Happy Birthday to the Two-Faced Kitty

September 30, 2011

By Max

Kittens born with craniofacial duplication — 2 faces — usually don’t live more than a few days, but a Ragdoll in Worcester, Mass., beat the odds and just celebrated his 12th birthday.

These cats have been given the name “Janus cats,” after the Roman god who guards both sides of doorways.

Frank and Louie was born on September 8, 1999, to a breeder. He was a day old and the size of a thumb when the breeder took him to the vet school at Tufts University to have him killed.

Fortunately, a veterinary nurse named Marty offered to adopt the weird kitten. Who could give him a better chance at survival?

Frank and Louie had a feeding tube his first 3 months because such kittens often have cleft palate and trouble eating, or they get food in their lungs and die of pneumonia, so Marty wasn’t taking any chances.

Her devotion paid off, and Frank and Louie made it. The faces share one brain and body, with three eyes between them, but the eye in the middle doesn’t work.

Frank and Louie go out for a stroll (Photo - AP/Steven Senne)

Frank, the face on the right, does the eating because his mouth is attached to the esophagus. Louie moves his mouth during meals, though.

I think Louie’s head seems to go more with the body, but since Frank rules mealtimes, I wonder if they both think of themselves as the “whole” cat and the other face a freeloading littermate?

Marty says Frank and Louie is friendly, affectionate, and likes to cuddle. He even walks on a leash and loves to ride in the car. His lifetime achievement of being the oldest Janus cat to survive will appear in the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Cats Working wishes Frank and Louie at least another 12 happy and healthy years. It’s possible, since he must have 18 lives!

BONUS: Here’s more on other Janus kitties (including Frank and Louie when he was only 6). The others weren’t so lucky.

Solyndra Makes the Stomach Turn

September 26, 2011

By Cole

How does a solar panel company in sunny California manage to go bust, even with a huge infusion of government cash? That’s what a congressional committee wanted to know when they summoned Solyndra’s CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover to ‘splain the company’s recent bankruptcy filing.

The men asked for a postponement to prepare themselves, and it was granted.

And when they finally got to Washington last week, they both took the 5th and didn’t tell anybody a damn thing.

Hey, when you’re between jobs and hoping another company will hire you to run it into a ditch, you don’t spout off on C-SPAN and confirm how dumb you really are. Somebody in HR might be watching.

If Congress wants to know where our $528-535 million (it varies) went, why not check the bank balances of Solyndra’s top dogs? That’s usually where you find a big chunk of it.

They were happy to throw millions at lobbying efforts, so you know they weren’t paying themselves minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the government’s kneejerk reaction was to heap more red tape on other solar companies so it would be harder for them to succeed.

So not only did Solyndra royally screw American taxpayers, they’ve dealt solar technology a setback and played Obama for a fool in making them his green jobs poster child.

Even worse, their failure gave ammunition to right-wing crazies who think sucking fossil fuels out of the earth until it caves like a hollow chocolate Easter bunny, and then burning that “black gold” until there’s not a lungful of clean air left is a brilliant energy strategy.

These are the very same crazies Solyndra spent millions lobbying against.

Apparently, Solyndra was a money-sucking rathole long before it bought duped Obama’s administration. Bush knew it and turned down their first loan request.

It’s probably too much to hope that Solyndra’s management will go to jail, since Congress let Wall St. bankers off the hook after much worse.

But instead of saying, “I respectfully decline to answer any questions,” let’s hope Harrison and Stover end up doomed to repeat a question for the rest of their careers…

“Do you want fries with that?”

A 9/11 What-If

September 20, 2011

By Adele

I waited until eyes were dry and everyone calmed down after the frenzy the media re-whipped up over 9/11 to ask this question. But let me preface by saying the passengers and crew of Flight 93, which went down in Pennsylvania, absolutely did the right thing. They proved how courageous and selfless some Americans can be.

But what if nobody on Flight 93 had realized the plane had been hijacked or was part of some bigger plot?

What if Flight 93 had reached Washington and hit the Capitol, taking out a few dozen senators and congressmen in the biggest mass-assassination in our government’s history?

What if our legislators had tasted mortal vulnerability first-hand, and their own families had been subjected to the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one to senseless violence?

Do you think the halls of Congress today would be filled with the arrogant, greedy, self-serving liars whose behavior is now disgusting the whole world?

Might ramming discriminatory, oppressive, fact-free ideology down everybody’s throat lose its charm if zealots knew they might bite the dust at any moment at the hands of some bigger nut too fed up to let them keep living?

Instead of standing on the Capitol steps smarmily singing “God Bless America,” what if our representatives had been picking through the rubble, searching for colleagues’ body parts?

