How Fragile is Modern Life

Life… an interesting word defined in many different ways. In thinking of the word life one needs to consider the many definitions given this most wonderful of words. Merriam – Webster defines life as “1a: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body.” this is the definition all humans are familiar with. But Websters dictionary go’s on to give no less than twenty different descriptions, one of the more intriguing being “11: the form or pattern of something existing in reality”  But the definition of this word as used in the the phrase “this life we lead” or “the high life” is more an inventory of the environment in which thinking creatures exist. While biological life may indeed be thought somewhat fragile it is more the life we live in these times that arouses this cats curiosity today.

We live in a world surrounded by electronics, the “digital age” is the name we have given to these times. This cat has expounded on the wonders of modern living and on occasion has described it in less than flattering terms. Our reliance on automation has created a whole generation of digital information addicts who after finding an answer on the internet then often discard it without committing it to memory. Sort of a form of “lazy brain syndrome”, why learn something that can easily be “looked up” electronically. There are many who would be lost without their personal electronic devices, it is for them the very fabric of life. Sadly we no longer save information in that most remarkable of computers…  the human brain, relying instead on the ability to Google anything or to simply ask that phantom digital ghost  “Alexa” to find it for us. Most do not realize how fragile this system may be.

Everyone knows what an atom bomb is, as a youngster we were instructed to crawl under our desks during “air raid drills” held by the school. As I grew older, at about ten, I game to realize that this was a futile exercise. By the early 1960’s nuclear weapons had grown from kilotons to megatons making the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima a firecracker by comparison. Hiding under a cheap wooden school desk only meant that the last thing one would see would be the cheap linoleum tile covering the schoolroom floor. I had decided that if a thermonuclear explosion was going to be my last experience I wanted to see it. But nuclear weapons pose a greater and perhaps more insidious threat. When an atomic explosion takes place a huge EMP (electromagnetic pulse) is created, this massive surge of energy destroys all electrical and electronic devices in the “line of sight”. An enemy need not hit the target with such a weapon, all that is required to wreak havoc over a wide area is to detonate it in the upper atmosphere, the edge of space. The EMP will immediately wipe out all forms of electronic storage and communication. Goodbye Facebook, twitter, Google and Amazon. Your “Alexa” device will most likely utter one final “screech” as it is rendered useless and dies. I don’t know if children are still taught to grovel under their desks in the event of nuclear war, but should they survive they will crawl out from under that desk to a very different world.

Nuclear war is not the only threat to our digital society nature itself can end it all as well. Our beautiful yellow sun is a giant ongoing thermonuclear explosion sending gamma rays and electrical energy in our direction daily. Our atmosphere is a shield from the normal amount of “bad stuff” delivered to earth by the sun but sadly we are working diligently to destroy it as well. But it isn’t the “normal” stuff that should concern us, the sun has greater perils in store. That star that supplies us with life giving warmth and supplies plant life with the radiation required for photosynthesis can also deliver a death blow to all electrical systems. This comes in the form of an event known as a “coronal mass ejection” also known as a “Carrington event” named for the English astronomer who discovered it in 1859.  Put simply this is a massive ball of energy directed out into space and is only a danger if its direction is the earth. In 1859 when such an event did occur the only electrical system on our planet was the fledgling telegraph system which was instantly “fried”. All the telegraph wires were destroyed and several telegraph operators received severe electrical shocks. In today’s world this event would be catastrophic beyond measure. It would shutdown all public utilities, all electronic communication, it would destroy every computer, cell phone, and appliance on the planet. Every hard drive and memory stick would be wiped clean. The resulting struggle for resources among the people of the world would mean war on a scale never before seen on our planet. The military’s electronic assets are hardened against EMP’s and would likely survive the event. This might be to the detriment of the people as the ability to kill on a massive scale would remain intact. With the exception of the military mankind would be thrown back to a time before the industrial revolution.

This sounds like the script for a science fiction movie but unlike UFO’s and Bigfoot it is a very real thing. Scientific consensus places the likelihood of such an event between 2012 and 2022 at 12% which is a bit frightening. This phenomenon would not be fatal to animals or humans except those who rely on electronic medical devices to live. The only source of information outside of the military will be printed matter on real paper and that knowledge stored in the minds of human beings. This old cat has an affinity for real books (as stated in previous blog posts) and hope that should such an event occur enough of these will have survived to carry us through the dark age that will ensue. Teachers will be the most important people on earth and humanity’s only hope going forward. But this old cat has a reverence for teachers and believes that they are even now mankind’s salvation. On that final, hopeful note!

