As Excuses Go…That’s a Pretty Good One

Writers are justly famous for our ability to procrastinate.

But–do you want to hear a secret? Okay, come a little closer so I can whisper–the truth is we’re actually no better at it than anyone else. We just document it better. Because writing is what we do.

And we’ve been at it for a long time. How long? Well, Excuse for Not Writing Number 1 is “Sharpening my charred stick.”

Technology has made some changes. In many parts of the world, Number 2,745 (“Washing the dishes”) has been largely replaced by Number 68,117 and 68,118 (“Loading the dishwasher” and “Emptying the dishwasher”).

At this point, many writers do it more because it’s a tradition than because they feel any deep personal need to procrastinate.

There’s something of a thrill in extending a tradition.

I speak from experience. I’ve just been notified that I’ve had an excuse added to the list.

Official Excuse for Not Writing Number 237,630 is “Rufus demanded a tummy rub.”


I’m proud, honored, and humbled to have made such a significant contribution to my field.

Still a Way to Go

Rufus continues to acclimate to his new life.

Despite the traditional family humiliations heaped on him–see yesterday’s post for an example–and the continued misbehavior of Mr. AssholeWatanuki, Rufus is making longer forays around the house and looking more comfortable while he does it.

‘Nuki’s latest trick is to climb into Rufus’ bed.

Once firmly in possession, he glares through the holes at the rightful owner.

Who, for the most part, cheerfully ignores him. Rufus has figured out that if ‘Nuki is in the bed, he’s not in a position to prevent him from exploring.

Lately, he’s been hanging out at the top of the stairs. Yes, the stairs that are the nerve center of the entire house, and the spot where Rhubarb and Yuki generally hang out.

Now, granted, that top step is roughly four Rufus-lengths from his “safe space”–that’s the door at the left–but it’s unquestionably a sign of progress.

And he does look amazingly relaxed, doesn’t he?

Well, OK. Maybe not too relaxed.

Almost There

We’re almost there. The MLB preseason is just about over. Opening Day is Monday, though as usual, we’ve got Scheduled For TV games on Sunday–three of ’em this year.

As we all know, the beginning of the season means two things: cats are making predictions and this year’s baseball video games hit the shelves.

Let’s start with the bad news.

Check out this commercial for MLB The Show 17.

Assuming you haven’t fled, screaming in horror, let’s talk about what’s wrong with this.

For starters, did you notice that every single person in the commercial is “this guy” and “he”? I’m not sure whether Sony thinks that women don’t play video games or that there aren’t female baseball fans, but either way it’s a damned offensive assumption.

Then there’s the celebration of Manfred’s Kool-Aid. “Quick three inning games”? Are you kidding me?

And speaking of that guy–four jobs and twelve kids? Come on! As Groucho Marx once didn’t say, “I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!” Maybe if the dude hadn’t dropped $300 on a PS4 and $60 on the game, he could afford to quit one of those jobs.

I don’t play video games–not even baseball games–but I’m tempted to buy a PS4 just so I can boycott MLB The Show 17. The only thing stopping me is that Sony makes the console too.

Moving on.

Of course we’ve begun indoctrinating Rufus into the household traditions. He’s seen some baseball on TV (about ten seconds worth of highlights), so we figured he was qualified to make predictions for the 2017 season.

On the other hand, he is new to the concept, so we decided to start him off with something straightforward: predicting the final standings for the American League West. We’ll keep working with him during the season, and if his predictions pan out, we’ll give him a shot at the playoffs.

He used a treat-based methodology to make his selections.

The final prediction:

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

It’s not the order I’d have liked to see, but it’s not completely unreasonable, based on the preseason predictions. For comparison, FiveThirtyEight has Houston, Seattle, Texas, LA, and Oakland.

Rufus definitely enjoyed making his picks.

He was, however, rather less enthusiastic about the obligatory Wearing of the Cap that followed.

Integration 2

We’re still working on giving Rufus the freedom of the house. He’s making progress, but it’s slow.

Part of it is on Rufus; he seems to have the idea that we don’t want him to leave his room. When we leave the door open, he waits until we’re not around, and then he sneaks out. As soon as he sees one of us–or even hears us approaching–he retreats to his turf.

