Why Can't I Set Off the Speed Detector?, and Other Random Musings

So my dissertation director, last week, made me sign a contract with her, saying that I would give up a number of my extracurricular activities, including this website. I'm hoping to stick to the spirit of the contract, albeit not the letter, and cutting down the amount of time I spend on this site. So, here's another relatively random collection of thoughts and stories.

At the entrance to campus, there's a device that clocks your car's speed and then transmits it to a sign that displays how fast you're going. Several times, late at night when the campus is fairly empty, I've attempted to set it off by running down the street. I figure, why shouldn't it clock my speed, too? The first time, I was passed by a car as I was running, so I got a false positive (at 8 mph - woo!). Since then, however, my attempts have been unsuccessful. Am I too slow, too small, or is there another factor I've overlooked?

No, really, that's all there is to that story. It's not deep in any way. It's just what I think about every time I walk past that sign, which is fairly often - though I manage to restrain my running tries when there's people around.

And by the way, if you're looking for smooth transitions, you should probably go somewhere else right about now.

Although our Zora is a very timid cat, she loses all timidity when she feels our house is being threatened by another cat. Currently that is the case. Where she usually won't walk too close to The One And Only, there's a cat outside who needs a beating, and she just ran over TOAO because he's sitting by the window and she has places to be. And yes, she announced the other cat's presence by banging her little head into the window in an effort to get outside and beat the crap out of it.

Her protective impulse extends to our whole little family. When any one of us makes noises of distress, Zora is there, looking concerned, ready to take on whatever it is that's making us hurt. It's terribly cute, and really very comforting - she's ready to protect us, all of us, even TOAO, even though she's very wary of him otherwise. He's family, and she wants to make sure he's not hurting. I love knowing that I can count on her to run to me when I'm upset, because it always helps to have a cat to hold.

I am, however, slightly offended that she clearly interprets my singing as sounds of distress.

Today the cats escaped the house. They're indoor cats, although Tista gets to go outside when he's supervised and thinks he's on a leash. (He only wears the harness, though, not the leash, because as long as he's in the harness, he thinks he's also on the leash.) Zora is terrified of the harness and after one ill-fated attempt, we never tried to put her on the leash again.

Apparently, I didn't shut the back door firmly enough today, and the cats took the opportunity to paw the door open and saunter on out. I have no idea how long they were outside, but it must've been quite a while. My heart stopped when I walked into the kitchen and saw the door standing wide open. I trust Tista to stick fairly close to the house, though I worry about his fascination with the street. At least he's been outside enough to know his way around, though. But Zora? Last time she darted out (in hot pursuit of another cat), she ran into the neighbor's yard and would've kept going if I hadn't cornered her and picked her up.

So I rushed outside in a panic, horrified that I might have just lost one, if not both, of my cats. I had visions of spending the next hour roaming the neighborhood calling their names, and my brain was rushing ahead to all kinds of possible scenarios. What if they'd run out on the street? What if Zora was halfway to Mexico? What if the pit bull who occasionally runs loose in our neighborhood had one of them cornered, or worse? What if…

That was as far as I got. There they both were, sitting calmly in the front yard, chewing the grass. And as soon as they saw me, they both just got up and walked inside, without any kind of coaxing from me. It was surprising, and grand.

There's really nothing more to that story either; it just made me really happy to know that the cats not only know where their home is, but they're more than willing to return to it, and to me, even when they do manage to sneak their little butts out the door. I could probably find a deeper meaning, but I'll leave you to read that into the story if you want to.

I've recently become hooked on West Wing re-runs. They are simultaneously brilliant and depressing. Each time the show ends, I turn to The One And Only and ask, "Why can't our president be like that? Why can't we have a president with genuine compassion and intellect?" It makes the current president look even worse than he normally does. But then fact that the show is popular makes me think that maybe we'll have a chance to elect someone like that, someday, and I feel momentarily optimistic. Then I feel depressed at the gap between fantasy and reality. It's my own, political version of bipolar disorder.

For the record, while I think John Kerry is a hell of a lot closer to that ideal than the Shrub, I haven't gotten the sense that he's particularly compassionate. Part of compassion, to me, is being able to imagine what it's like in someone else's shoes, and in an ideal world, that means not just an abstract awareness, but a real familiarity with other people's situations. And maybe I'm buying into what is sure to be one of the Republican attack mantras, but I don't get the sense that Kerry would be that comfortable socializing with people outside of his tax bracket. Still, his discomfort is a far, far better thing than Shrub's contempt, and I'll take Kerry over that jackass any day.

And in spite of living in Texas, where, with Shrub in the race, a vote for a Democrat is as effective as pissing against the wind, I will still be throwing my vote away on Kerry.

That's about all the random musings I've got at the moment. And in keeping with the spirit of the Diss Director Deal, if not the letter, I think I'll go work on my dissertation now.



30. March 2004

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