Monthly Archives: October 2016

National Cat Day

National cat day! We love our cat.

We mostly love our cat.

You know what I’d love even more? For someone to invent a cat-remote.

This is not a remote for cats to use, it’d be a remote to use on cats. I’d like a button for “no paw prints on the car,” “hairballs excreted outside or in litterbox only,” “you have four scratching posts, nothing else is acceptable,” “don’t climb/jump on ____” (this would need to be customized, but I’d like this available as several different buttons please), and “don’t fight with ____” (again, needs customization and needs to be available on multiple buttons for some households). Maybe a “don’t eat ___” for homes with prey-type pets or delicious plants. Jingles is self-trained, but I bet a lot of cat owners would love a button for “don’t bring kills home,” “don’t hunt birds,” or some other options. “Rodents only” maybe. Remember, “hunting” does not equate to “eating” for many cats. Since most cans have pull-tabs now, cats aren’t trained to come when they hear an electric can-opener anymore. It doesn’t matter because I don’t know anyone who has one. A “search” or “find” feature might be useful here, or some other way to program your cat to come when called. Heavens knows mine never have. It’s a new use for a “home” button.

Oh, volume buttons would be lovely but we can skip “mute” because we love our feline friends and don’t want to be cruel.

Very important would be a timer feature for “lovies.” You know that super cute snuggle time when a cat purrs almost non-stop and seems to be dead set on pressing her face through yours? Yeah, I’d like to restrict that to waking hours. Human waking hours. Along those lines, can we have a simple “claws retracted” button for when they do that kneading thing? It’s super cute on a blanket, but considerably less so on a sweater that you’re currently wearing. It’s more than a convenience, it’s a safety issue.

I’d also like the option, even for an upgraded price, to map out where on a human a cat is permitted to walk when climbing over us. Jingles brought this feline tendency to my attention again this morning, somewhere around 630 am. Normally I don’t sleep on my back. There are reasons, not the least of these is my loving cat’s uncanny ability to walk up me and put her paws in all the wrong places. I’m sure men are crossing legs in a fit of subconscious discomfort. It’s no less an issue for women, The Girl has the exact same complaint. Jingles (and Nimoy too while she was still with us) consistently sits on the rib cage and places at least one paw directly on a nipple. I’m not sure how a two to four pound cat can place twenty pounds of pressure on one square inch, but she manages. I’m also not sure how she never misses. My daughter is petite, and not to be crude, but Jingles has about a one in nine chance of hitting the nipple there. I’m guessing. I’m somewhat more endowed. A greater breast surface area should mean the odds are more in my favor. The Girl and I agree the laws of physics and statistics are broken when considering this problem. If an option to map out “no walk” areas on a body isn’t going to happen, can I at least request some sort of malicious sitting weight limit? This is another safety issue, for both me and the cat. One of these days she may go flying.

A choice of modes would be convenient also. Jingles comes with two main modes: housecat, and feral. If she’s inside or on the porch and it’s nasty weather, cold, or late, then she’s in housecat mode and you can pick her up and treat her accordingly. Feral mode means you can’t touch her and she will ruthlessly torment or hunt anything she sees. Feral Jingles teases us by calmly wandering toward us while we’re outside, then turning and running like hell at the last minute before she’s in reach. Or go racing by as if to say “you’re a pathetic human and can’t match my swiftness and agility” when we appear outside of our own yard. Not that I mind feral mode, it’s fine and keeps Jingles from getting extremely antsy in the middle of the night, but I’d like some input. Like when we’re leaving the house and won’t be home until late, or know it’s likely to start raining while we’re gone. I’d like to be able to override the feral setting and return her to housecat mode. I promise not to abuse the privilege.

I won’t ask for on/off, that’s taking it too far. We’re talking about cats; 90% of the time they’re off anyway and if you can’t take it that the remaining 10% of the time without fail is inconvenient to your schedule, you need to cowboy up. Having parameters for “play time with humans” hours might be acceptable. Incorporate a customizable night mode maybe. Something that let’s us (between 10 pm and 6 am) uncheck “play with children,” “sing,” and “race helter-skelter through the house.”

