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Life with a blind cat


Until I met Ernie, I didn’t know much about blind cats. 

My friend Beth had recommended a few months before meeting Ernie a book called Homer’s Odyssey, about a black, eyeless (and therefore of course blind) cat. I heard of the book in November 2009 (before I moved here), but only read it in July 2010, half a year after adopting Ernie and Ellie. I had completely forgotten about the book until it arrived.

A family for me means a human of my choice, and a few (or a lot) of feline friends. So once I was for good here, it was finally time to look around and find some cats that would adopt us. As all cats are awesome, we had first a look at petfinder to see what kind of fluffy friends were around and available around here. We sent a few emails to ask more about specific cats, and after a few rounds of questions, Austin Pets Alive! was the rescue group that impressed us most. They were the most helpful in finding pets that would suit the families best. What we wanted were two brothers or a brother and sister, rather young ones, and as I had heard, my favorite cat color tends to be the least adopted, so any shade of black (unless cats of other colors would love us more). Of the sibling combinations available, Ernie and Ellie seemed like the sweetest things ever. The boy was born with cataracts, and everyone thought he was completely blind. The girl has always been very protective and caring for her little brother. I loved their description, but… a blind cat? We had “just a look”, and when the boy fell asleep on my hand, I was gone. Madly in love with these two fluffballs, and they came home with us.

We didn’t know much about blind cats first. Some google fu returned basically blind cat rescue and Homer’s site (or his human’s, Gwen Cooper’s). We prepared for the worst, tried to kittyproof the house, and got out fluffy children home. Since then (January last year), we’ve learned a lot.

Ernie can see a bit. He can see if there is something on the floor when he’s on hte bed, but only if there’s a huge different color than the carpet. He can’t see if the toilet has a lid on or off (so it stays always down unless anyone is using it at the moment), or follow the red dot laser cat toy. But his other senses compensate his lack of visual clarity. If there’s the tiniest fly in the bedroom, both cats stare at its direction (when neither of us could hear or see it). If you open a can (of tuna or anything), the boy will be in kitchen in 7 seconds or less, no matter how deep asleep he was. It doesn’t stop him from playing with his soccer ball or toy mice (some of which have jingly things inside, some catnip). It doesn’t stop him from playing with his sister. Some days his eyes seem much more clear, but the normally black parts are mostly light blue, cloudy. He doesn’t seem to see things that are further than his front paws, but he surely finds his ways around the house.

If I put food on his plate, I sometimes tap on the bowl so he can locate the bowl better. But that is often unnecessary, as he finds everything that’s happening in the house. Both cats have grown to be awesome ones, far from the tiny, rescued from death row from Town Lake (too small, URI, and he blind). There isn’t that much that we have to do because of his blindness nowadays – keep the toilet lid down, and don’t change the furniture order too suddenly. That’s about it. 

The info on blind cat rescue site had scared us a bit, but maybe it’s also to our advantage both of us had been owned by several cats before. I love both of the kitties, and Ernie is definitely a love bug, without whom I could not imagine my life any more. Ernie’s lack of seeing is not a big deal. It’s not something we would have to think on a daily basis, or make sacrifices for. So my advice to those who ever end up finding a vision impaired cat that likes them (or they like the cat): don’t be afraid, go for it.



Ellie (back) and Ernie

Ellie on the background staring at the camera, Ernie in front


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Mobile users dig local news apps, but…

Wired reports that a study of mobile device users indicates that almost half use their handhelds to get some kind of local news or information. But will they pay for it? Here’s the latest data: just ten percent of adults who use mobile applications to get local news/info pay for these services — one percent of all adults. And most of them say they’re not particularly interested in paying much more.

via Mobile Users Dig Local News Apps, But Most Won’t Pay For Them | Epicenter |

The format in which news are preferred must be something that’s changing by different generations, or perhaps just rather by what people start to use internet for. I’ve never subscribed to any paid newspaper – when I lived alone, what would have been the point? When I lived with others… well, I’ve never had time to read paper newspapers anyway. Or compared to the medias in the internet, the printed news are already a bit more out of date anyway. So, in the 1990s I didn’t see why I’d subscribe to a paid newspaper.

Now… much hasn’t changed. An occasional free newspaper will do. For local content? There’s the internet, and there are even the TV news (which I watch very rarely). I know some local newspapers and news medias provide apps for mobile medias, but have I ever even had a look at them? Not really. Some newspapers do pretty neatly a subscription model – read news for free, but read more articles or access older content with a subscription. I’ve learned to live with that a long time ago – if there’s something worth reading later, save a copy, or save a link and have the interesting part of text linked or stored somewhere else. 

