Caturday Thoughts – This Saturday Meet Cloud

Hello, my name is Cloud. My human mother calls me Cloudy Boy a lot. She doesn’t have a lot of nicknames for me like the other cats, unless “You’re so soft!!!” is a nickname. You never know with humans. Milk is my cat mother. I got to stay with both my mothers because no one wanted to adopt me. Something happened when I was a tiny kitten and I have a deformed paw. It works just fine but it looks funny and needs a special nail trim every once in a while.

 

You can see my different paw a little in this picture. I am doing one of my favorite things here, sleeping in the sun. Other things I like to do are head bumping and grooming the other cats. I really love everybody but not everyone appreciates my attention, especially my sister Skye. I have to admit a lot of the time my intentions are to maneuver her off a perch I want, but still, she hisses even when I am trying to be nice.

 

Mom says as soon as she masters the Go Pro camera she will make me a video star. My favorite toy is the laser dot toy. I love to chase it and can do so a lot longer than Mom can flash it around. I am an athletic  boy and Mom promises when she is done with all her school papers we will have more time for fun exercise. Indoor cats need more stimulation but also more play helps us stay fit and healthy. Not enough running around tends to make us gain weight. Not to point a paw, but Misun growls when we run around. If she would play with us she wouldn’t be so fat. Anyway, Mom says I am her best boy and I make her laugh when I chase the dot so it’s healthy for both of us. I am her only boy now Tony and Mosby are gone so I have to Take good care of her. I give her lots of head butts and cuddles and purr in her ear at night so she gets a good sleep. I am so glad she loved me and kept me when no one wanted me and I know she is too.

 

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Autumnal Equinox qiū fēn 秋分 Sep 23rd

IMG_6580The Autumn Equinox is the 16th solar term of the year, starting on the 23rd of September. It marks the second half of autumn in the Chinese calendar and the start of sunlight moving to the south and the shortening of days and lengthening of nights. The pentad for this period have lovely, poetic names. First 雷始收聲, ‘Thunder begins to soften’, then the second 蟄蟲培戶, ‘Insects make nests’ and finally as it gets even cooler, 水始涸, ‘Water begins to solidify’. No mysterious meanings for this season, it is magical enough on it’s own.

In  The Detailed Records of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), it reports, “It is on the Autumn Equinox day that the Yin and Yang are in a balance of power. Thus the day and night are of equal length, and so are the cold and hot weather.” I always like to use the equinoxes as a day to reflect on areas my life may have gotten out of balance and to think how I may correct this over the coming months.

After the point of Autumn Equinox, most of the areas in China have enter the cool autumn. When the cold air southward meets the declining warm and wet air, precipitation is the result. The temperature also drops frequently. The same is true for much of North America and Europe.

Crabs on ice for saleIn China this is the season that crabs often become most delicious. Due to the cold nature of crabs, it is often consumed with ginger for balance. I once had a memorable dish of crab in a ginger cream sauce which used coconut cream as a base. Of course chef would no part with the recipe. But crab helps nourish the marrow and clear the heat inside the body so it’s very popular at this time of year. In South China, there is also a custom popularly known as “having Qiucai on the Autumn Equinox day”. Qiucai is a kind of wild amaranth. Every Autumn Equinox day, villagers go to pick Qiucai in the wild and then it is taken back and made into soup with fish, named “Qiutang” (autumn soup). There is a verse about the soup: “Drink the soup to clear the liver and intestines, thus the whole family will be safe and healthy”. Also at this time, olives, pears, papaya, chestnuts and beans, reach maturity and are harvested.

Osmanthus blooming with white flowersThe Autumn Equinox is the time for smelling the fragrance of osmanthus. At this time, it is hot in the day and cool in the night in South China, so people have to change clothing in the evening. In the morning light clothes must be worn. This time of year is referred to as “Guihuazheng” in Chinese, which translates as s osmanthus mugginess. Chrysanthemums are in full blossom around Autumn Equinox and this more familiar flower is not only enjoyed in China but in the west as well.

On Autumn Equinox day, there is a popular custom of trying to make eggs stand on end. This Chinese custom has spread all over the world.

