Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Have an Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Widdle Bitty Kitty Cat

So, I have a cat. I didn't ask for a cat, but I got one anyway. The aunts brought it home from Wal-Mart, so I guess it was made in China.


It appeared to be about four weeks old when it arrived (on Friday). I make that assessment because it had all of its front teeth. I actually pried its little mouth open today and looked in there, and it has some back teeth, too. The aunts think it might have been three weeks old because its ears were still a little droopy and it wasn't walking very well. It's still not walking very well. Also, it took it like, two days to poop and even now, it poops and then sits right down in it.

I don't have a picture of that.

It was already eating canned cat food when I got it, though it's still a little wobbly on the eating procedure. It sort of throws itself bodily into the dish, drops its face into it, and starts sucking.

I don't have a picture of that, either.

I've been giving it kitten milk replacer, in addition to regular foot, because I figure it probably shouldn't be eating cat food yet anyway. It seems to have figured out drinking, after some initial experiments with biting the liquid. Most of the time it doesn't spill the dish all over the floor. You'd be surprised how much of that stuff sticks to its feet. It can track milk replacer all over the room.

I haven't named it yet, because it's still too young to have a personality. I'm thinking of calling it Shoe, because it likes shoes.

A lot.

It also likes dogs, or at least the dog likes it. It keeps trying to punch the dog, and everyone's all like, “Awww, look, it's playing,” and I'm like, “No, it's a hardcore, bloodthirsty killing machine, like all cats everywhere.”

Awwww, wookit da wittle bitty killing machine.

It should have been left with its mother for a few more weeks, so now it thinks I'm its mother, and it follows me around and/or meows at me and/or tries to climb my leg and/or sleeps right between my feet in the best place to get stepped on, and/or tries to nurse from my dirty socks (bet that goes really well). You know these rednecks around here get kittens and they're like, “Well, its eyes are open, time to get rid of it,” and we're all just lucky they didn't drown the poor thing.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Film Review: The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)

I watched this film last Sunday, when there was nothing else on. It stars Frederic March as Samuel Clemens, Alexis Smith as his wife, and a bunch of other people in other roles of varying importance.

Disclaimer: I did not watch the whole thing, because I'm one of those people who can turn on a movie that's half over and sit there and contentedly watch it, without really giving a damn what's going on. Besides, it's the life of Mark Twain, it's not like it's going to have unexpected plot twists.


I came in at the part where Samuel Clemens was piloting a Mississippi River boat through the fog and, for some reason, had to steer it around an island in dangerously shallow water. He succeeded in spite of the odds, whilst every passenger and crew member aboard the boat lined up at the rails and peered nervously out into the fog. I do not know why this had to occur – I mean I know the Mississippi River is a fickle mistress but c'mon, whole ISLANDS don't appear out of nowhere, do they? – because I did not see the events that preceded it. I no doubt missed crucial information about young Samuel Clemens's (he wasn't calling himself Mark Twain yet) formative years.

I guess we'll never know.

After piloting the river boat around the island for whatever reason, Twain (I mean, um, Clemens) quit river-boating and went West to make his fortune. He had met a woman, I guess, or at least seen a picture of a woman (I'm unclear on this part, too) and apparently this woman waited for him for some unspecified but probably long period of time while he set about becoming the most famous humorist in the country practically overnight, and with his first-ever publication, which does not make one feel inadequate at all, in any way.

Honestly, I'm happy for him.

As it so happens, I learned a lot about the life of Mark Twain, at least from the time of the Great Island Avoidance to the time of his overly-dramatized death, after which the Shade of Mark Twain stood over his lifeless corpse and wailing daughter, waxing philosophical about the everlasting nature of the soul while tiny imp-like versions of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (with high-pitched, screechy little voices) danced around his feet. Somehow, I don't think that last scene was realistic.

I enjoyed the film, I mean, I wasn't riveted or anything, but I thought they did a good job with the makeup and the actor pulled off a passable Mark Twain. Some things disturbed me, however:

  • Twain's wife has the Crazy Eyes. She's all “OMG YOU'RE SO AWESOME AND EVERTHING YOU DO IS JUST F*CKING GREAT LEMME TELL YOU AGAIN HOW GREAT YOU ARE. I DON'T CARE IF YOU SPEND ALL OUR MONEY AND DRIVE US INTO BANKRUPTCY, BECAUSE I HAVE THE CRAZY EYES. ALSO, GO AHEAD AND GO ON A WORLD TOUR TO PAY BACK THE MONEY, I'M KINDA DYING A LITTLE, BUT I'M NOT GONNA TELL YOU, CAUSE THAT WOULD BE SELFISH. I HAVE THE CRAZY EYES.” Granted, women back then were probably like, nicer to their husbands, on account of they might starve to death if they didn't have husbands, and it was Mark Twain after all, although if I was married to Mark Twain I'd be all “WTF just happened, I thought it was 2012” and “Put out that pipe a**hole.”
  • They kind of glossed over Twain's children. We find out that Twain has a son only as the boy lies dying. We just get a brief scene of Twain and Twain's crazy-eyed missus kneeling over a bed and weeping, and then a little arm slips off the side of bed and that's when you know the kid's dead. Actually, for that matter, that's when you know it's a kid. (No, they do not say what he died of. It was diptheria, by the way, and thanks, old Hollywood film, for being unnecessarily mysterious).
  • Twain also had three healthy daughters, but we don't find out about them until several scenes later, when they just randomly walk into his study and ask for a bedtime story. I was all “Whoa sh*t he has children?” I guess they were too busy explaining how he ran his publishing house into the ground. A man's children aren't important, anyway, right?
  • They completely forgot to mention his anti-racist and socialist leanings, but it was 1944 and there was a war on, you know.