Remembering Princess, our fat Siamese of seemingly long ago, The Girl suggested some sort of food amount or type limit. Considering the same cat, then Nimoy, I’d like some sort of “Alpha-cat” designator so we don’t have to deal with them fighting about it. It’s not about who’s most loved, just better suited to the role. Some cats are good rulers – patient and forgiving to their subjects regardless of species, age, gender, or size; others are brats.

Naturally it’s important to have a “restore original settings” option, but I suggest a two-step confirmation process. Something that requires thumbs.

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My Missing Cat Says Your Vote Counts

The hunt for Nimoy is over. Not because we found her, but because the hunt largely consisted of The Girl going out running/Pokemon Go-ing in the area Nimoy ran off and periodically calling for her. Our local pet shelter puts pictures of their new additions online as well as recovered bodies. Checking that is my job. No sign of Nimoy yet, so I’m taking the upbeat position of she’s found a house of suckers to take her in and baby her like we did. If it was Jingles that went missing, I’d at least consider the position of her going feral, but Nimoy isn’t that kind of cat. She’s an example of humanity interfering in the whole Darwinian Evolution theory by thwarting “natural selection/survival of the species” as a mere inconvenience to be overcome by looking pathetic and meowing.

So Nimoy’s presumed to have a new home and she’s happy and snug somewhere. I’m firm with this position because it relieves The Girl from needing to continue searching for her. Why the change? The Girl got hit by a car a few weeks ago and running is now firmly outside of her skill set.

She’s okay. Sort of. Being 18 and extremely fit meant she mostly bounced so she escaped with no broken bones, only some scrapes, bumps, nasty bruises, and a few torn muscles. Her leg, knee, hip, shoulder, neck, and back hurt and she’s in physical therapy. As a result she lost her job at a local gym, which she loved and is really upset about. That incident has produced a lot of stress and swearing in our household, partially because my little girl is hurting and unhappy in her recovery, and partially because it’s interfering in her freshman year of college.

The Boy is back to regular school from homeschool (yay, that sucked) but now I’m playing fill-in professor and helping The Girl with her “baby” biology assignments and math. Hubby has to help her with her toddler-level psychology because I really hated psychology and it showed. Her professors are pretty understanding of her newfound limitations and missing almost every class because she can’t walk, sit, or carry books. I’m grateful she’s taking classes Hubby and I can help her with. Basic biology? Cake walk. Math has changed, which amazes me considering this stuff has been around, largely unchanged, for thousands of years. They have some seriously weird ways to solve some of these advanced algebraic equations now, and that’s been interesting.

That’s my last month in a nutshell. Now onto more interesting things: arguing about the elections with my 18-year-old. Ah yes, I remember my first time voting, it wasn’t nearly this ugly. My kids have grown up knowing how the government was designed and would work (absent the corrupting influence of politicians), but we’ve debated historical instances and the many ways this election could play out. The end result? I’ve been repeatedly reminded that Hubby and both kids have dual citizenship with Canada and wouldn’t it be awesome to move north and live closer to the bits of family we never see? Um, have you ever visited Calgary or Edmonton, Alberta in the winter? OMG life is not worth living. No. British Columbia I might bite on, but not anywhere you have to plug your engine block in to courtesy outlets in the parking lot to keep it from freezing while you run into the grocery store for a gallon of milk. No.

Okay, so a car’s engine block won’t usually freeze that completely, but that it’s a reality instead of a “hey, that’s weird” concept is enough of a warning sign to me to stay away. I can deal with temperatures dipping below freezing, but not that far and that often. No.

With that, my family is in the same position as most of the country in that we can’t just leave for the next four years. Unable to escape the consequences of the upcoming election, we have to face it.

To be honest, I’m in a state of semi-denial. Looking around, I’m not alone.

There are a couple of things that really bother me about the upcoming election. Only a couple? Okay, a lot of things. I can sum it up as the Democrats and Republicans, that’s a couple of things. No, seriously. Aside from some die hard fans out there that won’t be swayed away from their chosen party/candidate (even if said candidate got up on the dais, slit the throat of a commentator, and started lapping up the blood on national television) a growing number of voters are what I conservatively will call concerned about the outcome this election. Many are concerned that the country may be screwed no matter what the outcome is. Others are disheartened to the point of convincing themselves there’s no point in voting.

