Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sister and Moshe: a phase of our lives ends

For many years now, we have had three cats in our house: Sister Itsakat (aka, Dinosaur Kitty), Moshe Jacobawitz (aka, Baby Seal Cat) and Mica (aka, Kangaroo Cat). Now, sadly, there is just one survivor: Mica.

Back in August, we put Moshe to sleep. He had diabetes and we have long sworn that we would not become caretakers (and, frankly, financiers) for deathly ill kitties. [Note: I wrote this originally in March 2008. Moshe then managed to live till the end of July, far longer than expected. We finally had to euthanize him, because he had lost half his body weight and we had to leave for an extended holiday. The vet clearly felt that we had already waited too long and he had likely been suffering. We felt bad.]

Sister died last year, just kind of stopped eating and then stopped breathing, once her thyroid medicine had no discernible impact.

They were both about fourteen years old at time of death.

Even though Mica is left, she is a rather late arrival to our home, having rescued her some five years ago from the home of our older son, Chris. A rescue was necessary because Mica was born with only three functioning legs and lots of internal organ abnormalities. Extensive surgery kept her alive, but the other two, big, black, aggressive cats in Chris' home made her life a bit uncomfortable.

Here's a picture of Mica.

So we took in Mica, but Sister and Moshe had been with us since Eli was seven, just after we moved into our Rogers Park home, and they were a part of our lives for a long, long time - and almost all of Eli's growing up.

And so I thought I would pay homage to Sister and Moshe.

Sister showed up one day in our backyard, just wandered in, almost certainly looking for food. She was a beautiful gray cat and she was impossibly skinny. Must have run away from her home or gotten lost, and didn't really have the hunting skills necessary to live on mice and rats outdoors.

Eli was obsessed with dinosaurs in those days. He put together dinosaur skeletons from kits, read magazines about dinosaurs, and so on.

Sister was so skinny that when Eli saw her, he said: "Mom, that cat looks like a dinosaur!" because her bones were stuck out so sharply.

Veva had some leftover salmon in the refrigerator. They fed it to the starving cat and she decided that there was no reason to leave our backyard. We took her in and Chris named her "Sister Itsacat."

She was always something of a standoffish kitty. She couldn't handle being brushed at all- I don't know if she was the victim of some abuse or maybe her skin was just too sensitive. Her fur was certainly very fine and soft. But she liked to be petted and was very willing to be held. She would just melt over your arms or shoulders. Here's a nice picture of her. And another.

Moshe, well, he was a very different sort of cat.

Soon after moving to Rogers Park, we started spending time at the Nature Center, a small enclave of a park surrounded by residential neighborhoods, a senior citizens home (actually a large complex of building), a university, and a cemetery. We volunteered there, helping to maintain the trails, and visited for holiday celebrations. The Center itself boasted a small "zoo" of sorts, with a variety of animals found on the property (and usually in need of some medical assistance). It was a wonderful place to be able to take a young boy, growing up in an urban environment like Chicago.

One day when we visited, we found that there were several brand new kittens in the Center. Their mother was a feral cat at the park and rather than have a small gaggle of wild cats growing on the property, they decided to find homes for the kittens. Moshe was one of those kittens.

When we first took him home, he was so small, he could sleep curled up inside Veva's slipper. He was tiny. But it was clear from the very start that he had no intention of staying that way. Sister had a fine appetite, but she didn't act as if eating was the most important activity of her life.

Moshe, on the other hand, was so enthusiastic about eating that he would mush his face into the bowl of food, chomp chomp chomp, and come away with food shmushed all over his face. His enthusiasm quickly paid off. He got big and he got fat.

And he was definitely the Alpha Male of the house, to which this photo can attest.

Yet he always remained at heart a kitten. Even when he clearly tired and arthritic, when getting up and down stairs was clearly painful for him, if I took out a string and dangled it in front of him, he would push himself up and go after that string. I could even get him to chasing his tool (well, when he was young, he really did chase his own tail, but when he was older, he chased the string around and around in a circle).

