Cat Scratch Fever

I said I would and I keep my promises. Never underestimate the fury of a cat forced to wear a costume or a frilly hat.

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It was a dark night, the children were out in full force, goblins and ghouls, vampires and that one kid dressed like Justin Bieber who everyone else pretended they didn’t know. Pumpkins sat by doorsteps and skeletons hung in windows, dark alleyways where few dared to tread during normal times suddenly held an enticing mystery for young tricksters eager for a mark. The call of trick or treat was heard at every doorway in the town and the night held a certain macabre joy for those participating in the Halloween festivities. Little did they know what was to come that night.

In one home, a little off the beaten path, a young couple was preparing for the influx of trick or treaters by setting out the candy bowls and making sure their costumes were just the right mix of scary but child friendly. As a young man straightened his vampire teeth and his wife put the finishing touches on her witch’s garb, a small black cat ran across the room to attack a stray candy wrapper just waiting to be pounced upon and swatted about.

“Oh, we forgot to dress up Jasper,” said the woman to her husband.

“He’s a black cat, hun. We’ll just say he’s your familiar.” responded the man.

“That’s just lazy, we have to find something. Maybe we can stick those little devil horns on his head and make him a demon.. no, too scary.. what about that thing, you know, that costume my brother used to dress his dog in? That was cute, or maybe…” she trailed off as she rummaged through a box of old costumes and accessories, throwing the rejects in a pile to the side, as her husband watched with a bemused expression on his face.

The unsuspecting Jasper finished playing with his wrapper and sauntered over to get a drink of water when he was suddenly lifted into the air by two large hands belonging to the young man. The hands tried to pet Jasper reassuringly as the woman approached with a pair of bat wings and harness to attach them. Jasper sensed danger but the man held him tight and he was helpless to stop the terrible humans from attaching the offending wings.

If this had been an isolated incident perhaps nothing untoward would have occurred that night. Unfortunately, in this town, on this night similar incidents were taking place in countless households. The number of offended cats grew and grew, each in their own private hell, until one escaped the clutches of its keepers and jumped through an open window into the night, fluffy pink tutu fluttering about his hindquarters. The one cat gathered his brothers and sisters, aiding their escapes into the dark night. As the community of cats in costume gathered and shared their humiliation, the anger and rage at the humans reached a crescendo and overflowed into a consuming fire of madness that overtook them. The beginning of the end was at hand and the rampage could no longer hope to be stopped.

Human children still scampered from house to house gathering their candy but from the shadows beady eyes gleamed, plotting revenge upon the two-legged creatures in their beloved costumes. The alley tricksters were the first to succumb, the stealthy padded paws and the darkness masking the cats approach until the first strike of claws against trickster flesh. Those in the lighted areas who chanced to hear a cry or a scream, took it in stride as a normal sound of Halloween, the usual hue and cry of those older children who preferred scares over treats.

Soon the alleyways belonged to the be-robed felines, the tricksters fled or become thralls from the power of the cat scratch. For the madness of these cats had awakened a long forgotten power to control their human brethren, taking back their mastery and control of our earthly realm. This power had lain dormant for thousands of years, shadows of itself showing in the advent of crazy cat ladies and the prominence of cute cat videos on the internet.

From every shadow waited a cat in lion costume or red riding hood dress, in pumpkin hat or aviator jacket. A leader emerged, maddest of all in a full body bunny costume, the terrifying anger on her face the only part of her that could be seen. She had been named Polly by her human, which only added insult to injury, and her ferociousness in juxtaposition with her ridiculous costume was a frightening thing to behold. Polly gathered her brethren and human thralls for a simultaneous attack on all the humans in the town. With one fearsome howl a thousand and more cats pounced with undying rage on the still unsuspecting humans.

Across the town, trick or treaters, parents and children, grumpy old codgers and kindly old grandmas, all fell before the might of the rampaging feline frenzy. As one man bent over to pick up a quarter, all he saw was a glimpse of fur and yellow frills out of the corner of his eye before he was overtaken and the scratches on his face and hands brought him to the ground, only to rise again under the power of the cat horde. Another human heard the quiet padding of paws following him down the street but every time he turned around he could see nothing and was driven mad by the sound; he ran from the town and to this day can be found muttering on street corners “they’re in the shadows, can’t you hear them? The pitter patter of padded feet, stalking, preying, they’ll come for us all one day. Just you wait, just you wait…”

By morning the town was silent and empty save for the soft whisper of fur rubbing against street lamps and a quiet hum of purring contentment as the cats were finally freed from their costumed prisons by the human thralls kept behind to feed and care for every whim of the new owners of this once crowded town.

