Remembering Sadie, 2012-2021

This one really hurts: Sadie passed away today. She was not quite 9 years old.

It was very unexpected. We’d noticed last week that she seemed to have lost some weight, and I saw her try to jump up on the kitchen counter and miss. Over the weekend we debated taking her in to the vet, and called on Monday to make an appointment. Our vet is so backed up that we couldn’t get her in until the end of the month (apparently everyone is catching up on vet appointments they’d postponed during the pandemic), so we decided to wait and see. Well, she spent most of the day under our bed, and we noticed she wasn’t eating and was licking her lips a lot. So we arranged to do a drop-off on Tuesday.

The doctor who saw her said that Sadie had several masses in her torso – one quite large – and that she was showing extreme kidney failure. Apparently her kidney numbers actually exceeded their machinery’s ability to measure it. We left her there overnight, expecting to take her to a pet hospital for further examination today.

Instead, our regular doctor – who doesn’t work Monday or Tuesday – called this morning saying she’d seen Sadie had been in on Tuesday. We told her that she was still there, so she checked her out, and after a few calls we decided to put her to sleep. Sadie probably had lymphoma or some other form of cancer, and we felt that treating both that and keeping her alive despite her failing kidneys would probably just lead to her living for only a few more months, likely in discomfort and declining quality-of-life, and that it was probably best to let her go while she was still comfortable. So that’s what we did.

We adopted Sadie and her brother Jackson in November 2012, when Blackjack was in what turned out to be the endgame of his own cancer, and Newton was 18 years old. Both would pass away within 8 months. We didn’t want to be a one-cat household, and we figured Roulette would want some company. As it turned out, Roulette would have been happy being an only cat, but she tolerated Sadie more than Jackson. We also adopted them shortly after my Mom moved to assisted living and I was traveling back to Boston regularly to handle her affairs and clean out her house, so the kittens were a welcome break from that.

They were two of a set of three, but apparently they beat up on their sister a lot in their cage, and the Humane Society staffer said it was probably good for their sister to go to a different household. As a new adoptee, Jackson was bold and adventurous and cuddly, while Sadie was more reserved, and liked to play with toys on her own. Over time she became very affectionate, loving her head rubs and purring easily. Sometimes she liked belly rubs, and if she wasn’t in the mood she’d just get up and leave.

Jackson and Sadie as kittens
This has been my iPhone Lock Screen image for over 8 years

Debbi came up with the name Sadie because as a kitten the marks on the outer edges of Sadie’s eyes gave her a sad expression. She outgrew that and had a naturally bright, inquisitive expression as an adult.

Sadie did her best to become my special kitty, filling the void left by Jefferson’s passing in 2010. I’d been calling Roulette “little girl” for a some time by then, so I started calling Sadie “little miss”. Debbi referred to them as the queen and the princess.

Sadie as a kitten on the cat tree

She loved Newton for the 8 months she knew him, lying with him even after he wrapped her on her head when she went after his tail.

Newton and Sadie
Newton and Sadie

But her signature trait was that she surprisingly grew from a short-haired kitty to a medium-hair cat with pantaloons and a big goofy tail, plus short legs for her body (sort of like Simon has now). Every so often she would spaz out and run around the house, a white mop of fur running down the stairs or jumping on the table by the garage door. Alas, she did not enjoy getting brushed, so we ended up with white hair all over the house. Sometimes I’d play with her with a mouse toy on a couch, and she’d leave tufts of white hair across it.

Floofy Sadie
Floofy Sadie

When I had people over for gaming, she would often hang out with us – sometimes on the table – to keep up with what was going on.

"I'm all in!" - Sadie at our home poker table
“I’m all in!”

She became “the bedtime enforcer”, sitting by the hallway to the stairs or even meowing at us if we stayed up later than we were supposed to. And she’d jump up and tuck us into bed for a few minutes after we turned the light off, before heading off to do whatever she did at night. Sometimes I think she just sat at the foot of the bed or the top of the stairs to guard us against threats.

What's out there?

