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.

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.

Yule

Wishing everyone a highly corrugated Boxing Day!

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Apple closed down for Thanksgiving week, and I took a few extra days off before that, but it hardly seemed like enough, though it was enjoyable enough time. I particularly enjoyed walking around Byxbee Park and the Palo Alto Baylands, which reminded me of the spare beauty of the northeast corner of Hawaii’s Big Island. (Some wide-angle photos of it here.)

Everything’s been a bit of a slog, though I did manage to finish a pretty chunky project at work, which I’d originally proposed a couple of years ago but only recently became important. Although it ended up being more time-consuming than I’d expected, and was a source of some stress as it wasn’t clear I’d finish it on schedule, I was quite happy that my basic idea and approach worked well. So that made me happy.

Is that sufficiently vague? I never talk about work here.

Well, I can reveal one thing, which is that I worked on the Apple Silicon project, which was pretty darned awesome. This prompted me to go back into the office a couple of weeks ago for the first time since March, to clean out my office space for that project and bring stuff back to my main office. That was… weird, since of course all the buildings I went into were almost completely deserted. I’ve always carefully separated my work and home life, and the fact that I now work at home I think is slowly messing with my mental state. Not that I’m in a rush to go back until it’s safe, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing it were.

Anyway, everything has been a lot, as I’m sure you know. The March of the Trump Moron Brigade trying to overturn the election in a Stupid Coup hasn’t helped the stress level. Nor has the upward spiral of COVID-19 cases in the United States, driven by idiots gathering for Thanksgiving and just generally ignoring the sensible instructions to stay apart and wear masks. In some ways the worst thing about this pandemic is that many of these idiots won’t get a proper comeuppance for their hubris and stupidity, but lots of innocent people will pay the price instead. It’s so frustrating.

Anyway. The news of the vaccines is certainly great. Hopefully by spring we’ll have a good idea how how well they’re working and how long it will take to vaccinate the entire population (and, unfortunately, how many Americans will refuse to be vaccinated, either because they’re idiots or because they’re part of minority groups who have been poorly treated by the medical-industrial complex for the past century). Perhaps optimistically, I’m hoping we might return to relatively normalcy by September or so.

We shall see.

We put up our outdoor Christmas lights – as did a lot of other people in the neighborhood. I guess being stuck has home has prompted more people to decorate. We also put up one Christmas tree, the big one in the living room, and while Debbi’s fears about the kittens taking it down have been unfounded (though I did find them having climbed it once), they instead ended up chewing through some of the light cords, as well as actually chewing off parts of some of the covers of the lights. Fortunately, no harm seems to have been done; even if they ate some, the bits I think are a lot smaller than their digestive tracts at this point.

Debbi took the three days before the Christmas break off (both of our companies shut down between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day), while I took off Wednesday. We had a quiet Christmas. Jackson and Edison joined us to open presents, so Edison became the next kitten to revel in the joy of wrapping paper.

Debbi made homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and I made my traditional meatloaf and potatoes gratin for dinner. In-between we talked to family, went for a walk in Shoreline Park, and watched the football game. And today was even more low-key, except for working out in the morning.

Speaking of the kittens, they’re both doing well and growing up. They turned 8 months old earlier this month, and they’re settling into their own patterns and personalities. Both of them are snuggly in their own ways, Simon more with Debbi at night, while Edison lies on my chest – and occasionally lap – during the day. Simon has been doing his best to befriend both Sadie and Roulette, while Edison doesn’t seem to quite know how to do it: He swats at Roulette like a boy trying to get a girl’s attention in school by pulling on her hair. Roulette hisses at him. Sadie for her part swats at him and he’s intimidated by her. I hope he figures it out.

Roulette has stabilized after her rough time at the end of October. She still has the occasional bad day, but she takes her medication like a champ, seems happy sleeping her days away in three different places, enjoys her every-other-day wet food, and has been using her litter reliably.