They did, however, pack in plenty of those memorable Twain-isms we all know and love, although this Yale librarian says that Twain didn't actually say any of the things that Twain said. Still, I was gratified to hear Twain tell his dying wife, “It's good to know I'd have at least one vote, even if I ran on the Republican ticket.”

Even in 1944.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #37: Chicken Eyeglasses, Radioactive Glassware, and Other Amusing Things I Discovered Recently

So, I don't have a theme this week. That's okay, kids, cause if you've been paying really close attention, you will have noticed that I don't need one.

I do what I want.

1) In the course of attempting to discover the age, provenance and value of my late grandmother's hen-on-nest glass candy dish, I stumbled upon something known as“chicken eyeglasses.” Yes, these are eyeglasses for chickens. They're also called chicken specs or chicken goggles. Some of them have rose-colored lenses, so your chickens will be more optimistic.

Actually, if you read that old advertisement, you'll now know that the point of chicken specs is to keep the chickens from pecking each other to death or, presumably, at least keep them from pecking each others' eyes out since it's hard to peck someone's eyes out when he's wearing safety goggles. Some chicken eyeglasses strapped onto the chicken's head, while others were held on by a cotter pin through the nose. The rose-colored tinting was intended to stop chickens from recognizing blood on their fellows, since it seems chickens will peck to death anything that is bleeding.

They're like sharks that way. ~ Anrdei Niemaki

Chicken eyeglasses were invented by Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1903. They are no longer manufactured, but they remained in use until at least the early 1970s, and were outlawed in the UK in 1982.

2) Uranium glass is glass which contains uranium. Wikipedia tells us that it's “negligibly radioactive” and “considered to be harmless,” which just as comforting as hell, especially when you learn that some older pieces contain as much as 25 percent uranium in the glass mixture.

There's no way that is "negligibly radioactive."

Uranium glass dates back to Roman times, because honestly, what doesn't. In 1912, R.T. Gunter of the University of Oxford discovered a mosaic containing uranium glass in a villa on the Bay of Naples. At that time, many of the world's most fashionable place settings and other household goods were made from uranium glass. It's first major manufacturer was Josef Riedel, who a glassblower who produced uranium glass pieces in Bohemia from 1830 to 1848. Other glassmakers across Europe began manufacturing uranium glass, and it enjoyed a heyday of popularity lasting from about 1880 to about 1920. Manufacture of uranium glass in the United States ceased with uranium restrictions during the Cold War, and never really picked back up again, possibly due to Americans' inherent uneasiness about things that set off Geiger counters.

Just a little quirk we have.

3) Speaking of things that glow, on 6 April 1862, the Civil War Battle of Shiloh left 16,000 soldiers wounded. As the Civil War buffs in the group will know, soldiers of this period were especially prone to infection, which was odd since germs hadn't been invented yet. Nevertheless, as the soldiers sat in the rain and mud for two days and nights, awaiting medical care (you thought it was bad now), some of them noticed a strange phenomenon, namely, that their wounds glowed at night. As more time passed, it became obvious that those with the glowing wounds were enjoying higher survival rates and faster, cleaner recoveries than their non-illuminated brethren. The soldiers nicknamed the phenomenon “Angel's Glow.”

One hundred and thirty-odd years later, teenager Bill Martin visited the battlefield with his mother, a microbiologist. When Bill asked his mother if a bacteria could have been responsible for the Angel's Glow, she encouraged him to find out for himself by performing an experiment. With the help of a friend, Jon Curtis, Bill discovered that the bacteria Photorhabdus luminescens was responsible. These bacteria enjoy a symbiotic relationship with nematode worms. They live inside their digestive tract, coming out to play when the nematode worm burrows into the body of an insect larva. The bacteria's glowing secretions kill the insect and any other bacteria nearby, allowing both it and the nematode to feed greedily on the poor insect's flesh. When they're done, the nematode swallows up its regurgitated friends and emerges, where it finds a fresh selection of insects who came for the light show, but will stay for the agonizing death.


Bill and Jon concluded that the soldiers' glowing wounds were full of these worms and P. luminescens, which don't typically infect humans, but stopped other infections by killing off any other bacteria in the wounds. The kicker? The normal human body temperature is too high to allow these bacteria to survive, but that was okay, because these soldiers were experiencing severe hypothermia.

Oh. Good.

4) The other day, I saw a white deer. I had heard there were some around, but I'd never seen one before. At first I thought it was a goat.

Not a goat.

Accordingto Wikipedia and this girl I went to high school with, white deer are not albinos but are expressing a recessive genetic trait. Imperfect expression of this trait results in a piebald. Complete expression of the gene results in a fully white deer. Sadly, this requires quite a lot of inbreeding, at least in the white-tail deer species that we have around here. (The European red deer may express leucism, a genetic trait similar to albinism, that causes the deer's skin and coat to lose its natural reddish color).

According to this blogger with The Crazy Eyes, the sighting of a white deer is a prophecy of great things to come. It's a sign that I'm about to embark on a period of unprecedented and unpredictable spiritual growth.

Time will tell, I guess. ~ Dave Spicer

Interestingly enough, Seneca County, New York, there is a herd of about 700 deer, 300 of white are snow white, living on land that was formerly the Seneca Army Depot. About 60 years ago, the depot commander forbid the killing of any of the white deer prevalent in that area. He wound up creating a genetic bottleneck, and, inside the shelter of the depot fence, the white deer flourished – at least, as much as you can flourish when you're suffering from reduced fertility and deformities.

The herd of white deer is the largest in the world, but, since the depot's closure, its future has hung in the balance. White deer are especially vulnerable to predators, due to their visibility. The land they're living on is New York's largest swath of undeveloped real estate, and corporate interests have their eye on it. Conservationists want the white deer protected, presumably because they're messengers from the spirit world.

Or something.