Posts Tagged ‘cats’

The truth about John Scalzi

The concom at ConQuest 40 were looking for a bio of John Scalzi but wanted something a little more detailed and accurate than the standard wikipedia one.  They asked me if I’d assist, given my long-standing friendship with him, and write one for them with some behind the scenes details for the program book.  In the interests of making this information available to the wider public, here is a brief biography with never before told facts.

Every word of it is completely true.

John Scalzi, Campbell-award winning author, has been thrilling fans with his writing since he began as is evidenced by his Hugo award for fan writing. This amazing victory can best be summed up in the reaction of his mother-in-law, who often weeps at the thought of his writing and what it means to her daughter.

But where did this phenomenal talent come from? Born in California on May 10, 1869, Professor Scalzi’s life followed normal patterns for a child of his time. Although he demonstrated an early facility for language in the forged notes he created to get out of the entirety of third year, his true skills did not become apparent until his parents sent him to an exclusive boarding school in the Catskills. This location would become ironically apt later in his life.

Brother Francis Gerard later commented in his memoirs that “Young Scalzi had the worst hand-writing we had ever seen. It was impossible to test him because no one could read his writing, and yet curiously, his forgeries were impeccable. So we set him to copying, hoping that he would learn to write his own words as well as he could write other’s.”

Taking the command to “copy the good book” rather more liberally than his instructors intended, Scalzi picked out what he called, “the only good book in the school library,” Starship Troopers. Not content with merely copying the original text, Scalzi began the project that led to his receiving the 1985 Hugo for Best Fan Art — The Complete Illuminated Works of Robert A. Heinlein. Rendered on vellum with ink ground from a mixture of boa-boa berry and dark coffee, these lovingly drawn works represent nearly a lifetime of work. The sheets of vellum measure on average 24″ by 17″ inches and have an estimated $5000 worth of gold leaf and powdered cobalt spanning the collection.  Exhibited at the Smithsonian, MOMA and the Vatican, they have brought universal acclaim from old fans and new alike.

In 2004, Scalzi was awarded a fellowship at Yale for his work on the Illuminated Manuscripts.  The pressure of teaching interfered with his continuing efforts so he moved with his wife Krissy, to rural Ohio.  There he began working with private students on the fine art of illumination.

While taking a break from his students, Professor Scalzi happened to witness one of his neighbors working on the neighboring ranch, herding his flock of cats. The job was overwhelming the man, so Scalzi stepped in and discovered that these highly trained animals were bored with their role.  He introduced them to the notion of illuminating manuscripts which they took to, as if they were born to it. He’s since begun work on a new illuminated manuscript collaborating with the cat, Ghlaghghee .  They selected the material together by the simple means of Professor Scalzi spreading his books around until Ghlaghghee chose one to sit on — The Collected Works of Francis Bacon.

Update on Maggie

Those of you following me on Twitter already know some of this but I’m about to go into a whole heck of a lot more detail about Maggie. She’s been terribly unwell and while I was away, Rob sent me a warning that he thought all we could do at this point was make her comfortable.

I got home and she was basically a skeleton with fur and just hiding in the closet.  I called the vet, explaining that she wasn’t eating or drinking.  We discussed humane euthanasia, but decided that as long as she was still happy sitting in someone’s lap that we’d let nature take its course.

I was struck by the fact that she kept trying to go to the litter box with no success.

Now, this serves as a warning to everyone that I’m going to be talking about the tail end of a cat’s digestive system.

Seriously, read no further if you don’t want to know about a kitty enema.  I’ll let you know right now that she’s much better, but it does involve an enema and a cat.

I mean it.

You’ve been warned.

Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Continue reading ›

Maggie the cat isn’t well.

I’m sorry you’re getting  a lot of twitter summaries this week. I’m slammed trying to get two shows up before I leave town for the Nebulas on Thursday.  And yet, I dropped everything to take Maggie to the vet today.

  • 12:49 Worried about Maggie. Rob and I realized that neither of us saw her eat yesterday. She has no interest in food today. Not even the treats. #
  • 13:22 Just loaded an unprotesting Maggie into the cat carrier. The vet has an opening today. She’s drinking water at least, so that’s good. #
  • 13:33 We’re in the cab and there’s NOTHING wrong with her vocal cords. Man, that’s a lot of volume from such a small cat #
  • 14:35 Maggie and I are on the way home. She weighs 5 lbs 10 oz, which is way too light. They are doing bloodwork. #

The vet gave Maggie an appetite stimulant and pumped her full of fluids.  The suspicion is that it’s kidney trouble which isn’t uncommon in older cats.

About an hour after I got home, she nibbled on some tuna which was an enormous relief.

An enormous and short-lived relief.  When I got home tonight, Rob told me that Maggie has developed diarrhea in addition to vomiting.  The poor thing is curled up on a heating pad and looks just miserable.