I guess if there was something very very relevant to my interests in some app providing local (news) content, I might possibly consider paying something for it. But after over 15 years of using the internet for various things, I can’t think of even a single news source that I’d consider worth paying. I have a  few news relevant links and email addresses stored on the phone and other devices though, but that would be for providing occasional content some newspapers pay for.

iPhone advertising with a local “feel”, iPhone ad on Blarney Street in Cork

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Groupon – the ultimate Stuff White People Like

White wine, in White House, Kinsale, Ireland... a place that white people like

I used to like some of the items listed in Stuff White People Like. But I guess they ran out of ideas, or publishing a book was enough. There are no more regular updates in that site (so it sort of fell out of my active radar).

But of the stuff they list there, the most important item is missing.

Most of the items on the list are correct, sure. Even I’m “guilty” of some of them – of the 134 items listed on the list page, I like more or less 15 items (I tried to count the items I don’t care for but I gave up, having roughly 90 % of the items listed on that… and I don’t feel like making a separate list of items that I hate, or I have no clue what they are. Those two combined have a higher number than the 15 of likes/cares about). Coffee (liked by people of other colors too – my preference goes to a local importer of Vietnamese coffee at the moment, usually preferring some household brands of Italy of the regions I lived in, avoiding the overpriced “rarer than Starbucks” “My coffee is better than yours” type of coffee brands that I would list as Stuff White People Really Really Like. Bicycles (necessity for me most of my life, the only affordable form of transport for distances greater than comfortable with a bicycle), sushi, band t-shirts, some tw-shows etc etc. 

But the ultimate? That came as a realization a few weeks ago after weeks of reading the items offered on a newsletter. Groupon. That just incorporates so the essence of things that should be on the list of Stuff White People Like. So perhaps time to create a list of Stuff That Has Been On Groupon, that pretty much summarizes the concept very neatly.

So many of the items have been “really” and “WTF” of products I didn’t know existed, or that I didn’t know people wanted to spend that much money to start with. Let’s see. In around 6 months I have seen one deal that I considered worth getting ($ 20 coupon for Body Shop, worth $ 40 of items. I didn’t get it as I had plenty of stuff from Lush! left). And what else have I seen? I should have made a proper list of the most WTF items…. Christmas lights (a deal that made any sense if you spent at least $ 250 for your Christmas lights), “Pubcrawler”  (this being a total fail of understanding the concept. Pub crawl is when you walk from pub to pub, drink in the pub… not when you ride a monumental tandem bike and drink and ride, and only stop at a pub to relieve yourself), expensive manicures, 50 % off take tans, of manicures, of some clothing I’ve never heard of, of some restaurants that totally scream of Stuff White Better Than Trendy People Who Are So Ahead Of The Others They Do Groupon like… (yes, a few of those food places I might try eventually. But there are so many more interesting and affordable ones to try too in this city), speed boat rentals… Over half a year, so many of the items listed in Groupon have been so nail on the spot for Stuff White People Like, those listed above being some of the more memorable items among them.

There are a few competitors to Groupon. Morgan’s Deals is a bit more local and smaller one, and while there still are many white items on their deals, it’s not as screaming as Groupon. Google was planning to do some competition (which I have not followed closer). There’s also RueLaLa which is more high end brand shopping alternative to outlet stores, but even that screams less of the stuff for just Whites. Hey, I even saw a bike in RueLaLa that I now absolutely want (and I will get one for me, one for someone else, eventually… foldable = practical, no more stolen bikes).

So, after that realization I started to look Groupon with new eyes, and its offerings have confirmed my thoughts ever since. If you like Stuff White People Like, as that site isn’t getting regular updates any more, perhaps it’s time to join Groupon, for your daily dosage of Stuff White People Like.

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Time to get the balcony green

Lemon tree last spring

This lemon and these herbs were growing in my balcony last year.

It’s time to start gardening this year. I’ve been itching to get soil under my nails for quite a while. 

This is the fifth year of re-learning. Four years ago I had a back yard in Cork, Southern Ireland, and it had a gorgeous view over the city, and it was facing South. But it was windy – if it had been wind protected it would have been easier. Anyway. I wanted a patch in the back yard that would have plants, so I grabbed some tools and got started. And I tried with some plants and some of them worked better than others. That’s one of the reasons gardening can be fun – you don’t know how or which plants will love the area you have. The first year was learning to see what would work (even though I had already lived there for four years before that). The next year of course I wished some plants would have been in different locations, but I also got my housemates interested.

The plants that loved it in that back yard in Cork (and I hope they still are there, loved by the people living there now) included parsley and chives. And strawberries. And lupins. And narcisses. Plants I wished would have loved it there – but which probably would love it if they were were in a greenhouse included hot peppers, pineapples (which did produce a pineapple – although indoors), and other exotic plants. Tomatoes grew really large, but perhaps I had picked less than ideal type of tomatoes. 

