Friday, September 28, 2012

Crap. I won.

So, Trouble vs the Roomba won the contest I didn't hold for which speech I should give at Toastmaster's.  I gave the speech.  I won.  Now I have to go to the next level.  I sincerely hope somebody there is better at speechifying than me, or I'll have to do it AGAIN at the next level.  Crap.

I'm including the modified speech below.[1]  This is pretty much the end product.  I probably won't remember all of it for the contest, and you can't use notes, so who knows what I'll actually say.  But what's written below is what I mean.  There is also an awesome powerpoint presentation that goes with it, but apparently there is no projector for the contest so I can't show it.  Maybe I can insert the pictures here, though.

There has been a lot of news in my life, and I'm bundling it all up here.

I am still staying gluten and lactose free, and I feel pretty good when I don't screw up.  Last week I forgot that beer had gluten in it and didn't remember until I felt sick the next day.  And I had been so good!  Doh.  Anyway, it's all gluten free here in me-land, and really gluten free is not too hard to accomplish these days.  A lot of packaging tells you right on it whether or not it contains gluten so you don't have to guess from the ingredients.  My friend Barbara even pointed me at gluten free donuts so I don't have to feel left out on Donut Day at work.  Although I do have to remember to bring the donut from home.

My dad went into the hospital for brain surgery and was released two days later.  To go home.  Not to rehab.  Home, two days after brain surgery.  Crazy!  They probably would have released him after one day, but the MRI machine was busy.

Unfortunately, a few days after that he started to bleed in his brain, and he got very, very sick.  So he went from walking around the block tumor-free, to attached to many many things in ICU in the course of about a day.  After a week and a half in the hospital, he is finally being released - this time to rehab.  Spending a week sick in bed does terrible things to you.  And he was really, really sick.  I went out and spent about a week there at the hospital with Mom, and my brother also came out for four days.  I strongly hope that Dad is on the road to wellville, as seeing my formerly robust father sick and at the mercy of the hospital is painful.  He was patient for the first few days, but he finally started getting cranky.  Which may have helped, I don't know.  Sometimes anger helps push you, and maybe he needed a push to get through the pain.

My October hike has been whittled down to a long weekend.  I have the opportunity to test out a new backpack frame/cushion, so that will be fun.  Only carrying 2.5 days of food means my pack will be a lot lighter.  I like that.

Beauty got bit by something, possibly a flea, and proceeded to chew the hell out of her tail.  She is wearing a doughnut around her neck to try to keep her from chewing it any more, but she is a very long backed dog so it's not working very well.  I have bandaged it up to keep her from making it worse.  She is depressed by this.

Shamika dyed my hair blue, and then purple.  I liked it both ways.  The purple started out dark and then faded through several lovely shades of lilac and lavender.  It's almost completely faded now.  I don't really have the patience to keep getting it dyed, or to take care of dyed hair the way it needs to be taken care of, so I think the experiment is over.  But it was pretty fun.

The Schnork has been pretty good recently, but it's hard to tell with Schnorks.  She might just be saving it all up for an episode of extreme badness.

[1] I'd like to tell you today the story of what happened when a household cat dueled with a robot.

I am an animal person.  At last count, I had four cats, two dogs, and a horse.  Just in case you were wondering, that is in fact too many animals.  I didn't get them all on purpose, is my only defense.  The events I am relating to you today concern Trouble, an ancient farm cat who was retired to my household after he got too old to live outdoors.  By the time he was admitted to the Forinash Home for Senior Animals, he had had a long and eventful life.  As a kitten he was carried off by a bird of prey and returned home days later with puncture wounds down his ribcage.  We still wonder what he did to the bird.  That incident set the tone for his entire life, a life during which he took no guff.  We lovingly referred to him as "Old Man".  If he had been able to operate a cane, he would have been shaking it at teenagers and yelling at them to get off his lawn.

