Resurrecting the Blog

Your caption here.
Your caption here.

Okay, I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. That’s because I’ve been working on a major redesign. From now on, this blog will focus on something that’s tremendously important to me: kitty litter. It will feature:

In-depth reviews of cat litter – every brand available in supermarkets and pet stores, plus alternatives like sawdust, shredded newspapers, and other homemade formulas.

A litter taxonomy, providing a standardized way to categorize litter by consistency, primary ingredient, color, scent, density, and aerodynamics.

Fun interactive contests, including:

  • Litterbox caption contests.
  • Litter identification contests – based on a picture, who can come closest to guessing the brand of litter, number, age, sex, and breed of cats, amount of time since the box was last scooped, and what the cat(s) were eating?
  • Name that tune – after listening to the sound of a cat scratching around in a litter box, can you identify the sex, age, and breed of cat, brand of litter, and amount of litter in the box?
  • Premium subscribers can also participate in weekly deluxe contests – these are just like the standard litter identification contests, except that instead of working from a photograph, you’ll receive a sample of litter mailed to your home.

I hope you’re all as excited about this as I am. If not, you can always check out a story I wrote that went live on Flash Fiction Online today.

Pop Quiz: Internet Marketing

1. On which website would you be most likely to find an ad for used kitty litter?

  1. The Onion
  2. Craigslist
I prefer my cat litter new, thanks.
Figure 1. What’s wrong with this picture?

2. Take a moment to examine Figure 1. What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. In description on the left, the apostrophe is missing from the word “World’s”.
  2. The standard list price for cat litter is, apparently, $96.85 for a 7-pound bag or $109.47 for a 14-pound bag.
  3. Used kitty litter costs more than new kitty litter.
  4. Used kitty litter is being offered for sale.

3. Every two weeks, Alice’s cats convert 25 pounds of new cat litter into used cat litter. If Alice pays $9.99 for each 25-pound tub of new cat litter and sells her used cat litter at market rates, how much profit will she make in a year?

4. Alice wants to quit her job and live off her cat litter profits. She currently has two cats; how many more will she need to adopt?

5. What should Alice call her online store?

  1. The Cat Waste Place
  2. Alice’s Organic Free-Range Artisinal Feline Extrusion Emporium
  3. I Haz Had Cheezburger

Alice’s store turns out not to be as profitable as she’d hoped. She looks for ways to earn some extra income and decides to respond to this craigslist ad:

I have a terrible problem. My litter box is dirty and smells horrible and I don’t want to clean it. I am amazing at making pancakes however. I will trade my pancake skills for a clean litter box. Serious inquires only.

  • Location: bathroom corner
  • Compensation: pancakes. All you can eat!!!
  • This is an internship job

6. Essay question: describe the expected career path of the person who successfully completes this internship.

7. What’s unusual about this ad?

  1. It promises all-you-can-eat pancakes but doesn’t mention syrup.
  2. It doesn’t specify whether the pancakes must be consumed when the litter box is being scooped or whether the intern can show up at the employer’s home at any time and demand pancakes.
  3. It’s on craigslist, but it doesn’t say anything about the intern having to perform his or her duties naked.

8. What’s the probability that the person who placed the ad has at least one cat?

  1. 60%
  2. 40%
  3. 20%

Valentine (2014)

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My library books
Are all overdue.

Roses are red
Violets are too
Rose-colored glasses
Are what I see through.

Roses are red
Goulash is stew
Have a nice meal
And don’t get the flu.

Roses are red
Some cheese is bleu
But not the kind
That’s good in fondue.

Roses are red
Kittens say “mew”
My cats are cuter
Than your kangaroo.


Why Cats Are Better Than Dogs

If you have any doubt that cats are better than dogs, please take a few minutes to do the following:

1. Sit in a comfy chair in a warm room with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.

2. Read the classic Jack London short story To Build a Fire, a harrowing account of a man and a dog struggling to survive in extreme cold weather.

3. Read Darla’s (She’s a Maineiac) Tales From the Ice Storm of 1998 (part 1 and part 2), a hilarious account of a woman and a cat struggling to survive in extreme cold weather.

I rest my case.

My Cats Are So Helpful

This week I came down with Three-Day Killer Death Flu. I also had a high-pressure deadline at work, so my cats didn’t get as much attention as they’re used to. Fortunately, instead of complaining, they decided to help out around the house.

I woke up yesterday morning to find that the cats were cleaning their toys.

Seffie's favorite non-laser toy
They may be messy eaters, but at least they wash their own toys.

I took that picture on my phone and posted it to Facebook. As I was typing the caption, my cat Seffie came into the kitchen. By the time I’d finished typing (I’m a slow phone typist), she’d had taken the toy out of the bowl and was playing with it. Apparently it had been soaking long enough.