We can’t even lure him out of the room to accept cuddles in the hall. He’ll come right up to the door, flop down a careful half-inch inside the room, and roll onto his back for a tummy rub. I’ve started carrying him one Rufus-length outside the door for pettings. He’s accepting it, but it’s too soon to know whether there will be any long-term benefit.

And Rufus is going further on his exploratory expeditions than he did early on. We’ve found him (briefly) in the front hall, two floors away from his safe space. So there’s hope.

The biggest part of Rufus’ failure to integrate, however, is named “Watanuki”. Or, as we’re calling him more and more often, “Mr. Asshole”.

‘Nuki misses no opportunity to steal Rufus’ catnip toys, hunt for scraps of food in his bowls, use his litter box, and generally take every chance he can to invade Rufus’ personal space.


Note the “Will you get this schmuck out of here?” look on Rufus’ face and ‘Nuki’s “I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you.” expression.

We haven’t seen much in the way of violence, barring the occasional nose-bop, but the political slogan shouting has gotten heated at times.

I suspect the eventual outcome will involve somebody taking a claw to the ear or nose, before they both back down and negotiate a settlement.


Some things don’t change much at all.

The spider’s had to rebuild her web a couple of times, but she’s still hanging around in front of the house.
And hiding on days when I have the good camera handy. I presume she’s concerned about having her picture out on the Internet in this age of facial recognition.

Yuki still thinks Rhubarb is the greatest pillow known to felinity.
And snoring. Not surprising with his head at that angle.

The turkeys are still terrorizing the neighborhood. This shot was taken shortly after they held off the dog next door while stealing everything edible in his yard.
And they’re beginning the preliminaries to their mating rituals. It is that time of year.

Rufus is still negotiating territorial rights with Watanuki.
And there is much staring.


“Separate but equal” is not an acceptable option.

Accordingly, we’ve been continuing to introduce Rufus to the rest of the gang with increasing levels of interaction and self-guided exploration.

Thursday evening, we opened the door to Rufus’ space*, and then sat back to watch what happened and intercede if the political negotiations got out of paw.

* Which is also the space where Sachiko lived until she was sufficiently socialized to join the “big kitties”. As such, she takes a certain proprietary interest in that room.

Rufus spent a few minutes sniffing around the bathroom.

Not finding much to interest him, he headed down the hall in the other direction. Kokoro, ‘Nuki, and Yuki were much more interesting than the bathroom.
And, of course, they found Rufus quite intriguing as well.

Approximately three seconds after that picture was taken, ‘Nuki and Rufus exchanged a few paw swats, none of which made contact.

Discretion being the better part, Rufus returned to his room, to discover that somebody had taken advantage of his absence to explore.

Shortly thereafter, Yuki decided to join the party.

As you can see, Rufus wasn’t amused. He returned to the hall, sending Yuki into a precipitous retreat–so naturally Kokoro and Sachiko took advantage of his absence to explore.


When he came back, Kokoro made a successful escape, but Sachiko panicked, and tried to hide under the futon. She realized it was a mistake almost as soon as she stopped moving, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave past Rufus. Nor could we lure her out–even her favorite treat–licking the fork that we mix Rufus’ food with–couldn’t tempt her out.

The poor Skittercritter stayed under the futon, growling at nothing (or perhaps herself) until we gave Rufus his dinner. As soon as Sachiko realized he was distracted, she hurled herself across the room, out the door, and down the stairs at the end of the hall. She didn’t quite crack the sound barrier, but I think she exceeded the freeway speed limit.

That was all more excitement than we had planned for one day. So the next few days we’ll step back and limit interactions to what they can do through a just-barely-ajar door.

Once everyone’s chilled out, we’ll let them mingle again.

Moving Up

Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s been a trifle damp around here lately? If you missed it, the drought has been officially declared over, at least in this part of the state.

Such gains don’t come for free, however, and there’s always someone who suffers. In this case, that’s been the outdoor cats.

