The Demise of Vacant Lots


Shadows of two cats checking each other out against a cracked wall
Two strays meeting in the night.

When I first arrived in the Washington, DC area, my brother lived in the Dale City area.  It was a new housing community with mega-houses being built.  His was a five bedroom house–tiny bedrooms, a living room, and a gigantic family room.

And there were places along the roads where there were no houses.  Grasses grew tall and waved in the wind.  I’m sure mice and rabbits crept through it, nibbling on grass.

Those empty spaces soon were covered in more mega-houses.  In fact, there is very little in this area that remains empty.  A small patch of land here and there, usually because of the odd size or placement.  It always has a sign up on that says For Lease, but no one can do anything with it.

When I was growing up, we had two vacant lots in our city.  One was across the street from the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church.  It was all dirt, and people tossed junk into it.  Fun walking through it to see what junk was there.  Either the church owned it or they bought it because they eventually flattened it out, wrapped a cyclone fence around it, and added grass for a playing field.  Still there.

The second lot was behind my house.  It was huge!  I imagine it was owned by one of the people on the opposite end of the block.  No one paid it much mind.  The grass grew tall in the spring rains, then turned yellow and dried out.

The local strays wandered through it, their tails flicking up.  The cats were all black and mangy.  Our cats hopped the fence, too, stalking through the grass.

We had a cyclone fence bordering our yard and the lot.  My father was into amateur radio then and had something like four antennas up, all tethered with guy wires.  There was a gate also that opened to a strip of land that was a tiny vacant lot.  We owned that one as part of our property.

The kids would walk back from the elementary school and cut through the vacant lot.  However, to get to where they were going, they had to hop the fence to the tiny lot, then hop the gate, then cut through our yard.  We’d sometimes look out the window and see boys–girls never did this–just strolling past our house from our backyard.

My father always chased them off.  The kids probably talks about the “mean man” who scared them away.  But with all the guy wires, he didn’t want someone to get hurt.

That lot’s now gone.  The developers filled it with condos.

I think I liked the vacant lot better.

Apologizing for What’s in Our Stories?


Kitten sleepily looks up from wool scarf

Last week, Tamora Pierce’s new book Tempests and Slaughter came out.  Long-awaited for me.  I love reading her books.

But animals also die in her books.

I don’t mind that because she portrays them as characters.  They carry the same weight as human characters.  If we mourn the loss of a human character, we mourn the loss of an animal character.

Are others offended that animals die in her books?

Probably.

I’ve had problems with thrillers.  If a cat or dog makes an appearance in one of those, I’m done.  I stop reading.  Most the writers of those books kill the animal to show how evil the kill is.  In one book, I was pretty sure the writer was fictionally killing off the cat his wife had forced him to have.

Do other people read through those books and enjoy them?

Probably.

Chihuahua holding a pink rose in his mouth, giving a soulful look.

It’s part of writing stories that we have to push at our boundaries.

And sometimes make people uncomfortable.

Star Trek also did that.

It’s one of the reasons the show has endured despite 50 years.  No one apologized.  They simply did.

But as I was driving into work this morning, I heard a story about the new Peter Rabbit movie.  Seemed that a scene offended people so the movie company apologized.

I haven’t seen the film, but the scene sounded like teenage bullying…with rabbits.  So we can’t use movies to bring up bullying?  Or that it should only be in a certain way?  That the readers aren’t capable of figuring things out for themselves?

Sometimes books and movies are a safe place to push at a boundary.  Star Trek was great because it was set in the future and could be escapist at the same time.  But now, somehow, it’s become the thing not to offend.

Yeah, there are people like artists who do something for the shock value.  Then there are those who bring their experiences to the story and show us a different perspective.  They make us think.

Problem is that people can be offended by pretty much anything.

Tiny man standing on laptop, pointing at screen, horrified

So we rob our society of the ability to do social commentary of differing viewpoints.  We end up with the watered down “committee” stories because people are afraid a reader will call offense.

Star Trek is still relevant today.  Yet, Chris Pine, the “new” Captain Kirk says we couldn’t make show like that today.

Think about that.  Think about that a long time.

 

Library Cat’s Job Is Saved


This reminded me of when I was in college.  The library, of course, had a library cat.  The cat was called Libby (bet you can guess why).  He looked like the cat from this article, in fact, though he was wild and didn’t want humans around except for the plate of food!

From NPR: Why the city council of White Settlement, Texas, decided to fire Browser, mascot and rodent hunter of the public library is not clear, but the vote two weeks ago was 2-1 to banish Browser…

Source: Library Cat’s Job Is Saved

Cats and Physics – Who Knew?


This was a scientific study in Japan about how cats use physics to hunt.  Plus plenty of cat pictures!

Desert Storm: Christmas in Saudi Arabia


Christmas was only 34 days since Thanksgiving, but the changes were like night and day. It was like the war was reaching ahead of itself to us, in anticipation of what might happen. Thanksgiving was definitely not a normal day, right from President Bush’s visit to the big meal, and even the decorations.

At this point during Desert Shield, I’d received very little mail from home. In fact, I’d primarily received bills. My mother, who wrote her parents every day, wasn’t writing anything at all. That was one of the hardest things about being deployed so far away and in an environment where communication was a challenge. The world continued to happen, while I was stuck in a time bubble, and I didn’t know what was going on.

Christmas started out really like the day before and also like the day after. The world was brown and olive drab. No decorations, no Christmas tree. We had our first formation. Then one of our 40 foot trucks pulled up with a box trailer. It was filled with packages sent from the United States to “Any Soldier.”

Package after package was brought to us, so many it was overwhelming. Most of it was toiletry kind of stuff, and hard candy. Basic supplies had been hard to get initially, so everyone was still sending more to us. We received so much candy that we were sick of it and lobbing bags of it into trucks as they stopped at fuel point. The nicest thing I got was addressed to “Any soldier who was a cat lover.” Someone sent pictures of their cats.

It was nice to see that so many people did care, and it did usher in a feeling of Christmas spirit that sometimes gets lost during the holidays with all the commercialism.

But only a few hours later, we were back to work, readying for the war coming in 24 days.

Tales of the White Cat


This has been a nice fall so far.  The weather in Washington, DC usually bounces up and down — gets really cold, then gets really hot, and then everyone gets sick.  It’s been cool, with the wind a bit gusty, like nature knows it has to come along and blow the leaves off the trees.  Not much in the color changes yet though.

So I went out early in the morning for a walk around the neighborhood.  The gray squirrels were busy digging at the grass with their tiny paws and burying nuts.  Up ahead of me, I saw this flash of white on the street:  A cat.

Okay, I definitely wanted to stop and pet the cat and say hi.  I figured the cat wouldn’t go near me.  You know how cats can  be.  I kept walking on the sidewalk and calling to the cat.  He disappeared for a moment, and I figured he’d gone under a car.

One of the squirrels darted in front of me, so I stopped and waited for him to finish his squirrel business.

Four houses away, the cat appeared on the sidewalk and headed for me.  At a cat walk.  Not the slinky walk cats have when they’re not in a hurry.  It was more of a fast walk, like when food is coming out.

So I stood there and waited, and the cat trotted right up to me with some serious head bumping, and his engine got started right away.  He was a bit chunky for a cat, but had feathery white fur.  Very soft.  He got some serious spoiling, and we both enjoyed every minute of it!

Pocket Kitten


Cuteness alert!

Army versus Cat: Who Wins?


This is a pretty cute video of a paper soldier army versus a ginger cat.

 

When Kittens Attack – Video


Just some cute for hump day. Enjoy!

No! You Can’t Use the Computer


Found this via Love Meow.