My life in cats: Kennedy


This is Kennedy. She lives with my friend Jenna. Kennedy is quite pretty, and Kennedy is quite aloof. She really likes Jenna. The rest of us are not that interesting. Although, if she is sitting on her scratching post, then she is willing to accept gentle patting, perhaps.


She may have been a rescue from a hoarder’s house, which perhaps explains some of her wariness.

Despite the lack of petting, I realized that Kennedy had decided we were people who belonged to her when my friends fostered another cat. Kennedy became jealous and demanded all the attention. Our attention included.

Kennedy sometimes gets very angry at the downstairs bathroom.

My life in cats: Europa


For some reason, my friends’ cat Europa has recently decided that Mike and I are people who are supposed to be around. She’s acting much more friendly, and sometimes doing things like rolling around on her back to get my attention. I don’t feed her, so that’s not it.

It’s nice, though.

(By the way, she does not actually want to be petted on the belly when she offers it. Like most cats that aren’t our cats, she becomes all claws.)

My obsession with the show The Good Place

I am *so* into the TV show The Good Place. I love it when screenwriters can pull off something with such pinpoint precise structure and dialogue. It’s one of those pieces of media that you occasionally see, and think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” I think I’d be really terrible at writing for TV, actually. So it’s a good thing that I didn’t write it.

The Good Place (if you don’t know) is a comedy show that takes place in the afterlife. It tackles philosophy in a way I haven’t seen on TV before. The show contains a set of scenarios that invites the reader to ask, “What is morality?” Like the actual literature, it refuses a simple answer. It overtly discusses many of the complex (and sometimes overly simplified) answers that philosophers have come up with.

I really respect media that can be both informative and entertaining. I never feel like The Good Place is preaching to me, but it polishes up/builds my knowledge of philosophy. It does another thing I really like also–the writers’ passion for the subject comes through so boldly that it makes me care about the subject, too, even if it’s not something I’m natively interested in. (The TV show Slings & Arrows does this with some Shakespeare tragedies; the writers’ love just saturates it.)

I watch a lot of TV because I’m addicted to narratives, but when I read anything in prose, my work brain kicks in. TV avoids the work brain. I usually judge TV with lower standards than prose, because I consume so much of it, but The Good Place is just awesome.

My life in cats: Henderson

Presenting Henderson, also called Sweet Lady Henderson, which is a great name for both a cat and a blues singer:


Henderson was stray until recently when she made camp on my friends’ porch. They fed her through the winter, and eventually took her to the vet, where they discovered she was older than they’d thought, and really not suited to go back outside. (Some cats do just fine as fed outdoor cats–she was clearly struggling.)

Mike and I fostered her for a little while. She’s a sweetheart. She wags her tail when she’s happy. I can’t even deal with how cute that is.

She would like to be petted, please. Constantly, if possible.

The vet had to shave her because her fur was a mass of angry tangles. So, she looks a bit like a furless, pathetic goblin. A purring, furless, pathetic goblin with a wagging tail.

She seems to have rustled up a home. If you have to be a stray cat, it’s good to be charming. And since her home is with friends of ours, we still get to enjoy petting the furless goblin (who will eventually be furred) and watching gifs of her wagging her tail.


My life in cats: Aurora


Sometimes I think I should document my life in cats.

My friend’s cat Aurora is a very intelligent, very grand-looking tortoiseshell maine coon. She’s very self-possessed and polite to me–but not overly so, because generally when I’m over, it’s feeding time. And if it’s “time to feed the kitty,” then focusing on anything other than food is not on.

Aurora has some rare behaviors — for instance, she will correct her behavior when my friend reminds her to remember her decorum. When my cats hear us tell them things like “respect boundaries,” they look up with wild eyes, writhe around in a circle, and then bolt across the room.

Many of my friends’ cats are female, where all of ours are male. I don’t know how much there really is a behavioral difference between male and female cats, but it always feels like there is. Ours are energetic, ridiculous goofs. Aurora has this thing called dignity. I’d try to explain what “dignity” was to our cats, but then they’d just look up with wild eyes, writhe around in a circle, and bolt across the room.

Drowning in Light


In the middle of summer, at this latitude, it’s light all the time. Not literally–we’re not that far North–but it can feel like it as the hour passes eight thirty and the sun is still happily shining.

It’s not as oppressive as the dark. I’ve only been here for one Winter, and many things were going wrong then, but when darkness crowded out the mornings and the afternoons, it felt like the world was narrowing to a pinpoint.

It was an ominous, oppressive feeling, and I made a personal note to myself not to spend a whole winter here again without traveling to see some light. I also bought a sun lamp.

I was pretty well warned about the dark winters in the Northwest. That, and the rain, although I haven’t found the rain that difficult to deal with. I can’t remember if anyone mentioned the summers–how weird and suspended it feels to be constantly in the light.

Time seems to have melted away. Everything is an endless afternoon, until the sudden, late blink of nighttime. It’s giving me some trouble getting things done–usually, when the light starts to wane, I switch over to evening tasks automatically. I have a pretty good sense of internal time, so I don’t spend a lot of the afternoon checking the clock, and it feels like it could be three p.m. from noon to eight.

The sunlight is nice in a lot of ways. I’m not having trouble sleeping through the early sun this year, though I did last year. But it’s interesting to observe in myself how my body responds to light, and how much it matters to how I feel and what I’m doing, despite my perpetually troubled sleep cycle, and how much of the time I’m in artificial light, looking at illuminated screens.

I think of myself as located in my mind, but we’re all bodily creatures.

It’s summer! It’s graduation time!

It’s summer! It’s graduation time!