Mind you, they’ve found ways to stay, if not dry, at least not as soggy as they could have been. There’s a spot near where our furnace vents to the outside that’s partially sheltered from the rain, and both Tuxie and MM hang out there for hours at a stretch. MM also lurks under some dense bushes near the house.

And Tuxie figured out that the Rose Cottage is where it is for a reason.

It’s not perfect, but it helps.

Note, though, that I didn’t say anything about L. Rufus Alexander. The catio is thoroughly soaked–
–but that’s not his problem any more.

Y’see, back around Christmas, when temperatures dropped to within spitting distance of freezing, we decided it was time to deal with the politics and move him inside. It took a few days to gather the necessary equipment, but on Friday the thirtieth, he made the move.

We’re taking it slowly; he spent the first week in a cage to let him get accustomed to the new environment.

Large, but not anything close to his former palatial quarters. So we were all relieved when Rufus stopped spending the majority of his time curled up in the bed and showed signs of boredom. That sounds worse than it was. In truth, he didn’t spend the entire week in the cage. We gave him a couple of supervised exploration/exercise/cuddling sessions every day. And, to nobody’s surprise, he showed the courtesy and helpfulness that are his hallmarks, never trying to escape, and always returning to the cage at the end of a session–though, to be fair, we occasionally had to encourage him by tapping on his food bowl.

After the first week, we fastened the cage door open and allowed him free rein to do what he wanted. For the first day or so, what he wanted was to sit under the futon or in the cat condo, and keep a wary eye on everything that was going on.

But by the end of that weekend, he had relaxed enough to come out and make a new friend.

(If that stuffed scorpion looks familiar, it means you’ve been hanging around this blog too long. Yes, that scorpion was Sachiko’s favorite toy when she lived in that room.)

He’s also made friends of the human variety.

The person scratching his ears requested anonymity in order to maintain her reputation. But, reputation or no, Rufus appreciated her visit, and was in top buzzing, chirring form.

Oddly, it took quite some time before Rufus was willing to get up on the futon. Maybe he had a bad experience with a couch in a previous life. Maybe it’s just the way the cover crackles. But he did eventually adjust, and now it’s his favorite snoozing spot.

For the last several days, we’ve been leaving the door ajar–albeit on a chain–and he’s been exchanging sniffs with the herd. So far, all of the interactions seem to have been peaceful. Over the weekend, we’ll try more extensive introductions: a shared feeding time with a wire fence in the doorway between Rufus and everybody else.

We’re in no hurry, but the goal is to integrate him into the herd as much as possible, though, because of his special diet, we may need to isolate him at dinner time.

I don’t think he’ll mind returning to his current quarters every night. Aside from the food, the library has an unsecured, Internet-connected computer.

Remember: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a cat–but if they figure it out, they’ll worship you.”


We began the year with the tale of Watanuki’s unauthorized experiment in outdoor living, so let’s go back to the feline contingent to close out 2016 with a cautionary tale.

As I’ve mentioned, the dining room heat vent has been very popular lately.

Although some people seem a trifle unclear on the basic concept.

Joint use is possible.

But sometimes…

conflicts arise.

And when limited resources are the subject of a fight, there can be at most one winner.

A lesson we should all keep in mind as the Western US draws ever closer to the inevitable water wars.

On a cheerier note, Rufus is doing well. He enjoyed a Christmas treat of salmon gooshy fud, and he’s rocking his new bling. No heat vents in his catio, but he’s got a warm lap every evening, and seems quite happy with that.

There Are Two Kinds of Toys

Rufus is a simple cat. He likes simple pleasures: a bowl of gooshy fud, a warm lap on a cold night, a bit of catnip now and then.

And he likes his toys simple, too. We’ve given him several weatherproof cat toys, mostly variations on balls and tracks. He ignores ’em.

Ah, but wave a piece of straw in his direction…

He’ll study it carefully, wait for it to stop moving, even if only for an instant, then he transforms into a blur of motion, more often than not sinking his claws into the dangerous opponent before gumming it into soggy oblivion.

Sachiko, on the other paw, was raised in a geek household. She’s been surrounded by high-tech toys her entire life.

Straw is beneath her notice.

Her favorite toy?

Yup. Partially-cut up soda bottle rings. Now them’s good eats!