Tag Archive for cat

New Kitten, New Lessons

Meet Tenacious C.

I’d never been a cat person, but if we don’t have a cat around we get a lot of mice from the corn field behind our house. Since then, cats have grown on me.

Even though they tend to be assholes.

Our first two cats, Ninja and Ghost, were pretty cool, but they had that feline aloofness many of you are familiar with. Ninja showed an “I own you” rather than “I need you” attitude. Unfortunately she wasn’t ninja enough to dodge a car in the street. Ghost, meanwhile, fought everything that moved, and he killed a whole lot of birds. He disappeared, and I assume he picked a fight out of his weight class.

Then we adopted an older cat from my in-laws, and she was a crabby old lady. She made a decent lap cat, but she couldn’t be bothered to chase things anymore. We figure she was about 21 when she died in June, so she had a good run.

A local shelter offered free cat adoptions (including neutering) in July, so we got the little guy pictured above. So far, he’s a little different. He loves being around us, being handled, and sleeping on or near us. He played a lot when he came home, but once he got over a cold he’d picked up at the shelter, he turned into a coked-up toddler.

I’m sure I could regale you with standard tales of kitten cuteness, but here’s what’s been different for me with this guy:

  • We’ll hear something scurry behind us, then turn around and there’s nothing there. Then we’ll hear it behind us on the other side. Again, nothing. It’s like living in a horror movie.
  • If something moves, he’ll attack it. If something is stationary, like a chair leg, he’ll attack that, too.
  • Eating is now take a bite, drop the cat on the floor. Take another bite, drop the cat on the floor.
  • Cooking is now stir what’s in the pan, block the cat from jumping on the stove. Stir what’s in the pan again, block the cat from jumping on the stove again.
  • We’re dicks for not sharing whatever’s in the cup we’re drinking from.
  • Nothing tests your power of concentration like a kitten attacking your toes on the third rep of a heavy bench press set.
  • “He won’t be able to climb that.” Yes he will. Except my barbell tree. That’s his Kryptonite.
  • Onions are toys. (I’m waiting to see if this changes after he bites one.)
  • Cats learn from their mistakes after all. After one disastrous leap, he knows to make sure the toilet lid is down before he jumps up on it.

We’re going to try to keep this guy indoors, see if he outlasts his predecessors. Our vet agrees. He says, “Letting a cat outside is like letting a teenager out after midnight: nothing good comes of it.”

Fair enough. Here’s hoping he’ll be teaching me new things about cats for a long time to come.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Nature Lesson

My children received a first-hand view of nature in action today.

I was in the middle of my lifting when my son ran into my office, excited because the cat had caught a bird. I told him to take the body out into the corn field, like we have with the other birds we’ve found on the porch.

“No, he just caught the bird now, and it’s still alive!”

I grabbed the camera and we ran outside. I thought the bird might chase him off and I’d get a few pictures. The cat’s not quite a year old, and he barely touched a mouse we caught in a trap once. I half wondered if the birds we’d been finding actually belonged to some of the other cats who prowl near the house, cats we hear Ghost fighting with from time to time.

Instead, I discovered Ghost had broken the bird’s wing and bit a hole in its back. I moved in to put the bird out of its misery, but it still had some fight left in it and it hopped away. That’s when Ghost pounced one more time and finished it off.

The kids watched as the cat settled in for supper.

Ghost's Kill

The kids' lesson in natural selection.

I thought the kids might be upset, but they handled it well. They asked a few questions, and they kept their distance until the cat wandered off. Then the two boys took the bird’s body out to the field. They didn’t play with it, or kick it around, or chase their sister with it, they just scooped it up with the shovel and disposed of it.

I think I felt bad for the bird more than they did. Nature is rarely gentle, though, and cats get hungry. Cats know their place in the food chain, and so do we. It was a safe way for the kids to observe in person the kinds of things they’ve been watching on nature shows on Netflix. It wasn’t bloodsport, it was just… nature.


Less than a year ago, he looked like this

It amazes me how instinct takes over. Ghost was only five or six weeks old when we adopted him, and he didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors until this Spring. He had no mother cat around to raise him, so I don’t think he was ever taught to hunt. He just does it, and now we know those other birds belonged to him after all. We adopted him with the hope he’d become a mouser, and I guess birds come with the package.

Yet he’s gentle as can be with the kids, and he is very patient with other, smaller children who have visited and put their hands all over him. A friendly family pet one moment, a vicious predator the next. Maybe he just got tired of dry cat food.

Of course, he didn’t eat much of the bird. He ate some of the meat off its back and gave up.

I said “Hey Ghost, you didn’t even finish that bird. Why’d you kill it?”

He looked up at me with a lazy blink as if to say “Because fuck that bird, that’s why.” Then he curled up on the couch for a nap.

Damn. I hope I don’t forget to change his litter.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Ghost Will End You

This week I dragged my feet and defaulted to a simple subject: the cat.

Ghost Will End You

"Get that camera out of my face, or I will end you."

His name’s Ghost, but he also answers to Douchebag.

For those who care about such things: Canon kit lens, SpeedLite flash bounced off the ceiling.

