Christmas Cookies 2012

Christmas Cookies Ready for Parties

Christmas Cookies Ready for Parties

Baking Christmas cookies was an entertainment highlight of the Christmas season when I was growing up. Once I had children of my own, I made a point of taking the tradition over and making it part of our own family tradition. When the children were smaller, we made cookies together. I keep a binder of recipes that I mark up with notes about results, difficulty, preparation time, ideas for next time and so on. This binder is pretty thick and it has more than twenty years of notes in it.

In recent years, I had done most of the preparation myself. The children tended to be busy with other activities during the Christmas season. We also are fortunate to have a nice community of family friends and have developed a pattern of packaging up our cookies and taking them to holiday parties that we are invited to.

This year our daughter Erika came home for Christmas and decided to take over the Christmas cookie preparation. She is a good cook and did an excellent job. The plate shown above includes:

  1. Austrian Raspberry Shortbread from Smitten Kitchen.
  2. Chocolate Crinkles from Betty Crocker
  3. Cherry Gems from Blue Ribbon Cookies by Maria Polushkin Robbins (Editor)
  4. Sugar Cookies by Lag Liv.
Cookies Go Well with a Christmas Martini

Cookies Go Well with a Christmas Martini

As for the Sugar Cookies, Erika comments that it is slightly easier to cut the cookies if you chill them first. That is, Erika rolls out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. She then puts the dough (still between the sheets of wax paper) into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. After removing the dough from the freezer, she peels back the top sheet of wax paper and cuts them with a cookie cutter.

By the way, these cookies all go very nicely with a Christmas Martini.

Asatte Press Second Annual Christmas Party

Dave and Tomoko at Olive and June

Dave and Tomoko at Olive and June

On Friday, we celebrated the second annual Asatte Press Christmas party. Once again, attendance was excellent with all two employees participating.
Actually, over the summer we were up to 12 employees. However, 10 of those employees were summer interns and have since returned to their studies or moved on to other activities.

At any rate, we started the evening with the remaining two employees at Olive and June in Austin. Olive and June is the newest restaurant from Parkside chef Shawn Cirkiel. It is an Italian restaurant, housed in beautiful, multistory, modern house with decks on multiple levels. Since we were there for happy hour (4:30PM to 6:30PM) we headed for the second level. It had been sprinkling on and off all afternoon, so we went inside and sat at the bar.

Campari Soda, Paula's Artichoke

Campari Soda, Paula’s Artichoke

After examining the specialty cocktail menu, Tomoko ordered a Campari and Soda. I decided to explore a bit and ordered one of their specialty drinks, the “Paula’s Artichoke” which consisted of local Waterloo Gin and several other interesting ingredients. Both of these are shown at the right. Very nice, a bit bitter. I followed mine with a classic, dirty Martini, Bombay Sapphire gin. The Martini was also very good. Most importantly, the Martini came with two very-high quality queen olives. I am an olive guy and always get severely disappointed when a drinking establishment attempts to save money by serving inferior quality olives with its Martinis.

Seafood Fritto Misto

Seafood Fritto Misto

While at Olive and June, we sampled several of their excellent appetizers. The “Seafood Fritto Misto” is show at the left. This was a spin on the classic calamari. In addition to the usual squid, it had shrimp, baby octopi and other fish. It was light and crisp, very nice. Next we tried “Crudo Salmon” which was a small series of delicate Salmon belly with dabs of cauliflower purée. Finally, we tried the Spicy Chickpeas which were very nice and provided a little fiber. Fiber is very important when you are drinking. It soaks up the excess fat and alcohol in your system.

We were also lucky to encounter Chris, my favorite bartender at the Westin Austin at the Domain  – another favorite place. If was Chris’s night off and we had a very lively conversation about the Austin bar/restaurant scene, careers in the hospitality industry and assorted other topics.

Party Continues at Ichiban

Party Continues at Ichiban

From there, we moved to our “二次会” (“Nijikai” = 2nd Party of the Evening) at Ichiban on Burnet Road. We have been eating at Ichiban for around twenty years. This low-key, comfortable restaurant serves sushi and a mixture of Japanese and Korean traditional dishes.

