Cally Soukup's List of Nicoll Events

James Nicoll is a blogger, denizen of rec.arts.sf.written, game and book reviewer, cat rescuer, and all-around swell person living in Kitchener Ontario. He is story prone, and has a very nice style of relating those stories (IMHO, naturally). These are some of the stories.

Cally Soukup is a denizen of rec.arts.sf.fandom, contributor to Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders, and all-around swell person. But she is HTML-challenged. Cally liked the stories of "Nicoll Events" enough to collect them as they came by.

David Dyer-Bennet is me; I got into the habit of posting useful and/or interesting things on my own web site because I had one back before most people, and have carried that habit forward.

If you have comments on the Nicoll Event list, email Cally. If you have comments on the web presentation, see my link at the bottom of the page.

Note:  All unattributed text is by James Nicoll.
       [*] is a request for a footnote.
       AKICIF is "All Knowledge Is Contained In Fandom"

                    The Store Break-in

        Mid-July, 1996. A Sunday, 5:31 pm. I had closed for the day
at five, had gone up to my apartment above the store and was getting
ready for a writers meeting I was running. Jasmine, my then-girlfriend,
and I had just disagreed on whether we would watch a forensics show on
insect populations in cadavers, which I normally would have watched
happily except that the pork chop I was eating was the same shade as
the dead guy I was looking at. We had switched to something else when
Jasmine asked if I had heard a thump from downstairs. I hadn't but went
down anyway, figuring it was my cat Blotchy jumping off high shelves

        I get down to the store and there's a man standing in the
front, dressed only in track pants. I don't notice the hole he has
kicked through my front door getting in. Sometimes I forget to lock up
and I thought maybe I had done that this time. I ask if I can help him.

        "May I help you?"

        "Do you have a woman? I really need a woman." He replies,
making me suspect he is not familiar with the demographics of role
playing game stores[1]. I think "Not that you're going to share",
say "Just a minute" and walk back to the wall panel for the alarm
system and hit the panic button. On the way back, I encounter Jasmine,
who has come down to investigate why I am taking so long and suggest
politely that she get the fuck back upstairs. She deduces there
is a problem and goes upstairs and out onto my balcony to see if she  
can see the burglar running away.

        Then for no reason I can think of I walk back to the front.  
The alarm isn't the standard issue one but the extra-loud sort intended
to make the windows on the church across the street shatter from the
noise. I point out to my visitor that in the past, the cops show up
within 90-180 seconds so he should just leave. He runs over to the
wall where I used to display paintball guns, passing by the fireplace
poker and packing knife on the way. He grabs a stingray, a cheap
plastic paintball gun and tries to shoot me with it.

        "That's not a real gun," I point out. "You moron," I add

        At this point, he reversed the gun and swung it at my head,
steel CO2-bottle end first.

        In comic books people can make long speeches and still
leap about acrobatically. What I did was think "Must leap out  
of the way, why am I bleeding?" I didn't really feel the gun hit
but when I touched the side of my head, it was a very complex
shape and blood poured down my arm and onto the floor. My
first thought was to get off the rug, because it would be
impossible to get the blood out of a white rug.

        Adrian, as his name turned out to be, ran off, pausing only
to ask Jasmine if she knew where there were women [Note: Jasmine
is noticably mammalian] and then returning briefly to return the
broken gun. Well, part of it: my head had shattered one end of it,
although the bootle came through ok and I was able to resell it

        Jas came downstairs where I was stopping the flow of
blood with a hand towel from the bathroom. I urged her to run to
my landlady's business next door. We argued over whether she should
go put her shoes on first. She leaves after putting her shoes on.
Well, at least I won the discussion about TV shows.

        A bicycle cop shows up about a minute later. We're chatting
when his radio goes off. There's a breakin at 54 Benton, two doors
down. Adrian has gotten in by grabbing the front door and pulling
until the two half inch security bars in the door bent far enough
to come out of their sockets. The cop asks if he can go investigate
and I tell him to go.

        My landlady shows up, looks at my head and says that while
she can see bone, nothing seems to be broken and the soft twisty
stuff is just scalp, not brains.

        A passerby says he says the guy runnign away and leaves his
name if the cops want him to be a witness. I have a surprising amount
of difficulty writing his number down.

        Ambulance shows up. The paramedics observe that I seem to have
been hit in the head, advise me to have something done about it, swath
me in miles of completely unfunctional gauze and leave.

        A new cop shows up. With the help of the security guard from
the church at 54 Benton, they have caught up with Adrian. During the
course of the arrest, he tried to strangle the cops so they beat him
shapeless and he is on his way to emergency. Later, he is such a pain
there that they kick him out without treatment and send back to the
local jail to heal on his own.

        I cancel my meeting. I call a carpenter to fix the door. I
find all the cats, who disappeared as soon as blood started spattering
around the room. I figure I should get -some- comedy writing in   
[the meeting was to write a musical comedy called FASS] so I write
a long report for the cops, complete with snarky comments about
my burglar, various footnotes and if memory serves, helpful diagrams.

        I eventually get 4 stitches, hours later. I don't get much
sleep, being pretty concussed, worse than when the tree fell on me but
not as bad as when I ran a tyke down a tall hill into a tree. Maybe as
bad as well a bus threw a large rock at me in grade five[2]. I can't
make change in my head for more than a week.

        Adrian tries to claim it wasn't him but gives up when he's
given a count of eyewitnesses. He gets 4 years, so he got out this
year. The longest he's managed to stay out of jail is about a month, so
there's a good chance he's done this again since getting out and is
back in jail.

1: I have a female customer who has complained about being such an 
alien lifeform to another store that they won't let her buy stuff but
just gaze her in stunned disbelief.

2: My brother has a better rock story: when we lived in the Tutor's   
Residence at UW, our neighbor once went out for a walk along Laurel
Creek, which ran near by. He was flicking rocks into the creek as he
walked. He got to a spot where he could not see the creek for a small
bluff, and the next rock he threw didn't splash when it hit the creek.
He thought this was odd and being tenure-track immediately realised the
only course of action was to throw a really -big- rock. Still no splash.
He goes to investigate and finds my brother standing in the creek,
in a daze, looking like he had just been hit on the head with two

          The Store Break-in, slightly different version
        It's summer 1996. It's a Sunday, about half an hour after
my game store (which I since retired from to get paid to read free
books, whee!) closed for the day and I was eating dinner with my
then girlfriend, Jasmine, in the apartment above the store. We had
just had a minor disagreement about what to watch with dinner, since
while I usually like to watch forensic science shows the particular
corpse they were showing bug population stuff on was the exact same
shade as my chop. Jasmine claims she heard a thump. People are always
claiming they hear things or that they are speaking audibly and I have
learned to humor the mumblers, as I affectionately like to call them.
I go downstairs.

        What I expect to find is my 20 pound store cat amusing himself
by climbing to the top of the shelves and leaping back down (This is
apparently even more fun at 3 am from the bedroom bookshelves with me
as the cushion). What I actually find is this guy, wearing only track
pants. At this point I can't see the hole he has kicked through the
front door, so I assume I forgot to lock the door.

        "Can I help you?" I ask Adrian (He had his full name tattooed
on his chest, which might have come in handy later if things had played
out a little differently).

        "Do you have any women? I really need a woman."

        I immediately could tell he was not a customer. Customers
would know better than to look for a woman in a roleplaying game store.
Atypically my store did have a woman but I was not of a mind to share.

        I toddle back to the alarm box, which I had not set yet that
day because I was headed right back out after dinner and hit the 'Oh
Shit' button. My alarm is no effete meep meep meep thing. I paid extra
to have something that would burst eardrums at a 100 meters, because
the sound element of the alarm to make the burglar run away. It's the
phone connection that summons the police.

        Jasmine comes down to see what is taking so long just before
I hit the button.

        "Get the fuck back upstairs," I explain. She figures I have
either gone mad or something bad is happening so she goes out on what
we later learn is a totally rotten balcony (but that doesn't figure
into this).

        Then for some reason, and I think 'complete stupidity' probably
covers it, although it is possible I was trying to impede his progress
towards Jasmine, I then go back to Adrian and tell him the cops will be
there in 3 minutes and if he doesn't want to be arrested he should
leave now. He doesn't like this and runs over to the wall of the store
where I had paintball equipment on display, not loaded (duh). He grabs
one off the wall, ignoring the packing knife, the fireplace poker and
the somewhat bored looking store cat. Then he tries to shoot me.

        "That's not a real gun," I say. "You moron", I add helpfully.
He then swings the CO2 bottle end at my head very hard and as it turns
out in a lot less time than it takes me to think and act on " Must!
Dodge!" [I have legendarily slow reflexes].

        I was not actually certain he had connected, although the fact
that I was on one knee and I couldn't recall quite how I got there was
a bad sign. I put my hand up my head and my head wasn't round any more
on the left side but some more complex shape. Blood poured down my arm
and off my elbow and my first reaction, as God is my witness, was to
get off the white rug because you can't get blood out of a rug.

        I totally destroyed that gun with my head. Thank God he picked
the el cheapo plastic and aluminium Stingray rather than the other two
paintball guns I had on the wall that day because my wholesale on those
was much higher plus one had a heavy wooden stock and the other was
mostly steel. The CO2 bottle was steel and I have to say it was intact.
In fact, I later sold it.

        Adrian runs away. More on him later. The cat finds a hiding
spot I would have sworn wouldn't fit a kitten, let alone a large tom.

        I get a towel I don't like and stick it on the wound.

        Jasmine comes down. I urge her to go to Barrels (the Portuguese
restaurant around the corner, whose owners owned my building then) and
tell them what happened. She stops to put on her shoes because
apparently some people don't toughen up their feet in case they need to
run barefoot before a wandering psycho straight out of the AD&D Urban
Encounters Table returns. This entire process was exactly like those
running but can't get anywhere dreams I sometimes have.

        After an intense discussion, I get her to leave. Later I find
out he saw her on the balcony and asked her where there were women.
Note that thanks to google I probably should not be specific here but
Jasmine is visibly female. We're not talking a stick insect here. Of
course Adrian is totally looped out of his mind on drugs which is why
the foot he broke coming through my door didn't slow him down any, but
still, this was little like asking the captain of the Hindenberg if
he'd seen any balloons lately.

        A bicycle cop shows up in under two minutes after the alarm
started (and I must have turned off the alarm at some point but I don't
know when). We're chatting when his belt radio goes off: break-in at 54
Benton, which is the Lutheran Church two doors down from my place. He
askes me if I mind if he responds and since he wasn't giving me first
aid, I didn't particularly. Off he goes. More on him later.

        Fran from Barrels shows up. She has first aid, looks at my head
and says that while she can see bone, no serious damage seems to have
been done. I call my carpenter to come slap a board on the door. I
cancel my writer's meeting for that night.

        The cops come back. Well, new cops arrive. Adrian has been
arrested. In fact it was him at the Church and a little later it was
him breaking into a bingo hall. The security guy from St. Paul's
followed him, talking to the cops on his radio but he stayed well out
of arm's reach and wasn't hurt. Adrian is less fortunate because he
feels no pain and basically had to be pounded into a boneless jelly to
get him to stop attacking the cops (Plus two of them were female cops
and I had noticed the female cops took it very badly when people
resisted arrest. That uniform is very cute right up to the point the
batton comes out. But I digress).

        I fill out a report form. Now the meeting I was missing was for
a musical comedy I was helping write and I figured that if I was not
going to go to my meeting, I would practice on the report. Apparently
six pages of attempted comedy on how someone beat someone else up
written by the victim is unusual, judging by the reactions I got, or
maybe it was the hand drawn diagrams or the many end-notes. It's
academic because Adrian is on his first week of parole and this is a
bit of a violation of his parole terms. Actually, it's about twenty
violations and although he at first tries to claim it wasn't him, he
soon sees reason and he goes off to pokey for another three years,
after his bones knit a bit.

        Turns out this is what he does. His life is an endless cycle
of prison, with forced medication controlling his brain chemistry, a
parole or end of sentence, a quick location of some drugs, an act of
violence and back to prison. He isn't even from the crack-houses a
few blocks over (at the time. They've since moved) but an out of towner
whose idiot brother was trying to find him a place to live and a job in
KW. Adrian is nuts but not in a way that would let him be committed.
For all I know he's dead by now or has earned a life sentence.

        Eventually I get to go have my head looked at (I have no idea
why I did not rate an ambulance with the alarm). The damage looks and
feels more alarming than it is, basically a flap of skin folded back by
the plastic flange on the bottle (Used to simulate a shoulder stock) so
my pearly white can peek out and say "Hi" (Actually, I didn't look at
it because I didn't want to ruin the bizarre sense of calm I felt, and
still feel, about the whole thing). I get some stitches and then am not
allowed on my own furniture because it's white, see, and I am still
leaking a bit. Also, because of the concussion thing, my sleep schedule
is really interfered with. Jas watches me from my comfy couch to make
sure I don't fall into a coma while I sit on a dining room chair. The
_cats_ got a wider selection of places to sit than I did.

        No head ache. No particular feeling of alarm, even before I
got to claim concussion, which is very odd because when I was a kid
I was always excessively cautious, especially after the dog mauling
and the fatal car crash. The worst was because of the concussion I
could not make change in my head because for about a week I could not
keep a chain of thought going long enough to do A - B = C. Well, I did
get benign periodic positional vertigo afterwards but I don't know that
that is related. It does make changing light bulbs interesting, as
the position I hold my head in when I do that is exactly right to
trigger it.

        If it had been 30 minutes earlier, Adrian could have invaded
the lady's clothing store next to mine. 30 minutes later and Jasmine
would have been there alone. I figure this was the least bad home
invasion I could have had because if there's one thing I do well, it's

               Trike story and schoolbus stone story

        Someone put on a tricycle at the top
of a tall tall hill in Herne Hill and told me to ride to the bottom  
of the hill. I was about 4. Apparently I was supposed to deduce the
idea of brakes on the way down. Luckily, the tree stopped me from
heading out to the next road, which was pretty busy. I was concussed  
and the trike died.

        The stone was just a big rock a school bus drive over,
squirting it out like a 5 kg orange seed.

                    Nettle story (short)

I was with Jo and others in Wales, walking along a country path. I saw
a plant I thoguht was mint so I crushed a leaf between thumb and
forefinger to see if it smelled like mint. Jo didn't manage to warn me 
in time.

Canadian nettles are very much less painful than Welsh ones.
Orders of magnitude.

[a later version below:]

Empress of Blandings <> wrote:
>, in article <>, dixit:
>>  "James Nicoll" writes:

>>>         I made the mistake at Walesboink of grasping a nettle leaf
>>> firmly to crush it and smell the leaf. My thumb was numb for
>>> several days.

>>Which got a response of "You did _what_?" (And that was numb despite
>>a pretty much instant application of dock leaf.)
>>It's a good point though - take reasonable adults from one ecosystem
>>into another and they'll start acting like three year olds, because   
>>the things they think they know are suddenly useless or worse.  
>Yes, but *why* would someone TOUCH something they didn't know anything
>about?  Especially a brightly-colored thing (back to the brilliant red
>frog).  Not just touch, *grasp*.  I don't grasp the appeal, at all.

        One way I understand things is by touching them. Also, while I
have common sense I rarely let it interfere with my actions, prefering
to use it to analyse why I shouldn't have done what ever it is that I
did to cause the most recent Darwin moment.

        Tapping the point of a recently liquid-hot bit of glass tubing
against my thumb smarted much more than that nettle did. I am just luck
I didn't go with my first thought, that the nettle was some kind of
mint, and *taste* it[1].

        Have I mentioned how I spent the afternoon playing with a
deadly poisonous snake once? The neighbors kept telling me it wass
venemous but they said anything with scales was venemous.

1: ObIrony: Jo was surprised to find out Canadians have poisonous
plants in their gardens and I replied that natural selection kept 
the number of plant-tasting children to a minimum.

        BTW, the active ingedient in milkweed that kills birds doesn't 
work on me.

[and, further:]

Captain Button  <> wrote:
>To merge with another subthread, has James Nicoll ever been to
>Australia to meet all the poisonous lifeforms?

        Fuck, no. I am not insane. I went to _Wales_ and was
attacked by a savage nettle whose leaf I was thoughtfully crushing
between thumb and forefinger. Even with the dock, I couldn't feel
that thumb for a day.

        I thought it was some kind of _mint_, ok? The leaves looked
minty. Thank god I didn't go with my first instinct, which was to
taste it[1].

        Anyway, I would avoid swimming with the crocs only
to be maimed by a peeved koala or something equally stupid.
I might last half a day in Australia.

1: Milk weed is nowhere near as toxic as they claim.

[one last addendum:]

        After the Nettle Incident, I believe A.M. was a bit surprised
to learn that dock does not grow in Canada, despite the presence of

        Mind you, our nettles are to British nettles what the
industrial might of Prince Edward Island is to that of the United
States of America.

                    Christmas Drunk Toddler

Did the Christmas thing with my brother, his sweetie and   
the nepoti. Got a small cup, the very cup that I used at age 3
or 4 when I got up early, slid open two bolts [One at the top of
the door. Had to put a stool on a chair to get that high], got
out a place mat and the fine china cup and knocked back a full
bottle of sherry. My older brother found me and reported rather
puzzledly that "James can't stand up and he can sit down either."
Off to the hospital with James, waving happy, "Goodbye! Goodbye!"

Hmmm. Couldn't have been 3 as I wasn't speaking yet.

My nepoti observed that a lot of my stories end with "And
when I regained consciousness, there was a crowd standing around
looking at me."

My older brother has taken up mule skinning.

My younger brother, wanting a nice quiet vacation, is in

                  Flash Paper Bonfire

Ken MacLeod  <> wrote:
> Jo Walton <> writes
>> "James Nicoll" writes:

>>>        True story: a theatre group I used to be in writes its own
>>> scripts. At the end of the process, all the scrap paper [previous
>>> versions of the script and what have you] is gathered together and
>>> burned in a bonfire.
>>> My first time as chief scriptwriter I thought that was kind of
>>> dull so I asked my older brother if he knew how to turn the normal
>>> paper into flash paper. He thought it was pretty straight forward
>>> to come up with something to soak the scripts in so they'd all
>>> burn rapidly. Plans were going along swimmingly until he asked
>>> how much paper was involved and I told him it was a four foot
>>> stack. Apparently that much flash paper would have carbonised me
>>> when I lit it and left a large circle of melted snow, save in the
>>> thermal shadows of the  other writers. Still, it would have been 
>>> something to see.
>>The words "born to be hanged" come to mind.
>As do the words 'Divided by Infinity' [*]. We're all living in the
>worlds which include the increasingly improbable survival of James

Happier ones than in that story, I hope.

Not that improable: say I had a one in three chance of surviving being
born and a one half chance of surviving any potentially fatal bit of
stupitity on my part that I can recall right now and I get odds of at
l/3x2^12th. Rather high, actually.

>Hey, that would explain a *lot*.
>(Notice how *weird* the news seems these days?)

I was trying to explain that we are living in the future to
my ex-girlfriend last week but she was sceptical.
Hmm. Forgot the time I checked to see if Jasmine's car brakes

                         Walking Home from Kindergarden

I'm sure I've told this story: when I was in kindergarden, I got out
earlier than my older brother did from grade 4 and I hated having to
wait for him. I asked my parents if I could walk home by myself. They
thought about it and said that I could, provided I didn't talk to
strangers and I didn't cross the intersections by myself.

Around 6 pm, the cops found me wandering around and around on the block
my school was on, trying to find the route home which didn't involve
crossing the street.

After that, I was allowed to cross by myself.

                The Balcony

One nasty surprise when I renovated my store was that a previous tenent
had knocked a big hole in a load bearing wall. The second floor was
sagging by 6 inches in one spot, so the workmen cranked the second
story back up [How, I don't know] and put in a splendid I-beam to
support the second floor. Suddenly, all the doors in my apt lock.
Suddenly the connecting door to the apt wouldn't latch at all, which
was a pain because that is the door which keeps the cats from setting
off the alarm. I noticed the lock still worked, so I took to letting it
lock behind me as I retired for the evening. Note that the door can
only be opened without a key from the store side.

One night, the ex and I were planning to go see a play. I
walk through the connecting door and hear it lock behind me. I realise
that -my- keys are in my coat in the store office. No problem, J has
keys. Call her up to say I have been an idiot. I forgot that I had had
the front door lock changed when I replaced the old door with a steel
one. Her keys are in my desk. In the store.

I call a locksmith. Nobody available until 8:30 and the play starts at
8. I call the theatre and explain the situation: the tickets are also
in my coat and will they let us in without the actual tickets? They say
yes. I run through several plans:

* Knock the connecting door down. I badly bruise my shoulder trying.  

* Try to settle for knocking out a door panel. No dice. Screw up the

* Brilliant idea: get the ladder, which is on my side of the door and       
lower over the balcony. Go to the show, come back later with a lock  
smith. About this time, J shows up. I go out with the ladder. To get  
into the right position, I have to scale my new balcony railing, which
I installed because the old one was so short one might trip over it.
The new railing is really tall so I get a chair, go over and let the
ladder down. No dice: the ground is too uneven for the trick to work.

It was at this point it occured to me I had marooned myself on the
wrong side of a railing I could not get over without a chair that was
too   wide for the section I was standing on, in my shirt, in winter. I
had visions of TV crews filming me ofr the local moron of the week spot
as the fire department got me off my own building.

Potential humiliation is a great goad: I forced my way over
the railing, giving myself huge bruises in the process [Due to the
medication I am on, I bruise like a bad tomato] and settled down to
wait. J goes on on her own, seriously Not Impressed.

Locksmith shows up, unlocks everything in seconds. I go to the
theatre, where I am Recognised in that way that tells me I will feature
in stories there for some time, present the tickets and watch most of a     

Except for calling the locksmith, every single idea I had
made it worse.


Heather Anne Nicoll <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:
>>       I am sure if I carried a running chainsaw with me, I would get
>> better service all round.
>I suspect that you'd probably cut your foot off or something, though.
>Or, perhaps more accurately, nearly cut your foot off and notice a few
>hours later.
        That happened to my uncle Dave, sort of. Lopped off a toe
with an axe and didn't notice until someone pointed it out. Shock,
I guess.


         I once insisted that my friends stop paddling a canoe in
Algonquin Park so I could admire the fantastic show the Northern Lights
were putting on. We floated there for maybe half an hour and then we
kept going so I could get to a hospital to get treatment for my hand,
which I had crushed under a 300 pound rock. Those were some great
Northern Lights.

        There were three of us on the trip. Now, as it happened, the
spot we picked had a nice table like shelf of rock and two boulders
near it t sit on. There was a 300 pound boulder maybe ten meters away
so we each grabbed a piece and moved it. For better grip, I slid my
hand under the rock. I'm sure you can see where this is going.


        A note: just as one should measure the corridor leading to a
kitchen when installing a new stove, so should one calculate at what
height the sloping walls of an attic bedroom will encounter the
bedposts of a new bed.

        It's not so much that I can't get the frame in: I can, given
a little hammering to make it fit into the drywall. It's just I'd never   
get the mattress onto it and if I did, I'd never get into the bed for
lack of crawl space.

        No worries: got two other rooms it will fit into and one of
them is always cool year round.

                        Desdemona and the Razor

>I'm picturing a James Nicoll Shaving Moment, here.

        My shaving moment was the moment of clarity when I realised
I shouldn't use a straight razor. It came just after my burmese,
trying to get attention, leaned over and bit me on the ass just
as I was drawing the blade up my throat.

        It's harder to cut your throat fatally than they make it
look in movies. I bet I could try a hundred times and not succeed
more than once.


Del Cotter  <> wrote:
>On Tue, 26 Sep 2000, in rec.arts.sf.fandom,
>David G. Bell <> wrote:
>> "Ray Radlein" wrote:
>>> Graydon Saunders wrote:
>>> > You do know the torch-and-penetrating-oil trick?
>>> I'm picturing a James Nicoll Shaving Moment, here.
>>Don't oil thread
>>By naked flames.
>>It's how you get
>>A Nicoll Shave.
>Americans will correct me, but I believe the words "Nicoll Shave" should
>come *after* the rhyme, like this:
>Don't oil thread
>By naked flames.
>You'll lose your eyebrows,
>Just like James.
>Nicoll Shave.

        Clarification: even when I managed to suround myself with a
fireball, and that was -once- [so far], I never lost hair to the

        The burned-eyebrows case was the neighbor girl, who used a lit
match to see if there was gasoline in a jerry can.


        My father bet his sister he could shoot around a corner.
Bent pipe with one end [this is the part I don't understand[1]]
against her arm. Worked too. Pity the lecture which no doubt
followed wasn't taped.

                                                James Nicoll

1: But then I let my older brother set my foot on fire once.
        My urge to leap to one side when someone asks me to
        stand still for a second wasn't nearly as honed then
        as it is now.

        Re: Balloons.

        My father discovered in his MIT undergrad days that stove
gas [which he got at a set rate regardless of use] is lighter
than air and will fill a weather balloon nicely, if you stick the
balloon out the apt window so it has room. Mind your sparks.


        Groucho, my reclusive grey tom, likes to open cupboards
and hide in them. What makes him stand out in the world of cats
is that he -shuts the door behind himself- somehow. The problem
is he is terrified of strangers and if one happens to get to
close to his hiding place, he leaps out ala the chest burster in
_Alien_, to run away to a new hiding place. This is apparently
very startling to the people it has happened to, judging by 
the screams.


        I was reading in the living room when I hear this incredible
deep growl from the hallway. Now, I knew the only cat in the apt was
Blotchy and I have never heard a sound like this from him so I
investigated[1]. What he had done was pull the bathroom door shut on
his paw. As long as he pulled, it pinched him more. A push would have
[and did, once I got there] freed him. He was pulling as hard as he
could and trying his damnedest to intimidate the door....

1: Always check unfamiliar sounds. Might be nothing. Might be a cat
with her head stuck in a watering pot.


 Thomas Womack <> wrote:
>"Kip Williams" <> wrote
>> Loren MacGregor wrote:
>> > Er, I think it's time we stopped talking about sharp objects for a
>> > while.
>> Okay. Who has a good story about damaging themselves with a blunt   
>> instrument?
>I have nearly broken my nose with Oriel College Chapel. Does that count?

        I removed much of the skin from my face and gave myself a
hell of a concussion with the city of London.

        While building wall units for the used game section [the old
ones having gotten dangerously shakey], I managed to cut myself with
a hammer. No, I have no idea how one slices a thumb with a blunt

                       On Superpowers 

        I seem to be either Avoidable Accident Lad or perhaps Near
Death Experience [Own Fault] Boy.

