Monday, September 26, 2016

At Marquette / "Tolkien and Lewis" movie

So, last night I arrived for another research trip to the Marquette Archives. Once again, as on my previous two visits, I'm staying in student/graduate student/visiting scholar housing right on campus, which is convenient -- though it does leave me with a lot of room to rattle around in, being the only person in what's clearly intended to be a four-person suite (two bedrooms with two beds each, two bathrooms, a 'living room' area, and a kitchen).

Today I worked with the Tolkien manuscripts.  hooray.

Tomorrow I'll be working with the Tolkien manuscripts, with some time taken out to go see a Tolkien movie in the afternoon. Thanks to my friend Jim (thanks Jim), I found out about the film TOLKIEN & LEWIS being shown at the Downer Theatre on the fashionable East Side at 3.45 tomorrow as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival.* And tomorrow I also hope to pick up the latest Johannes Cabal book at Boswell's Books on Downer, successor to the legended Webster's Books. And that evening I'm planning to get together with friends from my old book reading group, the Burrahobbits.

Tolkien, Tolkien everywhere. I like it.

--John R.
in Milwaukee
not yet going into cat withdrawal

current reading: just finished THE MARTIAN by Andrew Weir, which I enjoyed, and THE SNAKE AGENT by Liz Wms, which read more like a Judge Dee film than a book Just started THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW (naturally) and THE SEARCH FOR CORVO, another of those books I've been meaning to get to for years and finally decided the time is right.

*if you're in town and can work it in the schedule, drop on by. The more the merrier for something like this.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Short review: STORM KING'S THUNDER (D&D)

So, today I got a chance to look over the newest D&D mega-adventure, STORM KING'S THUNDER. Rather than a re-do of the classic AGAINST THE GIANTS series, it's a wholly new adventure featuring the same monsters and similar challenges.

If I had to sum it up in three words, it's be this: Lear for Giants.

--John R

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Two More Cat Reports

I managed to make it in for an hour yesterday to give the cats some extra walking. Mr. BELLAMY ranged further afield than ever before, into the warehouse area, which he found fascinating. I’ll have to call him Captain Bellamy after all his explorations. MATILDA and OSCAR got carried around. Oscar’s smarter than I thought: he knew exactly the shortest route from where I put him down to back at the cat room. The other three had brief outings but didn’t seem to enjoy them much.

I was back today for my regular 11 to 1 stint, during which time everybody got outside at least for a little while. BELLAMY had the first walk but was jumpy. He seemed afraid of one guy in particular who was shopping in that part of the store, trying to hide whenever he came near. Other than that he had a good morning: out and about, playing in every game and generally lording over the room from atop the larger cat-stand. The feather-duster was his favorite toy today. MATILDA got chauffeured all around the store, and was mildly interested in a wild bird that’s gotten into the store. OSCAR didn’t enjoy his walk, nor did BABY KITTY, ELEANOR POLY, and DOLLY. POLY has quite the voice: loud and pitiful at the same time. 

Everybody was out except Matilda, who was a little out of sorts — whether grumpy or not feeling well I cdn’t tell. POLY also spent much of her time inside.   BABY KITTY went from the cloth ‘cave’ to enjoying the view from atop the smaller cat-stand placed next to the door. DOLLY liked being beneath the same stand, especially when the laser pointer was out; eventually she switched over to her favorite spot inside the tube on the larger stand (see photo above). OSCAR loves all games but eventually settled atop the bins in the back of the room. BELLAMY is willing to try any game and also thinks catnip is a fine thing. B. KITTY agrees with him about the catnip. 

—John R. 

Health concerns: 
--No throw up today.  
—Matilda’s ears felt warm to me. She had something at the side of her mouth that we shd keep an eye on in case it turns into drooling.


Had a nice long cat-walking session today (two and a half hours), during which all six cats got out for some one-on-one time outside the cat room. Some liked it a lot, some were pretty nervous. 