Recently Ichiban has moved up on our favorites list a bit because our son Tye is a waiter there, working several nights a week to pay for his college and automotive costs.

Sole, Sea Bass, and Red Snapper

Sole, Sea Bass, and Red Snapper

Since we knew that we would be taking pictures, we asked them to bring out something they were proud of and this plate certainly fit the bill. This plate had three white roses sculpted from sashimi. Each rose was a different fish, from left to right: Flounder, Sea Bass, and Snapper. The roses were plated in small pools of spicy Korean chili sauce. There was also a generous portion of wasabi and of course soy sauce on the table. This plate was Asian fusion at its finest. The sashimi was really quite nice with just the Korean chili sauce or with the traditional Japanese wasabi and soy sauce combination. Dipping a piece of the fish first in the Korean chili sauce and then in the wasabi/soy combination was really nice, a very nice littler choir of different flavors.

Specialty Rolls

Specialty Rolls

Next came a large plate with two specialty rolls.

  1. White Blanco – This roll consisted of white tuna drizzled with honey-wasabi and garlic.
  2. Spicy Susan – Spicy tuna with slices of mango drizzled with spicy mayo, panko flakes, honey-wasabi and tobiko (Flying Fish Roe).

These rolls were really good, but the portion was gigantic. We ended up sharing some of them with the serving staff.

Tye Holding the Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake)

Tye Holding the Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake)

The capstone of the evening was the Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake). You can see Tye holding the Haemul Pajeon in the photo at the left. This is a rich pancake made with green onions, assorted seafood, eggs and both wheat and rice flour. It comes with a spicy dipping sauce and it is a classic Korean comfort food. Again, the portion was very generous and we ended up some of this home for further nibbling during the evening.

Hillside Farmacy, ACL, Trace

HillsideFarmacy, Bangers and Eggs

HillsideFarmacy, Bangers and Eggs

On Friday, we had an afternoon meeting at the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas to talk about ideas for an upcoming event. It was a really pleasant and productive discussion. We came out of the meeting to a very nice Austin early Friday afternoon. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Hillside Farmacy, an interesting and unique restaurant built in an actual old pharmacy in East Austin.  The building has tons of charm including vintage wood shelves and a pleasant sidewalk patio, a perfect place to sit on a Friday afternoon, have a few glasses of wine, eat some really great food, and watch the world go by.

The bangers and eggs plate shown above was really nice. I spent quite a bit of time in London in 1984 and 1985 and my memory of “bangers” was that of rather greasy, oily sausages. These were not oily at all, but rather crisp and flavorful. They were accompanied by two poached eggs and a sort of tomato-onion garnish. Wonderful!

Hillside Farmacy, Salumi Plate

Hillside Farmacy, Salumi Plate

The “Salumi Plate” consisted of European sausages and meats. Accompanying the meat was stone-ground mustard and a nice jam as well as a generous portion of baguette slices.

I had a few glasses of a nice Agentine Malbec wine. Tomoko had a glass of Pinot Grigio. We lingered over the wine and food for a good ninety minutes. A pickup truck ran out of gas directly in front of us. Even after the owner poured a gallon of gas into it, it would not start. I got up and helped him push it into a slightly better position. It still did not start. I sat down and drank and ate some more, occasionally discussing theories about what the problem might be with the pickup truck owner. Eventually, he summoned a friend with a newer pickup truck and a rope. A very relaxing end to the afternoon.

From Hillside Farmacy, we continued to the Town Lake YMCA. I jogged a loop around the lake. Tomoko sat in their recently remodeled lobby and read a book.

Austin City Limits, 93.3 KGSR Anniversary Party

Austin City Limits, 93.3 KGSR Anniversary Party

After cleaning up, we drove downtown to the new Austin City Limits facility in the W Hotel. We had won free tickets to the 93.3 KGSR Anniversary Party. This was our first chance to get a look at this new venue. The venue and the party were very well setup. There were guests of all ages. There was plenty of seating as well a large area in front of the stage for people to stand. It looked to me like the crowd was just about evenly split between those who preferred to stand and those who preferred to sit. Even while sitting, we had a great view of the bands. We listened to the performances of Delta Rae and Milo Greene, both great bands!

