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Cat Forum: A Day at the Spa

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Greetings. Snoops and Kommando here. Thanks for joining us here for this month’s Cat Forum. Today we’re looking at the important issue of how you can de-stress after a hard day of supervising the neighborhood, hunting, and looking for the perfect napping spot.

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One of the best ways to relax is to get a massage. Some cats find a human to do this. If you are looking for a human, you need one who uses their whole hand. It feels like extremely good cuddles.

Some humans use their fingertips. They call it acupressure; we call it prodding. However, many cats report that after the prodding, they do feel a lot better.

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We prefer a cat-to-cat massage. No one knows where our stress points are better than another cat. And when they’re done, you don’t need to worry about being dumped on the sofa afterwards. You can just relax and take a nap.

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Some of you say ‘nip is relaxing. We don’t want to recommend it here, because it excites as many kitties as it relaxes. Of course, most kitties do fall asleep after the excitement. So, it probably is relaxing.

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If you do choose to relax with ‘nip, make sure you get it from a reliable trader. Some cats have reported finding oregano and other herbs mixed in. That is definitely not relaxing.

A couple of good, long stretches are good for relaxing. Remember to hold the stretch momentarily to get the most out of it. If you are an active hunter, you may associate stretching with hunting. In that case, we do not recommend trying to relax this way.

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Some kitties like to relax with music. We recommend something in the classical realm, with lots of soothing strings or piano. Do not listen to that current human music with the loud crashes and human yowling. It will cause you more stress than you currently have.

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If the source of your stress is a housemate, there are two ways to deal with it. Our preferred method is to chase them out of the area. Not only will the running help you de-stress, you no longer have to deal with the source of the stress.

The other alternative is to find a quiet space of your own. However, if you’re stressed because someone has invaded your quiet spot, you’ll need to have several back-ups. Pests can usually find you.

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 Last, but not least, is a nice, long nap in a warm spot. We recommend a blanket, a sunny spot, in front of a fire, or in your bed. Do not use a human lap. Just about the time you get settled in, they will decide it’s time for a snack.

Talking about all of this relaxation is making us sleepy. Purrs and snuggles from Cat Forum.

0

Calliope, Calliope, Wherefore Art Thou?

A few years ago, I realized that I had not seen a calliope in a very long time. In fact, my kids don’t even know what it is. How can it be that hundreds of thousands of Americans don’t know what a calliope is? Next thing I know, someone will say they don’t know what a harpsichord does.

When I was little, my dad worked for a large company that had an annual picnic at a nearby lake. It was a big deal – games, food, beer tent (Dad’s favorite). And a calliope.

I looked up the definition of calliope. It is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending steam or compressed air through large whistles. It also said that calliopes are very loud; some small ones are audible for miles. There is no way to vary tone or loudness. The only variables are the timing and duration of the notes. Don’t see any popularity issues there. Sounds like a lot of the kids who come through the store.

Calliopes must be tuned often to create quality sound (probably an oxymoron). The pitch is affected by the temperature of the steam, so tuning is almost worthless anyway. They decided to just tell people that those off-pitch notes were just a part of the instrument’s charms. It’s a good thing that rationalization has never caught on for singing.

Interesting note: The calliope was patented by Joshua Stoddard on October 9, 1855. (Start planning your anniversary celebrations now!) He planned for it to replace the bells at church. I don’t know what type of church Mr. Stoddard attended, but I can’t imagine waking up to the sound of a calliope playing two miles away. Or listening to it chime every hour. I’m thinking the people would have sent Joshua from his home in Worcester, MA, to somewhere on the open prairie.

Apparently a calliope can either be played by hand or mechanically. I read that calliopes began using music rolls starting in the 1900’s. The ones I saw always had human players. I wonder if the musicians were just pretending to play. How disillusioning.

The real reason for the demise of the calliope seems to have been the replacement of steam power by things that didn’t get into our lungs and try to kill us. No steam, nothing to drive the music. I think it was a conspiracy by the same people who don’t want Harleys driving through their subdivisions at 3a.