        Right now I have two sore arms, in part because as I was
walking down a hall at Boskone with a heavy box of books on my head, I
found a door shorter than the total height of me+box. Luckily, I caught
the box on the way down behind me, at about head level. Never caught
anything quite like that and it doesn't seem to be a good idea.

                      On Cats and Agressiveness

        My Taps love attention or hurting people. The clues as to
which it will are subtle except for the bleeding.

        Part of the problem is she is extremely territorial about
her chair, the right side of the back of another chair and the cash

                 Why James' Dad Had Multiple Kids

        I think risk assessment must vary a bit.

        My father once bet me that I couldn't swim upstream during a
thunderstorm, from the dam we built up to Fort Courage (an old willow
tree which had been struck by lighting some years earlier and which
formed a natural dam across the creek. Some years later, it was struck
again). I won my 25 cents, which could buy significant amounts of candy
back then.

        He also talked me into trying to outswim an undertow, which
didn't work out quite so well. What was worse, it turned out my older
brother couldn't outswim it either, about 30 minutes later. I think
this is why some parents have multiple kids.

        On the other hand, I could read any book or magazine I liked.

                James and the Ants

        Something which fascinated me as kid in Brazil was the
amazingly huge ant hills which are found there. Until then I'd only 
ever dealt with ants in temperature climates and those are quite
small. Brazillian ant hill can be at least 4 feet tall and have
the consistancy of concrete. They can also be buried in the loose
soil of a river berm, which is how I managed to stumble into one.
Up to my knees, actually.

        I am told that some native tribes use ant jaws as stitches
and I can believe it.

        After the river incident, my interest turned to exterminating
the little fucks. Harder than it sounds: a number of ant species down
there seem to be able to survive being stomped (Don't do this in bare
feet). Gasoline won't touch the hills, although it will destroy
infested logs (Do _not_ hang around once it catches fire). Even jellied
gasoline is ineffective. Luckily, at the time Brazil had lax laws about
fire crackers and some of the bigger ones, the one centavo fire
crackers, were the size of a man's thumb. Cut some bamboo (Not the ones
with wasp nests in them), fill with a cruzero's worth of fire crackers,
knock a hole in the nest, hammer the bamboo stake in (Remember to run
away before they swarm you) and light the match-head fuze. Nice
explosion and it takes a day for them rebuild.

        Thermite works best, it turned out.

        I've mellowed greatly on the subject since escaping the tropics.

                The Chandelier and the Cabbage

[a discussion of tabulations of unlikely accidents, such as with tea

>> >Can anyone improve on these? <g>
>>        Ahem.
>>        2 : Chandeliers to the head (One also involving a cabbage).
>>        Although the low point was the moment a few years ago when   
>> I realised I had locked myself -into- my apartment.
>And there you were, hanging from the chandelier, while the savage
>cabbage rampaged below?

        In my defence, I was about ten.

        I was putting away groceries in our kitchen when I got to the
cabbages and thought "this needs to be tossed into air, preferably
without looking up first." Above me was a large, expensive imported
from Scandinavia where gravity is apparently less, light fixture.
As it turned out, although bits of the thign weren't glass, all the
screws holding it up were through holes in glass so when the cabbage
bumped it, the whole thing came down.

        I look like I have the beginning of male pattern baldness
but it is just all the cranial scarring.

             James' Grandmother and the Moaning Corpse

        I am sure I've told this one: Grandmother on my mother's
side was a teacher. The town was at church for a funeral when the
guest of honour groaned, leading to the kind of stately considered
retreat from the church which makes people burst like water balloons
if they hit something hard on the way out. Someone had to go back
in to see if the dead guy was dead or just mostly dead and my grand-
mother got selected, since she was a teacher, educated and therefore
able to deal with the walking dead. There's a leap of logic in there
I don't quite follow. In any case she went snowy white after that 
and blames the sound the dead fellow made as the gasses of decay   
escaped him for the change.

             On closing the bookstore and retiring

Timothy A. McDaniel <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:
>>Timothy A. McDaniel <> wrote:
>>>James Nicoll <> wrote:

>>>>    You'd be amazed what kind of paper cut the edge of packing
>>>>tape can give you.

>>>Did you mean that as irony?  With that juxtaposition, I'm not amazed
>>>in the least.  I'm only amazed that your packing tape didn't catch

>>      Actually, the fire was later.

>Mr. Nicoll, surely you are certainly aware by now that the newsgroup
>at large will not allow you to get away with just that bald (but
>utterly convincing) narrative.

        Lesson for the day: make sure the flue is open.


        Insert razor story here, the one with the cat, not the one
where Toddler James picks up his father's razor by the wrong end.
I bleed like a character in Python sketch. After years of topical
steroids, a good sneeze will break my skin. Soft caresses leave welts.
It is all very funny, esp when people who had no intention of drawing
blood do.

                        Time to Read

mike weber <> wrote:
>On 23 Aug 2001 13:36:14 -0400, (James Nicoll) typed:
>>      Of course, I could be kept happy with a book. I was quiet
>>enough that sometimes they'd drive off without me and not realise
>>their mistake for some time. As long as the book was long enough, I
>>never noticed, either.
>Ummm, James?  Is this true, or are ya joshin' with us?

        Nope, really happened a couple of times. It was never more than
an hour of unsupervised reading time, though.

               The Nicolls and Wild Critters

In article <>,
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:
>Ray Radlein  <> wrote:
>> >The scary thing about this, of course, is that when James says
>> >something like "Don't use a staple gun to fix your watch's wrist
>> >band while you are wearing it," or "Don't shake that wolverine to
>> >see if it's dead or merely sleeping," he is *usually* speaking from
>> >firsthand experience.
>>       As god is my witness, I thought that racoon was a cat. Also,
>> same for the skunk. And I now know that while the things with tufted
>> ears are cats, they are not friendly cats.
>> >So there you have it, folks: Don't pour a cup full of antimatter
>> >into your lap. James says it would be a mistake.
>>       I've seen the light.
>Bless you.
        I live to serve. Any other animals you have you need indentified
as not-cats?

        My brother once wandered off when he was four and was found
playing with bear cubs, somewhat to the park ranger's alarm. My brother
thought the cubs were dogs.

                   Childhood Fire Drills

        Between 1968 and 1980, my family had a house out in the
country. If the house caught fire and cut off my escape, my escape
route was to jump out the window, fall about a story and a half, hit
the ground rolling and keep moving (This is better than my younger
brother's escape route, which involved leaping out his second story
window to a tree and climbing down). I practiced that move several

        So this is what you call a previously solved problem for me.
The problem now is that I expect I'd explode like a water balloon if
I tried it at my current weight.

                   James' Family and Foreign Tourism

Lis Carey <> wrote:
>James Nicoll wrote:
>>Pete McCutchen  <> wrote:
>>>On 28 Sep 2001 01:12:11 -0400, (James Nicoll) wrote:
>>>>      I saw the UK, France(Excellent hospitals, very polite),
>>>>Germany (Excellent hospitals as well, although their medicine 
>>>>tasted horrible),
>>>When I visit a country, I ride their roller coasters.  When James   
>>>Nicoll visits, he stops by the hospitals.

>>        It's a learning experience. What I learned in France is,
>>you go up to a policeman with your shirt soaked to the waist in   
>>blood and you don't even have to say the word 'hospital' in French
>>for them to take you there.   

>Okay, I can't stand it anymore.
>How did you come to have your shirt soaked to the waist in blood,
        Not me, my father. He had this nose bleed. Not your pesky,
wet the lip nosebleed or the more annoying wake up to find your head
scabbed to the pillow nosebleed but the Niagara of exsanguination,
and it would not stop. He had weird clotting and bruising problems
which in restrosect he probably should had have looked at but on this
occasion he finally gave up and tried to use his French, which would
have been about ten years out of use at that point. Didn't matter
because the police apparently thought he was an attempted murder
victim and zipped off to the hospital (1).

        The story of How the French Stopped His Nosebleed became
part of family folklore. He was amazed by the amount of cotton you
can stuff up a man's nose if you are sufficiently motivated. I      
think in the end they cauterised it somehow. I saw him take the
packing material out of his nose and it was indeed quite impressive.

                                                James Nicoll

1: Which is kind of funny because the next major nosebleed came when
Ishiyama our Siamese got him up the nose about ten minutes before
guests were supposed to arrive for a party. They showed up, he was
in the standard post nose bleed drenched in blood postion and he  
thought it'd be a yuck to claim my mother had tried to kill him,
using this matter of fact tone of voice and of course going on
with the party.

                The Hazards of Straight Razors

mike weber <> wrote:

>OTOH, if one is remiss enough to leave the bathroom door open when one
>has business there, one is likely to feel a small velvety-soft
>claw-sheathed paw reaching up an patting one on the fundament a few

        Desi did something similar except it involved biting, which is
why I gave up using a straight razor.

                A Safety Comment

Graydon Saunders  <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> scripsit:
>> Kris Hasson-Jones  <> wrote:
>>>James Nicoll wrote:

>>>>         Moustaches are not nearly as flammable as fiction would
>>>> have us believe. Eventually, they go out.
>>>[*] !!!
>>      Wooden matches sometimes explode, or the match head does in
>> any case.
>What were you doing with a wooden match that close to your mustache?
        The match was unusually energetic in its rapid combustion,
not that close to my face. I look at it as better to have flaming
fragments in my moustache than up my nostril, although not really
desirable in either case.

                         Emergency Rooms

Margaret Young <> wrote:
>Last time I was at one (in Canada) it was called the Emergency

        It still is.

        Boy, do you get funny looks when you explain that yes, you
cut yourself again showing someone how you did it the first time.  

                    Underdressed in the Winter

        I hate showering at the gym, so I generally change here and
walk over. I expected to be forced to stop this some time in the fall
but was suprised over the years to discover that it can be as late as
-January- before it stops being shorts weather due to either freezing
rain or wind chill. Shoes seem to be key here: barefoot in -20 is much
worse than shod in -20. Much worse.

        Of course, I now know that the time I thought I could run
coatless and gloveless 40 feet between two locked exterior doors in
-40 degree weather with 60 km/hr winds and still be able to open the
door at the other end, I was incorrect.

                        A small kite anecdote

        My grandparents sent us all chinese kites with 2000 foot lines.
Our eventual solution was to jack up the back of our motorcycle and
grasping the spool lightly (and in later trials, in gloved hands) let
the rear tyre of the bike do the rewinding work.

                        James Nicoll - Vampire?

Margaret Young <> wrote:
> On 30 Nov 2001, (James Nicoll) wrote:

>>      See, _I'd_ have flubbed that bit because I can't enter other
>>people's rooms without being invited and even then, I am likely to
>>lurk as near to door as possible.
>Please tell me that sunlight doesn't have a fiery effect on you.

        Until half my face peeled off at the World Fantasy Con, I'd
have sworn that I didn't burn from UV period (Thermally, up like flash
paper, at least if thermite or home made napalm is involved). Normal
sunlight just makes me darker.

                On the sounds of bones breaking

        When you and your friends put a three hundred pound rock on
your hand during a friendly poker game, the sound of the bones going is
audible at arm's length.

        When the batter flies into second a foot off the ground and
breaks the second baseman's leg, you can hear the big bone in the lower
part of the leg break from home plate.

                        Youthful fun and games

        Anyway, I did used to play with explosives and incidiaries back
on the farm and it was safe as houses. The explosives were, anyway. The
inside of a fireball is a pretty pretty place but that was a sort of
fuel-air thingie, not a real explosive. No beard lossage as a result.

        I do regret not hearing about ANFO devices back when I could
have played with some without endangering people. Ah well, next life.

                        Past Haunts

        I used to have a favourite seat at a local cinema but first the
seat was roped off because it was under where the roof fell in after
years of neglect and then they turned the place into a dance club. All
the core movie houses seem to be turning into clubs...

                        Life Imitates Art?

In article <>, Kip Williams  <>  
>James Nicoll wrote:
>>         Although I have to say that for a movie which gave me
>> nightmares as a kid, _Poseidon Adventure_ didn't really stand up to a
>> recent viewing.
>When you were a kid, you hadn't experienced all that stuff yet.
        Well, let's see. I think I saw PA in '73 or '74...

        Bad (or humourous, depending if you were me or just watching me
from the shore) experience with a wave, check.

        Near drowning, check.

        Getting trapped under something, check.

        Set on fire, many checks.

        I miss anything from the film?


mike weber <> wrote:
>On 31 Dec 2001 00:56:34 -0500, (James Nicoll) typed:
>>Dan Kimmel <> wrote:

>>>I'll be the one breathing fire.  :)
>>      That's bad for your lungs. _Really_ bad. Always hold your
>>breath while in the fireball.
>For just a second there, i had this mental image of what you might
>have done that would let you speak familiarly about such...

        Poured a gallon of gasoline on a big bonfire to light it, had
no matches and took ten minutes to get them, giving the gasoline lots
of time to evaporate. Big whoosh, startng from when I struck the match
rather than when I tossed it.

        At least _I_ never tried to put out a molotov cocktail's lit
fuse by stamping on the whole thing. That didn't work out too well.
How we laughed and laughed.


        Hillary once managed to discover that her head fit like a key
into the hole of my watering pot. I don't know how many people have
had to pour water out of a pot with a flailing cat sticking out of
it but it's more difficult than it sounds.

        She didn't drown and eventually she turned her head so it could
pop out of the pot. It's not like she's still running around with it
stuck on her.

                        Another Cat Story

        [Nimrod] still has one bad habit from kittenhood: any
irregularity on or under the surface she is sprawled against is seen as
a fur snarl and will provoke an attempt by her to nip the snarl off.
This is bad when it is a nipple against shirt material but was much much
worse the time she went after a testicle.

                        And Yet Another

        Paranoia runs in [Groucho's] family and his little sister
Nameless is the single spookiest cat I have ever shared space with.
Nameless likes to creep on humans and watch them. If they are awake,
she approaches from behind. If they are asleep, she sits beside them
and stares intently at their face. It is rather unsettling to wake up
and see a hostile cat face six inches from one's own. Attempts to pet
her result in blood loss.

                How James' Parents Met   

        I think my father noticed my mother making her way down the
outside of the building they both lived in, on her way to break into a
friend's apartment somewhere in a sequence of escalating practical
jokes. Apparently nobody locked their windows back then.

                Accidental Mountainclimbing

Nels E Satterlund  <> wrote:
>James Nicoll wrote:
>>         Of course I do jaywalk but only got run over once, so that's
>> ok. And I have accidentally bicycled down a flight of stairs. Also,   
>> I once accidentally climbed Mount Tamalpais but it's an easy climb
>> and the road makes it trivial to get off the top of it.
> [*] accidentally climbed Mount Tamalpais?
        Climbed a small bluff next to the road which leads to the
top and discovered once on it that I couldn't get back down, so I
worked my way up to the top, where I could use the road to get down

                        A Safety Note

        Safety razors can go -right through- fingernails.

                        Witch Doctors and Dowsing

        My father employed a dowser once and also used the local
witch doctor (I guess that would be folk healer these days) in
Brazil, both in the interests of science. Although come to think 
of it, the witch only got used when my mother got sick; Bill went
to the hospital when he finally was convinced his foot shouldn't   
be three times larger than it had been, greeny-black and drippy
(Two unrelated events, really). The conclusion he came to wrt
dowsing was that it might or might not work but that whatever
method the plumber who dug our well used was pretty bad because
you could dig pretty much anywhere on our farm except where the
pump was and hit water 10 feet down. The well ran over a hundred
feet down.

                James' Cats Take After Him

        Cleo is my extremely needy ex-stray, who it turns out will
pay -so- much attention to running beside me crying for attention that
he will completely not notice a rapidly approaching wall.

        Moving Disasters, or, It Runs in the Family

        When my great grandfather moved to Hawaii, he and the Flemings
hauled their goods from their home in Scotland to a British port, from
there across the grey Atlantic to America, from the east coast of
America to the west coast (looking nervously at the very temporary
looking wooden train trestles), across the blue Pacific to Hawaii
itself, where all their goods were locked in a warehouse which burned
down that night.

        I have one of the things which survived, my great grandfather's

                        A Word About Horses

        In article <>,
Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:
>In article <>,
>Lucy Kemnitzer <> wrote:
>>On Mon, 10 Jun 2002 10:09:03 GMT, (The
>>Blue Rose) wrote:
>>>Strawberry roans aka pink horses are also very cool!
>>But you'll never ride one, according to the song . . .
>I certainly never will.  They had some horses at a
>recent SCA event, my gosh those things are huge.

        And heavy. Trust me on this.


        Last night Cleo (a 20 pound b&w tomcat) and Blotchy (a 20
pound b&w tomcat) settled down to sleep about two feet apart (while
Cleo is more than happy to be friends with Blotchy, Blotchy views
Cleo with distain and dislike and mauls him if he tries to curl up
next to Blotchy). Enter Nameless.

        Nameless really likes Cleo. Nameless really likes Blotchy.
As soon as she sees either, her tail goes straight up and she runs
over to get groomed. If the tom in question isn't awake, she rams them
with her head until they are awake.

        Last night she walked in, tail went up, she ran forward,
go to a point equidistant from both and froze in indecision for
about a minute, head turning from Cleo to Blotchy, from Blotchy to
Cleo. We're talking complete mule between two bales of hay here,
incapable of making a choice. Her expression was very funny.

                        Cat Grooming

        Cleo is long haired, round and incapable of grooming several
hectares of his flanks (He makes up for this by grooming other cats*).
He is of course prone to mats and was unspeakably filthy when he came
in from the street.

        Of course this is the one cat who likes human contact but
regards bushes and combs as The Enemy, going so far as to attack them
when they threaten to touch -other- cats**. Of course bushing him
involves howls and hurt looks. Combing him involves bloodshed. Trimming
him requires cunning tricks to avoid being maimed.

                        Swimming Lessons

Boudewijn Rempt  <> wrote:

>Taking cycling lessons? I think I'm coming down with a bout of culture   
>Cycling lessons consist of plonking the kid on a bike, pushing her
>off, running at her side to make sure she doesn't keel over, and then
>giving her an ice-cream or a pony ride if the running part isn't
>necessary any more.

        You forgot 'explaining what brakes are for after the first trip
down the hill terminates at a tree.'

        My first swimming lesson was something along the lines of "I
bet you twenty five cents you can't swim up-stream during a
thunderstorm." A quarter bought a lot of candy (or two comics or one
100 pager) back then, so I swam from the rock dam all the way up to
Fort Courage, which was a big old tree that had been hit twice by
lightning, one half forming a living dam.

                        Groucho the Paranoid Cat

        I've mentioned Groucho the paranoid cat before, the cat
who can work himself up over his food dish looking at him funny?
He's been living in my bathroom and hall closet for years, unable
to stop himself from growling at the other cats and then running
away, generally start of a fight. Valium didn't help, either.

        I've been taking him into the living room in the evening. At
first, he could only take a few minutes before running away and even
when he was on my lap it was clinging to my knee, looking around with
wild eyes and refusing to look anything in the face (Faces seem to be
especially scary to him). Then he discovered my chair has an arm wide
enough for him to sleep on facing the wall. Over the last few months,
he'd gotten to the point where he is quite bold as long as he gets to
be on that particular part of the chair (It looked like he'd add the
radiator but he keep sliding off sideways when he sleeps). Now he's in
the habit of spending the evening sleeping there, occasionally looking
around with some interest. His ears even go into the interested
position rather than the folded back out of the way position he usually
adopts and when he is treatened instead of running away he flattens out
to protect his bit of chair. Touching, really.

        The side effect is that he now insists on sleeping on the bed
with all the other cats, which makes my bed more of a DMZ than it used
to be, with me as the minefield and barbed wire between hostile factions
of cats.

                Unexpected Benefits; a follow-up:

        Big, big cat fight last night apparently started because  
Groucho was eating out of the communal dish instead of his own.
Hillary seen with tufts of Groucho fur stuck to her claws, looking  
very pleased.

        Smaller fight, in the bathroom, Groucho walkng around with    
a tuft of Hillary fur sticking out of his mouth, looking defiant.      

        Five minutes ago, I noticed the usual pile of cats on the
bed, but with Groucho included in the pile. Why they fight in some
locations and not others, I have no idea but he was definitely
part of the huddled mass, curled up to two of his nemesi, although
facing away.

                True and false stories

Loren Joseph MacGregor <> wrote:
> This is James Nicoll we're talking about, remember.
> He won't be killed; he'll be startled by the poisonous spider     
> that's just bitten the poisonous snake that was disturbed when
> James, out of curiosity, opened the glove box of the abandoned
> car that was sitting on the top of the mesa with no evidence
> to show how it had gotten there.  As he jumps back, he bumps         
> the car, which rolls off the edge of the mesa as he falls over
> the opposite edge, into a bushy evergreen branch growing out   
> the side of the cleft.  Bouncing off this without incident, he  
> falls into the gulley bed which is normally dry this season,
> but which due to an unseasonable rain is now filled with
> sufficent water that it breaks his fall, allowing him to
> reach the edge without incident.  In crawling ashore, he
> stubs his foot on a rook and breaks his toe.  The physician at
> the emergency care center has difficulty believing his story.

        Back in 1970, my grandmother made a subtle hint about the
frequency with which we did not write letters by asking if my brother's
writing arm was out of the cast. He jokingly said yes, she excitedly
asked how he had broken it and my father then sat down and wrote a long
letter to her, with illustrations, of how my brother and my father had
damaged their hands.

        It began, he claimed, when we were visiting Itaimbezinho

        and the edge gave way. Scott and Bill plummeted a thousand
meters before encountering a jaguar on a ledge. One of them grabbed
it by the tail, the other by the mouth. The cat first maimed the one
who had grabbed its mouth then whipped to bite the other person in
his writing hand. Then they continued their fall for some time. An
unlucky condor got in the way, slowing the group enough that when
they hit the tree branch overhanging the river, nobody was killed.
Bill and Scott left the stunned animals hanging a branch and slipped
off into the river, where they were eventually rescued.

        The letter was longer and the illustrations suitably fantastic.

        I'm sure of all the reactions my father thought his mother
might have, her acceptance of the letter at face value wasn't among

                A Retarded Cat Story

        Lizzie used to be a dipper, drinking water from her
paw. She was also very very retarded (The vet thought she'd
been oxygen deprived at birth) and much of life was a deep
mystery to her. Her brother Jack used to stand next to her
when she was drinking to lick her paw dry before Lizzie
could get a drink. She was always amazed to discover that the
paw was dry. I imagine if I had not given Jack away, she'd
never gotten a drink.

        She also never understood 'up', which meant any other
cat could sneak up on her simply by hopping up onto a chair.

                        A Small Life Lesson

Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:
>In article <amfums$805$>,
>James Nicoll <> wrote:
>>      Today's life lesson: do not zerbit a sleeping cat.
>                                      [*]

        Blow a raspberry using the cat's tummy as the tympanum. Even
if they are sleeping on their back with all four paws in the air.

A Poem by Jo Walton in honor of James rescuing a small, scarred, kitten

In article <>, LAFF wrote:
> 'tis said that on Wed, 16 Oct 2002 23:12:36 +0000 (UTC), 
> (Timothy McDaniel) wrote:
>> In article <>,
>> Karen Lofstrom <> wrote:
>> >I'm starting to get the impression, James, that there's the cat
>> >equivalent of the hobo sign "soft touch here" sprayed all around your
>> >house.
>> Note James's description:
>>     Hrm.  You should see this little guy, he looks like he took on a
>>     lawnmower and lost.  He seems to be mostly ribs and scar tissue.
>> (1) Scarred.  Like attracts like.
>> (2) "He's as accident-prone as me and *he's* survived.  Maybe if I
>>     stand close to him, the barbed-wire-wrapped red-hot anvils will    
>>     fall on *him* and he'll still feed me."
> Maybe some of the cats' nine lives have passed on to James?

Few of them had all nine: they'd had to roam
alone through many perils, icy nights,
hypnotic headlight beams, a thousand fights,
starvation, when the hunt was thin, no home.
Rescued, inside, and dry, and checked by vets,
the lucky ones had eight, some still had five,
and some were on their last, barely alive,
when they were offered safe warm lives as pets.
Cats do know gratitude they won't admit
they'll curl up close and give a special purr
then look embarrassed, stop and clean their fur,
here, life for life, it's spare, don't mention it.
Nine lives, or eight, or seven, cats make these claims,
and who'd deny the many lives of James?

                             --Jo Walton

                      Cat Dynamics

        Eddie discovered the toilet a few days ago. His little cat
eyes lit up and he made a valient attempt to dive in. Cats, brains
the size of a walnut.

        Groucho has decided that since Eddie defers to him Groucho
must be a very big cat, so now I get to watch Groucho try to fight
his way up the chain of dominance. The next cat up is Cleo, 22 pounds
of 'Finally, someone who will wrestle with me!' and progress is slow
to date. Cleo's wrestling involved holding Groucho down with one paw
and carefully cleaning G as G squirms like an irate junebug.

                 Why I Love Bicyclists

        This year, my close encounter with a bicyclist was thanks to
what seemed to be low self-esteem. The fellow on the bike was staring
down at the ground as though he was too shy to meet the eyes of the
people he was forcing off the sidewalk (1). Luckily I noticed that
he had the subliminal signals of a fuckwit and I was able to react
before his sudden loss of control of the direction of the bike resulted
in his front wheel encountering my 'nads. He was moving too slow, I
think, and definitely on the wrong part of the transport network. Of
course if he had been moving faster, he'd have done real damage when
I put my hand on the handlebar of his bike to stop him.

1: In this case, only me.

                   Card Game and Boulders, redux

Joann Zimmerman  <> wrote:
>In article <aqrfi4$bjp$>, says...
>>      I once accidentally placed a large boulder on my middle two
>> fingers of my left hand during a card game that went horribly wrong.
>> I'd say the rock was about 300 pounds. I had broken bones and some
>> nerve damage (The only finger on that hand I still have full feeling
>> in is the pinky finger, although only two were involved in the cards
>> incident).
>I know that this is a "James Nicoll story", and therefore I *think*
>you'd better explain further. The connections between a card game and
>a 300-lb boulder may be obvious to you, but not, I think, to your

        1978 or 1979 Algonquin Park. We're two days into the bush.
Three of us decide to play cards. Problem: two rocks by a shelf will
serve as seats but the thrid rock is some way off. We pick the rock up
and move it. I stupidly slide my hand under for better leverage. We put
the rock down. *pop* I lift the rock up with one hand but the crushed
hand doesn't hurt. "Dodged the bullet" I think. Ten minutes later my
fingers think "OK, that was enough time for him to get to emerg" and
they start to hurt like hell.

