Siamese, the queen of the ferals [Updated]

As I’ve related before, we’ve had our fill of feral/stray cats. Some we’ve captured and placed or kept, others we’ve fixed and let go. Siamese is one we fixed and let go. She was too well adjusted to outside and to be honest, she’s a survivor. She’s got this weird almost cross-eyed way she looks at you. We’d had her eyes checked but the doctor said she can see just fine. And so he was right. She’s survived for fourteen years outside.

Now, she’s not looking too hot. She’d been fine for ages. In fact, we’d laughed at just how well she could still climb and hunt despite being an old battleaxe. But in just a matter of days she went from healthy looking to slightly skinny to, now as of today, unnaturally skinny in the hind quarters. She’s also wobbly now too.

It doesn’t bode well. She’s an outside cat, exposed to harsher conditions and unclean conditions. And, she could also just be so far gone at one point that she’ll end up in the street getting run over by the idiots who think our street is a drag strip. We have a narrow street (with cars parked on either side, there’s only room for a single car to pass) which is unusual for the San Fernando Valley. Despite this and the fact that there are kids who play in front of houses sloped so that soccer balls and the like always end up in the street, because people don’t realize the physics involved in stopping a 3-8 ton metal alloy, plastic and glass block of destruction in 10 feet is impossible at 30 MPH unless you hit something just as heavy, a fair number of near misses and hits happen here.

Our famed Rat Cat died because of some idiot-after years of surviving crossing that street. We lost Misty that way too. The neighbor’s dog. Countless other animals. Digressing here.

So now, Siamese isn’t looking great. Whereas I was worried about how she’d handle the winter (we put a heated blanket and separate heated cat bed in the garage which she and Brindle, when she was alive, used in the past during the colder months), now I have a feeling she may not survive the week, let alone September.

One of the greatest things in the world is being able to spend time with animals. They’re beautiful and despite the ignorance of many, have a wide range of personalities and emotions. They’re amazing to watch and can be amazing companions if you recognize the fact that they are as unique as you are. You don’t like everything, neither do they. When you take in a cat or dog you didn’t raise from very early in their lives, you can’t expect them to just suddenly love you. In most cases, with the right amount of affection (and plenty of food), you’ll earn their trust and eventually even their love.

One of the worst things in the world is having to see your companion of over a decade go. Siamese has been a fixture of our house since she was brought over by Rat Cat. We remember that time we almost caught her early on as she followed the mews of her kittens we’d been given by the neighborhood kids. Or that time when she hooked up with a male cat we called Longtail (it was a damned long tail)  for a couple years and rarely visited. Or when she showed up having “divorced” from him but still wanting to be with him despite him hissing her away. Or how she would sit with Brindle as Brindle slowly faded last year. We’ve chased her off as she hunted birds and lizards in our yard. We’ve given her treats of table scraps once in a while. She’s shat in our garage like she was presenting us with a gift and she miscarried all over my wife’s car cover. Still, through it all, she’s been there, hissing at us when we come out to put food out then meowing because she couldn’t wait to eat.

As always, I will hope that this is some serious but non-fatal illness she’ll be able to shake off with a warm blanket and plenty of good food. But, we’re also prepared to honor her in death as the last of the strays who’ve lived on our land. We may have a stray tomcat pass through, or like that one time have a pregnant cat decide, somehow, that she should leave her kittens on our property then disappear. But, few if anyone will be able to topple Siamese’s record of a decade here. We TNR when we can and if the cat is friendly enough we may take them in and eventually find them a home. The era of strays on our land is likely over with Siamese. Our neighbors might be happier at the thought but something about that life, that extra predator to keep rats and other creatures that may not be desirable at bay, that member of Charlemagne’s army that tells you when something’s wrong, that won’t be there anymore is going to make this place a little more empty.

I’ll miss her when she goes. And, I suspect the world will miss her, even though they don’t know about her.

kn

Update:

As we expected, Siamese was gone the next day, 9/23. I’d checked on her around midday and found her sitting on the heated blanket in the garage. She didn’t look great but was alert and still alive. Then, as I was heading out to run a quick errand, I’d checked out the windows in various places to see if she was in her usual spots because she wasn’t in the garage. Nothing. Didn’t bode well  but I also didn’t expect anything necessarily.

I looked for her and glimpsed her legs through the opening in our garage that she always used to go back and forth. At first, I figured she was where she usually was on a hot day, lounging, melted in the heat in our shaded and largely cool side yard. Then I thought I’d double check. Sure enough I bent over and looked further outside. I see her lying there with flies on her face. She was making half-hearted noises and flinching. I ran around to the side gate and shooed the flies away. She was breathing rapidly, her mouth open, her eyes open but droopy. She was barely hanging on. I knew it was basically over.

I called my wife to let her know and we decided we just had to put her down. She wasn’t going to recover and now she was struggling to survive amid whatever was killing her. I put her in our workhorse carrier and headed to our vet. We’ve got a couple vets we use. This one was one we’d used for the longest time because his rates were very reasonable and he gave us breaks all the time. One of the benefits of an established vet who wasn’t in it to make a ton of money or pay of school or equipment bills. He wasn’t always the best in terms of available resources, which was why we used another vet for more serious issues.

The process was quick. They were getting close to closing and no one was there but the staff. They took Siamese back into the surgery area while I made the arrangements for her death and cremation when I was told that I could come in to the surgery area. I said my hellos to the staff and the vet. I explained what was up and as he shaved her arm. Then, without much fuss or ceremony, as I’m talking he injects her. She was gone in seconds. They left her with me and I said my goodbyes. My wife was driving home so she was stuck in traffic and couldn’t be there.

