Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Franklin: Avian Adventure

Franklin: A Eye to the Sky

The last few days have offered exploration, excitement, and a bit of upheaval, too. This weekend Win and I made our first foray onto The Deck – that tantalizing 10-square-feet of al fresco heaven just outside the dining room door. Mom insists that we’re exclusively “house cats,” but it seems that if she’s outside and the weather is fine, we will be allowed to claim this valuable acreage as an extension of our realm.

But before we were allowed to visit, Mom set to sweeping, washing, planting, and discretely tossing last year’s floral failures. Sunday, another glorious day, saw her readying to prepare a barbecue dinner. But when Win and I stepped onto the now-sparkly deck to join her, a sonic eruption took place! Two creatures of the winged type began carrying on in a most raucous manner -- hopping from alder to fir and back again, swooping low overhead, cawing, crying, even hacking at the tree branches to raise the maximum amount of noise.

Winston: What is that racket?

It was clear something untoward was going on. They quieted if we left the deck, but the instant Mom stepped out – and even more if Win or I set a paw to the cedar surface – all heck broke loose! And upon investigation, Mom found that to which we had pointed a paw some minutes earlier: a black beast in feathered form, lying amongst the groundcover.

Neither of us are expert on avian species, but after careful listening to the beasts above, and with judicious use of the Alta Vista “Bird -> Cat” translator, we confirmed that the two in the bush were parent crows, and the one in the hand –- excuse me, in the ivy -- was their fledgling. Mom said we needed to give the smaller bird time to right itself, so she sat food and water next to him and observed him over the evening. The next morning he appeared to be gone. However, he was still present after all; he had just hopped to a new hiding place.

A mission of mercy was in order! We volunteered the use of our carrier to take the fledgling to a wild animal recovery center. (Surprisingly, our offer to serve as traveling companions was courteously declined.) The wild animal center will care for Diablo and release him to the wild once he’s better. Mom will be sending them some help of the financial sort, so that they can carry on their good works.

Peace has returned to the backyard and we may now safely visit the deck again. Having done our bit to help our fellow creature, we’ve now turned to less noble but no less worthy pursuits: perfecting the art of distraction so that one of us can snack on those tasty pansies!

Are they gone yet?
More importantly, will anyone notice if we behead the dahlias?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Winston: He’s Got a Tiger by the Tail…

Mom decorates her house with “themes.” Or so I told her telling a friend. “The main bathroom came with wallpaper that looks like savannah grass and a beige/brown colour scheme,” she said, “so I turned it into my Lion Room.” She’s a real cat person, so it wasn’t a far stretch for her to put up lion towels, hang lion pictures, lay down a lion throw rug, and decorate with figures representing that alleged “king of beasts.” (If he’s so royal, why is he eating raw meat and sleeping with flies, I ask you? The nickname obviously has nothing to do with fact and everything to do with effective PR.)

Anyway, the focal point of the room, and the one that is keenly of interest to Franklin and me, is the ceiling-tall rack behind the floor-mounted water bowl. The three shelves of this rack are packed with a growing collection of lion plushies that started coming together during Mom’s childhood. Large, small, supine, standing… they number about 40, and they make a splendid display—an hommage au chat—that is entirely pleasing to Frank and me.

But amongst the lions, there is another cat, an outcast, a stripped beast Mom calls “Tiger.” Apparently Mom donated money to an animal group called World Wildlife Fund and they sent her a gift.

Now, it upsets our catly sensibilities to have this mismatched animal amongst an otherwise organized display. So, with great regularity, we have taken to stealing him and hiding his absurdly-stripped self in another room in the house: under the bed, on the dinner table, behind the computer, inside the laundry hamper… you name it, we’ve used it for a secret stashing spot.

It’s not just the hiding to which Mom objects, though, for without any reasoning that we can divine, she also objects to our chewing on Tiger, leaving him not just mangled, but moist. And she gets particularly cranky when—at 3 or 4 in the morning—Franklin pulls Tiger into the bedroom and loudly growls while practicing his pounces. (I, being the soul of discretion, have learned to practice in Silent Mode.)

Mom has started hiding Tiger on the upper shelves, hoping we won’t see him, and she's telling the household and guests, “New rule: close the door when you leave.” Sometimes, though, someone forgets and the door stays open. Today was such a day. So with our usual lightning speed—for one never knows how long one will have an opportunity—we entered the room. Franklin quickly mounted the rack and started tossing lions down, left and right, as he served as reconnaissance in Operation Tiger Search.

I heard a noise on the stairs and quickly exited the room. Franklin was a bit late, though, only noticing the sound of approach when a step fell in the hallway. As he proudly recounted later, “I knew I was too late to jump down and get out of the room before I got caught in the act! So I froze on the top shelf—not even blinking, not a single whisker twitching—as the light came on. And success! No one noticed my blue-eyed, ivory coloured, long-tailed self-of-lifelike proportions amongst the fanciful stuffed animals.”

Or at least that’s what he says.

I haven’t the heart to tell him that moments later, I heard laughter and comments about “a missed Kodak Moment” from downstairs. I am quite sure Franklin will never admit that such comments could have had anything whatever to do with him!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cat-astrophes Part Vier

The boys are now 8 months old. Still kittenish in behavior, they’ve gotten taller, leaner, and smarter in their mischief-making. A case in point is the way they “assist me” in my daily work.

I’ve worked with a computer game developer for the last 8 years. I really love our game, and I play it a lot on my own time. I often have my second computer in the game during the work day, for that gives me a quick means to learn about issues our team needs to attend to. (For instance, tonight I learned of an exploit that was giving a lot of unearned players rewards. It pays to idle in the guild hall. :) )

Franklin and Winston like the game too. They like it so much, in fact, that whenever I step away from my desk, they pop onto my chair and head right for the keyboard. This can cause some problems, as I tell a player “Going AFK for a moment,” head upstairs to grab a root beer, and suddenly the player gets messaged, "kkkkkkkkkllllllll=== " and other alarming comments.

"New style of trash talking?" my opponent asks?
"Yes" I reply bravely, fighting back a blush, "my kittens say "Bring it!"

The boys are exceptionally good at editing my documents, too. I’ve found myself looking at page 55 of a 2-page document because a kitty sat down to smooth his fur while resting a paw against the “Enter” key. I've found words in languages unknown on earth, and formatting that defies the common bounds of publishing. I actually had a colour shift on one document.

Now, fortunately, Winston and Franklin have not mastered actual gameplay or document deletion.

But clearly, it’s only a matter of time.