Good to have Princess Maltilda back with us, and to know that the knot in her tail (which I’d assumed was a spot where it’d been broken once) isn’t anything serious. She spent her walk looking for hiding places but had a nice purring session in my lap afterwards. Later she disappeared and I found her sharing Baby Kitty/Eleanor Poly’s pad, with all three cats harmoniously sleeping in a different section. Maybe Eleanor and B. Kitty aren’t so much bonded as simply good-natured.

Mr. Bellamy had the first, and longest, walk. He wants to go into every room he sees, including those at Banfield. He’s a great explorer, ranging all over the store, and pleased to get attention from passers-by. Afterwards back in the room he enjoyed a box-and-feather game and also the bug-on-a-stick game (which he had to share with B.Kitty). A fellow volunteer came by, bringing a lid for the circular litter pan, so we got that all set up in his cube; hope it circumvents the outside-the-box issue.

Oscar Rin and Dolly Brulee love being out in the larger room (he sprawled on the floor, she in the tube section of the cat-stand). They got along fine with Baby Kitty and Eleanor Poly and Princess Matilda: at one point I had five of the six cats all out at the same time. Dolly doesn’t much like walks, but Oscar is willing to give them a try. He was most interested in the various padded pet-cushions, which he wanted to try out (very sensibly, from his point of view). His least favorite thing seems to be going back in his cage; always makes him look wistful, as if he can’t understand why I’d do such a thing.

Health Concern: One of the two, either Oscar or Dolly, threw up twice (or each did so once). Once was on the floor of their cage, which was easy enough to clean up. The other was from atop one of their perches in the cage, and it ran down between their little stand and the front wall of the glass, making quite a mess; took some doing to get all cleaned up. N.B.: there was some talk of getting them plates rather than bowls to feed them off of: don’t know about PetsMart, but Mud Bay definitely has some such plates.

Our other bonded pair, Eleanor Poly (Manytoes) and Baby Kitty, also aren’t that sure about walks. B.Kitty was very shy at first, but gradually warmed up to the idea and seemed to be getting the hang of it after much reassurance. Eleanor got a walk-around, during which she cried like a lost kitten, though she got quiet and attentive when we got close enough for her to hear the birds twittering. Once we got back inside, B.Kitty claimed the top of the cat-stand and wanted to play games, while E.Poly turned herself into a lap-cat who was behind on her purr quotient.  

And that’s about it. Hope those folk who’d been interested in Matilda come back for her: the sooner she’s off to a good home the better.

—John R. 

Tuesday, September 14th, 1971

So, this day marks the anniversary of the day I began my first job, which I'm disconcerted, doing the math, to find was forty-five years ago. I was a shoe-shine, inheriting the job from my cousin Sam, who moved on to bigger and better things. My stand was inside a barber shop: I kept whatever I made from shoe-shines and paid 'rent' by sweeping up all the hair, cleaning the mirrors, and vacuuming at the close of day. Occasionally I'd run errands, like walking up to the branch-bank to get some change.

I worked every weekday except Monday (barber shops are, or were, traditionally closed on Mondays), arriving as soon as I cd after school, and all day Saturday. Some days I'd sit and read without a customer in sight; others I'd be busy from the time I arrived to closing and beyond.  I remember I charged thirty five cents for a pair of shoes, while boots were fifty cents. My best-known customer was probably former Governor Ben T. Laney, who came by occasionally.

It was a surprisingly complex process. First came a quick brushing to remove loose dirt, using a pallet knife to get off any caked mud from the soles. This was followed by washing the shoes with saddle soap. After they were brushed, cleaned, and dried,  I'd apply leather balm with a soft cloth; this had the effect of further cleaning and also toning the leather. Then came the shoe polish: applied by hand with two fingers, brushed, and buffed: the fast brushing and faster buffing with a cloth actually melted the polish onto the shoe. Sometimes it'd take two coats, each with its accompanying brush and buff. If done right, you shd be able to see yr reflection in them.

One thing I found out right away is that a set of muscles in each upper arm that would ache for the first week or so: these apparently only get use when buffing shoes. The long-term effect is creaky knees, from all the walking I did on them. Even today they sometimes audibly pop when I get up from having put weight on them.

