I had a pretty rough night last night. The evening went fine, but…

Around 2:30 am I woke up and needed to pee. While doing my business in the bathroom, I reflected that I still have a mild pain in my neck, probably because the pinched nerve there still gets pinched from time to time. I imagine this will be an issue for the rest of my life, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad since I got it treated three years ago. However, it has been a little annoying recently. It might even be something unrelated – maybe my ergonomics are bad and I need to work on my seated posture (again). I dunno.

Anyway, as I was thinking about this, I started to feel kind of ill. I went back to bed, but soon felt even worse, and realized I was breaking out into a cold sweat. I got out of bed and my stomach felt really upset, so I lay down on the floor. Debbi woke up and asked if I felt okay, which I didn’t. Then I felt like I might throw up (maybe food poisoning again?), but I didn’t feel well enough to stand, so I crawled to the bathroom and lay there for, I don’t know how long, maybe 10-20 minutes. Debbi gave me a cold wash cloth which helped a bit. (The cats also came in to check me out, which didn’t really help.)

After a while, the pain went away, and thankfully I never threw up. I went back to bed, and still felt cold, so I bundled under all the covers. And fortunately I felt like a log for the rest of the night. (Debbi, unfortunately, did not, and she gets up a lot earlier than I do.)

Debbi conjectures that I had a bad case of gas in my stomach or elsewhere in my digestive tract, which if true would be a new one on me. We did have a dinner last night which included cabbage, which Debbi thought might have given me gas (apparently it can), although I didn’t have that problem when I ate even more cabbage at our pot luck dinner a couple of weekends ago. Debbi ate the same thing I did and didn’t have any problems.

I feel tired and a tad weak today. But that’s about all. Even my neck feels better! Hopefully it was just a flukey one-time thing.

More Good News about Newton

Yesterday I dropped Newton off at the vet for an ultrasound and a check-up on how he’s been doing in the week since he came back from his hospital stay.

The ultrasound mainly reminded me that ultrasounds are expensive. We learned that he has signs of heart disease, with the walls of his heart starting to thicken. Given his age, that’s not a surprise. It doesn’t really shine any light on the heart murmur he’s had for most of his life, though. He also has some mottling on his liver, which could mean any of a number of things. But as the vet pointed out, even if it turns out he has a tumor, am I really going to put an 18-year-old cat through radiation and/or chemo therapy? Probably not (especially since he’s had trouble with just plain sedation for a number of years now).

I kind of wonder whether I should have done the ultrasound at all, since what was it going to tell me that would have made me behave differently? I guess if we learned he had something really seriously wrong and we’d have to put him down (depressing as that is), but that’s about it. Really I just want him to be happy and comfortable for the rest of his life, so I don’t plan to put him through a big production if something heads south.


The good news is that his blood test came back and almost all of what they tested for is back within normal levels! One item – I think one of the kidney indicators – is still a little high, but it’s down a lot from where it started. And the vet says we can cut back on giving him subcutaneous fluids to every other day, and cut back his potassium supplements to only once per day. So that will make everyone happy. She’s very pleased with how well he’s responded.

On the home front, he’s clearly not able to do all the things he used to be able to do – he has to pull himself up when he jumps on the bed, for instance. Although he can jump up on the kitchen counter fine, so maybe he just has trouble judging how far to jump. I also watched him jump down from things today, and his rear legs are much more stable – he was still a little wobbly when we brought him home last week (of course, he’d just spent 4 days mostly in a cage).

So it looks like Newton’s going to be with us for a while yet. Which is good news!

Hobbes and Bacon

By far the entry on this site with the most hits is the one about Calvin & Hobbes‘ last strip. It also gets a lot of comments like “That’s not the real last strip!” from people people who surf in there and just read the title and the strip in the entry without reading any of the actual entry. Sigh. Internet nitwits, what can you do?

If you’re a fan of C&H, though, probably the closest you’ll ever get to a fix of new strips comes from a webcomic called Pants are Overrated (now apparently defunct), which did an occasional strip about Calvin all grown up, but really more about his daughter Bacon (!) who hooks up with Hobbes in much the same way Calvin did.

You can read the four strips they did here:

  1. 26 Years Later
  2. Parents are so weird
  3. No time to spare!
  4. A better game

Good stuff!

Recharge Weekend

After all the excitement last week, we had a fairly low-key weekend. Starting Friday night with dinner at Don Giovanni, always tasty. We walked there in the rain, as we were getting showers off an on all weekend, which I appreciated. (I wish we’d gotten more rain than we did, though.)

