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In the annals of bad pet ownership I should receive a new award.  I failed my poor kitten Oscar miserably and epically this last week.  All in the name of trying to actually help him.

Let me try to describe Oscar for those of you who don’t actually know him personally.  He is a tiny, bald, penis-like sphynx who has been described as Gollum or plain old rat.  I think he is adorable and love the little guy as much as he drives me bonkers.

Oscar is a very highly-strung, neurotic cat.  He always has been.  I’m not sure what I can attribute his oddities to, but I usually blame myself.  Oscar came home to me when he was 16 weeks old in 2012 and I was in a really bad state.  I ended up going to the hospital for a two week stint after he was with me for about a week so I have some guilt over the fact that perhaps he felt abandoned by me and has never fully trusted me since.  Plus when I was in the hospital he bonded deeply with Mark who then gave Oscar back to me when I was out of the hospital, so he was doubly abandoned.  These things may or may not have contributed to the fact that Oscar is a little bit nuts.

He is a little bit needy.  He is a lot bit vocal about things.  He will definitely let you know when he wants something by either screaming in your face, walking on your head or making a weird throaty noise.  He also likes things on his own terms which means you don’t pet him unless he tells you to pet him and even then he may not have told you to pet him even if he did rudely jump into your lap and shove his face into yours.

Oh and he is gay and loves men, especially men with stubble.

Anyways.  Oscar is neurotic and anxious.  Like me.

When Oscar was a kitten he liked to suck on his tail.  We all thought this was hilarious.  But as Oscar has gotten older he has continued to be obsessed with his tail.  He walks around in circles to try to catch it and then he chews on it.  Non-stop.  He doesn’t really damage the skin, but he does do this behavior compulsively.  It is disturbing to watch and probably disturbing to him to be so preoccupied by it (but then I am just humazing his actions, so who really knows).

We went to the vet and the vet suggested we try some steroid cream in case it is a rash.  It was not a rash.  They told me that if he continued this behavior that we would try prozac and behavioral therapy and if that didn’t work then amputation of the tail was an option.  I really wanted to avoid any of these options, so I decided to do my best to get him through this naturally.

I bought Feliway diffusers which release calming cat hormones and placed them in two rooms.  This did nothing to quell his anxiety and he kept gnawing on the tail.

I got some Bitter Apple stuff to put on his tail that was supposed to taste bad, but that did nothing.

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So I read a few forums and decided to get some Vetwrap 3M tape to wrap his tail to see if that would deter him.  I wrapped his tail up with the cute purple wrap and set him loose.  And for 24 hours it seemed like he was leaving it alone.

Then I took the tape off.

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And it was a horror show.   Oscar had chewed the tip of his tail off.  Plus the tail was purple.  I suspect that I wrapped the bandage too tightly and him chewing on it compressed it even more to the point where it necrotized his tail.

FUCK.  I FUCKED UP.   Yes, I essentially maimed my poor kitten.

We rushed to the vet and I was told that they would have to amputate.  Now the question was how much of his tail did I want to remove.  OMG.  What a question.

I knew from previous experience that my brother and his wife had to have their cat’s tail amputated because he suffered from the same tail chewing obsession.  Their poor guy had to go through two amputations because he didn’t stop the behavior after the first time and that was the last thing I wanted to do to my already overly sensitive, traumatized cat.  So I decided to do the full tail amputation.

Oscar went into the vet the next day for his surgery and I told them to do the full tail.  I got in the car and instantly regretted my decision after running through all the ‘what-ifs’ in my head and called to speak to the surgeon.  The surgeon also did not want to remove his whole tail and told me that he would take “just the tip” and if that doesn’t stop him from his chewing obsession then he will do the full amputation at a later date for no charge.  I broke down and decided that was the best option.

Oscar’s surgery went well.  I was told that tail amputation is very painful.  They ended up taking about 2 1/2 inches off of his tail.  The guy has to wear a cone for the next 3 weeks.  He is on antibiotics and pain medications every 12 hours plus he had 3 days of anti-inflammatories.  His tail is bandaged up and we go in for changings and cleaning of the stitches every few days.  All in this adventure has cost well over $1,600 in vet bills (so far).

The little guy is a trooper and doesn’t seem to know too much is different.  He is being sweet and playful and chasing his sister around a lot.  Oddly, he is being much more loving towards me which is nice considering I feel so horribly guilty about my part in his maiming.