Overall, it was a fun party/concert. The one deficiency was the drinks. The venue is designed to have multiple bars on every level in order to serve a lot of guests efficiently. The efficiency aspect worked well, unfortunately what they were able to serve was very limited, not very good quality and quite expensive. That is, I don’t expect a music club to compete with a craft cocktail bar. However, other Austin music clubs like Antone’s and the Continental Club can put together a pretty serviceable Martini or Mojito at a reasonable price. The ACL bars had bottles of liquor, but they did not have the ingredients and/or skills to make something like a Marinti or Mojito. About all they seemed to be able to serve was liquor+something-squirted-from-a-hose. And those were pretty expensive.

Dirty Martini and Bluegrass, Trace at the W Hotel

Dirty Martini and Bluegrass, Trace at the W Hotel

Luckily, just downstairs from ACL is Trace, the excellent bar of the W Hotel. I asked for a dirty Martini. It was perfect. Just the right balance of gin, vermouth and olive brine garnished with two very nice olives. Tomoko had a drink called the Bluegrass consisting of Dripping Springs Vodka, blueberry, mint, and lime. While sipping the drinks, we also had one of their sublime desserts. It was a high-end take on a Whoopie Pie with pumpkin mousse and bourbon ice cream. Very nice!

We Shipped Our First Gift-Wrapped Orders!

Asatte Press First Gift-Wrapped Orders

Asatte Press First Gift-Wrapped Orders

One of the features of our store is a gift wrapping option. We set this option up several weeks ago in preparation for the Christmas season and Tomoko did some research into gift wrapping papers.

I definitely defer things like gift wrapping to Tomoko. Japanese are exquisitely skilled at wrapping things – my presents usually end up looking like they were wrapped by a drunken orangutan.

We also have the option of shipping a personal message on a card. Again, transcribing the message to the card falls to Tomoko. With her years of experience in Japanese brush calligraphy, her handwriting looks much better than mine. Which is to say, mine is non-existent. When I was in fourth grade, my teacher Mrs. Allenius (who had started teaching at the end of the last ice age) looked at me one day and announced: “David Hetherington, I hereby excuse you from writing in cursive for the rest of your life. You can print. Period.” And I did.  Starting that very instant. Interestingly enough no other teacher ever complained or even commented about the switch.

Asatte Press Vice President of Product Fullfillment Wrapping Presents

Asatte Press Vice President of Product Fulfillment Wrapping Presents

Tomoko did experiment with wrapping these presents in the Japanese fashion. This interesting approach involves setting the rectangular object at a 30 degree angle to the rectangular sheet of paper and repeatedly flipping the object over while carefully making triangular folds in the paper to end up with a rectangular object with angular wrapping seams. Properly executed, this sort of wrapping looks really neat. However, the Japanese wrapping approach requires crisp, thin paper. The foil paper she had chosen did not work well with the Japanese technique, so Tomoko reverted to the Western gift-wrapping approach.

Asatte Press 2012 Thanksgiving Party

Asatte Press 2012 Thanksgiving Party

Asatte Press 2012 Thanksgiving Party

The 2012 Asatte Press Thanksgiving party was a great success with the entire management team attending along with special guest Tye Hetherington, the model for our book Systematic Martini Lifestyle.

The venue was Brick House Tavern on Research Blvd in Austin. This is one of my favorite nearby restaurants. I frequently stop by on a Saturday, eat lunch and catch up on my technical reading.

Our server Janelle made the event extra special, putting a lot of energy and enthusiasm into hosting us. In fact, although I was filling the beer glass in this picture at the beginning of the party, she stopped by frequently during the rest of the party to refill our glasses from the beer bong.  As a certified middle-aged guy, I definitely like that kind of friendly service.

Calamari

Calamari

We timed the party to start at the kickoff of the football game between the University of Texas and Texas Christian University. Our first appetizer – Calamari – arrived just as TCU was kicking off to UT.

By the time UT had received the ball, been stopped and was ready to start their first offensive play, the Calamari was pretty much gone. I was busy scooping up the salty fried hot peppers that were left over. Both Tye and I had gone running before the party and we were hungry.