        John Krill goes over to the next camp site to ask for
painkillers, which the two well groomed naked men in the very small pup
tent don't have (This is funnier if you consider we were all from a
very rural high school, where 'alternative life style' meant 'Not Old
Order Mennonite'). Averting his eyes, he returns and we decide to make
a fast run into the emergency station the park must logically have.

        We stop to watch the Northern Lights.

        Reaching where we entered the park, we discover that there are
no first aid facilities. Instead I have to call an ambulance (Luckily
unlike my previous trip in an ambulance I am not declared dead as a
result). Walking to meet the ambulance, my trick knee goes out.

        Huntsville has one of the worst emerg departments in Canada.
They let me wait in an empty room while the doctor flirts with the
nurse, then he tells me my huge, purple fingers are either broken or
bruised. Ditzy the nurse bends one splint over a crushed finger tip and
the next one over an non-crushed finger tip. Then they warn me to hide
my money walking to the hotel so when, not if, when I am mugged the
natives won't get my wallet.

        Note: I dated a native woman from the region and she didn't
seem to have the universal criminal tendencies the doctor claimed
natives had. Ah, the 1970s. The natives wouldn't get the vote for
another 6 years and women were still considered property of their

        A cop sees me limping down the street and gives me a ride. Nice
guy. He sets me up with a cheap room at the hotel. I go to my tiny,
stuffy room, slide the window up and am looking at the stick on the
sill thinking 'What's that for'

        You'd think I would know to curl into a protective ball when I
think that

        when the window slides shut on both hands.

        I take my painkillers and wake up eighteen hours later, except
for the brief stoned episode where I woke up with my left arm tucked
under my head, numbed from lack of blood (the arm, not the head) and
reaching over to move the arm failed to find it where it had been for
most of my life. It only took a few minutes for me to discover I was
not in fact suddenly an amputee.

        Walked back to the hospital, got x-rays, wandered around
Huntsville, found _Darker than You Think_ and _Web of Everywhere_.
Eventually I met my friends, who finished the trip on their own, and we
went home.

           If a Tree Fell in the Forest, would it land on James?

        The previous trip a tree fell on me(1). That hurt less than
having the fingers crushed, actually. After enough concussions head
injuries all seem to blur together. I don't camp anymore, though.

        That same emergency department twenty years later looked at a
leg wound a friend got tripping onto a upthrust root, commented that it
was the dirtiest wound they had ever seen and then prescribed -no-
antibiotics. Luckily doctors back here in civilization managed to save
the leg. It's nice to see institutions keeping their traditions.

                                                James Nicoll

1: _Of course_ it was my fault. What, did you think trees lurk around
waiting to fall on me? I found a dead tree by a cliff and needing fire
wood decided to use its resonent frequency to snap the trunk and send
to the rocks below, which in my plan would break it into little bits.
Key oversight: what happens if the tree breaks as I am pulling rather
than pushing? I'm not sure, actually, but the evidence suggests it fell
on me.

                Cats and Baths
        My cats come in and try to drink the bathwater, even Nameless.

        My brain damaged cat Lizzie* used to climb in. She also liked
to run back and forth in the shower as well and could be kept happy for
an amazing amount of time by a tub with about two inches of water in
it, but would swim around happily if the water was deep enough. Never
was sure if this was a side effect of the brain damage (O2 starvation
during birth, the vet thought) or just a little personal oddity she'd
have had even if she'd been a luckier cat.

                                                        James Nicoll

* THis is the one who would walk into windows on a regular basis, who
tried to leap into fires, who spent a lot of her life stuck to things
because she had no idea her claws retracted.

                The Brave Little Cat

        Groucho has officially decided that the main floor is now
part of his territory. I can tell because he spent the day walking
around marking objects with his nose.

        "Mine. Mine. That's mine. So's this. This is mine, too."

        Occasionally he'd come to me and poke my elbow with a paw
to get human reassurance and then go back to claiming half the building
as his. Blotchy watched the entire process with one half-opened and
disapproving eye.

                My Medical Lesson for the Day

        If you feel a searing pain in one eye, try not to blink
before washing the eye out with water/visine because what you might
be doing is cutting the inside of your eyelid with a grain of
something. Not esp dangerous but very very irritating. *Of course*
it's my reading eye.

        Unlike the knee incident, I immediately went to emerg. I do
have a learning curve, however shallow.


        I have startlingly comfortable sandals. I say startlingly
because they make my feet bleed if I wear them but it doesn't hurt. Tis
a mystery.

                A Cinquenta by Manny Olds
James Nicoll <> wrote:
>       To see little cat paw prints on the roof next door where
> some cat (not one of mine) has clearly been sitting, looking
> in...

This reminds me to give you a cinquenta I just finished.

Beacon (30 November 2002)

He searches onward, weak and ungroomed, seeking the sanctuary he senses
nearby. At last he hears the faint echoes of countless old blessings.
He limps toward the source.

"James, there's a strange cat on the porch. He's hurt!"

As he is carried in, he adds his blessing to the chorus.

                                Smelly Eddy

        Smelly Eddie came back from the vet's slightly lighter than
when he went to the vet's and very dopey. It turns out that with his
semi-paralysed leg and the drugs he is incapable of jumping onto
chairs. Instead he hit about half-way up and very, very slowly fell off
sideways with a 'whoah...something...isn't...right' expression on his

        The vet was happy to see him leave because his personal
pungicity was setting off all the other cats, even the normally docile

        Eddie seems to have decided that his new life, free of menacing
cars (which is where the broken tooth and bad leg seem to come from),
is going to consist entirely of

        1: Sleeping in the carrier
        1a: Sleeping on a window ledge.
        2: Eating
        3: Apparently vast engineering projects in the litter box.
           Judging by the time he spends digging, he is rebuilding the
           pyramids out of a material less likely to attract tourists
           than that used in the original pyramids.

        He's amiable but not that interested in other living entities.

        Ophelia has discovered it's easier to groom herself if she uses
Blotchy as a prop for her hind leg, like a ballerina and a dance-bar (Or
whatever those are called). His reaction is displeased tolerance...

                        Cleo,  the feeding of

        Cleo isn't stupid but for some reason he can't find food if
someone is holding it. Offer him something and he carefully checks the
floor beneath the hand.

        On the other hand, the first time I fed him I discovered that
I should never pull my hand away suddenly unless I want to trigger
hunting reflexes in a cat who hunted (at the time) to live.

                Lab Accidents, or the lack thereof

David Burns <> wrote:

[snip Paul Dormer's lab accident story]

>Did anyone else reading the above recheck the header to see if it was
>from James?

        I've never had a lab accident except for the molten glass

        My father, otoh, once got a mouthful of H2SO4.

                         AKICIF: Electrical Fires

        And be sure if that entry with my name make your heart go pit a
pat, so did mine on turning on a piece of non-vital equipment plugged
into an extension cord to hear electrical crackles and see smoke. I
promptly tugged the non-smoking end out of the wall and pitched the
cord outside.

        OK, so the cord is clearly pooched. Should I worry about the
plug that was stuck into it?

                         Comparitive Burns

>> >> > James Nicoll wrote:
>> >> David Goldfarb wrote:
>> > James Nicoll wrote: 
>> Chris Malme wrote:
> Thomas Yan wrote:

>> >> >>      Nope. When I accidentally burn myself it involves things
>> >> >> like clouds of gasoline vapour, molten plastic or attempting
>> >> >> to stamp out a thermite fire. I think the last time I burned
>> >> >> myself with a mundane object (1) was with an iron when I was
>> >> >> three.
>> >> >>
>> >> >>                                                  James Nicoll
>> >> >>
>> >> >> 1: Actually, I give myself second degree burns with the space 
>> >> >> heater on a regular basis. Not sure how.
>> >> > Attempting to stamp out thermite?? Ow ow ow.

>> >>         Only a very little thermite. It did turn into more of a
>> >> 'how quickly can I get rid of a flaming sneaker' though.
>> >>
>> >>         The worst burn I got was from some flaming plastic that
>> >> fell onto my bare foot, burning me between two toes and on the 
>> >> heel just where shoes would rub. In the tropics, so of course
>> >> they got infected.
>> >>
>> >>         Sorry, that was the most annoying. The worse involved
>> >> almost-molten glass and my thumb. There's a distinctive sound.

>> > Normally described as screaming?

>>         No, more like bacon sizzling. It actually took some time to
>> hurt.

> Nerve damage does that, I assume.

        Dunno. It took a while for my fingers to hurt when I crushed
them but knee pain is instant, possibly faster.

                More Cleo, the Feeding Of, or Mind Games for Cats


        My most recent street cat (Can cats be autistic? I think Eddie
may be) has discovered that Food Dishes Can Be Moved. His particular ap
is to pull the dish Cleo is eating out of away from Cleo so Eddie can
eat from it instead. Cleo is baffled by the disappearing dish and sits
there looking sadly at the place it used to be... 

                        Sleeping with Cats

        One of my cats (1) weighs seven pounds and can still put my
back out jumping on me as I sleep (2). Not sure how.

1:      Because I own Too Many Cats, I am now able to work on a theory
of Cat-Tiling, the process by which nine cats divide up a bed so that
no two that are overtly hostile to each other have to sleep next to
each other in a manner that must be acknowledged.

2:      I understand how the twenty pound cat does it. It involves
first climbing to the top shelf of the book case and then doing a Death
From Above attack. It's bad to wake up and see a large cat in mid-leap
from the rough vicinity of the ceiling.

                        Early Schooling

        Don't know about pre-school. In the first half of the 1960s, I
lived in the UK and never got to the top of any list I was on, whether
for a spot in a day-school or necessary operations (I strongly suspect
my parents' negotiation techniques may have had some to do with
this(1), plus we had an incompetent doctor(2))

        In Canada, I did attempt to attend a pre-school but got my hand
crushed before I got to the front door. I never did attend until I was
old enough for Kindergarten (3).

                                                        James Nicoll

1: "What do you mean we're not at the top of the list? We're
-Americans-. If it wasn't for us, you'd be speaking German!"

2: We had one who was just about as bad over here, too. Not sure what
criteria my parents used to select doctors, but the one we had thought
blocked salivary glands were allergies, a broken neck was nerves and
my ulcer was broken ribs.

3: Where about a minute after I arrived, while we were all waiting for
the school to let us in, some kid asked me to look up his coat sleeve
and when I did rammed his fingers into my eyes as hard as he could.
What fun we had as children.

                        An Eddie Update

        I swear the narcotics from his visit to the vet never wore
off. Eddie has a consistent look of pleased surprise on his face,
whether its while moving the food dishes around or sitting under
the tub tab, waiting for the rain to start. I have discovered one
thing that really throws him and it isn't my fault.

        There's a cat-flap in one of the doors. He knows it can
be gotten through but his method is bat the door forward and try
to dart through before it comes back to smack him in the nose. So
far, the cat-flap is winning.

                        Hit by a Car

Vlatko Juric-Kokic  <> wrote:

>PS I got hit by a car when I was 12. Ended with a serious concussion
>only (!), spent two weeks in hospital.

        Some guy's car [hit me] at age four and I only got scraped
ankles. Not that I am complaining. The poor guy managed to hit all
three Nicoll boys at once as we stepped out from behind an obstruction
that prevented us from seeing him and as it turned out, him from seeing
us. Entirely our fault.

                        Tail Chasing

        Hillary still chases her own tail and she's nine. She seems
to be cheerfully aware how silly that habit is, too.

        Cleo chases other cats' tails with a helpless 'I can't resist
the urge' look on his face as soon as he sees the tail in question. It
always ends badly.

                        Ineffectual Catfights

        I really wish I had thought to video tape the period during
which Ophelia and her sister Hillary integrated jumping into their
fighting styles. They only knew how to jump vertically, not
horizontally, so they would bounce up and down agressively at each
other, usually at a distance of about ten feet.

                        Carbon Monoxide and You

        My exgf, Jasmine, was woken by her CO detector going off. It's
easier for me to meet service people during the day (I can read MSes
anywhere) so I was the one who got to be there when the service guy
turned the oven on to discover the CO level jumped up to 500 ppm as
a result. 500 ppm will put you to sleep in 45 minutes and kill you
in 3 hours, so the rest of his visit consisted mostly of variations
on 'Get a new stove' and 'Under no circumstances use that oven!'

        The new stove only ignites if you set it to ignite, although it
seems to be willing to pump gas on through if one, being unfamilar with
gas stoves, turns the dial past ignite too quickly for the gas to
light. Since I think of gas stoves as bombs waiting to go off, I turned
the stove off and consulted with the expert before fiddling with it,
wanting to avoid the scenario where the kitchen fills with a gas/air
mixture before finding an ignition source.

        Nothing exciting because when you get down to it I don't trust
gas enough to play with it.

                        More Eddy Updates

        Eddy has decided that the cat he most likes of the rest of
the herd is not the carefully solictious Cleo, the pushy Hillary
or the flirty Nameless (who should be called Shameless as far as
tomcats go) but the timid Nimrod. Who naturally wants nothing to
with the still somewhat wiffy and limping tomkitten who keeps
following her around, making hopeful chirping sounds at her
while gazing adoringly at her...

                        Life Lessons
        Fire is not necessarily your friend. Neither are dogs. Things
with lit fuses should not be held onto. Beware the savage croquet ball.
If it is -30 out, put on a coat before you leave the house. Just
because the snow keeps you from seeing other objects the objects do not
cease to exist. Clotheslines are the enemy of the bicyclist. If you
don't remember how you got on the ground or where the blood came from,
don't get up right away. Gym teachers think it's funny to commit
assault with a baseball so don't day-dream during PE even if they have
you so far in the outfield there are DEW line posts on either side of
you. All guns are loaded. So are many bows. Trebuchets are for outside
use only. The sharp side of the knife goes away from you. Pure reason
does not trump brute force but suprisingly few people know what hot
peppers look like when the teacher asks if you have enough to share
with everyone. Never take the lid of a pressure cooker 'to see if it's
done yet'. Even if you are careful with the picric acid that won't
matter if you are careless with other items next to it. Move *away*
from mysterious burglar alarms. Do not append 'you moron' to exposition
directed at people who have just broken into your building. 'We need to
talk' is overwhelmingly unlikely to precede good news. A rough brick
wall may be used to sort socks or as a backdrop for sock-art (The
Neglected Art). A silent cat is Up to Something. Lungs are unsuited for
many possible atmospheres, including that of London, and anything with
a high content of industrial cleaners. Youth will not save you from
Newton's Laws. Or Darwin's.

                        Life Lessons commentary

Per C. Jorgensen <> wrote:
>"James Nicoll" <> wrote:

>> Beware the savage croquet ball.

        Most embarassing crippling knee injury ever!

>> Trebuchets are for outside use only.

        Unlike most people, I know I had an effect on my
high school.

        I also picked the initial set of books for the SF course.

>Fine list. Best post I've read so far today.

        Thanks. I have a million of those rules.

                        Eddie the Precision Bomber
        Woke up. On the way to the office, which takes me by one of the
litter boxes, noticed olfactory evidence someone had not bothered to
bury their deposit. On closer examination discovered that I had
apparently left the lid off the kitty litter bottle and Eddy had
decided to take a dump in it. The opening is too narrow for him to
reach in and bury.

        Pretty good aim for a three legged cat. I can't visualize
how he managed to, ah, position himself correctly, given how the
bottle is designed.

                        Petting Zeus

        I know an extremely timid tomcat (Groucho's brother Zeus, whose
normal gait is the wide-eyed belly to the ground creep) who loves being
petted but only while on a specific wall unit shelf (it's next to a
pile of boxes he likes to hide in when life gets to be too much for
him) and preferably *not* with a human hand. He likes to petted with
the plastic strip off the top of a cat-food bag. I discovered this
while trying to play with him.

                        Camping thoughts

Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:
>I have been told, and it seems plausible, that a good way to test
>out a prospective partner is, not to live with him, but to go
>camping with him.

        That would give an exaggerated impression of the degree to
which I am accident prone. And given that 1: the severity of my
accidents was increasing with each trip and 2: the last one left unable
to walk and with a crushed hand, I'd probably be dead, carried off by a
bear or something.

                Nameless hears the Call of the Wild

        One of my cats decided today would be a good day to nose open a
window latch and go out. Not the street cats, who know how to survive.
Not the People cats, who know how to suck up. No, it was Nameless, who
hates people with a passion and won't come within 10 feet of me if I am

        Borrowed the Vet's humane trap, only to come home to an
impatient looking  Nameless sitting at the front door. WIth a male,
unneutered pal, which is likely what she was going out the window after
(Yes, she's neutered. No, this has had no effect on her behavior wrt
tomcats. She really really likes any male cat). He ran away.

                        Declared Dead

Timothy McDaniel <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:

>>         For the record I have only ever been the fatality in one
>> car crash and it was my father, not me, who survived the Canary
>> Island plane crash (by switching to a later flight for some reason.
>> Boy, was he pissed).

>I hate to gratify you with the [*] that you well know that that
>comment would provoke.

        Short version: the local hospital really screwed up the
paperwork on the accident. All I really had was a spectacular but very
minor scalp wound and some broken ribs. *They* listed me as dead, which
eventually got my orphans benefits cut off for about a year while we
straightened things out.

                        Brains the Size of Walnuts

In article <>, Kip Williams  <> wrote:
>James Nicoll wrote:

>>         No, not the Progressive Conservatives.

>>         [James pauses to laugh at other people's pain for a while]

>>         So I keep finding [1] water on the floor of the kitchen,
>> where the cat's water dishes are. I *thought* it was because Cleo
>> and Eddie *have to* drink out of the same dish at the same time (and
>> if one goes to a different dish, the other follows). Eddie knows how
>> to grab dishes with his paw and tug them away from Cleo while Cleo
>> is about four times Eddie's size and has four functional legs as
>> well. One damp failure mode of their on-going competition is for
>> Cleo to wedge the water dish between his front legs and for Eddie to
>> yank unexpectedly hard with an airborne dish as a side effect.

>>         It turns out that isn't the only cause of floods.

>>         I walked in on Eddie swatting the water in his dish. Splash
>> splash splash, clean the paw with a mildly peeved expression, splash
>> splash splash. I have no idea what he thinks he is accomplishing.
>> It isn't drinking the water and he seems to be upset that his paw is
>> getting wet but he's determined to Punish the Water.

                                                        James Nicoll

>> 1: In much the same way Bill Cosby's dad found out about Cosby's
>> anti-monster trap.

>He sees Enemy Cat in the water?

        Maybe, or just another cat. His reaction to any cat is to
look at it with a deadpan expression and then poke it with one paw.
He looks mildly surprised when he gets pummled back.

        In the context of how he acts around other cats, the fact
that at less than a year he is covered in scars makes perfect sense.

                The Solution to the Eddie Puzzle

        Having watched Eddie spread water over the entire floor
for a while now, I have decided that what he is trying to is to
copy Ophelia's drink-by-paw-dipping trick without getting his
paw wet.

                        Late Talker

Vlatko Juric-Kokic  <> wrote:
>On 12 Jun 2003 12:07:16 -0400, (James Nicoll)

>>         My nose-in-book habits were a contributing factor to the
>> frequency with which my family would leave me behind without noticing
>> on trips.

>>         But I was a quiet kid anyway. Didn't bother speaking until I
>> was four and all that.

>Hadn't had anything to complain before that?

        [takes joke seriously]

        No, I was in the process of setting a world record for
concussions sustained by a small child in the brief periods between
bouts of serious illness [1] so I had a lot to bitch about. A lot
of my early memories are about being forced to stay awake lest I
slip into a coma and die.

        In retrospect I would guess the degree to which my parents
subjected my developmental progress to close scrutiny was out of
concern that I had either managed to give myself brain damage
by ramming my head into things or cooking my brain or that the
accidents were a symptom of deeper problems (Other kids certainly
didn't seem to fall over as often as I did) but it actually
made things worse from my POV because observation triggers my

1: I really was an accident prone kid, in case anyone is reading
        something darker into that. On the plus side, I know how
        to fall now and what to do when I notice I am on fire.

                        Bag Monster

Cally Soukup  <> wrote:
>Marilee J. Layman <> wrote in article <bcojevcbftmcbbf53o0ug8>:
>> I used to leave the handled bag with packages for the post office on
>> the dining room table overnight until Spirit stuck her head in a
>> handle one night and couldn't get out and raced around the house
>> terrified several times before I could catch her and get the bag off.
>> I bought one of those stick-on hooks and put in on the inside of the
>> halll closet and leave the bag there now.
>My Smudge did that once with a Marshall Fields bag.  "The bag-monster!
>It's CHASING me!!"
        I once bought a bag with handles like that and *right* after
I thought "Better put that where the cats can't get to it, Ophelia
ran up, got her head tangled in the strap and then took me on a high
speed tour of the house.

                        More Groucho

                One of Groucho's quirks is that he hates to see other
cats, so if he's having a bad day [1] he finds a blanket or
something to get under. If it's the blanket I am under, he
flops on his side with all claws towards me and alternates
purring with growling. If for some reason I don't make room
for him to crawl under the covers, he does this bizarre kneading
thing than involves a demented look and all four legs, used
hard enough to move me (80 kg) around the bed. It looks less
like an act of friendship than some sort of full body seizure.

        Blotchy, otoh, has this habit of GAFIAting by
putting one paw over his eyes as he sleeps.

                                                        James Nicoll

1: Like Sunday, when in the 10 m between the bathroom  and
the spot on the bed he likes to sleep on he got mugged by
four other cats, one after the other. One hates him, one
is Eddie, who doesn't know that slamming other cats across
the room into the bookshelves isn't fun for them and the
other two I think just saw an opportunity to see where they
were in the pecking order.

        One of his unfortunate habits is fits of bravery if
I am close. He leans on my leg and announces to the entire
world that he is the Biggest Cat in the House. Grrrr.

                 TERROR! In a small Canadian Town

        So I am in my office, reading news, wating for the coffee to
hit my central nervous system, when I hear a tremendous racket from
upstairs. It's not static, either, beginning in the upstairs hall,
moving into the bedroom and out again, accompanied by the sound of
at least two dozen cat feet, presumably attached to cats, running
back and forth.

        I know you can't ignore odd sounds from cats so I go look.
I must admit my assumption was that Eddie had done something to trigger
a mass attack on him, Eddie having the social skills of the Hulk
and the combat abilities of Bruce Banner.

        Somehow, Nimrod had opened the cupboard where I keep old
grocery bags, looped a handle over her head and had been trying to
escape the Bag Monster by careening around at high speed. The bag
made Scary Noises, so all the other cats were also trying to escape
the Bag Monster but judging by the mess, Nimrod was moving fast
and unpredictably enough to make that goal problematic.

        It was a moment's work to remove the bag from Nimrod's neck.
I imagine it will take somewhat longer for the cats to deflate...

        The cupboard is now tied shut. I don't think they can undo

                        TERROR II: the sequelizing

        Hillary just discovered which of the ground floor bookshelves
it is hardest for me to move once she has gotten trapped behind it. In
fact it is the only bookshelf it is possible to become trapped behind.

                        Reading and Walking

Dan Kimmel <> wrote:

>Do you read while walking?  People are occasionally surprised, but if
>it's not a busy city street -- or stepping in front of traffic -- I
>don't see what the big deal is.

        I do if the street is quiet and I have memorized the locations
of the street signs (Purely out of concern for others, of course.
People who have seen me walk into a sign pole are so emphatically
sympathetic I am afraid they will lose bladder contol).

                The Cat of Little Brain and the Infinite Cycle

        There are three places a cat in my home might find food:
the automatic feeder, Groucho's dish (Groucho won't eat from a
communal dish) and the distracter dish, put there to make the other
cats ignore Groucho's dish.

        It turns out that if both Groucho's dish and the distractor
are empty, Eddie will check both but as far as I can tell the process
of checking one makes him forget he checked the other. Back and forth,
back and forth...

                Eddie's Purpose in Life
        Is to wear shoes. Or to do -something- in shoes, anyway.
He discovered shoes last week and now several times an evening
runs over to the nearest one, places both paws in and begins
to knead them furiously, with a happy expression. Once when he was
on his way to pounce on Cleo, he hooked his paw through my sandal
to take it with him...

        All cats should have a purpose, I guess.

                Terror! in a blue blanket

        Last night Hillary hid under a fold of a blue blanket I
have draped across my living room chair [1] to protect it from
contact with me. When Eddie ambled by enroute to the window, she
pounced. I didn't actually see that but I did see Eddie move
straight up one meter and bear in mind this is a cat with a
crippled hind leg. This would have been hilarious except he was
so terrified he was shaking and he obviously didn't see the smug
female tabby trotting around looking pleased with herself, as he
spent the rest of the evening keeping an eye on the Evil Blue
Blanket from various parts of the living room. Since he has to
step on it to get to the window, this phobia may be a serious
crimp in his lifestyle.
        I had a cat who spent her entire life convinced any towel
on the floor was a monster that wanted to eat her, thanks to me
tugging one away from her as she was sniffing it, so I know one
bad experience can colour a cat's ideas for the rest of their

1: I have another chair in the living room but the overstuffed white
one is the one I sit. I'm not sure why I bought something that was

                Advice your mother never gave you

        'Don't run with scizzors' also includes 'don't walk across
a floor with a knife in your mouth[1] if Eddie the Cat has tipped
his water dish again'. Not that anything bad happened, aside from
a heightened heart rate. I am pretty sure it would have hurt if I went
over forward rather than backwards, because a friend of mine did
do something quite similar and would share a needlessly graphic
description when it seem appropriate.

1: It had peanut butter on it, ok? And I was only goign six feet and
I never had an incident like this before.

                Molten Lead
        Funnily enough the one time I got a chest full of molten lead
[1], it was hot enough to burn my t-shirt, but not hot enough to 
seriously burn me. My guess is that that had to do with the droplet
sizes of the lead, that the cotton sucked up enough heat to limit the
burns to merely second degree.

1: Someone, not me, got water on a lead dipper, used for pouring molten
metal into a form, and I was the very next person to use it. Put loud
popping sound here. I hated that job.


        Except for the [...] and [...] incidents, I think my circle
of friends has survived knowing me unscathed. Well, except for what
happened to Ian's wallpaper. Hope I live long enough to live that
one down [1].

        Jim's detached retina was simply a single expression of the
range of possibilities resulting from studying martial arts. Nothing
to do with me.

[...] = Someone else's anecdote.

1: Bottle of pop with what were in retrospect unusually large bubbles.
I preferred flattish pop at the time, so I dropped a sweet tart in to
give the CO2 a surface to form bubbles on. All of the CO2 flashed out
of suspension or so it seemed to be. Instant bottle rocket, aimed

                Goodbye, Yellow Brick Building

[The building next door is being demolished]

        Nine cats. Eight hiding from the noise. Eddie, the
year old cat with the scars and healed injuries of an elderly
cat, wants to go see what the noise is all about.

