Redressing the Balance

I strive to maintain the proper balance between “snarky,” “curmudgeonly,” and “silly”. The last couple of posts have leaned too far towards “curmudgeonly,” threatening to fall into “grouchy”. To redress the balance, I thought it might be a good idea to take another swing through Kickstarter. If you can’t count on Kickstarter to cheer you up, who can you count on?

Hang on, let me try that again.

I thought it might be worth poking around Kickstarter. If I can’t find a few projects to let me ramp up the “snarky” and “silly” around here, I might as well just go full-on grouchy full-time and be done with balance. To improve the odds, I’m going to limit myself to food projects. They just don’t bring out my internal Oscar the way technology projects do.

Last chance to flee.

Still here? Great.

Catfe – This is Carlos’ second attempt to raise starter funds for a cat cafe in Los Angeles. The first try didn’t go very well, raising less than $10,000 toward the $350,000 goal. This time around, Carlos has a partnership in place with a local shelter, agreements with local business to supply themed (human) food, and a potential location selected. He’s also scaled back the goal to $250,000. We all know the only reason LA wants a cat cafe is that the Bay Area has one (well, almost: Oakland’s Cat Town is supposed to open this month, and San Francisco’s KitTea has signed a lease and is still hoping to open this year.) Good luck on your copycat project, Carlos.

Whipped Cream Pie A La Face!!! – I have to sympathize with Stephani’s desire to avoid selling chocolate bars and washing cars. But is it really wise for him to openly declare his lust for revenge on the football team’s coach? Hint: smashing the coach in the face with whipped cream might be satisfying, but it’s unlikely to gain you additional playing time. Still, the goal amount is low enough to be reachable. With a bit of advertising, and a lot of luck, Stephani’s fundraiser could go viral and support not just this year’s team, but future teams as well. The Kickstarter just went live today, so there’s plenty of time to get your pledges in.

Kiwi Berry Packaging Logo-Generic to Fantastic – Ken wants to get his farm’s kiwi berries into local markets. “Presenting our kiwi berries in an attractive and professional package is the first step!” he says. Umm. If you say so. I’d have thought testing the local demand might come first, but I’ll freely admit that I have no experience selling fruit. Ken has been selling grapes for eight years, so maybe he knows what he’s doing. In any case, he’s hoping to raise $1,100 to cover the cost of logo design, printing, and Kickstarter rewards. After one day, the total stands at… well, $0. Ken, are you sure you don’t need to make sure people in New York want kiwi berries?

OatsRun – A breakfast delivery service that only carries oatmeal? Sounds great. Just a few tiny quibbles. First, your name conjures up a most unappatizing mental image. “Run” should never be used in conjunction with food. Second, using all of your funding on “making the customer interface as engaging as possible” is putting the oats behind the horse. I’m getting a strong sense that your business plan is “build an app and then sell it to Facebook for billions”. Third, “lack of not achieving the required funding to build our online platform that we would like it to be” is NOT the biggest risk you face. If this Kickstarter proposal truly reflects the planning and effort you’ve put into the project, lack of funding isn’t a risk, it’s a certainty.

Tomato Sushi – A tuna replacement for sushi and sashimi. Let me get one thing out of the way up front: as a rule, I hate fake meat. Attempts to mimic the flavor and texture of meats are rarely successful. Worse, the (often explicit) attempt to fool meat eaters into going veg are smugly moralistic and condescending. I opened this project fearing the worst. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is an attempt to mimic the appearance and texture of tuna, but the makers admit right up front that the effort isn’t entirely successful. Even more refreshing, they haven’t even tried to duplicate the taste of tuna. They’ve gone for “fish-like when combine with rice”. In other words, a unique flavor of its own, rather than a pale attempt to reproduce the inherently irreproducible. Best yet, the Kickstarter is free of smugly moralistic claims for the superiority of vegetarianism. “You’ll not only get a delicious cruelty-free food” Oh, damn. So close. Jokes aside, I don’t see any tuna substitute eliminating the demand for real tuna, but I completely agree with their belief that the world needs an acceptable tuna alternative. As I write this, they’re 10% through their Kickstarter and they’ve made it to 30% of their 10,000 funding goal. I may just pledge a few dollars myself.

I don’t know about you, but I feel much better now.

Earth Day Notes

A few animal-related quick takes today in honor of Earth Day.

  • I see there’s another cat in the news for suddenly assaulting its humans. Unlike in the case of poor Lux, Kaht doesn’t seem to have been abused, nor do the humans in the case seem to be making any attempt at self-promotion. Kaht is at the SPCA and is, I hope, receiving a medical checkup for any conditions that might have caused his sudden aggression.

    The media is, of course, linking the two cases. I’d like to remind them of an old maxim: “Once is chance, twice is coincidence.” As far as anyone can tell at this point, there’s no connection between the two cases; linking them as “berserk cats attack owners” is premature at best.

