remembering lucy moments

Lucy - 22 August 2008 to 15 June 2015 Taken 7 May 2009

Lucy – 22 August 2008 to 15 June 2015
7 May 2009

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
Cesare Pavese, from This Business of Living

It’s hard to decide where to begin with little Lucy and big Max stories. They were both such larger-than-life personalities. That’s why their leaving left such deep voids in Judy’s and my souls. We still have two other cats and Ruby the yellow female Lab. So I decided to approach this as only an engineer can, in alphabetical order. We’ll start off with Lucy, the first Official Arcane Science Lab Mascot.

Lucy’s Arrival

Lucy officially came into our lives 22 August 2008 when she walked through our front door. Three weeks prior to that momentous day our next door neighbors had asked my wife if she’d put out cat food and water daily for two cats that they’d been feeding at their front door. My wife did this until that first weekend when I saw her ready to head out the door with another meal for them. I took the meals over and that’s when I first saw Lucy and another cat, a male ginger. I don’t know why I paid such close attention to Lucy, and I don’t think I ever will. But I did and from that moment her possible fate gnawed on my conscience. I wasn’t worried about the male ginger, as he was another neighbor’s cat and a fat freeloader. Lucy was just the opposite, frail and thin, at least to my eyes. That’s when I started to up the feedings to twice/day.

I kept those feedings up until the next weekend, when my concern over her well being grew ever greater. It was hotter than hell that August and the idea of leaving Lucy outside to fend for herself was getting to me. So one day, on a whim, as I was walking back from dropping off another meal, I stopped in the middle of the neighbor’s yard so that Lucy could still see me, and then turned back to look at her, and waited. Lucy wasn’t eating yet; she was watching me. We made eye contact and then she started eating. I stayed until she finished, which didn’t take long. When she looked back up she started to slowly move towards me. I waited until she got close, then I slowly turned and slowly walked back across our yards to my front door, always stopping long enough to see if Lucy was following. For the first two days she stopped, apparently afraid to leave the feeding spot.

But one day she followed me completely home as I’d hoped, and sat at the front door and meowed. I went in and got new dishes of food and water and fed her a second time. I figured she was still hungry and I was right. She started coming to my door every day, which was fine by me. The next door neighbors were home from vacation anyway.

Lucy’s outdoor living on my doorstep lasted for just several more days until one day I opened the front door, stood aside, and waited. Lucy looked up at me, then inside the door with the air conditioning flowing out, and made the decision to come on in on her own. That day was 22 August, and that started a long deepening relationship between cat and human. And two square meals per day in air conditioned comfort.

Origin Questions

23 December 2008

23 December 2008

I have no idea where Lucy came from, but I have my theories. When Lucy first came into the house she was wearing a flea collar. When I took her to a vet several days later I was told she’d been spayed. When I asked the vet where she might have come from the vet said she’d been raised as a lap cat and wasn’t really an outdoor cat. That lap cat behavior didn’t fully (re)establish itself until around Christmas of that year.

That meant, to me, that Lucy either ran away or was just simply turned out. Considering that 2008 was the height of the real estate collapse, where people were loosing their homes right an left, over time I came to believe she was turned out, or more precisely just left behind when a family left their foreclosed home. The reason or reasons why will never be known.

It meant I didn’t know her real age. The fact she was thin due to lack of proper nutrition didn’t help. She might have been anywhere from 1 to 3 years of age before she walked through my front door.

It took Lucy until Thanksgiving before she “became” the Lucy I’ll always remember. Before that time she was shy, backing away if I got close and stayed near too long. I made sure to feed her on a regular basis and then just let her eat. She managed to fill out during that period. She explored all the rooms in the house and all its hiding spots and would set up “shop” in different locations. She would seemingly disappear and put me in a panic until she either walked out of a hiding spot or I managed to stumble upon a spot. Her favorite resting spot was in the kitchen next to the washer and dryer when we were washing the blankets and towels. When they came out of the dryer still warm, I’d fold them and then stack them on the kitchen table to be put away. Lucy would home in on that pile like a heat-seeking missile, where she’d zoom to the top of the pile and then sit and watch everything happening around that part of the house. August to Thanksgiving 2008 was Lucy’s getting-to-know-us period. The house must have seemed chaotic to her, with two Labs (Max and Ruby as a puppy) and two other cats (Ellipse and Lulu). But she adapted to them and they to her. After that she made up her mind to adopt a person, and she adopted me.