With the business part sorted out, I left and that was it. Her ashes will be back in a week or so. Her spot towards the front of our side yard, her home for over a decade, is so empty now. We still forget and start to prepare to feed her only to remember that we don’t have to. The dishes she ate out of are largely abandoned. We’ll eventually clean them up and reduce our outside feedings to some dry food and water for those passing tomcats, the raccoons that show up once every week or two, the possums that visit at least once a week, but nothing more for a resident.

As my wife said, it’s the end of an era. Brindle’s death was the end of one era. But with Siamese gone, an even larger era is over. It’s like the boundary between centuries or when some plant closes in a town dedicated to it. There’s that initial calm when you’re looking at what was and remembering how it had been. We’re there now. In a couple weeks, we’ll be in the next phase where the area will get cleaned up a bit, things will be changed and eventually it won’t even look like it used to. The memories fade and you only remember or reminisce once in a while until it’s only in those rare moments when you wallow in the losses of the past and remember everyone: Max, Sasha, Mieu Mieu, so many over the years.

At least, we have plans. That corner is clear enough that we can–and will–plant something, mixed with Siamese’s and Brindle’s ashes. Hopefully, it’ll be able to grow for many years, long after we’re gone.

Goodbye, Siamese.

Puffy

Puffy-boy

I’m writing this well after Puffy’s passing but I’m post-dating it to place it in the right spot in time. We’d lost three of our cat friends in 2013 and Puffy was the “victory” however temporary against that trend. Even though he lasted a good eight months after most people would’ve given up and let him go, I still wanted more.

We always try to put our pets to sleep at home if possible. Usually it’s cancer so it’s one of those events you can see coming: an event horizon after which no light passes and time seems to stop. In the past, we had used this one vet but then, with our Rottweiler, he’d done something that made Sasha uncomfortable (she was swaying her head back and forth and started to seem very disoriented after the sedative was administered). It could have been unforeseeable–maybe she was allergic or maybe with the pain she’d been enduring, her biochemistry was different. Whatever it was, my wife didn’t want to use him any more.

We’d tried another vet who drove up in an RV (warning sign #1) and insisted my best friend, Max, lay on some stupid plastic table throughout the whole process (warning sign #2). Note to self and everyone really: yes, it’s more difficult to handle an animal when they’re being held but guess what? They have no more time left on this Earth…would you rather they felt the familiar comfort of your arms or lap or some hard table?

As Puffy was starting to fade, and all hope that he would either pass on his own or would make some sort of miraculous recovery vanished, I searched for a new vet to try. We found one that seemed great. You can tell a lot about a person, especially when they’re older, just from seeing their face and by a lot of other factors. This one vet seemed like he might be good. Problem: he was booked and we really didn’t want Puffy to wait another day. My wife had called him and found this out via his voicemail. I said, just leave a message asking for references to another vet. A good vet will usually know other good vets. Sure enough, we get a reference to another vet who my wife talks to and passes the initial conversation test: she sounds nice.

I know this seems trite but honestly, in an age where digital storefronts are the norm and decades of marketing experience is out there for anyone to read and learn from, it’s really not hard for someone to hide or put up a front only to show up and be completely incapable of understanding the job at hand.

This vet was nice. She was friendly and she had a great bedside manner. Puffy didn’t take kindly to the sedative, hissing  despite having little energy for anything else. But it was a moment of discord before he was calm again and soon sedated. He passed quickly and easily, wrapped in our embraces, surrounded by the house, sounds, and smells he knew.

*****

Puffy was one of “the thirteen”: two litters the neighborhood kids brought to us since apparently we were the cat people of the neighborhood. We were ignorant of TNR (trap-neuter-return) and had no idea what to do. We had put food out not long after we moved in because we’d see a cat pass through our backyard. Having two cats already (and soon two dogs), we were more attentive to passing felines. One night, there was this young cat with this long snout. We dubbed her Rat Cat. Not the best of names but it described her (who we found out to be a her soon enough). It took a few months but she eventually brought a couple of kittens in tow. We had no clue what to do. Who’s cat did she belong to? She didn’t live with us. She just came to eat.

Eventually, she brought another pair of kittens (the first two disappeared once they were older…we suspected they were killed but could have also been male and just went off to be tomcats in new territories). Again, seeing as the others disappeared, we weren’t sure how long these had. The black one eventually disappeared. The one we dubbed Siamese Cat because she had mostly Siamese features stuck around. She would come with Rat Cat but eventually showed up with a litter of her own (thus we found out she was female). Of these, one would end up being Nikki who passed last year along with another–Brindle–who ended up living outdoors. Nikki got the privilege (or sentence depending on how you look at it) of living inside after she somehow survived being run over by my wife.

Eventually, the thirteen would show up – most likely the combined litters of Siamese Cat and the third member of that litter she had–and we’d gotten the message. We found the Feral Cat Alliance (now the Stray Cat Alliance) and learned we could borrow traps from them (just needed a deposit). We trapped Siamese and Brindle and got them fixed (and nicked in the ear). The other daughter of Siamese didn’t live with us or visit so we were never able to capture her. We also never saw another litter. We suspected that someone up the street was killing cats: I found a severed cat head on the sidewalk at one point. After heading back to get a camera (pre-smartphone days), the head was gone.

Of the thirteen, we placed all but three (plus we’d placed other litters we’d come across prior and before we’d managed to finally capture the two females that came to us). Those three were Brindlear (now Lilly), Rudy (the drooler), and Puffy. With so many kittens, we’d run out of names. I always liked to use names that described the look or personality of the cats. It had a native american feel–natural, more in tune with nature–and also allowed for the fact that ultimately, we couldn’t get too attached to these cats. There was Blackfoot (black sock coloring of the feet and part of the legs, Grumpy (he had this look that made him look, well, grumpy), Baby (she was still small when the others were growing), Stripe (she had a strip down the middle of her face), etc.  Puffy got his name because his eyes were always puffy–yeah, not because I like a certain rapper, which I don’t actually…I’m more old school.

