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Posts published in “Real Life”

It’s what happens when we’re not working or playing or thinking or doing. That thing we do that doesn’t fit into all the other categories.

Sometimes we call it living.

“Feral” Cat Update

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As some of you may know, we adopted a "feral" cat we now call Loki. How's that going?


Axually, pretty well. "Yeah, feral. I'm sooo feral. Now feed me, humans."


Loki is axually still an outdoor cat - he's got a spraying problem. But, given a combination of food, shots, neutering and love, he's grown friendly, even loving ... and HUGE.


So score four, crazy cat people. We'd like to stop, seriously. Don't send us any more.

-the Centaur

A Man After My Own Heart

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I don't know what it is about people born about the same time as me, like John Scalzi and Warren Ellis and Richard Evans, but ever time one of them creates a groundbreaking game, gets nominated for the Hugo, wins an award or lands on the moon, they always make me feel like I've been sitting on my ass.

Well, John Scalzi has beaten me to the punch again, this time by eerily mirroring events from my own life and blogging about them while I'm still digesting the events. He recently found a small stray cat, and blogged that has he decided he's going to trap it, get it fixed and possibly tame it, because he'd "rather be a sap than have a dead kitten on [his] conscience."

Boy, do I know this feeling. I also have "cat lover AKA sucker" written on my forehead, and I and my wife have been going through a similar arc. We spent the last three months socializing a little spray monster we've taken to calling Loki, and yesterday my wife took him to the vet to get him his shots and fixed. My wife thought it worthwhile to share some of what we've learned that made us choose to trap, neuter and release him, even though it might scare him off.


We strongly suspect Loki is the brother or cousin of Gabby, the gold cat above that we adopted about two and a half years ago. While their coloration is starkly different, both are highly vocal longhaired cats with similar tails that seem to know each other. Loki's tail has thinned alarmingly in the above photo, but they looked even more similar a few months ago.

Loki isn't a feral cat: he's a stray---that is, an abandoned cat. Feral means an unsocialized wild cat which wasn't raised with human contact and won't approach people willingly. Loki? After some initial skittishness, probably caused by either abuse (he's afraid of feet) or our initial attempts to chase him off (after another stray cat invaded our home and attacked my wife), Loki's approach distance rapidly dropped to zero, and he can be petted, picked up and will even lie in your lap. More tellingly, he knows how to claw and bite without ever drawing blood---a sign of early exposure to humans. Loki was someone's pet, once.

Now he is again. We don't know if he can ever become an indoor cat---he was a little spray monster, and when we realized he was coming in through our cat door and making our other cats spray, we had to eliminate the door. But clearly he'd come to rely on our home for a food source, and even when he was skittish, he meowed piteously, trying to beg even as he ran.

So, back to John Scalzi's plan: he's dead on the money. Even if you don't want a stray cat in your yard, it does you no good to get rid of it. Not only is it inhumane, all you're doing is opening a space in the local cat territory map for some other, possibly more annoying cat to come in and take it. The right thing to do is TNR: trap, neuter, return. This preserves the local territory, so no more cats move in, but stops the cats from breeding out of control and taking over the local wildlife.

We just spent several hundred dollars on examinations and shots for our three cats plus examinations, shots and neutering for Loki, but if you're not planning on keeping the cat, there are probably local animal shelters who will do the neutering for a much more reasonable fee. And unless the cat is a sweetie, there are good reasons not to keep him.


If a cat you're trying to tame becomes approachable, great; but don't try to tame one that's obviously feral and wants nothing to do with people. The cat that attacked my wife, Graycat (pictured above) was so close to feral that only I could handle him, and that was with gloves. I was making progress at it---I could pet him, even play with him with toys outside---but that emboldened him, and he came into our house, fought with our cats, and then tried to attack my wife. She had to fend him off with a broom, not hitting him but trying to push him away---and then he attacked the broom, before running off. Sadly, we can't deal with cats that attack us, and had to have him put him down.

It's better to make a judgment call, which John Scalzi is currently doing with his skittish kitten. I wish him the best of luck with that! As for us, we're hoping Loki comes back. After the neutering, we released him, and he hasn't yet returned. Sad to say, neutering can permanently change the personality of a cat for the worse; my wife has had two cats "ruined" by bad vet experiences.