She was a very well-behaved kitty, using scratching posts rather than furniture (something Simon and Edison have not learned from her). She loved her treats, especially Greenies. And this past year she became my meeting buddy, sitting with me in the library where I take many of my video meetings while working from home. She also liked sleeping in the baskets of clothes on the top shelf of our walk-in closet, and the kittens would sometimes follow her up there.

And, she was a world champion lounger. She would lie down and get comfortable almost anywhere, whether or not she was underfoot.

World champion lounger: Sadie at our wedding in 2015
Sadie at our wedding in 2015

Her last few days were comfortable, I think. She ate through Sunday, and I gave her some extra treats while she ate them. She sat with us in the living room Monday night, sat on the dining table Tuesday morning while Debbi worked, and then went upstairs and sat inside the door to our bedroom before going under the bed. I put her on the bed for a bit and we had a pet-fest, and I got a few final photos of her. We didn’t know this was the last time she’d be home – I’d been holding out hope that she had a couple of rotten teeth that were making her not eat – but we knew there was that chance.

Edison has been trying so hard the last few months to win her over, and unfortunately she just never did more than tolerate the kittens. I’d hoped she’d become motherly towards them, but it wasn’t to be.

The last photo
The last photo

After Roulette passed in March, I figured it would be another 6 years or more before we had to worry about one of our cats reaching the end, so this was quite a shock. Of course we wonder what we could have done, but she and Jackson had a routine physical just a few months ago and there was no sign of this then. The speed with which it happened was also a factor in our decision to let her go.

Like Blackjack, she deserved better than this. I guess we’ve just had a couple of instances of extremely bad luck with our kitties.

But I’m grateful for the time we did have with her. She was a sweet, loving kitty, and brought a special warmth to our household. And I’m gonna miss her a lot, and will always wonder about the moments we’ll miss out having with her.

Goodbye, little miss. My Sadie girl.

Bright eyes
Bright eyes

Normalizing

California ended its mask mandate on Tuesday, meaning that people vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer had to wear a mask in any circumstance, though unvaccinated people are still required to. My guess was that about half of all people would stop wearing masks immediately, and of course since there’s no verification of who’s been vaccinated, there’s no telling whether unmasked people have been vaccinated or not. I and most of my friends and family have been vaxxed, and Santa Clara County has a really high vax rate, but this has to be a terrifying situation for people who can’t get vaccinated.

On Thursday, President Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday, observed on Friday since June 19 was on Saturday. I wasn’t even aware of Juneteenth as a meaningful date until a few years ago, and as a middle aged white guy I don’t really have any thoughts about it, except that maybe Congress could have gotten its act together and passed the bill a little sooner than the 11th hour. (The Post Office, for example, was unable to shut down on such short notice.) My personal hope is that it helps to promote and develop racial equality, an a better understanding of how slavery affects the United States to this day. I feel like there are things about this that could have been handled better, but that sort of nuance is beyond the federal government of the modern era, I’m afraid.

Anyway, Apple already gave (took?) Juneteenth as a company holiday, so I already had the day off. I don’t think this was the first year we got it, but it seemed like many of my cow-orkers were unaware of it until I told them. Debbi didn’t have the day off, so I was on my own. I went for a long walk in Byxbee Park before the heat set in, as we were at the tail end of a heat wave (it hit 96°F on Thursday).

Then I watched the last two episodes of The Expanse season 5, so I’m all caught up. The production quality of the show is high and gets better over time, but the story is very… emotionally vacant. Lots of action and suspense and a lot of effort put into scientific accuracy, but the characters are generally pretty flat, and it never feels like it gels as more than a series of events. If the series has a message it seems to be, “Humans are horrible people, and we’ll take our horribleness to the stars with us.” Which is probably not wrong, but doesn’t make for pleasant viewing. There will be one more season and presumably it will be more of the same.

In the afternoon I played Magic with my cow-orker Boris over Spelltable, which is a pretty nifty way to play with real cards over a webcam. We played Modern Horizons 2 sealed deck, which was fun, although I don’t think either of us did anything broken. I used a Logitech C922x Pro camera, which I would rate as merely okay: The image it provided of my playmat from about 16″ away was pretty blurry (but props to Spelltable for still recognizing the cards most of the time). I suspect the issue is not that the camera sucks, but that it’s not really made for this kind of task. I’ll have to see if there’s a better choice. That said, getting the camera set up and getting everything working was pretty easy, especially since I have no experience with this stuff.