There is supposed to be science behind this, in that, on the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox, the day and night are of equal time both in the southern and northern hemispheres. The earth’s axis, on its 66.5 degree tilt, is in a relative balance of power with the earth’s orbit around the sun. This supposed moment of celestial balance makes it much easier for standing eggs on end.

Egg on end in crystal stand like a starThen there is the skeptical view which says standing the egg has nothing to do with the celestial balance. The most important thing is to shift the egg‘s center of gravity to the lowest part of the egg. In this way, the trick is holding the egg until the yolk sinks as much as possible. For this, you’re better off choosing an egg that’s about 4 or 5 days old, whose yolk is inclined to sink down.

Full moon in sky next to tall pagodaIn ancient times, the festival of sacrificing to the moon was set on the Autumnal Equinox day. According to historical records, as early as the Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-256BC), the ancient kings sacrificed to the sun on the Spring Equinox, and to the moon on the Autumn Equinox.

Since it is not a fixed day in lunar August, there might be no full moon on or near the Autumnal Equinox. During the festival, if there was no moon to make sacrifices to, it would just not seem right, so this ceremony was changed to the Mid-Autumn Day. Still, if the full moon falls close, moon viewing is a wonderful way to finish a day focused on celestial and personal balance.

 

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Caturday Thoughts – This Saturday Meet Milk

Two black and white cats snugglingMy neighbor Virginia at my old apartment complex was a kind person who alerted me to the feral colony around the place. She was concerned about all of them but especially a small black and white kitten she had tamed by holding it to warm it in the cold weather. Her own senior cat was set in her ways and Virginia was convinced introducing a kitten in the household would be unacceptable to Chloe. So to alleviate Virginia’s concerns I began to introduce myself. I had put a large carrier with a blanket over it to provide the ferals with a shelter, the one Dolly had her kittens in. I also put out food.

I had no one to help me try and trap any of the cats at that point, since Virginia was disabled and not fit enough. Virginia was so afraid to get attached she hadn’t named her.I named her Milk for her little white milk mustache. It was spring so of course little Milk wound up having a litter of kittens. She kept moving them from place to place.  One poor little thing got injured somehow, I suspect cruelty by one of the low-life thugs the management liked to rent to. She brought it to me but it was so hurt and so tiny it didn’t have a chance. I held it and kept it warm until it died and then took it out into the woods and buried it by the river. Another kitten simply disappeared. The colony often took refuge in the storm drains and we had a heavy rain and I think she got washed away. At this point I was able to lure Milk and the two remaining kittens into the bedroom that had a door to the patio. So here she is.

Two black and white cats in cat cupHello I’m Milk. The world was a hard and mean place when I was a kitten Why do people abandon animals like they are garbage? I was having so much trouble taking care of my kittens, I had to keep moving them to keep them safe from bad people. When our human mother started making me come into the apartment to get the food, I was very nervous, but also very hungry. After a while I realized it was warm and safe and decided we should stay. There were other cats but we didn’t meet them right away, our room was our territory.

Just when we got used to the other cats, Mom brought home two more. One was a very handsome tuxedo boy. Mom named him Tony and we fell in love. Even after we were both fixed we were together all the time. Mom tried to find homes for my kittens but no luck so they stayed. Tony kind of bullied my boy Cloud but Cloud stuck with the other cat that came with Tony, Mosby the Siamese and that was all right. My other kitten was very shy and feral, no hope to place her, so Skye stayed too. She and Tony and I would all curl up together and Mom would get annoyed she couldn’t get good pictures of us all lumped together like that. It was a good thing Skye stayed because after Tony died I missed him and was really sad and anxious but when I called Skye would come to me.