        I've noticed that during loud accidents, he's consistantly
the one who comes tearing in to see what made the sound, as the
others are tearing away to escape it. I think this may explain
a lot of the old injuries...

                    Dept of Unintended Consequences

[Directly related to the above]

        My bathroom window (which is at right angles to the shower and
allows an umimpeded view of the contents) no longer faces a brick wall.
It now faces the windows of a church.

                Comfort in Footgear

Kip Williams  <> wrote:
>Neil Belsky wrote:
>> On 9/15/03, 5:21:28 AM, Kip Williams <> wrote

>>>It's not so much the distance as the fact that it was very hot
>>>outside and very cool inside. After two trips, my socks were going
>>>"squush squush squush" when I walked. Not comfortable; and when I
>>>got inside, all the sweat would chill me.

>> Wear Sandals? ((((Snark)))))

>Oh yeah, rub my feet raw. What an excellent suggestion. Unless I
>wore them with socks, in which case read the first paragraph again.

        You make that sound so bad. I have a very comfortable set of
sandles, now that the scar tissue stops my feet from bleeding when I wear

                James and Wildlife

        I'm allergic to cats. I have nine of them. Seven of those
are rescued ferals, six of which did the Big Hopeful Eyes thing on
my doorstep. I've also had skunks try to move in, although I am not
sure if it was one skunk trying a few times or a bunch of hopeful
skunks. I have had people knock on my door late at night with animals
that needed help and once someone handed me a wounded seagull on the
basis that a man with nine cats must know what to do with a wounded
seagull [1] (Yes, there's a step in there I am missing, too).

        I caught the latest feral female showing her kittens where
my porch is. OK, maybe that was protection from the elements but I
am guessing not.

1: Take it to the UGuelph Bird Sanctuary where it will hop out of
the car and fly away.


        Hillary recently showed me what sleep-running looks like. She
was in the comfy chair, legs and muzzle twitching in her sleep, when
she took off like a rocket across the room and into the wall. Her
attempt to look dignified afterwards was less successful than the time
she got the waterpot stuck on her head.

                        Learning to Ride a Bike

Dan Goodman  <> wrote:

>"There are no brakes."

        That describes my first bike ride at age four, except that
there were brakes. It's just that it didn't occur to anyone to explain
what they were to me before sending down a steep hill towards a busy
road. Luckily there was a stout tree at the bottom of the hill.

                        Family Specialities in Disaster

        I've learned to savour concussions. I think I'd take the tree
over what happened to a sibling, involving a hand placed in contact
with the top of a rapidly moving bike tire. Come to think of it, all
the 'entangled around an axle accidents' I know of in the family
happened to him. I'm more of a combustion and direct exchange of
kinetic energy sort, myself.

                Well, KW still has a fire department

        I know because three of their trucks just left. Let's just
say that until the Nice Repairman shows up, El Diablo in the basement
stays off. It's burning very dirty.

        I have not see smoke like that since my grandad fired up
the refurbished German Patrol boat in a San Francisco marina. He
got more trucks though: the marina burned down once before and
sailboats tend not to smoke normally

                        Hot Wax Burns

        I carelessly picked up a candle to check something, unaware
that it had only been put out and still contained liquid wax around the
wick. Luckily, I kept most of it off the floor by blocking it with my

        The odd thing is that my hostess reacted with horror to this
not because I just spilled wax on the floor but because she expected
I would be horribly burned. I've had hot wax on me before and my skin
doesn't even go pink. Are burns a common result from hot wax?

        Now, -burning wax- is hot. And hard to extinguish. And the
reason I picked up the candle because I wanted to see if it had that
tiny metal plate connected to the wick (which serves to ignite the wax
if the candle burns low enough) so I could warn her if it was one of
the fwoooshy type candles.

                        Comparitive Health Care

        I have either experienced or watched emergency medical service
in the UK [1960s], France [1960s], West Germany [1960s], Brazil [1971],
the USA [1981, I think] and Canada [1966-present] and unfortunately the
worst, bar none, treatment I got was in the UK because our doctor was
total crap in a way that transcends nationality. Actually, my first
Canadian doctor was crap too but as it happened none of my emergencies
involved him, which is lucky because he was the kind of guy who could
diagnose a broken neck as nerves. Not sure how my parents ended up with
the GPs they did but if the GP is incompetent the funding mechanisms
are probably a side-issue.

        [BTW, has anyone mentioned the various Canadian plans are
provincial, not Federal (although they get Fed funds and interference)
so they vary from province to province?]

        My *second* doctor, Goldberg, was good and so is my current
doctor, Arya. I thought my first dematologist was good but off putting
and my current one is good and personable, plus the treatments I got
were very effective. Yay, UV!

        The time I discovered my most recent car related injuries could
cause what seemed to me at the time to be symptoms of a heart attack (I
now just ignore them) was in the US and the important thing there
seemed to be the wallet biopsy they wanted to perform first. Luckily it
wasn't really a heart attack and there was a way to handle the fees. I
make sure to take out extended insurance when I go to US now, though.

        In Brazil, if you had money you could buy quite good treatments
(They were sure they'd have to chop my father's foot off but they
managed to save it, although the holes never fully filled in. AT one
point you could run a cord right through from one side to the other)
but the poor saw hospitals as places to die.

        The West Germany hospital I spend my hols in was good,
considering the shape I was in when I arrived.

        The French one eventually got my father to stop bleeding.

        When my father's appendix blew up, Kitchener Hospital did
a good job of not letting him die and when he then went straight
from the hospital bed to the back of a tractor, they did a good job
of stuffing the various bits back in. I am told that that hospital
had an unfortunate culture wrt mothers in the 1980s, though.

                        Once I had a Living Room Door

Kris Hasson-Jones  <> wrote:
>On 10 Dec 2003 13:12:50 -0500, (James Nicoll)
>published these words:
>>      [This is probably a bad idea but I have a splitting headache
>>from a shirt injury]
>[Waiting patiently for a new James Nicholl anecdote.]


        I put on a turtleneck. Apparently my neck is even fatter than
it was the last time and the neck constricted blood flow enough during
the few seconds I had it on to give me a powerful headache.

        But I can top that.

        My oldest tomcat Blotchy doesn't like to be locked out of the
living room. He knows how to tug doors open and when they are latched
he will use his paw under the door to lever his head down far enough to
peer sadly under the door, if there is a gap.

        Today the living room door wasn't latched and he managed to do
something he had not done before: pull the door towards him to a part
of the foyer floor that has a tiny rise, enough to irretreivably jam
his paw under the door. He tried to threaten the door into letting him
go, and he tried pulling which made it worse. This is when the
screaming began.

        Then the other cats tried to help by attacking B.

        So now I have a scared 20-odd pound cat with all his claws
trapped by one paw while at least four other cats repeatedly try to
maul him. Note that the attackers are cats who are normally his chums
but I guess his scared yowls panicked them. Some cats get flying
lessons into a lockable room.

        First idea: lift the door. No go, not enough give. Plus any
movement makes him scream more...

        Second idea: take the door off the hinges. No go, the guy who
hung it for me seems to have put something over the ends to prevent
them from working free.

        Third idea: it is a hollow core door. I got a sharp knife and
sawed a big enough gap to free B. This is in fact the only door in the
place where this would have worked. All the others are solid. There was
probably a better solution but I challenge people to think fast under
those circumstances.

        He seems to be ok. Nothing broken. I need a new living room
door, or at least a cat door to fit where the new notch is.

                Once I had a Living Room Door Followup

        It occured to me as I was going to bed I never tried taking the
hinges off the wall but when I got up and reconstructed the angles,
there's a row of screws my screwdriver could not reach without moving
the door and hurting the cat.

        He spent a couple of hours hiding under the bed and now views
the living room door with great suspicion. Eddie, on the other hand, is
now convinced that since his nose fits into the hole, he should be able
to slip though. I am present with a little cat nose under the dooor

                        Fun with Teachers

        I had a teacher who thought that 'centipede' and 'millipede'
were strictly descriptive: one had exactly a hundred legs and the
other exactly one thousand.

        When introducing the idea of empericism to a discussion as in
the above, you want to warn the teacher that you are about to dump a
load of bugs on her desk.

                Crosses, Garlic. Mirrors, etc.

Joel Rosenberg  <> wrote:
> (James Nicoll) writes:
>> Jim Toth  <> wrote:
>> >In article <btem4l$kgt$>, James Nicoll wrote:
>> >> Lance Parkin <> wrote:

>> >>> The thing I didn't understand from the news reports was that
>> >>> wearing 'large crosses' were also to be banned.
>> >>>
>> >>> Is there some size at which a crucifix becomes a religious
>> >>> symbol? Does anyone know the reason why some crosses were
>> >>> banned but not others?

>> >>      Above a certain size people can find themselves nailed to
>> >> them. With the smaller ones the worst that can happen is that you
>> >> find someone has crucified your hand or maybe a foot.

>> > This isn't a prelude to a personal tale of woe, is it, James?

>>    Nope. I can't think where I would come  in contact with a cross.

> Hmmm... how are you around garlic?

        People keep asking me that.

        Item            Reaction

        Garlic          Yum

        Citrus Fruits   Yum but allegic.

        Running Water   V. useful for showers. Note self: remember to
                                turn both taps on.

        Wooden Stakes   I am not checking. I did have a snapped off
                                branch through my hand once and that

        Icons           No noted effect. I got married in a church once
                                but that seems to have been atypical.
                                Not a lot of them in my life what with
                                being the kid of atheists, one an 

        Blood           Other people's makes me sick even to look at 

        Entering        It makes me accutely uncomfortable to enter
        Territory               someone else's. I believe there is
                                at least one person who can attest to
                                this on this NG.

        Poppy seeds     Like popcorn, I can't eat them. Get stuck in
                                hard to reach parts of my mouth.

        Mirrors         I couldn't say. Don't like them or photos.

        I also have no particular affinity to the island of Santorini.

                        A response to the above

Joel Rosenberg  <> wrote:
> (James Nicoll) writes:
>>      Blood         Other people's makes me sick even to look at it.
>I take it that familiarity has, with your own, bred some comfort?

        That and something a little like the hitting people thing: If I
thump a relative, I know from considerable experience that bouncing
their heads off a stone surface won't have any long term effect. Other
people, who knows? If I am bleeding, I know how bad it is and have more
comprehension and control over it than if someone else is bleeding.

                Another response to the above

Nate Edel <> wrote:
>Never been mistaken for a vampire?
        Uh, actually I kind of ended up dating someone for years and
years thanks to a vampirism related incident. Come to think of it, it
might be that that sort of thing contributed to another relationship
beginning. Huh.

        But, no, not in the Buffy Summers stake through the heart
thing. I did have a little kid look at me with big eyes (back when I
had a long black coat and fedora) and ask his dad if I was "the bad
man." Kids.


Shelly <> wrote:

>You can, of course, have a concussion and remember the event.

     I've been concussed on the following occasions that I recall

        Fell down a flight of stairs (age 4)
        Fell down twenty six iron fire escape steps (age 4)
        Ran a trike into a tree (age 4. 1965 was a bad year for me)
        Had a bus-propelled rock impact my head from behind (Age 11)
        Had a tree fall on me while I was building a fire (age 17ish)
        Ran into a door edge on (35ish)
        Battered by a home-invader (35 yrs 3 mo)

        And the only ones I don't have a clear memory off are the 
bus-rock incident (because the rock got fired at me from behind so the
first I knew of the whole thing was realizing that I was on the ground
for some reason and everyone was looking at me) and there's a second or
two when Adrian hit me in the head that I think I lost track of
(because at first I wasn't sure if he connected).


>And I've read that concussions are cummulative. A number of athletes
>have been forced to quit cuz one more might kill them. So you would
>need to be careful having your characters hit over the head too
>much. :)

        Well, crap.

                        An observation

Charlie Stross  <> wrote:

>Ho hum. New washing machine tomorrow ...

        You'd be amazed at the amount of water that comes out of
one of those if the hose to the sink fails.

        So, what are the symptoms of CO poisoning anyway?

Wilson Heydt <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:

>>      It's never a good thing when the repair guy turns pale and says
>>"I have to call my boss."
>>      My old furnace is not in need of cleaning so much as it
>>needs to be replaced before it kills me. Gas heating, here I come.
>>Unfortunately this means three days with no heat.
>>      I wonder if this has anything to do with the headaches I
>>keep getting?
>IANAD, but that is certainly one of the classic symptoms.

        The problem is, I never don't have at least a small headache,
going back to the 1980s. I work around by keeping a model in my head of
what it is like not to be in a fog and then I emulate how I would
behave if that model were true. Anyway, it's hard to tell headaches
that are caused by something from days where my head just decided to
hurt. Or days when I forget to drink any water and get dehydrated,
thanks to my inability to feel thirst.

>You *are* James Nicholl AICMFP.
        Nicoll. And since the bill is in excess of 10K [1], I have to
admit I am missing the inherent charm of being James at this point in

                                                        James Nicoll

1: Did I mention the asbestos? Or all the special to my building
problems of removing what may be one of the first furnaces ever
installed in KW?

                        Learning to Read
        I didn't even learn to speak until I was about four [1] so I
must have learned to read at almost the same time. I prefer print to
spoken language, in any case.

        My parents method of teaching reading was to read some of the
story and tell us that we could find out how it ended if we learned to
read. I don't recall when I started reading to myself (1966ish) but I
_can_ recall the first -public- demonstration of me reading because yet
again it highlighted my social deficits in those days. I must have been
in grade one because we were in the Tutor's Residences at UW. My
parents were throwing a party, I was quietly reading a Thor comic and
someone asked me if I was -really- reading it. I huffily said yes,
pointed to the dialogue and read it out loud. It happened to be a
splash page of some guy being tossed out of Asgard and the balloon
read, as I recall,


        Hilarity ensued and another story got added to the Why Young
James Tried Not to Speak in Public file.

                                                        James Nicoll

1: My suspicion is that this was the earliest manifestation of my
stubborn refusal to adopt into my life yet another new thing I did
perfectly well without before. I'm guessing there was a lot of pressure
on me to learn, which would only have made me dig in my heels harder.

                        Uh, about broken noses

Keith F. Lynch <> wrote:
> James Nicoll <> wrote:

>>         How does one tell if one has one? It seems reasonable that if
>> you have to ask, you don't have one but mine feels a little funny.
>> No bleeding, real pain or swelling, though...

>>         What happened was I went to the kitchen to get a muffin last
>> night, turned off the light, walked through the unlit corridor to my
>> living room to discover my faith in my memory of the geography of my
>> home was flawed in as much as the cats could by standing on the end
>> of the retractable stairs to the attic cause them to come down into
>> what I will call the extremely startling facial impediment mode.
>> Definite crunch sound when I hit the back of the step, but nothing
>> seems to be seriously damaged. Numb but small headache and a sort of
>> tingly feeling in the nose 10 hours later, though.

>>         I dropped my muffin, too. But I had more.

>I am truly impressed at your accident proneness.  I too used to have
>the habit of wandering around late at night without bothering about
>lights.  But the worst thing that ever happened as a result of that
>was, one time I poured myself a glass of water, and noticed that the
>water was unusually crunchy.  I turned on a light to investigate, and
>found the kitchen was overrun with roaches.
>My kitchen is no longer infested; neverthelss I no longer drink water
>in the dark.

        I did something like that, only it involved a coke can I
didn't look at carefully and the Brazilian version of fire ants.

                        An accident with the Oblivious

        My father and I hit a gravel truck with a panel van once. Our
van was totalled, I got some broken ribs and a lot of pulled muscles
(and a spectacular looking but embarrassing tiny head wound, too small
to put a bandaid on), my father got a tiny cut on his finger from
flying glass and the guy in the gravel truck was completely unaware
he'd been hit until we walked around and told him.


        Is the cat who makes me wonder what cognitive disorders
exist in cats. His particular area of inexpertise is socializing
with other cats, or rather an inability to read unsubtle signals.
This gets him beaten up by my tortoise shell on a regular basis
because he doesn't seem to understand that growls and folded ears
are a warning sign.

        He and Groucho got into a loop where he tried to eat from
Groucho's bowl, Groucho bit him on the head because G is very
possessive about that bowl, Eddie took his head out of the bowl
to stare vacantly at the wall, Groucho began to eat but got nervous
about Eddie being so close so he stopped eating to check what Eddie
was up to, which Eddie took as permission to start eating again.
Chomp and so on for four or five cycles until I carried Eddie to
the other food dish.

        Eddie has made a unique discovery involving playing: if he
runs and jumps onto a flat piece of paper, it will slide across the
floor with him on it. He -really- likes this game. He's not so good
about keeping track of the wall as he could be, but he is aware enough
to steal sheets of paper from MSes to use rather than relying on
finding paper on the floor.

                        Cats on the Bed

        Nine cats and me can fit on my bed, assuming Groucho is under
the covers and can't see the other cats.

        If Ophelia has slipped under the covers, G climbs on top
of the lump she makes and proceeds to do a full four paw kneading
of the bed, with a maniacal, semi-seizure expression on his face.
I'm guessing from the sounds produced Ophelia is not pleased when
this happens.

        The key to this working is that two of the toms (Blotchy and
Cleo) are adored by the other cats, and each can fit at least four
other cats next to them. I could fit in another cat if I had to, as
long as it was female. It's kind of a tiling problem.

                        Cats and Baths

Eu. Harry Andruschak <catharemeunuch@aol.comfyChair> wrote:
>Then off to the groomer's to have her bathed. When I came back, Silver
>was back hiding under the bed, afraid he would follow the evil fate of 
>his sister and be carried off to A Fate Worse Then Death, as cats
>regard baths.

        I had one who didn't. Lizzie was a simple minded (and
unfortunately terminally ill, although we didn't know that at the time)
cat who got the idea that since I get into the shower, she should too.
You could keep her busy for some time just by putting about an inch of
water in the tub to splash happily around in.

                        A Cat Tale

Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:
>>      Met a beautiful cat: tabby with orange, v healthy, very
>>well cared for, at a book launch for Dave Okum's new book. You know,
>>my herd get along so well I forget other cats are more, well,
>>territorial. Even though my clothes were dryer-fresh, apparently
>>that wasn't good enough to deter what we will call a very angry
>>cat trying to punish my socks and shoes for smelling like other
>>cats. No injuries were sustained.
>No injuries?????
>Who are you and what have you done with James Nicoll?

        I didn't get mauled last week, either, when as I was out
walking I encountered and petted two very cute kittens who were
being minded by a very alert and worried looking dog.

                        A New Adventure Begins!

Cally Soukup  <> wrote:
>James Nicoll <> wrote:

>>        I've been griping about having waking hours not filled with
>> work for a while. This appears to have been solved: as soon as I hit
>> send I am out the door and off to a job-tryout. Apparently these
>> guys will let workers put in as many hours as they like and pay for
>> it, a rare combination amongst my friends' employers.
>>        It's a mechanical job but since I have many paired organs,
>> I am not worried.
>Good luck!
        It's amazing how much blood can come out of one tiny paper cut.

                        Genetics and Noses

        I was explaining to one of my nieces that thanks to
her Nicoll genes, she can look forward to a long life enjoying
stories and the occasional unplanned explosion. She's the one
who had the run-in with a door last year, who took the resulting
broken nose with a lot more grace than most teen girls would
and far more than the camp counsellers did. As I recall, they
tried to convince her it was not -really- broken, in the face
of some rather convincing proof that it was.

        My father must have broken his nose at least half a dozen
times. I don't why something that fragile is set out in the front
of our faces. I've done it twice, and I'm a careful guy.


In article <>,
sharkey  <> wrote:
>Sayeth James Nicoll <>:
>>      I may or may not have a new gig copy editing for a Canadian
>>  company I won't name so if things don't work out[1], they can
>>  safely deny all connection to me.
>If, for example, they are stuck by a meteor the day before
>you arrive, or something like that.

        That doesn't happen very often. The last time a meteor got
close enough to rattle the windows of my home was almost 30 years

        Hmmm. I might be overdue at that.

                        More on Groucho

Karen Lofstrom <> wrote:
>I don't think it would be a good idea to bring him inside. But
>who'd want an old scarred tom?
>Well, James Nicoll, but the shipping costs would be exorbitant.

        And the last old scarred tom turned out to be six months old
and too lacking in feline social graces to avoid provoking attacks.
His current line of experimentation involves walking up to other cats
and when they politely head-bonk him, chewing on one of their ears.

                        A comment

Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:

>James, once again I congratulate you on still being alive.

        Thanks. I am always pleased to discover I am still the view-
point character. It's not so much the occasional murder attempts as
the things I was allowed to do as child, like leap from the top of
my school's climbing bars, which went to the roof of the gym, to the
rope, so I could slide down it. In general I don't think that was a
good idea but in particular near sighted kids with no depth perception
should not try it.

        What's Worse Than a Driver With a Cell Phone?

Keith F. Lynch <> wrote:
>James Nicholl wrote:
>>Nels E Satterlund  <> wrote:
>>>James Nicoll wrote:
>>>>         A _bicyclist_ using a cell phone while weaving down
>>>> a 3 meter wide park pathway.

>>>Did they miss or hit you?

>>        A mere touch, nothing serious. If I had had my cane, it might
>>accidentally slipped into his front wheel but happily, I did not.

>Not to defend such actions, but how is that more dangerous than an
>equally distracted motorist?  Cars are wider and often move faster.
>Compare the number of pedestrians killed by cars to those killed
>by bikes.

        The number that is of more importance to me is how often I
get run into by some idiot on a bike, and that number is about 1/year.
The last time I was hit by a car was in the early 1960s.


[unattributed text in this anecdote by Graydon Saunders]

 James Nicoll <> onsendan:
> Graydon Saunders <> wrote:

>>[1] Mississauga rattlers are poisonous, but not that poisonous, and
>>you have to be trying quite hard to get bitten by one.
>       Um.
>       But it was a sibling, not me.

James, the incident of snake bite in Canada is so low StatsCan doesn't
even break it out as a category; fatality due to animal bites of all
types (mostly allergic reactions to bee stings) is around 0.2 per

It is perversely reassuring to see that the applicability of statistics
to individuals continues not to hold.


        My father's office fell into a sinkhole one night. It was a
portable office (Note for Tina: like a little one room building that
can be moved to where it is needed) and the land hadn't been surveyed
for such things. It was just one thing among many he hated about
working for a corporation -- in academia, his office never fell into a
deep hole in the ground.

                        Royal Purple
        Is the colour of the toe next to the big toe on my right foot.
It was due to me being lazy and putting my raincoat  over the back of a
chair, then it slipping off just before my foot passed through that
volume. The coat has an incredibly high coeffficient of friction
(enough that if I got brushed by a car, I'd probably be pulled out into
traffic) but the darn thing refuses to wear out, so I can't replace it.
One foot encountered the coat, the other foot stood on it to hold it
still. Luckily, my face didn't damage the bookshelf I ended up
entangled with.

        Anyway, I think I bent the last joint of the toe back something
fierce, because there was extensive bruising all around the nail when I
got up this morning. The weird thing is, while the toe is getting
increasingly colourful, the more I walk on it, the less it hurts. I
knew if I just kept at it, there'd be an injury I could walk off.

        Of course, the -knee- that I strained a while back is on my
-left- leg, leading to prioritization issues.


[A query about why Armed Forces TV has public service bits about not
being killed by vending machines.]

        I've never done this with a vending machine*, but some
models when rocked can release goodies for free. The catch is
vending machines are surprsingly heavy and can kill humans if
they tip over onto them.

                                                        James Nicoll

* It was a tree and if it had gone the direction my plan required it
to go, it would have fallen off a cliff and been broken into fire-sized
bits. I can't recall how I planned to get the firewood back up the

        I almost got a pet skunk but the person I was with pointed out
that it wasn't actually a cat before I got close enough to pet it. It
seemed rather open to being petted and quite diappointed when I
wouldn't let it follow me indoors.


        I have a surplus of alpha females. One of them wants nothing to
do with other cats, and the other wants to admired (and groomed: she's
trying to train timid Groucho how to serve her properly) so it all
works out. A third female wants to be high ranked, but she can only
dominate the cats who don't actually care (Cleo, who sees all other
cats as kittens, and Eddie, who Just Doesn't Understand Stuff).

                        A gift from a cat

        Although Blotchy is now about ten years old and although he has
been living indoors for most of that time, he still likes to chase
mice.  And to catch them. In the interests of educating his human, he
will often present the little mousey corpses to me, either to show me
what to hunt or to give me an idea of what cuisine he would like to see
featured in this week's menue. This morning, at about 4 am, he
presented me with such a mouse, with one notable unusual feature: the
mouse was not in fact dead. Indeed, if I had to describe it, words like
'lively', 'speedy' and 'being followed by a crowd of cats, all over my
bed' would come to mind.

        I did learn in the process of catching the mouse that Eddie,
a feral until last year, does not in fact have any idea what to do
with a mouse. Every time this one charged him, he ran away. This goes
some way to explaining why Eddie was on the brink of starvation when
I got him...

                        Piano Incident

        I don't have a car. I'll admit I get rides to Suburbia on
gaming night but generally my solution is to use the bus, and to
hire or trade for vehicular services. Plus I have not yet reached
the point where I won't help people move and given the piano incident*
and the packing incidents that point may not exist.

                                                        James Nicoll

* Upright piano. Staircase. Staircase has 90 degree turn halfway down,
and a low arch.

                        Eddie's Breakthrough
        Eddie had a major conceptual break though yesterday. He's
been operating on the assumption that being in the kitchen meant
getting petted but very suddenly yesterday (and you could see the
little light go on in his head) he realised petting is caused by
human hands. And they work -anywhere-.

                        Stupid Dream Recall

         I dreamt I was fixing the doorknob on my front door, using
a screwdriver I had misplaced* in real life. As I was describing the
dream to a guest**, I noticed that very screwdriver on the table in
front of us, so I went and fixed the door.

* I have another, one of those many-heads thingies, but it smells bad
and I don't like to use it.

** Yes, conversations with me really are exactly that boring.

                Body Hair and Gesticulations
John F. Eldredge  <> wrote:
>James Nicoll wrote:
>>Pat Bowne <> wrote:
>>>"Sea Wasp" <> wrote:
>>>> James Nicoll wrote:
>>>> >        Yeah, I was told acne stops when grey hair appears but
>>>> >not true. On the plus side, I am undergoing the opposite of
>>>> >balding as more and more of my mass becomes unsightly body hair.
>>>> >
>>>> > All my bald spots are scar tissue.
>>>> You see, with THIS line I knew it was a James Nicoll post, even
>>>> without checking the attribution.
>>>What's a term for the opposite of flirtation?
>>      Bah! I'll have you know women recoil only very slightly from
>>me, considering.
>How do they react to finding out that you attract improbable
        By angrily pointing out that body work on cars costs money.