Why isn’t my cat bald?

No, seriously. I get this much fur every time we furminate him. Which we’re doing daily.

A giant pile of Marlows fur

I mean, you don’t even get a sense of the height of the mound in this photo. Why isn’t he bald?

I’m furminating.

Cherie Priest recommended the furminator on her blog a while back. We’ve been dealing with our two very sheddy cats and keep considering shaving them.

So today, I went out and bought a furminator. My heavens. The thing works exactly as promised. Plus you get the added bonus of getting to say, “Careful, or I’ll furminate you,” or “I furminated Marlowe earlier,” or “Not just now, I’m furminating.”

I mean… really. How can you not love that.

Tiger Cat

Tech week is proceeding apace. Nearly out of the woods. Speaking of woods, here’s more canned content.

One of the interesting things about moving is that one finds all sorts of things, like, say, a short story from 1978. I was nine years old. Here is an excerpt with the original spelling and punctuation. It’s part of a collection I wrote called Cats and their Adventures.

Tiger Cat

Once upon a time there was a young mother tiger. She had three cubs, named Tiger Cat, Lilybug, and Strips. Tiger, (as everyone called him,) grew and grew. He was the oldest and the strongest. Tiger loved to help his mother. One day his mother told him to watch Lilybug and Strips. While his mother was gone a fox tried to capture Lilybug. He was about to carry Lilybug away when Tiger pounced on him, then sank his teeth into the fox’s neck. They fell to the ground. When hi mother came back she said, “Where did you get that?”

Lilybug said, “Tiger killed it.”

“Tiger, was it around the den?” said his mother.

“Yes.” said Tiger, “it was trying to capture Lilybug.” They ate 1/4 of it.

One day Tiger met a tigeress that he liked. That was when Tiger was three. Her name was Tawny. Tawny and Tiger liked each other. One night Tiger invited Tawny to eat supper with him.

Wow… I was writing about tigers dating. Does that count as a romance?

South Koreans clone cats that glow in the dark

Glow in the Dark CatYou might remember my cat, Maggie? A couple of years ago, she had a hyperactive thyroid. The treatment involved Iodine131 and we got this handout which said, “Upon release from the hospital, your pet will be mildly radioactive.”

Despite my fond hopes, Maggie never glowed in the dark. But, thanks to modern science, there are glow in the dark cats in the world. That would be the end to tripping over the infernal beast at night.

I really want one.



Christmas party

Last night, Rob and I threw our annual dinner party. I normally have a guest list of 40, but given the size of the apartment, whittled the list down to twenty, fifteen of whom attended. One of the most curious things was how many of our guests had been to the party in Portland or the one time I threw it in Iceland. It was a nice mix of writers, puppeteers, actors, musicians and activists.

On the whole, I think the layout worked well for the dining portion, but the mingling portion beforehand still has some kinks to be worked out. We had the cats locked up in the bedroom, but next time, I think we’ll have to have that room open just for more milling about space.

I really, really love throwing dinner parties. Especially this one because it’s my formal dress party. I’ve got a bit of a thing for evening dress and I throw this party as “black tie optional.” Now, technically, that means that it’s a white tie party and the gentlemen can dress down to black tie, but in this day and age, it just means you can dress up if you feel like it. And everyone looked stunning, I must say.

Sorry. Like an idiot, I forgot to take pictures with the tables set. You’ll have to trust me that there was much china and crystal, with placecards and party favors.

Ah me… I need to throw more parties.

The Menu
Baguette and Challah rolls
Cheese plate with Mobay, Goat Gouda and Goat Brie
Green salad
Garbanzo Pomegranate Salad
Key Lime Green Beans with Thyme
Baby red potatoes with garlic and gorgonzola
Spinach, artichoke heart casserole
Butternut squash, eggplant, mushroom and chestnut lasagna
Shrimp Curry and rice
Apple tart


I was walking to the subway today on twenty-eight and realized that I was in the flower district. It’s confined to one block now so calling it a district is a bit of a misnomer, but still, it’s a block filled with growing things. I was tempted into a shop and walked out with an orchid and a little palm tree. The orchid is up on top of a bookshelf so the cats can’t get to it.

The palm is in the window. Marlowe spent a little while happily gnawing on it. I asked the florist for something that wouldn’t poison my cat. He said this was popular with cat owners. It’s hardy and can stand up to some punctured leaves. It’s nice to have green things in the apartment.

Icelandic idioms

Here are some useful phrases.