He was the largest of the kittens and his favorite thing to do during play time–when I took a break from work and I sat for 30-60 minutes with the kittens after freeing them from their bathroom home–was to just sit in my lap.

*****

We knew something was up when we noticed Puffy was getting skinny in the backside. He was a large cat so you don’t always notice that sort of thing but when you go to pet him and you can feel his back getting skinnier, you know there’s an issue. And, with how cats are, once you notice the issue, it’s often too late. It took a couple of visits and an ultrasound to find out he had a blockage. It took the surgery to clear that blockage to find out he had a slow moving cancer of the small intestines. He survived the surgery (our budget still hasn’t though) and recovered from a multitude of issues including damage to his pancreas.

We were able to spend more time with him and despite what he went through, he still had the same laid back attitude. He got along with everyone, was happy as a clam just sitting with us, didn’t get in trouble and didn’t destroy our furniture like the others did. He was just this good boy. All he wanted was to spend time with us and be pet.

Because of the number of cats we had and our lives, we didn’t get to spend as much time with each cat as much as we’d like. It always seemed something drastic would have to come along for us to realize what we were missing.

As we dove into March, my work got crazy. I was working 12-15 hour days. Some weekends towards the end of March, I went without more than a few hours of sleep while I worked through weekends. My wife couldn’t believe I was still alive. I would be working when she went to bed and still working when she woke up. I’d get an hour of sleep only because I passed out at my desk.

Throughout all of this, Puffy started to show signs that something might be up again. Despite a very slow but steady upward trend in his weight, he started to lose weight again. He was getting weaker and soon was having trouble getting up on the couch, barely 10 inches up. He slept on the couch with us as we had dinner and watched TV. He slept in the camper beds we got (these things have been a complete winner around here…apparently they aren’t available on Amazon any more). He was sleeping more and more (for him, this was significant). We figured he was either fighting something that was just harder because he was doing low-intensity but consistent chemo (harder to fight off those bugs when your immune system is being bombarded) or he might be seeing his end. We’d had him checked but nothing significant showed except for some fluid in his abdomen which could have been one of several issues–all of which were not good.

Personally, I don’t want to give up. I hate the thought that there might have been something we could’ve done. It’s like if there was a cure for some disease and if you’d just done a Google search for the right terms, you’d have found it, then the world would be right again.

As the weekend hit, Puffy was sleeping a lot and worse, he was getting wobbly. He had trouble going to the litter box because he’d trip on his legs. That was the sign that things were just not going to get better. Monday came and we had to decide.

I hate this moment. It’s the event horizon. It’s that moment when you’re making a decision that will end the life of someone. It doesn’t matter if that life was going to end soon on its own. You made this decision and that decision directly affects the life span of another living being. We’d set Puffy up in one of those camper beds by my desk. He’d wake up, groggy and start meowing repeatedly, like he was in a daze thinking he was somewhere else. On the one hand, I thought maybe this was his way of saying he was still there and wasn’t letting go. On the other, it felt like we were maybe just torturing him by extending his life another hour. I know. Reading into something too much. Projecting our fears. Doing what we feel is right, not trying to find out what’s right or wrong. Honestly, though, the standard course of action for an animal that’s dying is to put them out of their misery as soon as possible. The standard course of action for a human is to put as much heroic effort as possible in to stop them from dying. Both are on the cusp of of the great abyss, both are suffering, yet we’re ready to send the animal off but can’t imagine sending the human off. That’s a different post I think.

We find a vet as described above and that final event horizon hits. When we were putting Max down, this event horizon idea hit me really hard. I had to step out of the room when the vet showed up to catch my breath. As a very shy child, I had more instances in my life than I can count when I was forced to do something I didn’t want to do: stand up in front of a bunch of people and do something. It’s this irrational fear of being the center of attention as something embarrassing happens. I had heard of this concept about what fear was. That fear is our mind playing out the possibilities and picking the worse ones to imagine are actually going to happen. In other words, we’re worried about something happening even though it hasn’t. It’s why you, as a child, fear the dark or that monster under your bed. It’s not that there was something that actually peaked out and warned you they’d get you if you ventured into that dark closet. It’s that you decided there could be something in there that can harm you and decided that’s enough of a risk that you’ll just stay away from there.

That shy child suffered a lot even though he didn’t have to. Those moments leading up to when I’d have to get up and try to remember all those points I was supposed to talk about for my Civil War report or the salient points from Eisenhower’s life were awful. I would imagine a fire alarm might get pulled and save me. I’d watch the clock and hope that the kid before me would take just long enough for the teacher to say we’re done for the day. In one case, I ended up getting a D in history because I just couldn’t make myself go up and talk about Smitty, our chemistry teacher who’d gone to war and made it back all those years ago. I’d have the reports or posters or whatever all done up. I’d be ready on that front. I just couldn’t go up and talk while all those eyeballs stared at me. As that moment came though, that moment when my name was called or when the teacher indicated I needed to get up and do my thing, it was the same as this moment. The heart skips a beat. Breath seems to vanish from your lungs. Your brain is screaming as all those possible ways to avoid this singular moment in time are flashing by, being analyzed one last time to find that clause that says, nope, hold on there, section six, paragraph C, line two says my client does not need to do this if he doesn’t want to.

And, as we creatures of time know, once that time hits, the next second shows up like clockwork, and the next one. The vet comes in. We all introduce each other. There’s that moment when we all stop and acknowledge why we’re standing there, why the vet is in our home, why we have a sick cat sleeping on a towel he just wet because he’s got no energy to move, why that moment in time exists for us. Then the vet sets up. She asks questions about Puffy. There’s the hushed question about how we want his remains handled. There’s the payment, the receipt. Then it’s time.