If you’ve seen those videos of cats “talking” to each other you’ve seen how Skye and I interact. Mom keeps threatening to make a video but somehow it’s never happened. I’m sure if she does she will put it here for you. She thinks we are “adorable” what ever that is. Usually after Mom feeds us in the morning I come for my morning cuddle. I’m not like Cloud, I know better than to head butt the arm with the coffee cup in it. Besides sleeping with Skye my favorite thing is bird watching and laying in the really high cat perch. My most unfavorite thing is when that bad outdoor cat Raven comes under the window like our yard is hers. If Mom would just let me at her! But she says we are civilized indoor only cats and that’s the way it’s staying,

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Gremlins Part One

GremlinsI have mentioned many times in my posts of the troublesomeness of my wonky laptop. When my father, an aeronautical engineer who trained as a pilot in the Navy, began to use computers, a conversation emsued in which it was decided this was where the gremlins migrated after the massive air forces of WWII were mothballed. Most of the younger generations know gremlins from the movie. As usual, Hollywood takes creative liberties with things. The earlier, just as famous in it’s own day, version of the gremlin saga is Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. It is more accurate in it’s placement of a gremlin on an aircraft terrorizing William Shatner. I became fascinated with he original aircraft-riding gremlins in part because of that Twilight Zone episode.

Wikipeda’s definition of a gremlin is succinct and accurate. “A gremlin is a creature commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft”. The first obvious reference to them was in the British newspaper “The Spectator” which wrote  “the old Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 and the newly constituted Royal Air Force in 1918 appear to have detected the existence of a horde of mysterious and malicious sprites whose whole purpose in life was…to bring about as many as possible of the inexplicable mishaps which, in those days as now, trouble an airman’s life.”

Poster of man falling on grease placed by gremlinsAt first this seemed to be a phenomenon completely unique to the Royal Air Force and it was often whispered among airmen that the gremlins were in league with the enemy. Later reports came in that enemy aircraft were also suffering and the gremlins were intent on harassing any and all human aviators. When the American Allies came to Great Britain, they too began to be the victim’s of the gremlin’s mischief. The Americans nicknamed theirs Yehudis after the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, because the wee always “fiddling” with aircraft parts. They were very partial to ailerons, the hinged part of the wing which allows the aircraft to roll or bank t make a turn, seeming to try to pull them out of alignment.

As active as the gremlins appeared to be, reports faded away by the war’s end, and by the 1950s there was very little talk of gremlins among airmen. Somehow, de-mobbed gremlins never seemed to transition to the civilian aircraft that proliferated in the aviation boom of the 1950s and  196o’s.  Perhaps they did, but were overlooked when UFO’s took center stage in that period.  Now only occasionally are gremlins blamed when an aircraft experiences trouble or if equipment malfunctions for no apparent reason and even then, mostly in a joking manner.

Critics of the gremlins as creatures idea stated that the stress of combat and the dizzying heights caused such hallucinations, often believed to be a coping mechanism of the mind to help explain the many problems aircraft faced whilst in combat. I have another theory, as improbable as the gremlins themselves, but much more fun. The stress of combat, the fear, the biting cold and thin oxygen poor air created such powerful emotions in the airmen that their thoughts materialized in the forms of gremlins.After all, anything ever created started as an idea.

 

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Caturday Thoughts – This Saturday Meet Dolly

My neighbor Virginia at my old apartment complex was a kind person who alerted me to the feral colony around the place. So to alleviate Virginia’s concerns I began to introduce myself. I put a large carrier with a blanket over it on my patio to provide a winter shelter. I also put out food. This had to be disguised from the management, but in addition to being lousy at their jobs, rude and nasty in general, they were very stupid, so this was not hard to do. Patio furniture hid the carrier. My apartment was only a couple of miles from the local library. I volunteered there as an ESL instructor. One April night after a meeting, it was warm enough when I got home to open the sliding doors to the patio a little to let in some fresh air. For some reason the evening was quiet. I sat on the sofa to read and then a heard it. Tiny noises were coming from the patio. Without turning on the outside light I went to take a look. That was when I met Miss Dolly, one of the feral cats my friend Virginia was so concerned about.

Say hello, Dolly.

I don’t know why momma laughed when she said that. I know she likes my name and she doesn’t usually laugh when she says it. Sometimes she calls me Miss Dee and sometimes DeeDee but that doesn’t make her laugh either. I am a very shy girl. Momma says this is because I was outside in a bad place all alone with no one to protect me. That’s how I wound up having kittens. I knew I needed somewhere for my kittens to be safe and I remembered that warm covered place, so that’s where I went. That night the lady who put out food came and looked into the warm place. I wasn’t afraid, she was quiet and gentle and moved very slowly. She made happy sounds at my kittens.

