Good: family, good food, prezzies, white Christmas.

Bad: high temperatures in Chicago less than half the low temperatures at home. Update: how could I forget my sister playing Christmas music all day long. And, yes, it included this. All of it. I hadn’t heard any of it in forty years, and wish it had stayed that way. Sorry, Nellie.

Also, there’s a perfectly good reason that one of my presents was a 5-pound bag of rice. And it’s completely unrelated to the four cookbooks I got.

Porch Cats: Tortie Reform

(previously, etc)

I’m down to two regulars, Scrawny and Dumas, although Whitefoot did show up for dinner last night for the first time in a week.

Scrawny and Dumas are now almost fully J-tolerant. They rush the front door whenever I open it, to try to enter The Place Food Comes From, and rub against my legs while I’m opening the containers. They accept any amount of petting and skritches, for as long as I’m willing to keep at it.

Dumas, with his bouncy kittenish behaviors, was never as skittish as any of the others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I’m now able to pick him up and cuddle him for about 30 seconds before he wants down.

Scrawny’s the real wonder. Even though she still flinches ever-so-slightly every time my hand comes near her head, yesterday she not only allowed me to lift her up onto her bench cushion, but also accepted 5 minutes of two-handed petting afterwards, including tummy rubs.

Dear lawn maintenance crew,

You are so fired. The four potted bamboo plants on my front porch that were up to a lovely arching 8 feet in height are now horrifically topped like a cheap shrub.

Monster Report

One last group of little monsters just now, and I think I’m done for the night. 126 kids (according to a quick review of my Arlo cameras), so I went through 55-60 pounds of candy. The porch cats were determined to hang around even though they wouldn’t let any of the kids within ten feet of them. During one of the lulls, Scrawny even came into the house and poked around a bit before heading back out, which was a first for her.

Some things never change. About ten years ago, my next-door neighbor’s daughter picked a Halloween costume that showed off a sudden growth spurt highlighting her growing resemblance to her hot mom. New neighbor in the same house, and this is the year their daughter was ready to show off. If dad doesn’t already have a shotgun, he really needs to pick one up soon…

(and, yes, I overbought, but not as badly as last year, so I won’t be feeding the office well into January this time…)

Porch Cats update

(previously, previously, previously, previously)

Scrawny has become sufficiently comfortable that she not only accepts skritches every day, she leans into it. She hasn’t reached the point of initiating contact, but she keeps getting closer to it.

Whitefoot has been joined by another similar-looking cat who’s still not the white-socks-and-soul-patch cat from the original crew. This one actually has some bouncy kittenish behaviors, but is also dumb as a post when it comes to figuring out where the food is. His behavior has earned him the name Dumas.

Whitefoot and Dumas are playing dominance games with the others, although no one has been stupid enough to challenge Scrawny over the cushions. They do try to take her food, though, which has led to some hissing from her and interference from me; there’s a good chance that her increased tolerance for affection is related to this.

Tubbs has been frozen out. The other three basically camp the porch all day, and he’s too skittish to approach when I’m putting out food, so he just sits in the bushes looking hungry. Haven’t seen Caramel for months, and Smoky hasn’t shown up since Dumas joined the crew a few weeks ago. I’m thinking of changing the timing of the automatic feeder to give them a chance to at least get some dry food, but I expect Whitefoot and Dumas to quickly adapt; they seem to always be close enough to hear my front door or car door, so they’ll definitely hear the noise from the feeder.

If I ever get some cover installed over the back porch, I could put a second automatic feeder back there, but I keep putting that project off (17 years and counting…).


Found a dead rat conspicuously placed in the yard near the front door. Big healthy one, too, so the gang is earning their keep.

Also, Dumas turns out to be skritch-tolerant as well.

All three are showing signs of wanting to find out what’s on the other side of the front door…

Pruning the family tree

I’m a bit surprised ancestry.com doesn’t draw this correctly.

It’s a functional pedigree chart, at least. The vertical family-tree view is completely busted, with two copies of Rachel and her parents.

Cousin marriage isn’t particularly rare, so you think they’d at least mark the duplicate family members with a little icon:

Space aliens in the family tree

Ambrose R. French enters the record at age 35 in 1870, working as a plasterer in Auglaize Township, Paulding County, OH. No parents, no siblings, allegedly born in Ohio.

15-year-old Nellie Sarah Snyder appears out of nowhere in 1872 when she weds Ambrose. No parents, no siblings, allegedly born in Ohio.

Their son Harrison Rice, born in 1873, is thoroughly documented: birth, baptism, census, draft card, city directories, Social Security, etc. Daughter Hattie A., on the other hand, exists only as a line on the 1880 census setting her age at 4.

Harry’s wife, Lula Forest Peters, can be traced back to early-1700s New England on both sides, but Harry’s tree ends at Ambrose and Nellie.

Four years before her death in 1924, Nellie’s last appearance in the census lists her father’s birthplace as “unknown” and her mother’s as “no way to find out”.

This is all based on scanned documents; if there’s someone who’s done actual legwork on this family, I haven’t been able to find it online. I’m hoping that filling in siblings and spouses will eventually lead to a DNA match that includes their parents.

Of course, those tests only work on human DNA…


Funny thing about living 20 minutes from the Pacific Ocean: there’s no evidence of an eclipse-in-progress, thanks to the heavy overcast this time of year. I might see some sunshine around 1pm. Maybe.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”