        I've learned to keep my hand and arm gestures to a minimum
if people are near so the fact that I have no depth perception at
all no longer results in the occasional accidental elbow to the
bridge of the nose.

                        For a Better Knee

        What with one thing and another, I have dislocated my knees on
the order of a hundred times. The last one was a doozy, torn ligaments
and all, and I shouldn't have tried to walk on it. Or indeed, insisted
on walking on it. My reward for stupidity was half a year on crutches
and a limp.

        So I'm talking to my doctor (who I started using after the Big
Knee Thing because I found dragging information out of his predecessor
was too difficult, and -his- predecessor was a quack, the sort of guy
who could misdiagnose a broken neck as nerves), bitching about how my
legs hurt all the time, sort of like I'd caught in a trash compactor at
the hip. Weirdly, this mostly means I can't sit still for long, but
have to keep readjusting my position, which in turn means getting to
sleep is pain. He asked about my previous experience with physio, and
it turns out somehow, in a decade of using this guy, the fact that I
never got any treatment after the injuries healed, or for the
dislocating knee thing (which went away as I got older).

        So off to the sports injury guy I went today, a young fellow
named Dr. Lee. He's a very cheerful guy. Step one was to look at my x-
rays, which show my patellas not where they are supposed to be, and
some bone spurs. Then he shows how hypermobile my patellas are by
moving one and as I am disengaging from the acoustic ceiling tiles he
explains that my reaction is called 'aversion' and he wanted to
demonstrate it to me.

        Why he wanted to is never explained.

        I don't ask because he then launches into A Brief History of
Tragical Knee Treatments Used For My Type of Condition in the Past. All
the treatments have two things in common: they sound completely,
obviously stupid and none of them worked. A near quotation was "We
stopped sawing the kneecaps off because it turns out they have a
function", at which point I began to eye my escape route.  I really
hope this wasn't some sort of weird Sheckleyesque morale building
exercise, along the lines of 'With forty completely assinine treatments
behind us, the Knee Guys of Canada are pretty sure that number 41,
injecting moldten sodium, will be the key to a cure!'.

        So much to my relief the current treatment, which may or may
not work, is a fancy, expensive knee brace. OK, it's something like 8x
the cost of a tensor bandage but this might actually work.
Unfortunately, not something that OHIP covers for some reason. Even if
it doesn't work, it's unlikely to have the catastrophic effects of the
treatments it is replacing.

                        Thoughts on Reincarnation

In article <>,
Kris Hasson-Jones  <> wrote:
>On 19 Aug 2004 12:36:10 -0400, (James Nicoll)
>watched in amazement as electrons turned into magical things called
>>In article <jx4Vc.490$>,
>>Irfon-Kim Ahmad  <> wrote:
>>>ChickPea wrote:
>>>>This is like the Geronimo effect, isn't it?  You know, the way
>>>>people never claim to be the reincarnation of "just some bloke".
>>>I always thought of it as the Cleopatra effect, but same deal.  :)
>>>What always strikes me is that for every famous historical 
>>>personage, there are *several* people who claim to have been them in
>>>a former life. While one could posit forms of reincarnation that 
>>>would support this, the people making the claim rarely seem to 
>>>subsbribe to such.
>>      All that is necessary is to fire the soul through a diffraction
>>grating before re-incarnating it. Allow me to demonstrate--
>>      Apparently you need to remove the body first before squeezing
>>the soul through the diffraction grating. Good to know, but now I
>>need a new DF. And a mop.
>Wow, a James Nicoll story that's *not* true.  I'm gobsmacked.

        Most of the Institute of Predetermined Results stuff isn't
true either, although I gave up that schtick about the time I stopped
posting on as a regular. Neither, and this is important,
were any of the Terribly Serious Reviews from rec.arts.movies. Well,
except maybe the one about the mermaid princess movies was less wrong
than it should have been.

        If it'll help, I figured out how to attach elastic bands to
my face last night. Well, to the tip of my nose. Ears would be a doddle
and sort of boring. Ditto crazy glue. It sort of killed the 
conversation*, but now if I ever need to stick an elastic band on my
face, or at least to portions of my face, I know how to do it.

                                                        James Nicoll

* Actually, it prompted a claim that I never stopped being four. Hah!
Four year olds have an accident rate a lot lower than mine, as long as
the stats for my Year Four** are left out.

** The Year of the Emergency Ward is how I like to think of 1965. Note
to parents: before putting your kids on a trike at the top of a steep
hill, explain what brakes are. Not every hill will have a sturdy oak
tree before the busy road.

                        Exoskeletal Man

Jonathan L Cunningham <> wrote:
> (James Nicoll) wrote:

>>        I got fitted for leg braces* the week after the leg and back
>> x-rays, and I am waiting on my doctor to call me about the bone
>> density scan. I could call, but I was supposed to get some blood
>> tests as part of my annual and each morning without fail I forget
>> not to have my morning coffee.
>>                                                James Nicoll
>> * I suppose I could call myself The Increasingly Exoskeletal Man and
>> rob banks with the catch phrase "Please do not shake me vigorously!"
>>         What I _wanted_ was something nuclear powered**, something
>> that would let me crush other people's skulls like eggshells (which
>> are actually pretty hard to crush) but apparently what I'm going to
>> get is a couple of aparati designed to force my kneecaps back where
>> they are supposed to be*** and some vitamin supplements.
>> ** I wonder if you can run powered armour off of a gasoline engine?
>Yes, but don't use it indoors.

        That's what the self-contained air supply is for.

        The idea of powered-armour soldiers creeping through the ruins
of some city, while the engines on their backs putt-putt away like
lawn-mowers, strikes me as funny for some reason. Even better if the
suits really do come with the starter cord some mowers do.

        Safety note: if someone tells you to see if the spark plug on
a mower is working by putting your thumb on the gap and yanking the
starter cord, they probably _meant_ to include the word 'gently'
after 'yank'.

>> *** Sounds horrible but not nearly as bad as what they used to do to
>> people with my particular knee condition. Apparently up until about
>> the year 2000, most knee doctors were completely insane.

                        Feral Kittens in Bed                        

Harry Andruschak aka Amethyst <catharemeunuch@aol.comfyChair> wrote:
>That's the nice thing about cats, no toilet training required.

        There speaks a man who never woke up to discover the
undomesticated, extremely hostile, very pointy litter of feral kittens
had decided it was too cold in their carrier and had staged an invasion
of the under-the-blankets zone. At least one of them wasn't leaving the
warm pocket of air to look for the box.

        At the other extreme, there's Eddy, who knows litter = box. Any 
litter, so sweep the floor every hour or so, and for god sake, don't
leave the lid off the litter bottle.

        He's been looking very thoughtfully at the toilet lately.
Unfortunately, his leaps of logic go through hyperspace and there's
no telling what conclusion he will arrive at.

                        Martial Arts
Danny Low  <> wrote:
>One reason is many martial arts schools in the USA teach martial arts
>as a sport and not as a street fighting skill. Karate is a good
>example where the "martial" has been de-emphasized in favor of the
>"art". You get good at breaking boards but when was the last time you
>were attacked by a tree?

                        Attack of the Eddie

        Eddie gets into these extended experimental phases. Last week
it was cupboard doors, which he mostly can't open if the hinges have
any tension. This week it was applying his new Total Victory Silent
Attack technique, which involves sneaking up on Cleo and biting him
in the back of the head (not neck), where Cleo can't bring his much
greater mass and reach to bear, on the other cats, to see if it works
on them. Mostly not, because they lack the loose folds of fur Cleo has
and also because each time he tried it, the cat in question beat the
living crap out of him, except for Nameless, who's kind of odd and
likes any attention from male cats. This gets added to all the other
things he's tried out as ways to interact with the other cats, from
thoughfully prodding them to carefully holding one of their ears in
his mouth.

        Tonight, he tried it on me. I don't know how many of you have
ever had a medium-sized cat start gnawing on the back of your skull but
if you haven't I can assure you it does not work out the way the cat

        It's a good thing he's a gentle cat. No bleeding from teeth or

        What gets me is that he had to try it several times from
different angles before giving up.
                        Aurora Borealis

        The best, bar none, display I have ever seen was while camping
in Algonquin Park in the 1970s. It was so good that I insisted the
people racing me to the emergency ward pause in their headlong voyage.

                        Day One on Miripex

        Is this headache a side effect of mirapex? Don't know. On the
bright side, none of the really nasty unwanted effects have appeared,
like the angina or the mania.

        I can't say I slept better. If anything, I slept more poorly.
Maybe it takes a few days to suffuse the brain or maybe the two large
tomcats squabbling over who got to sleep on my head are to blame.

        Actually it was more that Blotchy (20 pounds) wanted to sleep
on my head and Cleo (24 pounds) wanted to make sure B was properly
groomed, Cleo being of the conviction that every other cat in the world 
needs his constant minding.

                What I Learned from The Incredibles

        It does not matter how posh the theatre, they will not let you
watch the film once the theatre has caught fire.

        It was very much a 'how do you get twenty Canadians out of the
pool' sort of thing. The lights came up, the fire alarm started and we
all filed out. No panic, no trampling. The only drama was from a kid
who got separated from his family on the way out.

The culprit was an overheated popcorn machine. Don't know if anyone was 
hurt out in the lobby. The air quality was too low for them to let us
out that way.         
                        Cats can be Jealous

        Dezi and Minuette grew up together from kittenhood and hated
each other so much they divided my apartment rather than share. The
only time I saw them cuddle was the time the apartment door got left
ajar and they escaped, only to discover it was raining. I came hope to
two miserable looking cats stubbornly sitting on my front porch
together, soaked to the gills.

        Ophelia is insanely possessive about her toys. Her sister has
a special "I am enticing another cat into playing with your toys"
meow, which always results in the sudden appearance of an enraged
                        Rescue cats

        Most of my cats are rescues that nobody else would take [1].
As a result, some of them haven't lived that long: Lizzie turned out
to be terminally ill, and died very suddenly of liver failure at about


1: Except for Cleo, who took one look at my ex and decided she was the
center of his life that he had been looking for all along. He likes to
just sit gazing in adoration at her...

        He also decided that someone had to take care of the other
cats, none of whom seem to have sufficient hygeine standards in his
                        We Meet Again, Old Foe

        I was woken at too early by the sound of cats yowling. I
thought it was the usual "cowardly Groucho decides to complain at the
other cats" thing, which always starts a fight (They are happy to
leave him alone but object to being growled at).


        Blotchy has a history of run-in with doors. In fact, I once
had to cut up a door to get his paw from under it. In most ways, he
is a bright cat but he just seems to have bad luck with doors.

        This time, he had somehow managed to pull the bathroom door
closed as he walked out, pinning himself between the door and the wall.
He could have easily escaped by going backward but he does not
understand that. Instead he must have kept trying to push forward,
getting increasingly upset and angry that the door was grabbing him.
The growls alarmed the other cats, who tried to calm him down by
attacking him (I assume this makes sense if your brain is the size of
a walnut), thus all the noise.

        Freeing him took about a tenth of a second. He disappeared
off under my bureau but he seemed ok when I checked on him.
                         Today's Safety Note

        Once the heater emits white smoke, it is no longer useful.

        For the record, I turned it on, noticed right away that the fan
wasn't going even though the power light lit up, and was unplugging it
from the wall when Events of a very mild kind ensued. Looks like the
fan engine died on me.
                        Poor Blotchy

        I don't think he ever noticed that he isn't the six pound cat
he was when he moved indoors. He's more like 20 pounds now and
sometimes his agility is overcome by his weight. Last night he slipped
off my shoulder and clawed my chest on the way down, trying to save
himself from a fall (successfully).

        OK, a cat scratch. I have had lots of those before. I took off
the shirt I was wearing so I wouldn't bleed on it, then cleaned the
wound with peroxide. It hurt a lot more than usual and close
examination showed why: I had a Blotchy claw piece stuck in there. I
guess all his weight must have been on that one claw and he was about
to leave a casting anyway. 
                        What's the difference

        between a radiant space heater and an oven, when you get right
down to it? Aside from the fact that I don't stick my leg in an oven.

        Once again my old foe slow broil strikes again. Not worse than
1st degree, I think. No blisters.

        Now, hot bacon grease on the tummy, -that's- your first class
ticket to third degree burns. I will point out, however, that by taking
my shirt off to cook [1] bacon, I avoided getting grease stains on my

1: I think it is safe to say we entered TMI territory with that phrase.
                        Cats and Snow

Dorothy J Heydt <> wrote:
><tries to visualize cats frolicking in snow up to their middles
>and fails utterly>

        Some do. Others don't.

        I remember when Gato, who spent the first six months of his
life in Brazil, first saw snow. He liked to use the side door to exit
the house and for a reason that will follow that door didn't have
steps, just a drop to ground level. To make it worse, there was a
drainage problem (which is why there were no steps) so there was a 3
foot deep ravine next to that side of the house. He looked very dubious
about the snow, decided it wasn't a threat and hopped down to the
surface, which was curiously much closer to the door level than it
normally was.

        When I looked into the five foot deep snowpit, he looked
pretty damn mad.
                        Groucho and Eddie

        I got woken at 3 am by the sound of two cats play-wrestling.
Usually this is Eddie and Cleo because when Blotchy and Hillary play,
she pins him in the first ten seconds (1). Eddie and Cleo play involves
a lot of crashing around knocking stuff off shelves. If you are old
enough to remember Clouseau and Kato practicing karate, it's a lot like

        Except it _wasn't_ Cleo. It was _Groucho_. Groucho is this very
timid tomcat who is afraid of almost everything (including his own food
dish on one occasion). I knew he trusted Cleo enough to play with him
but I had no idea he and Eddie got along. I could tell it was play
because when it isn't, Groucho becomes loud and incontinent. I have no
idea how Eddie convinced Groucho he was a safe companion, particularly
when Eddie's two main methods of making friends with other cats is to
prod them with one paw or stick his nose into their fur and inhale

        Lots of very dramatic play-biting from Groucho. He likes to do
this When Bears Attack yawn and lunge that takes more time to do than
it  does to describe: the other cat has to actively cooperate for it to

1: What makes this hilarious is that H is less than half B's size. Cut
to a 20 pound cat wriggling like a june bug.... 
                        When making a spicy stir fry

        Do not inhale the capsecum vapour.

        As long as I do not try to inhale, it's ok.

        Note to self: find less obscure safe place for the inhaler.

                An Open Letter to my cat Hillary

        I appreciate that there can be no pause in the ongoing war 
between you and your bitterest enemy, you tail. I applaud your
diligence and am amazed at the RPMs you reach chasing it. I would offer
one lone  bit of advice: seek a venue for tail chasing other than the
slippery  edge of a water-filled bath tub.
                Two Things I learned about Eddie

        He likes to hear me sing. If I start singing, he comes running
in and sits down in front of me watching me intently.

        He is a creature of habit. The attic door has been shut for
several days down and I am still hearing the occasional scamper scamper
soft furry thud.
                        My Stove

        Is a glass topped stove and I [heart] it.

        There is the risk that because the burners stay hot for a long
time after being shut off I will absent-mindedly place my right palm on
the front left burner while reaching up to get something off the fridge
but that's not happened yet. There is a warning light but I have faith
in my powers of non-observation and thinking abouther stuffness.

        What I _did_ was turn the front left burner on the wrong 
setting, both rings instead of the inner one, turn off the outer ring
when I saw what I had done, go to put the spagetti into the pot, drop
some and try to retreive it off a burner that had been red hot until
recently. I do not recommend this. In fact, my new rule is "if the item
I want to pick up is smoking, I will leave it alone [1]."

        Interestingly enough, although the fingertips were pretty badly
burned, esp the index finger of my right hand, the pain went away
pretty quickly and they didn't blister so much as callus. Is this an
age thing? Or did putting polysporin on the burns make the difference?

1: Inanimate objects, I mean, although it would have saved me a lot of
trouble with my ex-wife. OTOH I wouldn't have dated one of my first gf
in university, which would have been a pity. Swings and round-abouts, I
        Glass Heat Conduction Works Differently From Metal

        Have you heard my story about the glass needle?

        My older brother, who worked for the UW Chemstores (and who now
runs it) was showing me how glass blowing works. One of the things he
had made was a pointy thing. Curious to see how sharp it was, I picked
it up some minutes later and tested it against my left thumb. Not only
was it pointy, it was also still just short of molten, even though the
other end was cool. It took years for the pit in my left thumb to heal
back to normal.
                        I'm not totally sure

        but I -think- the reason Eddie just fell over is that in
mid-step he became so fascinated by his own forepaw that he forgot to
put it back down on the floor.

        Eddie only has three point stability at the best of times and a
fairly weak understanding of his limitations and of gravity, so he
spends a lot of time falling off or out of things. Edges give him a
real problem. Starvation as kitten gave him many of the cognitive
shortcomings of a hardcore doper. He seems very good natured about it,
though. In fact, he is one of the most cheerful cats I have even had.

                On the Frontiers of Science

        It turns out that the large covered litter box can accomodate
both giant tom cats at once, if the second one to arrive is so
desperate to use it that he doesn't wait.

        They cannot, however, then get out of it.

                        Cutting Edge Cat Science

        Eddie apparently got none of the training as a kitten that
other cats get, so he has to discover things on his own. He's actually
pretty methodical about finding the limits of a new trick, which is why
my kitchen floor got flooded for months and months: He was trying to
learn how to dip water out of the bowl without getting his paw wet.

        For some reason, doors are his current area of interest. What
he had been doing is opening doors in the regular cat manner (pushing
or pulling on the side away from the hinges). What I caught him doing
was trying that on the side with hinges. He was clearly experimenting
with it, too. First he opened and closed the bathroom door, tried it
from the wrong side, failed, then went over to the cupboard door and
repeated the same sequence there.

                                To Cleo

        You are a cat of unusual size. To leap into my lap, you either
need a step-ladder or a trebuchet. Perhaps the fact that you have never
in your life jumped up onto anything you couldn't first put your front
paws on should have warned that trying to vault the arm of my chair in
one graceful leap was a bad idea.

        Failing that, how many attempts is it going to take to convince
you that this idea isn't going to work?

                        Damsel in distress

        Hillary [1] (the second oldest cat and up at the top of the
pecking order) has this habit of jumping down behind one of my
bookshelves. She cannot then get out. This results in plaintive meows
and a rescue. Also cursing on my part.

        I finally shifted the shelves slightly to leave a Hillary-wide
gap (Not that wide because she is tiny). Problem solved, right?

        About 3, I start hearing the "oh help, help, I am trapped"
sounds again. I go to investigate and I discover that she's discovered
that if she climbs to the top of a different bookshelf, she cannot get
back  down. Or so she claims.

        It took less than a day for her to figure out a new way to make
me come rescue her...

                        Training, Groucho

        One of Groucho's great pleasures in life is being brushed. If
no human is available to brush him, he's worked out a way to wedge his
brush in a corner so that he can brush himself.

        I noticed a long time ago that if one tries to take the brush
away before he has completely collapsed into drooling insensibility
that he will lunge up to grab the offending hand, holding it in place
with his claws until he is properly brushed. Recently, it occured to me
to wonder just how high he could get off the ground trying to catch the
brush. It was a progressive series of tests, getting him to jump higher
and higher in pursuit of the brush.

What I learned at that at about 3 feet, he stops jumping after the
brush and starts biting my foot.

                        Nine Cats Part One:
                Hillary, Ophelia and Tapstry

        I tried to do this in one post, only to discover that there is
a limit to lj entry lengths.

        I have nine cats because I am stupid^H^H^H incapable of letting
wild or feral animals simply die. I come by this honestly. Even back in
Hawaii the Nicolls were known to be odd about animals.

        I wanted a store cat. Actually, I wanted two, to keep each
other company. I was offered a pair of kittens but then it seemed that
I would not get one so I went to the pound and rescued a six month old
tortoiseshell, being unaware that tortoiseshells are often completely

        The original trio were:

        Hillary, named after the climber thanks to a habit she had of
climbing to amazing heights for a kitten. She's small, spring-loaded
and defers only to Tapstery. Hillary likes kittens and will happily
play with any that come through. She will also teach them to use the
litter box, very handy when dealing with ferals. She also will pick up
and drop kittens into the tub when she wants quiet time, because she 
figured out they cannot get out.

        Ophelia, who is also small, is low on the pecking order. She
spends a lot of time protesting the injustices of her life. Her odd
fixation was children. When I had the store, small kids could do
anything to her and she would not only not run away or complain (and
this is a cat whose "noooooooo" is well honed) but she would actually
purr loudly, even if some child was running his tonka truck over her.

        Tapesty is a standoffish, highly territorial regal
tortoiseshell who was completely unsuitable for a store. She bitterly
resented each invasion of her territory. As far as she was concerned,
she had two cats to bully, a tom cat to follow around and a few humans
to pet her and that was all the universe needed. In old age she has
mellowed quite a bit, in part because since I shut my store she no
longer sees new people.

                        Nine Cats Part Two:
        The Grey Mother, Blotchy, his sister and Nimrod

        I became aware that there was a female cat living under the
wheelchair ramp of a nearby church. She was quite wild but willing to
take food from me. Unfortunately her kittens tended not to live very
long, in part because the ramp is close to the road and in part because
the caretaker at the time was the sort of Reform Party member who
delights in killing kittens.

        One night as I was leaving work, I discovered two kittens
peering at me from around the corner of my building. This was a small
black and white tomcat who I eventually named Blotchy. The other was
his unlucky sister, who was run over soon after. In part because he was
a very cute cat, in part because of the fate of his sister and in part
because one of the cats I adopted in the 1980s had just died, I decided
to bring Blotchy in, reasoning that _total_ headcount wouldn't change,
just the distribution.

        Blotchy loved being an indoor cat and viewed being a store cat
as very serious job. He was always happy to greet customers and if they
sat in the store chair, to drape himself over them, throw his paws
around their necks, heave a big sigh and go to sleep. He also suffered
under the misapprehension that he was perhaps five pounds when in fact
he is about 20. This meant his attempts to perch on shoulders was not
as successsful as they might have been. At the end of the day, he would
retire upstair to sleep, during which time he wanted to be left alone.

        He's still alive, still outgoing and still the top tomcat in
the pecking order.

        His mother eventually ended up living on a farm, where she
could live indoors without coming into contact with people.

        I caught and adopted out many of her kittens. One decided that
she liked me, a plump grey cat I called Nimrod because of her hunting
techniques. She is very quiet and very reclusive and as a result many
people never saw her. She's a sensible (if retiring cat) and so there
are very few Nimrod stories.

                        Nine Cats Part Three: 
        Unlucky Lizzy and the refugees, Nameless and Groucho

        There was a period of some years where I either kept
encountering litters of kittens or had them given to me so that I could
find homes for them. The number of cats who found homes this was is
quite large. A few were not suitable for life with humans and they
stayed here.

        Before disease wiped them out, there used to be a colony of
cats a few blocks away from me and the people who fed them would
present me with litters to adopt out. These cats tended to be
non-social, bonding to one human and ignoring the rest.

        Nameless bonded to Hillary and never did get to the point where
trying to pet her was not synonymous with amputation. She is fascinated
by humans and likes to observe them cautiously but she wants no
physical contact. I often wake up to find her unblinking, vaguely
affronted stare few inches away from my face.

        Groucho was presented to me as a fat little kitten whose ears
were always folded back in anger or fear. By carrying him around for a
day and feeding him treats I got him to the point where he'd purr, at
least when no strange cats were around. I gave him away but then
through no fault of anyone involved he was passed from home to home,
oftn picked on by the cats already in residence. By the time he was
returned to me, it was that or euthenasia, because he'd got to the
point where he wouldn't leave his refuges even to pee. It took some
years (and the addition of Cleo) but he is now willing to mix with the
other cats and even to sleep next to them. He spend some years living
in my bathroom but now will wander all over the building. He even has a
few places outside the bathroom he thinks are his.

        His brother Zeus is about as reclusive. In fact, although I fed
Zeus for his owner last year, it took several months for him to trust
me enough to let me see him. This family of cats is prone to weak
bladders, so simply picking them up is always a bad idea. Zeus's sister
is also a fuss budget but in her case it shows up as having memorized
everyone's schedules so that she can alert people to the fact that they
are not where they are supposed to be. Watching her try to will people
into going to bed is very funny.

        Lizzy was a relative of Nameless and Groucho who had a viral
infection that took years to show up. She was also starved of O2 as a
kitten (last one to be born) and very, very stupid. She never, for
example, understood that glass could not be walked through and because
she liked heat she could not be trusted near open flames. She decided
Hillary was her mother and couldn't bear to be apart from her, plunking
her large frame down on little Hillary whenever she could.

        When she was a few years old, her liver suddenly failed. So did
one of her litter mates', the same week in fact and I suspect the
sudden disappearance of her feral relatives was due to this disease.
While she was alive, though, she was a very happy cat, whether she was
sleeping on her "mother" or dragging her pet brick around the building.

(in response to the obvious question:)

        There was a brick in the attic that she took a very peculiar
liking to. She sleep next to it, she'd mark it, she'd chatter at it and
from time to time, she'd drag it around the apartment.

                Nine Cats Part Four: Cleo

        About 2000, I had accounted for and relocated every living 
feral cat in my neighborhood, with an eye to females because they can
produce a million zillion kittens in a very small time. The fact that
new stray kittens kept showing up may me think I had missed one [1] and
when a large black and white cat began turning up in the company of
smaller cats, I thought I had the culprit.

        The cat was very tame for a wild cat and in fact got to a point
where if there was no food it would lecture me at length from across
the street. I finally got it to the point where it would let me pet it
(discovering that if I withdrew my hand too fast it would pounce on it
and bite it) then I picked it up and put it indoors. It took to living
indoors suspiciously well and when I took it to the vet I discovered
why. It wasn't a wild cat. It was a lost housecat, a tomcat in fact. We
could tell this because it had been neutered. It had been starved and
wasn't able to properly groom its long hair and at some point it had
been hit by a car but never treated for this.

        The reason I thought it was female was being it was always
palling around with kittens. It turned out Cleo just adores other cats,
seeing it as his mission in life to befriend them, to groom them and to
otherwise look out for them. If he has to pretend to lose wrestling
matches for them to play with him, he will and any sort of fuss with
another cat will bring him running. Rather unfortunately for me, while
he is gentle with every other living thing, he _will_ bite me. In fact,
if anyone else pisses him off, he bites me. I'm the designated 
chew-toy, I guess.