Since they’ve turned the Capitol into a temple of dishonesty and discord, if they knew how easily it could become their tomb, would they still want to be there? Or would politics start attracting people who feel compelled to serve regardless of personal risk, who would be willing to put the country and its people first and do the right thing, no matter what?

You know, people who think like American soldiers.

Today, would our leaders still be shouting that the U.S. is the greatest civilization in the history of the planet while we steadily lose our grip on education, healthcare, employment, and financial stability? Or would they display some humility?

Instead of trying to buy or impose our myopic beliefs on intractable enemies, would we be concentrating instead on putting our own house in order?

What if Flight 93 had not helped Congress evade the terrorists, but instead reap the inhumanity it had sowed…?


A Kitten’s One-Month Milestone

September 14, 2011

By Max

Today marks one month since I joined Cats Working, and I’ve realized I’m a natural when it comes to this pet gig. It’s like the role I was born to play.

Since I arrived, I’ve been checking out every inch of the house… except the kitchen counter. I’m saving that for my final frontier because it has the most shock value.

The coffee table is a minefield. Karen keeps everything up here but a litterbox.

I’m about 5 months old now, so you probably want to see if I’ve grown. Here I am with my caterpillar, which I use as a body pillow now…

I hope my Cattey never turns into a butterfly.

I also have this new toy that hides goodies I fish out and throw around whenever the spirit moves me.

If there was any more junk in here, it would be a coffee table.

But I’m also into the classics, like this well-licked family heirloon named Sneaky Snake…

I'm tough on rats, but tougher on reptiles.

And I’m told Mouse on a Stick used to be Yul’s favorite when he was a kitten. It’s so old, a safety pin keeps it together.

My mom once told me it’s bad manners to meow with my “mouse” full.

We’ve got so many toys, sometimes I can’t make up my mind WHAT to play with!

Hmmm…. What am I in the mood for? Mouse on a Stick or Cat Dancer?

But don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not all fun and games around here. Every morning, I have “Leash Lessons.” Karen’s teaching me how to behave in public. I humor her because she give me treats. (Unlike Rick Perry, I’m not insulted by nominal bribes.) But when I think I’ve learned enough for the day, I use strong body language to say, “Class dismissed!”

For the life of me, I don’t know why dogs think this is so special.

I’ve also been learning the rules of the house. For example, Cole thinks the top of the blue kitty perch belongs to him…

“How many times do I have to tell you, kid, this perch ain’t big enough for both of us?”

But as soon as he’s not looking, guess who moves in?

Just keeping Cole’s spot warm like a good baby brother. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Adele’s been pretty easy to deal with, as long as I always remember to call her, “Your Royal Highness, Princess Baby Love.” She doesn’t even mind when I gobble my Fancy Feast like a pig, even though she KNOWS I’m doing it so I can steal hers.

Adele hates to eat alone, so she lets me get away with a lot.

When it comes to having issues with “boundaries,” Cole is our king. Sometimes he’ll let me “share a quiet moment” with him on the couch…

We could be bookends, right?

Cole even lets me join him on Karen’s bed, a visitation right Adele and Cole are STILL trying to hammer out after two years…

As long as I stay off Cole's blankie, we're good.

So there I am, keeping my distance, minding my own business, and the next thing I know, Cole goes all Raging Bully on me…

Cole's channeling Boris Karloff, so I pretend to be real scared.

In rural Virginia where I come from, tomcats never walk away from a good fight, so I have to give Cole a little what-for to let him know I’m no pushover…

We’re like that old TV commercial: “I don’t know where he ends and I begin.” (Don't worry. No kitties were hurt during filming.)

And in case Cole didn’t get my message, I go into the living room and whack his precious Kitty Cubes. Lucky for Cole, he wasn’t inside…

Take THAT, you big pink things! Nobody pushes Maxie into the corner!

When I’m a big cat, I figure I’m either going to be a pawn in Cole and Adele’s turf war, or I’ll put my paw down and end it. Only time will tell which it will be.

Here’s my favorite artsy self-portrait…

I’ll get back to you, Meredith, on how to “Look My Youngest” when I’m about 6 lives down, but don’t hold your breath. I’m just getting started!

May Be the Company Bourdain Keeps

September 13, 2011

By Karen

Once again, Anthony Bourdain was nominated for an Emmy, for Outstanding Writing on No Reservations: Haiti, only to lose to some guy named Stanley Nelson who wrote Freedom Riders for PBS.

No Res did take home the statue for best Cinematography (well-deserved and Congratulations!), but lost as Best Nonfiction Series to American Masters on PBS.

Maybe it’s just me, but are you beginning to see a pattern here? Could it be that Tony’s getting no respect because being Travel Channel’s “biggest star” is a dubious achievement? After all, he’s shining among such stellar programming as Truck Stop Missouri, Man v. Food Nation, Mancations, Sand Castles, Ghost Adventures, and Bizarre Foods.