Moshe would have loved to play with Sister, but she was never the least bit interested in playing with him. In fact, she was very upset when we brought him home. She was never excited about sharing her home, and her salmon, with other cats.

Mica was definitely interested in playing with Moshe, but by then he was a good bit older and it was never clear if he liked playing with her or simply tolerated her. She was (is) much more lively, even with only three legs to hop around on. Plus, we removed both Moshe's and Sister's front claws, but didn't have the heart to do the same thing to Mica. She really only has just one weird claw on one paw.

So Mica would dance around Moshe, taunting him, poking her claw out, and finally Moshe would respond, and they would engage in a short dance. The dance would usually end by Moshe falling over onto Mica. Not much she could do about that, being about 1/4 of his body weight.

So...why, you be wondering, did Veva call Moshe the "Baby Seal Cat"? Because he had this endearing habit of lying on the floor and pulling his front legs up so that looked like a seal.

Moshe really enjoyed life. He enjoyed eating. He enjoyed sleeping. He enjoyed bullying the other cats, especially when it came to food. He like being vacuumed and was very well behaved generally whenever we needed to do anything to him (give him medicine, wash him, etc.). He loved to go out to the backyard and hang out in the sun. And if he somehow made it out of the yard, he never ventured far. This home was all he knew and it fit him just fine.

Sister had a taste of the world beyond our yard and if she got out, she could certainly end up at least several houses away. She was good at chasing down rats and mice, even without front claws. We finally erected an eight foot privacy fence around our house so we could let the cats out into the backyard and they would likely stay in the yard, though Sister would occasionally still find her way out.

Mica was totally a house cat; we could barely even get her to step out the side door and experience the wind on her face. That made her a very smart cat, since she would have been pretty much helpless in the face of the most mild of predators.

Our cats enriched our lives, but also made Veva and Eli perpetually at least a little bit miserable, since they were both allergic to cat dander. now that Sister and Moshe have died, and Mica has moved on to a new home, our house is pet free and pet dander free (well, mostly), but also a bit empty feeling.

Maybe someday we will bring a hypoallergenic animal into our lives. But for now....we will be pet-less.

You can find all my photos of our pets here:

And this is a nice one of Moshe and Sister together:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A wonderful trip to Portugal

At the beginning of November, my wife and I traveled to Portugal for a week. I gave a two day training in Lisbon sponsored by my friends at Dutec; we also spent a weekend in Porto, which is 2.5 hours north of Lisbon, and the home of port wine.

We had a really wonderful time. Carlos and Joao of Dutec were fantastic hosts, very generous with their time, taking us out to dinner each night, taking care of all the details of our stay, putting us up in a very nice hotel, the Villa Rica. One evening, we went to a restaurant with fado singers - that was a great experience!

And in Porto, Manuel of University of Porto put aside his many responsibilities to show us around this beautiful, very old city (continually inhabitated by humans since 1300 BC!). We even got to meet his wife and daughter (Margerita was one of the highlights of my trip!), as well as that of his developer (and first winner of the OPP Test a Thon), Filipe de Silva. Filipe's 14 month old son, Francisco, was a tremendous amount of fun.

You can see photos from our trip at:

Of course, Veva and I also visited Pasteis de Belem, home of some of the finest pastries I have ever tasted in my life (and blogged on previously, including my poem dedicated to these pastries).

A very fine trip, due primarily to our wonderful hosts. Thanks again, Joao and Carlos!

Two thoughts about the economic meltdown


One thing about the government bailouts make me happy: for years, our so-called leaders have told us that there simply isn't enough money to pay for universal health care, decent education for our children, repairing our infrastructure...and many other services that would help millions of our own citizens.