The best thing about the job was that I had plenty of time to read in the down-time -- something that wdn't have been true of any equivalent job (such as, say, being a paperboy).  One thing, though: I quickly found out that if you're a shoe-shine and you wear shine-able shoes, then they have to be kept in perfect condition with a high polish at all times. People thinking of a shoe-shine tend to notice if the shoe-shine's own shoes aren't shined.

And that's why I always wear Hush Puppies.

P.S.: When I left, they cdn't find a replacement -- shoeshines were on their way out by then -- so the stand closed down. I kept my pallet knife which I used the whole time I was there to open the cans of polish as well as scrape away dirt when such was called for. It resides in the right-hand drawer of my desk, a relic of earlier times. Here's what it looks like:

Saturday, September 17, 2016


So, Thursday we did our part. Having received a silly notice the day before about Godzilla sightings in Tokyo Bay, and urging folks to report any Godzilla spottings of their own, we decided to have a picnic after work at Saltwater State Park, where we could keep an eye on our own little patch of Puget Sound.

It was v. pleasant, and I'm pleased to report no kaiju appeared: Godzilla seems to have better things to do than pick on Seattle. Having become a fan of Godzilla movies over the past year or two (they're in the it's-so-bad-it's-kinda-good category), I'm plan to actually see this one in theatres.

Here's the link that was sent out in mid-week

And here's the trailer for the forthcoming movie. Which, I have to say, seems to devote an surprising amount of time to people holding meetings.

--John R.
current reading: THE LAST APPRENTICE, Book Four (resuming the series after a long hiatus on my part); Edward Eager's KNIGHT'S CASTLE; another of those books I've had for years but never read.

Friday, September 9, 2016

In Moderation (or, Where Did All the Comments Go?)

So, a day or two ago I got some spam comments in my in-box for the first time in a long time. Being targeted by a spammer I can't cut off is why I switched the comments to being moderated a good while back. I'd noticed that recently comments had fallen off and then ceased a while back but just put it down to the vagaries of blogging. Then a few days ago a friend (hi Jeff) told me he'd sent a comment that had never appeared on the blog. I cd find no trace of it, and again assumed it was just one of those things.

But poking about trying to find if there was any way to stop the spammer, I found a folder full of comments that had never made it to my in-box, including the missing one from Jeff. I'm now going through and getting them posted at last. So if you sent in a comment and didn't see it appear, my apologies. If it's still not there within another day or two, drop me a line and I'll see if I can trace it.

With any luck, we now return you to the normally scheduled blog.

current audiobook: just finished JOHANNES CABAL AND THE BLUSTERY DAY by Jonathan Howard. just started FROM YAO TO MAO: 5000 YEARS OF CHINESE HISTORY (thanks, J)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Cat Report (Wednesday September 7th)

So, after a spring and summer interrupted by trips, several of them unplanned, it's been hard to maintain continuity of the cat reports. So I think I'll post them when I can, more like a series of snapshots than an ongoing account.

I shd preface this by saying that the week before last the cat-room had a major cleaning to fight a virus that's going around. All the cats were taken back to the main shelter in Arlington and a new set sent out. Fortunately, this included two cats we'd had before (BALOO and MISTER BELLAMY) who had been (individually) adopted and then returned by their new owners -- one after just a single day, which isn't even giving the poor cat a fair chance to adjust to his new surroundings.

The five cats* were MR. BELLAMY, a beautiful cream-colored cat with dark Siamese-like 'point' markings but not the sleek body of most Siamese. Bellamy has the most unusual whiskers I've ever seen on a cat: they're striped, with lighter and darker bands alternating on the same whisker. V. striking! At four years old he's still a young cat, wanting plenty of attention and play-time when he's out of his cage.

Young BALOO is white with some grey, about one year old, with a lean kittenish look. He's full of energy and wants to be at the center of attention and middle of every game.