The Long Stay

Lucy and Ruby
21 February 2009

Lucy integrated well into the household. She would have her moments with the other two cats, especially Lulu (everybody had moments with Lulu). She knew the drill about vet visits; she had no qualms at all about being put into a cat carrier and taken in the car to see the vet. I made sure to put her in the front seat. She’d talk up a storm and I’d reply back in a soothing tone. Once at the vets it was always a time of intense curiosity until the vet came to visit.

The photo at right shows the first time I took her with Ruby to the vet. Ruby had been born August 23rd, one day after Lucy showed up. We wouldn’t get Ruby until eight weeks later, at which point she was an instant object of curiosity for all the cats.

Lulu facing Lucy
6 February 2009

Lucy’s reaction to both Labs knocked down a common myth about animosity between cats and dogs. It didn’t exist, at least not in our household. All three cats loved to rub up against Ruby as a pup. I have to wonder if they thought of Ruby as a very big kitten.

Or perhaps it was because all the cats, being female, had deep maternal instincts that crossed species boundaries. Whatever the reason, all the little creatures in our household lived in relative harmony, except for the occasional standoff between Lucy and Lulu.

And that lasted all the time that Lucy lived with us. Whenever Lulu and Lucy got within seeing distance of one another, Lulu would start up a low growl that would set your teeth on edge. If it kept up long enough I’d call out to Lulu to knock it off. And she understood enough that it did stop.

How Lucy Got Her Name

Lucille “Lucy” van Pelt – Peanuts

Before Lucy was Lucy, she was called Gertrude by the next door neighbor. The neighbor is originally from Quebec, which may have something to do with the name. I personally feel Gertrude isn’t a fit name for man nor beast. I think Gertrude/Lucy felt the same way.

Lucy had been in the house for about two weeks when one day she decided to visit the back master bedroom and check out the bed. While sitting quietly and thinking cat thoughts, Judy came in the room and happened to notice her up on the bed. She walked over, bent down to say something nice, and while she was hovering over Lucy, Lucy reached up to bat her face away.

Lucy’s reach was with claws still retracted and was meant as a simple bat to get Judy back up a bit. The paw bat was strong enough and accurately placed such that Lucy, even though still recovering from her outdoor life stage, managed to put a little bruise Judy’s lower eye lid. There was no pain involved and she didn’t notice the bruise until a little later. When I saw the bruise and heard the story I immediately thought of Peanut’s Lucy, who was known to whop some of the other characters. I told Judy and from that time onward Gertrude was Lucy. And I think Lucy approved, because she quickly came to respond to that name.

How Lucy Won My Heart So Deeply, And Vice Versa

That process was pretty much over with me after those first two weeks in August. But winning Lucy’s heart took time, and required I just give her plenty of time and space to adjust to life in the house and come to see she was OK. As I wrote earlier I didn’t know how old she was, or what led up to her being homeless, or how long she’d been homeless. But I do believe that animals are not stupid. The bond of animal-to-human love and trust is easily built as well as broken, and while it can be healed, it takes time. So I gave Lucy all the time she needed. I made sure she was given ample food and water and the protection of the household. And over the next three months, her little soul did indeed heal, and I do believe, heal completely.

Reaching out to Judy 4 July 2009

Reaching out to Judy
4 July 2009

I knew it was healed when one day, out of the blue, she started to walk around my ankles, purring. And I don’t mean soft purrs. Lucy would purr like a motorboat. She’d be loud enough that even with my damaged hearing I could hear her standing straight while she was on the floor. That was around that first Thanksgiving.

We need to talk... 10 January 2010

We need to talk…
10 January 2010

From that point forward she made it her duty to visit me, especially when I was sitting in my lounger. She would patrol the house and on her way through the TV room, if she spotted me, she’d pick up her pace and then make a running leap into my lap. The first couple of times it was a bit startling, but I quickly grew used to it and would look forward to her visits. I give her rubs and she’d settle into my lap and purr, purr, purr.

Peek-a-boo 2 May 2009

Peek-a-boo
2 May 2009

After determining that she was going to adopt me, she also checked to see if we could sleep together. She started to check that out by first sleeping at the foot of the bed. Later, after she grew comfortable with that, she would come up, curl up into a ball, and snuggle into my midriff. More than once when I woke up in the middle of the night I had to be careful not to squash a little cat. But that never happened, and she kept that up, especially during her illness.

During her illness I would reach down to rub her head and tell her how I loved her. Outside of taking her to the vet that was about all I could do. I’m pretty certain she understood the emotion if not the exact words. And it helped sustain her so that she lived a little longer.

