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The Cat-o-larium

(Yes, Ma Self, this ones about you again. You are just such an easy target. ☺ )

This past week I got the chance to kill two birds with one stone and visit the ‘rents in Baltimore while seeing a customer in Philly. (I won’t mention the fact that Ma Self and I were partying it up at Denny’s (yes, you heard me right, Denny’s) until about one in the morning the night I had to drive to Philly but oh well).

When I visit my parents I stay at my moms’ house with her and her two cats – Lucy (Luc-i-fur) and Bob. I am deathly allergic to cats of course – but this doesn’t stop Ma Self from contemplating a third cat at the same time that she is apologizing to me for the fact that “Lucy” seems to prefer to sleep on my bed. “I mean that is where she finds herself the most comfortable”. The cats don’t get along (I use that term lightly) and the third cat is somehow meant to alleviate the situation. At least that is what Ma Self’s kitty psychiatrist tells her.

Both Luc-i-fur and Uncle Bob are pure-breads. (Yeah, I didn’t know they made pure-bread cats either.) She paid the big bucks for them (more then Myles) but I guess if you are going for the hypoallergenic kitty one has to be prepared to spend big. (A hypoallergenic cat is about as real to me as the ‘seamless’ integration between Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr but I digress.) Lucy came first and she was cute as a kitten but in true cat fashion she now refuses to speak to anyone except for Pa Self. With Lucy Ma Self had grandiose plans for a “scratching palm”. This would be a multi-story structure that would be wrapped in brown rope (for the scratching) and topped with some fake palm leaves (for the palm part). Ma Self lost interest in that project shortly thereafter and so in her living room now just stands a “scratching trunk”.

Next came Bob, the bane of Lucy’s existence. Bob demanded more then “just a tree trunk”. Bob longed to be one with the birds and the squirrels. So Ma Self tried to train him to stay in the fenced in backyard, like one would a dog. But seeing that cats can climb trees and generally have little regard for rules, Bob would scurry away and stroll back home around dinnertime after the rest of us spent a frantic afternoon searching for the Gucci of all cats. As a result Ma Self decided she would fence in her deck and create what I now refer to as the “cat-o-larium”.

So here it is, the finished product. Note how um, curious my dad is. He is trying to think of something nice to say I think. Oh and that is Bob in the background. He likes it so I guess it was all worth it. Ma Self did say though that this is seasonal. That when it rains, is windy, snows – basically not 75 degrees and sunny, the whole contraption collapses. Guess its time to go back to the scratching palm.

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“All About Me”

…but really nothing about me. Nope, this one is all about none other then my mother, a.k.a. “Ma Self”. And no, contrary to popular belief, she was not an only child like myself, but rather the youngest child, the baby of the family.  Not really sure which is worse – you will have to ask Mr. Engineer Boyfriend that one 🙂

To kinda sorta set the stage let me just fill you in on a few things about the one and only Ma Self. She is an art teacher by trade and an artist by nature. I don’t mean to stereotype or anything but for me this meant I grew up with an interesting mix of business savvy (Pa Self) and um, a complete and utter lack of respect for “the man” (Ma Self).

Yep, it has been Ma Self who has always encouraged me to give up my day job and become a lifeguard. “You always loved the water!” And Ma Self who gave me a “tie dye” kit for my college graduation.  Ma Self who paid an animal psychic to connect with Bill the dog (who left us in ’02) to try and understand how she could have raised us better – sibling rivalry and all. Yes, and it was Ma Self who named the dog, “Bill”.

It was a shock of course to Ma Self when I graduated college and instead of living off the land somewhere went to work for the biggest of all corporations – IBM. It was a shock to me eight years later when she decided to trade in the pens and pencils and take up Powerpoint. Yes, Powerpoint. And not just any version of Powerpoint – but Powerpoint 2007.  (She is way too advanced for all the other versions, her words, not mine.)

So over the course of 2007 and well into 2008 Ma Self took a one credit hour course in Powerpoint. I of course feel as though I took that same course – if only virtually. Yes, while the final deliverable was just a  single (as in one) presentation she could present to her class named “All About Me”, to my mother, the “Blank Template” one finds when selecting New -> Presentation stood as an empty canvas; one just waiting to be painted with jumping dogs, waving hands and ringing bells.

Yes, by the time it was all said and done Ma Self managed to create a presentation that broke every single rule one could think of in the corporate world. It had animation, it had sound effects, it was choreographed, there were different fonts, different transitions…there was the fact that it was 2.1GB and would crash everyone elses laptop except for my own trusty rusty T60. But the one thing it wasn’t was ugly. Although I can safely say her “movie” (I will refer to it that way now since it was way more a production then a presentation would not have flown at any conference to which I have been a presenter it was certainly a true representation of her – imagined, creative and inspired. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

And so here are just a couple of my personal favorites – some of the smaller ones I could actually take a screen capture of.

(The “I Have Lived in 6 States Slide” is completely animated. With the initial click, a John Deere tractor zooms in from the right to point to Illinois AND makes a honking sound.  Another click and a spinning Alamo lands with a splat in the state of Texas. Click again and a few bowling pins appear in a checkerboard pattern over Ohio. Moments later a crab claws its way onto the screen and so on and so on. This process takes about ten minutes to complete and when it is all said and done the slide alone = 540MB, generally crashing Powerpoint)


(The “My Daughter Angela” slide. This one starts with a drumroll. And some flickering of the background image before a rather unflattering picture of me with a beer and a nasty green background appears on the screen. Oh and did I mention the name “Angela” goes screeching, yes, screeching in from the left and then slides back to the right.)