Your vote does count. When you slip into that booth on Election Day, I trust you will do more than vote for a presidential candidate. Senators and representatives, on a state and federal level, will also have elections to be determined. Governors, mayors, sheriffs, judges, and more – there is always more than just a single issue on the ballot. Your vote most definitely counts in all of those instances! In fact, some candidates are counting on poor turnout from a disheartened population to keep their opponent’s supporters from casting votes. Don’t play into their scheme.

In a Presidential election, your vote is … complicated. The Electoral College elects the President, not popular vote. A lot of people who realize this thinks it makes their vote worthless. Not exactly. In 2000, President George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. It happens. If a candidate wins 11/12 specific states, they have the required number of electoral votes to win the country. Easy. Well, no. Neither major party candidate has a lock right now and the third party candidates aren’t even close.

When you vote, you’re not technically voting for the presidential nominee of your choice, you’re voting for the elector for your district that represents the presidential nominee of your choice. Popular vote for your district determines the elector, then the elector casts a single vote for the presidential nominee. Whichever candidate gets the majority of the electoral votes for the state gets all the electoral votes for the state (Nebraska & Maine are the exceptions to this rule). It takes 270 electoral votes to win. While federal law doesn’t require the elector to vote according to popular vote of the district, state law sometimes does. You can look here to see if your state requires the elector to vote with the party/popular vote of the district. Third party candidates have electors too, and anyone campaigning to be a write-in candidate (where allowed) should have electors selected.

So your vote for a president does count, it’s just needlessly complicated and indirect. Well, it mostly counts, it depends on the circumstances and your point of view. The value of each vote is diluted, but they add up. But wait, there’s more!

I’m not an overwhelming fan of sports, but I want to make a point so we’ll look at a baseball game. Let’s say the home team scores 3 runs in the first inning and the visitors score 5. Okay, good. There’s time, no big deal. Come the 8th inning, the home team has 14 runs and the visitors have 15. Every run is now of critical importance. There are 9 innings in a baseball game, FYI. So the spectators are all on the edge of their seats and the players are putting in extra effort. Or maybe it’s the 8th inning and the score is 5 to 15. The spectators all start filing out and the players are just going through the motions.

In an election, this is the importance of the media. If the media reports a landslide, a lot of registered voters who are planning to vote after work won’t bother. It takes time and they’re tired, and what’s the point? But if they report it’s close, people who shrugged it off earlier in the day pull on their shoes and wander down to a voting site. Die hard fans (of the candidate or process) still tend to go vote, it’s the average person who may shrug it off – but there are a lot of average people. It’s an ongoing argument for why the media shouldn’t release the results for the east coast until the polls close in Hawaii and Alaska. At least California since it’s one of the critical states in terms of electoral votes.

Media interference in the process aside, let’s return to the baseball game. Okay, game over, the home team lost 15 to 16. Damn. You’re playing for the home team (don’t read anything into it), and you contributed one of those 15 runs. Did it count? Well your team lost so you could argue your contribution was wasted. But if you didn’t play and didn’t achieve that run, it definitely would have been worse and you would have forever wondered if your participation would have made a difference. Maybe if you played you would have achieved two runs and tied, or three and won the game, or stopped the other team from completing a run. You don’t know if you don’t play.

So sometimes your vote, well, it isn’t so much as it doesn’t count as it isn’t part of the winning team. As long as you played, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

The other situation where your vote is lost is if you’re a Democrat in Utah. Or Idaho, Wyoming, or Kansas. None of these four states have granted their electoral votes to a Democrat since 1964. The point is, if you’re a Democrat in one of these states, I’m sorry but your vote for a Democratic Presidential Candidate isn’t going anywhere. Probably. Utahns aren’t enamored with Trump, to the point that when Sanders was an option he could have wrested the state from the Republicans. That’s saying something. Republicans don’t campaign in these states and neither do the Democrats, it’s that much of a lock so why spend the time or money? Although Independent Candidate Evan McMullin is leading the polls in Utah. I’m not kidding. I would love it if an Independent would take a state and it blows my mind that it’s possible. Think of the message that would send to our leaders in D.C..

I don’t mean to leave the Democrats out, but when I went looking for the most Democratic-leaning states, I couldn’t find one with a long standing history like these four because of Reagan’s monumental landslide in 1984. These four all were subject to Johnson’s landslide in 1964 or the red streak would have gone back further.