If you ever wander by this way and you come upon a town where the few people seem to have dazed eyes and speak of little but their abiding love for the feline population, make sure not to get a scratch or you may just never leave. And if you’re ever tempted by the thought of dressing up a feline friend in a witch’s hat or hotdog costume because it will look oh so cute!, remember this tale of warning and think again or suffer the consequences.

Happy Halloween!

Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum!

Genius, Inventor, all around awesome person… I know, I’m the best, but I’m actually talking about Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American inventor and father of the electric age.

For those poor people who have never heard of Nikola Tesla, that’s terrible and I feel very sorry for your loss, but luckily I’m here to tell you all about him. Yay! Because Tesla is amazing. His early career was as an electrical engineer in Budapest. During this time he discovered the solution to rotating magnetic fields which led to the principle of the induction motor (these types of motors are commonly used in household fans, refrigerator compressors, etc.). Tesla actually designed and successfully ran such a motor in 1883 but no one in Europe was interested in the radical new invention, so Tesla accepted an offer to work for Thomas Edison in New York.

In New York, Tesla worked at Edison’s lab improving dynamos (electrical generators which produce direct current). Tesla noticed that direct current was inefficient and had the disadvantage of not being able to support long distance transmissions without power stations every two miles. So he developed a system of alternating current (which has the current periodically reverse instead of flowing in only one direction, like direct current) which was much more efficient, minimizing power loss over large distances, with thinner wires and higher voltages. This sparked a rivalry between Tesla and Edison, as the latter fought to protect his investment in the direct current system. Edison infamously attempted to discredit Tesla’s system by using public demonstrations where he had animals electrocuted using alternating current, including one event in 1903 where he electrocuted a circus elephant on Coney Island (Nice guy, that Edison). Forming a partnership with George Westinghouse, entrepreneur and industrialist, helped Tesla emerge victorious with the superior technology, in what is now known as the War of Currents (possibly starting the trend of declaring war on everything from drugs, to poverty, to actual countries… well, probably not, but you never know). Alternating current is the form in which nearly all electric power is delivered to businesses and residences today. Way to go Tesla!

What else has Tesla done, you may ask? Well, Tesla helped to invent radio, radar and x-ray technology, among many other discoveries, great and small, that were instrumental in the technological progress of mankind. His work with radio technology led Tesla to the idea that wireless communication across the globe was possible and, to this end, he began establishing the site of Wardenclyffe in 1901. This site was designed for wireless communication but also to transmit wireless electrical power. The idea was to use a Tesla coil transmitter, an electrical machine designed to harness the electrical charge of the Earth, altering it’s electric potential. By placing another Tesla coil at a different point on the Earth’s surface, electric current would flow between the two points, able to be harnessed. The end goal was to create a World Wireless system, providing global broadcasting, secure telecommunications services, as well as wireless industrial transmission of electrical power. Unfortunately, Wardenclyffe never reached it’s potential as the original funding was exhausted and further backing dried up after a stock drop in 1903 which caused a financial crisis for the rest of the year. In 1905, many of Tesla’s patents expired, ending royalty payments and further reducing funding for Wardenclyffe. Eventually, the site was shut down and the project collapsed. By 1915 the property was foreclosed and by 1917 the Wardenclyffe tower was demolished.

Over the course of his life Nikola Tesla obtained around 300 patents for his inventions and many more of his inventions were never patented at all. Besides his ground breaking work with electricity and motors, there are also inventions such as incandescent lighting, remote controls, a biplane (possibly the earliest known design for a tilt-rotor/tilt-wing aircraft, as well as, the earliest for the use of turbine engines in aircraft), and there are even claims that he created an energy weapon or “death ray” as the press called the invention. This was a man ahead of his time and, while he received some recognition for his work, he died penniless and did not always receive the respect and credit he deserved for his accomplishments.

