Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I opened the door and saw garbage all over the floor, every cupboard flung open, the waffle iron on the ground. Someone, or something, had really done a number on the kitchen. Granola bar wrappers, cereal boxes, opened tupperware, crushed ramen noodles, empty soy milk cartons, absolutely everywhere. At first I could see only chaos, but then the patterns started to emerge. It was mostly food items that were everywhere and every cupboard was emptied up to about chest height. I knew the likely culprits: little two-foot high masked intruders. Alas, our house that is open to the elements is also open to the vermin. There was not much I could do as there is no good way to secure the kitchen and nothing left to secure anyway.

Still, all that night, I had dreams of little striped gangster hoodlums having quite a party in the kitchen. The nerve! And then I was worried that they might just move in. One day I would open a cupboard or a closet and be surprised by glinting eyes and a wet nose.

I went back this morning, cleaned up the mess, searched the cupboards and closets for stowaways and shut everything up as best I could. Let's hope the house gets solid walls soon and it's days as a ring tailed party center are over.

Monday, October 17, 2005

For the birds

Just finished reading The Big Year by Mark Obmascik, a funny, quick read about something near and dear to my heart: obsession. The obsession in this case is birding, a competitive sport, it turns out, not to be confused with the more passive pursuit of bird watching. Birding is not my particular obsession (though, I suddenly notice, there are a large number of posts in my blog about birds), but neither is mountain climbing, another favorite book topic of mine. For some reason I am drawn to this kind of non-fiction. Maybe I am obsessed with obsession itself? The three main characters in this book (real people) are well drawn, and even though they are all very different, they all share the same obsession and they are each appealing in their own twisted way. I wanted them all to win. ( A Big Year is a quest to see the largest number of bird species in North America in a year.) Those of you interested in the survival literature genré (and you know who you are!), should definitely pick up this book. You will laugh out loud and be glad you are in the safety and comfort of your own home.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Cathy has once again inspired me to write, because even though she has a bad head cold and feels a lack of inspiration, she is able to come up with her usual witty, entertaining blog entries.

You may all have heard in the news about how Colorado suffered a terrible winter storm last weekend and was buried under 20 inches of snow. You probably have not heard the news that it is a beautiful, 70 degrees, and sunny today with lovely autumn leaves.

Well, it didn’t snow (much) in Boulder, but it did rain for about 48 hours and about 2.5 inches of rain fell in that time. Not such a big deal, really, but there is still no roof on our house and it wasn’t that pleasant to be outdoors. The house seems to be pretty much okay, and I tried not to panic unduly over the persistent lack of a roof. To take advantage of the weather, the family spent the day on Sunday at the Denver Art Museum (DAM).

We have never taken the opportunity to explore Denver, and we didn't do it this time either, but we drove through a different part of city to get the museum. The museum is more centrally located than the Zoo and the Natural History museum, the only other Denver attractions we have visited. It was nice to see more of the city, though it looked sodden, and I would like to get to know it better.

We knew we were near the museum when we saw a giant wooden chair with a horse statue on top. The kids enjoyed the whimsy of that and until then, I don't think they understood the kind of fun we could have.

It turns out the museum has family programs on the weekend which includes activity backpacks and a family fun center. We were one of the few families there, it was not crowded in the least.

We started with the backpacks. Rees picked one about jaguars, snakes, and birds and Kadin picked one about Aztecs. We ended up only exploring the 4th-floor exhibits of South American, Pre-Columbian artifacts, but what a collection it was.

The 4th floor is very staid and traditional with objects in sanitized glass cases, but the backpacks really interested the children and drew us in. The whole setting was suffused with quiet formality, so the kids were a bit subdued and uncomfortable. But the first instruction in the backpack was to imagine that we were in a tropical rain forest surrounded by animals, many of whom were hidden. And sure enough, in the artifacts all around us, we found hidden animals. Of course, to find animals, you need to be quiet and stealthy, so this fit in quite well.

We hunted for animals and tried to imagine these artifacts in their original setting. I was really blown away by the complexity of the civilizations and the variety and beauty of artifacts. I was left wanting to learn more about the Maya and the Inca and their predecessors and antecedents. Greg fell in love with an Aztec jar and the kids really had a good time.

The backpacks then directed us to the family fun center. Here there were chairs the kids could construct and decorate, a temple of foam blocks to build, and amazing Egyptian dress-up clothes, among other things.

The dress-up clothes were especially well done. The person who made them had a real passion was clearly obsessed with fabrics and textures. There were ibis headdresses and winged capes, slithery crocodiles and lotus blossoms. They were extremely well constructed and durable and had clever, aesthetically pleasing fasteners. You really felt like someone special when you put on these raiments. (They were sort of like human-sized folkmanis puppets, for those of you familiar with folkmanis.) Though beautiful, they were also practical and each had a large, prominent loop sewn in so you could easily hang them back up when you were done. It was nice to see something so well done that was also so kid friendly.

Each of us also had fun designing and making patterns on discs that we put on tops and then spun. It was exciting to see how everyone's creation looked in motion. Then it was time to go and the kids didn't want to leave. There was plenty more in the museum and in Denver to explore, but we'll have to save that for the next rainy weekend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Who would have thought…

I did not and do not intend this blog to be about cats, but so it seems to be at the moment. I feel compelled now to share with you some of the interesting cat ephemera that has been sent my way.

First, there is this website of cats in sinks that my mom brought to my attention. Endless, hypnotic, amusing.

Then there is the very interesting Cat Circus that Nina sent the links for and has plans to go see. Wow. I love the idea of getting into a cat’s head, but my problem with trying to encourage the cats in some behavior is how to reward them. They are not like dogs who can be easily trained with food. There probably is some food that the cats would see as a reward, but I also bet it is a form of raw meat that I just couldn’t deal with. I’d love to know, though, what this guy uses, it has to be more than just a pat on the back. And I love that he says the main thing training cats has taught him is “patience.” Now that is a whole different kind of cat show.