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Going forward I will do whatever it takes to help him not chew his tail if he is still obsessed.  We’ll see how he is doing after we get through this healing process.

With Wind

The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.

Ai Weiwei

We went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at Alcatraz this last week and it was fantastic.  No one who lives in San Francisco ever actually goes to Alcatraz, so it was a great excuse to take Gbemi over for a visit and see the exhibit at the same time.  I had heard from several people that the exhibit was sold out.  Turns out that @Large has done a pretty poor marketing job because very few people realize that they only need to buy a regular Alcatraz tour ticket to see the exhibition.  We booked our tickets online for $40 each for the ferry ride & tour just three days before.  It couldn’t have been easier.

The exhibit goes through April 26, 2015.  You can buy tickets here (http://www.alcatraztickets.com/).  We had a choice of three different times for the day we wanted and ended up with the 9:10am departure.  The boat ride over is only 10 minutes.  We were super fortunate to have amazing weather that day even though we brought jackets.  The entire tour ended up taking us about 2 1/2 hours, but we kind of rushed through the audio tour and went straight for Ai Weiwei.

More Info

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned for work that defies the distinction between art and activism. In this exhibition of new works created specifically for Alcatraz, Ai responds to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition raises questions about freedom of expression and human rights that resonate far beyond this particular place.

Some Pics

with wind

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harmony ultimate home remote

I recently threw in the towel and decided to upgrade my old Harmony 700 remote for the latest and greatest Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home remote.  I had been debating it for a month or so because at $350 it seemed rather pricey.

I was drawn to switching it up for a few reasons.  1) My Harmony 700 had reached the device limit so I was unable to add new components to it 2) I have recently – finally – plugged in my SmartThings and hooked up some lighting and other Z-Wave devices and didn’t like having to control these things separately with my phone.  The new Ultimate Home promised home automation integration along with the regular device stuff so it sounded pretty sweet.

Fast forward and I received an email from Best Buy that they were running a special to do trade-ins of old Harmony remotes for a $100 rebate off the Ultimate Home.  I decided that at the price point of $250 it was still expensive, yet doable.

Set Up

The box came with a charger for the remote that is micro USB powered.  It also has a micro USB powered hub and two IR-blasters.  Plugging all of these things in took only a minute.  I used only one IR-blaster and plugged the charger into my USB hub that sits next to the sofa.

I already had the Harmony 700 set up and an account on My Harmony so transferring to this remote was super easy.  Just downloaded the Mac OSX software and the iPhone app and all my devices and activities automagically synced to this remote.  I was super happy about that because I spent a long time getting things right with the previous remote.

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With the addition of home automation gear I had to add on a few new devices.  I started with the SmartThings hub.  The Harmony recognized the hub and added the sensors that I wanted which were lighting based in the living room and kitchen.  I also added on the Sonos so that I can set up activities to turn off the Sonos if I start watching TV.

I also ended up adding an IFTTT channel although I haven’t really found a recipe that I want to use for that.  Tweeting to turn on my TV just isn’t interesting to me at the present time.

The Good

  • Easy if you have another Harmony remote to import the settings.
  • Hardware setup is super simple.

The Bad

  • Set up is done through the iPhone app.  The app interface is super confusing.
  • The iPhone app tries to sync all the time.  It is annoying.

Design

The Good

  • Compact and cute – I got the white remote.
  • Like the charging station – No more dying batteries.
  • The grip feels nice on the underside.
  • Bright touchscreen.

The Bad

  • The DVR controls which I use the most (play, pause, FF) are all at the top of the remote which makes it super awkward to use.
  • The screen is too sensitive.  Plus with the DVR controls being at the top I always feel like I’m about to trigger something accidently.  Annoying.

Overall

I really like the remote.  I have been having a few problems when certain activities start and certain devices aren’t working properly.  I’ll have to troubleshoot this.  I really don’t like iPhone set up and would prefer to do it with a desktop app like before.  The weird thing is that there is a desktop app, but when you open it you are told to set up the remote with the iPhone/Android app.  Grrr.  I’m very happy that I have the home automation integration in one remote now.

My recommendation would be if you are willing to spend $250-350 and you want the home automation integration then this is a great remote.  If you don’t care about the home automation stuff, then I’d go for a cheaper / older Harmony model.