Friday was also new iPad day, and I received mine as did everyone else who pre-ordered them. I set it up that evening, and converted my iPad 2 to Debbi’s use. Trying to move it over to someone else without wiping it seems to be a little risky, as she ended up with a melange of her data and mine that I couldn’t figure out how to fix, so on Saturday I just wiped it and started anew, which worked much better. The high-res display sure is gorgeous. Otherwise it’s not a huge step up from the iPad 2 in my (brief) experience, but friends who moved from an original iPad say it is a big step forward from that.

Saturday evening we had plans to have another pot luck dinner with our neighbors, and since one of them usually cooks enough entrees for everyone, we decided to make dessert. Debbi baked an apple pie, and I made cream cheese brownies. We had a great time with our neighbors; got to see someone else’s house, and the food was great. Afterwards there are show tunes (one of the neighbors plays piano, another one sings), and home-made limoncello. I ate a little too much, and started drifting off due to the alcohol (have I ever mentioned what a lightweight I am when it comes to drinking?), but we had a lot of fun.

Sunday we mostly just hung out at home. We took care of some chores around the house, and I started preparing for fantasy baseball draft day. We got a few rain squalls – one of which came with tiny hail stones – and snuggled with the cats. A nice quiet day.

Newton is doing quite well. We’re getting good at giving him his subcutaneous fluids, and Debbi thinks he feels perkier and healthier shortly after we give them to him, which could be given that we’re doing it to help his weak kidneys. Overall I’m happy with how he’s doing, and we’ll see what the vet thinks when I take him in later this week.

We needed some time off this weekend. It went by too fast.

Newton’s Home!

I left a little early yesterday to pick up Newton from the vet. He’s so much better! He’s gained about a point of weight, is standing fully on his hind legs, and is much more alert and cheerful. He came home and got a good sniffing from Blackjack and Roulette, and hung out with us for part of comic book night until deciding to go snooze on the bed.

He’s still a little subdued and his legs seem a bit wobbly, but as Debbi pointed out, he did spend most of 4 days in a cage hooked up to an IV drip. He’s been meowing a bit for attention, and last night I woke up to see him holding Blackjack by the scruff of the neck (something he used to do to Jefferson a lot) and making little meowing sounds. I guess he needed to reestablish his position with Blackjack when he returned.

The downside to all of this (other than a shockingly high vet bill) is that he’s going to be on a variety of medications, some of them for the rest of his life. He’ll be getting subcutaneous fluids daily, and pills to reduce his phosphorus and increase his potassium levels. (The vet thinks it’s likely that his funny walking was due to low potassium.) In the short term he’s also taking an antibiotic for the cold he had, and will be getting shots which are supposed to promote red blood cell creation. Fun fun.

My hope is that eventually he can cut back on the fluids to every other day, and reduce or eliminate some of the other pills. Giving them all to him is no fun, although he’s largely well-behaved in taking them.

This will make planning vacations trickier while he’s around, though. We may have to give in and actually hire a professional pet sitter.

I’m just glad he’s back. When we took him in on Saturday I didn’t really think he’d come home, and I even took him to Roulette and Blackjack so they could say goodbye, whatever that meant for them. (Jefferson just went to the vet that last time and never came back.) Roulette’s been following him around, which is adorable.

In other cat news, this morning I took Blackjack in for his scheduled check-up, and he seems to be doing fine (pending the results of the blood work). He’s put on weight, so we’re going to cut back on the steroid he’s been taking to stimulate his appetite, and the vet doesn’t feel his tumor returning. The technician I met with says she also has a deaf cat, and her cat also goes into small rooms and meow its head off, just like Blackjack does, so maybe that’s just a deaf-cat thing. (If we get kittens while he’s still around, I wonder if they’ll go look for him during his meow-fests, and what he’ll think of that.)

Anyway, I don’t have any illusions about how serious Newton’s condition is, but the vet says it’s possible that with continued care he could be around for a while yet.

Which, since he turns 18 next month, means we still need to figure out where he’s going to go to college. Sheesh!

A Visit With Newton

This afternoon we went to the vet to visit Newton. Actually we went to bring Roulette in to check out her cold, and got her some meds. But then we spent time with Newton.

He looks a lot better than he did yesterday, but he’s still pretty lethargic. Debbi stayed for a bit before leaving to take Roulette home:

You can see the big IV in his arm. I think getting rehydrated is a big part of why he looks better.

