Friday, May 30, 2008

Random May

Don't click the red button! Got this from my friend Daniel who delights in torturing me. Gotta say though, this was pretty fun torture.

D
id you know that rats laugh when you tickle them?

A new movie called Earth, coming in 2009 and I've got it in my calendar already. I don't know what I like best - the polar bear making shapes in the snow, the duckling throwing itself out of a tree, the cloud of flamingo, but I do know that I want to see it. Preferably now. YouTube link here, but do yourself a favor and watch the high-def trailer here.

A
nother take on terrorism by James Pence.

A
flurry of cat links. First, sent to me by Lynn of the comments, the engineers guide to cats, which tell you as much about engineers as it does about cats. Second, also from Lynn, the Cat House on the Kings - that's putting your money where your mouth is. And last, found this article about how the ASPCA has developed a personality test for cats (and dogs, too). Based on that, Mojo’s got elements of The Executive and the Leader of the Band, but her main personality trait is Personal Assistant (as can be seen here, where she’s helping me clean up my filing cabinet.

A brilliant ad from CARE, sent to me by John.

From Amy (so far blogless and who gave the Tinks their first ride on a horse and therefore is OK in my book), a couple with an interesting set of priorities.

I’ve been wondering – why are golf umbrellas that big? Anyone know?

And a fun test to take you to the weekend, found over at Jessie’s

What Your Handwriting Says About You


You are a laid back person with rather low energy. You aren't lazy... you *are* sensitive and empathetic.

You are reserved and not very outgoing. You are deeply thoughtful and introspective. You have a lot of control over your actions and emotions.

You are balanced and grounded. You know how to get along well with others.

You need a bit of space in your life, but you're not a recluse. You expect people to give you a small amount of privacy, and you respect their privacy as well.

You are conservative, old fashioned, and a little stubborn. You are resistant to change.

You are a decent communicator. You eventually get your point across, but sometimes you leave things a bit ambiguous.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

One for the History Books

My sister Janne and I are in many ways very much alike. You can tell from one glance that we're sisters and if you spend five minutes in a room with us, it's obvious that the similarities are much more than skin deep. For one, we both like to be in charge (which gets interesting when both of us are in the same room). We have triggers that make both of us laugh like idiots, while the rest of the room think we are indeed idiots, other things make us cry and if one of us cries, the other one catches it immediately. We are opinionated, passionate, ridiculously logical, yet randomly emotional and the list goes on. I say that with some trepidation, as I have a feeling that a few of the people who know us might feel tempted to leave longer lists in the comment box...

In other ways, we are very different. I am very much into languages and Ahrt, dahlink and my sister is a mathematical genius. Given that I'm pretty sure I have some sort of learning disability when it comes to math thingies, it's possible that I am exaggerating her abilities a smidge, but not by much. I am forever in awe of her aptitude for the squiggles that to me are complete mystery.

When I was a kid, probably about nine years old, my father taught me how to play chess. I enjoyed it, but never quite figured out the trick with looking ahead into the game 3, 4, 10 moves ahead. Back then, I hadn't yet figured out how to sidestep the part of logic and strategy that is linked to math (which, as already established, is not my friend). There was a game that was worse than chess - remember Mastermind? I couldn't get it. Just did not understand. Playing Mastermind inevitably meant that I would get trounced, but I didn't care because all of me was lying curled up in a fetal position, trying to keep my brain from leaking out my ears. Still don't get the game, don't want to get it, doesn't matter how much you explain it to me I'm not going to get it and can you tell that just thinking about it is making my brain whimper and trying to get out of my head? So I'll move on before something drastic happens.

My sister came along when I was 10 and it very quickly became apparent that her brain worked in a completely different way than mine. In fact, already as a child, her brain found numbers and logic effortless and despite being a decade younger than I, she flew through concepts that were puzzling me, quickly earning herself the nickname The Human Calculator.

Around the time that my sister was nine years old, I taught her to play chess. And within a very short time, I played my last game. It was at this time I realized that if a nine-year-old could convincingly wipe the floor with me, perhaps it would be okay to focus on other things.

See what I mean? She's a genius.

Fast-forward many years, enter Facebook and Scrabulous. I may have mentioned that I'm a little bit competitive and it turns out that Scrabulous is a pretty fun game for me, what with being the sister who is all about the words. Not quite as much fun for my numerically gifted sibling and it is a sign of the stubbornness (some have called us bloodyminded) we both share that she kept playing with me (although I'm onto her now - in our last game, she only lost by two points, so she clearly has a long-term plan). Anyway, I thought maybe we could share the pain and invited her to play chess on Facebook. Not surprisingly, she won the first game. Being a sucker for punishment, I started another one and whaddaya know. I won.