Long story short, we had fun and will do it again sometime.

Friday night I picked up dinner from downtown Mountain View. My guess is about half of people not actively eating dinner were masked, including the wait staff where I was picking up. Downtown has gotten crazy busy since even before the pandemic, and closing Castro Street for outdoor seating has just made it even more so. Parking was already tight and is now just nuts. Even if things were back to normal we might be avoiding it on weekend evenings from now on due to the crowds and the parking hassle.

Saturday we had our friends Mo and Chris over to meet the kittens, and this was really the first extended experience the kittens had with new people. As I predicted, Simon watched from 20 feet away for a while, but Edison was much more willing to come check them out. We gave Mo and Chris toys to play with them, which got the kittens engaged, and even Jackson got some good play time in. Sadie came and hung out but didn’t play. Simon is a bit of a fraidy cat, but hopefully he’ll get used to people over the next few months as we have more people over.

Sunday we went to the farmer’s market, where in contrast to Friday I’d say maybe 25% of people were unmasked, fewer than I’d have guessed. Vendors were more likely than shoppers to be unmasked. But if I were there for 5+ hours every Sunday, I’d be ready to ditch the mask, too.

Debbi and I are taking things slowly. We’re not ready to dine indoors at a restaurant yet, or go to a movie theater. We still wear masks inside when we go to stores. I quite enjoyed this take on that:

Lady outside of cvs: Why do you have your mask on still?

Me: It helps me mind my business. You should try it sometime.

There’s a lot of controversy on social media about working in an office vs. working remotely. I personally am looking forward to going back to the office and seeing my colleagues there. I like keeping my home and work lives strictly partitioned.

It’s not time yet, but hopefully soon.

Easing Back In

The prologue to the weekend was getting take-out from Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too!, one of our favorite restaurants in town, which is closing for the next two years while they rebuild their building and rethink their business model. It was one of the first restaurants I went to when I moved here, and we’d gone regularly enough that several of the staff recognized us, notably the bartender. We’d patronized them regularly through the pandemic, and we’re gonna miss them. I hope they are able to execute their plan and come back in 2023.

Front door of Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi Too!

I took Friday off to have a 4-day weekend. I decided to skip running and instead went to Byxbee Park for a nice walk in the morning. The weather was great, and it was pretty quiet. I love walking there. I did a few chores and then watched a couple episodes of The Expanse, as I slowly catch up on the latest season.

Saturday I did go for a run in the morning, and then made us pancakes and sausages for breakfast. We had a pretty quiet day, although we did do a grocery store run. I also did some work in the yard, mainly fixing a sprinkler leak. There’s some more sprinkler repair we need which might be behind my abilities – or at least beyond my interest in learning. We’ll see.

The main event for the weekend was on Sunday: We drove down to our friends Chad & Camille’s house, where we spent the afternoon and evening with them and other friends Mo and Chris. All of us are safely vaccinated, while C&C’s kids are not yet, but will be soon. But the science says they should be safe since all the rest of us have been vaxxed for a while. So we hung out, used their pool (it was well over 80°F in the afternoon), petted their dogs, and had drinks and dinner. The kids came out for dinner and a post-dinner card game. We stayed until nearly 11 pm, so it was a good time. Hopefully the first of many.

Finally on Monday we had a couple of neighbors over for a barbecue, again in very warm weather. But it was a fine time for all of us.

Debbi and I are both being pretty cautious by some standards – we’re not ready to go to downtown Mountain View and eat at a restaurant, even outside, because it’s so busy down there, even though non-diners are still wearing masks. And I don’t know whether we’ll fly anywhere this year, though maybe things will be looking good by the end of the summer. I have several (vaxxed) friends who have flown in the last few weeks, and no whammies so far. But getting together with friends, we can do.

I know things are pretty rough in much of the rest of the world, but hopefully we’re nearing the end here, and hopefully things will turn around elsewhere soon.