I had my book discussion an hour after our appointment, so I was able to spend most of that time hanging out with Newton in a room. He snuggled with me for a while, and I showed him around the room (he sniffed at the orchid in the room), and he walked around a little. I think he stayed low to the ground because it was a strange room, but he was able to stand up fully on his hind legs a couple of times, another improvement from yesterday.

I think he eventually got tired and went back to the bed he had in his cage, so I petted him a bit more, and then brought him back. He’s spending tonight at the vet again. Maybe tomorrow he’ll be able to come home. We’ll see.

Newton at the Vet

Thursday I made a Saturday vet appointment for Newton, who has been sniffling and sneezing for a week or so. I’d expected he’d just need another round of antibiotics, as he also had a cold in January, with an outside chance that it was something worse.

Thursday night when I got home it started looking worse: He was walking around the house crouched down, kind of crabbing along with his hind legs, and never standing up straight on them. Plus he was having trouble jumping. He also seemed to not be eating his dry food anymore, though he ate wet food. He’s been getting thinner and thinner (he was never a big cat to start with, and now he has hyperthyroidism), so I gave him a lot of wet food for Thursday and Friday.

But Saturday morning he was only walking a few feet at a time before resting, and he didn’t have much interest in the wet food. He just wanted to curl up and sleep on the bed. So I was really worried that the end was near. He turns 18 next month, and he’s outlived his brother Jefferson by 2 years at this point. I know the day will come sometime, but as late as last fall I was joking that he’d outlive all the other cats, as he seemed immortal. We spent parts of Saturday hanging out with him and snuggling him in case this was it for him.

On the drive to the vet he was a little more alert, looking at things out the windows (which he’s always liked to do) and meowing occasionally (he hasn’t meowed much in quite a while).

To cut to the end of the story, Newton has a number of problems, but none of them seem life-threatening by themselves. Taken together, it’s hard to say, but it seems like he could overcome them. He has a cold, and he’s lost some more weight (he’s not quite half the cat he once was, but he’s getting close). He also is dehydrated and is constipated (which may be related). The mystery is why he’s been walking the way he has, as he doesn’t seem to be in pain, doesn’t seem to have arthritis, and doesn’t seem to have any tumors. (I say “seem to” because it’s difficult to be certain – something could always be missed – but they haven’t found any of those things.) My theory is that his constipation is either making him uncomfortable when he walks, or it makes him feel like he’s going to dump everything if he walks normally.

So he spent last night at the vet, and she says he seems a little brighter today. He’s going to spend tonight there too, and then we’ll see. He’s getting antibiotics and hydration and a few other treatments. Maybe a lot for an elderly kitty, but he’s my elderly kitty, dammit!

It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t last the rest of the year, but maybe he’ll surprise me. And in any event I just want him to be comfortable and happy until the time comes.

Meanwhile, we came home from the vet yesterday and found that Roulette had caught Newton’s cold. So I guess it was a real cold and not just reaction to his other ailments. Sigh. So we’ll take her in this afternoon to get her some meds, and visit with Newton at the same time. I don’t know if we’ll have Roulette visit with Newton, but I think she is a little baffled and sad by his absence; she’s been pretty snuggly with us recently.

The bright spot in all this is that yesterday we discovered that Blackjack is able to jump some places we didn’t think he was able to jump anymore due to his own issues. I guess having us pick him up to put him places has made him a little lazy, but when we refuse to do so because we don’t want him to crowd out Newton he just has to take matters into his own hands. The little rascal!


We finally made it out to see Hugo (2011) on Sunday. Despite seeing it in a theater with a really crappy sound system, it was still a fun film, though not quite as enjoyable as I’d hoped. (We didn’t see it in 3D, either.)

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the story takes place in 1930s Paris. Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy whose father (Jude Law in a brief role) was a watchmaker who also works in a museum. One day the father brings home a mechanical man which has been discarded, and he and Hugo set to repairing it. When Hugo’s father dies in a fire at the museum, Hugo is taken to live in abandoned quarters in the railway station Gare Montparnasse by his uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), a drunk who soon disappears. Hugo continues to wind the clocks in the station while eking out a living and avoiding the Station Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen). He also steals parts to continue repairing the automaton, but is caught by a toy shop proprietor, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who takes from Hugo the notebook about the automaton that Hugo’s father had created.