I played chess with my sister and I won. We could discuss all sorts of possible reasons - having twin toddlers is distracting, I've learned other, non-math thingies ways of applying logic and strategy - but really? I don't care why. I'm too busy being astonished that I played chess with my sister and I won.

I don't expect it to happen again, but for now, it's seriously messing with my worldview.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Weekend Tink Fest

On Friday, Beth challenged us to go and have some weekend fun and I don't know anything more fun than spending time with my lovies. Remember when they were born? They are TWO AND A HALF years old now. Dunno how that happened. Janne and John (the Tink Delivery team) drove and the Tinks were cute and thus, responsibilities were distributed fairly.

Morgan still appears to have some issues with appropriating Liam's things (his is the frog). At Christmas, she firmly nelieved that possession was 9/10ths of the law. But as can be seen from the look on her face yesterday, now she knows what she's doing.


Liam communed with a plant



They often instinctively move the same and I was lucky to get a shot of the Tinks investigating the courtyard at my mother's condo.


My first attempt at making a movie of the various videos I recorded. Please ignore the shakiness (it's hard to hold still when you're laughing) and the rather rough editing and focus on the cuteness. Yes, Liam is wearing a splint - he had his first major incident a few weeks ago - for more details, go here and scroll down to the May 15, 2008 post (I've forgotten how to create a post-specific link to John's site - feel free to put it in the comments, TinkPapa, please?). He's OK and it doesn't affect him at all. Actually, he seems to have fun with using the splint as a drum stick. Takes after his dad, the rock star, that boy...

Anyway, after a brief flowering tree/bird song interlude, we get to the action. The kids learn about dinosaurs, Liam shows off his Spanish vocab, then Janne and Morgan discuss potential desserts, the kids see raspberries and get very excited (and who wouldn't, it's raspberries!) and Liam examines, then eats one.

video

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Love, Pain, the Whole Damn Thing*

*Love that song.

I watch The Bachelor. Yes, I know. I am a feminist and I watch The Bachelor. It is my guilty pleasure. I am completely unrepentant about the other reality shows I watch, but The Bachelor? It's hard to admit in public. However, it's pertinent to today's post, so I'm hangig my inconsistencies out there.

On season that has just wrapped, one of the "contestants" told the guy that she wouldn't be able to love him and be in love with him unless he loved her back. Under the circumstances, that might be a smart thing to say, but it's been rattling around in my head ever since. Because we don't, do we? In any relationship, romantic and otherwise, we don't give our hearts until we're sure it's reciprocated (children hopefully excluded). Until we have a guarantee that it'll "work out". We protect ourselves, build a fortress around our hearts (thank you, Sting) and hold it tight, not giving it away until we are sure it’ll be treated well. Which, again, can be argued to be a smart thing, but I think sometimes, we focus so much on avoiding the pain, on the end goal of it "working out", that we hold back too much.

We live in a culture where pain is invisible, be it physical or emotional. Not only are we not supposed to express the pain, we are supposed to pretend it doesn't exist. The first time I noticed this - well, the emotional pain, that is, I already knew about the physical - was after my father died. Within a very short time, life went back to normal. I remember being stunned that the entire world was still spinning, operating normally, when mine had stopped. When I was scrubbed raw with grief and found it very, very difficult to pretend otherwise. I remember wishing for the social construction of the grieving process in the Victorian age where you wore black and were socially limited for a year and then gradually lightened your clothes and equally gradually re-entered society. I used to think it was restrictive and didn't make sense until I experienced a loss where it would have been really helpful if it’d been easy for others to see I was grieving, to adjust their expectations and actions accordingly. Instead, the grieving became a private thing I mostly did alone and I understood that the Victorians were onto something - that mourning needs the assistance of a public recognition of grief.

Several years ago, I chose to be in a relationship that for various reasons wasn't going to "work out". It wasn't going to last for the rest of my life, we wouldn’t get married and live happily ever after. My friends had difficulty accepting my choice, were afraid I was going to get hurt. I knew I would, but did it anyway. And I don't know if I chose it because I was madly in love (which I was) or because I have lived with pain for most of my life and understood that being in pain isn’t the worst thing that can happen. At the time, the worst thing that could happen was to not experience the love. Which he and I did for 4 years and it was glorious and it hurt like a sonofabitch when it ended. But I am still grateful for the experience, have never regretted a minute of it and I'm pretty sure I learned something big about love.