        Cleo may be a Maine Coon. He certainly has the size.

        Adding Cleo to the mix had some interesting effects. Groucho
had a huge playmate he wasn't afraid and soon after began leaving the
bathroom. Ophelia discovered that Cleo would let her beat him up and
this convinced her she was much high on the pecking order than she
thought. Sometimes this works out poorly for her...

1: I had. It was living in the abandoned building next to my home. I
discovered it showing its litter my front door one day.

                        Nine Cats Part Five: Eddie

        I had resolved not to take in any more cats. Ha ha ha.

        I had been seeing a small tabby hanging around for a few
months. One day I got a close look at it and I could tell it was in
rough shape. In fact, I was sure what I was looking at was an old tom
cat on its last legs, possibly in early kidney failure from the
gauntness. It was a mass of scars and cuts, indicating that it was
losing a lot of fights, and one leg didn't seem to work. It decided it
was my pal when I slipped it some kibble, so I took it in.

        A note about unneutered tom cats. It's probably best to have
jammed a red-hot poker into one's nasal cavities before adopting one.
Eddie wasn't just a bt smelly. He was eye-wateringly rank. Of course
Nameless glommed onto him as soon as he came in because Nameless is a
little slut but sad for Eddie, he didn't understand the significance.
Back then, Eddie didn't understand a lot of things.

        So off to the vet. Eddie is not old, as I thought, but a 6
month old who has had what appears to have been a horrible life. He's
been run over (thus the gimpy leg). He's been starved (Later discovered
he has no idea how to hunt, so maybe his mother died when he was too
young to have learned). He looks like the neighborhood cats take turns
shredding him (His ears are feathered).

        At first I thought he was mentally retarded like Lizzie, but he
can learn, which she couldn't. He just came without any of the learned
behavior most cats get as kittens, like how to act around other cats
and that you can't dip your paw in water without it getting wet. As he
gets older, he learns more and the unfortunate applications of new
lessons (like the time he carefully pooped down the narrow neck of a
litter jug. How he did that on three legs I have no idea. I do know he
couldn't bury the result) have become rarer. He's a very good natured
cat and he knows no fear at all.

        His best pal is Cleo, of course. Cleo is happy to have someone
who he can play with with no restrictions due to relative size. Cleo
and Eddie playing sounds like two men throwing heavy barrels around my
apartment, as they careen from wall to wall.

        As an example of Eddie's world view, if I turn on the vacuum
all the cats save one will flee the apartment. The exception is Eddie,
who will come running in to see what the noise is.

                        Ten Things

        I have done that you may not have done:

        1: Had a quip I tossed together in a few minutes become quoted
around the world, including in the introduction of a Chinese government
ESL text.

        2: Got hired as a freelancer for Bookspan despite having
virtually no experience in publishing (At the time, the only such case
the person who offered me the job knew of).

        3: Edited several roleplaying game supplements.

        4: Published a play (someone else's).

        5: Touched semi-molten glass.

        6: Was attacked by a bull at age five. Luckily, it didn't have
horns yet.

        7: Confronted a home-invader, armed only with an alarm system
and witty banter (not recommended).

        8: Recieved two slices in exactly the same place on my left
forearm, the second time while showing someone how it happened the
first time.

        9: Found homes for upwards of fifty cats.

        10: Discovered that the "cat" I was trying to pet was in fact a

<the siobhan> Wasn't it you who was chased by somebody with an axe? Or
am I misremembering? </the siobhan>

        Oh, yeah. That. Yes, I've been chased with by someone waving an
axe. Fear helps people run faster.

<kalmn> he doesn't have an axe wound. i made that mistake, too. </kalmn>

        That's because I ran very fast. Zippy zip.

<sartorias> Wow! What was the glass like? </sartorias>

        Very very hot. It sizzled down to the bone of my thumb before
my brain had any idea what the sssssss sound meant.

                                S&M Kittie

        Through a humane process, I have determined that Ophelia likes
to be tapped on the head with an empty plastic pop bottle.

                        Eddie, again

        Oh, crap

        I just found Eddie on the toilet seat, jiggling the handle.
This can't end well. How many flushes does it take before the cat
gets bored?

                        Sleeping Cats
        Eddie was experimenting with sleeping next to me last night,
so I didn't get much sleep. His idea of reclining next to me involves
30 seconds of motionlessness followed by about five minutes of
re-arranging himself into new positions (including the old
damp-nose-in-the-ear+loud-purr one), over and over. After about 30
minutes he got fed up and went down to the foot of the bed.

        I'll take the nose-in-the-ear thing over Cleo's thoughtful
poking at my eye or Tapestry's stubborn insistance that she should be
allowed to sleep on my head, or Groucho's brave growling at everyone
else once he's curled up next to me and feels safe.

                How not to get a good nights sleep

        New rule: before strapping on the CPAP mask, check to make sure
that no cat has thrown up in it.

                        A tiny shaving accident

        But this time, I realized that I had scalped myself. Huzzah for

                        Feeling Lucky

Andrew Stephenson <> wrote:
> "James Nicoll" writes:

>> 2: As long as you already have the passport, you may as well go
>> to Europe instead. After all, nobody is dragging people out of
>> lines and beating them with rubber hoses there.
>*heh*  The way our dear Michael Howard is talking in the election
>scrum, that's only a matter of time.  Do you feel lucky?  ;-)

        You did read who you are replying to, right? I feel lucky
every day of my life and twice as lucky any day when I don't discover
my left ear is bleeding profusely for some reason (today is not such
a day).

                        Driving Safety

        I have never owned a car. Mostly I've been working on the
assumption that anyone who has no depth perception should not drive
on public roads.

        Come to think of it, I didn't drive over people all that often
with tractors. Definitely only single digit numbers. Maybe I should get
a car....

                        Playful Bull

Nicola Browne <> wrote:
>"James Nicoll" <> wrote:

>>      I'm not sure that you mean by 'culture of display' but in
>> other species, displays often serve a purpose. Is there so much
>> difference between kohl and gigantic antlers?
>Well both are quite unpleasant when you get them in your eye.

        I wouldn't know. The only time I ever had personal contact
with an antler-like thing, it was a bull's horn and the point of
impact was somewhat lower and on the other side of my torsa (I am
actually happy it was that way because it is my belief, admittedly
never verified with a test, that having a playful bull butt me in
the groinal area would have been somewhat more painful, although
much funnier to the people watching).

                Something New about Nameless

        Nameless is my wild cat, the one who is both fascinated by and
terrified of humans. I wandered into my bedroom, where she was sleeping
on Hillary. This provoked her usual frantic scramble for sanctuary. For
some reason she decided not to run into her closet but to run up the
retractable stairs to the attic, beginning with what would have been a
magnificent leap to the lower risers had the stairs been in the down
position. Unfortunately, they impede my access to the bathroom, so I
had pushed them into the up position.

<cheshyre> <suppressed giggle>

So what did she do then? </cheshyre>

        Hit the hall cupboard about 3 feet up, fell to the ground and
then scuttled frantically towards the Cupboard of Refuge, hissing and
swiping all the way.

<Martin Wisse> Sounds like the sort of magnificent accident you tend to
have yourself as well, James... </Martin Wisse>

        It may be contageous. Tapestry sets herself on fire given the
chance. Ophelia used to have the worse selection of places to suddenly
insert her paw. I've had to remove a water pot from Hillary's head and
cut a door off of Blotchy.

        Hmph. That sounds like a sadder version of Roy Batty's final
speech in BLADERUNNER.

                        Lightbulb Joke:

Darkhawk (H. Nicoll) <> wrote:

>How many James Nicolls does it take to change a lightbulb?
>Only one.  Plus the paramedics.

        Hmph. Like paramedics actually show up when it's for me.

        True story: old lady has heat stroke in front of my store,
I hit 911, cops, ambulance and fire truck show up in 3 minutes. Any
time I use 911 or the equivilent to call help for someone else, same

        I get my head bashed in, I get a cop on a bike who leaves
halfway through the interview [1]. I got what first aid I did get right
away from the woman who ran the restuarant next door. To get stitches,
I had to go to the clinic on my own.

1: For good reason and he did ask if he could, first.

                OK, now they are just playing with my mind

        So I am trying to get to sleep. Cleo jumps onto the bed to try
to sleep on the upper left of the bed (Tapistry always makes him move
to the upper right), catches sight of something out the window and
begins to stare intently at _something_.

        I take a look but it's dark and anyway, the only thing out the
window is a view of the roof of the strip mall on the other side of the
block. As far as I can tell, there's nothing there.

        He keeps on staring. As time goes by, all of the cats (except
Nameless) gather to look in horror at something that they can see out
there and I cannot.

      A Brief List of My Broken Bones To Date (With Explanations)

        My first was my thumb. This was entirely my own fault. When we
came back from the UK, we were temporarily put up by Doug Wright, who
would later become President of the University of Waterloo. When I got
driven to school by him, I left a book in the front seat of his car. I
reached in to grab it while he reached over to slam the door shut. It
was a tie.

        Many years passed.

        There was a terrible storm that shut down all the schools in
the area. UW never closed for weather, so my father had to go in. I
asked if I could go in to visit the library. On the way, we had a close
encounter with the back end of a dump truck, parked at the bottom of a
hill so that he could warn people about the pileup at the bottom of the
next hill. The plan worked to the extent that we did not end up part of
the other accident. My seatbelt broke, so I bounced off the dashboard,
I think (I am a little fuzzy on the details), breaking most of the ribs
on the right side. I learned a useful lesson: if you see that you are
about to hit another car, do not brace your foot against the front of
your car.

        Because of all the other accidents during the storm, it took a
long time for me to be checked out and when they did, there really
wasn't anything they could do. By the time I got out, all the cab
companies had shut down, so I got to walk in a blizzard from KW
Hospital to UW, with three broken ribs.

        I then had a tobogan mishap where I hit a bump and came down on
the crosspiece that holds the tobogan together. I learned that the
phrase "I appear to have broken my ass" does not result in the
outpouring of sympathy that I felt it deserved.

        I went camping with some friends. While trying to move a large
boulder for one of us to sit on during a card game, I put it down on my
left hand. The sound of bones being crushed is fairly distinctive.

        I got to see an actual Percheron horse (I think. A monster
horse, anyway). I also got find how heavy they are when they step on
you. Luckily, the horse was entirely uninjured. Even the sounds I was
making did not seem to distress it.

        Last year, I went to get a muffin from the kitchen. On my way
back, I turned off the light, reasoning that since I am very familiar
with the hall, I did not need it. To enhance my safety, I proceeded at
high speed. Halfway down the hall, I discovered two things: that my cat
had quietly broke down the retractable steps that lead to the attic and
that one of the risers is exactly at nose level. This too is a
distinctive sound.

        I have this terrible feeling that I forgot one....

                        Death Certificate

        The death certificate came from the glorious synergy of two
unrelated events: that car accident and my father's death later in the
year. Somehow there was a confusion between which of us had died. What
I think happened was KW Hospital tried to get the money for my
ambulance ride from my father's insurance company, only to be told he
was dead. KW appears to have decided that meant _I_ was dead and also
that I should pay the bill, because I started getting demands for
payment addressed to me that listed me as deceased.

        One of the side-effects is that my orphan's benefit got cut off
in 1979-1980 for about eight months.

                Have I mentioned the cats lately?

        I have good reason to believe that they have figured out that
yanking the power cord out of the back of my CPAP machine will wake me
up. Partly it's the frequency with which the cord has been coming out
and partly it's the tooth marks on the duct-tape I used recently to
secure it more firmly.

        I choose to believe that their motive for interupting my
airflow is to get attention and not some more sinister motive.


        The cats have access to the attic in the summer. The steps
block access to the bathroom and the kitchen so when I use one or the
other, I have to put the steps up. I will refrain specifying which room
I was using.

        As I was sitting there, I saw Blotchy walk out to the end of
the stairs, obviously expecting them to go down. Nothing happened and
after a while he went back up to the attic.

        A few minutes later, Hillary came trotting out to the end of
the stairs, which slid down to contact the floor just as she got to the
end. Blotchy soon followed her.

        Blotchy weighs about 20 pounds. Hillary weighs seven or eight
pounds. She looks insufferably smug as the stairs descend, too. I can't
tell what she is doing that Blotchy isn't, either.

                        Department of weird dreams:

        I walk into my bedroom and there's a bear on the bed.

        This isn't one of those cute dream-bears who steal pick-a-nick
baskets, either but an animal that can clearly eat me and is taking the
idea under serious consideration.

        At this point _all_ the cats exit to their hidey holes.

        As the bear is advancing towards me, I retreat to another room,
one with a sturdy door totally unlike any door on the second floor of
my home (It's not hollow core, a brand of door I suspect is ineffective
against bears). I'm trying to keep it closed as the bear starts poking
at his side while screaming at the person who is with me to 1: help
keep the door closed and 2: call 911.

        An argument about whether or not I am being unduly harsh in my
choice of words follows. 911 never does get called. The bear eventually
wanders off, I go to see if it ate the cats and the OP stomps off in a
huff because I was rude.

        This is, I am certain, based on something less ursine that
actually happened to me when, having fought off a guy who had kicked in
the door of my building (well, more bled profusely at but it had the
effect I was aiming for), I was trying to get someone to leave for
another building close by that I thought was safer (For one thing, it
still had a front door). This person wouldn't leave until they put
their shoes on, in case they had to run. We're talking a distance of
maybe 30 feet that they had to cross, from the back of my building to
the back of the one next door. For some reason when I am seriously
concussed, I get frustrated and angry very easily.

        The cats all hid that time, too.

                Being Run Over: Cars and Bicycles

        I've been run over by one car and that was my fault: small
children darting into the road from behind cars must expect to be run
down, as an example to the other somewhat less tire-tready children. I
stick to the side-walks and in general cars have been happy to stay on
the roads (1). It seems to be working because I have not been run over
since I was four.

        I get clipped by a bicyclist doing something stupid about once
a year. I've been hit in no-driving zones. I've been hit in a
_construction zone_ on ground I would have sworn wouldn't take a bike.
I've been hit by guys chatting on their cell phones while wobbling
along (I admit I could have climbed a tree to escape him but silly me,
I thought getting off the path would be enough). Recently I was very
nearly nailed by a black-clad moron racing down a street at night, with
no lights on his bike and no reflectors.

        There's a certain Brent Sienna/panda bear thing going on here,
I admit, but a lot of it is that there are some pretty stupid and
inconsiderate bicycists out there and because they feel free to come up
on the sidewalk after me, they get in my face -- on my face -- in a way
the stupid and inconsiderate drivers don't.

1: Discounting the one that ended up ramming the building next door as
part of a thrilling police chase.

                How Eddie Got Himself Ejected from the Bedroom

        [Eddie being my bright but socially backward cat]

        I could put up with the trampling for attention and the meowing
and the occasional prodding to see if I was awake but I draw the line
when the cat in question bites me on the eyelid.

        Not hard, mind you, and it was my supernumery eye so even if it
had been hard, it wouldn't have been serious but I don't want him to
get the idea that is acceptable behavior.

        He looked so ... thoughtful as he leaned forward to bite.

                Childrearing, Nicoll style

        My parents thought that we should control our rooms so they put
locks on the doors.

        They also thought it would be nice if we were not burned alive
like some second cousins were when they got trapped in their room
during a fire so the locks were the kind that you can open with a bobby
pin and we all had ways out of the house that didn't require going
through the door. We had to practice using them, too.

        This is in keeping with how when we had a boat, we were
encouraged to spontaneously jump overboard to test the tillerman's
ability to avoid chopping up overboarders with the prop and how when we
kids (Ages 6 to 14, I think) went out to explore the local bush in
Brazil for the first time, we got a quick lesson on what to do if one
of us was bit by a snake (What we needed to know was what to do about

                        More Childrearing

        What's a curfew?

        To make up for the various freedoms we enjoyed, our parents's
tempers (esp if they were out of sight with brooding time) were such
that locking the door was often just a good idea. In fact, after the
incident with the axe, I used to move my dresser in front of the door.

                        A lesson revisted

        Even small scalp wounds bleed like the dickens.

        I don't have a good explantion for the fresh divot in the top
of my head. It feels a bit like someone took a very tiny ice-cream
scoop to my scalp but I have no idea how it got there.

        It doesn't hurt at all but I am a little puzzled how I did it.
Maybe it was an ingrown hair or something?

        I had a really bad day last week where in the space of about 30
seconds I managed to thump my head twice while getting out of a car,
then stab myself in the back trying to close the door. Man, I'd kill
for depth perception.

     More evidence that Eddy never hunted when he lived outdoors

        Eddy's the cat who I think was abandoned as a young kitten,
based on the things he never seems to have been taught. He was
emaciated when I got him and since then I've had reason to think that
he was probably scrounging from garbage rather than hunting.

        He likes to sit by the kitchen window on the chair, looking at
the traffic over on Charles Street. Today a bird landed on the sill
right in front of him. He leaned to one side to look _around_ it. No
interest in the bird _at all_.

        Thanks to Blotchy's capture/release program, I discovered that
E also has no interest in mice. He mostly ignores anything alive (aside
from Cleo and humans, who he has realized will pet him) in favour of
intense fascination with machines and other inanimate objects.

<velochicdunord> Is he an asperger's cat? </velochicdunord>

        Let's put it this way: for a cat, his almost complete lack of
social skills is remarkable. The reason I thought that he was old was
because he is covered in scars and watching him with the other cats I
suspect that this is because he has no grasp what the signals other
cats use mean. Almost everything gets a blank stare from him or
possibly an inquisitive prod with a paw.

                Because people like Eddy stories

        Social signals I have seen Eddy respond to with a blank
uncomprehending stare:

        Context: Eddy was sleeping on my pillow, which is where
Tapestry likes to sleep [1].

        Being ostentatiously examined by Tapestry.

        Being glared at by Tapestry, who had recoiled in apparent
digust and whose ears were folded back.

        Being growled and hissed at by Tapestry.

        Being smacked in the face by Tapestry, who stomped off after

1: As a result, I have to delint my head every morning.

<Graeme> Not responding to being clawed is very odd. That's a social
signal most creatures could pick up.

Maybe he's a feline Gandhi, practicing passive non-violence towards all
creatures? Somehow, I can't see it being a success in a species of

Has he ever attacked any of the other cats? </Graeme>

        Sort of: his two standard reactions to finding a cat near him
is to either hold their ear in his mouth with a contemplative
expression or to prod them with one paw.

        He plays with Cleo all the time but Cleo is completely
obsessive about getting the other cats to interact with him (except for
Tapestry, who managed to beat the fact that she hates him into his big
furry head).

                        I did a bad bad thing

        So last night I was in bed, surrounded by cats, when I noticed 
Eddy looked bored. Rather handily Blotchy's tail was right there, not
being used for anything important so I idly batted Eddy on the head
with the tail. I knew I had made a mistake when his eyes lit up. You
could see him thinking "So _that's_ what those are for!" Havoc ensued.

        One thing about Eddy is that once he gets a new technique he
tries it out on everything that it could possibly apply to. I expect
this phase is not going to be appreciated by the other cats, especially
given his inability to pick on social cues.

        Unfortunately for Cleo, who was grooming the other end of
Blotchy, Blotchy knew that he was being annoyed by something but could
not be bothered to assign blame properly when Cleo was right there in
front of him.

<caprine> You are a bad man. </caprine>

        I just hate to see potential wasted. This is why I am one of
the very few people I know ever to have taught a goat to how to ram
things with its head. Sure, it meant a few headaches for me (and some
incovenience for every living thing that goat encountered after that,
like our cat and our dog) but at least the goat didn't grow up without
a vital goatish skill.

                        An Observation

        It's amazing how firmly Eddy can grip my nose with his teeth
without actually drawing blood. It seems to be an extension of his
habit of holding other cats' ears in his mouth. I'm just happy he
didn't do one of his ecstatic rolls while he had control of my nose.

        Note: get him a tooth brush.

        In other news, he hates ice cream and has decided to ignore
Blotchy's tail in favour of Ophelia's.

        Blotchy and Groucho have taken to sharing the tub. I don't know
if these means they are united in their dislike of Eddy or if it is
just so hot that social considerations (in particular G's habit of
growling at B if he can see him) no longer apply.

                        Mugged by a pigeon

        So I'm sitting outside the Hamilton bus station, waiting for
the bus home. There's this pigeon walking around the area where the
buses pull in. It looks at me. It walks over, obviously expecting to be
fed. I don't actually have bird food on me so I ignore it.

        It decides that the problem is that I don't know it's there, so
it starts pecking at my foot.

        What is it with me and animals? Do I have a big "I will feed
you" sign on my forehead.

                        What Eddie Fears

        "Fear" may be too strong a word but there is something that
makes the hair on his back raise up and causes him to have a very
concerned expression: the sound of a dog outside my building. I would
guess some of his scars come from a run-in with a dog.

        Of course, having fluffed up a bit, he then began to make his
way to the window to look at the dog. He was overcome by a terrible
lassitude along the way and settled for some sleep so I don't know what
he does if he _sees_ dogs.


        It's confirmed. Eddie does not like dogs. This time he was in
the window when one when by and he growled at it. This is the first
time I have ever heard him growl. It was a nice, deep manly growl, too.

        Nameless likes Eddie. Nameless likes all other cats but she
likes boy cats (even ex-boy cats) especially. Nameless is fixed but you
wouldn't know it. Eddie reacts to her various subtle attempts to get
his attention with blank stares and sometimes he runs and hides from
her, which she clearly finds a little frustrating.

        Eddie growling gave her a chance to express solidarity. She
heard him growl, ran all the way into the living room to the chair I
was sitting in, bit me on the foot and then ran away.

        She's not so fond of me and my chair is right by Eddie's
window. I can see how she'd make the conclusion she did.

                Cause and Effect, seven rounds

        Round One: I shift slightly and Groucho, scardiest cat on
Earth, is spooked and runs towards the door of the living room.

        Round Two: Hillary, alpha cat, is between him and door. To her,
this looks like she's being charged by the lowest status cat [1] in the
house so she leaps to her feet. You can tell from her expression that
she doesn't want a fight but she isn't going to back down.

        Round Three: Groucho slams to a halt and begins extricating
himself from the situation. He's very careful not to make eye contact
with Hillary. Although he clearly wants to just leave, he can't get to
the door without getting closer to Hillary, so he begins to slowly back

        Round Four: Ophelia runs up to Groucho from behind and pokes
him on the bottom, startling him into leaping forward toward Hillary,

        Round Five: Groucho freezes in terror and Hillary begins to
commit to beating him up for attacking her twice. I think what saved G
from being pounded on right away was that H just wanted to sleep.

        Round Six: The fuss gets Tapestry's attention, so she comes
over to watch in classic "first person to move gets pounced on" mode.

        Round Seven: The human intervenes, allowing G to escape to the

1: Of the cats to whom status applies. Cleo and Eddie are outside it.

<chance88088> Why is Cleo outside status?

        Cleo is a very large cat who believes all other cats are tiny
little kittens and that if they attack him, it is because they are
trying to play. He will happily fall over at a harsh look but he also
will thoughtfully hold down with one paw the same cat that glared at
him so that he can groom them.

        The only cat he doesn't treat like a kitten is Tapestry. All
cats learn very quickly to leave the psycho-tortie alone.

        A number of my cats appear to have completely given up on
self-grooming. Instead, they find Cleo, wake him up if he sleeping and
present themselves for a wash.

                        An evening of science

        So I have one of those mobile phones (faster and cheaper than
getting a line upstairs). Last night I put it (temporarily, you
understand) on the back of my chair, in the spot where Groucho sleeps.

        Groucho is very timid but has a firm sense of what's his: a
dish, the cat carrier, one shelf in the bathroom, a particular spot on
the bed and the back of the overstuffed comfy chair (He's also very
fussy about where things go: he moves chairs around if they are not
where they should be). He comes in and sees the phone in his spot.

        Step one: a careful examination. This included a lot of careful
sniffing and a thoughtful lick.

        Step two: Having determined that it was neither a threat or
food, he settles down on it with a very determined look. I don't think
it was comfortable but it was in his spot.

        After a while I wondered "What would he do if someone called?"
Then it occured to me that I didn't have to wait to find out. The
handset has a locator function: press a button on the base at the jack
and the phone makes helpful "here I am sounds". Science called.

        What he does is settle down more firmly on the phone,
flattening his ears and grabbing at the back of the chair with claws
extended with a very determined "I don't care that it's making noise.
This is _my spot_ and I am not moving, no matter what this thing does
next" look on his face.

                        What Groucho is not afraid of

        Vacuum cleaners.

        I know, I was amazed, too. Every other cat in the room left
when I test-fired it [1]. G settled down in his safe place on the back
of the chair to watch. He didn't look all that concerned, either.

        Come to think of it, there's no reason to use a vacuum in the
rooms he spends most of his time in. He might never have seen one being
used before.

        1: If you turn it on and off, they can run out. If you turn it
on and leave it on, they can run around the room in terror until they
lose bladder control. I know which option I prefer.

                        Poor Blotchy

        A note for the easily concerned: the cat is ok.

        Blotchy is a self-declared patriarch who gets treated like a
kitten by the even larger tomcat and is wrestled into submission every
day by a cat a quarter his size.

        But that is not why he is unfortunate.

        He also suffers from feline acne, which means he gets his chin
washed by me on a routine basis. This is apparently an affront to his

        But that is not why he is unfortunate.

        Last week, one of his spots went dingo and now he has an absess
the size of a grape. It wasn't getting better so into the carrier he
went and off to the vet.

        But that is not why he is unfortunate. Actually, he thought the
car ride was neat and he likes to meet new people. The part where he
got his temperature taken he could have done without but otherwise he
seemed to think it was a big adventure.

        The reason he is unfortunate is that it turns out the carrier
and the seat he was on can exchange electrons very efficiently so when
I let him out of the carrier, he grounded out when his nose touched my
finger. I think I could have run KW off the juice that flowed between
my hand and his snout.

        I don't think I will see him for the rest of the day...

                        Creek in a Tropical Storm

James Nicoll <> wrote:
>       I lived through a mere tropical storm and that was really
>enough weather for me. Oddly, the Nicoll curiousity about questions
>like "Say, can I raft in this weather?" completely failed to manifest.

        In _me_, I mean. My father and brothers went out to see what
the mountain creek was doing, what with all the water being added to
the watershed.

        Did you know that you can cover an amazing distance in a creek
during a flood, if the edge isn't where you expect it to be?

                        cat update

        Blotchy's face is much much better. But he's limping. Did he
jump off something too high?

        Yesterday Hillary spent something like 14 hours in contact with

        Eddie has worked that he can stand on me but not that he can
sit on me.

