More about Jim


We got Lucy after we moved into the first house we owned, when the girls were 5 and 3. We went to the Humane Society and someone picked out Lucy, a smallish tortoiseshell with longish fur. She was very shy, and stayed in hiding for days after we brought her home (she did not like the ride home, either) until one night I cooked hot dogs for dinner, and she crept out of hiding and stole one off someone’s plate. We realized that she did not like canned cat food, but would eat dry. N named her. I don’t know where she came up with the name, but it is a good one.


Lucy had 5 kittens when she was barely over a year old herself. The two females were tortoiseshells, like Lucy, but with short hair, and like Lucy they were fairly shy. There were three males — a ginger, a lovely pure black, and Jimmy, who was a grey mackerel tabby with a white bib and white feet. The first to be chosen were the two females, and then another family took the ginger and the black, and we decided to keep Jim. The kittens were lovely. The ginger was the most affectionate. The black one was always hungry and we remember him walking onto a saucer of milk in his excitement. Jimmy was always a bit shy, which I think was why he was the left-behind kitten. He was also the very first kitten to open his eyes. N named him as well. He had a little bend at the end of his tail. I worried that we had somehow caught it in the old screen door, but I think it was actually something he was born with.


Jim was always a sort of stand-offish cat. Lucy often seemed cross with him. He would swipe at people as they walked by. But later in life he mellowed. He and Lucy had to spend a month together at the kennel when we moved houses, and they became very close through that shared trauma. When we brought them to the new house they were confined to a bedroom upstairs while the workmen finished the downstairs, and we would come home to find Jimmy burrowed under all the covers in my bed. Jimmy and Lucy had ruled the old neighborhood, but they were too old to really conquer the new one. They did rule our front yard, though, and would gang up on the dogs who walked by. Jimmy attacked a poor befuddled retriever, and also battled the dog who lived next door and won. He became more affectionate, and loved to sit on the laps of people watching television.


In the past few years he became diabetic, and lost a lot of weight, and went through periods of time where he mostly slept on things on the dining room floor — a backpack, a plastic bag, a too-small box was always a favorite. But then he would regain his energy and swagger out onto the porch to get rid of strange dogs.

cat in a box

Lucy misses him. She misses being annoyed by him. We miss him, too. We buried him last night under the pineapple guava, where he can keep an eye on the birds. I’ll plant a bunch of catmint where he can see it, too.


Of course I have had other pets die, but this is the first of the girls’ pets to die —

Goodbye Jim!


Jimmy, May,1996 – November, 2011


Jimmy died while we were away. Luckily we had an excellent cat sitter who dealt with the crisis. And, honestly, it was not unexpected. He’s been getting sicker this fall, and we knew it would happen soon.

Lucy, who is Jimmy’s mother and one year and one month older, is in fine shape, but both K and I noticed when we returned that she’s looking a little older than she used to. Maybe it’s just because she no longer looks younger than Jim, since Jim isn’t there to provide contrast. She clearly misses him.

Anyway. It is sad, but not unexpected. We’re going to bury him in the back yard and plant some of his beloved catmint on his grave.


Packing up


Just finishing a few things around the office before I head home to pack up. The house — it is very very clean. The cats were actually enjoying it before the suitcases came out. I wonder if they will like having someone stay with them — they might, actually. It will give them something to do in any case, even if this thing they are doing is exercising deep suspicion.

I am happy that the thing I thought would take 5 hours took only about one and a half.

Happy thanksgiving!

Cleaning report

Okay — our bedroom is done. I dusted the nightstands! Vacuumed under the bed! Cleaned all the dusty windowsills! (There are a lot — our room was a porch before it was a room and the whole western wall is nothing but windows. If they all opened I would be in heaven. Next home-improvement project.)

On to N’s room, which unbeknownst to her has become a box room, a lumber room, the room of spare things. It strikes me that the house guests may want to sleep there instead. So I will provide options, and also I have to get that crap out of there before N comes home anyway and also for some houseguests who are coming after New Years.

We had dinner last night with an old friend from college and his son, who is now a graduate student at our fair campus. See, I am figuring out how to have the best of both worlds — I have been east every month since July and yet, living here, I get great California hiking. I can live with this. (Seeing J and M almost counts as going east since they are from the east.) And, as it rains here, it snows in the Sierras, which means west coast skiing, too. So I’m about to go have a lovely cold bare-treed grey November Thanksgiving and will come home to lovely new Sierra snow. I guess I am thinking about this because M likes to hike, and I was telling him about the eastern Sierras. I think that may be my favorite place in the state, and I place I should try to see more of while we’re here.

This is okay!

All right — on to N’s room. Thank god it IS raining, otherwise I think I would need to go for a walk, and I don’t think I have time. Pooh.