Which brings me back to the fear of pain and the actions – and inactions – guided by that fear. And to wondering how much we miss out on by focusing exclusively on the end product, rather than the process of love. Whether you're in a romantic relationship that won't be forever or have a friend who is very ill or any of a number of other examples, it makes me think. Think about why we avoid painful situations, why we focus on the hurt rather than the terrific things that will happen before the pain comes. That are worth the pain at the end.

It's a challenge, sure. It challenges you to live in the now, leaving the future to itself. And when you think about it, all those guarantees of things "working out" are illusions. There are no guarantees, there are no sure things. Aside from the divorce rates of 50%, any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Yet we live as if we have forever, we plan as if we have forever. We love as if we have forever. And so we peel the layers of protection off our hearts carefully, guardedly and conditionally. We are not taught to love with an open heart, to love unreservedly within the knowledge of a certain end and I don't think it does us any favours.

A few years ago, I practiced spirituality more than I do now - these days, I am too busy to be still. Back then, I was struggling with finding meaning and joy while living with severe pain and continuing losses of ability. And I found some meaning in Buddhism, in the concepts of nonattachment and impermanence and began to understand that the more expectations I had about a specific outcome, the more unhappy I was. I tried hard to not get attached to a specific hope of progress, to focus on the now, to accept suffering for itself, to believe that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I'd forgotten about that. Although I still incorporate these beliefs in my life to an extent, I had forgotten about being exactly where I'm supposed to be. It makes the pain less painful if you are not attached to an expectation of not having it. Because why wouldn't you? Life is pain and suffering, just as it is joy and love. You cannot live without experiencing pain. You cannot love without taking the risk to be hurt, to have loss and we like to forget about that. We like to believe the fairytale, that there is such a thing as "living happily ever after". Except the fairytale forgets to tell us that our job is to live happily, even while in pain. No one tells us that it is possible to be happy while you are in pain. Or that it is quite possible to love in full awareness that it will not be forever.

And isn't that what love is? The giving of your heart because you have to, pure and simple. Because that's the way it is, because you can't not love. Not because someone loves you back and not because you have a guarantee.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Messing with Reality

Some time ago, I believe I had a little rant about a miniseries called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which chronicled the displacement of Native Americans during the white settlements. Specifically, the rant was about the glossing over or direct alteration of historical facts occurring in the miniseries, which was defended by an HBO VP as “[w]hen we look at historical accuracy, we look at history as it plays in the service of a narrative”. I took issue with that and would link to the post, as well, but have only the vaguest notion that it might have been part of one of my monthly Random posts. Besides, I'd rather use my energy on today's rant.

Which is about filmmakers (and authors and TV) and their propensity to mess with reality “as it plays in service of a narrative", rather than making the narrative serve reality. And maybe it's having those blasted university degrees that makes this such a hot button for me, as during those many years of schooling, professors beat into me over and over and over again that you don't make the facts fit your theory. But I digress.

The first time I remember having an apoplexy over Hollywood messing with the facts, was when I watched Disney's The Little Mermaid. I'm pretty sure I've talked about this before, as well, but will re-rant (is too a word) briefly. The Little Mermaid has been my favourite fairy tale for as long as I can remember and the ending was what made it perfect (for the full text, with original ending click here). The story was about the transformative powers of love, about a love so deep that you would rather sacrifice yourself than to hurt your beloved. It is a deeply spiritual, profound story and the rat bastards made it into a happy ending. For quite some time I opinionated about altering art, about how nobody makes the Mona Lisa a blonde because they don't like the brunette and I’m not even getting into the North American propensity for bubble wrapping their children. I believe wholeheartedly that children should be exposed to reality, including stories of illness and death, in age-appropriate doses while having the safety net of their parents to guide them through it because otherwise, how will you grow capable adults? If they have never learned what to do when things get hard, how will they cope when they are required to? But I digress again.