As you might guess from his name, Trouble was not a particularly nice cat.  He walked around with an Elvis like sneer on his face at all times.  He didn't appreciate us taking care of him.  He didn't like much of anything.  He didn't start many fights, but he would finish them, if you know what I mean.  His approach to human interaction was to stomp up to you and demand to be petted, and then bite you when he was done.  After a few of these interactions, I let him know that he was on his own.  My husband, when he came into Trouble's life, thumped the cat back after Trouble bit him the first time.  I worried that he would actually break Trouble, who by that point was approaching mummification.  But Trouble warmed up to JD, my allergic and asthmatic husband.  He could respect a man who would defend himself with violence.  Violence was a way of life that Trouble had embraced from kittenhood.  I was astonished to see this elderly cat finally like something, finally like SOMEONE, in his life.  And my husband, who was in no way a cat person, fell a little bit in love with this ancient, grumpy, skinny cat.  Trouble really had no idea how to be nice in his affections, as it had never been an issue.  He and my husband worked it out.  And that is how I came to find Trouble plastered to the face of my husband, whose eyes were swelling shut.  I recommended Benadryl but otherwise left them to themselves. 

Trouble became so attached that he literally got sick every time JD left town.  On the vet's orders I started giving him Xanax whenever JD was away, and discovered that getting a mean old cat high was hilarious.  He wobbled around like a drunk, he got the munchies, and he loved EVERYBODY.  All the other animals in the house were terrified.  They were afraid him nuzzling them was just a trick.

Ironically, Trouble was a very handsome cat so people always wanted to pet him.  As you might guess, that never ended well.

In addition to loving animals, I am also a nerd.  I've been working at NASA for coming up on 20 years.  I was a physics major in college.  Before that I went to a science and technology magnet high school.  My father was a physicist, and my grandfather was an inventor.  My nerd roots run deep.  You can imagine, then, how excited I was when domestic robots became commonly available.  I went out and gleefully bought my own Roomba, imagining that I would never vacuum again.  Unfortunately, I didn't save any time housekeeping, because I loved my Roomba so much that I sat and watched it vacuum. 

I didn't give much thought to the animals when I was getting my robot.  They all hated the old vacuum cleaner and stayed away from it.  Had I considered the issue, I probably would have assumed that they would all run away from the Roomba.  However, it didn't quite work out that way.  The dog looked puzzled by the little robot and made sure to stay in another room.  Our shyest cat, Monster, hid under the bed.  The youngster, Andy, tried to get it to chase him.  But the geezer cat Trouble was another story entirely.  Maybe it was because the Roomba was smaller than him and not very loud, but Trouble was not intimidated by the Roomba.

The Roomba, by the way, is not completely helpless against cats.  It has a few skills.  It has a vacuum, for instance, and I'm pretty sure that could thoroughly annoy and/or dehair a cat who let its tail get to close.  It's autonomous, which means that it could theoretically hunt down your cat and bump it repeatedly.  It's got that "brrrrr" vacuumy noises that cats hate.  And it can spin on a dime.  Also, if you purchased a Scooba (outside the scope of this fight, but we did buy one.  Of COURSE we bought one) it is a mopping robot, so it can make a wet spot.  And cats don't like wet spots.

It's not designed to be a fighting machine, of course.  You won't see it on Battle Bots.  But it has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The first time Trouble encountered the Roomba, it was vacuuming the kitchen.  Trouble stalked into the room, glaring.  He sat down in the middle of the room.  He tried to dominate the Roomba.  Everything else in his world gave him right of way, and the robot would be no different.  It started toward him, and he just stared at it.  It wouldn't *dare*.

It dared.

While he stared at it, now in disbelief, it bumped into him.  Trouble whapped the Roomba a good one.  Its collision detection algorithm noted that it had hit an obstacle, so it backed up, turned a little, and tried again.  From Trouble's perspective, the Roomba was challenging him!  When it bumped him again, Trouble snarled and lit into the little red disk.  He attempted to beat the tar out of it in a flurry of speedy claws and gnashing of fang.  (He only had the one left by then.)

The Roomba held its own for a moment, trying to get away, but eventually the beating it was enduring from Trouble convinced it that it had run into too many obstacles.  It made its "Something's wrong, I can't continue" "bee-yoop", and powered itself down.

Trouble returned to his afternoon nap with an air of satisfaction.  We never again turned the poor Roomba loose on the kitchen floor.

And that, my friends, is the tale of how my cat once beat the crap out of a Roomba.


  1. I LOVED this story! I'm dying to meet one-fanged Trouble; he sounds like quite a character!

  2. "Trouble...
    Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble
    Trouble been doggin' my Roomba since the day it was born..."

  3. What a cutie!! Love that boy! I have a fondness for bitchy old boy cats. Really would love to know what happened to that bird...

  4. Unfortunately Trouble has passed on. Or fortunately, depending on if you're the one he was biting.