The next morning the lady came out again with some food for me. I trusted her so much I let her move my kittens a round to count them and make sure they were all right. Momma told me to keep my kittens safe we had to come inside. At first I was nervous because I knew other cats were in there but she let me. in a different door and I saw it was safe in her room. Momma says I was the best cat mother she ever saw, so calm and gentle with five babies and delivered them all myself with no problems. Those kittens were a lot of work though because they stayed with us a long time so I could teach tIhem the important cat things and Momma could teach them about litter boxes and no biting people even when it just fun. When my kittens got big enough she took them to find their own homes but I hid because I wanted to stay with Momma. I became friends with the other cats. I love Mi Sun even though she is grumpy. Momma says I act like Mi Sun is my cat mother.

It took a long time but eventually some of my fears went away. I now know I can sit on the bookcases under the windows or the top of the big chair and it’s all right. For a long time I would jump down and run away. Momma thinks because I am so pretty someone tried to grab me once and that is way I would rather be under some cover. Now I also feel safe to come and sit next to Momma and be petted. It took a long time for that. Which is kind of silly because I trusted he with my babies right away. Because I was so shy Momma doesn’t have a lot of pictures of me. She says part of the reason she got the Go Pro camera is so she can get more pictures of me on the sly. I am still a pretty shy girl but she said I am such a beautiful calico I should have lots of pictures.

Dolly remains elusive. I was sure I had a photo of her from the old apartment but the computer gremlins must have trashed it. I promise someday I’ll catch her even if I have to buy a telephoto lense and carry it 24/7.

 

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White Dew bái lù 白露 8th Sep

Round leaf covered with white dew like crystalsOn September 8th we enter the solar term of White Dew, which marks the change from summer to autumn. The white dew is the condensation that is heavier in the cooler mornings so that is show white rather than clear. In China it is considered to be when the autumn rains come but here there is not much change. There is no sharp drop in temperature and no rain. If rain comes it will arrive here after the autumnal equinox.

In China, autumn comes earlier in the west and northeast of China. Kanas in Xinjiang, Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan and the Greater Hinggan Mountains in Northeastern China enter their  most beautiful season . Just as in the west fall colors in the landscape are much admired.

At the time  of  White Dew is when grapes become widely available and eating them in autumn can help dispel one’s internal heat and expel toxins. Longan are at their best at White Dew.  The tradition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, is that eating longan on the first day of White Dew can help nourish the human body. It is said that one longan is as nutritious as an egg. Although this sounds exaggerated, longan does reinforce the spleen, nourish the blood, calm the nerves and improve one’s looks. Happily I love longan so perhaps if I eat enough it will even improve my looks but of that one benefit I remain sceptical.

In Nanjing people favor White Dew Tea. Tea during White Dew has passed through the hot summer and is in its highest state of growth. White Dew Tea is better than spring tea, which is usually very tender and doesn’t last. It’s also superior to summer tea, which is dry and on the bitter side. White Dew Tea has both a sweet taste and fragrance.

Others in Nanjing, from hometowns are in Zhejiang province or the southern part of Jiangsu province, have a tradition of making White Dew Wine.  Made of cereals such as polished glutinous rice and kaoliang (a type of sorghum) it has a sweet taste. In the past, country people in those regions all made the wine and served it to guests when entertaining.

For many Chinese the best food during White Dew is sweet potatoes. Formerly, peasants had the custom of eating sweet potato on the first day of White Dew. According to TCM, sweet potato fights against cancer, nourishes the spleen and reduces the risk of disease. In Wenzhou, Zhejiang province there is a tradition of gathering 10 herbal medicines on the first day of White Dew. The names of these herbs contain the Chinese word “bai” which means white, such as baimujin (white hibiscus). The belief is that stewing these medicines with black-bone chicken or duck can nourish the human body and cure arthritis.

It is easy to see there is a theme in all this eating off dispelling the heat built up in summer and preparing the body for winter.  I am really looking forward to it. We are missing the garden items I normally processed at this time but this year there was no garden. It was just too hard to maintain in the kind of heat and humidity we have now. Those I know who did try to garden had p00r results. These are the kinds of things I remind myself will get better in another, cooler climate.