This morning, I woke up to this:

That's right -- I didn't clean up the dry food from the floor. I was overworked and sick, okay? Don't judge me.
It’s deja vu all over again.

So I took out the toy and changed the water. I also give them fresh food every morning; when I turned around after throwing out the old food, this is what I saw:

Finally, a cat picture.
Apparently the blue toy needed washing again.

The blue toy may not be obvious in that photo, but you can see it in this close-up.

Not just a pretty face.
And the cycle continues

I wonder what I’ll find in the kitchen tomorrow.

Update: I’ve started a Things I Found In My Cat’s Water Bowl tumblr.

Why That’s Not Me Sleeping In A Glass Box at MOMA

Ever since I heard about Tilda Swinton’s performance art piece “The Maybe”, which involves her sleeping in a glass box “on top of a mattress, with just her glasses and a carafe of water” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I’ve been wondering: why does she need her glasses? She’s just going to sleep, and maybe drink some water. She’s not even going to pour the water into a glass. She doesn’t have a book or a wristwatch, so she won’t be reading or checking the time. It’s possible that she’ll need her glasses when she leaves the box, but if that’s the reason, why doesn’t she also have keys, money, credit cards, and/or a phone?

The dishwasher is negotiable.

I’m currently putting together a proposal for a follow-on art installation that’s similar to “The Maybe” with a few key differences:

Instead of Tilda Swinton sleeping in the box, it will be me.

My cats will also be in the box. Unless they get bored, in which case they’ll need to be let out of the box, and then let in again when and if they want to return. It would probably be easiest just to install a cat door on the box. I’ll also need a couple cat wranglers to keep an eye on the cats and make sure they don’t leave the museum.

I can’t just lie down and fall asleep. I need to read for a while. I’ll need my Kindle in the box.

Seffie won’t let me go to sleep unless I play with her with the laser pointer first. So I’ll also need a laser pointer. I realize this isn’t ideal, but it’s unavoidable.

I usually run the dishwasher right before going to bed. I’ll need to hear dishwasher sounds each day until I fall asleep. If installing a  dishwasher on the museum floor turns out to be impractical, I might be able to get by with recorded dishwasher sounds, as long as they’re realistic enough and MOMA sends someone to my house to wash my dishes.

Instead of a carafe of water (which I assume is an open container, although I can’t find any pictures of Ms. Swinton’s carafe), I’ll need a bottle that closes; I’m concerned that if I have an open carafe in a small space, I might roll over in my sleep and spill it. Also my cats would probably drink out of it. You’ll notice I’m not insisting on a glass. I’m willing to rough it for the sake of my art.

I’ll need my cell phone. I’m not planning on making any calls, but I can use it to check the time or tweet about any unusual dreams I might have. Also, I plan to use it as an alarm clock. I don’t want to oversleep and get locked into the museum overnight. And I hate to sound overly mercenary, but if I’m being paid to sleep for seven hours, I don’t see why I should spend any extra time sleeping for free.

Some of these requests will take a bit of work on MOMA’s part, but I’m sure they can accommodate me. At least I’m not demanding to have my glasses in the box with me. That would be unreasonable.

Good News! Heavily Armed Killer Dolphins Are Not Out To Get You. Yet.

It turns out that the widely-reported news story about those three missing Ukrainian military dolphins (you know, the ones “trained to attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads“) was actually a hoax. I had my doubts about this story from the start — for one thing, why would enemy combat swimmers have special dolphin-friendly weapons attached to their heads? And wouldn’t a dolphin’s lack of hands make it difficult to fire a gun?

Unfortunately, the only part of the story that was a hoax was the part about the dolphins escaping — there actually is a Ukrainian program to arm dolphins and train them to attack. This is terrible. Have these people never seen a 1970s-era science fiction movie? Even if you ignore all the ethical considerations, teaching other species to kill us is not a good idea.

Speaking of other species trying to kill us, there’s been another armed-dog attack in Florida. I know, I know — this hardly seems newsworthy; dogs shoot people in Florida all the time. But these incidents seem to be escalating. In 2004, a puppy shot a man in Pensacola — but the man was shooting puppies at the time, so it was self-defense. Then in 2011, a 78-year-old Tampa hunter was shot by his dog in what appears to have been an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment attack (witnesses said that the dog was “overly excited”). This latest case, however, must have been premeditated. A dog in central Florida shot his owner with a gun that the man thought was unloaded. This can only mean one thing: the dog planned the attack in advance and loaded the gun when the man wasn’t looking.

