games, and yet more string games. Didn't think to try the gopher game, but suspect she'd like that too. All this playing while never leaving the top of the cat-stand by the door, which has become her favorite spot (a nice bookend to her sister Buxter atop the other cat-stand over by the cabinet). She's pleased to be petted, and perfectly willing to nap, but it's the games that made up her favorite part of the morning.


No health concerns this week, though Tawny has developed the odd habit of licking the glass wall, at a spot beneath the cat-stand by the door. She did it three times, but I have no idea what about that particular spot attracts her.

Last week Buxter had once again neatly deposited some feces on the blanket by the door of her cage -- maybe she needs more space. Any chance we cd shift her to the other double cage?  This week there was no repetition, so maybe she's over whatever little protest she felt she needed to make.

--JDR