This is the somewhat scary Old Wet Cat saying “Meout”   

The Ten Ounce Terrorist

I am under siege, my feet are attacked in the night, plastic houseplants are being torn apart, the dogs cringe in fear in the corner. A small grey tiger has declared this house to be one huge hunting reserve, no creature in this place is safe from random acts of kitten chaos. Neko first came up with a long plastic faux leaf from one of the plastic plants and I was curious how she got it. The plant in question is in a “planter” hanging from the ceiling about four feet off the ground. Perhaps this is a magic cat…. able to defy gravity and hover while harvesting Chinese made plastic plant matter. This is a mystery I have yet to solve. Moving the plant was a thought but I am as curious as any other cat and really want to know how this is being done. Perhaps one of those game cameras that wildlife researchers use, would be appropriate as this kitten  certainly acts wild. This activity is followed by the quiet times while the tiger sleeps of course. This is a short reprieve as the little beast wakes while we sleep and carries out night operations. Every now and then she pushes one of the chihuahuas to far, usually Lillipup who chases her off the queen bed (our den) and out the door. Even a ten ounce tiger is no match for an angry five pound descendant of a wolf.

Tiger at Rest

Neko is still being “Mothered” by Meow who it seems has adopted her as if she where her own offspring. Meow has much more tolerance for the antics of “crazy kitten” as she is Nekos favorite toy. We are often startled awake by the sound of Meow and Neko having some epic mock battle in the surrounding darkness. There are still places the kitten cannot get access to and those are the places Meow uses to get a respite from being a chew toy.

As it is the last day of May this cat will refrain delivering any profound observations on anything not so profound. Just do not feel like striking any “blows against the empire” today or “bitching” and complaining in general. If one were looking in from the outside it appears the “empire” is crumbling, the America this old cat grew up in has gone. Replaced by anger and tribalism which leaves me outraged and afraid. But digressing into politics is a slippery slope and this cat has no desire to swan dive into a sewer and start swimming laps. This Old Cat is feeling a bit like having a nip of catnip and daydreaming under a tree.

Adoption

A bit of time has gone by since the last post as the demands of summer require our attention. Summer is a favorite season, my bones ache less and the sun feels good on my head. But there are times I miss being an apartment cat in New York, there was no lawn to care for, no shrubs to be trimmed, I didn’t need to use a  “powerwasher” on anything. This cat has not got a green thumb (or paw, or whatever) plastic plants are the only kind that survive long in this place and even those are now imperiled by the rampaging ten ounce terrorist. My father had a green thumb, hell he had ten green fingers. Dad loved his flower beds and shrubs, he could make the backyard feel like an arboretum, it’s not a genetic trait I guess. Well I grow tired of banging my paws on this keyboard so this blog post will now come to an end. Now turn off that computer and go lay in the sun!

This is the haggard Old Wet Cat saying “Meout”!! 

And the “Tail” continues

As well as the rest of the kitten who finds her way into the oddest spaces. Little Neko has doubled in size in the last three weeks and has made herself comfortable everywhere in the house. The estimate of her being about 4-5 weeks old are seemingly accurate as her growth “spurts” indicate.  After 5 days of hissing & growling Meow (the senior cat in residence) finally accepted Neko after the Big Cat picked them both up and brought them “nose to nose” in a controlled setting. Meow somehow switched into “Mother Cat” mode and began grooming as well as protecting the precocious tiny tabby.

Of course the Big Cat got kitten fever also and ordered up some kitten toys as well as a kitten size scratching post, also got “sucked-in” by a cute little kitten dish on sale at the local pet store. Somehow Neko realized these items were hers, immediately assaulting the post while it was being assembled. As it is now warmer out the Big Cat has been busy with all the cleaning & repairs required in the upkeep of this little zoo so time to write posts is at a premium. Keeping watch on an overactive youngster adds to the mess.

Nekos New Toy

The Chihuahua’s have adopted her readily and even allow her access to the dog food plate. She seems to have a taste for dog food, but of course she has a taste for nearly anything that resembles food.  She has yet to learn that the Big Cat’s plate has a different set of rules and just barging in and helping yourself is frowned on, but there is time to learn the “Rules”.  Bringing a tiny kitten into this household is very interesting as all the critters already here are old. The dogs & cats here are all over ten years and the Big Cat is old enough to collect Social Security. All in all it’s a bit like bringing a kindergarten kid to live in a old folks home. She has however energized the older critters a bit, Meow plays with her but has limited patience for having her tail assaulted regularly.