Fast forward to today. In August of 2012 a fundraising campaign was launched to, as the title says, build a goddamn Tesla Museum. $1.37 million was raised and the Wardenclyffe property was purchased by a not-for-profit group called the Tesla Science Center with a focus on building a science and technology center and museum on the old Wardenclyffe laboratory site. But that was just the beginning. Work is now underway to clean up the site and restore some of the original laboratory buildings where Tesla once worked. Plans for the future museum include three major focuses. The first is the basic museum itself with exhibits and scale models portraying Tesla’s equipment and inventions. The second focus is on an interactive learning center with classrooms, auditoriums and playgrounds directed at getting young people to learn about physics, technology, etc. all while having fun. The third focus is the Innovation Space, honouring Tesla’s inventive spirit. This area aims to help entrepreneurs launch new tech companies by providing work spaces and other aid in starting a company. It is also available for anyone with an idea to build and test prototypes, or maybe just take a class to learn a new skill. And after all that, don’t forget to check out the gift shop!

Nikola Tesla was a great thinker and inventor so it is fitting that his legacy will live on into the future. Wardenclyffe may not have achieved it’s original purpose but it can still be a monument to great invention. If you’re a bit of a geek, like me, and you actually read through all this then maybe you’ll want to check out more about Tesla, Wardenclyffe, and the museum under construction right now. It should be mentioned that fundraising is still ongoing and you can even have your name or a personal message engraved on an actual brick which will be used in the museum construction as a perk for donating. But whether you’re as fascinated by this man or science and technology in general, as I am, or you’re just reading this because you were bored and got intrigued because there was a curse word in the title, here’s hoping that the spirit of inventiveness rubbed off just a little bit. Because the world needs more crazy ideas and people willing to go for broke trying to turn those ideas into reality.

Following up on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

A few months ago, I posted a letter on Facebook regarding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. That letter is up now in the Bat Cave, just in time for a follow up. What did the challenge accomplish, how is that money being used, and how can we use the viral nature this type of challenge for other causes and issues in our world today.

It’s difficult to find an exact number for how much money was raised as there are multiple groups that received donations via the ice bucket challenge. The largest receiver though was probably the ALS Association with $115 million in donations since the inception of the challenge. They have recently announced an initial expenditure of $21.7 million to support six research initiatives. These initiatives will cover a range of ideas from expediting clinical trials, accelerating diagnoses, development of new treatments, analyzing DNA sequences to understand genetic factors involved in ALS, to grants supporting treatment centres who provide care and resources for those with ALS and their families, and much more. For those who want more information, a list of websites will be included at the end of this post.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for what can be accomplished when people band together to support a cause. As mentioned in my previous post on the ALS ice bucket challenge, there is truth to the statement that ALS may not be the disease or charitable cause that needs donations the most, but seeing the incredible success of this venture shows just how well a challenge like this can work. There is no reason we can’t use this as a precedent and bring light to other issues, like say, heart disease which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

The ALS ice bucket challenge raised $100 million in just 30 days. For many of us who donated, this may have been the first time ever donating to charity, not because we don’t care, but because we have limited funds or because you just don’t think about it when daily life is cramming your head full of other things, important or otherwise. Most people don’t think about things like diseases, or natural disasters, or whatever the cause might be, until they are directly affected or it’s pushed in their faces. It’s human nature to focus on the positive and ignore the negative, at least until you can’t anymore. A challenge like this brought focus to a disease in a positive way and people responded to it more strongly than anyone ever imagined possible. Now that the idea is out there and we know what can be accomplished, there are no excuses. Limited funds, so what? If all you can contribute is a dollar, it adds up to a lot when everyone is doing the same. Don’t trust that the charity is using your money properly? Do some research before donating, there are websites that rate major charities based on their financials and other factors. All it takes is a quick Google search and you’re in business. Lets not allow the Ice bucket challenge to be a distant memory of that one time people banded together to make a difference, but have it stand as the beginning of a great age of charitable giving from all people.

For more information on how donations are being used:

http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/ibc-initial-commitment.html

http://www.nygenome.org/

https://www.projectmine.com/

An Open Letter regarding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Originally posted on Facebook August 28, 2014

I’m sure most people at this point have heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge which has gone viral and inspired so many people to dump water over their heads and donate money toward ALS research, among other charities. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a little background.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This degeneration eventually leads to death. As neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. Symptoms include decreased ability to speak and swallow, and complete paralysis can occur in later stages.