It is truly a time of transition, not just in the scenery or the weather. In searching for a home of our own we may be making a major move. When I moved from Connecticut to Annapolis Maryland. I didn’t have my cats. All my things were already in storage so it was easy to rent a room while I looked for a job and a place to live. Now things are much more complicated. But we will sort it all out one way or another.

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Caturday Thoughts – Feline Feng Shui Part 2

Japanese genkan entryway with step

By Fg2 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We return to the subject of feline feng shui to talk about what we want in a positive way. All very well to kvetch about what we dislike but more practical to decide what we need and want. Starting with the front door there are some very important things.  I want a proper entryway with a place to leave shoes and place bags as you come in. This will not be easily found, apartments and houses in America open right into the living room. So we will look for one where we can use screens or something to create an alternative.

We will not accept another violation of the feng shui rule that the floor plan should never have stairs facing the front door. No matter what the distance between the staircase and the door this is considered poor feng shui. It is also awkward for practical reasons, as when moving in furniture. This area is the energy gateway to your home and good qi flow here is important as is a sense of a space in which you can drop the stresses of the outside world just as you drop your briefcase or put down your car keys. For feline feng shui, a partially separated entry area can prevent a curious cat from slipping out the door unseen as you come in, arms full,  burdened with groceries or wrestling with the new mattress.

Kitten standing in window looking upWindows are a feature where the demands of feline feng shui differ from the standard feng shui, but not by much. For us, plenty of cats means plenty of windows. In feng shui it is best to avoid too many windows in the back of the house. Western houses are exposed to the front street and not shielded by walls as they are in Asia and the Middle East so having windows on this side is not very private. The back of the house as the source of strength and nourishment of the home should have fewer windows but in the west it often has more and certainly the ones with the best views. So some compromise is necessary here and the are treatments that can be done to mitigate any problems.

Kitchen window in kitchen with natural wood walls and cabinets

My idea of a good kitchen window

A very desirable placement of windows, and one that is often neglected in modern floor plans, are windows in the kitchen and bathroom. I love having a kitchen window for herb plants. And as for feline feng shui, plants in front of the sink tend to be safe from potential nibblers. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and it’s one reason I hate apartment buildings. All the light in kitchens and bathrooms is artificial and unhealthy.  My gripes about bathrooms deserve a post all to themselves,but suffice it to say I don’t like feeling like I am bathing in a closet. A window really helps, especially if the bathroom is tiny. And sunlight is disinfecting and antifungal. No wonder this is considered good feng shui.

Something I am looking to avoid is wasted space. The very center of the current house is a hallway that would be square if a large corner of the kitchen did not protrude into it. It is useless space because two bedroom doors and the bathroom and a closet door all open to it. The protruding corner takes up the only other area where a hall table would might have fit. The outlook on it in feng shui terms is even worse than my complaint of wasted space.

When several doors are all pressed together, facing each other,  it creates a quality of energy that tends to be chaotic and angry. The expression in feng shui is “arguing doors”. Living in a house with such configuration is said to lead to conflicts in the family. If you just think of the logistics of everyone getting up in the morning and heading for the bathroom all at once, you can imagine how this might come about. It doesn’t take a Taoist master to see where this came from.

From a feline standpoint the last but not least thing is a playroom. In the current house the portion of the attic that was carpeted and sheet-rocked in was supposed to serve this purpose. However, the sheetrock has popped every seam and is shedding tape and material on the floor and the ceiling part is sagging visibly. In summer it is dangerously hot because there is no exhaust or air conditioning. The appraiser even commented on it. We need an all year round playroom. Cloud, Milk and Skye really like room to run when chasing the laser dot and I don’t want them to hurt themselves crashing into things. And it needs to have room for a couple of these cat trees from Furwood Forest. I saw them at the Washington DC Cat show and have wanted to get them ever since. The man who makes them was really nice and love the idea they support a small business. They are all a bit different.  Two examples below.

Hand made catree -polished branches and carpet

Hand made cat tree - Polishes brances and black and white carpet

 

 

 

 

 

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