    Of course, that maxim does continue “Three times is conspiracy” (or in some formulations, “enemy action”. If another attack occurs in the next few weeks and receives similar media attention, we may want to start asking just who would benefit from a decline in the popularity of cats as pets… Could it be… the American Kennel Club, promoter of the popular Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

  • Meanwhile, Caltrans is having problems with the demolition of the old Bay Bridge. Double-crested cormorants have been nesting in the old bridge for years. The new bridge includes nesting platforms designed specifically for the cormorants. Unfortunately for Caltrans, the birds prefer to continue squatting in their traditional nesting sites. Since they’re protected in California, the cormorants can’t be forcibly displaced. The original plan was to put up netting to prevent them from nesting in the old bridge, but with the demolition six month behind schedule, the sequencing of events doesn’t match up well with the cormorant nesting season (roughly April to August). So the new plan is to spend almost $13 million to get the demolition back on schedule and get the nets up before Bridge Nest ’15. Good luck, guys.

    On a presumably unrelated note, the latest problems with the new bridge are improperly welded sections of the road deck. Apparently, some sections of the deck are as much as a quarter of an inch out of spec, twice the permissible deviation under Caltrans’ own rules. The risk of welding sections that far out of alignment are a high risk of damage in a major quake, and premature cracking under normal traffic. The sections were accepted under national standards, which permit a greater deviation than Caltrans. However, some of the welds are even out of spec for the national standards. Joy. I’m starting to think Oakland and San Francisco should start researching whether they can return the new bridge to Caltrans under the “lemon” laws governing the sale of cars…
  • Finally, Sprudge is reporting that the race to open the first American cat cafe is heating up. The major contestants, one in San Francisco and one in Oakland, are still working towards possible openings this summer. However, they’re being partially scooped by Purina with an assist from an unnamed coffee roaster based in Brooklyn. According to the report, the “Purina ONE Cat Cafe” will open as a pop-up in Manhattan this weekend.

    Sorry, but a pop-up doesn’t count. As far as I’m concerned, this three-day effort would be better characterized as a “cat adoption event with coffee”. A worthy venture, yes, but not a true cat cafe.

They’re At It Again

Time for another roundup of cat-related news from around the world.

Adriana Lee reports that her cats didn’t take it well when she installed a home monitoring system to keep tabs on them.

We’ve talked about the risks of insufficiently-secured home monitoring systems before, but we missed this one. According to Adriana, the system had been in place for less than a day when the motion sensor alerted her to feline activity in the bedroom. She switched on the camera just in time to witness one of the cats lying down on her pillow, looking at the camera, and then coughing up a hairball on her side of the bed.

Clearly the cats were up to something nefarious and didn’t want her to catch them at it. We all know from the movies that premature revelation of a villain’s plans for world domination are the most common reason why the plans fail. Surely the cats are well aware of that fact too.

Or maybe they’re not after world domination. Maybe they’re members of the growing class of feline masterminds. Adriana doesn’t say where she lives, but it could be that her cats are controlling James Lawlor of Clearwater, Florida. Mr. Lawlor was arrested when he tried to walk out of Walmart pushing a shopping cart filled with cat food.

He claimed that he planned to sell the food to a friend with 300 cats, but how likely is that? It seems obvious that his claim is really a cover story to avoid revealing his feline controller, who’s attempting to set up a food supply independent of any human. Stocking a secret command post is an expensive proposition; any savings you can realize through control of weak-minded humans is money you can put into catnip-infused champagne for your victory party.

A bit of sad news on the subject of feline overlords: The infamous Colonel Meow passed away last week. The Colonel’s minions request that memorial contributions be sent to Seattle Persian and Himalayan Rescue. My presumption is that SPHR is a front established by the Colonel’s successor, and the funds will be used to further the Colonel’s dream of world domination.

Not all cats are as blatant in their methods as Colonel Meow. Take a peek at this post by Devan McGuinness. The post, clearly ghost-written by a cat, makes it clear that humans should dump their spouses and lavish all of their love on their feline overlordscompanions. Her ten reasons why a cat is the perfect valentine are a frightening peek into the way cats want us to think of them. I’m particularly taken by number 4: “Hanging out at home is also their idea of a really good time.” Forget all the times the cats have tried to dash past your feet when you open the door or squeeze out of a barely-opened window. They don’t want to get out to further their nefarious plans at all. You clearly are hallucinating. Your cat wants nothing more than to stay at home and watch “Love Actually” with you (per reason number 8).

One last note. Our feline masters are figuring out that sometimes it’s worthwhile for them to team up and work together to extend their control over humans. Case in point: there are currently two groups competing to open the first “cat cafe” in the U.S. Both groups are in the SF Bay Area, and one suspects that the competition between them owes as much to the rivalry between San Francisco and Oakland as it does to the battle for market- and mind-share. Both groups are affiliated with rescue/adoption organizations, so the potential for the feline masters to use the cafes to infiltrate formerly cat-free homes is obvious.

The race to open first–both groups are targeting this summer–is still neck-and-neck. Both groups have tentative approval from the appropriate zoning and health departments, both have secured partial funding, and both are still looking for appropriate spaces.

KitTea, in San Francisco, seems to be somewhat ahead in website development, but Oakland’s Cat Town Cafe has an active Indiegogo page for funding, as well as pledged support from Pet Food Express.

Stay tuned. When (or if) either group manages to get their venture off the ground, I’ll be sure to do an on-the-spot report.