The vet describes what she’s going to do. She says we start with a sedative to calm them down and make them sleep. Then there’s the drug that’ll slow his heart down until it just stops beating. Then he dies. I know the biology of it–yes, I was the kid who actually did pay attention in class, enough so that I got a degree in the stuff. Doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. The sedative, the hiss, then the calm. He was purring still. He didn’t have the strength to open his eyes or go pee but he could purr. That’s how we knew he was going to be alright; how we knew we had to do what we needed to do. We’d gone through the pain of watching one of our cats die because some strange disorder effectively prevented her from eating food and getting anything from it. She basically starved to death. Nikki went south fast and in the time it would take for a vet to show up, she died anyway. It wasn’t easy or pleasant. It was a struggle. And if we knew she was that far along, we would’ve put her down sooner. But, we thought she had more time. You can never tell with these cats.

The final syringe of fluid and almost instantly the purring subsides, as does his breathing and his heartbeat. That tuft of hair that was rising and falling with each heartbeat stops. You sit there looking at it thinking you see it twitching or that maybe it’s just so subtle that maybe he’s still there. Then you look at the eyes and they’re fully dilated. The vet checks his heart and gives you that nod that it’s done.

That beautiful life that never wanted more than a good petting and a place to sleep was gone. His dual-tone meow that was so distinctive won’t sound again. Every time you go to do the boxes, he won’t sit on top blocking your way so you have to pet him yet again. That heavy weight that filled your lap while that purr that was so strong you could feel it coursing through him is no longer.

The event horizon has passed and his life and the history you shared with him has fallen past that horizon. There are static images, post-flash silhouettes on the back of the eye, and videos. But that movement isn’t the same. It’s the after image that’s stuck at the edge of the event horizon while the rest of it has gone through, never to be seen again.

I’ve, for the longest time, had this image in my head where all living things have these life lines: bright lights of light that streak forward as time progresses. They intertwine as people, animals, living creatures encounter others. Some bind together as couples, families, friendships are formed. Others split off as people or creatures separate. Eventually, a line stops. The other lines continue and that line disappears into the background as time continues its unrelenting march forward.

There are theories. Maybe time isn’t as one way as we think. Maybe you can exist in multiple times. Perceive history just like it was a memory from yesterday. Maybe that’s why people seem to think they had past lives as Cleopatra. Maybe they’re right there, or a part of them is, as a servant or a fly. They just don’t realize it. It’s mixed in with everything else because they lack the focus to see just that part of time. I like to think that instead it’s more that time just is part of us. People we meet, places we see, things we do. It’s our history and our lives. It’s what makes us who we are even as we feel like we’re defining it ourselves. I also like to think that in some way, that history never really goes away and isn’t lost. More like the opposite: we travel down that time line to see what’s up that way and around the corner.

One day, when we’re done searching, we’ll just come back and be where we were and how we were. We’ll be in all those moments in time all at once and together with everyone who was there as well. Like a sea of everything that goes on for eternity. And maybe then, I’ll get to sit with Puffy again. I’ll feel him purring against my leg as he sleeps away eternity in my lap.

Goodbye, my boy. You were a good boy and always will be. See you soon.

kn

Setting up FTP in IIS7 with SSL and using FileZilla as a Client

This is a very specific post so I can very specifically remember this nonsense.

I was having trouble getting FTP to work on my LFGStudios.com box. I’d keep getting the error “534 Local policy on server does not allow TLS secure connections.” Of course, I was baffled because I’d set up a self-signed cert and turned on the settings (and messed with different configurations) and nothing seemed to work. I checked the firewall (though I figure we wouldn’t get that far if the firewall was the problem) and tried a few other things along with a number of Google searches to no avail.

Then I was reading an article here which was apparently a post of someone doing something I might have done if I wasn’t too paranoid about releasing procedural details and the like. Scrolling through I wasn’t seeing anything useful until I came across this line by chance, right before another line about FileZilla checking certs for both control and data channels:

“NOTE: AUTH TLS/SSL Negotiation for Primary connection is done based on the certificate at the global level and uses the certificate installed at the site level for Data connection.”

Dammit! So, I go into IIS Manage, click on the server name, go into FTP SSL Settings, select my self-signed cert and check “Require SSL connections”, click Apply and BAM! It works!

Ugh.

As a side note, also remember to prefix your usernames with the named host if you’re using a host name for the FTP (i.e. the FTP site isn’t the default/global FTP) like so: “ftp.yoursite.com|yourusername” otherwise you’ll get a host name missing error.

Back to work now…

Brindle

This is turning out to be a bad year. Brindle, who is actually tortoise shell but we didn’t know any better at the time, passed away around noon yesterday, July 10, 2013. We’d taken her in at her own behest (she’d started hovering around the kitchen door a little while ago but would run away despite her obviously wanting to come in) and started treating a bad upper respiratory infection. She got some Frontline (half a dose since she was also skinnier than her usual skinny self) and we’d just started antibiotics the day before. I found her when I checked on her after a long business call, lying on her side, rigor already starting to set in.

She was the daughter of Siamese (you can see we weren’t too original with the feral cats’ names…it was mostly because we weren’t sure they’d stick around long enough) and sister to Nikki who just died last month (almost to the day actually). We suspected she might have been suffering from the same polycystic liver disease Nikki succumbed to but regardless, we were more focused on clearing the infection so she could breathe better and at least not suffer. It’s entirely possible the antibiotic (Clavomox) might have contributed to her death but she was also very skinny with a medium appetite. She’d managed to pee some time in the morning and her stool had been getting better over the last couple days. Even so, I suspect her condition was worse than we’d thought.

