There Is No Cat

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I bet I would look good in a tux, too reports that the Webby Awards ceremony has been cancelled this year. Not the awards, just the ceremony. Darn, I was hoping to show up in a white tuxedo (I was a judge in the radio category this year). Oh well. I guess the winners will be posting five word acceptances to their web sites this year. (Found via Scripting News.)

Posted at 9:07 AM
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Friday, April 25, 2003

Maybe he wanted a cut of the t-shirts

A Portuguese newspaper is reporting that the former Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, may be alive and well and hiding in a women's room in the house of one of his flunkies somewhere in Baghdad. (Search on the linked page for "Diario de Noticias".) They were supposed to have an interview with him, but it fell apart at the last minute. (Found on Media Network.)

Posted at 4:39 AM
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Thursday, April 24, 2003

Pump and dump

I hadn't had time, given all the wedding-related stuff I've been doing lately, to play with the latest fad in Blogistan, Blogshares, but yesterday after finishing yet another project and having some time on my hands for a change, I registered and claimed my blog. Interesting project. I bought some shares in some blogs I read regularly, and took a speculative flyer on one or two that I thought might go up in the near future.

Meanwhile, I noticed Mark Pilgrim's post about how he had dumped a ton of shares in Dive Into Mark recently after hitting both Daypop and Blogdex (scroll down to the paragraph that begins "Sell sell sell!") and made a ton of money.

Putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with 4,000, lying in bed this morning I wondered when we'll see the first pump-and-dump scam on Blogshares. How would you do that? "Pssst! There Is No Cat is an up-and-coming blog with witty commentary and Doc Searls has plans to add it to his blogroll soon; its share price is going up." Maybe not. "Hey, There Is No Cat is about to change its name to There Is Some Pussy and become a sexblog. Imagine Oliver Willis except the pictures won't be that lame cheesecake stuff. Hits are going to go through the roof!" Closer, perhaps. "We bet you missed out on the recent IPO of There Is No Cat. TINC's market cap recently jumped 500%, proving that timing is everything in the micro-cap blogstock market. The market for blogs is highly unstable right now, and our ability to ferret out volatile blogs like TINC provides just the edge you need!" Could be....

Posted at 5:09 AM
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Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Dance Dance Dance!

My lovely fiancee Laura pointed me to this article on The Knot about first dances. I dunno, I think maybe we're Hipsters:

"Don't sacrifice a good beat for the sake of hipness," says Meredith Stead, co-owner of Shall We Dance, located in Manhattan's fashionable TriBeCa neighborhood. "Our hippest couples usually choose to play off some highly recognizable genre," adds her husband and co-owner John Knapp, "and it works well. We've had tattooed-and-pierced downtown artists dance to a Texas Two-Step. Others have done up their first dance as though it were a Hollywood tango, using the cast album version of 'Hernando's Hideaway.'"

That's us, playing off a highly recognizable genre. Our first dance is going to be to Brave Combo's song "Laura". Nothing like a cha cha by Texas' finest nuclear polka band to start off our life together.

We've taken a couple of lessons from John Knapp at their highly fashionable TriBeCa location to refresh my muscle memory of a couple of dances I haven't done in a few years. He's really good. If you're near New York and need dance lessons, they're worth checking out. And if you're not, you could certainly do worse than their videotape Preparing for Your Wedding Dance, which was directed by Laura's friend Paul and which contains lots of interesting tips I hadn't heard elsewhere. Good stuff by good people.

Posted at 8:43 PM
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Monday, April 21, 2003

Google can't do everything

Dave Winer wants Google to provide first citations for terms on the web. He uses the term "blogroll" as an example.

I think Google is the wrong place to look for this. They're not interested in history; they look to the present, not the past. If they had to maintain a complete record of the web in addition to keeping the most current state of the web, it might overwhelm them. History is not their purpose. Besides, there's someone else already doing that. I think the right place to look for this feature is Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive. Unfortunately, you can't search for content within the archive, just see what was there at URLs you can search for. So it's the Archive that should be working on this, not Google.

Posted at 3:30 PM
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Friday, April 18, 2003


There Is No Cat is one year old today.

I've been blogging for a fair amount of time longer than that, actually. I started my genealogy blog on March 1, 2000, and before that, had a blog devoted to international broadcasting that started on December 23, 1999. I think these were some of the first single-topic blogs around.

The post I consider my first post was actually posted a year ago yesterday, but when I look up the domain name in WHOIS, I see that I actually bought the name on April 18, 2002, so today is the anniversary. There are a few entries before that, but they were really just fodder for when I was developing the content management system behind the site.