So, that’s been the holidays, so far. I hope yours have been as good or better. I’ll leave you with a special treat: A clip of Simon getting down from the top of the cat tree, which he does by swinging himself down with his front legs like a monkey. He’s such a goofball!

Endless Summer’s End

While summer technically ended in September with the autumn equinox, for me it felt like this weekend marked the end of the season. A big reason for this is that we’ve had an unusually warm summer, which lasted with highs in the 90s well into October (The Weather Channel says the temperature here hit 93°F on Oct 17, and was in the 80s and high 70s for a week thereafter). Even with air conditioning, it was a long summer. But climate change will probably make this the new normal – perhaps for the rest of my life. Pour one out for the Bay Area summers of highs in the 70s.

I took Friday off from work, as the pandemic means there isn’t much to use vacation time on other than staycations. I slept in a bit, and then went over to Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands, which was a delightful walk. I walked for about 20 minutes along the bay (more or less – it’s still pretty marshy around there), and then came back and hiked around the hills in the park. The hill reminded me a lot of the dry areas in Hawaii, with brown grass and scrub, and scenic views of the bay. I’ll definitely have to go back next time I want to do a longer walk. Although if we get some rain in the next month, it might look pretty different if the plants start waking up!

After my walk I drove up to our vet to pick up some medication for our cat Roulette.

Rou – who turned 17 in July – had had a rough week: Last Sunday after a normal morning and early afternoon, she suddenly slept for most of the next day and a half, didn’t seem able to jump like before, and was peeing outside of the litter box. She got a little better by Wednesday, but still didn’t seem quite right. She was also having a little, well, leakage in other places she slept, which would not be that big a deal if one of her favorite places wasn’t between my legs in bed overnight. So I’d picked up some puppy pads to lay down in a few of her normal places, and also ordered some waterproof blankets.

We talked to our vet on Thursday. We didn’t really want to take her in unless we had to, because the car and the vet really stresses her out (and we couldn’t go inside to the vet with her because of the pandemic). Our vet suggested that she might have arthritis, which might be getting worse as it gets colder, so she prescribed some meds for that. We’ve started her out at the lowest level, and it seems to be helping: She’s able to jump more, and she’s curling up more normally, not sticking her legs straight out as much. And while she’s not always hitting her litter, she’s doing better than she was last Monday. And she seems fine with the extra blanket I have over myself at night.

She still seems to be basically happy, so hopefully we can keep her comfortable.


Yesterday we filled out our election ballots and dropped them off, and then got ready for the evening.

Halloween for us is usually a pretty lively evening, as some years we’ve gotten 300 kids or more. Our neighborhood I think attracts kids from surrounding neighborhoods – and even cities – to be driven in. It’s not really a big deal for us – Debbi enjoys seeing all the costumes, especially of the young kids, and we buy a bunch of candy and when we’re out we’re out – but this year of course we had no idea how many kids would show up.

So I bought a couple of bags of candy and we divided them up by putting 2 or 3 pieces each into a plastic snack bag. Then around 5:30 Debbi laid a bunch of baggies out on our front steps. I cleaned off our wooden glider and sat there, while Debbi brought out a folding chair, and we sat on the front porch to say hi to people as they went by or came up to get candy.

Some friends stopped by and hung out in the yard for half an hour before they drove around to look at Halloween decorations (something we did on Friday night). Otherwise we had a steady trickle of kids until about 8:15 pm, with maybe 50 to 60 kids coming by. Most of the kids were younger and accompanied by their parents, and almost all of them were wearing cloth masks and/or keeping their distance from other people. So it seemed pretty safe for everyone involved, and we felt pretty good about having helped them have a positive Halloween experience.

Our award for “best costume” was a girl – maybe 11 years old or so – who went as a jellyfish: She carried an umbrella which had streamers and strands of mini LED lights hanging from it, with frills around the edges. It was a neat look.