She’d been sick but uninterested in coming in. We’d long left her to be the semi-feral cat she was since she wasn’t having anything to do with domestic life. We’d actually just saved her last winter when, upon opening the garage door and hearing this loud bang (still have no idea how she was situated that she caused that sound since we found her on the driveway unable to run away), we’d grabbed her and taken her to the vet. She was in such bad shape the vet said she wouldn’t survived. Her back paws were sliced open for some reason and they’d been that way for a while given how it looked. She was the one that stuck around (her mother would wander off and come back and was much more feral than she was) yet we have no idea how she did that. There isn’t anything sharp that could’ve caused that unless she went to a neighbor’s yard. In the end, she recovered. It took about a month during which she became my wife’s project. Her fur had been matted (she insisted on sleeping in the leaves under our bushes despite the various beds and hutches we’d tried over the years) and we had to wait for her paws to heal. Despite all that she healed up and couldn’t wait to be rid of us. kthxbye!

So now she’s gone. Twelve years she lived with us. Every morning and evening she’d be there, waiting on the side for her food. She slept and hunted in our yard and rarely left. We could get close to her but it’d make her nervous. If we attempted to pet her or get closer, she’d run. Always on her terms. It’s hitting my wife harder seeing as she nursed her to health just recently and that Brindle was such a fixture. While her mother, Siamese, would run off even if we were just walking to the bins to drop something in, Brindle just hung 0ut (assuming we didn’t walk right up to her). While Siamese climbed like a monkey (she’s 13 or 14 years old and still spry!) up a tree to get away, Brindle would just trot around us.

We’ll miss her sleeping there by our bedroom walking through the fallen leaves quieter than the opossums that barrel through like drunken sailors in a china shop. Her standing there in the morning and the evening waiting for her servants to deliver expensive canned food for her perusal, at times turning her nose up to $1.50/can sometimes. Once in a while we’d catch her eating a bird. Given how slow she was, she didn’t seem likely to be one that caught it (we suspected Siamese caught them for her). So many years and memories.

Brindle, rest in peace with your sister. No more hot days or dreary wet nights. No more colds or fleas. Just rest and freedom. Good luck on the next phase!

Whitebeard

Another death watch in such a short time. I’ve gotten used to the idea since I’ve realized all our cats were born around the same time (2000-2003) such that they’re all reaching that “average” geriatric age for cats. We’ve known of a couple cats (not ours) that have lived upwards of 30 years, which if you think about it is something like being born in the early 1800s and still being alive today.

Today’s victim was Whitebeard. We’d chased him down out front of our house into a neighbor’s yard only because he was so far gone with an upper respiratory infection that he was barely able to do anything. He tried to bite us both, missing my wife completely and narrowly missing me by, well, nothing really. His canine punched through my work gloves and slid next to my finger. Just lucky.

As my wife was carrying him in, he was pissing a stream of fear-piss almost the whole way back to our house, hissing up a storm. It took a little time but medication and some rest brought him back, somewhat. Mites and who knows what managed to make him partially deaf (he could hear high notes and was better at feeling his surroundings rather than hearing them) and affected his inner ear enough that he would walk with his head tilted (though that just might have been the hearing thing too).

Still, he integrated well enough that we figured he was probably an abandoned kitten before he hit the streets. He showed up one day trying to pick up on our two (thankfully) fixed female ferals that hung out in our yard most of the time. He was FIV positive and generally still something of a train wreck. He’d be prone to bouts of sneezing that lasted for a while as each sneeze triggered the next.

His thing though once inside was Tommy. He would follow Tommy–another former denizen of the feral world who is much more familiar with humans and is so talkative it’s no wonder he was on the streets–all over the place, especially when it was dinner time. He’d sleep next to him. He’d rape him. Yup, we’d come into the room to find him straddling the mild-mannered Tommy, grabbing Tommy’s neck as is the feline way. He wouldn’t do anything–whatever instincts he had stopping at step 2 apparently–but just stand there, straddling Tommy who was just sleeping and didn’t care. No humping, no tomcat on tomcat sex.

All the while, Whitebeard just wanted to be loved and no one seemed to care. Sounds familiar.

Just last week he was playing and raping and doing his usual stuff. Then the weekend hit and he stopped eating (to be honest, he might have stopped a day or two prior but since he along with all our cats are finicky I didn’t read into it right away). By Monday, he was sleeping in the corner and not interacting with his best bud. We bumped another cat who was also feeling sick (but in a separate room though it’s possible we transmitted something accidentally) from his appointment on Tuesday and took Whitebeard in. He was lethargic and more importantly he let me pick him up without complaint. He was behind the washer and dryer on that day–something I found out only because the dogs found him. The washer and dryer is almost always a very bad sign unless we have guests and they’re just freaked out.

The doctor took some blood, injected some antibiotics and fluids and gave me that look that tells you just how unlikely it is he’ll make it. If he were human, he’d be on an IV drip in an ICU being pumped with antibiotics and nutrients. But he’d also have insurance or at least the hospital would just be obligated to take him and save him before dealing with the financials of it all. For pets, it’s cash or credit?

Another day passed and it was obvious the antibiotics (including the drops I was given to apply every 12 hours) wasn’t doing the trick. Well, they were, his nose wasn’t full of infected mucus, but he was slipping away. It required an argument, since we’re just not that wealthy and right now’s just a bad time financially, but we decided to put him down in the morning.

I did my usual death watch, especially since he was prone to getting enough strength to flop himself out of the bed we made for him and dragging himself to some corner or wherever. One of our dogs would bark up a storm when he did, whether from fear or a built-in sense of duty. Up until about 4am I was checking on him, dropping some aloe drops to make his breathing a bit easier, re-placing him back on his makeshift deathbed.

I woke around 9am the next morning and he was gone. My wife had taken his body to the vet to arrange for cremation. He’d died around 7:30am she said. She didn’t wake me up so all I had was the lack of a body to tell me what happened.