As for the actual challenge, there seems to be a bit of contention over who actually started the ball rolling, it actually appears to have been around before the focus on ALS. However in July of 2014 baseball player Pete Frates, who has ALS, began posting about the challenge and became a focus for the challenge and it’s connection to ALS. The rules of the challenge are simple: a person is nominated to complete the challenge, that person may then either donate to an ALS charity, complete the challenge by dumping ice water over their heads, or both. After the challenge is completed, that person will then nominate others, generally three, to do the same. The challenge has grown quickly and attracted many celebrities, politicians, businessmen as well as the general population to complete the challenge and donate.

The challenge has garnered a lot of support, raising $88.5 million between July 29 to August 26, compared to $2.6million raised in the same span in 2013. Along with this great support there have also been a number of detractors, raising various issues to why the ice bucket challenge is a bad idea. I would like to take a moment and respond to some of those issues.

The first issue I have seen is with the waste of water caused by this challenge when so many people in other parts of the world face droughts or just a general lack of clean drinking water. It seems the challenge has so far wasted around 5 million gallons of water, which seems like a lot and gives this argument a bit of credence. At least it does until you dig a bit deeper and look at the amount of water we waste on a regular basis for much sillier reasons. I could start with showers which are often unnecessarily long and waste about 10 gallons of water per minute, but let’s face it, no one is going to stop showering because it’s seen as necessary and it’s still a fairly small amount in comparison. However, there are 10.4million residential pools in the US and the average swimming pool takes between 18,000 – 20,000 gallons of water to fill. So, even ignoring the amount of water used for refilling those pools, the base amount of water used for residential swimming pools is 187.2billion gallons. That’s a lot more than 5 million for something that is generally considered to be a luxury. On top of that, there have been various incidents where cities have drained entire reservoirs of water for questionable reasons. Portland, Oregon, just this April, was preparing to flush 38 million gallons of water from their reservoir because a drunk 19 year old took a piss in the wrong place. Officials clearly state that the urine poses little risk but they are dumping all that water because of the perception that the water might be tainted. Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened either, there was a similar incident in 2011 where 7.5million gallons were drained for the same reasons. So yes, the ice bucket challenge wastes water, but it also raises millions for charity and the amount wasted is minimal compared to what is wasted because we want to be able to swim in the backyard or because pee is icky.

The second issue being raised is that ALS doesn’t need the money as much as other charities, like those for cancer, or heart disease and many others. There is truth to this statement. In 2013 Motor Neuron Disease (including ALS) raised $64million and as many as 30,000 people in the US are currently afflicted (that’s about $2133.33 for each person), compare that to Heart Disease which raised

around $54.1million in 2013 and 596,577 people died from heart disease in the US (about $90.68 per person). That’s a pretty big difference considering heart disease is one of, if not the biggest killer, in the world. So, we’ve established that this is a valid statement and ALS doesn’t need the money as much as some other charities, like those for cardiovascular diseases. The problem is that a lot of people who are using this argument, are also saying this means that the ice bucket challenge is a bad thing. The idea seems to be that the challenge is taking money away from these other charities and funnelling it all toward ALS, like there is a finite amount of charitable donations going around and they are stealing a bigger piece of the pie than they need. This is silly. Yes, people are getting caught up in the idea of the challenge and donating to a cause they might otherwise not have donated to, but that does not mean that other charities are being shortchanged, at least not anymore than they already were. People who would normally donate to causes like cancer or heart disease are not likely to stop just because of a social media challenge. Many people, celebrities and others, have also used this challenge as a way to highlight not just ALS but other causes that are dear to them. The challenge is bringing awareness to the idea of donating to charity not just to one specific cause and that is a great thing.

The third and final reason I have personally heard is that this is just a fad that will pass away like so many others. These people are probably right, but so what? This fad has raised $88.5million for charity and is still growing. The fact that this likely won’t continue forever does not negate the real contributions made toward ALS research and other issues. A fad is just an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, generally short-lived. Most fads serve little purpose and have gained the word a bad reputation but this fad raises awareness and money toward a deadly and incurable disease and charitable donations in general and there’s nothing bad about that.

These are the issues I have personally seen raised regarding the ALS ice bucket challenge. Objections are good because they make you think about an issue from angles you might not have otherwise considered, but I believe that many of those raising these objections are also not looking at the big picture and I hope that this has helped to put this challenge in perspective. If there are other issues that I have not covered, I would be happy to respond to those as well as any disagreement with the above points.

Thanks for reading!