Bourdain has just been named a consulting editor who will acquire 3-5 books a year for for his publisher, HarperCollins, under the Ecco imprint (check out the new logo). Presumably, he’ll also be writing for Season 3 of Treme, and that chef he had working for all his NYC buddies in Season 2 will stop being irrelevant and return to New Orleans.

Bourdain’s career seems to be taking a decidedly literary turn, so he may have to stop treating his writing so dismissively. No longer playing that balls-and-bug-eating Andrew Zimmern’s role model can only be a good thing.

On September 11, Tony did a relaxed, beer-fueled 2 ½-hour podcast with Joe Rogan. Among many things, Tony said he still wants to go to the Congo, but Mozambique is in the cards sooner.

Finally, in the Tony’s Friends Department…

Marge Simpson dreams of being on Top Chef in The Simpsons’ season premier on September 25, and Tom Colicchio makes an appearance. No word on Padma.

And I read this insightful opinion piece at SeaCoastOnline.com about celebrity chefs who pretend to be actors.

Obama Pounces on Cantor

September 11, 2011

By Cole

After making his big jobs speech to Congress, President Obama hot-footed it down to Richmond the next day — the heart of Congressman Eric Cantor’s district.

Cantor had said he agreed with some of Obama’s proposed tax cuts for small businesses (no doubt scheming to make them trickle UP to his beloved big-business fat cats), but Cantor objected to the “all-or-nothing” tone of the speech.

“Is he going to work with us?” Cantor plaintively asked.

Obama probably has no intention of giving Cantor any more photo ops where he gets to flounce out of negotiations mid-session like a peevish brat.

Speaking of photo ops, did you catch Cantor entering the congressional chamber right behind Obama? Cantor was all smiles, glad-handing like he was the one giving the speech. He was probably thinking, “I can Photoshop Obama out of this and pretend it’s me in 2017 at my first State of the Union!”

In Richmond, Obama continued to talk about jobs to a mostly appreciative crowd of about 8,900 at the University of Richmond. He begged the audience to make Congress “do the right thing.”

“I want you to call… email… tweet… fax… visit… Facebook, send a carrier pigeon. I want you to tell your congressperson: The time for gridlock and games is over.”

He said everything but, “Tell Eric Cantor to GROW UP.”

Cantor was also in Richmond that day, to pay a pointless visit to a ready-mix concrete plant (or maybe Cantor was ordering Obama a new pair of shoes for Christmas), a company that has lost nearly half its employees due to the recession. Cantor spoke to 35 of the survivors, and the only substantive thing the local press said he offered was a pledge to fight any proposed regulations to the building materials industry.

Yeah, right. Over the past few weeks, Cantor’s district has gone through a major earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, all of which wrecked homes and businesses. So the LAST thing Virginia needs is anyone insisting on stronger, more durable structures.

That little weasel just doesn’t get it on any level.

We’re so happy Obama got right up in Cantor’s face. Now it’s up to the voters of Virginia to “do the right thing” and give Cantor a new career path — out of politics.

The High Cost of NOT Having Cancer

September 8, 2011

By Karen

I’ve been waiting for the bills (11) to trickle in after my breast cancer brush in June so I could wrap my head around how totally out of control our healthcare system is, and how Obama, in fixating on insurance, completely missed the target.

If you’re just tuning in, as the result of a fishy mammogram, I ended up having a benign lump the size of a pencil eraser removed from my right breast.

I was just able to sum up the whole situation in one sentence, but thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, it actually took a month and 5 visits.

Total cost if I had no health insurance…


(Not including the original routine mammogram, which was $345.)

But I do have insurance. After I paid my $2,250 deductible (+ $284 in monthly premium), Anthem paid exactly $2,945.

I owed an additional $513 because Anthem has me on an 80/20 split.

Here’s the kicker: Anthem “disallowed” $17,921 — 76% — of the $23,629, so the total owed was only $5,708.

But if I were uninsured, I’d be on the hook to pay the whole $23,629.

Question 1: If the medical system can continue to function collecting only 24% of their charges, WHY are they trying to rob the uninsured?

Question 2: Why must insured and uninsured alike undergo and pay for physician CYA, providing THEM defense against a malpractice suit? Did I really NEED 2 additional rounds of mammograms and 2 ultrasounds, not to mention that stereotactic outrage where they drilled in and ripped out a half-ass piece of the lump for “testing?”

As soon as they saw that white spot on my mammogram, they hustled me off to a surgeon while everybody said it was nothing. They knew where this was going — or they SHOULD have, since this is their “profession.” Why not just knock me out, do the fucking lumpectomy, and be done with it? It would have knocked $4,532 in preliminary bullshit off the bill.