Greek Meatballs

Greek Meatballs

We ordered several more appetizers including the Greek Meatballs shown to the left. I really like these. For a restaurant of this caliber, these are a rather ambitious appetizer. These are quite tasty. Each one is on a tiny crostini with a pickle wedge and a little bit of tatziki in between. They are a little bit mechanically challenging to eat. You either have to have a very large mouth and consume them all in one gulp, or you have to be very deft at somehow biting them into two pieces.

Thai Chicken Salad

Thai Chicken Salad

After finishing several plates of this sort of appetizer, we moved into the healthier section of the menu and ordered the Thai chicken salad which the restaurant kindly split into three portions for us.

I seriously doubt that anyone from Thailand would recognize this dish. However, it is pretty good with a slightly sweet sauce and a lot of very fibrous cabbage. All of that fiber is very important on an occasion like this as it gets into the digestive tract and soaks up all the fat, salt and alcohol from the other dishes that you consume. The effect is much like Kitty Litter or some of the specialized bioremediation products they use to clean up oil spills.

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

By the end of the first half, UT was down 14 to 3 and we were feeling our energy levels dropping a bit. Fortunately, the restaurant was good enough to provide the Apple Crisp at the left. This energy-packed survival food gave us that extra burst of energy we needed to crawl to the car and drive home.

Once we got home, we all collapsed into deep comas and did not awake until the following morning.

A very successful party indeed!

 

Visit to the former ROLM Site

Fresh out of college in 1981, I was able to land a job with a terrific company by the name of “ROLM”  which was an acronym for the last names of its four founders. After a difficult job search, I stumbled into the job by dumb luck when a friend turned down a job offer and referred a recruiter to me.

That having been said, it was a wonderful job. ROLM was one of the early developers of digital telephone systems for business use and it was somewhat of the Google of its day. Sales were exploding. The campus was gorgeous with running streams between the buildings. As I arrived in the summer of 1981, they had just started making people wear discreet white name tags because they had discovered that nearby small companies were bringing interviewees to the (excellent and highly subsidized) ROLM cafeteria and pitching their proximity to ROLM’s campus as a job benefit.

The Former ROLM Campus

The Former ROLM Campus

That was a long time ago. Earlier this week I visited the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley 2012 (We consider Asatte Press to be a Cloud Skills Delivery company, books being merely one media for skills delivery) at the Santa Clara convention center. Since that convention center is only a few blocks from the former ROLM campus, I stopped by one afternoon to take a look. The picture at the left is what the main campus looks like today.

What felt like luxurious and state-of-the-art buildings at the time  were looking frumpy and outdated a year or so ago when someone decided to bulldoze them. The ROLM buildings were single-story with trellised walkways and  lots of lush vegetation between them. The current fashion runs more to five-story glass and steel  things with minimal plant life around them.  I had understood that Yahoo was going to build a new campus here, but there were no signs of any such construction activity earlier this week.

The Walkway to Building 9

The Walkway to Building 9

In early 1982, ROLM was growing explosively and snapping up any available real-estate. They built a trellised walkway past the swimming pool and recreation center and attached it to a new building that was dubbed “Building 9” This building housed the “International Telecommunications Division” which I was a part of.

Moving to Building 9 was where the fun really started for me. Managers were rotated and a very experienced manager named Henry Swingler was brought in to run our team. Henry was excellent. He eliminated a few people who were not helping the cause and restaffed with an almost 50/50 mix of young men and young women. He also instituted weekly beer-drinking sessions. The explosive improvement in our productivity was an eye-opening life lesson for me.

Building 9, Former ITD is Still There

Building 9, Former ITD is Still There

As we can see from the photo above, the trellised walkway is still there. The recreation center was bulldozed. Building 9 is still there, but appears to be unused.  Someone has resurfaced the parking lot recently. Actually, it still looks pretty nice from my point of view. However, as I mentioned above, it is quite out of fashion. Current internet companies need buildings with more of a “high tech” look. Perhaps when Asatte Press starts growing and we need to staff a development center in Silicon Valley, we can lease building 9, refurbish it, and bring it back to its former glory.