In his quest to retrieve the notebook, Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), the godchild of Georges and his wife (Helen McCrory), also an orphan. The two become friends, and Hugo learns of Isabelle’s love of books (Christopher Lee plays the owner of a bookshop she frequents) and the fact that her godfather never takes her to the movies, shocking to Hugo as his father’s love of film was something he remembers keenly. The pair set out to repair the automaton, which reveals a surprise about both of their families, and long-held pain that Hugo sets out to fix.

Lavishly directed by Martin Scorsese (who I heard wanted to make a film that children could enjoy), Hugo is an interesting mix of classic and modern filmmaking. Indeed, a historical film director is a significant character in the film, and Hugo takes place in an awkward period between the silent era and the golden age of film (“talkies” and color were already around, but the great films of the late 30s were still in the future), not to mention a period between the wars, before the rise of Nazi Germany would have impacted the life of an orphan boy like Hugo. The film opens with Hugo looking out from one of his many hiding spots on the train station – an enormous and intricate set (though of course one wonders if it’s a set of CGI), followed by an extended single-shot scamper by Hugo through the bowels of the station. It’s the sort of thing whose scope and detail would have been beyond films of the 30s, but the film also has a variety of minor characters – the people who work in and frequent the station – and following the details of their lives as asides to the main story feels very much like the films of the time (or maybe just a little later).

I was a little disappointed that the story was only a little bit fantastic and not more so – I guess I was fooled by the preview scenes of a train careening through the station (inspired by an actual incident at the station). Though the automaton is a marvel by itself, just a rather low-key one. The degree of coincidence in the film is a bit much to swallow, too – that Hugo acquires the automaton, is brought to the train station, and meets Georges and Isabelle is quite a confluence of events. I guess Hugo’s speech to Isabelle about how everyone has a purpose in life is supposed to explain this, but the film doesn’t really sell it.

My dad pointed out that the film is really fixing broken lives, and that’s exactly right; all the film history stuff is just the backdrop against which the story is set. I felt that the film was a little too mechanical in portraying the characters’ breakage, though; Hugo and Georges in particular seem emotionally restrained even in scenes where I expected them to explode. (Ben Kingsley is a terrific actor but I wonder whether he plays Georges too low-key, and what, say, Christopher Lee would have done with the role.) The film does much better in the healing scenes, which I guess is to the good since it forms the climax and denouement of the story.

Overall, an enjoyable film, but not quite what I’d expected it would be, and it didn’t knock my socks off. It reminded me in some ways of The Illusionist (2006), which on the whole I’d say is the better film. But there’s a lot to like about Hugo, especially the craft that went into filming it – it’s gorgeous to look at, and feels fully-realized in its portrayal of period Paris.

Jack McDevitt: Echo

Echo is another entry in Jack McDevitt’s run of far-future antiquarian mysteries, in which antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his pilot/aide du camp Chase Kolpath unravel a long-buried mystery. This time around, the mystery involves a stone from the former estate of one Somerset Tuttle, best known for devoting his long life to searching for intelligent alien life, in a galaxy humanity has been roaming for thousands of years and in which only one other intelligent life form has been found. The stone contains markings that don’t conform to any known human script, but before Alex and Chase can procure it, another party makes off with it.

The other party turns out to be Rachel Bannister, who had been Tuttle’s lover up until the time they both walked away from their quest – and she walked away from her job as a pilot – with Tuttle dying in a boating accident a few years later. Alex and Chase pull on the slender threads of the mystery before finding out what really happened.

I’ve discussed what I think are the failings of the Alex Benedict series in earlier reviews (low tech universe, somewhat superficial story), and Echo doesn’t really remedy those flaws. Clearly, the series is what it is. Yet I keep reading it, and indeed I devoured this book in just a few days (quite rapidly, for me!), so just as clearly, I enjoy it despite the fact that McDevitt clearly isn’t going to overcome its limitations and produce another A Talent For War.

The success of Echo is partly the suspense of who’s trying to stop Alex and Chase in their quest (and whether they’ll succeed), and partly the fundamental question, did Tuttle find aliens or didn’t he, and if he did, why didn’t he announce it to the universe? McDevitt does a pretty good job of resolving this mystery satisfactorily – if anything, he underplays his hand in the last few chapters, robbing the climax of some impact. And the last third of the book is a fairly rousing adventure exploring the star system our heroes’ quest takes them to. It reminds us that, fundamentally, they’re amateurs at this “brave new worlds” thing, surviving by their wits and the skin of their teeth. Alex in particular is far more at home dealing with people than with environments or animals (and Chase is only slightly better).

If you enjoyed earlier volumes in the series, then you ought to like this one.