I rented a couple of movies over the weekend and being in the mood to see something not infused with testosterone (hence still not getting on with the Six Degrees thing), I got Juno and Untraceablee. Watched the latter first - I'm a geek, like a good thriller and it looked interesting. I lasted 40 minutes and only the fact that it was a rental and therefore not my property, kept me from hurling it into trafiic where it could be mashed to pieces under the wheels of SUVs. One of the things that irked me was how the main character is a computer specialist in the FBI cyber crimes division, but all of a sudden she's part of the SWAT team that's breaking down doors in a house suspected to contain the bad guy. Okay, so I assume that if you're an FBI agent, you're required to learn how to use a gun, but if you spend all your worktime trawling the Internet, looking for scumbags, why am I supposed to believe that you will be included in the SWAT team? Seriously?

Fiction requires a suspension of disbelief and if your basic audience member has a big red flag in the back of their head saying "hang on, this wouldn't happen in real life", then maybe you should do a rewrite. And sure, most of us don't know much about the intricacies of most law enforcement agencies, but it doesn't take many viewings of a couple of crime shows to realize the basics. Also, a smattering of logic helps.

One of the quotes on the box said that this movie is the Silence of the Lambs for the Internet age and yes, I know that they get those lines from the weirdest sources, often quoted completely out of context, but I'm having one of those "I knew Jack Kennedy and Sir, you are no Jack Kennedy" moments. The Silence of the Lambs had class, suspense and was genuinely thrilling (still scares me every time I watch it despite having seen it so many times, I know exactly what happens). One of the reasons that it was genuinely thrilling was that Jonathan Demme (the director) didn't lovingly linger on hideous dismemberment – he understood that less is more and that horror works much better with a suggestion, because we can take it further in our minds that anyone can go on the screen. In Untraceable - and I'm about to ruin part of the plot, but only up until 40 minutes into the movie - the killer puts his victims on the Internet and the more hits the site gets, the faster the victim dies. The first one dies by an IV drip of an anticoagulant speeding up, causing bleeding from all orifices (orificii?) and the second victim is slowly roasted to death as increasing hits on the site turn on an increasing amount of heat lamps. And the filmmaker, whose name I will not bother to look up, lingers and lingers and lingers on the bleeding and the blistering and after 40 minutes, not only was I so pissed off with the facts being made to fit the narrative in a way impossible to ignore, but felt my eyeballs and soul so polluted by the violence porn that I had to turn it off. There is a horror and then there is horror. And this bears all the hallmarks of a bunch of guys sitting around in a room egging each other on to come out with increasingly "cool" ways of killing people. And yet again, one of my personal mottos fits the situation: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

And I think is possible that I digressed again from my original point about messing with reality, but I'm pretty sure the segue worked?

p.s. Juno was really good.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't Worry, You're Among Friends

Being marginally less pestilent, I have 37 things to do before the Victoria Day long weekend hits (in approximately 4 hours) and have therefore come up with an idea that gets me out of writing something thoughtful and interesting.

Today, we're going to pretend even more than usual that we are hanging out with a pitcher of margaritas, cosmopolitans, beer or other beverage of your choice and once we're well lubricated come upon the idea to share entertaining/slightly embarrassing stories about ourselves. With specific emphasis on stress coping mechanisms and although that doesn't sound entertaining yet, bear with me for a minute and it'll all make sense.

Everyone has different ways of dealing with stress. I don't mean the everyday kind of stress that gets alleviated by a chocolate bar, rant with a friend, banging your head against the wall (what? Doesn't everybody do that?), slamming a door or sitting quietly by your desk, seething into your afternoon coffee. No, I mean the kind of stress that walks in and leaves your life turned upside down, in shambles, where you keep going with gritted teeth well past and 80 insurance and in the end must do something to regain if not actual control over your life, then a feeling of control.

I alphabetize my CD and DVD collection. Within categories, naturally. I find it incredibly soothing and it may be the reason why there’s a theory going around that I have the soul of a librarian. Come to think of that, alphabetizing anything (within categories) makes me happy, as does general organizing, but when the big stress hits, when my life has been out of control for some time and I started dreaming of tornadoes (which I do whenever my life is out of control), I seek out the CDs and DVDs and spend a few hours alphabetizing. I know someone who polishes the silver in similar situations, another who scrubs the baseboards with a toothbrush and someone else who talks, usually at great length, about taxes (whether it's tax season or not).

