acl digest – 9 september 2018

Bo giving me his best Mona Lisa smile.

Starting something different, by stealing someone else’s idea – I’ve decided to steal a method of post writing from science fiction author John Scalzi ( which he refers to as the digest. It’s a type of long-form writing broken up into shorter sections. Based on the way he writes, those various sections are loosely related, but I don’t think they have to be. Anyway, I want to try this because I have a lot of ideas, many of which are fairly short. Perhaps I can use this as an aid to help me write more with better overall quality.

John McCain’s death – It’s been a few weeks since John McCain passed. All the drama occurred during the week between his passing and finally being laid to rest at the Naval Academy. The entire week was punctuated repeatedly by Donald Trump’s week-long slow burn rants in the White House, with his being banned from the McCain funeral just as he was from Barbara Bush’s funeral. What will always stand out in my mind is how McCain was able to masterfully troll Trump from beyond the grave.

Aretha Franklin’s death – There is so much about Aretha to remember, going back to when I was a kid with my first transistor radio in Atlanta, but for me personally, I will always remember her scene on the “The Blues Brothers”:

Google strikes again – People are really ‘woke’ about Google and its powerful effects on the Internet. A small example of this is how Google Chrome is now displaying URLs with the release of version 69. Google’s new URL modification scheme, in which they’re trying to simplify how a URL is displayed in the omni-box has caused considerable controversy, especially in the tech groups that actually care about such things, and which helped push Chrome forward in the early days. Basically the latest Chrome hides ‘www’, for example, to make the URL simpler and easier to read for the great unwashed masses. If you want the behavior to be what it was before Google decided to ‘fix’ it for everyone, you can follow the directions here: Here’s How to Disable Google Chrome’s Confusing New URL Hiding Scheme. I’ve fixed my Chrome installations on every system where I have Chrome installed, and I also fixed it in Vivaldi. Yes, because Vivaldi is consuming the Chrome engine within Vivaldi, it’s also fallen prey to Chrome’s nefarious schemes to totally control the web. Just type ‘chrome://flags’ into the Vivaldi omni-box, follow the directions linked to above, and watch as the exact same flag comes up. Such fun…

Social media usage – I have accounts on all the usual spots, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Since January 2018 I’ve cut back considerably on Twitter and Facebook by just deleting the apps off my iPhone. If I feel the need to go slumming in either place, I do it via the web. The experience is better with the web page than the app, as more capabilities are available for tighter control. The only social media apps left on my iPhone are Instagram and VSCO. I spend very little time on VSCO, and I don’t follow that many on Instagram. I feel myself drifting further away from social media. That drifting away is affecting how I approach writing on the blog, with me wanting to write less and less over time. Considering how much the web has become weaponized, and how easy it is to do so because the social media platforms have no real controls, the only way to protect myself it would appear is to just not go there at all.

The Cats – We lost another cat, Ellipses. The pain of that loss triggered memories of my loss of Lucy, so I had to deal with that. But the house is calm again (it didn’t get all that crazy) and being down to just two cats is actually nice. Both Bo and Luke vie for my attention, in a good way. What is peculiar is that both of the boys are now spending time on the same kitchen table Ellipses stayed on for all those many years before her passing. I don’t know if that means they miss her or not, but I wonder if they expect her to suddenly appear on the table and for things to go back to normal for them.

My knees – I’m still dealing with pain and problems walking, but not nearly as badly as the first of this year. I’m spending more time in our therapy pool exercising and just floating. The water is warm and being in the pool takes considerable stress off my joints, especially my knees. They’ve both been replaced (the left as a partial in 2012, the right as a full in 2016) so there’s not much more that can be done. I have no desire to go under the knife again unless it’s absolutely necessary. So I guess I’d better get serious and continue working in that pool out back.

loss of ellipses, final entry

Ellipse grooms a young Ruby

The most difficult thing to determine when a pet dies and leaves the household is the effect it will have on the other animals still alive. Ellipse and Ruby were quite close to each other. In this photo, taken in September 2009, Ellipse is grooming Ruby’s muzzle. Ruby is just a little over one year old in this photo. We got Ruby as a replacement for another Lab we’d lost Christmas 2007, a big beautiful chocolate named Babe. Max the yellow was still with us and we felt he was getting lonesome. We’d waited so long to replace Babe because Babe’s lose was sudden and traumatic to the humans in the household, and we were looking for a breeder close enough that we could go and pick out a pup (or more precisely, so the right pup would pick us out). When eight-week-old Ruby finally arrived the prior October, Ellipse took an immediate interest in Ruby.

Ruby at first didn’t know quite what to make of Ellipse, and would bark at her and then hide in a corner or in back of me if I was around. Ellipse was bright enough not to push it, such that by the time Ruby was six or so months the two of them would be found snuggling next to each other on the sofa. Once that bond was forged, it remained unbroken until the end.

This wasn’t the first time one of my cats bonded with one of my dogs. Max and Lucy had a very strong bond, so strong that they both left this Earth together at the same date, same time, at our vets.

So far Ruby hasn’t shown any particular agitation on Ellipse not being around. She’s got Annie, her canine BFF. The two of them are tight as can be, and still play hard with one another. I’m sure that helped soften the (possible) loss Ruby might have felt over Ellipse.

And then, of course, there was the gradual decline and change of behavior in Ellipse. Ellipse did slow down as she got older, especially over the last three years of her life. Ellipse slowly began to keep more to herself, keeping to the kitchen area most of the time. In hindsight this was right at the same time I lost both Max and Lucy. I doubt it was purely coincidental. A quick autopsy after Ellipses’ death revealed what we had suspected, that Ellipses’ spine was filled with arthritis. That would have made flexible movements, such as climbing and jumping, both difficult and painful. But she kept up that kind of movement until the very last. The week before Ellipses’ death, she had climbed up the cat tree into one of the crows’ nests for what would be her last time.

Ellipse was also suffering from a feline heart condition. For several years I’d been giving her half of a Enalapril 2.5mg tablet every evening. I’d pull out a pill, break it in half, and then grind it into powder in the bottom of her food dish. Then I’d put her evening meal on top. No matter what, when I’d check in the dish the next morning the powder was gone, licked up by Ellipse. She might not eat all her meal, but she always took her medication.

She’s gone, and I’ve managed (so far) to not let it hit me like the others have. Lucy, being my first real cat (she picked me one day by walking in my front door and then rubbing up against me) was also my first experience with feline sickness and eventual death. It hurt so much because we were closely bonded. Lucy would come to teach me a lot about cats, both how they lived and died. Lucy always wanted to be with me, no matter how ill she got. Her trust and love were rock solid. I came to believe over time that she knew I’d always take care of her and do the right thing by her, no matter what.

All the animals I believe have felt that way, and still feel that way.

In a world that seems to be increasingly overwhelmed by human cruelty, it’s one of the few ways I can be kind, and have that kindness be both effective and appreciated. That’s one reason, among so many, to care for a pet.