Good Night, Moonshine…

One June 1, 2001, I bought and moved into a condo in Horsham, PA. I was 29 years old and moved out of an apartment that I had shared with an old friend whom I had known since grade school. For the first time in my life, I truly lived alone.

My parents instilled a love of animals in me as I grew up, and, except for when I was in college, there was always some kind of animal in the house to keep us company. When I moved into that condo, I had no pet to take with me. So not only did I live alone, I was also alone from the perspective of not having a pet by my side.

Once I had established myself in that condo, I knew that I would need to adopt a pet to have as a part of my life. On October 9, 2001, I took the day off of work and drove to the Bucks County SPCA to see if maybe I could adopt a stray animal. Living alone and working long hours, I knew that my best bet would be to adopt a cat, rather than a dog.

While I was there, I was introduced to an orange-and-white kitten who was just getting over a bout of ringworm on his tail, named James Henry. I played with him for a little bit and put him back in his cage, unsure if I wanted to adopt him. While I was in the next room, someone came up to me and told me that the kitten I had been playing with, had been wailing for me ever since I had put him back in his cage.

So I returned to him and, well, long story short, I adopted him. I knew that I didn’t want to keep the name James Henry but I hadn’t decided what the right name for him should be.

About a week later, I found the name for this kitten. Thumbing through a compendium of Shakespeare plays, I found that one of the imps in Midsummer Night’s Dream was named Moonshine. I looked at the kitten and asked him if he liked that name. He meowed at me and we agreed that it would be his name.

Attention

As a kitten, he loved pouncing on unprotected feet and enjoyed playing with all manner of cat toys, especially loving the red dot that bounced across the wall. I had a screensaver on my computer called Atlantis that had fish and dolphins swimming across it; he tried on many occasions to catch those water creatures.

Moonshine fish

He was always very polite. If he wanted or needed a scritch behind the ears, he would slowly approach you and pat you on your hand until you gave him what he wanted. He was a very loving cat and occasionally got an expression on his face that betrayed the fact that he worried about the safety of his human. It’s stressful having a human pet.

Moonshine bathroom

When the girl would would become my wife moved in with me, she brought with her three cats of her own: Max, Cassie, and Sabrina. Moonshine was a gracious host in our home. Sabrina, being the youngest of the three, was the most playful, but he also loved wrestling with Max.

Dont go

Wake up

Cassie died in October, 2006. Max in June, 2011, and Sabrina last August. For the first time since he was barely a year old, he was the only cat in the household. That’s when I learned that he was actually a social eater. He would only eat his food when either I or a member of my family was nearby.

Late at night on Sunday, June 22, 2014, Moonshine started making some strange noises. The following day, he was very lethargic and didn’t move around very much, limping when he did move. I thought he had somehow hurt his paw. I vowed to keep a close eye on him and bring him to the vet within the next day or two if necessary.

When it was time to go to bed on Monday, I asked him if he wanted me to bring him upstairs to the bed with me and he squeaked a very faint meow. I carried him up to bed and he snuggled in between me and my wife. Technically it was Tuesday, about 12:30 am.

Three hours later I woke up. I’m not entirely sure what actually woke me up, but out of instinct and habit, I reached forward to scritch him behind the ears.

He didn’t respond to my hand.

While I don’t think I’ll ever know what exactly happened, he was gone. The first pet I could ever truly call my own — and not anyone else’s in my family — was gone. And I will sorely miss him. It’s taken me two weeks just to build up the strength to write this.

The house has been far too quiet these past two weeks.

Earlier today, I adopted a new kitten. He’s a pure black short-haired cat whom we have named Ninja. He seems to get along well with my family and he’s already showing signs of a playfulness not unlike what Moonshine had. Although Ninja can not and will not replace Moonshine, he is a welcome addition to my home which, once again, has someone of the feline persuasion roaming and owning its halls.

Bloggery

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the Divided Under God blog was seeking new writers, so after some thought about it, I decided to apply to them, sharing my old blog entry about John 3:16 to illustrate my overall writing style and opinions.

After a few days, I got a response asking me to join them.

I have since written two articles that have been posted there.

First, after I got the news that “god hates fags” pastor Fred Phelps was dying (but before he died), I quickly dashed off an article saying that here was a man whose import probably will be nowhere near as great as he himself would like. It went up a day before he actually died. Here it is…

The second article I actually wrote first. Surely I can’t be the only person who recognizes the difference, linguistically and practically, between “freedom of religion” and “religious freedom”, and it’s certainly not a coincidence that those who would impose their religious views on others use the latter phrase. Here’s why they’re wrong.

I’ve got one other article in, but the simple truth is, I don’t know when it’ll be published because a certain event that will happen sooner or later, needs to happen first.

Let’s see where this takes me, and let’s enjoy the ride while we’re at it.

Yay me!

