Thursday, February 16, 2017

Diary

William, the cat, is adjusting to our domestic situation very slowly. Unlike most of the cats in my experience, he has strong tendencies to behave like a wild animal. He has tremendous amounts of energy that can only be expended by hunting outdoors for several hours each day. Even with cold weather and a foot of snow on the ground he would rather stalk birds outside than look at them through a window or play with cat toys. When you try to distract him with a toy he immediately notices that it is inanimate and is attached to an animate object – your hand – which becomes the target. In the absence of birds, mice, moles, voles and insects, he tends to stalk human hands and feet, which does not pose a problem for me, since I am always alert, but it does for others. In most respects he is like typical house cats: he thinks I'm his mother, likes to sit on my lap, and purrs and rubs against me. We have tried to get him to eat canned cat food because of the moisture content, but he refuses to eat it and loves dry food. As long as he drinks enough water he should stay healthy. In the warmer months he was eating some of the mice that he caught – I found mouse intestines and a heart in the yard. There is some risk that he could be attacked by a coyote or a bobcat, but he would put up a good fight. When he hears the coyotes howling in the distance he becomes cautious.

Cats were never fully domesticated, so you should expect a certain amount of wildness in them. However, the practice of neutering has caused the current population of domestic cats to reflect a wilder recent ancestry than was the case a few years ago. Before neutering became widespread, an adopted kitten was more likely to have been the descendant of several generations of house cats. Now, because of neutering, domestic cats are more likely to have recent feral ancestors, since a larger percentage of the current reproductive cat population is feral. The feral cats in rural areas like ours closely resemble their distant ancestors with their solitary hunting of wild prey in natural settings. Unlike most domestic cats a few years ago, William may have feral parents or grandparents.

I am still following the American political situation, with Trump's demise now looming sooner than I would have thought two months ago. Until recently there was a sense that we might have a major fascist government in store for us. After all, Hitler was in power 72 years ago and Stalin was in power 64 years ago – we were due for another fascist! However, Trump has already demonstrated that he has neither the ideological resolve nor the political skill to make any lasting impact. If you compare him to the previous American political ideologue, Ronald Reagan, he lacks the experience, the fealty to big business and the charisma to orchestrate anything significant. He can't even manage his own cabinet, and the power brokers in Washington are being forced into the realization that Trump is just a windbag who, with a lucky turn of events, just barely managed to squeeze himself into the White House. If it hasn't already, it will soon be recognized by nearly everyone that Trump does not serve their interests. His presidency will seem like a pilot for a reality TV program that got low ratings and was canceled.

My reading continues to be limited. The Philippe Roger book contains many interesting facts and a good historical perspective, but I'm only reading it in spurts. I decided that it was time to read some Jared Diamond, who seems to be another of the major thinkers of our era. My primary living intellectual hero is still E.O. Wilson, but his ideas seem to be going out of favor and he does not have a comparable successor. For the time being, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond, will have to do.

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