When I started this site, I was bored and unemployed and wanted to teach myself PHP and upgrade my MySQL skills. The site worked well at that, and even helped me get my last job as a result. Today, I'm bored and unemployed again. That doesn't feel like progress.

One of the main reasons I started the site was that I wanted the discipline of near-daily writing as a way to exercise my writing muscles and get better. It had been a while since I had written on a daily basis. I'm not sure the site has been a success on that front.

I went through the postings on the site last night just to see what I had written. Of the 441 entries I've made in the past year, I'm only truly satisfied with one, my musing upon the death of Joe Strummer. I still like that piece of writing. It has a good structure, a good rhythm, and it tells a worthwhile story.

There are a few pieces I think are pretty good, but I'm not completely happy with them. One was my entry about the way the United States is telling immigrants and potential citizens that they're not welcome here, based on the experience of one of my then co-workers. I feel a little uneasy about having written about my friend that way, and I think the piece could stand some more work.

My entry applying the works of Vaclav Havel under communism to my experiences in corporate America was okay, but the comparison is perhaps a stretch. I like some of my writing there, such as the way I tie the tag line on Patrick Nielsen Hayden's blog, where I found the link I was writing about, to the story itself, but on the whole, the entry seems kind of half-baked to me.

I'm reasonably happy with my meditation on the destruction of the Columbia. It gets to where I wanted it to go and helped me make sense of what happened. I'm not sure what I would do to make it better, so I guess I like it too.

I had a pretty oblique way of noting my birthday that I thought worked pretty well.

My dissection of the neighborhoods of Blogistan was clever in a navel-gazing kind of way. I think, though, that this is kind of baby you have to knife when you're working on anything extended. And my rant about how Knight-Ridder doesn't get the web has a few clever turns of phrase that aren't half bad.

The rest is mostly crap.

So the writing needs work, but since most of the pieces I like are later ones, it seems like maybe I'm making progress on that front. I've been kind of blocked lately, unable to write about a few things I want to, like the nature of community on the net. Maybe I'm just preoccupied with things like the upcoming wedding. I hope that's it, and that the words will start to flow better once that's over.

Aside from the writing, it's been an interesting year. One jerk threatened to sue me over something I wrote. That wasn't much fun. A couple of indisputable A-listers linked to me, although I didn't make their blogrolls. That doesn't bring as much traffic as I had thought it would, nothing like getting Slashdotted or anything (I've had sites I worked on Slashdotted three or four times; it killed one of them, but the other one, which was noted more than once, had no trouble keeping up under the onslaught). I was added to other blogrolls, though, which never ceases to surprise me. Thanks, neighbors. I don't get a huge number of visits, but there's a small community of people who visit regularly and leave tracks. Some of them are people I've known for a long time; others seem to have found me through the blog, and that's pretty cool. I don't think blogs are as conducive to making connections as some other forms of communication on the net, such as netnews, IRC, and mailing lists, but it's a lot of fun to see it happen a little.

So that's my year. It's been fun and frustrating. I expect the next one will be more of the same. I need to think of what I can do to improve my writing. Blogging doesn't seem to be conducive to long-form essay writing, so perhaps I just need to adjust my expectations.

Posted at 2:48 PM
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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Tom and Daisy in Iraq

Timothy Garton Ash is an insightful writer, one of my favorites. He's written a number of books about the fall of communism in the former Warsaw Pact, something he experienced directly. He's closely followed developments there and knows how things worked there in the aftermath of the fall of the repressive regimes there. So when he says that America is starting to lose the peace in Iraq, I pay attention:

An American general moves in as viceroy, with clumsy Reader's Digest rhetoric about the honour of being at ancient Ur. Incredibly, a former head of the CIA is proposed as information minister, to supplant the incredible Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. (One comic turn succeeds another?) I currently see all the tact of a bull in a china shop; but I hope to be proved wrong.

Posted at 5:26 PM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Stu Hughes is a funny man

I don't place all the blogs I read regularly in my blogroll because, well, I don't know why, I just don't, the list feels pretty long already and some sites don't feel like I'll want to link to them forever. But one that I think I'm going to have to add is Stuart Hughes' blog. Stuart is a BBC producer who was in Northern Iraq with correspondent Jim Muir when the team drove into a minefield. Stuart was relatively lucky; he only lost his foot and part of his leg. His colleague Kaveh Golestan wasn't so lucky; he died after apparently encountering the double whammy of an anti-personnel mine and an anti-tank mine just below it.