Still, our vet is good, and Loki took to it better than our three other little monsters. Here's hoping he returns, that he stops spraying once the hormones drain out of his system, and that he finds a good life here. But regardless, we've done our duty: we've made his life better, at least for a while, and cut back on the local cat proliferation, at least for a bit.


Here's hoping he forgives us for that, and comes back for the love. And the can food.

And the laser tag.

-the Centaur

Pictured: assorted furmonsters. Loki, Loki and Gabby, Graycat, and Loki again.

UPDATE: He came back!


Twice. And he's more affectionate than ever (though you can't see that in these photo :-) ...


I think it's safe to say he's here to stay.

The Photoshop Filters of Luxury

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Following up my previous post on using offline blog clients, here's an example of something harder to do with an offline client: uploading images with the originals as clickthrough. I haven't quite figured out how to do that in Ecto but perhaps it's an easy thing. Regardless, what Ecto posted was an image resized to the size it would be displayed at, whereas sometimes what you want is a resized thumbnail where you can click through to the original, which is what the standard WordPress interface will do for you nicely: These images are a comparison of two different filters in Photoshop on the same original. Amazing what we can do with graphics filters today. -the Centaur -Anthony

Testing Ecto as an Offline Blogging Platform

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My ideas for blogging fast outpace my patience for actually blogging them. One problem with systems like WordPress or Blogger is that the interfaces for creating posts are a bit complex and work only online. Simpler "microblogging" systems, like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, enable you to post easily, but limit what you can post (and are walled gardens, to one extent or another). So I'm always looking for good offline blogging clients.

Part of the problem is that I'm on the Mac. Nothing against Windows or Linux, but Macs are (for me) more reliable even though the interface isn't quite as easy to use. But working on the Mac limits your software choices. I've tried Qumana, which isn't bad but sometimes has bad interactions with my blogging settings. (I need to update it, so I'm not giving up on it yet). I've tried a variety of Android blogging clients, such as the WordPress app, but I haven't figured out how to make them obey my image sizing restrictions. So I'm trying other blogging clients, starting with Ecto.

Nice category / tagging interface, easy uploads. Doing something weird with carriage returns, which was a problem with Qumana, but it may be fixable. OK, this is enough of a post to try it out. Here goes nothing!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Gabby, my most computer literate cat, in the lap of luxury (as seen through a few Photoshop filters).

UPDATE: Ecto *gasp* did what I wanted. One point for Ecto!

20,039 Added Words (4,344 of Them Today)

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This post should be titled "wheew". I've now just reached the point where I've caught up with my crazy goal of writing at twice the normal rate. I've written just a notch over the required 3,333 words a day, churning out 20,000+ words in HEX CODE (and that's NOT counting the 1500 word seed I started with). I had hoped to be this caught up last night, but I erred and went to one of my favorite coffee houses and found it closed an hour earlier than I thought, cutting in to my writing time. I could swear these hours are new, but maybe I'm just hallucinating. And when I got home I had to play with the cats, such as the cute little monster above, a feral, stray or perhaps just terribly surly cat that just might be our orange cat's father (or mother - I didn't get close enough to enquire). Regrettably, since we already have too many cats, they mark, and feral cats have been trying to get into our home, I had to shoo Mister Orange Cat away, gently touching him with my flashlight, which freaked him out as he didn't know what it was - no matter how much he whapped at it, it didn't react. He actually looked OFFENDED as he scrabbled away atop the fence. I'm sad to have to do that, but his possible son below is more than enough trouble - we can't take in any more cats. The point being, I was exhausted, but by the time I did all my cat triage, I just fricking collapsed into blissful unconsciousness. Today, however, I had no plans. While I overslept for church, as I irritatingly often do, I still got up reasonably early thanks to Daylight Saving's Time. So I had an extra hour to get out, get to a Panera ... and get caught up. I got my day's writing done pretty quickly, got a notch more ahead, and then went home, fed the cats, cleaned the pee left when the rains discouraged one of them from going outside :-P and resumed writing with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the background. A friend called, I hopped in the car while talking with him, and by the time we were done I was standing outside Chipotle with only 250 words to go. Short story, by taking the laptop out first and turning the internet off, I made it to 20039 words. Now I'm freezing my ass off in a surprisingly chilly Barnes and Noble, sipping on a Frappucino (yeah, I know, cold drinks on a cold day, shut up, there's a reason my Top Gun name is Iceman) and taking a short break. Soon I'm going to dive back to it and try to finish another thousand words or so to give me a comfortable buffer. If all goes well, if I can keep up a bit less than the pace I've done so far, I should be able to coast through the second half of November. Maybe, just maybe, if I get done early enough ... I can go see The Thing again. Onward! -the Centaur