Today we made our weekly run to the farmer’s market, and then mostly sat to watch football. But I did go out to mow the lawn for what will probably be the last time this year. Our lawn has been getting a bit ratty, between the clay-like soil getting bumpy, and the drought a few years ago killing off some random patches around the edges. Now we have a zone of sprinklers which isn’t working, and that grass is dying, too. We’ll probably have someone come in and at least fix the sprinklers and spot-patch the lawn, although I’m sorely tempted to just get the whole thing re-sodded.

Anyway, it’s been a long strange summer around here. I’m looking forward to winter and hoping we get some good rainfall to stave off another drought. But I know the winter is going to be rough for the nation, as it will signal an end to outdoor dining for restaurants in many places, and I bet the inability to do things outdoors will lead to even wider spread of COVID-19.

I dearly hope Joe Biden can win the Presidency on Monday. I think he’ll not be a lot more than a caretaker President, but anything would be better than the incompetence of the Racist Impeached President Trump administration, whose lack of leadership has lead to over two hundred thousand American deaths. Otherwise I expect we’ll be stuck in quarantine until at least some time in 2022, if not even later, as I doubt Trump and his sycophants are capable enough to spell ‘vaccine’, never mind organize distributing one.

The Edison Blues

The weekend after our trip to the coast, we noticed that Edison was feeling kind of down – or a least acting that way. He’s been a high-energy kitten, but now he was spending a lot of time sleeping, not really playing. He was eating and drinking, and would engage with us if we worked at it, but otherwise he was just finding different sleeping spots and hanging out there.

So Saturday we took him to the vet – we seem to spend a lot of time at the vet since getting these kittens, but fortunately all for treatable issues. In this case, Edison was running a fever, so our vet gave him some subcutaneous fluids and a shot of something – I think a broad-spectrum antibiotic – to help him shake it. She also drew some blood to run a deeper test if that didn’t help. And then we took him home.

Happily, that treatment seemed to do the trick, as by Monday he had perked up considerably, and by today he was just about back to his normal self. I think his brother Simon missed having his playmate, although he is pretty self-entertaining. But seeing Edison charge after toys at high speed again was a joyful thing.

I guess this is just part of getting new kittens: They come with some new issues. But hopefully now that we’ve taken care of the chlamydia, the conjunctivitis (twice!), and whatever this was, they won’t come down with anything else for a while. For years, with any luck.

Well That Was a Week

The big news this week in our area were the eerie yellow and red skies due to the marine layer lofting the smoke from fires up north high into the atmosphere. (More here.) It was yellow and dark most of the day here in Mountain View, but further south and north the skies were red and much darker. But the air quality at ground level was actually fine, it just made for a from and foreboding rising every time one looked out the window.

The apparent end of the world was overshadowed for me because Jackson started showing signs of conjunctivitis again, meaning I guess the respiratory infection some of the cats had a month ago isn’t entirely gone. So we took him to the vet and got some meds. We couldn’t take him in until the end of the day, so I spent much of the day looking out at the dire heavens, and worrying about our boy. So we’re going him two meds for a week and then we’ll revisit. It remains to be seen whether the others will also need meds, although Edison started showing signs of eye trouble today. Sigh. I was really hoping a month after finishing the last round of meds that we were done with this.

(Despite the dramatic coloring, our weather was greatly overshadowed for the rest of the country by the disastrous wildfires in Oregon, which have been about as bad as anything I can recall in California.)

Unfortunately the marine layer moved out of the area by Friday, which meant the smoke came down to earth, and our air quality has been lousy for the last couple of days. Even worse up in San Francisco, I think. But we’ve basically been sitting inside, running the house fan and occasionally and A/C (the outside temperature did hit 80°F today, and the sun even came out). I don’t think anyone really knows, but the best prediction I’ve heard is that we won’t get relief (in the form of winds blowing the smoke elsewhere) until at least Monday.

Of course, the best thing would be for the fires to get put out. California firefighters have been doing a heroic job of containing the fires – the three large ones around the Bay Area are almost completely contained – but the whole west coast and several inland states have been set ablaze and things are bad.

Anyway, hopefully next week will be better. On top of the pandemic, this week was just nuts.