The only calliope-maker in the world right now lives in Peru, Indiana. So it appears that the instrument will not be making a comeback any time soon. It’s probably just as well. Who needs another type of loud discordant music floating around?

 

 

2

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

(Thanks to REM.)

My kids graduated from high school on Thursday. They’re not twins, but it’s a long story. Our district doesn’t have graduations for kindergarten, 4th grade, 8th grade, or anything else. So this is a big deal.

On the last day of class (they let the seniors out two weeks before the rest of the district), they had the “Senior Walk”. This is a long-standing, hallowed tradition. The kids put on their caps and gowns and walk through all the halls saying good-bye to their friends. As my son said, his friends were all seniors, so it was just a long walk. Then they walk across the bridge over the road outside. A lot of the parents come and take pictures, and it ends up in  the local paper. I’m waiting for the movie.

In an epic case of cosmic bad timing, one of the students had died from cancer three days before. It gave the kids a chance to honor him with ribbons on their gowns and signs on their caps. That was the only positive – at least they were all together to support each other. And his identical twin. As I said, it was cosmically awful for these kids.

Next up was the Honors Assembly. I had flashbacks to my own. For me high school was socially passable, academically successful. So my mother made me go. It was an extremely long night. Everyone who had won anything had to troop across the stage and be applauded. When my daughter got an invitation, I was not thrilled. Proud, but not thrilled.

When we got the programs, it didn’t look too bad. There was a welcome by the principal (who everyone likes) and the handing out of several scholarships. We weren’t sure why we were there since our daughter had not won any of the listed scholarships, but it looked reasonable.

I should have realized that there would be a catch. We began with a paean to the top ten academic students. Who were sitting on the stage. They presented the names alphabetically in the interests of treating them all equally. Apparently there was no concern about segregating them from the rest of their classmates.

Being mainly academic scholarships, there was a lot of repetition in who was receiving them. The parents all clapped appreciatively, although a lot of us were wondering why they had been invited to see awards given to other people’s children.

Finally our patience was rewarded. Sorta.  After a break, we were treated to a parade of the students with their pictures and awards/scholarships flashed on a screen. It was great. Except they neglected to list the two scholarships our daughter had won from the colleges she applied to. At least her picture looked nice.

My uncle wanted to attend the ceremony. And drive. My daughter had gotten the directions, and it appeared to be an easy drive. But my uncle had a “better way”. I didn’t find out about the “better way” until we were driving past our exit. Long story short – the improvement added a half hour to our drive. If we’d been a few minutes later, the kids would not have been allowed to walk in the procession.

And we would have been sitting behind the stage. Did I mention that one of the main uses for the building is as a sports arena? It’s the home of one of the feeder teams for the Red Wings. It has two parts, but both are set up in a 360 degree viewing pattern.

As it was, we ended up behind the band. As near as I can tell, the individuals all play fairly well, but the director hasn’t taught them to play as a unit. It was a unique rendering of “Pomp and Circumstance”. Over and over as all 500+ students filed in (it’s a consolidated district). Plus the dignitaries and teachers.

The teachers. I’m glad they weren’t the ones teaching my kids manners. Most of them only applauded for a few of the students. Only a few of the students clapped for everyone. I was proud to see that two of them were related to me. I forgave their ability to sleep in while I get up at 2:30a for a few minutes.

Four of the teachers performed the class song, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by Simple Minds. I love the song and thought it was a great choice. I think the band was more nervous than the kids. At least their parents weren’t recording every move.

The speeches were short and poignantly sweet. During the procession, they made it all the way to the middle of the “A”s before they got a name wrong. A first name. Totally wrong. He probably would have gotten more applause if anyone had known who he was.

Then it was over. And we had to find our kids among the hundreds of people at the bottom of the arena. That (and getting out of the parking lot) took almost as long as the ceremony.