        Nameless just totally sacked Ophelia. It was like watching a 4
foot tall linebacker take out the quarterback, this little
tortoiseshell blur slamming into a surprised looking calico. N looked
very pleased with herself. O went and beat the crap out of Cleo, I
guess because he is lower on the pecking order as far as she is

        Cats can go "oof".

        Tapestry and Groucho will now curl up together and this makes G
feel secure enough to growl at approaching cats. This in turn
infuriates T, who of course takes it out on the nearest cat, which
would be G. I think she's into this whole "being pals with G" only as
long as he keeps the body heat coming and does not presume that she
actually likes him. God help him if he ever tries to groom her.

                        Cat stuff 2

        Blotchy is still walking on his hocks but seems to be mending
rather nicely. He's becoming more demanding about getting attention and
also has reverted to his old "I'm a gigantic tom-cat! I don't need to
take crap from anyone." behavior.

        Unfortunately, he still uses a paw to paw combat style best
described as "ineffectual whining". About the only cat it actually
works on is Groucho. Also, the cat most likely to provoke this reaction
from B is Cleo, who is in fact an even more gigantic tom-cat (Thanks to
B's weight loss, Cleo probably outweighs B by a good 50%).

        Blotchy has been insisting that Hillary play with him. H is
roughly 1/3rd B's size and can pin him in about two seconds, after
which B usually stomps off to pick on someone else.

                        To my cat, Ophelia

        When I give Blotchy his insulin shot, he is not getting some
special treat that should by all rights be yours and if you ever
actually succeed in scent-marking the tip of the needle, you will be
very unhappy.

        [As of this morning, the routine is to lock Ophelia in the
bathroom while I give B his shot. This involves a lot of plaintive
howls from the bathroom but decreases the odds of O putting her own
eye out]

                        Putting On the Cat

        So I am in the kitchen, making dinner. This involves a little
of chicken and I am in the middle of dicing it when Blochy comes
hobbling in, looking very pathetic. He settles down to watch me in a
huge production of awkwardness and then starts to beg for chicken,
which is his second favourite meat.

        I don't reward begging from the cats: it only leads to more
begging. I firmly tell him "no", and dump the chicken into the pan.

        He stands up with no problem at all and stomps out of the
kitchen to bully Groucho.

        It's possible that his leg difficulties are that intermitant,
that he could be barely walking one moment and perfectly fit the next.
It's possible.


        Ophelia, the one that wants to run her head into B's needle,
has the most heartbreaking "nnnnnnoooooo" meow whenever she is forced
to do something that she doesn't want to do, like leave the room or not
stick her head in my food. Judging by the sound, having her least whim
denied is a tragedy comparable to the loss of all life on Earth.

        Once, when it involved being carried into my new apartment
(whose door she had been sniffing since she was a little kitten), she
followed it up with a sudden and dramatic loss of control of her
bladder, which would have been hilarious if someone _else_ had been
carrying her at the time.

                        What's that Red Stuff?

In article <>, songbird wrote:

>  yea, it's like handing a baby a straight razor and expecting origami.

        Hey, one of my earliest memories involved the time I found my
father's razor. That was very educational (and also the first time that
I can recall thinking "what's that red stuff?").

                        To The Commune

        You know, there's nothing like coming back from a year
abroad to discover that the students who rented the farm (students
who came highly recommended as responsible kids) have stuck a big
old TO THE COMMUNE sign at the top of the driveway.

        I don't recall them being dirty and a lot of them (there
was a horde or two of them) were very interesting people, no
sarcasm intended, but they had real talent for breaking stuff.
They wrecked my bed, the van, the canoe and one of them used a
chainsaw indoors on a softwood floor.

        Years after that, if I was too specific about which lot
my father's farm was on, conversation would just die.

                What Eddie Likes (Yet Again)

        He hates to be carried and is only just learning how to sit on
laps (We're at the "which end points towards James' face" part of the
lessions) but it turns out he adores elevator, where I pick him up and
then put him down very quickly. In fact, he follows me around meowing
loudly and prodding at me when I stop.


        seems to entered second kitten-hood. I knew that she could jump
if she wanted to (she has a slight problem with not wanting her hind
feet to leave the ground, which tends to limit her altitude) but she
now seems determined to spend as much of her life in mid-air as
possible, in between ambushes of the other cats.

        A few nights ago I went up to find the entire group of them in
High Alarm, fuzzed up and wild-eyed, and I now suspect Nameless's
new-found playfulness may have played a role.

                Back Pain Quandry

[ever since switching to a laptop, there's been back pain]

<filkerdave> Considering that this is james_nicoll, we might even
consider shrapnel from the monitor exploding. </filkerdave>

        That has never happened to me. Well, once. But only once. I've
been hit by more falling chandeliers than that.

<lilairen> One also involving a cabbage? </lilairen>


        The other one wasn't my fault but due to a faulty window

                        endearing but misguided

         So last night Cleo was sacked out on the couch, his head
propped up on a pillow. One of the other cats settled down near him
(given his size and where he was on the couch, the choices were to be
near him or to stay off the couch). Cleo, without waking up as far as I
can tell, reached out to pull the other cat in to snuggle against him.
This is his way: I will often find him with one of the smaller cats,
and compared to Cleo, they are all smaller cats, curled up next to him,
with one giant paw resting on top of them.

        The problem was that in this case, the other cat was Tapestry,
my psycho-Tortie and well, she doesn't like Cleo. She barely tolerates
him, in fact, and they have an agreement that he doesn't get within
three feet of her and she doesn't beat the crap out of him. This didn't
end very well. There was a lot of noise and then I had a livid cat go
stomping out of the living room and a confused and affronted cat trying
to figure out what just happened.

                        A Personal Best

        Beginning after morning coffee, today I read, described and
reported on a 900+ page book for the SFBC.

        I was worried that having got staired [1] good and proper last
night and the fact that the three pairs of toothmarks [2] on my right
hand are going a bit puffy and leaky might slow me down a bit.

1: Retractable attic stairs. A cat (probably) likes to ride them down
to roughly forehead level. I believe I have run into them at high speed
from every angle possible now. It was remarkably like having a two by
four rammed end-on into one's forehead.

It's still better than the time I broke my nose getting a muffin. That
involved a riser that suddenly appeared in the dark, right at nose

2: Very old, very firm cat at the vet's. She likes to be petted until
she doesn't like to be petted. She managed to bite me three times
before the pain signals got to my brain. Old but fast. And she doesn't
appear to brush her teeth.

                        How to subdue a cat

        I went up to make dinner, only to find a panicky grey cat
darting between me (the human who feeds and brushes him), Nameless (who
admittedly was lurking on a bookshelf next to the bedroom door, which
generally means that she is waiting to pounce on someone) and the
bathroom (his territory, but Blotchy has taken to sleeping in the cat
carrier and G could see him). The closer I got, the shorter the route
was and the more times he could complete the circuit. I had horrible
premonitions of him burning a hole through the floor once the path got
shorter than he is long (thus reducing him to vibrating in place) so I
reached out and rubbed one of his ears. This has roughly the same
effect on him as turning a ragdoll cat over, complete and involuntary
paralysis, broken only by a helplessly waving paw. If I do it long
enough, he starts to drool.

        He likes brushing even more but is not, sadly, incapacitated by
it. Instead, he becomes increasingly manic, which translates into ten
claws buried into my hand as he tries to guide the brush.

                        Falling Down

        I'm actually fairly good at falling down without seriously
injuring myself [1]. My current record is a flight and a half of
stairs, backwards.

        Actually, the time someone pruned the branch I was standing on
may have involved more distance but happily I was able to slow myself
down using the branches that I encountered on the way to the ground.

1: My worst (or at least most inconvenient [2]) injury preceded a fall,

2: I guess concussions are bad and a few of mine were because of falls,
usually my own.

                        Eris's Catnip Toy

        I was doing some tidying up yesterday and noticed one of the
cat's catnip toys in with the wash. I figured that it would be better
if I didn't cover my laundry with essence of 'nip, so I removed the toy
and put it in my pocket, where I forgot about it.

        Cut to:

        A 25 pound tomcat who never, ever gets catnip, who nevertheless
knew I had some on me as soon as I entered the building. At first he
tried to jam his massive head into my pocket and when that didn't work,
he tried to suck the toy out through the cloth of my jeans' pocket,
which didn't work either but did involve a lot of drool. He was very
determined that I should hand over the toy but I didn't and it probably
for the best, because I have to say that he is not a cat who handles
his 'nip well. He was into the rolling around on the floor, trying to
catch his tail, stage within about a minute of exposure.

        [At that, he was doing better than the cat at Jo Walton's
wedding, a cat who clearly had never seen catnip before it ate an
entire large bush of the stuff. When last seen the cat was staggering
home, chest stained green from the catnip]

        Cut to:

        His brother, whose toy it is [1], trying to lick the cat-nippy
goodness from it, only to have it pushed away from him across the floor
by the force of his attention. He eventually decided that it was doing
this on purpose, stood up, did a nice threat display and then pummeled
it into submission.

1: In fact, when he had to go the vet's, he spend the afternoon feeling
sorry for himself and quietly sucking on the toy. Somehow the soggy
object ended up _under_ my pillow, which may be related to his
brother's habit of hiding food and definitely wasn't what I wanted to
find in the dark.

                        Not that I'm sick

        but lungs are supposed to be on the inside, right? 

                        Almost better

        No coughing unless I try to talk or inhale.
                        For the record

        I am officially sick of this stupid cough.


        Apparently it is possible to cough so hard that you break a

                Rebound and other observations

        After some months of being unable to get up onto the bed 
without assistance, Blotchy has recovered enough to join the rest of
the cats.

        Eddie loves the D100 I gave him but I may have to take it away
from him. He gets so exited chasing it through the apartment that he
loses track of where the staircase is and he already spends enough of
his life falling off of things.

                        Fire vs Bombs

        It may be an arson attempt that went very wrong. A little gas
vapour in the can + a premature exposure to the igniter = boom.

        Actually, you can get a very similar effect by pouring a lot of
gasoline on a stack of wood, then running off to the other side of the
farm and finally striking the match in the middle what turns out to be
a large cloud of gasoline and air. Speaking hypothetically.

        Speaking hypothetically, the chemical reaction between vapour
and air will be over long before you finish thinking "Oh, crap." At
this point, you want to exploit the fire extinguishing potential in any
nearby body of water.

                        New rules for old cats

        You may sleep on or next to me, but not on my head.

        I will put up with a certain amount of King of the Hill (with
me as the hill) but when you swat at other cats, make sure what you hit
is other cats.

        A special note for Nameless: if you play King of the Hill (with
me as the hill), this will necessarily require some proximity to me.
Hissing because there's a head connected to the torso you are climbing
over is just rude.

        A special note for Eddie: the petting hand cannot be made to
work if the human is asleep.


        Possessive paw on hand or ear: OK

        Possessive paw in mouth or on eye: NOT OK.

                        Today's courtesy tip

        If you notice one of the cats has buried so vigorously as to
toss something out of the covered litter box and you decide to deposit
the object back in the box, check to make sure that there isn't a cat
in there, just out of sight.

        What makes this worse is that it was Cleo, who does a very
convincing "sad and hurt".

                        Blotchy Update

        He isn't walking on his hocks any more. He also can get onto
the bed without any trouble (whereas before he had to be lifted half
the time) so I've been waking up to find a happy, large cat sprawled
across me, drooling profusely.

                        I'm a freak!

        In a new and yet oddly appropriate way:

        I went in to get a new presciption for my glasses, since the
anti-glare film on my old glasses died, giving my vision many of the
benefits of severe cataracts. Eye-exams were delisted from OHIP, either
as part of the program to contain costs or because there were not
enough foggy eyed drivers out there to feed the body banks. Happily, it
turns out that my eyes are so crappy, I'm one of the exceptions and
OHIP covers _my_ eye exams.

        But that isn't the amusing discovery. I don't know if I can put
this coherently but apparently once my vision is corrected to 20/20,
there's a particular class of objects that I can see as though my
vision were in fact 20/15 or better. Anyone care to guess what specific
sort of object I can resolve at a distance out of keeping with my
general eyesight?

        Letters. Yes, even if a text is at a distance where I couldn't
distinguish between two nearby flowers, say, or see the details on a
photo, I can read the text on a page. My eyesight appears to be
optimised for reading.

                        An Eddy Update

        I watched Eddy watching me unravel the plastic wrap last night
so I know the exact moment when he realized plastic wrap behaves just
like a roll of toilet paper. I only realized what that look meant when
I caught him in the kitchen, having opened the appropriate drawer to
take the roll of plastic wrap out where he could try to unravel it.

        Since he waited until I was in bed before starting his
experiment, I am guessing he wasn't too surprised when I took the wrap
away from him. Pity for him the sound of a drawer being quietly opened
in the middle of the night in a building where I am the only human is
one that will make me go investigate.

<fidelioscabinet> By this time, you could tell us Eddy had managed to
steal a car and drive to NYC, and I'd probably take a minute or two to
question the report.

I'll bet the interview at Customs and Immigration would have been one
for the ages. </fidelioscabinet>

        I think I mentioned one of the symptoms that Eddie isn't like
other cats is that he gets annoyed when birds obscure his view of the
traffic on Charles Street? And that when I turn on the vacuum, he's the
cat running towards the sound?

        It's not that he's super-intelligent (he's still about 80% sure
that to get petted, he has to be on the kitchen chair, even if the
human is in the bathroom) but he's very focused on manipulating
inanimate objects.

        Other animals exceed his limited repertoire of social skills[1]
very quickly so he tends to avoid the less patient cats.

1: Thoughtful prod, thoughtful nibble, thoughtful sniff, careen into at
full speed.

                        Today's Lesson
        No matter how hard he tries, a 20-odd pound cat cannot force
his way into the open end of a medium sized FEDEX box.

                        Ahh, Hypotheticals

[while seeking information on Santa Catarina Island in Brazil]

        If it helps, the village we lived in was very poor for the most
part but directly across the lagoon from some rather nice homes and an
amazing set of dunes. The wind built them up into huge hills several
stories high. The wind was strong enough that from the top of the
dunes, if you tied a sheet to a younger sibling and then threw them
off, they would be carried over to the next dune rather than plummeting
to their death. Um. Hypothetically speaking.

                       It runs in the family

        Oh, and somewhere between the lagoon and Barra de Lagoa is
where my father got his infamous foot injury, the one where by the time
he had it looked at, so much material had to be removed that you could
stick a sterile cloth all the way through his foot and pull it back and
forth. Which, of course, got done, since there's no point in having a
tunnel through your foot if you aren't going to get enetertainment
value out of it.


        It's a bit warm upstairs.

        I have eight cats draped around the apartment, variously happy
(Hillary) to miserable (Cleo).

        I have one cat who seems to find the heat invigorating, because
he has been running from one end of the apartment to the other and up
and down the stairs _all_ _day_. Anyone care to guess which cat is the
odd one out?

<mindstalk> Eddy, if that's the name of the "autistic" cat who's better
with tools than with other cats?

        Mostly he's a fun cat, at least now that he has outgrown the
desire to carry me around by inappropriate body parts (Trying to lift
me by my left eye lid was definitely the low point).

        Unfortunately for Tapestry, he has figured out that she's going
to lash out at him if he gets close. This doesn't lead to him avoiding
her but instead to active measures to de-Tapistry the rooms he prefers,
like the kitchen. She looked fairly upset as he firmly forced her out
into the hall last night.

<graeme_lindsell> How did Eddie force her out without being attacked?

        Forceful crowding.

                                New rule

        Cats are not allowed to hurl themselves down my stair in their
enthusiasm to greet me unless they possess the means to stop. Note that
for the purposes of this rule, I do not count as the means to stop.

                                Poor Cleo

        It's hot and he hates the heat. His body shape minimized
surface area to volume and he's long-haired, so the summers are hard on
him. As far as he is concerned, dark = cool, so he has sacked out under
my bed.

        Unfortunately for him, he is adored by the other cats, three of
whom have followed him under the bed to curl up next to him.

                        So I have these two cuts

        As I mentioned on rasfw, Andrew Wheeler is getting a FedEx box
from me with blood on it. This is because I was preparing a previously
used FedEx box from re-use, which requires slicing off the clear
plastic pocket where the old packing slip went. Ideally, this involves
four quick slices. What actually happened is that the first two cuts
went well but on the third, the instruction to my left and right hands
seemed to get reversed, or that's how it felt. Twice. My brain was
yelling "No, you idiots! The hand with the packing knife goes on the
bottom!" and my hands were all "La la la, why am I bleeding?"

        Stupid hands.

                        People seem to like these

        So I was in my kitchen preparing Blotchy's insulin when I heard
this loud racket behind me. I turned around and I swear I thought B was
having a major seizure.

        It's been so long since I've seen him try to catch a flying

        I have to say, even though his hind legs are still a bit shaky,
making take-offs and landings dicey, he didn't let that slow him down
at all.

* Somewhere there's a photo of him, Ophelia, Hillary and Tapestry all
looking vigilantly at a passing fly. Blotchy is looking in the wrong

<caprine> The triumph of optimism over coordination! Ah, the mental
image is delightful.

I do hope that Blotchy did not injure himself. </caprine>

        No, he was fine. He didn't catch the bug, though. I couldn't
tell what it was but it was big and clattery.

<pameladean> Clattery? Large bee clattery, or June-bug clattery, or
dragonfly clattery? </pameladean>

        As I said, I couldn't really see what it was but it was more
dragonfly than anything (This was at night, if it helps). In my
experience, June Bugs end up on the floor on their backs, which would
have led to a quick demise, since B is one of the cats who grew up

        I've been in the kitchen when bees got in. Specifically, I was
in the kitchener when an entire angry swarm whose hive had just been
destroyed got sucked in through the a/c, which in case you are
interested did not improve their temper any.

        For some reason, soon after the bees got in, I became
distracted and failed to note what the cats did.

        One of our farm cats would eat bees. Even with the inevitable
stinging he got, he always looked pleased with himself.

                              More Eddie

>> James Nicoll wrote:
> Joann Zimmerman wrote:

>>         When Eddie had just moved in and was still copying what he
>> saw other cats do, he tried to copy Ophelia's habit of paw-dipping.
>> The only problem was, he hates being wet. Another problem was that
>> he wouldn't always remove his paw from the water dish before shaking
>> it dry.

> Is this cat one that might otherwise be described as slightly stupid?

        No, because he also figured out how to use the toilet on his
own. He's good with things and no good with social skills, since his
are limited to "flop next to the person/cat he likes*, bite them, prod
them speculatively and sniff them curiously. With Cleo, he adds flying
tackles from concealment, since Cleo is very patient.

* With no regard for the location of edges.

            She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time

        So I walk into the bathroom and see Blotchy, sprawled out in
the tub, whites of his eyes showing, with his body making little jerky
motions. B is older and of course has health issues. It sure looked
like a seizure.

        All I will say it he's a very sound sleeper and apparently his
dreams are quite vivid. I've never seen him sleep with his eyes open

                        Two things about Hillary

        She loves this heat. I knew that.

        If left unattended with a peeled banana, she will eat a
surprisingly large amount of it. This was something of a surprise.

        I can't say that her expression when I caught her was that of a
cat who was stealing a treat. It was more ... determined to have this
special food when the other cats could not, regardless of its taste.

        I just hope this experiment goes better than her sister's 
consumption of green peppers.[1]

1: Green peppers appear to be X-Lax for Cats.[2]

2: Imagine a feces-powered Saturn Five rocket and you won't be too far
off the effect it had on Ophelia.

                        A safety note

        So last night, Groucho got up on the bed and my brain, which
apparently hates me, thought "Say, he never gets to play with the
catnip toy. Why don't I get it for him?"

        Groucho spends most of his life imitating a coke fiend having a
paranoia attack so I don't know why I thought this would be a good

        At first, it was ok. He sank his claws into the toy and
commenced grooming it, purring loudly. Unfortunately Tapestry noticed
what he was going and became trying to get the toy away from him[1].
This upset G, who leaned against me for protection while growling
fiercely, which in turn made T that much more determined to get the toy
away from him. For some reason, T is vastly tolerant of G so rather
than just smacking him until he ran away (which is what happens to
every other cat who annoys her, by breathing, say, or malicious
existance) she kept reaching out at him, trying to snag her claws on
the toy so that she could pull it away from him.

        She has lousy aim.

        Dumping her off the bed generally bought me the time it took
her to hit the floor and jump back up.

        Cleo finally emerged from his hiding place under the bed and
positioned himself between T and G, which earned him a drubbing from T.
I'll give him this, he is a very determined cat. Eventually, T stomped
off in disgust when it became clear C wouldn't budge.

        Having rescued G, C then enquired politely if G would like to
share. Much loud growling followed and a rather offended looking C left
in search of a cool place.

        This left me with a largish tom, now completely convinced any
move on my part was part of the Global Plot to Take His Toy Away,
jammed up against me, loudly telling the entire world that if they
tried to take his toy, he would Kick Their Asses. This would have been
more credible coming from a cat who has not on occasion been
intimidated by a menacing water-dish but his willingness to lash out
with his hind claws was something of a distaction, what with him
leaning against me.

        Sure, I could have picked him up and carried him to the
bathroom. I could put my hand down a garbage disposal, too. What I
actually did was just wait for him to decide that the bed was too
exposed, so that he'd retreat to his cat carrier on his own.

1: Not because she wanted it but because she hates the smell of 
catnip and would have presumably tossed it down the stairs again.

                        Easily amused

        Eddie has suddenly noticed that he can jump into the tub and
having jumped into it, he can then jump back out. Then, and this is
apparently the best part, he can do it again. And again. And again.

        This seems to be as much for him as when I balance a cardboard
strip on his head, so he can slowly chase it in circles.

                                From bad


        You are a mouse.

        You have successfully snuck into a house.

        This house has nine cats.

        They all know the ways a mouse can get into the upper level. 
Some of them like to sleep next to them.

        Most of them have hunted to stay alive before they came 

        All bad news, right? Well, it gets worse:

        The cat that actually caught you has no teeth.

        I realize that the sounds I've been hearing and Blotchy's odd
reluctance to leave my bedroom was because he has been catching and
releasing this mouse all evening, since about seven.

        Eddie fans will be glad to know that he got very excited when
the other cats got excited but had no idea over what, so he just ran
around a lot. Eventually he got so worked up, he had to stop for a
wheeze (A known health problem of his).

        Hillary took the mouse and since it looked like it was dead and
she looked hungry, this one time she can eat it, if that's her choice
(Normally, I don't like to risk what cats can catch off mice but in
cause of getting any food down her...).


        Blotchy is sleeping next to the place where I strongly suspect
the mice get in.

        I could fill the gap up but then the mice might find another
way in, one that doesn't have a cat sleeping by it.


[Was she named because she tries to drown herself?]

        No* but if anything doesn't go her way, and she is extremely
self-centered for a cat, she makes a huge production of out it. Her
pathetical "nnnnoooooooo" meows are very touching, except that she
does them for anything from being put out of the living room to
being moved slightly.

        She also likes the "love you, love you, HATE YOU" bit,
where she flops down next to another cat, grooms them, presents
herself for grooming, then beats the crap out of them.

* Her sister came close.


        One of my vet's foster cats will come over to let me pet it,
then sinks its teeth into me to let me know when to stop. For an old
cat, it's amazingly fast, usually nailing me three times before I
get the hand away. Last time I was too fast for it and it stomped off,
visibly put out.

        Yes, I'd probably have trusted Lucy every time she held the

                        Three Epiphanies

        1: Is it perhaps significant that when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee
wanted a named for a wealthy New York heiress turned super-hero, the
name they chose was the Wasp?

        Although Van Dyne isn't very Anglo-Saxon, I suppose.

        2: A cat startled into rapid flight by the misapprehension that
I have discovered its hiding place can fling open the door of the
cupboard under the kitchen with a suprising amount of force.

        3: Because of where I stand when I do the dishes, the first
part of my body that the door will encounter when flung open violently
is my crotch.

                In the interests of full disclosure

        Since I don't drive cars at all, I can't be sure that I would
be killing pedestrians about one every hour but I do know that I have
managed to run over at least one person while I was in control (well,
command) of a tractor. Cars involve shorter reaction times (But fewer

                Snow Shovelling in Sandals

        Why would someone who lives in Ontario think it odd that I
shovel the walk in sandals? They limit heat loss through the soles of
the feet and it's not cold enough to other sources of heat loss to be

the_flea_king> You're not afraid of hitting your toes with the shovel?

        I didn't use to be. Thanks.

        Actually, pain is just how you learn to be more graceful (My
uncle, for example, only ever chopped off the one toe). By the time I
die, I expect to be more graceful than Jet Li and Rudolf Nuriyev

                More information that I can use

        At 3 AM, the 2.5 L bottle of white vinegar I bought at the
local corner store and left standing on my kitchen counter instead of
putting it away turns out to look surprisingly like the 4 L bottle of
water I bought at that same corner store (1).

1: My regular source of filtered water had a burst pipe.

<kikibug13> Ouch! That must have been unpleasant.

        It's still better than that can of coke that turned out to have
been sitting out long enough to be filled with extremely angry ants.

        And not the wussy Canadian ants, either. This was in Brazil.

<radargrrl> Could have been worse. Could have been wood alcohol.

        That is kept on an upper shelf, where the cats can't get to it.

        I made sure everything a cat might eat and die from got moved
after the Tiger Balm incident left me with a pleased-looking drooling

                      James as Actor

        1987 was more memorable than 1993 because while I can't project
to save my life, the choreographer had me dancing up and down stairs.
Given my general lack of coordination, this would have been a pretty
poor performance from me at the best of times but as it happened, that
show was during the six months that I was on crutches.

                                Kitten Emergency!

        Thanks for the birthday wishes and if I seem a bit low-key,
it's because Eddie declared a Kitten Emergency at about 3
am. Apparently the fate of the world was at stake if he didn't get
petted right away. It's hard to sleep though a yowling cat racing into
the bedroom and even harder to ignore him pawing at my face to see if
I was awake enough to pay attention to him.

        Eddie's actually the youngest one. All the others have worked
out ways to coexist with me at night. He's just a weird little cat, the
kind of cat that would pick a fight with Groucho and then try to call a
time out to groom himself.

        Actually, someone got into a fight on the bed two nights ago
but I couldn't figure out who it was. When I turned on the light,
everyone looked innocent.


        I kind of burned out on profanity after cursing contest in
high school. What made it worse is that this happened a couple of
hours before I placed a large boulder on my left hand, when a series
of colourful observations might well have come in handy.