Kitten Update

It’s been over two months since Simon & Edison joined our family, so it’s time for a kitten update!

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: You may recall that they had upper respiratory infections and kitty conjunctivitis when they arrived, which we treated them for. Well, it turns out it was worse than that: The infection they almost certainly had from the start was kitty chlamydia, which we learned when their big brother Jackson’s right eye started watering and got hecka inflamed. We found out because we took him in to get tested.

So the three boys were on antibiotics for three weeks. We decided not to treat Sadie and Roulette because neither of them had showed any symptoms, and both of them had been avoiding the kittens (and Roulette avoids Jackson anyway). It was a bit of a risk, because if it turns out one of them was infected, then we’ll get to do this again, for all five of them. So of course every time I see Sadie sniffle I think, “uh oh”. But Sadie is a sniffly, slightly-drooly cat anyway, and she hasn’t shown the eye watering that all three of the boys showed. It’s been a week and a half since we finished their meds and none of them seem to be showing any symptoms, so it seems we got away with it.

The other downer is that a couple of weeks ago we were watching The Mandalorian, while the kittens were playing hard, when Edison jumped down off the top of the cat tree and must have twisted his ankle or something because he stopped putting weight on one of his rear legs and went and hid behind the couch. We put a stop to playtime for the night and corralled him and took the kittens up to their room and closed the door and left them alone for half an hour. Then we checked on them and he was limping, but he was using the leg again. So we decided to let it go to the next day, and while he was favoring the leg he was using it, and it wasn’t stopping him from running around. So we’ve kept an eye on him, and will probably ask the vet to take a look when we bring him in for their next shots. He was less adventurous about jumping for a while, but maybe it was psychological. Recently he’s been back to his old self, getting all kind of places, so hopefully it was something small.

We have another appointment for them to get their next round of shots in a week so we’ll have the vet check them out and make sure they’re okay. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, end of bad news.

The good news is that both kittens are growing up and are now in that delightful time where they’re able to do more, and they’re interacting with us more.

And stealing our chairs.

You may have guessed that they’re no longer confined to a bedroom. We staged letting them out, first giving them play time upstairs – usually with Jackson monitoring or even playing with them – and then giving them supervised visits downstairs. Next we let them out all day from morning til night, putting them back for the night. And finally last weekend we left them out overnight, which predictably ended up with us being kitten-piled at 2:30 am, but otherwise they seem to have adjusted well.

Jackson, somewhat to our surprise, is quite fond of the kittens. At first when they’d run up to him he’d tackle them too hard and they became wary of him, but after a week or so he figured it out, and the kittens would look for him whenever we let them out of their room. Simon in particular loves Jackson and would rub up against him whenever he first saw him after being released. We eventually caught Jackson and Simon sleeping together, with Jackson roughly grooming Simon and Simon purring away in happiness. The next development was hearing cats running around the house and spotting Edison chasing Jackson through the dining room. That chase ended with a hiss, I think because Jackson didn’t think a kitten could keep up with him, but they’ve had some chase time since then and it’s gone well. Jackson sometimes gets a little tired of the kittens and finds a place to get away from them, but mostly they get along great.

Simon can be a little winky sometimes.

Sadie and Roulette… it’s a work in progress. Sadie I think has been trying to figure out how to play with them, but has been having a hard time finding a way to do it without wapping them with her paw. It’s funny because she and they all have their spaz-all-over-the-house moments, but they haven’t played chase yet.

Meanwhile, I think Edison is looking for his special big cat to love, the way Simon has Jackson, and he’s chosen… Roulette, our grumpy 17-year-old cat who has spent most of the time since the kittens arrived under our bed. Fortunately we quickly identified that she came down to eat and use the litter, and finally she started coming down to hang out with us in the evening. But Rou would really like to be an only cat. Which is why Edison giving her the hard sell has been so funny: Sitting near her, watching her, trying to sneak up on her and lie next to her or lick her head. She is getting less belligerent, but I don’t know whether he’ll win her over. But he’s trying so hard. It would serve her right if he does, though, since that’s basically the hard sell that she gave my cat Jefferson when she was a kitten.