Houseguests are coming to babysit the cats while we are away. This is no trivial matter, actually. Jim is diabetic. The aging cat — not always pleasant.

Well, ahem, so I’m cleaning the house again. I feel like I am always writing about cleaning the house, but it’s actually the fact that I’m not always cleaning the house that makes it noteworthy. However, because of these cleaning episodes that you may have read about in some detail, I am now down to fundamental elements, like moving all the sheets from lower shelves to higher ones, and putting sweaters on the lower ones. I am just at the point where I have to decide what to do with sweaters that I never wear, which is why I had to take a break to come down and write this.

Maybe . . . I should get rid of them!

It would certainly make the shelves more manageable.

Well, I’m thinking about it.

All right — I don’t actually have all that much time to get this done. I’ll report back as things process.

Have you heard what just happened at UC Davis? The one thing you may not know is that Davis is sort of the most mild-mannered of the campuses. It’s a very good school, but it was the old ag school and it’s full of mild-mannered bicycle riders, not the driven Berkeleyites or the stoner Santa Cruzers or the partying Santa Barbarans or the nerdy Irvinists and San Diegans or the ultra-cool Angelenos. They are kind of the last campus you would expect the get pepper-sprayed, and if you look at the video, it seems like they were just sort of sitting there peacefully and the police came up and sprayed them. And their chancellor seems to have reacted as ours did, by first denying that the police were out of line and then, after viewing the video, realizing that yes, indeed, they were. There is a lesson to be learned here — marshall your facts before making public statements.


Walking home in the dark


On top of everything else going on, I think there may be some sort of football-related thing coming up. Oh, in fact, that is true. This is the weekend in which the golden bear battles the tall and spindly tree. Good luck, tall and spindly tree — I am sure you will need it.

[Now I have been distracted into looking for you-tube videos of the Stanford Band, which I really recommend as they are uniformly entertaining. Here’s a good one. It’s called the Spotted Owl Show.

In any case, here are some more night shots.

Here’s the library, in atypical festive lighting.


and one of the oldest buildings on campus


and another building strangely wrapped up.


The night before this picture was taken the people in the building across the path were projecting a movie onto it. A large zombie head was talking silently as I walked by.

One of the best thing about winter, in my opinion, is that it gets dark early so people are out and about in the dark.

All right — I’ve got stuff to do.

Exciting times


We’ve got exciting times going on around here at the moment. I’m going to go out in a bit to see if there really are tents up — I heard that the students were setting them up, in direct contravention of the chancellor’s request (perhaps you saw the videos last week — that was about tents), after Robert Reich spoke last night. I could kick myself for not going out to campus to hear him. It’s a 15 minute walk, but I got home around 6:30, and Jim sat on my lap (he’s feeling much better) and I was loathe to go back out. But I should have, just to see.

I really am the most anti-hippy person you can imagine. I read a comment somewhere by some woman who was at the occupy C*l thing yesterday who said she had originally been in favor of the proposed meeting between the chancellor, students, and legislators and possibly the governor but was now opposed, because she thought it was just a chance for them to spread their propaganda around — that’s the sort of closed-minded nonsense that I really can’t stand. But this mostly does not feel like that kind of hippy idiocy — this actually feels like engaged people asking sensible questions, and that I can totally get behind.

Here’s the complete campus paper coverage. I find the living room setups charming, and here’s was a great picture of our resident famous linguistics prof holding a class at the Open University (scroll down a bit).

UC Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff was talking about the impact of Prop 13 at one of the teach-ins, while other subjects under discussion included the Chilean political system and corporate control of the food system.

This cracks me up.

Hmm, but then there was this either separate or related issue of a guy with a gun at the business school who has now died, after being shot by campus police. Hmm. Not good.

Dump art


Went for a walk at the Albany Bulb this weekend. It’s a park along the bay on top of an old landfill site — i.e. dump.


It’s a little bit seedy (i.e. full of homeless encampments and broken up concrete) but also scattered with a lot of wild art.




Well, you see what I mean.


Nice to be out in the fresh air, though, and to have a chance to catch up with A.

Saturday night


Mendocino, again. (The picture, I mean.)

Meanwhile, in San Francisco I met Harriet and her friend L for dinner.

Sadly, no pictures were taken.

It is an odd thing, this meeting of imaginary friends — on the one hand, you know them, or think you know them, very well. On the other hand, you don’t know them at all in a physical sense. And they don’t know you! So they are the people you know, except, in Jeanne’s case, they are very tall. Just by way of illustration. Or, in Harriet’s case, they have red boots! It’s an odd disconnect of knowing someone well and not at all all at the same time. Yet, it was fun, and conversation flowed, and H’s friend L is quite nice and also a Hungarianist. How many Hungarianists can there be in the world? Not many, I would expect.

Anyway, I am up late, waiting to proof a paper coming in from Ohio (where it is considerably later)