I could probably write an entire blog entry about the blogs and podcasts I read and listen to regularly. But I’d like to talk about one in specific.

I have been listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe for about two years now. It’s a weekly conversational style between five well-known people in the science/skepticism community. (Steven Novella, Jay Novella, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein, and Rebecca Watson)

One of the regular features of this show, is a listener-response segment called “Who’s That Noisy”. It used to be that they’d play a sound clip of something and challenge their listeners to guess what it is. Late last year, they switched the format from universally sound clips, to also putting math and logic puzzles into the mix as well.

I have never been able to figure out what the sound clips are, so I appreciated the expansion into logic puzzles.

This year, they added a new bit to this segment: if you’re among the correct guesses to the puzzle/sound, they will put your name into a drawing and pick one of those correct guesses at random. At the end of the year, all of the randomly chosen names will be thrown into one final drawing, the winner of whom will get to have a spot on the show itself.

And I got last week’s puzzle correct, so my name was in the drawing. And my name was chosen from among the correct guesses! More news on this to come.

What was the puzzle, you might ask? It’s pretty straightforward:

If I have two children, one of whom is a boy born on a Tuesday, what are the odds that I have two boys?

Scroll down for the answer…

13/27. We’ve got the following permutations for two children:
The first child is the boy born on a Tuesday and the second child is a boy born on any day of the week. (7 possibilities)
The first child is the boy born on a Tuesday and the second child is a girl born on any day of the week. (7 more possibilities)
The first child is a girl born on any day of the week and the second child is the boy born on a Tuesday. (7 more possibilities)
The first child is a boy born on any day of the week other than Tuesday (The Tuesday would have been captured in the first grouping) and the second child is the boy born on a Tuesday. (6 possibilities).
Going through all of those possibilities, there are 27 possible permutations of children where one was a boy born on a Tuesday, of which 13 have two boys…..

Now we just need to see if I win the drawing at the end of the year. We shall see….

Going back in time…

One of my favorite podcasts, is the Geologic Podcast, a weekly hour-long show hosted by George Hrab, who has assumed a degree of leadership in the skeptical community, primarily due to his relationship with the James Randi Educational Foundation, on top of being a successful musician.

Anyone who has a degree of familiarity with slavic languages, would likely recognize the name Hrab as being Ukrainian. (As are many names that begin either Hr or Hl). In fact, both of his parents were born in Ukraine and emigrated to the United States in the 1940’s. They didn’t know each other in the “old country” but they met here in the US, got married, and raised their children here.

A couple of weeks ago on the podcast, George (or “Geo” as he likes to be called) announced that his parents were going on a trip to Eastern Europe to visit the towns where they were born. These towns, thanks to shifting national borders in the past 60 years or so, are now both located in Poland.

In the most recent episode of the podcast, Geo interviews his mom about the trip. Without going into any details about what was discussed, I found it fascinating, moving, and, well, intensely personal.

My paternal grandparents emigrated to the United States (a generation before Geo’s parents) from a town that was “a day’s horse ride from Kiev” whose name escapes me at the moment. I remember talking to my grandmother about how she carried her infant daughter across a frozen lake to get out of the country.

On my mom’s side, my grandmother was also born in Russia somewhere as well. The story we all heard growing up, was that she was born on the boat on the way over to America, but we have a document dated 1923 in which her parents, her brothers and sisters became naturalized citizens. It listed my grandmother as being 20 years old at the time. Knowing that it takes approximately five years to become a citizen, that means that my grandmother lived at least the first thirteen or fourteen years of her life in Russia.

So, when I was an exchange student in 1993 in Russia, I tried to track down people with whom I might have some kind of relationship.

This is entirely speculation on my part. But there is a very real possibility that, on Monday, November 1, 1993, at approximately noon (Moscow time), I stood alone, in a light snowfall before the grave of a distant relative of mine. Specifically, the grave bore the name Аврам Гольдман (Avram Goldman), who died about three months before my father was born. Under Jewish tradition, newborn children are named for the recently deceased, and this was my father’s Jewish name.

For reference, at that same moment, quite literally half a world away, River Phoenix died.

That was the closest I came to finding anything of my heritage while I was there. And even in not knowing anything with any certainty about what I found, standing before a small grave a few rows away from the grave of Anton Chekhov, I was overcome with emotion then.

I can only imagine the emotions that Geo’s parents went through a couple of weeks ago…..

Flashbacks

So in a little over a month, Apple will be shutting down its MobileMe service, and with it, I’m going to lose their web hosting services. This really isn’t a huge loss for me as my site is basically a cobweb site so I’m officially “exploring my options”.

One thing worth noting, though, is that I actually have two old blogs that will be lost with the shutdown. I’m going to look through my old blog entries and copy some of the more important ones here for edification. I’m not sure which entries are truly worth saving, but it’ll be an interesting exercise.

Watch this space for more.