Play time 22 April 2014

Play time
22 April 2014

She was like any other cat. She loved to play with toys, both conventional and 21st century. Her favorite conventional toys were the kind that she could play cat soccer with on the floor. Our house has tile flooring throughout, the easier to keep it clean of messes. It makes for a marvelously low-friction surface for rolling objects, for which all the cats found useful. But it was Lucy and Lulu who took the most advantage of the tile floor for playtime. The 21st century toy she loved most was the little red laser pointer. I would send her scampering from one end of the house to the other, and up walls, trying to capture the little red dot.

What follows are a few more photographs, in general chronological order. The final photos at the bottom are towards the end of both Lucy and Max.

Rolling thunder 19 June 2009

Rolling thunder
19 June 2009

Innocence incarnate 12 November 2009

Innocence incarnate
12 November 2009

Contented 1 May 2010

Contented Cat
1 May 2010

Clown 1 July 2010

Clown Cat
1 July 2010

Sharing the big chair 3 September 2010

Sharing the big chair
3 September 2010

I think, therefore I am a cat 25 May 2011

I think, therefore I am a cat
25 May 2011

Watching outside 27 June 2011

Watching outside
27 June 2011

Christmas Cat

Christmas Cat
25 December 2011

Mysterious Cat 6 June 2012

Mysterious Cat
6 June 2012

Camera Cat 7 January 2013

Camera Cat
7 January 2013

Watchful Cat 19 October 2013

Watchful Cat
19 October 2013

This photo shows Lucy’s one special house spot. It’s an old cabinet in front of the main window. We’d feed and water her in this one spot. Lucy would eat and then settle down to look out as the world passed by, one paw drapped. My daughter says that windows are like TV for cats.

Spy Cat 7 November 2013

Spy Cat
7 November 2013

A bag full of Cute Cat 25 March 2014

A bag full of Cute Cat
25 March 2014

Cat Napping 11 January 2014

Cat Napping
11 January 2014

Watching 26 July 2014

Watching
26 July 2014

Little Angel

Little Angel
15 September 2014

Coy Cat 15 September 2014

Coy Cat
15 September 2014

Lucy and Max, one last time 15 March 2015

Lucy and Max, one last time together
15 March 2015

There’s no other way to describe Lucy except as an exceptionally sweet and outsized personality in a small cat body. If her physical size had matched her personality she’d have been tiger-sized. Which makes why she was abandoned by her original owner(s) even more inexplicable to me.

It was the exposure to that outsized personality followed by its loss that has left such a painful void in my soul, every bit as big and painful as Max. She was around during some of the most tumultuous times in my life, providing solace and a barrier at home against an indifferent world. I foolishly thought she’d last nearly forever.

I’ll always remember these years I’ve enjoyed with Lucy, all her purring, the morning wake-up walks up my chest and into my face, the mischievous playfulness, and especially the unconditional love she showered me with. She broke just about every myth and convention I’d ever heard about cats and owning a cat, and all in a good way. She had her moments with Lulu, but everyone has had moments with Lulu, and to be fair to Lulu she’s been quiet and mopey with Lucy gone. She’s missing Lucy too in her own way.

Finding Lucy was one of the most improbable moments I think I’ve experience in my life. Yet I know that there’s lots more like Lucy in the world, and they need the same care I gave to Lucy. I guess it’s just a matter of time before I we find each other – again.

 

Posted in Cats, Lucy | 4 Comments

i bid farewell to two of my little ones today

Lucy - Aug 2008 to 15 June 2015 Max - 5 Aug 2000 to 15 June 2015

Lucy – Aug 2008 to 15 June 2015
Max – 5 Aug 2000 to 15 June 2015
Napping together, 2010

Today is one of my harder days to go through, if not the hardest.

Today I had to take both Lucy and Max to the vets and put them to sleep.

Lucy had developed feline pancreatitis, feline cardiomyopathy, and small cell intestinal lymphoma. Of the three, the lymphoma might have been put into remission with current veterinary medicine. But the first two combined to cause her to not be able to keep food down. She would eat for several days, only to go into ballistic vomiting where she’d loose everything. Over time she dropped from 12 pounds to 4 pounds. She was slowly starving to death amidst all the food we could feed her. When I returned from a business trip and was told she’d dropped to four pounds, I decided to put an end to this. What we were doing at the vets was only postponing the inevitable.

Max developed complications from being an old Lab. He was fourteen years and ten months, nearly 15 years. Max developed canine Cushing’s Syndrome. It affected his hind quarters, especially his ability to stand upright. It also made him incontinent. The worst part of this only lasted the last two months, but it was rapid and deleterious. It took Judy and I to lift him up around his hind quarters. Once up he would slowly walk, but then would collapse when he stopped. He was still up for walks, having walked just yesterday evening. It wasn’t a long walk by any stretch, but it was still a walk. Just as he’d done starting at five months, he would bark at me to take him out.