ITD and Europe, Home of the Ill-Fated IBM 8750

ITD/EMEA Building, Home of the Ill-Fated IBM 8750

By 1985 IBM had bought ROLM and was ramping up a major effort to replace its IBM 1750 and IBM 3750 telephone system products for Europe. A new building was rented. The ground floor was the international division. Upstairs was the new organization that was tasked with building the new IBM 8750 for IBM EMEA. Our little team of 10 software engineers and 4-ish hardware engineers was split in two. Half stayed downstairs (including me) A few people were hired to backfill the ITD team. The other half moved upstairs. A massive recruiting campaign added around 200 newcomers to the nucleus of 5-6 veterans. The money spigots were wide open. The average age was around 25. The team went wild. They radically redesigned the hardware. They developed an automated code translator and translated about 750,000 lines of Data General assembler into about 2 million lines of Motorola 68020 assembler. To this they added another 1-2 million lines of new features. Wild parties were a weekly event. Romances flared. The performance and feature set of the system shown in the overhead foils (PowerPoint was not established yet) was terrific and IBM EMEA had orders for several hundred of them waiting…

There was just one little problem: With that sort of radical change in the code base and function of the product, it proved to be almost impossible to stabilize the software. Around 1988, as I was just starting an assignment to IBM Japan, IBM gave up and sold the whole thing to Siemens.  This episode was the second major life lesson in software development management for me…

As we can see above, the ITD/EMEA building is still there. Someone bolted a sort of atrium lobby thing onto the front to make it look more modern, but otherwise it is basically unchanged. It was a leased building anyway and the fashion had already begun to change by the time it was built in 1985. It fits the current required look a little better than the other original ROLM buildings did.

We Shipped Our First Order!

We Shipped Our First Order

We Shipped Our First Order

Yesterday we received and shipped our first real order for the Asatte Press Store!

The order was for one copy of Systematic Martini Lifestyle.

Needless to say – our first product shipment was a major milestone for us and we did stop by Eddie V’s in the Arboretum to celebrate!

 

By the way, we have put quite a bit of effort into coming up with an ecofriendly packaging concept for our store.

  1. Bubble Mailer – We use a special reusable and biodegradable bubble mailer from EcoEnclose.
  2. Cardboard – We shrink wrap the book to a recyclable corrugated cardboard substrate.
  3. Shrinkwrap – Our shrinkwrap is Biolefin which is a special biodegradable form of Polyolefin produced by National Shrinkwrap.
  4. Shipping Peanuts – for larger shipments, we pack the merchandise with biodegradable shipping peanuts that are made from cornstarch. These are really interesting. They look like normal Styrofoam shipping peanuts, but when you hold them under the running water faucet, they simply dissolve.

On another note, if you haven’t seen our recently completed promotional video for “Systematic Martini Lifestyle” on Youtube, you can see it here:

 

 

2012 IBM Uptown Classic 10K Race

So… some of my loyal blog readers are wondering: “Did Dave run the IBM Uptown Classic 10K 2012 or not?”

I did.   Both Tye and I did in fact. We had curiously mirror image results:

Year Dave Tye
2010 Slowest Ever Fastest Ever
2011 Fastest Ever Slowest Ever
2012 马马虎虎 马马虎虎

Tye quit his occasional smoking and pulled his time back in by about 3 minutes – despite miserable conditions (more on that in a minute).

I knew that I had not been able to run hard enough over the summer to be in shape because I was too busy running the Asatte Press summer internship program. Besides, the conditions were awful (more on that in a minute) so I just jogged the first four miles. By mile four I had reasonably warmed up so I opened up and passed a lot of people in the last two miles. Nevertheless, my overall time was basically mediocre. In my age category I got a polite Thank You for Coming result.

Asatte Press at the Freezing IBM 10K

Asatte Press at the Freezing IBM 10K

The big news this year was that Asatte Press was a sponsor of the race. We had been thinking all summer: Wouldn’t it be cool to go to the IBM 10K? We could show what an IBM Alum could accomplish. We could talk to all of Dave’s old friends. Many would have college age kids that fit our product. Win! Win! Win!

So… we spent a lot of money to become a sponsor. Luke’s Locker was very good to us (IBM’s actual involvement in this race seems to have diminished to almost nothing other than allowing their campus to be used..) Luke’s Locker gave our logo a prominent position in the sponsors page. We ordered a 10’x10′ (3m x 3m) canopy. The canopy was really heavy. Tomoko and I showed up Saturday before the race and wrestled the canopy into position. We thought through our story. We prepared a raffle for our Wine and Cheese: a Love Story poster.