Panoramic view from Byxbee Park
View from Byxbee Park (click for larger image)

Hakone Gardens

Since we haven’t been going on vacation during the pandemic, we’ve been instead taking the occasional day off here and there. We did so today and went out to breakfast and then to Hakone Gardens, a Japanese garden in the south bay. We’ve been a couple of times before, usually in the winter, which means not much was flowering, but I thought I read that they had some cherry trees in bloom now.

It turns out that there still isn’t much flowering, not the cherry trees, not the wisteria arbor, but it was generally greener than we’d seen before. And it was sunny but not too warm, which made for a nice outing.

Hakone Gardens main gate
The main gate

Due to COVID, they arranged the paths so you had only a single long path you could walk along (with two shortcuts), which probably makes sense when the place is busier, but on a Friday morning there were only a few other people visiting, and we didn’t pass or get passed by anyone else.

The “cultural exchange center” building was open, which I don’t recall it being before – but it’s been several years since our last visit. The main displays inside concerned the creation of the gardens between the two World Wars, and then the internment of the gardener and caretaker and his family in the Japanese concentration camps in which the United States imprisoned most residents of Japanese descent during World War II, as well as memories of a few other people of their or their parents’ imprisonment. This American shame has gotten more attention in recent years through the efforts of people like George Takei, and the photos and personal memories here were pretty moving.

We spent an hour or so walking the garden. Here are a few photos:

Michael in the wisteria arbor at Hakone Gardens
Me in the wisteria arbor
Panoramic view from the Moon Viewing House at Hakone Gardens
Panorama from the Moon Viewing House
The bamboo garden at Hakone Gardens
The bamboo garden
Waterfalls ay Hakone Gardens
Waterfalls
Panorama from below the Moon Viewing House at Hakone Gardens
Panorama from below the Moon Viewing House

It was a nice outing. We ran a couple of errands, and played video games (remotely) with some friends later in the day. We’ve had a bunch going on recently so taking a vacation day to not do much of consequence was something we needed.

But now, to close things out, I’m sure what you really wanted in this entry was a close-up of me, so here you go!

Boo!

Fully Vaxxed

And three weeks after our first shots we went back to Levi’s Stadium today for our second shots of the Pfizer vaccine. So in about 2 weeks we should be as immune to COVID-19 as we’re going to get. Well, for this round, anyway. And no nasty side effects yet for either of us!

I think it’s still going to be a bit of a roller-coaster for the next year or two. I’m confident the vaccines will provide excellent protection against the main strain of the virus, and – much like the flu vaccine – against many of the variants. The problem is they might not protect against all of the variants, and until we are able to roll out vaccines worldwide to 80% or more of the planet, we’re going to keep seeing new mutations pop up.

The reluctance of a significant fraction of the population to get vaccinated is likely to prolong the virus. As a result I think we’ll see some regions achieve “herd immunity” until some mutation from an under-vaccinated region breaks past the vaccine. (This is my own extrapolation from this article. Not that I am not an expert in these matters.)

Uneven Willingness to Get Vaccinated Could Affect Herd Immunity

I’m optimistic that scientists will improve the vaccines in the future as well. And I expect we’ll need a booster shot each year, perhaps rolled into the annual flu shot.

Maintaining this pace for the whole world every year is going to be a challenge, no doubt about that. Things are very bad in India right now and I doubt it will be the last country in such dire straits. Lots more people are going to die. It’s horrifying. I hope the world can pull together to limit the damage.

In the United States it will also be interesting (that’s a word for it) to see the struggle to get everyone vaccinated, persuading the holdouts to get their shots (except people who have a good medical reason not to, of course). I suspect the luddite Republicans in many states will try to force things so people are not pressured to get vaccinated in any way, but I also think – and hope – that there will be overwhelming forces against them. For example, large companies refusing to employ or serve people who aren’t vaccinated. Insurance companies raising premiums for unvaccinated individuals. Airlines refusing to let unvaccinated people fly. And, you know, people getting sick and dying from COVID, especially newer strains. I think it will be slow going, but hopefully reason and science will prevail and the vaccines will become a natural thing for all citizens.