Feeding is easy as Neko will eat anything she can get her claws on and seems to relish dog food. The Chihuahuas have accepted her and are not above trying to grab some kitten food when Neko eats. So “all’s well that ends well” is the old clique, what troubles me most is what became of the other kittens. Cats almost never give birth to a single kitten and seldom have less than three kittens. It troubles me thinking of what became of those poor defenseless creatures.

Chow Time

Well it is the middle of the day so this post will pause for now, the sun is shining and there is much work to be done. Perhaps this evening we will add to this chapter if we are not too tired…. then again perhaps not. We are back, after a day of toiling on our little half acre to post a few more lines  and send them off into the internet. On my last site I had a counter that reported how many unique visitors had come by. This site has not been equipped with this software as it stores the IP address of visitors and this cat is just not cool with that. In our privacy statement we explain all this and I’ve been told its a fun read. Privacy is also becoming a thing of the past with social media, surveillance cameras, computer hacking, and identity theft. It seems at times that we have evolved into an “Orwellian” society. The degree of intrusion into our everyday lives would be considered an outrage in the days when this cat was young. When did we agree to surrender our privacy? Why did we let it happen? We live in unique times as the world has changed so radically that the reality of our youth so differs from the environment today’s children know.

The world of my childhood did not differ so greatly from that of my father. The technology had not changed much from my fathers world to mine. Dad had telephones, radio and the Movies I also grew up with telephones, radio, the Movies and they had not changed much at all. The big difference was TV, Dad did not have TV but the “boob tube” was basically the radio… with pictures, at least it was back then. Today’s children are exposed to technology that was the stuff of science fiction in my youth. Communication and information at the touch of a finger and lately at the sound of your voice. This technology comes with a twist, in order to participate you give up privacy, when you talk to “Alexa” she listens as do real human employees of the parent company. Whatever you say to a machine these days can be recorded and broadcast to whomever cares to listen. All our telephone calls are “screened” by the government, looking for key words that could be indicative of a threat. Our grandchildren take to this tech so readily, perhaps to their detriment…. is a Facebook “friend” a real friend? A fellow human who you would welcome into your home? Is it even a “real” person? Or a photo of someone else copied and pasted into a web browser. Someone you really know? A person who’s company you enjoy like fine dining? In truth we can never know who is on the other end of any modern form of electronic communication.

Modern times are often perplexing to this old cat, but I have carefully embraced that degree of technology required to get by in these times. But I do often believe it to be overly intrusive as “bots” and “cookies” track our every move in this digital universe.  George Orwell never envisioned every person carrying a video & audio recording device on their person, devices capable of broadcasting directly to the internet. While crafting “1984” he did not see the future of cameras in cars, computers, phones and on every street corner. Orwell certainly did not see “face recognition software”  being a part of our future, “Big Brother” is watching more intently than ever, and knows who you are and what you do. Of course we are all free to go “live off the grid” but this old cat can no longer imagine a world devoid of technology at my age. I’m too damn old to be gathering firewood or growing my own crops and can barely read a book with a lamp so candlelight would be out of the question! Although it causes us all to be a bit lazier, willing to sacrifice our social structure and privacy for streaming movies, YouTube videos and online shopping. If “Big Brother” is truly watching he may very well be laughing his ass off, or searching for your Facebook profile…. who’s to say.   This Old Cat is not very trusting of the cats in charge but still surrenders to the tech. But all this intrusive gadgetry appears to be here to stay, for better or worse. Part of that trade-off we make for active participation in the times we live in! Well I think I’ve managed to completely bore any visitor who stumbles on this site. We cats wish you well and “fond adieu” and on that note….

This is the rather busy Old Wet Cat saying “Meout” … for now!

The Tale of Rescue Little “Neko”

I was out in the front yard tarping my utility trailer last evening when I heard a lot of car horns honking in front of my house. There was a small black car stopped in the street and the driver was out of the car chasing a small creature. As it was “rush hour” there was a line of cars blowing their horns (and their Cool) behind him.  The tiny creature ran when he approached so he jumped into his car and stopped about 20 feet from the last spot where he again left his car and approached the small critter. The little animal again dashed away toward the end of my driveway and was hunkered down against the curb across the street. Seeing a striped body and tail thought it might be a baby raccoon, but as I started walking down my driveway and saw it was a tiny, terrified little tabby kitten huddled up against the curb. I walked across the street ever so slowly so as not to panic the little cat. I approached from the side as the driver walked over and picked up the kitten and asked “is this your kitten”? I answered “no but someone needs to look after it” He said he “just wanted to save its life” as he quickly passed the tiny creature into my hands, jumped into his car and took off.  After reviewing the security camera recordings I saw that some poor excuse for a human being had thrown her from a car at 35 miles an hour only a few minutes before. It hurts and enrages me that someone could be so bereft of kindness, compassion and decency to commit such an act.  Especially against such a small defenseless creature who only sin was being born. I took her inside and held her in my arms for the best part of an hour until she stopped shaking and began to purr. So it appears that fate has sent me another little companion.