 

 

 

 

4

Please Stop the Music

Disclaimer: I have always been unable to study with music on if it had lyrics; I wanted to listen to the words. I may be genetically incapable of ignoring background music. 

The eighties are alive and well at Ralph’s (the pseudonym for the store where I work). Sometimes the music they play sounds like a Top 40’s list from 1984. (I guess that ages me since I don’t remember the last time I heard the phrase Top 40.) As hard as I have tried, I cannot find any type of research that says a constant stream of Billy Joel and Huey Lewis induces people to buy more lettuce and canned corn.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like some of the music. But I remember a business trip I took to Toledo one time. I only lived a couple of hours away, so I drove. I made the mistake of taking more than one album (age alert!) by the same artist with me. It was months before I could listen to some of the songs.

The first year I was there, I only noticed the Christmas music. There really are a limited number of songs a retail store can play at Christmas without offending someone. When you’re open 24/7 and start playing the music right after Thanksgiving, everyone’s teeth are on edge by December 24. So they decide to extend the “mood” by continuing to play it until January 1.

Then I noticed that we also have patriotic music on Independence Day (July 4th). There is a seriously limited supply of patriotic music. Once you get past the anthems for each branch of the military, the Sousa marches, and America the Beautiful, the pickings get slim. Stars and Stripes Forever and the Washington Post March start to sound an awful lot alike by the fourth or fifth repetition.

It was last fall that I started to realize that some of the songs were on heavy rotation (yes, another phrase from the 80’s). I know that stores pay a service to get a certain package of music, so I wasn’t really surprised by the repetition. I just started started wondering why they would choose what they did. Maybe it’s cheaper to get older music? I guess the 80’s were when music started splintering into so many genres, so maybe they were looking for something generic. I just wonder if they really know what they got.

For example, fairly regularly we get to hear Ballroom Blitz by Sweet (1973). I’ve loved the song since the first time I heard it, but as music to shop by?

What about My Sharona by The Knack (1979)? Has anyone listened to the lyrics? They’re a little suggestive.

Or Rock the Casbah by The Clash (1982)? For one thing, people really don’t hear that first word well. More than one has thought it was F*** the Casbah, which would really be in poor taste. But the rest of the lyrics are pretty iffy too, if you actually listen to them. And the video is worse:

I’m going to end with another song that we hear a lot, although it’s from the 60’s. I really like it, but right now it hits a little close to home.

On the other hand, any of it is better than the Muzak stores played in the 80’s.

3

I Wonder

Who decided that the goalposts in football would be designated north and south?

Why is fresh good when you talk about fruits and vegetables but not when you talk about people?

On the freeway, why am I always behind the guy going 65 mph and in front of the guy who wants to go 75 mph? (and thinks that riding my bumper will somehow make the other guy go faster)

Who created the zipper? How did they get the idea?

Do stores really think that the number of people who buy tinsel between Halloween (or earlier) and Thanksgiving outweigh the number of people who are annoyed and avoid that whole side of the store? Besides, things are more expensive the first month than any other time of the season (nothing on sale yet).

I understand why some stores use background music as part of their brand, but what kind of brand is Wal-Mart trying to convey?

Is traffic congestion decreased enough to justify the rear-end collisions tension, and irritation at traffic round-abouts?

Why did I see Santa outfits for infants today next to adult Halloween sweaters? There’s a much better chance that I will still be the same size by Christmas than a baby.

When radio stations identify a song after a set, why is it never the song I didn’t know/can’t remember?

Do they eat Jordan almonds in Jordan?

Why do people who cut in line try to explain it by saying that they are in a hurry? Do they think the rest of us are there because we like to spend 20 minutes standing between people on their phones, arguing, or talking dirt about someone else?

Are road construction jobs paced to ensure full employment for the entire season? No matter when jobs are supposed to be done around here, it’s always at least a month longer. Maybe we don’t offer incentives for early completion in our county?

Why is there always an SUV parked in the compact car spot at my doctor’s office?

Why is the only time I am not tripping over a commissioned salesperson when I actually have a question or want to purchase?