A Funny Thing Happened Before My Trip To Comic-Con

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Axually by the time you reads this am already atz the con now - but just befores I waz completely discombobulated from cats:
Anthony Last night our home was invaded by a quiet, timid but quite feral cat. 2 hours trying to locate the capture him - no dice, he was a wily fucker. Then 3 hours cleaning the pee he left behind when he bolted out the door. Emailed that I wouldn't be coming in and got to bed at 4:25am. Sheesh. Donna OK...while I am sure that REALLY sucked, I have to admit I also am still laughing. Sorry that happened...Febreeze works well. Anthony He's an adorable little cat. He's also a master of hiding (he tucked himself into the tiniest possible space in a bottom bookshelf) growls if approached closely and smells of pee. I think he's been causing my other cats to spray. I'd be laughing too if the situation wasn't so serious - just last night I lost two books, half a dozen magazines, some papers, and possibly an heirloom kitchen table I got from my grandmother to pee. The behavioral effects on our other cats are so severe one's on Diazepram, the other's on Prozac, and we're thinking of getting rid of them. I'm locked out of my own library most of the time because we can't let them get in there. I went out for coffee for an hour and a half and found the black cat on top of some clean laundry. Donna Oh no!! I take it all back... No longer funny :( I hope it gets better! Anthony There's some small amount of funny, I admit it. When not gnashing my teeth, I like to remember that it's better than a kick in the head with a golf shoe! William Good lord! I think you need the Cat Whisperer. Cortney Decoite O. My. That's almost as bad, if not equal to, a burglar. My deepest sympathies. John Have you ever tried a kick in the head with a golf shoe? It's not so bad. My eyes are still crossed and I'm falling down a lot, but I don't think it has anything to do with the kick to the head...
Iz funny in a lolcats trainrecks kind of way. Don't worries, will not get rid of teh cats. But just catching the ups now. Response will be the slow, please be the patients. -the Centaur

Take Care Of Yourself Before It’s Too Late

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Gabby naps, with the sabretooth skull in the background.

I can't even begin to tell you all that I've gone through recently: sleep deprivation, tonsillitis, tinnitus, internal injuries, a trip to the emergency room (unrelated), and near disasters at work. I've started another blog entry to explain what's been going on, but even that had to be put on hold by other disasters.

The quick point I want to pass on is that I work hard sometimes. I used to describe as working two jobs: by day, my work at the Search Engine That Starts With A G, and by night, the author of the Dakota Frost series. Both could take 40 hours a week or more, meaning normally almsot every nonworking minute ends up on writing.

Recently, that's become like four jobs: my old project at the Search Engine, a brand new project at the Search Engine, both with hard and conflicting deadlines, a scientific paper for my new project, also with a hard deadline, and my fiction writing, also with deadlines. Each one could be a full time job. Aaa.

Recently, this came to a head: I'd finished my scientific paper, had a breather on the writing, yet still knew I was going to have to work hard, nights and weekends, just on my two work projects. So I decided one night I needed to take a break, to chill out, to go to bed early and catch up on sleep. To recharge my batteries.

Too late.

That night, when I got home, planning to crash out early, one of my cats urinated all over our curtains, then tracked it through our house, necessitating a 3:45AM cleaning job (cats will urinate after each other unless it is completely cleaned up), just before a Monday at work. The next night I was kept up by a sore throat, was worn out Tuesday, and was diagnosed with tonsillitis on Wednesday. The throat pain caused sleep deprivation, the coughing fits caused hemorrhoids (yuk!), the nasal congestion caused tinnitus and hearing loss in one ear, and all of this indirectly caused my trip to the emergency room (more on that later). This went on for days, then for over a week. And all of this just before a huge presentation at work, which we figured out we needed to cancel much too late to cancel - so I had to keep working, even though I could barely keep working. I couldn't really code in my exhaustion, and when I did readings for my other project - and I did work on my other project, because its deadlines wouldn't stop either - the textbooks actually blurred when I sat down to read them.