The cat show

I’m sorry I did not post sooner about the cat show, but I had to get over my disappointment first. Let’s just say that cat shows could be a lot of fun, if you win.

As expected, the atmosphere in the room, a typical hotel convention room, was very artificial. Thank goodness it was a rainy weekend. I arrived to find the cage the breeder had brought for me (hot pink) decorated with lace, beanie babies, and pictures of cats with fairy wings. Not to my taste at all, but whatever, it was nice of her to go to the effort.

You know how perfect I feel my Pearl is, but then the very nice lady next to me unveiled her kitten: a most stunning female tabby, “silver” (read white) with “chocolate” (read brown) stripes. She was so gorgeous and relaxed and endearing. How did my Pearl have any chance against this beauty?

As far as the competition goes, here is the deal. This being "D#von Heav#n" the one cat show chosen this year as a gathering point for owners of D#von R#xs, there are 40 D#von R#x cats entered. This is highly unusual. Normally there would be only a couple D#vons at a show. I gather that Maine Coon Cats are typically the most popular breed at shows. At this show there were 41 Maine Coon Cats, 40 D#vons, and the next largest breed represented was 10 Oriental Shorthairs.

Within each breed there are categories for adults by gender and color and categories for kittens by gender and color. There are two divisions for adults: premiership (first time out) and championship (those who have already won at other shows). Rex and Pearl were kittens, with Rex being in the male tabby group and Pearl being in the female tabby group. Of the 40 D#vons, 22 were kittens. Of the 22 kittens, 2 were male tabbies and 13 were female tabbies. The 13 female tabbies made up the toughest competition at the show. Each category gets a first, second, and a third place. Rex, in his group of two, consistently placed second to a spunky, nearly bald, very light haired little guy name Pilgrim. In her group of 13, the judges did not seem impressed by Pearl. Nor did they seem impressed by stunning miss silver and chocolate, our neighbor. It is true, color means almost nothing. It is all shape and proportion.

Eight times I heard my cat’s numbers called. Eight times I took them into one of the eight rings. Eight times they lost. I have to say, however, that at least when comparing male tabby D#vons or female tabby D#vons, the judges were pretty consistent. Out of the 13 in Pearl’s group, the first-, second-, and third-place winners were usually the same three cats. Rex was always second out of two. Even out of 13 (the largest group there, I think) it was pretty clear who the contenders were and whom the judges were interested in. They all just looked like cats to me, but I was impressed that the judges all saw something else, something they pretty consistently all agreed upon.

If a cat won at this level of gender, breed, and color, then they could go on to other levels that compare all D#vons (breed only) and then move on to between-breed comparisons. I, of course, have no first-hand knowledge of this, but I think that it might get just a bit more random when the judges are comparing between breeds, with each judge having their own favorites (all very suspect and controversial, of course, generating lots of gossip, intrigue, and speculation). That would make it a good, very enticing system, where if you make it out of the initial stages (likely if there are few representatives of your breed and color) the results are not so predictable or set in stone, but the stakes are also higher. At that point, the judges are comparing apples and oranges, and determining whether an apple is a more perfect example of an apple than an orange that is the most perfect example of an orange and so on. In that situation, your chance of getting that much-desired recognition is more by chance. There is more suspense. And the recognition means more as it is at a higher level.

Alas, recognition for me and mine did not come. I do think both cats excelled in the anti-social category, however. As soon as Rex and Pearl got in the room with hundreds of other cats, they started hissing and growling. They couldn't even tolerate each other, despite having slept together on my lap in the car on the way to the show. I kept one on my lap or in the carrier and the other in the cage throughout the show. Very ironic as originally I had only intended to bring Pearl and was slightly worried how she would feel being separated from Rex. When the breeder encouraged me to bring both, I never imagined that them getting along would be a problem. None of us was happy about that.

Neither cat is used to being in a cage. Not that they seemed to mind so much, but compared to the other "show cats" (as opposed to pets) they were not at all relaxed. Every judge got hissed and growled at by my two darlings. The first judge called Rex "spoiled." Pearl was the center of attention, not because of her good looks, but because of her acrobatics trying to get out of her cage. She would try determinately to back out, doing handstands and flips in the process. It was a bit of a show stealer as the spectators oohhed and ahhed and the judges seemed annoyed.

Other people I met ranged from locals to a woman from Seattle (owner of beautiful silver and chocolate, a C-section delivery BTW) to two women from Alaska. Interesting people and I wonder how they all got into cats. I think the reasons are varied. There is certainly no money in it. Many of the people seemed very nurturing or elderly or overweight or handicapped. Some seem controlling. I don't know what is cause and what is effect, but I do think raising cats would be a nice hobby for someone who was not very mobile. My favorite part of the show was just sitting with one of the cats on my lap.

One of the things that I think you could do at cat shows is live your fantasy through your cats. You find that perfect cat that suits your Ideal (or the judge's Ideal) and then you get accolades for that cat. You can breed them and groom them and choose them to your liking and then you can get the recognition. It could be very addicting. It seemed there were a lot of people living vicariously through their cats. People who obviously didn't take very good care of themselves, lavished care and affection on their show animals.

Finally, I am convinced that there are show cats and there are pets. My two are great pets. They are affectionate, smart, amusing, and good with people and children. They have not been trained to be good with other cats and they are not good in cages, hence not such great show cats. Nor, apparently, are they perfect representations of their breed's physical characteristics. It's just as well. While I could see how much fun and how rewarding it would be to show a winning cat, I can think of lots of other ways to get enjoyment from your pets. Okay, okay, I’m a sore loser!