  • Ungi maðurinn þekkir reglurnar, en gamli maðurinn þekkir undantekningarnar.
    “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
  • Nú duga engin vettlingatök.
    “No more mitten-takes.” — used for: Do it right this time.
  • Ég kem alveg af fjöllum.
    “I come completely from mountains” — used for: I have no idea what is going on
  • Ég mun finna þig í fjöru
    “I will find you on a beach” — used for: Don’t make me hurt you. Sort of.
  • Að koma einhverjum fyrir kattarnef
    “To put someone before a cats nose.” — used for: Putting someone in the spotlight, but slightly more dangerous.
  • Ég borga bara með reiðufé
    “I only pay with an angry sheep” — used for: Okay, but I don’t have to like it.

Edited to add: I put in rough ideas of how one would use these phrases

Testing the cats

Last evening Jenny and her fiance, Chris, came for dinner. Well, really, they came to drop off Zoe, their cat, as a trial run for when we take her during their honeymoon. Dinner was just taking advantage of them being here.

I was, to be honest, anticipating some fireworks. When I got Marlowe as a kitten, Maggie hated him so much that if I petted Marlowe and then tried to touch her without washing my hands, she would hiss at me. I’m not making that up. She tolerates him now, more so after the cross-country drive than before.

And Marlowe has never seen another cat, except ones outside the window. His only other experience with other animals have been with dogs that we’ve dogsat. (Boy, that word looks wrong.) Oh, and the mice. Anyway, I had no idea how he would react.

Zoe came right out of her carrier and went up to Marlowe to sniff his nose. He was totally freaked. He had no idea what to do. He only knows this one other cat who beat him up as a kitten–in fact, it’s only in the last year or two that he’s realized that he’s bigger than she is and that she’s old. So, despite the fact that he looks like a giant hulk next to Zoe (also a black cat) he was afraid of her.

Maggie stretched, walked up to Zoe. They sniffed. Then Maggie went to take a nap on the futon. She was so not interested. I think she was just pleased that I hadn’t brought home another dog.

We spent most of dinner watching the cats watch each other. The best moment came after dinner. I wanted to show Jenny and Chris the thing that Marlowe does with the basket. I didn’t think he’d do it, because there was so much strangeness. Man, he saw the basket and beelined across the room to sink his face into it. He immediately sank into his “I’m invisible” posture and seemed so much more at ease.

Zoe. Zoe clearly thought he was insane.

She crept out from under the bookcase where she had been hiding and stretched out to sniff the basket. Marlowe made one “meep” and she levitated backwards, kindof like, “My god! There really is a cat in that thing!”

After that everyone settled into a good routine of ignoring each other. I saw her this morning when I put her food down, but she’s hiding now. I think she’s in my closet, but I’m not going to fish her out. Jenny and Chris come back to pick her up tonight.

Earning their keep

Marlowe caught a mouse today. Suffice to say that the rest of this post will not be for the squeamish.

I think Maggie heard it first, but Marlowe was very persistent and caught it. We let him play with it for a little, hoping for a quick kill. Silly us. He was the gentleman and let Maggie play with the mouse first. It astonished me how gentle she was with it, reaching out with velveted paws to tap it. This phase did not last long, of course.

In all, I don’t think the mouse was in the cats’ possession for much more than a minute. I kept trying to tell myself that this was nature and that I should stop being squeamish. Yeah… that would have been fine if they hadn’t just been toying with the thing. I mean, watching it try to get away with a broken leg was horrible.

So, Rob scooped it up in a tupperware and we discussed the most humane way to kill it. The cats, meanwhile are looking for another mouse.

My suggestion was to wrap it in newspaper and smack it on the head with a hammer. Rob concurred. In her youth, Maggie just presented me with a dead mouse so I’ve never had to make this decision before.

On the whole though, it’s nice that the cats are earning their keep. Right?

Home from Readercon

My wonderful, wonderful husband made the boxes go away while I was at Readercon. Well, not all of them, but all the unpacked ones that were taking up ginourmous amounts of space. We still have the records and books in boxes, but I know feel like I can safely invite someone into the apartment without risking massive papercuts. He also got me flowers.

See, this is why I didn’t buy any books at Readercon this weekend. I’d told him that I wouldn’t bring any new books home, because we don’t know if we have enough space for the ones we brought. I was sort of amazed at the number of people who told me that I should buy books anyway–and not just dealers–as if they were unaware that it meant that I would be breaking a promise and then lying about it. The boy didn’t squawk when I announced I was going to a convention the weekend after we moved in, so the request that I not bring home any new books seemed pretty easy to honor.

It’s nice to be home, although it is hot. We are trying to do without airconditioning. It wasn’t bad last night or this morning, but at the moment it is very sticky. The cats are totally flat on the floor. If I give in on the air conditioning thing, it’ll be because of them. I mean, they can’t take their fur coats off.

I now have three people who want me to mod their laptop for them and I’ve got a volunteer to be a test subject on my next trial run. I’ve figured out how to make an easily customizable template, so now I just need to try it to see if it really works. I also have to time how long it takes me to do it, since I did this one in and around the process of moving. I will, naturally, keep you posted.