Monday 18 November 2002

Nice to be back (kind of)

Having a break turned out to be such a good idea that I’ve decided to take a week off every three months or so, perhaps at the end of each quarter. Sitting down to start writing again, I realize that—true to my obsessive, driven nature—I’d set myself a somewhat ambitious program of watching, listening, reading, and swimming. I did all of that although, happily, not with the rigor I’d intended. Now it seems strange to be sitting down to write a weblog entry again. I feel as though I have to ease my way back into it by recounting the events of the week.

Despite the best efforts of the video store staff, late returns delayed my Sopranos viewing. Even so, after watching seven episodes of Series Three, I remain convinced that The Sopranos is the best American television series ever made. More on that later…

Keith Jarrett’s Sun Bear Concerts turned out to be beautiful beyond belief. I don’t feel qualified to write about Jarrett’s music since I’m not sure I “understand” it (in the way I understand film or photography). Rather my response is instinctive and emotional. But anyone who has enjoyed the Koln Concert or Solo Concerts (Bremen-Lausanne) couldn’t fail to find this six CD set deeply rewarding. I wasn’t surprised to find little agreement amongst the Amazon reviewers as to which is the standout concert — my favorite is whichever one I’m currently listening to (Sapporo, as I write this). Spending so much time with these Japanese concerts has encouraged me to revisit his other solo concerts: Bremen-Lausanne, Koln, Bregenz, Paris, Vienna, and La Scala. As the single sentence Sun Bear liner note puts it: “Think of your ears as eyes.”

I’m about halfway through Building Accessible Websites and it has exceeded all my expectations. Unlike Constructing Accessible Web Sites, which you dip into to find information about a particular topic, Joe Clark’s book is one you’ll want to read from start to finish. I’ve been thinking about writing a hands-on Web accessibility training course and Joe has inspired me to get on with it. It should be possible to teach Web developers in a day how to convert a typical unaccessible site to Level A compliance, as long as they receive a copy of Designing Accessible Websites as part of the course materials.

What else happened? My (external SCSI) CD burner died and I decided to replace it with an internal Yamaha CRW-F1 (favorably reviewed by Tom’s Hardware Guide). I’m happy installing RAM and PCI cards into my PC but I draw the line at IDE drives so I called on ImageScan, the people who maintain my PCs, for assistance. They installed the burner and it worked fine—until I removed Roxio’s Easy CD Creator and Direct CD (so that I could use the Nero software that came with the new drive). My CD reader and the new burner disappeared and nothing I tried would bring them back. As it happened, this is a known problem. Deleting two Registry entries and restarting brought back the missing drives. I knew there were problems with Easy CD Creator version 5 but I’d deliberately stayed with version 4 to avoid them. Silly me. Anyway Nero Burning ROM and InCD are vastly superior. As for Roxio, perhaps they should change their name to Poxio.

Finally, Reimi developed a black spot under her chin which, when I took her to the vet, turned out to be cat acne. (My mother’s response? “I’ve heard everything now!”) He gave her a shot and sent us home with some antibiotics. It’s been a trying experience getting her to take a quarter of a pill before each meal — particularly since Reimi’s predecessor, Pudding, would quite happily open her mouth and swallow whatever I dropped into it. After Reimi inflicted deep scratches on my hands and legs, my sister bought me a Pill Popper:

One small push on the plunger gently drops the pill in the back of your pet’s mouth - where it needs to be to make swallowing easy. A soft, pliable rubber tip protects against any irritation. Even pets that usually will take a pill when hidden in their favorite food, when sick and not eating, require a Pill Popper to get the medication they require.

One hand to prise open her jaws, another hand to manipulate the Pill Popper… which hand do I use to fend off her claws?

I settled on the following procedure: kneel down and trap her body and rear legs between my thighs, hold her front legs with my left hand, push the pill between her clenched teeth with my right hand then massage her throat to make her swallow. Tonight she only spat out the pill once before swallowing it. By the end of the week I hope she’ll take it without being constrained.

If the antibiotics don’t work, I have some more options: replace her plastic bowls with glass, ceramic, or steel bowls or see if there’s anything that might be stressing her. (“What could possibly stress her?” I ask. “Too much sleep? Too much to eat? Too many pats and cuddles?”) If, inexpicably, she is stressed, Bach Rescue Remedy might do the trick. (Can’t wait to hear what my mother says about that.)



The trick we use to get Catbert to take pills is to wrap him in a blanket so only his head protrudes. You can then hold him pretty easily between your knees and you have both hands free to open his mouth, put a pill in, and then hold his mouth closed until he swallows it. It's still a fiddly process, though.

Posted by: sil on 18 November 2002 at 01:09 AM

Right. Same deal, only we use a towel. Only Reimi-chan knows whether she prefers terry or fleece or wool.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on 18 November 2002 at 01:20 AM

Jonathon, the first year after we adopted Zoe, she got cat acne. It eventually faded away.

A grown cat moving into a new home is very stressful to them. Don't let the purrs fool you -- they can mean "please don't abandon me" as much as "I love you" or "I'm content".

With Zoe, we followed the treatment given us from the doctor, and it helped some, but didn't completely eliminate the acne. It eventually ended on its own after, in my belief without any scientific basis of fact, she felt she wasn't going to be abandoned again. When she felt truly at home.

Posted by: Burningbird on 18 November 2002 at 08:29 AM

Thanks for the tips, guys. I think that fear of abandonment might be a factor, since she evidently went through the mill before she landed with me. I'll keep an eye on the acne and wash her chin regularly with a weak peroxide solution.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 18 November 2002 at 10:22 PM

Replace the bowls! Plastic harbors bacteria and it is nearly impossible to dislodge them. If money is a deterrent, go to the Salvation Army and buy some cheap ceramic dishes there. That has the advantage of providing your cat with a unique set of dishes. And buy several dishes--six or seven--so you can rotate them and make sure she has a clean dish at all times. Remember to use a ceramic dish for her water as well.

Posted by: Marina on 20 January 2003 at 10:14 PM

nice article, keep up the good work.

Posted by: Anonymous on 16 March 2003 at 07:07 PM

Did you know that if you grasp a cat gently at the back of the neck (the scruff!)they go into a mildly catatonic state where they become passive and it is quite easy to open their mouth and with your trusty pillpopper pop the pill in. They don't seem to suffer at all from this, it is as though they got absent while you do this and seem not to get traumatised by the whole thing. Before I discovered this I hated giving my cats (Lola and Daisy) their medicine. Good luck.

Posted by: lolacatkin on 21 March 2003 at 07:18 PM

Further to previous, I forgot to mention that when you hold the cat by the scruff of the neck you have to sort of hold her right up with front paws off the table and back feet on the table so that she is sort of dangling. Sounds not too good but really it does work and they don't seem to be bothered by it.

Posted by: lolacatkin on 21 March 2003 at 08:02 PM

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2002-2003 Jonathon Delacour