Anyway, on that cheery note.

Today was Debbi’s birthday, too, so getting vaxxed was a nice way to mark the day. She took part of the day off, and spent much of it watching Star Wars movies, too. Things are looking up – for us, anyway.

Debbi & Michael after getting vaccinated
Obligatory selfie after getting our shots!

20 Years with Debbi

Today was my and Debbi’s 20th anniversary since our first date, and 6th since our wedding. We celebrated by taking the day off together.

After working out in the morning, we splurged (in a calorie sense) and got McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme for breakfast. (I lo-ove sausage biscuits, and while Debbi’s are better, McD’s are pretty good too.)

Then we drove over to Half Moon Bay, where we had lunch at Cameron’s Pub. It was pretty dead there, only a couple other parties eating. We sat outside, which was chilly but otherwise good. We also drove down Main Street, where we we happy to see that the Main Street Grill is still open, but sad to see that the quirk “adventure” store Oddyssea closed, apparently just in the last couple of months. We always enjoyed browsing there when we visited, and bought a surprising number of things there over the years. But I suspect they made too much of their money from group outings to their outdoor space to survive the pandemic. Alas.

We took a drive up the coast to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which unfortunately was still closed, and I see from their web site that it will reopen on May 3. Oh, well! Hopefully we’ll head back before too long. Instead we parked by the Miramar Beach Restaurant and walked along the coast for a bit until it got too cold and windy. Bracing! Well, too bracing for the shorts I was wearing! So we stopped by the HMB branch of Dunkin Donuts and got some very mediocre coffee (somehow this branch just can’t get the cream and sugar right) and headed home.

We had a quiet day otherwise, getting take-out from our traditional first-date restaurant Don Giovanni, which really hit the spot, and looked forward to two more days of long weekend.

In a way this day was typical of the days off that Debbi and I have together: Go do a few fun things, see a few things, eat some good food, hang out, and enjoy the lives we have. It’s been great.

Happy anniversary, my dove!

So Much Adulting

The last four days have been a whirlwind of adulting. It’s been kinda exhausting.

Friday we had someone from AAA Furnace over to service our HVAC. Everything seems to be in good shape. I hung out to do anything needed inside (mostly adjusting the thermostat while he did his tests), partly because COVID, and partly because kittens.

Saturday was the big day, though.

After working out in the morning we went to Airport Appliance to buy a new refrigerator (per previous entries). We decided to go with this French door model by Beko, a Turkish company which is apparently huge in Europe and has been in the U.S. for about five years. It’s devilishly hard to find out how reliable fridges are – even if you find that one has been great, it was probably made 5 or more years ago, been discontinued, and who knows if the current models are as good. Internet reviews are generally useless, partly because a lot of them are just complaining, and partly because a review from someone who’s had their fridge for 6 months or less isn’t that helpful for reliability.

We had an additional wrinkle in that the space for our fridge is only 70” tall, and many fridges are a bit taller than that. It turns out we actually have more space if we remove or trim the bracket immediately above the fridge, but we’d already made a decision when I realized that. Good to know for next time.

Anyway, we’re replacing a 13-year-old GE fridge, and not many companies make counter-depth fridges fridges that are 69” high. GE makes several, but I’ve heard bad things about their newer models, and frankly we were not very impressed with the apparent build quality or the styling of those models. Whereas the Beko seemed generally more solid and we really liked the look of it.

We did buy the extended warranty, which means it should work for at least that long, right? Right??

Afterwards we had lunch at Yiassoo (a longtime favorite which has substantially improved their patio seating during the pandemic), and then came home and took Jackson and Sadie to the vet for their annual checkup. This was the first time Sadie rode in a carrier by herself, since we’d always brought her with Roulette. And she yowled the whole way there and back. Jackson was also unhappy, and even peed in the carrier on the way home. But, both of them are healthy and that’s what matters.

(Simon and Edison seemed to barely notice that we were all gone.)

After all that I went down to pick up some books I’d ordered from Books Inc., and did a grocery run.

