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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Links du jour:

Men Without Hats have re-formed and released a new album.
Ground and Sky is a music review site with an emphasis on (guess what?) progressive rock.
  View all 2003 links


Recently Read: Currently Reading:

Next Up:

  1. L. E. Modesitt, Ghost of the White Nights
  2. Alastair Reynolds, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days
  3. Margery Allingham, Dancers in Mourning
  4. John C. Wright, The Golden Age
  5. Daniel Keys Moran, The Armageddon Blues

Cats and Macs

Boy, what a week.

For one thing, Spies was either sick or down from last weekend through I think sometime Wednesday or Thursday. It was completely down for nearly two days. I think a bad disk was the main culprit, with problems with the disk controller software being a contributing factor. I'm not sure of all the details, but Ceej and David spent some time getting everything fixed up and things seem to be better now. Thanks, folks!

So that's one reason I haven't written: I didn't have access to my Web site, and even my e-mail was not accessible for a while.


Thursday evening I took Debdeb to the airport to visit her family back east. I decided not to join her this time around, partly due to a lack of vacation time (we're also planning to go to Disneyland on December), partly because we're busy at work right about now, and partly because this way I could watch her kittens while she's gone.

So the kittens are staying with me, and already there's all sorts of news.

Mostly they are confined to my front bedroom, which they seem to enjoy. It has hardwood floors, and lots of windows for them to look out of. Sitting on the blanket in front of one window is now their favorite place to sleep when they're not playing.

Last night I bought a pet gate to put in the doorway to the room. This is both so I can get some ventilation in the room without getting them out (important since we're having a heat wave this weekend - it's over 90!), and also so the kittens and my cats can see and sniff each other without being able to actually reach each other. It's worked well so far, and no one has yet jumped the gate. I've also let the kittens out on some supervised explorations down the hall, and though the cats are still hissing, they have also gone and nuzzled each other a few times. So I think we're making progress.

You may be wondering what was up with Blackjack last week, with his mysterious lethargy. Well, Debbi says he was getting back towards normal during the week, and he seems completely back to normal now. Just a little bundle of energy, playing with his sister whenever I'm around. Here's what I think: I think he had a virus. He was very warm last weekend, which we both remarked on at the time, and Roulette also seemed a little warm. Both of them feel entirely normal temperature-wise now, meaning they basically feel like my adult cats. I think they had a fever and their bodies had trouble fighting it off, maybe because they're still building up their immune systems. It just floored Blackjack a lot more than Rou, and they eventually got over it, thank goodness! (My friend John's theory that they were having some lingering gastrointestinal issues from all their life changes over the last few weeks might also be a good one.)

Gross medical stuff warning!

On the other hand, remember that tiny white worm I found last weekend, which I thought came from the nectarines? Uh, nope. I've found quite a few of them this weekend, mostly dead, but also several live ones lurking around Roulette's butt. So I called their vet and the diagnosis is tapeworms. Ewww! Apparently cats get them by eating fleas, and the vet doesn't know what the gestation time is, so they might have picked them up at their old home and it just took a while for them to develop. Fortunately, the vet says they are not contagious - a cat actually has to eat a flea to get them, and can't catch them from other cats (I imagine it has to pass through their stomach to the intestines, and that hard-shelled fleas can make the trip, but the actual worms can't). And the treatment is to give Roulette half a pill now, and half a pill in three weeks. And the pill was only $11.00.

Roulette did not like being given the pill, but she actually did not struggle much and I got it down pretty easily. But she's mad at me now (and she's a pretty independent cat anyway - doesn't want attention unless she comes to get it). But y'know, that's a small price to pay to make her healthier.

And, fortunately, they both are still eating, drinking and using their litter.

So with any luck this will be their last health problem for years to come.


In cheerier news, today is my mother and sister's birthday. It's still kinda strange to think that they share one. It's also the unofficial beginning of the holiday season for me, as we have their birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, and my Dad's birthday, all over the next four months. Whee!

My Mom tells me that she went out and got herself a new kitty today. A nearly-year-old stray who apparently escaped from her previous owner (or was abandoned), had a litter of kittens, then was rescued and neutered. She says she's friendly but shy, but seems to be enjoying her new home. I told her it's probably good to add a new family member every 30 years.


I finished reading the seminal book on software engineering, Frederick Brooks' The Mythical Man-Month. Despite being published in 1975, it still rings true today more often than not, and I've seen groups that follow his suggestions to greater or lesser extents, and with greater or lesser success.

His central point is that as of the 1970s the job of planning a software project and coordinating among its staff became a more fundamental problem in software development than implementing it. Essentially, since implementation concerns no longer make up at least 90% of the work, it's unreasonable to expect advances in software development tools and techniques to result in an order-of-magnitude improvement in development efficiency.

You might or might not agree with this, but Brooks' explanations make the book well worth reading in either case. It's also a fairly quick read.


Apple shipped Mac OS X 10.3 Panther last night. Our latest big deal, including the GM release of Xcode, which is my application.

I dropped by the Palo Alto retail store last night to check out the launch event, having never been to one before. Wow, it was pretty well packed, even at 11:30 pm! A number of employees from the mothership were there apparently volunteering to help with staffing. It felt a little awkward to be there as an employee but not one actually working the event, and I politely avoided doing anything gauche like, oh, signing up for the free Mac they were raffling off. It was, however, cool to see so many people there and excited about Apple.

Speaking of the mothership, I also bought an iPod this week. They have apparently been just flying off the shelves since they became fully Windows-compatible, and no doubt the release of iTunes for Windows will help even more. (iTunes may not be the best app I've ever used, but I can't offhand think of a better one.) I finally bought one because it was getting to be a drag to bring my laptop everywhere I wanted to idly listen to my music, and also because the new 40 Gb models are almost big enough to hold my whole library. Woo-hoo!

I could have held out for an even larger model, but, y'know, that would be extravagant.

Besides, now I need to get a home computer with enough disk space to hold my library.

Not to mention one that can run Mac OS X. Shee.

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