We arrived the next morning at 7AM as required.

We had arctic like conditions. The nominal temperature was 53 degrees F. (11.6 C) but there was a ferocious, icy wind that made the perceived temperature closer to 32 F (0 C). We have run this race almost 10 times and this weather was a complete anomaly. Usually it is a little chilly in the morning, but as the blazing Texas sun comes up, everything warms up and everyone mills around after the race, listening to the band, sampling protein bars, and socializing for several hours.

This year, participants ran screaming from the finish line directly to their cars and drove home. No one stayed and milled around. Not even for a minute. Normally this event would have gone on until noon at least. This year, the race started at 8:00AM and around 9:30AM the band said: Where did everyone go?!, stopped playing, and packed up as fast as they could. We packed up as fast as we could too.

We were home with all of our equipment put away by 11:00AM. We had exactly two entrants to our raffle. We mailed them the posters on Monday.

We may continue running as private citizens, but as a promotional event, this was a hideous waste of money,

 

 

About that Virtual Cloud Mobile Social Media

Swimming in the constant onslaught of breathless patter from the technology pundits, one would easily get the impression that the entire planet is now fully virtualized, in the Cloud, using social media for everything and using mobile apps to run its life. Indeed the only stragglers would seem to be the few holdouts who are not using SIRI to give elegant high-level commands to all that wonderful stuff in the cloud to make their every heart’s desire come true.

Uline Rolodex Card

Uline Rolodex Card

Every now and then, it is refreshing when the window opens and a breath of “reality” blows in. Yes, it can be downright bracing as all the technobabble circles the drain and goes gurgling down into obscurity.

This week I had one of those moments. Uline, the North American hegemon in the packing and shipping materials space, sent me my very own ROLODEX card! That’s right, they didn’t send me an app. They didn’t “like” me on Facebook. They didn’t “Tweet” me. They sent me a nice physical, plastic card – complete with my customer number hand-lettered with a sharpie -ready for me to snap into my “Rolodex” on my desktop! Obviously, there are a lot of people who still have their trusty Rolodex on their desktop. Mobile? Virtual? Cloud Computing? Twitter? Facebook?  Nope! None of the above. When the going gets tough, they reach for their Rolodex.

Nice to have a reality check every now and then 🙂

 

P-Chan 1997-2012, Rest in Peace

P-Chan Circa 2012

P-Chan Circa 2012

In the end, she just walked into the forest and did not come back.

Peaches (aka: “P-Chan”) who was not the least bit adventuresome. She did not wander widely. In fact, her central interest in life was her food bowl. Monday morning, we were up early to take our son Ryan to the airport. As usual, P-chan complained about the distressingly low level of food in her food bowl. I fed her a little. We opened the door and hustled Ryan’s luggage into the car. By this point, P-chan had nibbled a little food and darted between our legs onto the deck. Nothing unusual about that. We closed the door and left for the airport.

The nagging worry did not begin until the evening. When P-Chan did not come back, Tomoko went out and walked around calling her name. When that did not work, I took a powerful flashlight and walked all around the house looking under every overhanging object and into every corner. Perhaps she would be back in the morning.

She did not come back in the morning. We looked again. And again. On Thursday, I put on heavy clothing and rubber boots and walked the full extent of the overgrown greenbelt, checking streams and caves. Nothing.

– – –

P-chan with Erika, Jan 1998

P-chan with Erika, Jan 1998

P-Chan was a Christmas gift for our kids in 1997. I was not enthusiastic. I knew that a pet would bring with it extra cleaning chores. I drew up a detailed contract that outlined each child’s responsibilities for cleaning up after and caring for our new pet. All the kids enthusiastically signed the contract. What a waste of paper…

We then went to the SPCA and were introduced to a cat who was about 6 weeks old, already spayed, already trained to eat dried cat food. The selection was immediate.

We named her “Peaches” based on her fur color. However, we are a Japanese-English bilingual household and “Peaches” very quickly morphed into “P-Chan”. As for our new family member? She spent the first several days hiding under the heavy hutch in the dining room. After that, she gradually came out and worked herself into the routine.