Unfortunately, our confidence in our usual pet cremation service was wavering because of the lack of customer service and the thought that this business is really busy but it still seems to be run the same way, mom-and-pop style, out of some apartment (at least the official company address maps to some apartment building). We think about how we’re paying almost $200 for a private cremation but we don’t see what’s being done. For all we know, their bodies are being tossed into some oven and whatever ashes are mixing at the bottom of the oven are being tossed in a bag and sent back.

Because of this, my wife opted to use our vet’s usual service which means his body is sitting in a freezer now waiting to be picked up on Monday. He’ll be back the following Monday which I guess is a good sign there. But, the thought of his body, however empty of its previous occupant, is sitting in a pile in a horizontal freezer in that office just depresses me.

He was a bit of a kindred spirit given his desire to find acceptance with someone or some people and never really getting it (I suppose he got enough to satisfy himself…maybe). I’ve been trying to find that same group for 40 years. Still looking…

Rest in peace, Whitebeard.

Nik-Nik

As I write this, our Nikki has 24 hours to live. She was diagnosed a few months ago with polycistic liver disease. Her liver function was still good but it was engorged. That was putting pressure on her other organs and causing her to not really digest food well. Despite a hearty appetite and being alert and alive, she’s been slowly starving to death. We’ve tried feeding her smaller amounts several times a day but she’s gotten more and more frail.

So we decided to make an appointment with death. It’s all arranged. A vet will come, knock her out and kill her (sorry, you can sugarcoat it all you want with different phrases but that’s not for me). Then the Royal Pet Mortuary person will show up and cart her lifeless body away. We’ll get a tiny box with whatever’s left after her cremation. It’s always shockingly smaller than you expect.

Nikki’s special story is that she was born in 2001 and my wife ran over her on September 10, 2001. She was barely a few months old and took, as some of the ferals we take care of do, to hiding under our cars in the garage. We always dutifully check around and under the cars (even banging the sides to scare them off to the openings that lead out of the garage) every time. Yet, this day she decided to not run or maybe she ran from the side of the driveway, tempting fate.

Whatever she decided, my wife saw her limping off to the front yard after. No sign or hint or sound indicating she ran her over. Just the lucky fact that my wife happened to see her limping off. She managed to catch her and rushed her to the vet. They operated on her and after sawing off the shattered hip bone balls for both hips and some other stitching up she somehow survived. She went from a young feral to an inside housecat. She lived for a couple years in my office (which tended to be the waystation for newly rescued or otherwise special cats in from the cold) before joining the others in the room we have dedicated to a few cats (no, we don’t hoard).

She’s since lived a life that was likely more boring than outside but also more longer lived. She lived comfortably, was well fed, had plenty of company (and took to the red male we brought in a few years later such that they were usually sleeping together most of the time). She had the distinction of being a very noisy cat. For a couple years when she was younger, she seemed to love the acoustics of our house and would do this worbling meow that sounded like she was in heat (maybe she was despite being fixed). She was still talkative (you’d say something to her and she’d meow in response).

We noticed something was up earlier this year when she felt skinnier than usual. She wasn’t a fat cat but she wasn’t as skinny as we’d noticed. We made sure she was getting food (competition is fierce at times in that room but we provide dry food all day long so they never go hungry). Then when she wasn’t getting any better, and we started noticing diarrhea outside of the boxes (very unusual…usually we’ll see something thrown out of the boxes by mistake or someone will vomit over there). We took her in (where she bit my wife when she got scared from a vet tech shaving her to take some blood–my wife had to go on an antibiotic regimen after that given how deep the bite) and were eventually sent off to a vet with an ultrasound. That vet diagnosed her, seeing (and showing me since I was watching during the procedure) the large cysts in her liver with maybe one in her kidney. Even with that, her liver enzymes and the like were normal. Basically part of her liver was filling with cysts while part wasn’t.

In the end, we were told there was really nothing to be done. The engorged liver was pushing against the various organs in the abdomen, including her stomach. I came up with the idea of trying smaller amounts of food more often (we only really give them wet food once a day with dry food supplementing the rest of the day). The other cats benefited as well of course.

But finally, as my idea did nothing to improve her condition (despite her appetite), she continued to effectively starve. Constant diarrhea meant she wasn’t pulling in enough nutrients and calories to sustain her, let alone fatten her up.

The arrangements were made today and she’ll die tomorrow, Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 3pm. We’re saying our goodbyes but honestly I never feel right taking a living creature who mentally wants to live and killing her because, honestly, veterinary medicine isn’t advanced enough since no one cares enough. At least she’ll no longer be uncomfortable and can finally rest in peace. All of our cats are getting up there in age so I suspect we’ve got more to come. We managed (with the unfortunate help of nature) to calm the stray cat problem in our area (though there’s always a new cat that shows up every few years). So, in a way, there’s only one way for our cat population to go. It’s sad but given what’s happened to other ferals we tried to save but failed to, they had more time to enjoy life at least and not suffer as many do out on the streets (average life span on the streets is five years).

Goodbye, Nik-Nik. Rest comfortably in peace.

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Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Nikki passed away this morning at 6:20am. She wasn’t able to really move (too weak) for much of the night but by about 4am she was starting to show obvious signs. Pupils dilated, becoming unresponsive to the environment around her.  I woke my wife and we kept her company. I’d been dropping drops of water in her mouth since she was likely dehydrated. After a while I gave up since it was obvious she was going. She struggled for a while, taking deep breaths here and there. Then she started taking raggedy breaths and at one point seemed like she wanted to vomit. I was worried it was going to be a terrible death but eventually she calmed, her breathing seemed to become more relaxed, if shallow. Her eyes became unnaturally dilated and we knew she was going. The breaths came farther and farther apart. I could see her heart rate by the hairs on her chest (she was so emaciated by this point).  Her heart was beating strong until the very end. She took a last weak breath, and as I watched her chest, the beats slowed then stopped all in about five seconds.