After allowing her to calm down I gave her some food, I had to use my finger as it appears she was not yet weaned. After a bit she ate some then settled down in my arms and appeared to fall asleep. A few hours ago she was part of a litter… playing, sleeping and nursing with her litter mates. Now she is a orphan who has found her place in spite of the cruelty of mankind. She has had a rough 12 hours I would guess, but has now found her “forever home” here with our pack.

Neko the Rescued Tabby  雌猫

She had a good night and a good breakfast this morning. I have decided to call her “Neko” which is cat in Japanese. She is truly a Maneki Neko or “lucky cat” as it’s amazing she did not get run over by impatient commuters. I am a “lucky Cat” as well for having her come into our life from such a potentially dangerous situation. This now brings our Critter compliment here at “Cats Meow” headquarters to five (not including the “Big Cat”).

This is the slightly tired Old Cat Saying “Meout”

The Great Internet Blog Grift

“Hello World!” is the title of the sample post that comes preinstalled on WordPress. Now WordPress is an “open source” software which means it is free. But as I stated in both my first and the last post it’s a very, very basic platform. One must add a number of additional little bits of software called “plug-ins” and “widgets” to make it work well and these items are mostly NOT FREE At least not free with any level of real functionality and many of these bits of software are outrageously overpriced. WordPress is like a traveling carnival where the operator rents an empty lot, sets up the tents and puts up a “Free Admission” sign. Then rents the tents to the “contest booth con men” who then try to strip the locals of as much money as they can. A bit like buying a game of Monopoly and discovering that the tokens, dice, currency and cards are not included. But you may purchase each of these Monopoly items separately for a exorbitant sum of money.  The dice will be $79, the tokens $15 each, the money and cards for only $129 unless you want the pro version for $199. Worse still these items all come from separate sources.

I am a poor old cat, retired, living on an “oh so very small” government pension. This cat can ill afford to give up eating for a week to buy a plug-in that will allow me to display pictures in a simple mosaic gallery. Which is what brings me to the word “grift”……   Merriam-Webster defines grift as “to obtain money illicitly (as in a confidence game)”.  Now that might seem a bit severe, but luring someone to download and install a bit of allegedly “free” software only to find that it won’t do all it was advertised to do unless you purchase the “full” or “pro” version is a con game in this old cats head.  As a younger cat I actually wrote software, created add-on’s for Microsoft Train Simulator and offered these to all for free on trainsim.com as well as my own website. My fine locomotives, freight cars and scenery items were there for all to download and enjoy. When I discovered some of my items being used as part of a commercial add-on package I threatened these vendors with legal action forcing them to remove my code from their product. I did however allow them to inform their customers that they could download that portion from trainsim.com or my website and incorporate it into the game.

But once again I digress (we old cats do that a lot). While WordPress is a great open source platform the developers could easily write a few more bits of code to enhance the functionality of the platform. That would of course cut into the profits of the producers of the pricey add-on’s. The big cat has however discovered that under all this WYSIWYG and “drag and drop” ease of use software is code, very familiar code. That wonderful HTML, XML and PHP that the cat learned while building the first site in 2002. I have already “tweaked” that code to allow for a better viewing experience at The Rainbow Bridge. Now this old cat is a bit rusty on coding so it’s going a bit slow, but refreshing these skills has been invigorating. Some thought has been given to reviving these skills and perhaps offering truly free, fully functional plug-in’s to the WordPress community. But this old cat is tired and a bit lazy so probably won’t.   But that’s just an idea as relearning all those skills lost to time and age may be challenging (that “teaching an old cat” thing again).

Well that’s about all for now, enough “hissing” and “growling” for one post. Sorry we have no gems of “wisdom” nor tales of times gone by but this is what’s on this old cats mind today. When did “free” stop actually meaning without cost or obligation and become a crass marketing tool or a grifter’s hook?