Instead of playing cute with insurance companies and whistling when hospitals are trying to stick every patient with the full cost of running the place for every moment the patient is in the building, our brilliant lawmakers should be legislating that everybody involved with healthcare GET REAL about costs and stop the gouging.

In the meantime, we schmucks who need the services will continue getting screwed, if not by the insurance companies, then by the medical providers themselves.

PS: And does Bon Secours really need to send a letter before every invoice, telling patients a bill is coming? Is this not silly and wasteful on every level? To top it off, in addition to collecting only 24% of their original billing, they offered me a 10% discount for paying my portion within 30 days (which, of course, I accepted).

And yet they manage to stay in business.

Could you live on less than 24% of what you earn unless your paycheck was obscenely inflated in the first place?

Catching Up with Bourdain

September 6, 2011

By Karen

No Reservations Season 7 (7 ½?) just wrapped, after a bizarre mid-season do-over of the “big Season 7 premier” to hype the Cuba episode, just as the REAL Season 7 opener Travel Channel tried to sweep under the rug months earlier, Haiti, was earning several Emmy nominations. Way to go, TC!

Bourdain ended up making a few destination tradeoffs, skipping the Congo, Yemen, and Memphis in favor of Chernobyl, Kurdistan, and New Orleans.

No complaints here. Zamir’s always a treat, and I’d rather see Tony get a clean, invisible nuking than chewed up and mauled by bat-sized bugs and crocs on some fetid river through a slimy jungle.

Speaking of New Orleans, I had to leave the room before he popped that pig full of lead. OK, call me a hypocrite because I love pork, but I’ve never eaten it right after looking into its eyes. And why does he always have to rub it in by goofing around with the severed head?

I didn’t see anybody using Pam to cook the fried chicken and other local specialties Bourdain wolfed down. This show airing on the heels of his dust-up with Paula Deen seemed particularly unfortunate.

If somehow you missed it, Tony told TV Guide that Paula Deen is the “most dangerous person to America” for her unhealthy dishes, that her food “sucks,” and several other jugular-aimed zingers.

Paula responded on Fox News that Tony should “get a life,” and Time magazine wrote that she cited “being irritated” as Bourdain’s biggest contribution to America. On the other hand, she did graciously extend him an open invitation to drop by for dinner, and I bet she could cuss him under the table stone-cold sober.

I feel certain Tony didn’t realize he picked at the longstanding chip on the South’s shoulder when he dissed Deen, but he did semi-back down in an interview with NPR’s Leonard Lopate, saying he didn’t mean to sound so personal, crass, and nasty.

Condemning vegans is one thing because Tony walks the walk, but after years of stuffing deep-fried everything, tubular mystery meats, and cream-and-mayo-slathered street junk and haute cuisine alike into his cake-hole, while coasting by on this souped-up junkie/smoker metabolism and a height (6’4”) that could carry another hundred pounds before his neck starts disappearing, criticizing grease-based Southern-style cooking seemed over the top, even for him.

Makes you wonder whom he’ll target next. Alcoholics, perhaps?

The backlash against Bourdain was immediate and, sadly, caused his basic, valid point about obesity to be lost. I read many of the take-downs (including Frank Bruni’s op-ed piece in the New York Times), but I thought the most thoughtful one came from Jessica Levine at AnnArbor.com.

You’ve probably heard that Travel Channel gave Bourdain a second show — 10 hour-long episodes called The Layover. It’s supposed to debut Monday, November 21, at 9 p.m., so mark your calendar. Tony and his crew returned to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Rome, Montreal, and Amsterdam to film it.

Let’s hope TC lets Layover gain some traction before yanking it after a few episodes until everyone forgets about it, then resurrecting the remnants in mid-2012 like they’re something brand-new.

In this new endeavor, TVbythenumbers described Tony as a “contemporary cultural anthropologist,” which makes him sound a lot classier than his usual tag: “former chef and bad boy.”

On other fronts …

Anthony Bourdain will be a guest character on The Simpsons’ next season. Check out his cartoon persona here. For some reason, it’s circa 1995.

Sophia Chang has designed Bourdain destination posters. You can see a few of them here and here.

Tony’s wrote a sweet letter to Josh Homme’s daughter, Camille, after the U.S. Desert NR to explain why he smashed Daddy’s guitar against a tree. You can just imagine what his conversations with Ariane must be like. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

And here’s a picture of Tony with Cole’s celebrity friend, Lupetto Bourdain, that received 6 paws up at Cats Working, even though Lupetto complained the photographer’s angle made him look chunky.

(Photo - Ottavia Bourdain, with permission)

Cole and Max asked me to include this message to Paula Deen and her fans:

“Any man who loves black cats can’t be all bad.”

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