One key reason for all this happening today is my need to travel for my job. I was in Killeen Texas for a good two and a half weeks right before this. I knew the animals were ill, but I had hopes that Max would last a little longer than he did and that Lucy might be on a path to remission that would allow her to live with me a little longer. But that wasn’t to be.

When I returned home late Friday I could tell that Max was in pretty bad shape. When I checked on Lucy at the vet’s the next morning I was told about her drop in weight to a little over four pounds. That’s when I came to the decision I had to let them both go. I had hoped this wouldn’t happen like this, but life at time boxes you into hard decisions that have to be made no matter what. This was one of those times.

Today was touching all the way around. We took Max to a McDonald’s next to the vets and got him his favorite, a basic vanilla ice cream cone. Meanwhile, the vets, knowing what was coming, had given Lucy all the Fancy Feast she could eat. She made a meal of four cans worth. We all knew she wouldn’t keep it down for very long, but Lucy was happy, as was Max, and that was all the really mattered.

When we got into the vet nearly the entire staff crowded into the waiting room where Max was lying, just to say farewell. He was something of a local celebrity there, and everyone knew Max and he knew them. Lucy had also become their cause célèbre, and everyone wanted to see her get through her medical challenges. But we’d all come to the honest conclusion that wasn’t going to happen.

In the end I held both Max and Lucy. I held Max’s head in my hands while he went to sleep and Lucy in my arms.

The photo at the top probably expresses the odd tie between the two of them best. While neither one came into this household together, they grew to tolerate, and then to stick by one another. Somehow it seems fitting they both left together.

That’s it for this installment. I needed to get this posted to mark their passing. I’ll be writing more in the days ahead as part of a personal healing process. Right now I have two voids in my soul, one big and one small. They’ll fill, just like all the others have (we’ve kept Labs for the past 33 years). I’ve written about all I can for now without loosing it.

Lucy will remain the mascot of Arcane Science Lab for the time being. The photo on the masthead was taken a few years back with my smartphone. I was in the TV room with a blanket over my legs. Lucy had crawled up into my lap between my knees, snuggled in, and gone to sleep. She’d started that back in November 2012 when I had my left knee partially replaced. She knew I was sick and in pain and would spend the night with me while I slept in my recliner as my knee surgery slowly healed. She was there for me when I was in pain. I tried to do the same for her, but it just wasn’t to be.

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Lucy, Max | 5 Comments

why interchangeable lens cameras might be in decline

Olympus E-PL1 and 2.8/17mm

Olympus E-PL1 and 2.8/17mm

Spend enough time online at any of the photography forums and you’re going to run across stories, usually every quarter, about the declining sale of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) that include DSLR and mirrorless. The reasons offered are numerous, but the two biggest reasons as I see them are cost, coupled with how quickly new iterations of the same camera are marketed.

Cameras shipped since 2012. Based on CIPA numbers.

Cameras shipped since 2012. Based on CIPA numbers.

The chart just above is from a website called Personal View and is derived from CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) data. The chart shows both the monthly volatility of the ILC market, as well as a long-term steady downward growth in units shiped. Even someone as stalwart as Thom Hogan uses the chart when he talks about the continuing decline of camera sales. Thom has an interesting article, published in May 2013 (How Steep Was the Decline?), comparing the equivalent rapid sales decline in film bodies with digital. A key fact from this article is that the peak year for digital sales was 2010.

It’s my personal opinion that the reason for the decline of ILCs is due to the very high cost if purchasing any of the cameras, specifically the bodies, coupled with the yearly introduction of ever newer models at the same or higher price point. Consumers, such as myself, pay the top dollar, only to read to their dismay when the next version is released before the new is even properly worn off the current model they own. And they’re told, subtly by the makers and bluntly on the forums, how your current model is immediately obsolete and oh so inferior. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

To a certain extent everyone is right. Your current body is inferior to what always comes next, especially where it truly counts; the sensor and the processor. Technology in those areas, especially the sensor, relentlessly moves forward. The way that the whole industry currently works is, if you want the latest imaging capabilities (more exposure latitude, higher ISO sensitivity without detail destroying noise, etc, etc) then you purchase an entirely new body, instead of just replacing the bits that really matter. Gone are the days of film when you changed film to get a different or better look (or both). When you bought that film body you had a good five or more years, or even longer (such as with Leica) of guaranteed solid use.

