Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Report: Interesting Times, by Terry Pratchett

As usual, when I'm not ready to plunge into new reading but still want something to read, I turn to Pratchett. This is another chapter in the story of Rincewind, the most incompetent and cowardly wizard on the Discworld. When he's set to the distant Counterweight Continent, he stumbles into an ineffectual rebellion, a sinister plot, and the theft of a kingdom by a group of elderly barbarians. As always, his desperate attempts to avoid becoming involved lead directly to his playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of the mysterious Aurient.

Even after repeated readings, I find myself lingering over his phrases, his puns, the spin he puts on words that make you stop and think about what they really mean. Combined that with a comical action plot and themes that include aging, grief, and the true nature of courage, and you have a book that I come back to again and again.

Ulysses Rating: 5 - I'll read this again and again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Schrodinger's Cat

Current Reading: Interesting Times, by Terry Pratchett

Inspirational Quote: "Let me outta here!" -- Schrodinger's Cat

For those of you unfamiliar with the theory, Schrodinger's Cat is the title of an absurd illustration of one of quantum mechanics more bizarre corollaries. Put a cat in a box with a vial of poison that will open if a radio-active atom decays. Choose your atom such that there's a 50% chance it will decay within an hour, then seal the box and wait an hour. During that time, the state of the cat is indeterminate. It can be said to be both alive and dead. The universe doesn't know.

Any prediction of the future here requires you to account for both possibilities.

At the end of the hour though, you may open the box and examine the cat. It is not the cat's state, but our observation of that state which causes probability to become certainty. Only when we look can we predict whether the cat's future contains a shovel or a bowl of kibble.

So let me introduce you to Shrodinger's Cat.

His name is Ash (that's his real name. I usually avoid real names here because I don't think it's fair to expose my family publicly without their consent. Ash, however, seems to have no objection. No matter how many times I explain the concept of the internet, all I get is the standard cat look of contempt mixed with the resignation that comes from realizing that without people there are no scratches behind the ears or bowls of food. I take his silence as consent). A week ago he started moping and acting out of character. I took him to our vet, who determined that something had caused his kidneys to stop working. His urea and creatinine (is that the right term?) were so far above normal they couldn't see it with a telescope. We figured that was it. Finito. Kaput. The fat kitty was meowing, and it was best to spare him (and us) further suffering. Penelope and I went to the vet's with every intention of seeing Ash to his final rest. Then Penelope looked into his face and said, "He's not ready to go yet."

He wasn't. They dosed him with intravenous fluids to the point where he either had to pee or dissolve, and he peed. The numbers came down into the normal range and we brought him home. He's been here for four days now, eating and drinking and moping a bit but still active and aware. I don't know if he's been peeing. Short of following him around, I don't know how I could find out. And even if I did follow him around, how many of us can pee when someone's watching?

Anyway, it's into the vet's again tomorrow for a blood test to see if how well his kidneys are functioning. There are three possible states: they're working well enough, they need medicinal assistance, or they're toast.

The future is indeterminate.

If Erwin Schrodinger were alive today, (and there is no probability of his continued existence: his death was observed, and therefore his current state is determined), I'd book a ticket to Vienna for the express purpose of giving him SUCH A KICK.

Tests show his creatinine is still a little high, but the rest indicates that his kidneys are functioning again. We take him back in a month to see if there's any change.
Nine lives indeed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Penelope's uncle passed away, and was buried on Saturday. She's taking it hard.
Aeneas has been suspended from school for three days for missing classes.
One of my two cats has just undergone acute kidney failure. We're attempting last ditch treatment, but we'll likely be putting him down before the end of the week.

I wish I had something more... interesting to say, but at the moment it's taking all my concentration not to go fetal and stay that way until the meteor arrives.

I hope you've had a better week.