Princess MATILDA is just the opposite: a senior cat (fifteen years old), mostly black but with little black paws.

And the bonded pair, OSCAR and DOLLY: two brown tabbies who look like they could come from the same litter except that he's nine and she's just four. Last week I'd thought him the shyer of the two, but a week later he was coming out and laying on the floor asking for petting, while she was willing to perch on various parts of a cat-stand, so they came a long way in a short time.

[The Actual Report that I shared w. my fellow volunteers]
I’m glad to report that yesterday all five cats got a walk. Last week I’d swung by on the Thursday to greet the new cats and see if there were any likely walkers among them. Mr. Bellamy and young Baloo were both pleased to be out of the room, though Bellamy explored on his own four feet while Baloo insisted on being carried the whole time. Princess Matilda was extremely shy at first, but when pulled to the front of her cage and petted she simply melted, rubbing up against my face and hand, purring up a storm. Oscar and Dolly, the bonded pair were similarly shy but, when I insisted on their coming out, huddled on the cat-stand.

What a difference a week made. This time I started with the shyest cats, the bonded pair. They’’d relaxed quite a bit since I’d last seen them. Oscar in particular enjoyed sprawling on his side on the floor. For his ‘walk’ he preferred to be carried, and was fascinated to watch the other cats through the glass. Dolly also liked being held and was very cautious when on her own four feet. Matilda had changed the most in just a week. Last week she’d had lots of loose fur and dander, her ears needed cleaning (I did what I cd with some Q-tips), and she had cat acne on her chin. All that was gone now: someone had clearly given her some tender loving care, and she looked like she felt much better for it. She opted for the carry-me-around walk, purring all the while.

The two most active cats, Baloo and Bellamy, enjoyed their time out the most, I think, though they had to wait for it. Baloo had made a terrible fuss while I was putting the leash on but once I succeeded and got him outside the room he was v. well behaved. Just like last week he wants to be carried, and he wants to go everywhere, so we did: all over the store to look at everything. I let his back paws rest on one arm held horizontallywhile he put his front paws on my shoulder. He purred constantly, and also mewed most of the time. He gets v. nervous when on his own feet, preferring to see things from (human) head high. 

Mr. Bellamy is our best walker by far: he enjoys strolling about and exploring on his own four feet. This time he discovered that the employees have a break room and wanted to go in there; discovered there’s an office in the back and wanted to go in there, and really wanted to go inside the little rooms at Canfield. 
Note: he stretches his back legs out several times, almost dragging them, when starting a walk — does he have any problems with those legs? Just wanted to flag it as somewhat for others to keep an eye out for.

Not much else to report. I brought in a low box which Baloo claimed, defending it against all attempts by Mr. Bellamy to join him inside. Oscar turns out to be v. fond of catnip. Matilda, Dolly, and Oscar are all fine with being out at the same time; Baloo and Bellamy also are good together; they seem to enjoy playing together.

—John R. 
most recent reading: "Between the River and the Woods" by Jonathan Howard (a non-series short story by the creator of Johannes Cabel, Necromancer)

UPDATE (Friday Sept. 9th-- my grandmother's birthday):

Baloo has now been adopted. Sounds like this new home will work out better than the last. Baloo's had a rough start in life (he was originally brought into the shelter with a broken leg that needed surgery to mend) but hopefully he's in a good place now with people who appreciate a lively, playful, and affectionate cat.

Unfortunately, Matilda got taken back to the shelter. She has a lump or kink towards the end of her tail -- probably an old break, but after the recent trouble with the virus they're not taking any chances on potential health issues.

Sad news: one of the cats who'd been in our cat room a few weeks ago, Lois, has died, and her bonded partner Edison is reportedly v. ill. Also Vivian, who was a senior cat when I first started volunteering at the Renton cat-room, has died (I gather of old age). She was a favorite of a lot of the volunteers (including myself) but in the end never found a home. Alas.

*I never met a sixth cat, another of the Oman kittens, had arrived and immediately been adopted, taken straight from one carrier (from the main shelter) to another (to go home in). Good for him!