We’ve been trying to promote acceptance by giving everyone wet cat food together. Roulette and Simon are both very food-oriented, and Jackson and Edison will also join in. Sadie is not really food-oriented and often sits and watches.

As you probably know California has been wracked with wildfires for the last couple of weeks, and the air quality combined with unusually warm weather this month has led us to keep the house closed up and the A/C on for most of the time since we released the kittens for good. So they haven’t really gotten the full experience of sitting in windows and watching things outdoors. They’ve gotten a little of that in the last couple of days, and it seems Simon is a sunbeam cat, while Edison is going to be the one who tracks every little thing that goes by outside. Hopefully we can make sure that doesn’t include him.

The best part is that both of them like to snuggle with us, and each one will spend time sleeping on our chest or sometimes our lap. Edison in particular will sometimes get up and visit each one of us, sitting on our chest for a couple of minutes purring away before he goes back to whatever he was doing. And sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night with one of the cats snoozing next to us.

Despite the hiccups, these are still great kittens, and I’m really glad we got them.

Welcome Simon & Edison

Did you ever find yourself mostly stuck at home for months on end and think to yourself, “This would be an excellent time to adopt some kittens”?

Well, we are, and so we did. Meet Simon and Edison!

Simon is the brown tabby, while Edison is the black fellow.

We met them because one of my cow-orkers was fostering them, and we went over to visit a few weeks ago (pretty much the only people we’ve visited indoors since shelter-in-place started in March), and we thought they were pretty adorable. But, color-wise, they fit in with our three current cats, Roulette (calico), Jackson (gray tabby with white), and Sadie (white with orange tabby markings). And they had fun, playful personalities. So we decided to adopt them!

They are not brothers – Edison is about a week older than Simon according to their records, and they’re about two and a half months old. Simon has had a rough first couple of months, with some sort of bug that suppressed his appetite, and a foxtail or something in his right eye which left an ulcer. But he seems to have recovered from both, and is a little behind Edison in size and weight.

We brought them home two Mondays ago, and they’ve been mostly confined to a bedroom since then. And holy cow they are just about the most high-energy kittens we’ve ever had, other than maybe Blackjack. They zoom around their room and play and play and play. They’re changing practically every day, learning to jump higher, complaining that I’m not scooping their litter enough (we put a larger tray in the room after a couple of accidents), finding their meows, learning to snuggle, learning to clean themselves. Some switch flipped in Simon a couple of days ago and he’s become a lot more assertive, which has been adorable.

We’ve given them some supervised access to the rest of the upstairs, which they find delightful. They’re also very interested in the big cats, though only Jackson is interested in them so far, and somewhat cautiously, although we’ve played with all of them at the same time. Sadie will get a glimpse of them and then run away, while Roulette doesn’t like the cats we already had and I think is in denial that we have more.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been fun and games.

We took them in for their first appointment with our vet, for which they did very well. Both have put on a bunch of weight since they arrived (Simon is going to be a roly-poly guy, while Edison is going to be long and lean). That’s good, but less good is that they both have upper respiratory infections, and also conjunctivitis (or something like it). So we get to give them both meds for the next week and a half, and have to keep them separated from the other cats – and likely also change our clothes when we visit them – to keep the others from getting infected (especially Roulette, who will be 17 later this month; Jackson and Sadie are 7 and can probably deal with an infection if they contract it). Aside from the hassle for us and the disappointment for the kittens, it also means it will be a couple of weeks at least before we can start integrating the household.

Hopefully we’ll all come out the other side okay, but it wasn’t a great start to the long weekend.

As for the names? I’ve had “Edison” in my back pocket for decades waiting for the right cat, and I think this is the right one. We talked through a bunch of other names and both liked Simon. Of course, these are my fourth and fifth cats whose names end in “-on” (Jefferson, Newton, Jackson), so next time we’ll have to add a little more variety. But I think these names suit these kitties.