So have a gulp of your martini and spill. And have a fabulous weekend - see you on Tuesday!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Suspect

Monday was the day for Blogging for CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrom/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), as well as Fibromyalgia Awareness Day and I missed it due to being too pooped to come out and play. I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on anyone. Last week, I was so focused on avoiding an injury that I forgot my body has other ways of making me pay. Enter a nasty sinus infection, Which slowed me down, but didn’t stop me (because apparently, I can't be taught). In retrospect, it was clear that my body was standing with hands on hips, irritably tapping a foot, completely exasperated with my lack of cooperation. So it made my voice go away and as I write using Dragon, which requires talking, that did the trick. Or maybe not, as I’m currently pecking out a blog post the old-fashioned way, using the system of one paragraph, rest, then another. Sensible people among you might wonder why I’m not posting a photograph and calling it a day and I’ll tell you why.

Beth wrote about CFS/ME and in her post, she linked to an article about Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit and lives with CFS. Go ahead, read the article - reading about her condition and her perseverance is humbling, as well as fascinating. I'll wait for you.

Back? Alright then.

I was struck by both Hillenbrand's story and some of the background information and it is the latter that I'm going to have a wee rant about today. The article (and Beth's post) mention the stigma associated with CFS, the way it was sneeringly referred to as "yuppie flu" and provide several examples of people with CFS who were told by the medical field that it is all in their minds. A little further on, the article mentions how historically, doctors treat mystery illnesses as psychological problems - e.g., multiple sclerosis was once attributed to "stress linked to Oedipal fantasies". And it reminded me of my own story - the first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis came when I was four and for five years, my mother took me to doctor after doctor, often suggesting to them that it looked an awful lot like RA, but always being dismissed. Several went as far as to tell her it was all in her head and one gave her a referral to a psychiatrist. And then I thought of a few of my friends, who have a clear illness so far undentifiable by the medical profession and how all of them have been told that perhaps it is "stress" or even going so far as to diagnose "hysteria", a diagnosis I'm quite sure was discredited in the 1950s.

Multiple sclerosis happens most often in women, as does CFS, RA, fibromyalgia and the list goes on. And this is where the rant comes in or maybe it's more a ranty question. Why is it that when a doctor doesn't know the answer, they blame the patient? Why are these people made suspect by an illness that cannot be easily identified? Why is it that so many of these patients whose disease isn't "real" are women?

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree, taking a course in medical sociology, I remember a study discussing the bias towards patting women on the head and sending them off with some antidepressants other than believe that they had real, honest-to-goodness symptoms. That's a quarter of a century ago and apparently, nothing has changed.

Why is this okay? Why has this not changed? Why is this not a more high-profile feminist issue? Is it only because the women caught on the sticky end of this particular stick are too tired or too busy managing the disease and their lives to get political? If so, why is it exclusively up to them to effect the change? Why isn't the medical profession doing more to educate its practitioners? Any ideas?

And it is one of the reasons that I am a feminist and why I will happily debate anyone who claims that there is no more need for feminism. As long as a woman and a man with the same symptoms are treated differently… Let me rephrase that: As long as the man is treated and the woman is given a prescription for yoga, antidepressants or a psychiatrist - there is a need for feminism.

If you need me, I'll be on the barricades. Feel free to join me.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Newton’s Law of Stopping

By Tuesday evening, it was evident that I was thisclose to hitting the wall. Said wall being that point where I want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head, lie quietly weeping on something cool or, frequently, the point where my body after days of asking nicely, decides to make me sit still, causing a crash of monumental proportions, while it mutters invective and in general disparages my intelligence. Considering the fact that I'm still recovering from the last time that happened, I decided to prove to my body that I do indeed have an IQ larger than my shoe size and am occasionally inclined to use it. Which meant taking yesterday off and prescribing relaxation, yummy food and trashy books as preventative measures. And which was the only reason I didn't cry upon being rudely awakened by my alarm clock on Wednesday morning.

Sometime around noon, after a morning spent responding to e-mail that has languished in my inbox for way too long (if you haven't received a reply yet, it's because the inbox is very, very full), cleaning up a few piles, organizing the results neatly into three categories of Garbage, Deal With Now and File, updating my calendar and making several phone calls, I stopped to wonder what happened to my day off. It appears that going full bore for several weeks creates a problem. The problem of being unable to stop, thus proving Newton's first Law of Motion: "An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force". Although I would like to quibble with the speed part of the law, as it is my experience that the more overdrawn your energy bank gets, the faster you move. It is truly astonishing what you can accomplish when you're overtired and overworked to the point of hysteria. I have personally witnessed more than one woman breaking the sound barrier in this state.