I digress. Let’s wander back to that popular vs electoral vote issue. President George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular. I suspect we’re going to see some funny numbers in this election also. Not necessarily with the President-Elect, but with the third-party candidates. Here’s where I’m waffling, along with a lot of other people:

Can a third party candidate become president?

Lincoln did.

The election of 1860 was the first victory of the Republican Party, formed to primarily address the controversial issue of slavery. Lincoln only received 40% of the popular vote and won because he was popular in the densely populated northern states with a lot of electoral votes. Plus California. There were four candidates and dividing the vote almost certainly helped.

The Republican Party was formed by ex-Whig Party members, much like the Green & Libertarian & Constitutional parties draw some members from the major parties now. It was founded for the previous election, but without much success. If you look to history as an indicator of what’s possible for the future, it means that fledgling third parties need only keep trying. That’s an important concept. Don’t give up on the smaller parties just because it doesn’t work out this election. The Republicans took a couple tries to get their candidate in the White House.

As Election Day grows closer, I’ll be watching the predictions to see how things are leaning in my state. I’d like to vote third party and right now see no reason why I can’t. If it looked borderline where my vote could be necessary to – I’m not even sure, then I’d lower myself to choosing the lesser of evils. I’m not even sure who that is. But I understand my area and how the process works. My vote is my own and I’ll use it to send a message.

The media is largely ignoring the third party candidates, so they may throw a curve in the election numbers when they tally finally comes in. With multiple third party candidates, I have no hope one of them will gather enough disenfranchised people to win. But the numbers they do gather gives power to those fledgling parties and sends a message to the mainstream parties.

I understand every vote for an independent is robbing one of the main candidates, but I don’t see that being a big issue. Like the 1992 Bush-Clinton-Perot election, one candidate could lose so many votes to a third party (Bush lost supporters to Perot) that the other candidate (Clinton) gains an accidental advantage. Perot had no chance of winning the election, but his participation ensured Bush’s loss. How can I say that? The breakdown of votes show Perot drew more of the Republican votes than the Democrat votes.

The independents will have a similar effect, but members of both parties are disenfranchised this time. The Democrats would have been in serious trouble if Sanders gave his support, and voters, to an independent candidate. That might have guaranteed a Republican victory, which is why he didn’t do it. Trump is unpopular enough that the Republicans are having essentially the same problem the Democrats have with independents withdrawing support for other options, so I doubt there will be a huge impact like Perot had on Bush and Clinton.

There is a slight possibility, however, and it sort of makes me giggle so I’ll mention it. Evan McMullin could take Utah. It’s not a lock, but it could happen. You need 270 electoral votes to win. What if McMullin takes Utah and its votes? Probably nothing. To take the scenario further, what if Clinton and Trump are neck and neck, to the point neither gets 270 votes once Utah’s paltry 6 are off the table? Then the House of Representative decides. Oddly, popular vote will once again be important, although they’re not required to follow it. Suddenly it’s a matter of who has sway in the House. It’s unlikely, but sort of amusing to consider.

Here’s the other way your vote counts. Regardless of who wins the electoral vote, popular vote sends a message. Having a mismatch between the popular and electoral vote gives support to the idea that we don’t need the Electoral College anymore. When the country was huge, communication was slow, and technology didn’t exist to count millions of votes in a night, it was needed. Now, communication is instant, the size of the country is irrelevant aside from the media swaying attendance on the west coast by prematurely calling the election in the east, and we can count the entire population’s vote in a timely matter. The Electoral College means some votes mean more than others, and aren’t we trying to do away with that concept as a country? If the Electoral College was gone, candidates would have to cater to the population as a whole, not to a dozen specific states. Isn’t that the way it was supposed to be anyway?

The other way popular vote matters is that the more people who vote for a third party candidate – any third party candidate – the more power it gives to the people. It tells the parties and the media that the people are tired of the big parties’ extreme behavior. Most people in the U.S. aren’t as extreme as both major parties cater to. They need to understand that. Unfortunately for us, the donations come to these parties from some very extreme special interest groups. Money doesn’t buy votes so much as PR and marketing firms. If we ignore what the candidates want us to believe and make our own decisions, the parties would be in trouble. Politicians don’t need the votes from their PR and marketing companies, or even the media; they need the votes of the people, the average people. That’s the majority of the population in the U.S. and that’s where the power is. But only if we think for ourselves.

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