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One of the live oaks that bless my home

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kicka has died

Our 20-plus years old, tiny Russian cat, Kicka, died on this first day of Christmas at 2:43 am. Her fearless little heart kept on beating for another two days while her fat-free body was shutting down. Kicka died on Joanna's lap, with Julie and me petting her. Kicka died at home, surrounded by her loving family. I wish I could have the same death when my time comes. It seems unlikely, however.

A search of Google, yesterday at 11 pm, provided the following results: "Cat" generated 745 million hits, only behind "Technology," 3,620 million hits; "Die" 1,210 million hits; "Car," 1,160 million hits; "History," 1,150 million hits; "Law," 912 million hits; and "Science," 825 million hits. "Cat" has virtually tied with "Baby," 764 million hits. "Cat" beat handily "Sex,", 702 million hits; "Energy," 550 million hits; "Dog," 371 million hits; and "Engineering," 392 million hits.

There is something about cats that draws all of us. It was a sad Christmas day for my family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A wish list for 2011

Our little cat, Kicka, all bundled up, is lying semi-conscious and half-paralyzed on top of Joanna, who in turn fell asleep on a sofa. So I have time to reflect on this year and dream about the next one. Recently, I was asked to predict the most important events in 2011, and found it impossible. Instead, I have attempted to be wildly optimistic and skip the usual "peak-everything" stuff. Here is the result:

The Happy New Year 2011 will see a thorough public discussion of what needs to be done to make the U.S. a more resilient society and economy. Federal government, Congress and Senate will start working together on the development of a massive national electrified railroad system to transport goods and people. We will come off the high horse and stop hallucinating about building bullet train tracks in a railroad system that is decidedly mid-twentieth century or older. Many cities across the U.S., will embark on the crash investment in light rail and other alternatives to cars.

Subsidies for corn, soybean, wheat and rice will be repealed and replaced with a thoughtful program of developing a robust, distributed system to produce a wide variety of healthy whole foods for all. The administration and Congress will wake up to the fact that an unhealthy, obese and generally uneducated population will require an insanely expensive health care system that will fail if the root causes of poor health are not eliminated.

Our schools will hire science teachers, who will live the practice and theory of science, not merely the theory of teaching and testing. Many families across the U.S. will dump game stations, idiotic TV, and I-phones in exchange for conversations and books. Neighborhoods will again become centers of civic activity and common thinking.

We will occasionally stop and talk to the homeless, instead of giving them a dollar or a dirty look. Economists will discover that the Earth is spherical and finite, not an infinite mathematical plane with the infinitely substitutable resources. Those of us who have animals and children will pet both and smile. Republicans will occasionally talk to the rest of us, and we will respond with kindness.

I admit that undue optimism has gotten the better of me. Most of what I dreamed about is utterly impossible to achieve in this currently confused and divided U.S. of A., whose only national priority seems to be more airport body scanners or more thorough pat-downs of our crotches.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kicka is dying...

My 21-year old cat, Kicka (Kitty in Polish) is dying. Life is leaving her in tiny puffs, and there is nothing we can do. Joanna, Julie and I are trying to feed Kicka warm broth. She no longer eats solid food and is barely able to lift her head to look at us with these bright, knowing eyes of hers that now shine less and less. Do you know that today one cannot buy chicken broth with fat? We obsess too much about obesity to be eating normal whole food.

We adopted Kicka in Berkeley in early 1991. She was a tiny, visibly abused Russian cat. All these years she could not completely warm up to anyone, perhaps with the exception of Sophie, my middle daughter. In human years, Kicka is over 90 years of age. She survived in a pretty rough neighborhood in Oakland Hills, hiding from the coyotes, raccoons, hawks and owls, and fighting other cats. All of the cats were bigger than Kicka, so she lost her front teeth and almost died of infected wounds.

The move to Austin brought Kicka back to life. She flew in on a plane with Julie, and in four hours found herself in the warm sun and open space. Her rheumatism was gone and she would venture out farther than in many years before. She survived here for over two years, hiding by custom. She is as deaf as a piece of wood, and anyone could stalk her. A clever little cat she has been...

Kicka lived through the demise of East Germany and the Soviet Union, the rise of democratic Poland, the first Gulf War and the second Iraqi War. The United States of America she was born in was a very different country than the one she is about to leave. A native Californian, Kicka saw two housing booms in Montclair, followed now by a relentless bust with nowhere to go. A worldly little cat she has been...