Category Archives: Cats

Day 115- Guard Cat

Guard Cat 115/365

Almost certainly in direct response to my instituting a NYC guard dog series, this member of the fairer species presented itself to me last Thursday. Through a clearly disapproving gaze, conveyed despite the barrier of the store glass, this tabby insisted that I change my ways and stop all dog favoritism forthwith.

And so, I will do so. The series is now entitled NYC Guard animals– I wonder what species we will encounter next?

Day 66- Animal Minds

Mr. Snail never stood a chance 66/365

I am, as most of you who read me regularly have likely gathered, an animal lover. There is a theory among non-animal lovers that those who connect with animals do so because they feel a disconnect with other people. The most negative view of animal lovers is that they are lonely and socially removed from humankind, forcing them to be more in tune with other creatures. The bird man of Alcatraz, for example, loved his pigeons, but killed people.

My problem however, is not a lack of connection, but too much of one. I have, and have always had, an overly developed sense of empathy. If I see anything suffering, human, or animal, or even inanimate objects (this has happened), I feel deeply upset. One night driving to the cottage, we turned onto a side road to find a gas station and my father pointed to an abandoned house and commented that it seemed lonely. I burst into tears. The next year, at Christmas, a family had moved in and the house dazzled under hundreds of twinking lights. I was overjoyed. Since as a six year old I once felt emotion for a house at the side of the road, it is understandable that in adulthood my sense of empathy easily extends to all creatures with thoughts, emotions, and the ability to feel pain.

Anyone who has had pets knows that animals clearly have the ability to feel emotions, and that they must have some sort of thought process. But what exactly is going on in their minds? It is likely not the emotions that we understand and recognize most readily, since those emotions are a human construct, and may not exist in the animal world. I try hard to connect with my cats on their level, and not to anthropomorphize their behavior, which is one of the reasons why I’m good with rescue animals (my cat Pichu was considered unadoptable by the humane society). But I am definitely guilty of projecting on them the emotions I understand, and hope that they share.

A fantastic program on the dilemma between wanting to connect with other animals, and our inability to comprehend their true thoughts and emotions was recently produced my RadioLab. For animal lovers like me, it is a must listen.

Day 57- Nom nom nom…

Nom nom nom 57/365

Things my cat Pichu does not eat:
-Chicken
-Beef
-Pork
-Lamb
-Salmon
-Most cat treats

Things my cat Pichu does eat:
-Cat food
(thank goodness)
-French Fries
-My hair
(off my brush if I leave it out, off my head while I’m sleeping or brushing it)
-Boxes
-Yarn
-A Santa hat with glittery fabric
(think she may be grooming this)
-The cat dancer pictured above
(although this is mostly mauling, not actual consumption)

Only things my cat Ayla does eat
(other than cat food):
-Corn on the cob
-Cat dancer

I have weird cats.

Day 42- Unscientific America

Victory is Mine!!!

Today’s post concerns science, today’s picture is of cats. For those of you interested in science and media, and the complex relationship between the two, please read on. For the rest of you, look at the cute itty bitty kitty!!…..

Ok. Got that out of the way.