One thing I really like about my cats is that they’ve never tried to kill me. This week, they participated in a science experiment — someone on YouTube noticed that his cat reacted to an optical illusion and wondered whether other people’s cats did as well. Here’s that original video:

If you click through to YouTube, there’s also a questionnaire to fill out if you try it with your own cat.

I made two videos in response: this one shows that Seffie probably doesn’t see the illusion, since she ignores it in favor of another picture:

This one proves conclusively that my cats are adorable:

I’ve decided to move this blog back to That means that the blog will be down briefly this weekend, and if you’re getting blog posts by email, you may get an email invitation that you’ll need to click on in order to resubscribe (or you can just go to after the move and subscribe there). Sorry for the inconvenience, but moving back will mean I can spend more time writing posts and less time managing the blog.

BREAKING NEWS: I’ve Chosen a Name For My Cat

A couple weeks ago, I asked for cat name ideas and got some really good suggestions. In the end, though, I decided to base my new kitten’s name on two of her most prominent personality traits:

  1. She spends a lot of time in the dark nether regions of my bedroom closet but always seems happy to come out when called (or when she just wants to eat or play), and
  2. She purrs a lot.

So the obvious choice was Purrsephone. But that’s too many syllables (and maybe a little too cutesy for everyday use), so I’m calling her Seffie.


In other news, Seffie is getting along really well with my other cat, Thunder.

Thunder and Seffie
Thunder and Seffie, ten days after her arrival

Some other Seffie observations:

  • Sometimes I’ll throw a toy, and she’ll chase it, pick it up, and bring it back to me. To a casual observer, it might appear that she’s playing Fetch, but really she just likes picking up objects and carrying them to wherever she happens to be going.
  • She purrs all the time. I think her purr threshold is set really low (so that if you could somehow measure a cat’s happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, and most cats purr at a happiness level of 8 or higher, she probably purrs at anything over 6).
  • She’s difficult to photograph. This morning she and Thunder were being really cute, and I tried to get some video — but I was sitting in a sunny spot, and when I picked up my phone, Seffie raced off to chase the light reflected on the wall.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about what’s going on with my kitchen sink — it’s a long story. And it’s not over yet.

Update: I’ve discovered that the two cats have very different approaches towards dealing with houseflies. Thunder will wait for the fly to tire itself out; he basically follows these steps: stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk stalk creep creep pounce. Seffie’s approach is more direct: zoom zoom jump zoom jump zoom zoom zoom jump zoom jump zoom zoom jump zoom jump.

A Guest Post. By My Cat.

The following opinions are those of my cat, Thunder, and do not necessarily represent the views of this blog, its staff, or any of its affiliates:

It was a typical Friday afternoon — I’d spent most of the day passed out on the couch, reeking of catnip and tuna — when she walked into my life. Tessa, they called her: an orange ball of fluff with a face straight out of a Fancy Feast commercial and a purr that could wake the dead. She knew how to work a room, oozing the kind of wide-eyed innocence that reduces otherwise intelligent people into mush, wrapping them around her little finger instantly despite the fact that, technically, she has no fingers.

The human and I have the standard arrangement: she provides me with room, board, and a lap to sit on; I provide her with the pleasure of my company and the occasional hairball. But leading up to that day, she’d been acting strangely — there’d been mysterious phone calls and furtive glances, and that morning, she’d set up an extra litter box in the spare bathroom and food and water dishes in the den. Tessa was no spur-of-the-moment visitor; she’d been expected.

It’s been a week since she arrived. When she saw that I wasn’t taken in by her sweet innocent little kitty act, she told me a long, rambling sob story about being found under a trailer when she was three months old, then spending the next four months in a foster home, being put on display in a pet store every Sunday afternoon and passed over like a novelty ashtray at a hospital gift shop.

“Listen, princess,” I told her, “we’ve all got problems. You’re seven months old. Old enough to take care of yourself. Just stay out of my way.” So she hides. And when the human finds her, she purrs. And then it starts. The human tries to coax her out. “Tessa,” she says. “Tessa Tessa. Tessa Tessa Tessa Tessa. Tessa Tessa. Tessa. Tessa Tessa Tessa Tessa Tessa. Tessa. Tessa Tessa. Tessa.” It’s like a flea gnawing at that spot you can’t reach at the back of your neck. “Tessa. Tessa Tessa Tessa Tessa. Tessa Tessa.” There’s only one way to make it stop. Desperate times call for desperate measures: we’re going to have to change her name.

While I don’t agree with everything that Thunder says here, he does have a point: Tessa probably isn’t the best possible name for this cat. She’s very good at hiding, but she doesn’t mind being picked up and carried out of her hiding place. She’s been getting braver and braver; when she’s not hiding, she purrs all the time and basically acts like a kitten, playing and/or lap-sitting. So please, help me think of a better name!