It doesn’t take long before a lot of people get tired of it. $1,000 cameras (body with a lens) are expensive discretionary items for lots of people. They justify the expense because they want to document some part of their lives. College kids and twenty-somethings want to document the wilder side of their lives. Marrieds, especially with children, want to document family life. When those kids are grown, then those older parents want to turn around and document their adult children. And therein lies a further complication of the sales problem with the camera industry.

It doesn’t take long before the “real” photographer shows his or her talent in the family. It’s that person who becomes the designated family photographer for the important photos, usually for a number of decades. Everybody else uses their smartphone. The family designated photographer spends the cash for the expensive ILC, along with any number of accessories. That cuts down considerably on the number of units that the camera industry can shift over time, resulting in the huge backlog of older models being sold at discount. The only problem is that marketing keeps saying how the older models are inferior to the current models, not matter how deeply discounted. And so a lot of potential customers who might have bought the older kit on discount wait and the old hardware grows older, increasingly clogging every seller’s inventory.

The camera at the top of this post is an example of introduce high and discount low 12-18 months later. It’s an Olympus E-PL1 with the older 17mm f/2.8 pancake prime. It’s a great camera and the lens does quite well. When the E-PL1 was introduced early 2010 it cost $600 and included the plastic-mount 14-42mm Zuiko kit zoom. When I got it 18 months later it had dropped to $140, body only. I got the prime when it was also discounted at $180, about half its introductory price. The combined camera plus 17mm cost me $320, a little more than half the introductory price. You can’t find the E-PL1 anymore, and the price of the 17mm pancake as actually risen since then. But with that purchase, I learned an important lesson: wait for the price to drop. A lesson taught by Nikon and Sony and Pentax, and even Canon. Wait long enough and the camera you want right now will be affordable. And that puts an even further brake on selling cameras and hurts the manufacturer’s bottom line. Nobody comes out a winner, not the manufacturer or the seller. As for the buyer, low prices like that are a short-term and short sighted gain. In the end manufacturers either stop making cameras because they’re out of business or close to it.

Long term there are no winners.

Posted in Buying Cameras | Leave a comment

last day in austin

Friday was my last day in Texas. I’d spent over two weeks in Killeen on business. I left Texas by way of Southwest flying out of Austin. Before leaving I had a second lunch with Andy. Our lunches bookended my trip to Killeen Texas, on the first day I arrived and the last day I left.

That last day I wanted to try some authentic Austin barbeque. So we met at Blacks Barbecue on the corner of Guadalupe and W 31st 1/2 Street. The food was great, the line fast, and the prices quite reasonable. We both ate the lean beef brisket.

Andy also showed up with some of his newest camera acquisitions. One of them is above, the Olympus E-M5 Mk II. I’d shown up with my E-M10 with the 1.8/17mm mounted. He has the same lens in black. That lens makes for a nice compact rig with any of the OM-D camera bodies. I’ll let Andy write about the other cameras he’s purchased lately on his blog. I only mention this one because, well, I took a photo of him using it.

I try to meet some of the photographers face-to-face that I encounter on the web. The first such successful face-to-face was with Matthew Robertson of Toronto Canada. I was able to meet him and his wife in 2012 on a road trip that my wife and I took from Orlando up to Toronto and back. That trip is back on my old blog, starting on 1 September 2012. My wife and I had a wonderful time traveling up through the northeast and into Canada. The few days we spent in Toronto were too few, and we barely scratched the surface of Toronto. But it was still a lot more than what I encountered in Austin. I’d hoped that I could drive down to Austin after work some days, but 12-plus hour days and no weekends off put the kibosh on those plans.

Perhaps one day I’ll get a chance to spend more time in Austin. Until then I have these very brief encounters with one of its most interesting citizens to remember.

Posted in Texas, Travel | 1 Comment

rudy’s “country store” and bar-b-q, killeen texas

rudy'sI stopped off at Rudy’s for a bit of bar-b-q after today’s work shift. I picked up a small but filling order of bar-b-q chicken. I sampled a bit of Rudy’s sauces while I was there as well. It was overall a tasty meal.

The chicken was moist and flavorful. I’ve been to too many BBQ places were the chicken was dry and tough. How a BBQ place does its chicken is something of an informal test for me; if it’s done right then I feel comfortable going back. This meal was indeed good enough for a return trip.

I know the store is part of a franchise, with this one of nearly 40 so far scattered through the southwest, the majority in Texas. But the BBQ is pretty good for a franchise. Yes, I’d go back and I will while I’m here.

my meal at rudy's

Posted in Texas, Travel | Leave a comment