The little deaf tomcat

Updated 10/22/10: You can see better photos of Felix here.

In the summer of 2006, we visited family in Romania, and we met this wonderful white tomcat at my mother-in-law’s place in Tulcea, Romania. He was still a kitten, a growing boy, scruffy, dirty, and completely adorable. He was also deaf as a post, the poor thing.

Having been born pure white with blue eyes, that doomed him to a life of silence. He couldn’t hear a thing. Thankfully he’d feel the vibration of the ground as you approached him and turned around, but you couldn’t count on that, so you’d often have to touch him to get his attention and watch your step around him. The price for those eyes was heavy, sure, but get a load of those sparkling sapphires!

My wife and I fell in love with him immediately and thought seriously about adopting him, but there was an overseas trip to think about, and a visit to the US Embassy in Bucharest to arrange for his passage. Then he’d have had to live in an apartment, albeit a nice one, but still, he wouldn’t be outside, in nature. And we’d have had to hide him from the building administration, since pets were no longer allowed in our building. After a lot of consideration, we decided to leave him where he was, and hope for the best.

I still regret that decision. The next year, we found out he’d been run over by a car, right outside the yard. He climbed over the fence, and since he was deaf, didn’t hear it, and splat, his light was put out. At least it was quick, but it didn’t have to be that way. He’d still be alive today if we’d adopted him, condo rules and customs rules be damned. He’d be three years old now, a happy, content, white tomcat.

I also regret not taking better photos of him. The ones that I have are of barely adequate quality. The framing isn’t right, the lighting is poor, I’m not showing him from the best angles, etc. At least I have him on video in all his scruffy glory, playing with my camera strap and playing with a puppy whose photo you can see here.

You can watch the video below or on blip.tv and YouTube. You’ll notice the play between him and the pup gets pretty rough at times; don’t blame me for not stopping it. He could have run away, but he stood his ground and drove the puppy away in the end. That’s one brave little tomcat! Gosh, I miss the little white fluffball!

Although he couldn’t hear and respond to a name, I called him Felix, and this year, when we adopted a little black and white tomcat rejected by his mother, I named it Felix as well, to honor his memory.

Meet Buttons, the cutest kitteh ever

The one with the tiny nose

Sorry for the baited title. This post is really about how web users interact with written content on the Internet, and how people in general interact with the news these days. But read on anyway, you might find this useful, and there’s even another cute kitty photo at the end.

I’ve been sitting on the sidelines lately, looking at the way people interact with items on FriendFeed, and I realized it’s all part of how people in general interact with the world these days. In a word, it’s superficial. On the web, there’s barely any interaction with items that have no thumbnails. If there’s no image to be digested quickly with a news item, then it gets buried, fast. That particular news item might be truly meaningful, it could have real value, it could be worth at least a few minutes of someone’s time, but users just don’t take the time to click through and find out what’s going on if there isn’t an image to go along with it. It’s like they’re little kids and they gotta have pictures in their story books. Whatever happened to being adults?

I’m not talking about my own articles, and I’m not talking about FriendFeed per se. I’m talking about the bigger picture. You can see this on TV as well. In the US nowadays, instead of showing the person who is talking, whether that be a news presenter or a person being interviewed, the stations overlay the audio on top of looping footage of the things the person is talking about, or they run the audio on top of marginally related video, ostensibly to keep a spastic audience glued to the set. In Romania, where I’ve been staying these past few months, they divide the TV screen in half. They show the commentator in one half, and they show video footage in the other. Your eyes keep jumping from one spot on the screen to the other, to make sure they catch all the action. And they also scroll text and stock and weather alerts on the bottom of the screen. It’s nuts. You just don’t get the chance to digest what the person is saying, because your attention is continually grabbed and pulled in many different directions.

If you are reading this on FriendFeed or in a RSS reader that shows media content thumbnails, do you know why you clicked on it? Likely because I had a photo of a cute kitten to draw your attention, not because you wanted to do some actual reading. It would have been much better if I showed some woman in a bikini — many more people would be reading this article right now, or at least skimming it, hoping for more photos.

Isn’t it sad though? For a person who likes to write, and wants to communicate through writing, it’s so disappointing to see the audience drifting from adult food to baby bites, to cute or sexy photos with (preferably) one or two sentence captions, instead of real articles. Whatever happened to sitting down and reading something?

Don’t tell me it’s because you’re busy. I don’t buy it. You’re lying to yourself and you’re lying to me. People have always had lots of work to do. Sure, it wasn’t computer work a few decades ago, but it was chores or factory work, and it took just as much time and much more effort. But they knew how to relax. They could sit down with a magazine or newspaper in hand, tune out everything else, and read something they found interesting.

You still have that ability. Stop being immature and clicking on everything, and pick the stuff you want to spend your time on carefully. There’s only so much time in one day, and you can’t keep up with a thousand RSS subscriptions and still do other things. Thin out the stuff you want to see on the web every day. On a larger scale, thin out the stuff you want to do every day, because you can’t do it all. Decide on what’s important to you, and stick with that. Maybe if more people took this advice, the world would be a saner place for those who write on the web, like me. We wouldn’t have to go nuts trying to get the word out about our content, because people would take the time to find interesting stuff and stick with it.

If you’re a FriendFeed user, let me tell you it’s not cool to subscribe to tons of people just so you can watch news items stream by you in real time and feel good about keeping up with everything that’s going on in the world, because that’s not the case. In the end, you’re just as superficial as the guy who looks at a magazine cover and thinks he knows everything inside it. Instead of wasting your time doing that stuff, pick the people you find interesting, weed out the rest, and really sit down to see what they have to say.

Now, just because you read/skimmed this far, here’s another photo of kittens, this time two of them, playing together. See, I’m not such a bad person.

Games kittens play

Leaping Mandarin ducklings

Have you ever seen anything as cute as this? My gosh, Ligia and I were practically giggling with delight…

[via Cute Overload]