This is the rather aggravated old cat saying  “Meout”

 

 

Its Hard To Teach An Old Cat

Second post from the Old Wet Cat, still learning the WordPress software this hosting site requires. The last website I built was in 2002 using Microsoft frontpage. I learned HTML and XML and might very well be making better progress with those skills mastered nearly two decades ago. WordPress the preferred blog & web building software in popular use today is a rather complicated amalgam of different bits of independent software packets that requires a lot of add-on’s to the basic platform. It reminds me of those once trendy “build your own pizza” restaurants where you are given a disk of pizza dough then presented with a table full of hundreds of toppings, sauces and add-on’s. I have yet to see if “salmon surprise” works well with pineapple and anchovies or if I will be stuck with plain old cheese. I understood the all in one package of programs like Frontpage and Dreamweaver. It took some time to learn the coding and programming skills involved in using it, but those skills were applicable on every web platform and that knowledge became yours. But that was then and this is now, old skills are now redundant… gone the way of real bound paper books, telephone booths and black & white TV.

I’m an old cat, I remember black & white television with the signal coming down from a big wire antenna on the roof or a set of “rabbit ears” if you lived in or close to a big city. There were only six channels… ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and one or two local stations, in a few areas there were some UHF channels which is where the first “infomercials” appeared. That was back before mind numbing blocks of repetitive commercials assaulted your senses every 10 minutes. Shows were sponsored by a company or corporation and the announcer would introduce the product. This was done in a dignified manner Presenting… “The Game Show Hour”… brought to you by those wonderful folks at Proctor & Gamble makers of many fine products for your home”, then the show went on. Somewhere in the middle the announcer would come on and spend a minute or so talking about how well the sponsors soap performed and the show would then continue. Finally in the last few minutes of the show the host would appear to thank the audience for having watched the presentation and inviting them to “tune in again” next week for another exciting episode of the show.

I’m an old cat, I still prefer the feel of a hardbound paper book, the smell of the pages,the building expectation of the next chapter and being able to leave a small card as a bookmark. I like being able the leaf back to a bookmarked page to review a fact I may have missed or review the scene described in an earlier chapter and apart from all that a real book’s battery never dies. As a child I loved the old small public library in our little village, I remember the huge polished oak tables, the rows of bookshelves and the long polished counter where the librarians would help us check out books. I remember the carpeted floors, the small wood chairs and tables in the children’s section with the high peaked wood ceilings. I remember the smell of all the printed volumes, the polished hardwood railings in the stairwell. I recall learning the Dewey Decimal System from Ms. Simpson the librarian so I could easily find those wonderful books and the fantastic wealth of knowledge they contained. I would often walk the carpeted aisles of the fiction section just looking for interesting titles, stopping now and again to read the back-cover of a fascinating novel. It was there I discovered Mr. Charles Dickens and became a willing wanderer in the world of Victorian England he so skillfully reconstructed in my young mind. The library was quiet, safe and warm. A welcoming, wonderful place without fear or noise, yelling or violence, to me a place of refuge from a very troubled home. But that was then and this is now.

My last trip to a public library was a disheartening experience, the wonderful rows of bookshelves had been replaced by plastic tables filled with rows of computers. The silence replaced with the clickity clack of a few dozen keyboards. Young folks wearing headphones gazing glassy eyed at the small rectangular screens. Watching abridged videos of classic books presented in graphic detail leaving nothing to the imagination, leaving nothing for the imagination to do and sadly no path for the mind to grow. Books made us think, helped us learn to write, to read, to wonder and dream. The poems of Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost and T. S. Eliot. The twisted philosophy of Machiavelli in writing the “Prince” or the passion of Tolstoy in the drafting of “War and Peace”. The timeless philosophy and fantasy of Hermann Hesse with “Siddhartha” or “A Journey to the East”. The Americana of John Steinbeck with his classic “Travels With Charley” or “Cannery Row”. The folksy wisdom of Hemingway as he wrote “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “The Old Man And The Sea” or “The Pearl”. The boundless imagination of Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Welles or Robert Heinlein crafting their science fiction classics. I could go on and on listing the literary greats of years gone by. Often we old cat’s may be prone to go “on and on”, digressing into a boring trip down memory lane. But in a real book the characters were developed in our minds as the chapters unfolded, not presented in the credits with the names and faces of famous actors. The story was not abridged nor “edited for content” or to “run in the time allocated”. One could devour the story at leisure or rapidly burn through the paragraphs and pages. Books were then and still are a wonderful, timeless treasure equally available to both the rich and poor… no subscription required. But that was then and this is now… and every now and again I truly miss “then“.

This is the rather melancholy old wet cat saying  “Meout”