[after a librarian attributed the "purity of the English language"
quote to the 19th century painter of the same name]

        Despite his habit of taking credit for something I said more
than 70 years after his death, I bear my painter namesake no ill-will.
I'd link to his wikipedia entry but alas, it was deleted in
wikipedia's ongoing war on information people might actually find

                Will 2008 in fact be better than 2007

        Apparently I've been ducking a low beam on the basement stairs
for 11 years without noticing it, at least until I didn't duck. 

                Things Eddie Does Not Think Are Food

Tinned cat food with chunks and gravy (He got litter out from the box
to bury his dish).




        Things Eddie Thinks Might Be Food If He Tries Hard Enough

The plastic things off the end of bags of bread.

The little plastic caps off the plunger end of hypodermics.

Other cats' ears.

        It's still not quite as sad as hearing Groucho making his
moaning, whining sound that signals that he is being picked on by
someone, only to discover that he has managed to catch his own tail
is in the process of biting it, then attacking it again for hurting
him. How do these animals survive in the wild?

                     So I had to got to the vet's

        Because I was out of pills for Cleo and I decided to hang 
around for a while because my bus was not due for 15 minutes and while
the vet's has a couch, the bus stop doesn't. I'm petting Bitey when I 
become aware of a paw on the middle of my back, followed by another 
paw. I can see all but one of the vet cats so I know it has to be the
small black and white blood donor. He then begins to clean my ear like
he just discovered his life's purpose. I suspect what he was doing was
tasting because his next move was to nip me and then try to work the
earlobe back to his molars. The experiment ended at this point.

                        Today's physics lesson

        The coefficient of friction between the bottom of my winter
boots and a slush covered sidewalk is much less than my model 

        On the plus side, my incisor is still sharp enough to go right
through a tongue. 

                        A Walk in the Snow

        Happily, back in 1978 I was in a car wreck. They kept me at KW
hospital long enough for all the cabs to stop answering calls (and the
buses had stopped running too) so I got to walk from KW Hospital to
University of Waterloo in a blizzard. With four broken ribs, a lot of
pulled muscles [1] and a strained shoulder. Pretty much every walk in
the snow I have had since was better than that one.

1: If you see that a collision between the vehicle you are in and the
dump truck ahead of you is inevitable, do not brace your leg against
the front of your vehicle.

A seatbelt whose clasp didn't break might have been nice except then
I'd have been in my seat when the bag of rock salt arrived at 30 miles
an hour. 

                            While I was out

        There were tins of tuna in the kitchen cupboard when I went 
out. Now there are tins of tuna in the hallway. Since there are no
signs of a break-in, I'm eyeing the other residents.

        Unopened tins, before you ask. None of them have mastered the
can-opener, although they all know it means food is on its way.

                                Train Wreck
     Nobody was hurt and the property damage was apparently minimal

        But I prefer "wow, that was a real train wreck" to be purely

        Home safe, but late, cats all ok. Blotchy seems to have meowed
himself hoarse.

                              Throwing Knife

        I once put a throwing knife through the bottom of my foot but
that required unlikely circumstances. 

                        I'd like to know

        What subtle clues let me know that the 4x4 barreling towards
the intersection I was standing at last night was:

        1: Going to turn right at the light (No turn indicator used)

        2: Not going to slow for the red any more than physics
demanded to avoid flipping on the turn.

        If I'd stepped out when I planned, I'd have been crushed. I
didn't step out because something about the vehicle tipped me off.

                        Most Days

        Most days I can say "Well, at least I wasn't swarmed by a
flock of angry Canada geese."

        Today would not be one of those "most" days. 


        Me: Oh, I need to pay my electric bill. I will bus over to the
Hydro building so as not to lose much time (and I can read on the

        Me: I see I have missed the bus by 2 minutes, so I will just
walk over through the park since I will have reached the hydro
building by the time the next bus comes.

        Me: I see there are Canada geese between me and the footbridge
but I dare not walk around them as that will cost me a precious second
or two.



        Exit, pursued by a goose.

        As it turned out, they were angry enough to approach me doing
the threatening wing thing but not so angry I couldn't keep them off
me with my cane. Once I got to the bridge, they left me alone.

                       Declared Dead, Expanded

        Act One: The Big Snowstorm of '78

        School is canceled but the University of Waterloo has a policy
that they never close for any reason so my father has to go in to
work.  I decide to go in to hit the bookstores, which I assume will be

        We head in via Erb Street and get to the hill before the hill
into Waterloo. At the bottom of the hill before the hill, there's a
large gravel truck, which has parked at the bottom of the icy hill
before the hill to warn us that there's a multi-car pileup at the
bottom of the hill into Waterloo.

        My father discovers the hill before the hill is too icy to
stop and given the choice between hitting the gravel truck, veering
into a deep ditch or into on-coming traffic, he thinks he can manage
the first option best. We get surprisingly close to the gravel truck
before I realize we're not going to stop.

        I don't actually remember the accident but Bill steered the
van nicely enough that the pole (?) sticking out of the back of the
gravel truck came through the front of the van between us rather than
taking a core sample of him or me. My belt broke and I ended up wedged
under the dash, which was good because one of the 50 pound bags of
rock salt in the back of the van demolished my seat.

        The first thing I checked when I stopped being dazed was my
teeth (which were ok) and my glasses (missing but untouched on top of
the pile of rock salt). I was bleeding profusely from the head and my
ribs hurt. Once we dealt with the minutia of the accident, Bill went
to work and I was sent to the hospital to get checked out.

        Head: Source of the blood was a tiny little cut, not even
worth bandaging.

        Ribs: Three broken ribs on the right side.

        Muscles: I did have time to brace my legs against the front of
the van and this apparently was how I pulled a surprising number of

        Treatment: not even bandages for the ribs but I was told to
avoid exercise for a while.

        It was at this point I discovered the storm was so bad both
the cabs and the buses were not running so I had to walk in the storm
from the hospital to the university.

        Many months pass. Bill dies. My glasses suddenly disintegrate
from tiny fractures.

        Act Two:

        I get a bill for the ambulance. As near as I can figure, they
sent the bill to my father's insurance, who told them Bill was dead
and someone at the hospital misunderstood. Nevertheless, I had a bill
that listed me as deceased while at the same time demanding I pay for
the ambulance trip.

        Unfortunately, one of the annoying side-effects is that the
people who administer the orphan's benefits also think I am dead and
so my monthly allowance for staying school is cut off. It took about
eight months to straighten *that* out.

                        On Scars

        I don't understand how people can not have scars. Just today
I've crushed one finger in a door, scalded myself and got soap in my
eye (not all at once). 

                        My Last Four Canoe Trips

        1: Crushed four bones in left hand, popped knee.

        2: Aside from (safely) demonstrating to chums why annoying
snapping turtles is a bad idea, a pretty good trip

        3: A tree fell on me.

        4: Problems with a knee injury but I have to admit it predated
the trip.

                        A Wonder of Design

        I finally replaced my nalgene water bottle with something
comparable. It's a somewhat smaller (600 ml versus 1000 ml) metal
bottle. On closer inspection I noticed the metal bottle had a clip,
suitable for clipping it to a backpack or seemingly suitable for
clipping it to a belt loop on a pair of trousers. I tested this when I
had to carry a number of things downstairs and discovered that if I do
that, the bottle is pushed forward by the motion of the leg on that
side, and then the bottle swings back right into my testicles. 

                        Just So You Know

        I am not going dignify the crescent-shaped upper range of a
first degree burn on my chest with an explanation.

                        My First Job

        My first job for pay was cataloging several years worth of
potentially hazardous chemicals (This would be what led to the "James
knocks over a bottle labeled 'picric acid'" incident). The great thing
about that job as a starter is that pretty much everything I've done
since has been much less likely to end with me scattered over a wide
area or reduced to a slurry. 

                        Picric Acid

        Back in 1980, I was hired to count and record the contents of
a local university's collection of waste chemicals. One of the more
interesting bottles was labeled 'picric acid' (sp?), which is fairly
unstable when crystalised. The bottle had no fluids in it, so I
decided to treat it as though it had crystals in it, and not move it
until I had informed my boss. However, being young and stupid, I also
decided to continue inventorying. The next container was full of
silver nitrate, so I marked it and moved it to the section I was
storing the containers I had dealt with, without much concern, since I
didn't regard it as a potential bomb. In doing so, I clipped the
alleged picric acid with my elbow, knocking it onto the floor, between
me and the door and on the other side of a bucket of lithium pellets.
As it turned out, it was just an empty bottle with a misleading label,
but I didn't know that as it was falling. Most stressful...

                        More on My First Job

        Same job, earlier in the inventory, I picked up a jar of
something and both my work gloves immediately began to melt. 

                        Blotchy and the Kittens

        OK, a cat story: Blotchy has little bald patches around each
nipple. On one occasion, a group of feral kittens I was taming walked
into room where he was reclining, saw him, jumped to an unfortunate
and inaccurate conclusion and tried to latch on to Blotchy's
nipples. He was beyond horrified and spend most of the time until the
kittens were adopted out hiding from them on top of radiators, well
out of their reach.

                    Heating in England

    A house in Florida without heating doesn't baffle me nearly as
much as a house in England with no real functional heating system [1]
[2].  I may be biased by having experienced the winter of 1962-63.

1: I do not count the fireplace, as it turned out lighting a fire in
it could set fire to the house.

2: And the pipes located where they would freeze/burst in a cold snap.

                       Barefoot James

        I kind of miss the days when I would go months without wearing
shoes and get my soles tough enough that I could get shards of glass
embedded in my feet without noticing.

        On the other hand, that monumental thorn had no trouble
getting through, nor the cat-food tin lid or the various rusty nails.

                Tank the Lap Dog

        Tank, our St. Bernard, was never actually small but he did
start off small enough to curl up on a lap. He never lost hope that he
could still pull that off and from time he'd plunk a dinner-plate
sized paw onto a lap and then check to see if the human had noticed
that a 250 pound dog was trying to sneak onto their lap.

        If one did nothing, he'd actually hop onto the lap. It was
good idea to make sure the chair one was on could take it.

                        Family Arguments

        Oh, I meant to say this a while ago: flagrant demonstration of
what the speaker believes to be expertise was encouraged in my family,
along with the obligation to carry out heated debates with people who
had other points of view and also there was a mandate for interminable
defenses of what really were indefensible statements [1]. It was like
I was raised from birth for the internet.

1: We had epic battles over "aquamarine: blue or green" and my father
went to his grave insisting the correct name for blue whales was
sulfur-bottomed whales because if he ever admitted they were called
blue whales I would have won a bet we had and he'd have owed me, oh, a
quarter, I think. Although he did pay happily that time he bet me I
couldn't swim upstream in a thunderstorm.

                Bad News for SV Concordia

        When we had a boat, our father encouraged us to test the
tiller-man's reflexes from time to time by suddenly hurling ourselves
overboard. If we weren't chopped up by the prop, it was deemed a
successful test. In fact, we never had an injury doing and I think to
think practice helped.

        The tall ship Concordia reportedly held abandon ship drills
and on Thursday around 8 a.m. AT the people on board Concordia got to
put the skills they'd learned into practice, which they did

                        Two questions

        The one I don't know the answer to is "is there a convenience
source someone can consult to see which movies are in the public

        The one I do know the answer to is "What is it like to
discover the rough stucco ceiling about one is less than arms' reach
away as one is stretching with ones arms fully extended?"

                        Just so you know

        There is a way to crush a hand between a chair-arm and the
bottom of the desk with sufficient force that the hand ends up a bit
swollen and it will hurt to make a fist.

        I've discovered this on numerous occasions....

                        Ophelia was right

        Having discovered the joy of under-the-covers tunneling,
Groucho now amuses himself for surprising amounts of time by tunneling
around under the blankets. Sometimes I hear a little *bong* when he
gets to the foot of the bed but otherwise he seems to have a pretty
good idea where he is in relation to the edges. He's very happy with
this new hobby and purrs madly as he roams around.

        The problem is what he does when he encounters another cat on
the bed. At some point in the last few days he discovered that with
enough force he can just go under them, still purring madly. Maybe
purring even louder. The other cats do not approve.

                        Hands up

        Everyone who woke up this morning with a live (but damp and
well-groomed) mouse in the same bed.

        I guess this explains why Ophelia was being so noisy last

        [I thought it was one of her toys until a few minutes ago when
it moved as I was walking by the bedroom]

        Damp Mouse has been moved outside.

                        Theory of Mind [2]

        Tonight featured a somewhat less than successful attempt by a
cat to appear baffled and alarmed that it somehow ended up in a room
it knows it is not allowed to go into. The "help me, help me" yowls
were a nice touch.


        [A little boy] was also playing with the rubberized hand rail
on the escalator, putting his hand on the rail and letting it pull his
hand down. I on the other hand was eying where the rubberized rail
enters the machinery on back down and trying to see if there was a gap
large enough for a small boy's fingers on account of been there, done
that [1], smashed fingers aren't fun when one is a kid. He never let
his hand get too low so I never needed to know.

1: Not with an escalator but I am pretty sure this experience can be
generalized. You'd be amazed what you can do using a rapidly spinning
Lazy Susan cupboard and a moment of inattentiveness.

[...] Not that one cannot produce interesting results with the front
wheel of a bicycle, fingers and the front fender.

                So, I have this memory thing

        I don't recall if I have done the latest iteration of habitual
actions or not [1]. This means, for example, I will usually check to
see if I have locked my front door two or three times before I walk
away from the house. Shaving my head is the sort of thing I forget if
I've done or not.

        In fact, I was pondering if I needed to shave it tonight when
I remembered that last night was actually a fairly memorable shave,
because I learned something valuable.

        My electric razor needs to be cleaned out after each use and I
couldn't recall if I'd remembered to do that the last time I used it
or not. In fact I seem to have but what I didn't remember to do after
checking and before pressing it to my head was to re-attach the razor
part, so just after I thought "That sounds wrong" I then discovered
what it feels like to press three small rapidly rotating axles into my

        It was not a soothing massage.

        On the plus side, I do actually remember it.

                         What winter means to me

        It's surprisingly easy to give my left calf a first degree
burn without noticing it.

        Think I will move the space heater a titch.

                        Guard Dog

         The University of Waterloo used to have guard dogs for some
reason. They were kenneled up by the Brubacher House, near the
peacocks (I don't know what the peacocks were for, either).

        We bred one of them with our dog, which led to some hilarity
when the guard dog decided he needed to escape and track down our dog,
something he did with considerable success. The first we knew about it
was when a 110 pound police dog turned up in our hallway.

                                A PSA

        The insulin for diabetic cats (and maybe for diabetic humans,
I don't know) comes in a cunning glass vial with a rubber end that
moves up as the vial empties.

        Turns out that if you drop one just right, the vial can snap
in two. Who knew? Well, I had only just been warned about a couple of
weeks before. Happily the vial was almost empty.

                        This baffles me

        I could never get the hang of throwing bolos so they did
anything more productive than nutting me but all I have to do with my
iPod earbuds is put them down without winding them around the iPod
and they end up entangled around almost everything on my desk.


        Where'd that extra stair at the bottom of the hall staircase
come from?

                There are few sounds as plaintive

        As a small cat who has decided to explore the new coat tossed
over the back of a chair, only to end up stuck in one of the sleeves.

        [upending the sleeve made her pop right out]

        Her sister liked to be rescued and couldn't be bothered to
worry about mere plausibility; she'd just walk behind a book case and
meow sadly until I "rescued" her. She had special little "yay!" meow,

                        Eddie and Penguins

        Eddie was completely indifferent to birds (he once leaned to
one side so he could see around a bird perched on my kitchen window's
sill) with the sole except of Emperor Penguins, which would send him
into a hunting frenzy when he saw them on screen. March of the
Penguins was a good way to keep him occupied.

                Canada's Health Care System

        This might have made a more interesting entry 11,000

        So I was having chest pains....


        (this is eel-free just to save people stress)

        They actually began yesterday but my usual cure all (ignore it
until it goes away) didn't work. They didn't compare to fingertips on
a hot stove top or torn ligaments, being down somewhere around a minor
Charlie Horse, they just didn't go away.

        Around one pm it was bad enough that I was having trouble
finishing a report so I decided to Google chest pains to see what came
up. There were lots of perfectly possible things that could explain
them but there was also kind of a general "call your doctor
immediately" tendency to the advice I was finding so I called my
doctor. Whose line was busy. For the better part of an hour.

        Option two was "go to the emergency department" which I was
loathe to do because the mere fact I could even frame that thought
meant it probably wasn't serious and also I wanted to finish the
report. Since there was no joy on the doctor front and all mental
simulations of the conversation where I mention in passing to my exgf
that I feel like someone hit me in the chest with a bat and did she
think if I ignored it it would go away ended badly, I decided to go to

        I call the exgf (on the grounds that I probably won't be out
early) and warn the people who were expecting the report that it will
be in late (in fact it went off a few minutes ago).

        I consider my options for getting to Grand River Hospital:

        1: Call an ambulance: again, being able to do that means you
don't really need one. Only resort to calling ambulances if you are
out cold or dead.

        2: Walk: Again, all mental simulations of hypothetical
conversations about walking to emerg because one has chest pains ended

        3: Cab: Money I don't especially want to spend on trivia.

        That left

        4: The bus. As it turned out, it got me there faster than a
would have.

        The closer I get, the worse my chest hurts.

        Go into emerge, sign pre-triage form. There's one person ahead
of me and it doesn't look that busy, which is a nice surprise.

        20 minutes later I get to see a nurse. On account of the chest
pains, I will be considered fairly urgent. She mentions something
about me being unusually chirpy for a chest pains person but the way I
see it, the odds were pretty good this was one of the non-cardiac
options (I thought it was a re-occurence of something that happened in
the 1980s, a side effect of my 1978 car wreck).

        I am a bit peckish but am told that for some reason they
prefer people with chest pains to stay in emerg and not go wandering
off.  Anyway, emerg is oddly isolated from the rest of the hospital;
for regular people, there don't seem to be corridor routes that are
not staff only.

        20 or 30 minutes later they take my blood sample and warm me
it takes an hour to process, at minimum. I knew this was coming and
warned them beforehand that occasionally for reasons I do not
understand I fall over after having blood taken. I was supposed to be
given a gurney but what actually happens is the cheerful young nurse
prepares to bleed me in a (somewhat private) chair. I hand her my
glasses so they won't break if I fall over. She is nonplussed and then
when I explain insists that I head to the only gurney she knows about,
which is up at the front entrance. I mean literally at the front
entrance; people had to walk by me to enter the emerg.

        As the nurse gets ready, the exgf walks in and I say hi to
her.  The nurse asks if we know each other and I explain that, no, I
just like to hit on random women as I am having blood taken.

        Well, I thought it was plausible.

        No passing out; the exgf and I head to the waiting area to
wait. I feel better once the blood is drawn. Still pain but less pain.

        The hour passes. Then some more time passes. This pleases me;
the longer it takes them to get back to me, the less urgent it is
likely to be.

        I get peckisher. I didn't bring any cash and anyway the
machines are kind of pricey (for the price of one iced tea I could buy
20L of water at a gas station). I did think to bring some hard candy
so I have one.

        A couple of hours later, I get called to another waiting area.
The nurse explains there's no sign of a heart attack and the EKG
(unless it was something else) backs this up. A doctor will deal with
me but I am warned that because I don't seem to be in dire straits it
could be a while.

        The exgf joins me in a really splendidly comfortable waiting
area. We had barca-loungers! And nothing to eat so I had another hard
candy. There was water in infinite supply.

        More time passes. My blood sugar heads south. Eventually the
doctor shows up. We discuss what it could be (lots of stuff), what it
isn't (heart) and what it probably is (no idea. Not cardiac). I get
sent home around 8 PM.

        Sooooo hungry. So very, very hungry. James not deal hunger
well. The exgf had in fact tracked down the Tims (the cafeteria
apparently closes at 2 PM) and bought two very fresh, very tasty
donuts. Getting back from the Tims was apparently a bit of an
adventure. The system by which people get to the Tims part of the
hospital is built like a lobster trap; you can get into that section
from emerg but to get back you need to sneak back in behind an unwary
doctor, otherwise the doors don't open.

        The exgf buys pizza. By this point, I can't verbalize my
choices so I point at food pictures. Food pictures not nourishing.
James confused and hungry.

        We eat. I become human again.

        I did ask the doctor if I made the right call and she was of
the opinion that even if I'd gotten through to the doctor he'd or his
receptionist would have insisted on me heading to emerg.

        Chest still hurts and my arm is numb but whatever it is, it's
not urgent so I will both mock and ignore it.

        I did get a nice plastic bracelet with numbers on it, though.

        Everything but the bus trip, the donuts and the pizza were
covered by OHIP.

<rdmasters> OK EKG + chest pains + ? numb arm = ?? Which arm is numb?

        Left arm, the one hurt in a car wreck in '78. Broke seat belt,
ended up stuffed under the dash, broke three ribs and did something to
the shoulder. On plus side, was not in seat when bag of rock salt
showed up at 30 miles an hour. That arm is always a bit numb; I use
the left hand to manipulate hot items because of that.

                James and the Very Big Dog

        I was walking to the exgf's condo, having just purchased a
cabbage (Savoy) as one does, and a neighbor of the exgf's shouted at
me, or so I thought. In fact he was yelling at the big boundy dog that
ran up behind me; it was doing its best to scope me out before I
noticed it. Once it saw I saw it, it bounded away and every time I
looked away, it bounded back. It wasn't wagging its tail so I couldn't
sure if this was a prelude to hamstringing me and going for my throat
or not.

        This was on a private road in the condo complex and I wasn't
sure how icy it was so I had to stay still while the large dog was
jumping around me.

        I commented to the owner that sometimes my cane sets dogs off
but it was explained to me that this one is just very friendly. I
stuck my expendable hand out and sure enough, the dog just wanted to
be friends; for it, friendship involves a lot of jumping
around. Honestly, this was the Batroc of friendly dogs.

        The owner decided to put the large dog on its lead since it
was not following commands and the dog had rather cunning epiphany,
which that as long as it was on one side of me and the owner on the
other, it could avoid the lead. An impasse continued for some time;
the dog seemed to have some skill at this. It occurred to me that if I
walked towards the owner, the owner would be between me and the dog;
as soon as I did this the dog ran down the lane and sat down, looking
smug and unleashed.

        Might have been a lab.

                                New rule

        If I feel a sneeze coming on, I will stop trimming my beard.

                        "Rule #1: Don't be on fire."

        I have only broken this rule a handful of times.



        For no reason I can see, my small lunar globe just fell off
the shelf where I keep it.

        Apparently my head is able to dent a small metal globe falling
less than a meter. Good to know.

                        Kindness always pays off

        So, for example, when I heard snoring on my porch as I
approached, I did not vault onto the porch to wake the miscreant with
a toe to the ribs and in return the surprisingly large raccoon was
happy to amble away, once it woke up and had a good stretch. I think
it would have liked a cup of coffee as well....

                (I'm having a middle aged moment.)

        When I left for the exgf's, I had a 2L bottle of white
vinegar.  When I got there, I did not.

<desperance> Just don't tell us you drank it?

        I've only made that mistake once and that was in the dark (I'd
placed a 4L jug of water on the counter next to the 2L bottle of

        Still better than the time in Brazil when I took a swig of pop
from a can, only to discover that in the few minutes it was unattended
it had become infested with extremely angry ants.

        I would rate the ant-pop as the second worst drink I've ever
had. The worst would be an aspartame-based drink that had gone off in
the heat; I had one swallow and my body immediately informed me I had
made a terrible, terrible mistake.


        My paternal grandparents were liberal enough to have FBI
files.  My maternal, no idea; one of them was dead from the '40s to
the '70s and again after 1985 or so and I didn't really know much
about him, except that if you needed someone to climb a mast during a
storm to cut free a spar before it brought down the mast of a leaking
ship, he was the guy to go to. The other I knew more for her baking
than her politics.

                        Too Bold for Its Own Good

        Apparently traipsing up and down the stairs in plain view is a
bad survival strategy for a mouse; I found it laid out carefully next
to the food dish [1] this morning.

1: Has horrible flashback to the time I returned from a trip to
discover that the whole time I was gone, the dead mouse Blotchy had
carefully hidden on the main floor had been aging.


        Huh. I totally forgot my "don towel-cape, leap dramatically
off nearby church" phase in 1967, when we lived on Dorset. But I
wasn't jumping from too terribly high; never more than a story.

                        Less symmetric than usual

        Let's just say toe + failure to raise foot high enough + riser
is a bad way to modify a toenail. Although at least it did stop


        I like to plan ahead; many people worry about today but I've
already selected my epitaph:

        I needed at least one more contingency plan than I actually

                Eddie's idea of a joke, I think [1]


        But he also liked being shoved down the stairs by Blotchy so
he could take a joke back.

1: Pushing other cat's faces into the water dish was just his way of
saying "my turn".

                Notes from 2011 Canada Day fireworks

        We parked near East Campus Hall. There's a giant cube there
that wasn't there before.

        We then followed the ring road to V1/V2 (and the Tutor's
Residences); I spotted several structures I did not know but could not
wave my cane at them as it was in the car. We then walked past Fed
Hell and got onto the access road to V1/V2, then cut over to Columbia
at the intersection.

        ECH, the Rim buildings and the Giant Cube of Doom are where I
used to catch tadpoles as a kid.

        PlantOps is where the first horrific accident I ever heard
about happened when I was a kid: a worker's safety belt failed and he
fell from the top of the Plant Ops Stack. He didn't die immediately or
so we were told.

        V1 is where ground-living birds lived. My brother caught one
for a pet (without running it by our mother).

        V2 is where the snow from the entire campus was pushed to when
we lived in the Tutor's Residences. It was huuuuuuge pile of snow and
made great tunnels and forts: it's also where I was buried alive for
the first time (a snow tunnel collapsed).

        They've moved the connection between the access road and
Columbia; the old Columbia/connection intersection is where I saw my
first serious car wreck: VW t-boned by a Ford Apatosaurus. It did not
go well for the VW but at least I got to see someone cut out of a car
before I was old enough for kindergarten.

        I think we missed walking by where the bungalow I once lived
in was before they moved it and tore down the hill it was on [1] and
we definitely missed the parking lot where the first house I ever
lived in was.

        If I stood up, I could see the spot of water where my older
brother hauled two kids out of the lake after they found the old creek
bed, which is deep enough to drown in.

1: In the 1960s, they used to keep peacocks at the Brubacher house for
some reason. Also I think the police dog kennels were up there: one
was nice and one wasn't. We bred the scarier of the two with our
dog. One day the police dog got loney and came looking for our dog,
which my mother only heard about after discovering the police dog was
in the house with her and we kids. Hilarity etc.


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Last modified Tuesday, 10-Jan-2012 21:29:53 UTC
David Dyer-Bennet