Anyway, Stuart is back in Wales now, has had his foot amputated, and is blogging the experience with remarkable humor:

I'd like you all to meet my new friend, Mr Stumpy. He looks a little scary at first but once you get to know him you'll see that he's actually real friendly. He prefers being calls a "residual limb" but I don't go in for all that PC crap.

Or this, on how he thinks he'll react to being treated as "disabled":

I never liked those toes very much anyway....but will they now define who I am? In the short term, almost certainly yes. For a while I'll be a "wheelchair user" and am fully expecting to shout, in a loud voice "I'M NOT MENTALLY RETARDED. I JUST HAD BY FOOT BLOWN OFF BY AN IRAQI LAND MINE. I HAVE A DEGREE AND EVERYTHING AND I'M LEARNING ARABIC" at people on more than one occasion in the coming weeks.

Then there's the (temporary) adjustment to life in a wheelchair:

Vicky came over from Bristol with a gift of fine Cuban cigars (US readers please note - I'm not supporting their economy, I'm burning their fields) and took me for a spin in Bute Park - my first outing beyond four hospital walls or the back garden. Very adventurous! It quickly became clear I need to trade in my wheelchair for a 4x4 model - mine's hopeless off-road. Typical NHS - when's New Labour going to start issuing SUV wheelchairs etc. etc. etc.

As for his colleague and friend the late Kaveh Golestan, Stuart points to photographs of his funeral in Iran. That site is devoted to portfolios of work by a number of Iranian photographers, including Golestan. It's clear he was a remarkable talent. I found his photographs incredibly moving. He really managed to capture something of the humanity of his subjects. His loss is a terrible loss.

Posted at 8:28 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2003

The next attack is to embarrass them to death

Like father, like son.

Posted at 12:12 PM
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A cool win

The American women's team won the World Curling Championships this weekend! I was absolutely hooked on watching curling during the last Winter Olympics, when the US women did better than expected but not as well as hoped. So it's nice to see them pull it out this time.

I love curling. It's such a bizarre-looking sport that it appeals to my sense of the absurd. I got hooked on it as a kid growing up in Detroit where it was aired on the Canadian TV station from Windsor. Back then, they used actual brooms to sweep the ice rather than these high-tech gizmos they use nowadays. Then there was a gap of, oh, 25 years or so before I got to see any more. Clearly, much like soccer, curling is a sport whose time has come in the US. Even NBC thinks so; according to the article, they'll be airing an hour of the Championships at noon next Sunday.

So why did I have to read about this in a Canadian newspaper?

Posted at 2:24 AM
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The only problem is it keeps me awake

One of the benefits of insomnia is being able to see CNN International's coverage of Iraq when CNN North America switches over at 2 am eastern time. One of the disadvantages of insomnia is having to suffer through CNNI's Richard Quest as an anchor. My word, is there a more grating voice on all of television? I remember hearing Quest on the BBC World Service when he was their business reporter in North America, but he was only on for brief reports. On CNNI, he's on for hours with his cheese grater voice and unctuous attitude. The scariest thing is that they put him on at breakfast time. I suppose having to listen to him at that hour would wake me up. It's certainly keeping me awake now. I know it's a superficial complaint, but still....

He's a fine journalist, there's no doubt about that. I enjoyed and appreciated his reporting for the BBC back when. But man, couldn't they find anyone more appropriate to anchor their breakfast coverage?

Ah well, could be worse. I could be stuck watching Brit Hume.... (I do wish we got the BBC's news channel here, as well as CBC Newsworld.)

Posted at 2:12 AM
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Friday, April 11, 2003

Free as in beer

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defends looters in Iraq, saying "If you go from a repressive that transition period, there is untidiness."

Hmm, I'm going to have to start thinking about what I want come the evening of November 2, 2004....

Posted at 8:30 PM
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46 years after the last Hudson automobile rolled off the assembly line that my grandfather used to work on, one lone dealer in Ypsilanti, Michigan, continues to keep the faith, still in business, still servicing cars, and still selling the occasional Hudson. (New York Times link, registration required). Unbelievable.

I think I've only seen a Hudson once, a few years ago when Laura and I were in Tucson, Arizona. It was an absolutely beautiful car, a ton of chrome gleaming in the desert sun.

Posted at 6:01 PM
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Learning the hard way

Kevin Sites' blog has been reactivated briefly to provide an audio file of Kevin talking to Wolf Blitzer about the capture of him and his CNN crew by Iraqi forces still loyal to Saddam Hussein. I looked on the CNN site and didn't see anything about this. He had a terrifying experience, almost being executed at more than one point. His translator basically saved him and the rest of the crew.