In the evening I managed to find COVID vaccinations for Monday, about which more later.

Sunday was finally a quieter day. We went to the farmer’s market in the morning, and in the afternoon I wrapped up our taxes, which will be filed this week. I also did a Magic draft which I am playing out this week before Strixhaven comes out, and the first game was totally bonkers, lasting well over half an hour. (I won with 6 cards left in my deck!)

This morning we found that our fridge has gone out again, so we moved stuff into our chest freezer (which has plenty of space even with the stuff we’ve already put in it) and mini-fridge (which is pretty packed now). The new fridge will be delivered on Thursday, and what a relief that will be.

And finally today we went to Levi’s Stadium to get vaccinated. Despite having a little trouble finding the entrance, everything otherwise was smooth and easy. It took about an hour and a half including driving time. We joined House Pfizer, and six hours later neither of us has had any reactions, though apparently they could show up tomorrow. It’s great to finally be on our way! We rewarded ourselves with treats from McDonald’s on the way home. And I’ve been telling cow-orkers about our experience so they have some idea what to expect when signing up.

And today there was the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis. I’m sure smarter and more informed people than me (probably none of them Republicans) will have a lot useful to say about this, but one thought I have is that if we’re not going to take guns away from the cops, let’s take tasers away from them. Tasers aren’t particularly safe either, and cops mistaking their tasers for guns is bad news. If all they have to fire is a gun, then at least they know what they’re signing up for when they draw their weapon.

In any event, there’s nothing I’ve read that says to me that Wright’s actions even merited tasing. What the hell was the cop thinking? Were they even thinking?

So, that’s been a lot of stuff, even just considering our stuff. I’m looking forward to the fridge being delivered, and dealing with much less stuff for a couple of weeks.

Lukewarm

This week’s unwanted excitement is that our freezer crapped out again. Worse, it did so on Monday, which was the last day of a 4-day weekend I’d taken off from work. So instead of a relaxing day reading and watching television, it was instead a day of stress and anxiety.

Last time we unloaded the freezer into a cooler and that night it started working again. This time we didn’t do that, and by Tuesday afternoon both the refrigerator and freezer were up around 54°F – not good for either one. We lost all of the food in the freezer except for a few things that we’d just been storing for long term, like some Girl Scout thin mints. There wasn’t anything in there that was a big loss – it’s all easily replaced – but it was a bummer.

But we did put some backup plans in motion. First we went to Home Despot and bought a mini-fridge, so that we can have, you know, cream for our morning coffee. And also butter. And eggs. Essentials. We also ordered a chest freezer, which is a bit less of an extravagance since we’ve been thinking for a while of getting one, as we always feel like we need more freezer space. Whether we need this much more freezer space, I don’t know, but it is just about the smallest model. It should be fine. Load it up with ice cream!

Of course, after we emptied the freezer of the spoiled food, the thing started working again. It lasted a couple of months after the last incident, and I suspect each time the problem was blocked air flow, possibly some vent getting iced over. So it might be fine for a few more months or longer. But, the fridge is about 13 years old and that’s near the lifespan of such appliances, so we’re going to replace it.

Figuring out what to replace it with, and from where, is the next trick. All of our kitchen appliances are GE, probably because our builder bought a package when he furnished the kitchen. But GE fridges don’t seem very reliable these days from what I’ve read (and from comments from friends). A few other brands also get low marks by word-of-mouth. So we’re leaning towards Whirlpool, Maytag, or maybe Frigidaire. A friend also said they had a good experience with Fisher Paykel, about which I know nothing. Debbi is intrigued by this Whirlpool model. But mainly we know we need a counter-depth model, and we’d like a french door design with a bottom freezer. That cuts out a lot of the options, so we’ll get what we get. And hopefully get another year out of it.

(How soon we get it is yet another question, as apparently there are some long delays in appliance delivery due to disruptions in the global supply chains.)

I’m kind of kicking myself for not having moved on this two months ago, but, it’s water under the bridge at this point.

So, it’s been kind of a lousy week because of all this. The fridge and the oven are the two appliances we really can’t do without during a global pandemic. But hopefully we’ll have it worked out soon.