To my utter surprise, within a week or so, P-Chan decided that the most desirable sleeping spot in the house was on my left shoulder while I was lying on the couch attempting to read or watch television. She would lie there purring, slobbering, licking my face and digging her claws into my shoulder.

When P-Chan was just a bit over a year old, we had our first big adventure: an assignment in Japan. The logistics of transporting P-Chan to Japan ended up being one of the most complicated aspects of the assignment. You don’t just walk on to an international flight with a cat. We checked the different airlines and found wildly different rules and procedures. One airline would happily check your animal as baggage, as long as you did not require that the animal be alive when delivered at the other end. Finally, we found a combination of airlines that would allow a cat on board as long as the cat was stowed under the seat in an approved cat carrier.

How was cat hygiene going to work?  Most cats can’t simply hold it for the 24 hours or so of door-to-door travel from Austin to Tokyo. I suggested that we might buy disposable diapers and cut a hole in them for P-Chan’s tail. Tomoko and Erika scowled back – Dad was not funny.  (although I have since seen dogs in airports fitted exactly this way)   We really did not have that question resolved when Tomoko came back with the approved cat carrier. P-Chan was much larger than the cat carrier. I suggested slathering her in olive oil to make it easier to slide her in…. More scowls.  Dad was REALLY NOT FUNNY.

P-Chan and Dave, Tokyo 2000

P-Chan and Dave, Tokyo 2000

Eventually, IBM paid  a special service to drive a van from Houston to Austin (175 miles each way) to pick P-Chan up and drive her to Houston. They then held her for two weeks, waiting for a day in which the temperature on the tarmac in New York would be less than 60 degrees F.

Once she arrived in Tokyo, P-Chan walked around the new house complaining loudly for about two days and then settled in to her normal routine.

P-Chan Comfortable on the Record Player - July 2004

P-Chan Comfortable on the Record Player – July 2004

We returned from Tokyo in the summer of 2001, exactly reversing the procedure with the airplanes and vans. P-Chan arrived back in Austin, complained loudly for a day or two and then fell back into her normal routine of placing herself squarely on top of anything that seemed to have our attention, a record player for example.

Newspapers and magazines were a particular favorite. We purchased a special spray bottle for the dining table to shoo her off of it. I used it consistently. Tomoko, of course, used it much less consistency, like…ah..well…almost never. P-Chan loved to help Tomoko read the newspaper.

Dave and P-Chan 2-10-2005

Dave and P-Chan 2-10-2005

Of course, P-Chan was always there when I needed a nap. Very helpful. As soon as I sat down anywhere in the living room, or even in the kitchen for that matter, P-Chan was right there.

Over the years, P-Chan became less sprightly. Instead of flying half-way across the room, she would cautiously work her way up from ottoman to sofa to get to me, but she would always get there.

This point was one of the first warning signs. About a month ago, P-Chan suddenly lost interest in coming to see me. For that matter, she lost interest in just about everything except her food bowl. Tomoko reported P-Chan walking around looking confused and complaining sadly as if she were looking for someone. Clearly something had changed.  P-Chan was fifteen years old, not ancient but certainly a healthy age for a cat. I did some research and identified a pet cremation service in Austin. We knew her days were numbered.

– – –

Clearly, there are a number of possible scenarios.

  1. Predators are a possibility, but an unlikely one. We are on a greenbelt, but we are at the top of a small cliff. P-Chan was normally timid and did not venture much past our driveway. Besides, we would have expected to find evidence of a struggle.
  2. Streets? P-Chan never ventured into the street. We did not find her in the street.
  3. Another House?  Sometimes cats get bored and go find another house to live at. In fact, Tomoko had experienced precisely this sort of feline visitor before we got P-Chan. However, we don’t think this scenario is likely.

We believe that P-Chan knew that it was time and went off to find a quiet place.

The worst part is not getting a chance to say goodby. We are still wandering around the house and bumping into various pieces of cat equipment that we acquired over the years. We are putting them away, one-by-one.

In the mean time, we can only hope that P-Chan died quietly in her sleep and wish that she may rest in peace.