It was almost two weeks later, a day after the presentation, when I finally crashed, for essentially 36 hours straight.

So my point, and I do have one, is that you should take care of yourself. Now. While you're still feeling good about yourself. Because if you wait to take care of yourself until you're all worn out ... it may be too late.

-the Centaur

Good morning, pilgrims…

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lenora on the cat condo ... this is still not If it was, we wouldn't be leading off from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Second Sunday After Christmas:
Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.
There are lots of ways to interpret this passage, but I'm most interested in the one by Reverend Ken Wratten of Saint Stephens in-the-Field church. Joseph is performing an action in faith - he's moving to a different country based on a voice he heard in a dream - but based on a realistic response to circumstances. Historians dispute whether the massacre of the innocents really happened, but not that Herod was a tyrant and madman who murdered his own family. So even though we don't normally follow the advice we get in our dreams - and, for the literalists among us, note that in some circumstances the Bible specifically warns us not to - it was nonetheless a reasonable response to the circumstance for Joseph to heed that voice and get the heck out of Dodge. Father Ken's interpretation of this is that we should respond to the circumstances of our life in faith. Not assume that faith will magically shield us from all woes, but realistically look at the circumstances we have and, based on faith, take the response available to us that best fits God's will. If you are not a Christian or other believer, substitute the idea that you should not rely on your ideology to save you, but you should nonetheless take the best action available to you consistent with your values AND the circumstances. (There's more to Christianity than just Always Do The Right Thing, but I digress.) So what does this have to do with cat spray? gabby 5 seconds before whapping caesar just as he relaxes One element of responding in faith is that God can use changes in our circumstances to prod us to action - if we are willing to look at our circumstances in faith and try to see how we could, indeed should turn it to our advantage. No matter how trying the circumstances... Recently, we noticed a whiff of an odd smell and realized the cats had been spraying under a desk in our library, which I've been reorganizing. I wiped up the spray, picked up the stack of three plastic tubs of computer parts, and turned to take them into the kitchen - and a stream of cat urine slid out from between the boxes and dripped all over a pile of papers I'd set out to file. For those not familiar with cat urine, it's the substance they used to "eat through the floor" in the movie Alien. (No it isn't; that's a joke. See the link below). The cats had sprayed most of the under-desk shelf but the ridges of atop the plastic tubs had sealed it in and trapped the smell - until I moved it, when the funky urine landed on my pile of junk. Everything was trashed: the box for my MacBook Air, an old drawing book, some papers, a record ... but, miraculously, not my comic book artwork, which, in one of those circumstances which gives succor to those of faith and drives our skeptical friends nuts, was completely spared. God uses circumstances to prod us to make changes we wouldn't do on our own. I had already decided, in a sort of general way, that I needed to purge my library: this brought the point home, and even helped me decide what to purge. My wife and I already knew we needed to get all three of the cats integrated or get rid of one or more of them: this brought that point home, and led immediately to a new plan of action. And we already knew we were a team, but had yet to really accept that we had complementary work habits, but when she cheerfully worked to 5am cleaning while I slept, and then I cheerfully took over while she slept, that brought that point home. Religious believers, Christians, look on this as a reminder to look at the circumstances that befall you in faith, and try to find the action God has given you that doesn't just cope with the situation, it actually improves it and brings you closer to him. And for skeptics, remember: fundamentally, we live in a spot of this universe where it is possible for life to thrive for billions of years. It may sound cheesy, but life will find a way: and no matter what the circumstances, you can too. Like pilgrims, you may find it takes a long journey, but at least it's possible to reach the promised land. -the Centaur Pictured: Lenora irritated by a cat toy, our warring tomcats Caesar and Gabby, and a Youtube experiment attempting to replicate the "acid burning through the floor effect" from Alien.

Don’t let your cats watch you play Portal…

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No cats were harmed in the linking of this post ... but, well, I can't say that for the photography.

-the Centaur

P.S. The cat is not mine :-), but I do like playing Portal. For those that don't get the joke, Portal is a game in which players have a "hole gun" that can create a magic portal on a wall that the player can jump through, unless the player is a cat. My buddy Gordon hooked me up with this meme.