In the interview, Sites said he and his crew were "heading toward Tikrit to see what things were like there." Well, unexpectedly, they're still dangerous and in a state of war. Sites was very lucky to escape with his life. He did a foolish thing by heading in that direction without military escort. The front lines are inherently the most dangerous place in a war zone, and in a situation where the lines are fluid and unpredictable, it was crazy to probe them in this way. Far too many journalists have died already in this conflict. Sites took an unnecessary risk with his life and those of his crew. There is no story worth dying for. Fortunately, he didn't quite have to find that out the hard way. (Original heads-up via Scripting News.)

Posted at 5:24 PM
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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Keeping clean

One thing I forgot to mention about applying for the marriage license: the clerk at boro hall gave us a "present from the state of New Jersey". It was a bag filled with things to help us begin our married life, and based on the contents, the state is mainly concerned with our hygeine. We were given small samples of Tide laundry detergent and Downy fabric softener, as well as a sample-sized Secret deodorant. Best of all was the preparation for our first fight as a married couple: Pepto-Bismol tablets.

I suppose we'll have to send Governor McGreevey a thank you note for his generous gift.

Posted at 7:07 PM
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Saddam raps!

There was an amusing story on PRI/BBC's The World about Radio Tikrit, a black clandestine radio station presumably operated by the U.S. armed forces. According to Chris McWhinnie at BBC Monitoring, the people behind the station have been having some fun, such as recording rap tunes where the vocalist imitates Saddam Hussein.

The piece closed the show. The individual piece is available in Windows Media Format on the daily rundown of the show.

Posted at 5:06 PM
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Wednesday, April 9, 2003

So you don't forget, act before midnight tonight

Andy Sennitt at Radio Netherlands mentions a report in Newsday that the U.S. has abandoned efforts at psychological warfare involving e-mail, SMS messages, and spam in Iraq. I don't understand; I would think that the prospect of a longer pen¡s, human growth hormone, and an easy mortgage would induce any member of the Republican Guard to defect....

Posted at 8:00 AM
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Monday, April 7, 2003

The downside of playing the accordion

Joey de Villa, affectionately known as AccordionGuy for the big, hulking keyboard he often totes around Toronto, had been promising to post stories of his worst dates ever. He's managed to post at least one. His intent, however, was derailed by a sudden attack of bliss, thanks to a new relationship. Last week he posted a sappy account of how his new girlfriend claimed she wasn't a goth, all evidence to the contrary. A day or so after it appeared, however, it disappeared. Today, the other shoe dropped. Turns out that Joey seems to have trumped all the other possible worst date stories he was intending to post with this bizarre tale.

You're right, Joey; you've earned a break.

Posted at 12:42 PM
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Sunday, April 6, 2003

Make her an honest woman

Now I really don't feel so bad about waiting six and a half years after we got engaged to get married....

I particularly like the close of the article filed by Reuters. No honeymoon?

Posted at 10:22 AM
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Fingers crossed for Paul

Ben Hammersley mentions a remarkable report on BBC television by John Simpson, their World Affairs Editor and the Liberator of Kabul. Simpson was travelling with Kurdish soldiers and American Special Forces in northern Iraq when an American plane dropped a bomb on his convoy. Simpson says he was about 10-12 feet away from the bomb, so it's pretty astonishing that he's still alive. You can hear in the report that he's wounded, although not so badly that he can't report. He shooes away an American medic who approaches him to treat his wounds while he's on air. Ben didn't point to it, but you can read and even listen to the actual report on the BBC's web site.

Meanwhile, NBC is now reporting the death of one of their journalists, David Bloom, noted for his breathless reports from moving armored personnel carriers screaming across the desert. He died of a pulmonary embolism, rather than from anything combat-related, which I suppose means he could have just as easily died suddenly at home from the same thing, which is really spooky given that he's my age.

Between these two reports and the recent death of Michael Kelly in Iraq, the whole journalism situation in Iraq is a little troubling. One of Laura's old friends (in fact, her first boyfriend from when she was in high school, and still a family friend) is in Iraq as part of Ted Koppel's crew, travelling with the same group as David Bloom, the 3rd Infantry Division. Laura's been worried about him, but I figured there's no way ABC is going to let Koppel get in harm's way. But when someone of the magnitude of Simpson gets bombed, who is at least as important to the BBC as Koppel is to ABC, I start to wonder a bit.... Fingers crossed for Paul.