Well, now we know that is all bullshit. Because when the banks and financial services companies started to fail, suddenly there is more than enough money to shower on these Titans of Capitalism. And the extraordinary numbers thrown around in this bailout make the cost of things like universal health care seem downright reasonable.

So I say: if we are going to put our children and grandchildren deeply into debt, let's do it in a way that benefits them and not just a handful of fat cats on Wall Street.


GM, Ford and Chrysler CEOs come to Washington begging for $25B in bailout funds and they are raked over the coals - justifiably. "Where's the plan? How do we know you won't come back for more?" Now, I have mixed feelings about this bailout; these companies are so badly managed. But their collapse will be catastrophic for our economy. At least, however, there was a reasonably public debate over the use of public funds.

But Congress said go away (and come back later with a plan). Oh, and the Bush Admin expressed opposition to giving the Big Three this money.

Days later, after no public debate, no Congressional hearings....Citigroup is handed another $20B of taxpayer dollars. What is their plan, I wonder? How can a company that does nothing but push bytes around in different computers (that's what financial services mostly comes down to, doesn't it?) get a free ride when GM does not?

It's almost as though the Bush Administration is more concerned about making sure rich people stay rich than middle class and poor Americans keep their homes. Huh.

Catching up with old trips

I have uploaded hundreds of photos from trips to Europe and India I have token in the past few years. You can find them all at my flickr site:

I am sorry that I do not have comments about these photos (some don't even have real names). I hope you can simply enjoy the images....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time for another vote!

OK, so Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.


I don't expect that he will be able to reverse the decline of the American Empire, but he sure is a sight for sore eyes and ears and brains and conscience. And to think that Americans could see their way to electing a non-white old male to be their President. I am more hopeful than I have been in a long, long time.

Anyway, that election is done with and now I am writing to ask your help for another election: vote for my son, Chris, in a remix competition! Chris sent out this email today, and I pass it on to all of you.

From Chris Silva,

Hello friends, fam and recipients of my spam!

I know many of you may not have heard from me in quite a while since I've been in serious hermit mode and taken a considerable break from the business of visual art and the relentless hustle that is needed to sustain that career. But I'm back and asking for your support in my venture to make music a more solid part of my existence. I have realized that creating music is too important an aspect of who I am and it would be fantastic if it could start bringing in some income at some point too.

So here's where you come in!.

Below is the link to my entry to this Roots "Criminal" remix contest:

So please hook me up with a vote! Just click the link above and press "vote for me" on the page you are redirected to. Then, if I make it to the top 25 then I can actually compete in a real remix competition.

The determination of winners for this first round is really lame (didn't realize this until after the fact)…basically a self-promo battle for votes. I guess the judges didn't want to have to listen to 310 remixes to determine what was actually good. But I worked hard on my track and feel its good enough to be in the top 25, so I'm giving it a shot.

The top 25 finalists will advance to Round 2. For Round 2, The Roots will make another track from Rising Down available to be remixed by the 25 finalists, and thankfully there be 3 judges making the final decision.

Oh, and "L.C. Rivers"...that's me. Lavish Catastrophe Rivers is an anagram of Christopher Tavares Silva and is what I'm using as my music production identity.

Much love to all!


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Play games to become a better developer

I recently posted two entries on my ToadWorld blog that I thought you might like to see:

Play games to become a better developer!

Software development is one heck of a serious job. It turns out, however, that there are several games you can play to improve the quality of code you write. This is the second of two blog entries that introduce you to two of my favorite brain development and training games: Set and Mastermind. Play either (preferably both) of these games, and you will write better software. [ Note that I do not include Solitaire in this list. Playing this game will definitely not help you become a better developer, but it will pass the time. ]
I even encourage you to play these games on company time, with management approval. It will be a good investment by your employer. Sound crazy? I have been told by a number of my students that their manager did, in fact, agree to do this, and everyone is happy with the results.....

For the full explanations:

Part 1. The Game of Set
Part 2. The Game of Mastermind