So despite the speed bumps, we’re very excited about these new additions. I’ve felt since they arrived like these are exactly the kittens we were meant to have.

Three Months Inside

A week or so ago marked three months since I started working from home, and just a little less than that since the Bay Area started its shelter-in-place policy. Debbi started working from home about a week after I did.

As I’ve chronicled, it was rough for the first few weeks, some better than others, but we’ve mostly gotten used to it.

We were doing “happy hour” video chats with friends for the first few weeks, but those have tailed off, though we did one with some neighbors and some former neighbors last weekend. We’ve also done some in-the-driveway evening drinks with other neighbors, using our six-foot folding table to separate us. Sadly, they’re going to be moving at the end of this month, as their landlords wanted to raise their rent, and they found a place closer to where they work. We’re going to miss them. I think their landlords may be in for a surprise, as there are a couple of vacant rental homes in our neighborhood.

The county has been gradually opening things up. Construction started up again a few weeks ago, and the house across the street from us has gone from little more than a foundation to the plywood exterior going up. Other new construction is moving along, too.

Over the last few days, retail businesses are opening up as well. Diamond comics distributors had closed for several weeks, which meant no comic books, but they’re ramping up again and I’ve driven down to pick up my books at the curb the last couple of weeks. Supposedly I’ll be able to go into the store tomorrow – with up to four other people so long as we distance ourselves. Restaurants and game stores and other retail are also opening up – we picked up lunch today and saw a few people eating at outdoor tables at downtown restaurants. Ditto when I picked up coffee today. Meanwhile, the city may close the main street downtown to allow restaurants to set up seating there. (By the time I publish this, the city council will probably already have voted.)

Is it too early? My gut says ‘yes’, but a lot depends on whether the measures to keep people separate work. I do most of the shopping for us – Debbi comes with me to the farmers market on Sunday, and not much else – and what I see is pretty iffy. Safeway supermarkets aren’t very diligent about enforcing masks, distancing, or the one-way arrows in their aisles. I encounter lots of clueless people. By contrast, I went to Costco this morning for the first time since shelter-in-place and it was smooth: Everyone was let in promptly at 10 am, everyone wore masks, almost everyone was keeping their distance. Granted, it was a Tuesday morning and not a Saturday afternoon, but it made me hopeful. I also went to the nursery to get some pots and plants and it was great too. (In case you’re wondering why I wasn’t at work, I took the day off.)

We’ve had a couple of heat waves in the last few weeks – it got over 90° today – and we’ve been glad of our air conditioning. On the other hand, it got cold over the weekend. Strange days in more ways than one.

We’ve been cleaning up our study, buying new furniture and making it a more usable space, and getting rid of a lot of stuff (like, two bankers’ boxes worth of paperwork from my late mother). I’ll likely do an entry about it when we’re all done, but progress has been going pretty well, just more work than I’d expected.

On another front, we’re thinking of getting kittens, since if we’re home all the time it seems like the perfect time to have kittens. And frankly, Jackson and Sadie (who turn 8 this fall) really need and deserve kittens. On the other hand, Roulette (who turns 17 next month) didn’t like these kittens, and has gradually been showing her age. Last night she peed on our bed, though it may have been because we’d closed the door to kick Jackson out so she couldn’t get to the litter. So, I don’t know. I don’t want to have her slowly decline and end up waiting 2 years, either.

So, it’s been a time. I know lots of people have had it a lot harder than we have, even people with jobs, and maybe we’re lucky we haven’t caught COVID-19 (or maybe we have – who knows?). In two weeks Apple has its developers conference, which ought to be an odd experience as an entirely-remote affair.

Now that summer is here we’re gently mourning our vacation plans for the year, which included visiting family, going to Hawaii, and maybe to Las Vegas. But I doubt there will be any non-essential travel in our future for at least a year (and, frankly, any essential travel probably won’t be for happy reasons, if it happens).

I imagine these entries start to sound like a broken record after a while, but so it goes when you’re mostly at home. I hope everyone reading this is doing as well, or even better.