Posted at 9:36 AM
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Friday, April 4, 2003

Good as gold

When Laura's parents came down to visit for the day, they brought with them an article from the Bergen Record earlier this week about the finest liquid known to mankind, Vernors Ginger Ale. The author of the article must be from Michigan to have produced such a knowledgeable, nuanced portrait of the beverage of the Gods. He's also a pretty good writer, because he captures the sensation of drinking Vernors better than anyone I've ever seen. Good stuff about some good stuff.

Posted at 7:50 PM
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Live from Baghdad (or maybe Tikrit)

Radio Netherlands has an interesting look at the broadcasts of the Iraqi Satellite Channel, which has continued to broadcast to audiences outside Iraq despite American attempts to destroy the communications infrastructure in Iraq. Bits and pieces from the channel show up on CNN and MSNBC, but in The Netherlands, you can get the pure, unfiltered propaganda direct from the source via DSL [site in Dutch] (as opposed to the pure, unfiltered Objective Journalism we get direct from embedded journalists on cable TV here in the US, as well as The Netherlands).

At the recent Winter SWL Fest, my friend Tracy was demonstrating what you can get free with a relatively small satellite dish and an MPEG decoder/receiver costing a couple hundred dollars, and among the channels was this very Iraqi Satellite Channel, receiveable here in the eastern US. Sadly, since we rent rather than own, I haven't installed a satellite dish. So I'll just have to be content with whatever propaganda I can find online, on cable TV, or on shortwave radio.

Posted at 11:45 AM
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Getting real

This wedding thing gets more and more real with every passing day. This morning, Laura and I went down to boro hall with one of our friends and applied for our marriage license. We had to gather all the relevant documents and everything. I didn't know where my birth certificate was, so I had sent away to the state of Michigan to get one. Laura still had her original from when she was born.

Laura was nervous at home this morning as we were getting ready to go to boro hall. I didn't feel nervous until we actually got there, when I felt a little twinge. It's really happening. We had had to make an appointment to get the license, the reason for which was clear when we saw the lengthy line of prospective brides and grooms waiting. You wouldn't think there would be dozens of couples thronging to get their marriage licenses at 9 am on a Friday in April in a small boro of no distinction, but there you go. (Uh-huh. Tell some more whoppers, Ralph.)

They also wanted to see Laura's divorce papers. She wasn't happy about that, but I understand why they do that. They wouldn't want to give a license to someone who's currently married, after all. I don't mind that her former husband's name is on the application. I do hope they don't include it on the actual license, though.

Ten minutes at a Formica® counter in a dingy office and it was over. One of us can go back next week and pick up the actual license.

Posted at 11:38 AM
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Running dogs?

Ed Baig, the tech columnist for USA Today, is one of the few reporters for the mainstream media who understands why people listen to shortwave radio. He absolutely nails it in his column from last Wednesday. He's got some decent suggestions for newcomers. Good stuff. (Thanks Ed Cummings for pointing this out.)

Posted at 6:28 AM
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Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Can we send him to The Hague?

Jonanthan Freedland has an interesting op-ed in today's issue of The Guardian where he spells out just how radical and un-American the war in Iraq and George Bush's rule in general are.

This is not to pretend that there is a single American ideal, still less a single US foreign policy, maintained unbroken since 1776. There are, instead, competing traditions, each able to trace its lineage to the founding of the republic. But what's striking is that George Bush's war on Iraq is at odds with every single one of them.

He goes on to compare the current situation to a previous paralysis of dissent:

The limits of acceptable discussion have narrowed sharply, just as civil liberties have taken a hammering as part of the post-9/11 war on terror. You might fall foul of the Patriot Act, or be denounced for insufficient love of country. There is something McCarthyite about the atmosphere which has spawned this war, making Democrats too fearful to be an opposition worthy of the name and closing down national debate. And things don't get much more un-American than that.

Everything about the presidency of George W. Bush goes against American tradition, starting with the way he was installed in office. I can't wait until the day he's sent back to Crawford, Texas, with his tail between his legs. I hope we survive that long.

Posted at 10:49 AM
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Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Our flexible language

For the nine hundred and seventy-third time today, I heard a reporter state that the Republican Guard divisions south of Baghdad have been "degraded to half their fighting capability". I want to know what that means. Does it mean the US has blown up half of their tanks? Destroyed half of their artillery? Killed half of their soldiers? I know they're used by the military and their political masters because they obscure meaning, but I wish reporters would dig a little deeper to tell us what these annoying military euphemisms specifically mean rather than just acting as court stenographers.

Posted at 6:31 PM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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