I haven’t paid any attention to these signposts for a long time. After you’re not in school for long enough, its importance just kind of melts away. For years, I noticed graduation season as that time when YouTube starts putting up graduation-related clips.

However! Summer has become relevant to my life again. We hang out with two teenagers a lot, and they’re both in middle school. Ugh, middle school. So they’ve been counting down the days for a while. (Also, during the summers, we get to hang out with them during the day, which is nice.)

My husband is also in graduate school part time, and he’s going to graduate in a few days after turning in a final project, and he is SO RELIEVED, I can’t even tell you.

Back to the kids, the older teen (I shall hereforth call her Adelaide) had her “promotion ceremony” from middle school last night. One of her friends came over, and they fussed over their makeup for a longer time than usual. (Adelaide is into really dramatic makeup–cosplay-type makeup.)

I didn’t dress up for my middle school graduation. I mean, I’m sure I wore a nice dress. I’m equally sure I didn’t spend time primping. I was just happy to get out of there.

Adelaide is happy to get out of there, too, but she’s also feeling sentimental as she stands on the brink of high school. “I cried so much my eyes hurt,” she told me last night, a few hours after the ceremony. “Still.”

I’m her friend, not a parent or anything like that, but I still feel proud that she’s made it through all the trouble and drama and awfulness that is middle school. It’s a hell of a gauntlet.

Adelaide’s life as a pre-teen is super different than mine was. I mean, I was certainly not doing makeup or ready to date anyone when I was that age, while Adelaide is a bit of a swain.

I really get hung up on how much queer rights have changed. When I told Adelaide that I hadn’t met an out trans person until college, she was floored. She’s openly pansexual, and she publicly dates other girls. Some of it is because we’re in a liberal city, but a lot is just sheer cultural progress.

I think about how my friend Clay came out at fourteen in high school, basically because he had to – no one was going to accept him as straight. The hate and disdain he got even when he wasn’t dating anyone was extreme. His family kicked him out for a period of time. He ended up taking a lot of drugs, being so isolated and miserable.

While Adelaide? She wore a rainbow tie to her graduation in support of queer rights, and so did her friends.

Here she is, looking great:

Visiting Kit Tea, a San Francisco Cat Cafe. See also: Excuse to post cat pictures.

A few months ago, a friend of mine and I went to Kit Tea, an Oakland cat cafe. I took a bunch of pictures, but I am only posting them now, because I am me.

I had never been to a cat cafe before, but of course I had read about them because I A) live on the internet, and B) like cats. It seemed like a good lark for a weekday afternoon.

When we came in, we saw the following wall mural:

cat cafe mural

…which I stared at for a bit because while I quite like hairless cats, and I am terribly amused by the conjunction of cats and yoga, somehow adding these things together broke my brain. (Also, it seemed like possibly uncomfortable appropriation, but I may be reading too much there.)

Inside the cat cafe, we discovered that just in case the flesh and blood cats were insufficient, there were lots of cat objects to compensate:

cat cafe catwoman

cat cafe sylvester

cat cafe fitness

cat cafe monopoly

I didn’t open the Cat-opoly to see what was inside, but I suppose it’s quite possible that I could have spent the time we paid to get into the cat room playing cat monopoly instead. On the other hand, if the cats at KitTea are anything like the cats in Chez Swirsky, they would have made short work of the game by scattering everything and then plopping down on the board.

There were also some cat toys that I’m surprised to find I didn’t photograph, such as Tetris scratching posts, and a giant cat-hamster wheel.

The cats themselves were pretty lackadaisical. It was the evening and they had been accepting the petting of strangers with good grace all day so they were tired. Also, they were cats, so they were tired.

This dilute tortoiseshell did decide she wanted human company, jumping straight onto someone’s lap and subsequently refusing to move:

cat cafe dillute tortoiseshell

This brown tabby was happy to let people pet him as long as they didn’t expect him to get up:

cat cafe brown tabby

This gorgeous orange fluffball spent most of his time hanging out on wall-mounted shelves, but eventually came down and sat by my friend and me. Periodically, he accepted head and shoulder petting.

orange fluff zoomed out

I don’t think this orange and white tabby ever came down, though.

cat cafe orange tabby on shelf zoomed out cat cafe orange tabby on shelf

There were other cats, and I petted some of them, but either I decided I didn’t want to take pictures of them, or the photos were so bad I’ve blocked them out. But there were other soft, purring creatures about.

I like the wall-mounted cat furniture. When we move, I want to get a bunch of it, so that our five cats have more room to roam and aren’t argh just on us all the time Jesus Christ cat why don’t you stop standing on my chest

A cat cafe is to some extent wasted on someone who has five cats. When I want to pet a cat, I pet a cat. When I want to pet a bunch of cats, I pet a bunch of cats. When I want to see cats interacting, I toss Pete at his nephew or his brother, and they adorably groom each other. When I want to see a cat playing, one is always in the mood. And my cats are always excited to see me since I’m not a stranger.

It’s still totally worth it to poke around a cat cafe if you are cat-deprived in your life, or merely suffering from the slight cat deprivation that results when one has less than five cats. (Five cats. Headdesk.) And ESPECIALLY if you are thinking of adopting a cat because the cats at Kit Tea are looking for homes.

My father playing a German hand organ

My parents collect automated musical instruments, like this modern German hand organ that my father brings to organ rallies and music festivals. Note the stuffed monkey.

It’s actually quite difficult to play so that it sounds good. You have to be strong enough to keep up the crank, obviously, but you also have to train yourself to move your arm steadily through the swing. Otherwise, you tend to speed up and slow down, and the music gets distorted.

My parents do some cool things.