I reassessed. I decided to let go, to stop e-mailing, to stop writing, stay away from the phone and somewhere in the back of my mind, a voice said, much in the tone of a SWAT team leader, "Put. The calendar. Down!". So I did. I managed to sit still for about 1.4 minutes before the twitching became unbearable and I came upon an idea to circumvent the urge to dosomething!rightnowthisveryinstant!. So I opened a new file on my computer, entitled the document “May 2008” and proceeded to do a list of everything I need to do this month.

Surprisingly (or not), this was not conducive to relaxation, either. Although everything that was spinning around in my head had been transferred to the file in my computer, my brain continued whirling like an F4 tornado, except now it had nothing to whirl. According to Newton, in order to stop, I need to be acted upon by an unbalanced force and I'm pretty sure it doesn't count that by now, I myself could be considered a very unbalanced force.

So I decided to consult the collected wisdom of you. Any tips?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A New Chapter

Today marks the first of my new, monthly column/post for HealthCentral.com. It’s a great website community. There is medical information and expertise - very useful (I’m learning new things all the time) and there’s a large and growing community of people who’ve “been there”, living with various diseases and conditions, sharing advice, opinions and stories about life.

I'm thrilled to be part of the HC team and look forward to raising hell contributing to their content.

You can read my first post here.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Walnut Brain

Ever since she was a wee kitten, all whiskers and hair on a tiny frame, Mojo has considered the hallway on my floor to be the most fascinating place, quickly annexing it to officially be part of her domain. For the last 12 years, almost every time I come home, she shoots out the door the minute I open it. This means she must hear me coming out of the elevator while snoozing on my bed and somehow make it from out cold to wide awake and from bedroom to front door in the two seconds it takes me to travel the distance (I live next to the elevator). And then we walk around in the hallway for five minutes or so while she sniffs what needs to be sniffed and in general makes sure that all is as it should be. You know that expression about something being as "difficult as herding cats"? Every day, I know the truth of that statement, repeatedly opening the door when she comes near it, as she repeatedly ignores it until she's good and ready to go in.

Once, when she was an adolescent, she ventured past the elevator and ended up quite far down the other end of the hallway. As she was receiving cues similar to our end (hallway vent noise), she confidently went up to the door that should have been mine, got very confused and instead of letting me herd her back home, hunkered down and started wailing for help. Luckily, one of my neighbours came home and carried the confused beastie back home. Just one of the many reasons I affectionately call her my little Walnut Brain. Sometimes, she acts like she should be a member of Mensa and sometimes... well. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious that her brain is a size of a walnut. Since then, I've managed to limit her constitutionals to our end, the elevators marking the end of her territory.

A friend of mine who lives on the same floor has a dog. Big, beautiful Husky-Shepherd mix and one day, she brought the dog (leashed) into my apartment to meet Mojo, who finds dogs almost as fascinating as the hallway. The dog was by my kitchen, Mojo was about a metre from it and they looked at each other, both calm and interested in a very friendly way. That went well, much better than the time I tried to introduce her to a kitten - and yes, I had ulterior motives and a bad case of kitten fever - at which point she hissed for the first time in her then six years. My neighbour and I meant to continue the introductions between cat and dog, but somehow never got around to it. Fast forward about a year, when my friend added to the family and acquired a Lab-Shepherd puppy, black with white toes on each paw. That has at times been exercised in the hallway, as it has boundless energy, enough to wear out several people.

So one day, I come home, wave hi to friend and puppy (by now six months old and the size of a pony) and open my door. As usual, Mojo shoots out, stops, notices that there are other creatures out there and then sees the puppy. Having previously only had good experiences with dogs, her ears are perked happily as she looks invitingly in the direction of the dog. The puppy sees Mojo. The puppy starts cantering down the hallway and this is when we discover that unlike its older companion, this puppy appears to have a hatred of cats lying dormant in its genes until this very moment when said hatred explodes into existence. The puppy starts galloping, hair standing up along its back, showing every sign of impending ferocious catastrophe. Mojo somehow senses this and runs for the door (thankfully, still open), my neighbour is hurtling after the dog and grabs it just in time while falling into my chair. Nobody's harmed, neighbour drags puppy back towards their end and I enter my apartment, to see my cat standing in the hallway, a little shellshocked, not quite sure what just happened, but with a tail, for the first time in her life of 11.5 years, instinctively fluffed out to twice her width.

And ever since, every time Mojo comes out in the hallway, she looks hopefully west, trying to pass the elevators, looking for her friend so they can do it again.

That's my little Walnut Brain.