Remembering Roulette, 2003-2021

Roulette passed away today. She’d been slowly declining since last fall, and had been on a drug to help with arthritis. But in the last week and a half her decline accelerated, and the drug didn’t seem to help anymore. She had trouble walking and keeping her balance, so we were able to move up her planned vet appointment from Saturday to today. She was down to about 4-1/2 pounds, and the vet agreed that it was time.

Debbi adopted Roulette along with her brother Blackjack in 2003 when they were two months old. She was part of a pod of six kittens being fostered, and we think she was technically Blackjack’s aunt, but who knows, really? When we visited them she was playing by herself with a plastic rose, and she wasn’t very well socialized. But she (barely) tolerated me picking her up. Her foster name was Opal, but Debbi changed it to Roulette to match her brother’s theme. Plus she was a beautiful calico, so it seemed to fit.

Debbi brought them down from her apartment to my townhouse every weekend, and at first we confined them to the front bedroom. A week or two after she adopted them, she went back to visit her family, leaving me to sit for them. This turned out to be when we learned that Roulette had a tapeworm, so I got to give her a pill for it, and also clean up the worm segments (yuck!). Fortunately the pill did its job and she suffered no ill effects.

One day I was downstairs reading, and I looked up to see Roulette on the stair landing. “Hello little girl, what are you doing out of your room?” She had figured out how to climb the baby gate we’d put up and had started exploring. They got their full freedom not long after that.

Roulette latched on to my cat Jefferson as her best friend – and gave him no choice in the matter. She would also wrestle with Blackjack, but she loved to sleep with Jefferson.

She hated riding in the car. For a while Debbi let them out of their carrier when driving down to my place, but that ended the night Roulette escaped from the car after Debbi had parked, ran across the street, and hid in the back of my condo complex. After 2 hours of searching we finally found her and brought her inside. So she was probably happier than anyone when Debbi moved in with me.

Roulette also chose me as her human. Honestly I think she just liked men better than women. She was a little on the shy side, but after one party Debbi said, “Did you notice that Roulette came down and said hi to everyone?” “No,” I replied, “Roulette came down and said hi to all the men.” She was pretty happy to seek attention from male house guests we had, too.

Roulette had a rough time starting in 2010, when Jefferson (2010), Blackjack (2012) and Newton (2013) all passed away. Plus we moved to our current house in 2011, and we adopted Jackson and Sadie just before Blackjack passed away. I think it was too much for her. Plus Jackson became aggressive and harassed her, and unlike Newton who put him and Sadie in their place, Roulette instead just spent more time under the bed. I think it wasn’t until 2014 or 2015 that she started to behave more normally, carving out some preferred places to sleep, and standing up to Jackson. She probably would have preferred to be an only cat, and my one regret is that we weren’t able to give her a new feline family she could relate to.

Roulette was very playful when she was younger, but played much less after that. Granted she was over 10 years old when she got over her (I assume) depression, but I think she just wanted to be snuggled and didn’t want to attract the attention of Jackson. I could get her to play with the right toy as long as she didn’t have to leave the couch, but that happened less and less.

She did, however, love catnip and especially wet cat food. “Is it time?” was a phrase which would perk up her ears and often get her running over to the kitchen in anticipation of the paté goodness. Sadie and Jackson both have an on-again-off-again interest in wet food, but she loved it.

We warned her that if she lived long enough she might have to deal with more kittens, and she was about as thrilled as you can imagine by the arrival of Simon and Edison. On the other hand, these kittens also adore wet food, and I like to think that it helped acclimate her to them. Edison was also a bit of a bully to Rou, but he couldn’t bully her off of a bowl of wet food. Simon tried more gently to cozy up to her, and I think she tolerated him.

The last year or so she started sleeping with us at night, usually between my legs. Over the last couple of weeks she moved up to sleep between us, or even right next to my chest. I guess she was not feeling well and just wanted to be closer to us. She had her usual helpings of wet food, and she got one last comic book night with me last Wednesday. I think the others knew she wasn’t feeling well, as they gave her more space. She also became addicted to drinking water out of running bathroom faucets, and would sometimes meow at us to come water her.