Today I attended a talk at Rockefeller University by Chris Mooney, co-author (with Sheril Kirshenbaum) of Unscientific America. The thesis of the book, as gathered from the talk, is that America has a growing disconnect between scientists and the general public. Despite the fact that science plays a role of ever-increasing importance in their lives, the public no longer values scientists, nor are adequately informed of scientific developments,
There were the usual disconcerting and yet humorous anecdotes demonstrating scientific ignorance: Many Americans do not know the amount of time it takes the earth to circle the sun, while a survey determined that the top three American scientific role models are Einstein, Bill Gates and Al Gore (none of whom are, in Chris’s words, both a scientist and alive). There were also a few slides dedicated to the portrayal of both scientists and science in popular media, which was neither accurate nor flattering (an exception was Avatar, from the flattering perspective only of course). Mooney was charming and funny, and these slides were met with the expected laughter, drawing his audience in. We were prepped for the bad news.
The bad new is that things will only get worse, at least in the foreseeable future. Major newspapers are cutting science sections, leading to the demise of the professional science journalist. The ready substitute, science blogs, although providing an easily accessible source of communication (as this scientist well knows), are more of a curse than a blessing when it comes to the dissemination of false information. And politicians, while seemingly more ready to accept scientists than in past administrations (apparently signaled by the return of bearded men to administration expert-panels), do not incorporate scientific accuracy into their policy machine: the proposed 2008 science debate, for example, was considered to have a much greater potential for political harm than good.
As Mooney turned to the solution, I braced myself for the usual rail against scientist’s inability to communicate, or lack of desire to do so. To a scientist who loves and strives to find opportunities to communicate (umm blog!, University Newsletter!), those comments always feel like a slap in the face. Instead, he spoke directly to my situation and hopes for an alternative career. Only 7% of PhD trained scientists end up in tenure track positions, for those others with a desire and ability to communicate, Mooney suggested that there be outlets in the “scientific pipeline” that would allow them to do just that. The only dampening to the deep internal “hurrah” I felt at these comments, was that he was saying “should be”, not “there are. And here’s how you apply for these positions, please give me your resume if you’d like one.”
In my personal investigation of such a career, I have come to learn that scientists are often dismissed from consideration for communications positions because many believe that what makes them a good scientist necessitates that they be a bad communicator. I attempted (poorly I think, which may not be a good sign), to pose this question to Mooney. His answer, I think (communication?), was that there is the promise for changes to this perception in the future, perhaps with a “new guard” of journalists and policy-makers. I chose to see this answer as hopeful. And so, with such hope in mind, I will continue to do my part as a communicating scientist. I will continue to write: this blog, for the Rockefeller Newsletter, and a Rockefeller University blog that will be launched in the near future. I will continue to try to communicate scientific and critical thinking to my non-scientist peers, whether they want it or not (most usually not). And I will not give up on the hope that I could turn my desire to communicate, and my scientific training, into a new career.

For more information about the book, Mooney’s blog can be found here

And now, for those of you completely tired of science and communication, and my rantings thereupon, don’t forget about the adorable kitties above.

Day 38- Curiosity

Fascinated 38/365

My pic for today is of one of my cats, Pichu, who was fascinated by the microwave as it heated my dinner. She stood this way as I caught sight of her, ran to get my camera, shot several pics, and long afterward- the entire time my dinner was heating, 3 minutes to be exact. She then hopped down, showed no interest in the turkey I was warming, and went to chase her adopted sister around the living room. What it was that fascinated her so, I will never know, but she must have been thinking something, which is an interesting thought in itself.

The real pic I worked in this evening though, was one I took this weekend at the Cloisters.

Cloisters Pillar

This was my first attempt at HDR and I plan to try many more. I didn’t attempt to make this one look natural, instead I enhanced the grain with a textured layer and added a border. I have a feeling I’ll have many fun hours, and significantly less successful images, from playing with this technique.

Day 26- 4 Walls

Shadow Puppets

Some days, like yesterday, walls can’t hold me. I love the outdoors and there is so much to see and do in a city this size. Those days I think nothing of a 9 mile outdoor run, sandwiched between work and going out for the evening. On those days treadmills are like hamster wheels, and running shoes are a form a transportation, not an exercise tool. Other days, like today, that sense of adventure is quenched and dormant. On days like today I’m happy to go to the gym, do a Pilates class, and get in four miles on the treadmill. Afternoons are for napping, catching up on chores and playing with the cats.
An entire NYC day without a little exploration though is hard to accomplish. A quick trip to dinner with friends at an East Village Fondue restaurant allowed me a brief excursion to an exotic local, decorated with rich lighting, red velvet and antiqued knick knacks. A perfect opportunity to play with my new iPhone Hipstamaik app.:

Day 15- Return

Falling hard

I returned to New York from a relatively snow-free Vermont, to wake the next morning to yet more snow. The cat was in her perch by the window, hunting the flakes. On my lunch break I went to the door of the building and took yet more pictures of the flakes coming down onto the campus. I tried to muster excitement for yet another snowfall, but all I could feel was a strong sense of deja vu, and a slight whiff of weariness.
I love snow, and try hard not to complain about it, but I do admit, the novelty has worn off. Unlike on last Wednesday, I do not have a burning desire to go for a snowy walk, or to wake up early to explore the snow covered East River trail. Tonight I will be happy to go straight home, unpack from my trip, and run on the building treadmill. Although, now that I think about it, the view of the East River from the top of my building will be quite beautiful. And at least it keeps the cat entertained.

Watching the snow