I had forgotten I had a stethoscope until the last minute but it was pretty obvious she was gone. Now, we wait for the mortuary to pick her body up. She’d gone from weak but mobile and alert (with appetite) to unable to move and dying in 24-48 hours. If we’d known she’d take her final turn so fast, we’d have had someone come earlier.

It’s always a struggle, with me at least, letting them go. On the one hand, you don’t want them to suffer and live a half life. But on the other hand, you don’t want to take away whatever life they have left if they could enjoy just a few more weeks or months. When it’s like this, with her so obviously wanting to live, it’s always a struggle. When Max, my best friend and cat, was finally succumbing to cancer, it was obvious it was time to go. No more interest in the usual things he loved. Hiding. With Nikki and others, it’s always been harder because they just didn’t want to go.

I remember taking my dog from my high school years (well we’d gotten her when I was in middle school so it was a while) to the vet to euthanize her. She had liver cancer and was skin and bones at this point. I didn’t live at home so my parents were taking care of her (and there’s a long story here but I’d also not been visiting my parents that often so I hadn’t seen her in months). She saw me and was ecstatic. When we were walking up to the vet’s building, she was actually pulling me on the leash trying to go wherever we were going. It was heartbreaking. So much life in a body that didn’t want to house it any more.

All I can say though is as much as I dread that feeling…knowing the time has come to end a life…I’d much rather deal with that dread and say goodbye then just drop our beloved friends off at a vet to have them offed somewhere unfamiliar and scary. People sometimes treat animals like property and it irks me to no end. It’s like they’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid dragged off to the doctor to be given shots or who knows what else. Scared shitless but you always had mom or dad there…or someone. To just abandon an animal–a life–and selfishly choose your avoidance of grief over their welfare makes me wonder how you’d feel if you were on your deathbed and no one was around that gave a shit.

I said my goodbyes and paid my respects and I’ll mourn her for days if not longer. Every time I put those plates down for dinner, she won’t come any more. Every time I walk in and call out “Nik-Nik”, she won’t respond like she always did. Red, an orange tabby she used to sleep with all the time, seems to have abandoned her towards the end. But, knowing what I know and having seen what I’ve seen of certain pets of ours, I suspect he’s confused and will miss her soon enough. The world was a better place with her in it. Now her life force or energy or soul or whatever you believe in is wandering free. Free from the body that failed her. Free from the physical world that constrained her. Free to roam the planet or the universe. Free to see time and space and know everything about existence. Maybe one day I’ll see her again. Maybe she’ll even meow when I call her name. One can only hope…

Welcome to the lack of documentation…

I’ve had to deal with my share of newer technologies and crafting software with documentation that only covers the basics. But even so, at least the basics got you up and running.

I’m currently playing with Google App Engine for a few reasons:

a) It’s an excuse to learn and use Python,

b) It’s a cool tool to hack around with,

c) I’m looking for a platform to create a scalable (without having to spin up new instances manually) web and api site for various projects.

I’m done with the idea of managing servers and load balancing and the like. Or at least I’m going to try to move away from that to the parceling out of part or all of a web site or api on a cloud system that’ll ramp up as easily as possible.

So, with that, I’d dug into Google App Engine and more importantly, stumbled upon Google Cloud Endpoints (not to be confused with App Engine Endpoints…fun). Very cool, very simple system that lets you just “decorate” classes as apis and methods as api methods. That, a route in the YAML file that points to a script where you add your classes to list-based an initialization method’s parameter and bam, you’ve got an API…ish.

My main hurdle and problem was that I’d followed the step-by-step but couldn’t get it to work on my local dev server (via the SDK). I’d set it up to run in Visual Studio 2012 via a combination of the usual Python installation and a Python for Visual Studio add-on. I’d perused the tic tac toe example to see if I’d messed anything up (there was the fact that the “path” pointed to a single word like “board” instead of the path that I’d seen in another example like “game/board”), but nothing seemed to stand out.

Then I stumbled upon a testing doc page I’d ignored because they were curling to test and I had my local setup and a browser (which is supposed to be just fine when testing a Web Service). Turns out, your API URL has to include the VERSION data as well as the api name and path.

For example, taking the following api and method decorations:

@endpoints.api(name=’foo’,version=’v1′, description=’Main API’)
class MainAPI(remote.Service)

@endpoints.method(RequestMessage, ResponseMessage, name=’foo.bar’,path=’bar’,http_method=’GET’)
def Bar(self, request)
pass

Your method’s web service URL would be:

http://localhost:8080/_ah/api/foo/v1/bar

Since some examples used a path of ‘foo/bar’ I assumed that was how it was done. Nope. Plus, I wasn’t aware of the version number requirement in the URL. Also note how the method decoration’s path defines the method’s name in the URL combined with the API name and version…I had a path of ‘foo/bar’, which was being interpreted as:

http://localhost:8080/_ah/api/foo/v1/foo/bar

Which was of course wrong.

So, hopefully this’ll help someone out there banging their heads against a wall wondering why their local install wasn’t working right. This wasted a solid couple of days of my time since there wasn’t anything obvious (though the “No endpoint found for path: ‘foo/bar'” told me it was some configuration problem potentially. It wasn’t. Sorta.

kn

NO CARRIER

Drag and Drop Issue in Windows

I still haven’t been able to reproduce this 100% (i.e. I don’t know how it happens…it just happens randomly) but every once in a while after I start an RDP connection to a remote host, drag-and-drop stops working on my local machine. I mean ALL drag-and-drop stops working. Can’t move e-mail in Outlook, can’t move items on the desktop, can’t DnD from my FTP client. Nothing.