Backyard in Cork, 2009

This picture was taken in April two years ago. At least the yard was facing South…

I learned enough to get the plants look good in that yard. And then I had to re-learn everything. I know when a plant looks thirsty (one of my housemates didn’t – so I had to instruct him to give one shotglass of water a day for a certain plant etc while I was traveling), but that’s very little when everything changes. No more back yard to use for my garden purposes – now I have a balcony. Bye bye sunny exposure – the balcony is facing North and Northeast, meaning there is no sun at all during the winter time. In less than a month, the morning sun should start to hit the edge of the balcony again. And the climate is radically different: Cork had hardiness zone 10 (like Catania) and sunniness 1 or 2 (very unlike Catania). Here it’s zone 8B, an sunniness cannot be taken into account when it’s barely any sun exposure. At best, in June, there is a bit of sun on the edge of the balcony until 11.30 AM. It’s hot, it’s dry. Cork was wet, and on the hottest days of the year it would reach maybe 25 C (low 80s), cold summer days or hot winter days it was maybe 15 C (50s). Now in summer it can reach over 100 (over 40 C), and in winter it doesn’t get too cold, but there’s no constant winter temperature. 60, 40, 35, 65… now the daily temperatures are hitting 70s (universally measured: t-shirt weather), but nights are still on the 40s. Here when it’s hot, the plants remind me of camels. As soon as the nights start to stay constantly over 55 F, I’ll plant more things outdoors.

In early February it was a few days of freezing here (when there was 4 feet of snow suddenly in Chicago). Snowing, freezing, and really windy. A deadly combination. The sprinkler in the house died, making everyone in the whole building wake up 6 AM on the coldest day of the year. Lovely. I rescued what I could indoors from the plants I had in the balcony. Looks like only catnip of the plants that were outdoors survived. 

Last year was complete relearning to see what would work here. A sago (which I learned is not a palm, and should be kept away from pets), aloe (needs more sun), banana (died of indoors weather). Tiny tom tomatoes, hot peppers of various kinds, herbs (parsley, chives, basil – none of them loved it here). Pineapples (still alive, and freeze scares being over, they are back in the balcony). Papayas (died of winter). Coffee (most died because of winter indoors. Sigh). Lemons, oranges, avocado…

Balcony last year

While I was in Ireland, I had plants on my desk too, and on the kitchen window. Those plants got relocated to work friends when I left, and at least the avocados and oranges were doing great, both grown from seeds.

Now I’m planning what I want to do this year.

I love tropical plants, but not flowers.

What would I want to grow? Pineapples – got some. Lemons – I’m afraid my small tree is dead. I’ll want to get a replacement for the lemon. I’ve always wanted to see a lemon tree from my kitchen, so even if it’s a footlong (sue me, Subway, for using the word…) to start with, it’s still a lemon tree. Of the tiny tree last year I did manage to get some lemons, and those were enough for a home made batch of limoncello. And while I’ve got lemons, oranges, key limes, and grapefruits growing from seed again, it will take forever to get those to a nice size, so while they grow I’ll need at least a lemon tree. Catnip – those are now growing in IKEA FNISS bins, with holes poked in bottom for draining (the lemon tree in the first picture above is in FNISS), so 4 of those will provide plenty of catnip for cat toys. I have some herbs growing that I got from HEB, as starting the plants from seed isn’t easy without sun exposure in the apartment. Rosemary, mint, thyme. — (continued in the comments)


Howdy y’all

It’s 2011 for those calculating the time in the Gregorian format. What an earth am I doing with a blog? Starting it in 2011. Good question.

Short answer: I am trying to get back and keep my vibe of writing. I had my first site in 1996, and since then I’ve been in countless places. But like books, sometimes when a topic is complete, it’s complete. Quit adding pages to a thriller and write a new one. Pick a new hobby, a new passion, and learn something new. Learn something new every day. And keep writing. Keep drawing, keep dreaming, keep asking questions. 

For quite a while now, I’ve been about to start here at wordpress. Why now and not years ago? What I used before worked. Many of my friends used that platform. And yet I did try the new platforms every now and played with them. I wasn’t impressed with Blogger/Blogspot. Livejournal sounds cheesy, but with heavy hacks it worked quite well before the explosion in Russian spambots starting to flood the comments. That was the last drop there. I closed the comments for all but friends months ago. When was the last time I truely wrote anything there, other than a meme “what do you think of..”? Last June. For a long time since then I felt very private, not wanting to share my thoughts in public. But that’s only part of the reason. The other platforms died for me, and maybe I also just needed a fresh, new start. So here we go.

The last blog I started in 2003 and I was there until now. Many countries and one important relationship and a few jobs later, here we are again. Fresh start. No fear of blank paper. Writing feels good, like once one is at the ocean again after having always lived around the ocean but now living hours away from it. A mental clarity like only a writer, a compulsive reader, a functional Autistic person could have. A fresh start.

My fluffy daughter, Ellie, using her iPad. The app here is Fish Pond, but she likes to play Godfinger.