Last week she growled at a cat who came up on our back porch. Defending our house to the end!

Our vet has not been allowing people inside for check-ups since COVID-19 started, but they make an exception for pets’ final moments, so we were able to go in and be with her at the end. She hated the car, she hated the vet, but we gave her a space to feel safe at the end. Old kitties are not very demonstrative with their emotions, but I hope she knew we were trying to make her more comfortable.

She was a willful, demanding kitty, but she was our willful, demanding kitty.

Thanks for everything, little girl.

One Year of Covid-19

These first two weeks of March mark one year since many Americans found their lives changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. March 9, 2020 was my last day in the office – I went in once more to collect my equipment to work at home, and then I wouldn’t go in again until a day in December when I had to clean out some stuff from where I’d been contributing to the M1 Macintosh project. And then again this past Friday to pick up a package I’d accidentally gotten sent to work.

That first month was downright weird. I continued my morning run, and added one or two walks per day as well. But I hardly saw anyone most mornings. There was one morning that I counted five people on my run. I did our runs to the grocery store by myself, staying distant from other people and sometimes admonishing them for not following the arrows for the one-way aisles. Masks weren’t yet a thing.

By the end of March my comics shop had temporarily closed, though it reopened later in the spring and has stayed open since. We ordered a lot of take-out, and cooked at home, discovering a few new recipes.

My wife has mostly avoided going out. The one trip she’d do every week would be to the Mountain View Farmer’s Market, which ironically is one of the busiest places I ever go. Otherwise she’d drive me places to get take-out.

The fear of that first month drained away over the next couple of months, maybe due to exhaustion more than anything else. Not that we were being less diligent, just less fearful. We got together with friends, keeping 6 or more feet apart for drinks in the driveway or in our back yard. The only visit we made to see people inside was to visit my boss and his wife, who were fostering the kittens who we eventually adopted as Simon and Edison. (Who are doing great, by the way!)

We had coincidentally done a lot of things to prepare for shelter in place shortly before it occurred. We’d made a Costco run and had plenty of toilet paper. I made a couple of big grocery runs. We’d both been to the eye doctor, and I’d been to the dentist. We’d taken the cats in for their annual check-up. Lucky, really.

Since then I’ve been to the dentist – twice. We’ve both been to the eye doctor recently. We’ve made numerous trips to the vet for the kittens and for our elderly cat Roulette, but we never go inside. Our parents have been vaccinated, as has my sister. It will probably be a couple more months for us. We made one trip to Half Moon Bay on a day off last summer and ate at a restaurant outside, but otherwise we’ve only left our county to go to the vet. We’ve eaten outside at a couple of restaurants here, but none of them have wait staff.

I try to call my father every other week, and mostly succeed.

In January I joined the people who celebrated a birthday at home. I’ve done that before, of course, but this one wasn’t by choice.

We watched the numbers tick up as hundreds of thousands of people died who probably wouldn’t have if we hadn’t had an incompetent, racist, narcissistic President in the White House. The depth of his failure to act – or even to show the barest human empathy – was breathtaking. Meanwhile the whole Republican Party is careening into fascism.

I miss all the things everyone else misses: Hanging out with friends, eating at restaurants, going on vacation. Even going into the office – working from home has never been my thing.

It’s gradually been wearing me down. More than most? Less? I have no idea. Last year was the year I was going to take more vacation than usual. Well.

While racist impeached President Trump deserves credit for “Operation Warp Speed” to get vaccines developed, he showed his incompetence once again in refusing to expedite distribution. Things have gotten a lot better under President Biden, and tens of millions of Americans have been vaccinated. Hopefully most of the rest will be by summer. Then we mainly have to wait for vaccines to be approved for children – maybe by next fall or winter?

So much more I could write, from the election to the job losses to the concern about vaccinating the rest of the world.

I don’t expect things will change much for us for the rest of 2021. Maybe by fall we can eat at restaurants? I doubt we’ll fly anywhere this year, though.

But I’m ready to. I can really use those postponed vacations.