Now, I’d have chalked this up to some weird Windows 7 bug but it’s not. I had the same problem with Win XP SP3.  The unifying thread was the fact that it happened after I pulled up an RDP connection and used it for a little while. I DID use the file system on the remote host so that could be something. But, like I said above, it doesn’t happen every time.

It’s almost like the RDP client is trying to allow DnD between my computer and the session (which doesn’t work) but then Windows gets all confused and blah. It screws up.

I tried closing out a bunch of apps, restarting the explorer process, messing with the Start Menu’s DnD setting but nothing fixed it. In the past (on WinXP) I’d have to reboot but I discovered something recently that seems to fix it. Just hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete, lock the computer then unlock it and log in. Bam. Fixed.

No clue why it works but it does. It’s almost like the Windows session forgets that you’re the user (hell, it keeps allowing apps to toss windows in front of me all the time when I’m typing elsewhere which creates wonderful havoc like Accepting something I didn’t get a chance to read/confirm so Windows doesn’t seem to ever really know who the user is….maybe they should go see Tron). You can still double-click and perform most actions…you just can’t drag anything anywhere.

The lock/login trick is probably just resetting scope so Windows knows, “Okay, the user’s coming back into the Windows session, let me make sure everything’s where it’s supposed to be and accidentally turn DnD back on”.

Anyway, hopefully that’ll help the 1% of people out there who actually run into this problem on a regular basis.

kn

Microsoft Hates the Internet

I’ve come to the conclusion that Microsoft’s hatred of the Internet (IE wasn’t the first browser you know) is still alive an well. I suppose it takes a generate or two for old hatreds to die out but there it is.

I was responding to a bug report for a situation where an internal page reference wasn’t working but only in IE8.

So, there was this anchor tag somewhere that looked like this:

<a name=”WorkedForYears”></a>

And somewhere else there was some JS that looked like this:

document.location.href = “#WorkedForYears”;

And, up until IE8 that JS code would move you down to the “WorkedForYears” tag’s position. Now, it seems, either Microsoft decided to get ahead of itself and support a standard that REQUIRES a value within the anchor tags (doutbful) or they did their usual and decided they needed it to work that way so it was easier to implement the Web engine.

Of course, in one fell swoop, they managed to invalidate a lot of code out there (countless pages with “top” links are now broken unless that “top” anchor actually surrounded content).

One the other hand, you could argue that the lack of a rule specifying the validity of an empty anchor tag was what Microsoft was looking at (trying to be all up with standards) or that they were trying to leapfrog everyone and be HTML 5-compliant. Doubtful.

While I admit I used to be an IE booster back in the heady days when it worked better (read: smoother) than Netscape and Firefox was merely gestating in the deep recesses of Mozilla, but that was almost a decade ago. Microsoft’s been playing catch up ever since and doing a terrible job of it. Worse, they insist on taking the Enterprise path and supporting it like any other office application. No wonder Firefox, Chrome, and even Apple’s own crap, Safari, continue to thrive and grow.

It’s about time Microsoft learned to turn on a dime (did they ever know how to?) and separate their beloved “integrated” web browser from their bloated yet broad reaching and slow cycle office products.

Oh, and please figure out a way to make FireBug work in IE. No, the Developer Bar thing you added, while nice, is a terrible development tool that breaks after a couple of tries. I know, you’re worried about hackers but then maybe you should consider NOT allowing anything to act/be seen as the user within your operating system environment…it’s called compartmentalization. And, yes, I’d rather download a tool than allow some douchebag to install an Active-X component that can nstall anywhere and do anything to my system. Maybe THAT’s why you’ve got security issues…

kn

Great Old Games (GoG.com) is no more…

UPDATE: Yeah, yeah. I got suckered by it too. Guess it was a really stupid marketing stunt. They’re back and still hawking their wares. Good that they’re hawking, bad that they pulled the stunt.

———————————————————-

Seems like the economy’s hitting everyone now. GoG.com was a great site where you could dust off some old favorites for just a handful of dollars. They left this on their doorstep for everyone:

Dear GOG users,
We have recently had to give serious thought to whether we could really keep GOG.com the way it is. We’ve debated on it for quite some time and, unfortunately, we’ve decided that GOG.com simply cannot remain in its current form.
We’re very grateful for all support we’ve received from all of you in the past two years. Working on GOG.com was a great adventure for all of us and an unforgettable journey to the past, through the long and wonderful history of PC gaming.
This doesn’t mean the idea behind GOG.com is gone forever. We’re closing down the service and putting this era behind us as new challenges await.
On a technical note, this week we’ll put in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games. Stay tuned to this page and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.
All the best,
GOG.com Team

Seems like they might be hinting that they might be looking at a different way to pull this sort of thing off but something tells me it ain’t happening. Unless they find new life on Steam (which, by the way, just posted a bunch of SEGA Genesis games–I’m thinking they’re gonna start getting more of those) or some other digital delivery platform (Microsoft’s Games For Windows LIVE would be suicide unless Microsoft follows through on their plan to “revamp” it), you’ll have to dig around the Web or one of those retro gaming stores.

I bought a couple games from them but of course 20 year old PC games don’t always hold water…or at least they can be enough of an eye sore to make you not want to play them much. Then again, I lost a few hours after discovering this gem. Of course, the thing to consider: as time rolls on, that game you’re playing so much you’re wearing the CD down might one day show up in a retro game catalog.

And, no, Steam will not be around forever. It’s the reason I’ll sometimes pick up some good games I liked from the bargain bin and just stock up–depending on the price, I’ll sometimes buy a couple copies just in case.

Anyhow, to the peeps at GoG.com, good luck on the next phase and let’s hope you–or someone else–figures out a way to get that retro gaming business to work. Steam seems to be doing something, anyone else??

kn