On a separate photography note, I’ve been using my BlackRapid camera strap a lot, and I dig the hell out of it. I’ll let the manufacturer explain the concept:

I wore it all day while walking around Sundance, and my camera was always accessible and never got in my way. I slung the camera low near my hip wore my shirt and jacket over the strap, which made it very comfortable. Most of the time I didn’t even know it was there. With both bumpers to lock the camera in place, I could crouch down to pick things up and the camera wouldn’t fall or dangle in front of me.

So far, the RS-7 is the single best investment I’ve made in my camera kit. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it for what it does.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Black & White

I needed to shoot an author photo for an upcoming magazine appearance, and while I had the camera in hand I shot a few extra pics. I decided to throw three photos at you this week to make up for slacking last week.

First, as I walked out of my office, I spotted the Wife in the bedroom resting her eyes. I was only teasing her with the camera, but I decided I liked this shot and I kept it.


She's smiling because she's picturing where she's going to stick the camera

I had my 50mm prime lens for this one, and I was backed against the wall, so I expected to be too close. Instead, it’s just about right for a tight portrait. She was also in darkness; my external SpeedLite lit the scene nicely.

Then I got to business shooting the author photo. I didn’t like the way the 50mm was working out, mostly because I was too close and I still haven’t picked up a remote. I put the 18-55mm kit lens on and fired away, and decided on this one after some cropping.

Bio Photo

Damn, this means I have to write a bio, too

It’s for a noir magazine, so I didn’t see much point in smiling. I thought about darkening it a little, but they print in black & white and I didn’t want it to reproduce too dark on the page.

Finally, our cat Ghost was stalking my feet, so I dropped the camera down to his level and snapped this off:

Ghost Ambushed


I think the camera decided to focus on his right side rather than his face, so I did some fiddling with the clarity slider in Lightroom. I still used the SpeedLite flash for this, but I used a direct flash; in the other two photos I bounced the flash off the ceiling.

I set out to do black & white for the author photo, but ultimately decided to go black & white for all of them. The colors in our house aren’t bad in daylight, but flash plays funny games with them, so the cat pic went B&W to cover most of that up. The Wife’s pic had a pleasant feel in color, but I also liked the softness of the B&W and decided that was the theme for the week. Maybe I’ll post the color, too, for comparison. If she doesn’t kill me first, that is.

I hope B&W isn’t becoming a crutch for me, but for a lot of the interior shots I’ve been doing it just works. I’m going to need to spend some time the rest of this year getting outside and shooting to get some color into the collection.

Update: Okay, I posted the color version of the Wife’s photo. It’s unedited except for a small blemish correction.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It Never Gets Old

I do this to the cat all the time. Have been doing so for months, maybe over a year now.

And it still amuses me to no end.

Heres a bird for ya, cat!

Here's a bird for ya, cat!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Building a Makiwara

I am officially the worst carpenter on the planet. I’ve done several small projects around the house, but if it involves cutting wood, I’m pretty well screwed. As such, I’m surprised my new makiwara came out as well as it did.

I’ve been thinking about building a makiwara — a board for punching practice — for some time. Most theories say the benefits are either strengthening the knuckles, wrist and arm or improving your punching technique. Proponents of one theory tend to look down on the other, but either way, the old masters used makiwara training quite a bit, and several modern karateka still use them. Why not give it a shot?

I found several plans on the ol’ Internet, and they’re all very close. I went out for a sledgehammer on Father’s Day (to resolve the post problem), got a bug up my butt to finally build the makiwara, and assembled my materials:

Makiwara Materials

  • 1 8′ 4×4 (cut down to 7′ by Home Depot drone)
  • 2 scraps of 2×4
  • Tapered-head screws
  • Sewer line connector
  • Dumbass cat (optional, actually)

Lesson #1 is to bring your plans to Home Depot. I didn’t only because it became an impulse purchase, but I might have gotten things done faster had I showed them what I needed as we debated many options before I settled on the sewer line connector. (One plumbing department employee was a grizzled old dude with a never-healing knuckle and several missing teeth. His never-healing knuckle was due to punching something wrapped in rope, and I suggest other things wrapped in flesh. I should have made him stick around as he obviously knew from punching, but someone else needed his help and dragged him away.)

They assumed I wanted to wrap the sewer line gasket thing around the post, but no, I wanted to cut it and make a flat surface, like so:

Makiwara Pad

It’s a little thinner than I wanted, but it’s easier on the knuckles than wood. I want to build them up, not shred the shit out of them. A simple carpet knife went right through the rubber, and I just tossed the two metal constrictor rings into my miscellaneous junk box.

Next came the lumber cutting. Negotiating the 4×4 through a bandsaw or jigsaw, both of which I believe I have available at work, didn’t sound like a good idea. In fact, had I tried it, I’m certain I would have come home minus a few fingers if not a limb. The Home Depot lumber guy recommended a simple circular saw, which I had already borrowed from my father-in-law to cut up and burn our old porch scrap. See, cutting things to pieces, I can do. Making precise cuts? Not so much.

I laid down a chalk line on opposite sides of the 4×4 and they seemed to match. I made the first cut down the length of the 4×4, flipped it over, and made the second cut. The good news: direction-wise, they matched and I didn’t end up with an X. The bad news: I missed by about a quarter inch on one side because I deviated from the chalk line a bit. I wrestled the two halves apart, broke off and sanded the broken edge, and ended up with posts that are a bit thicker on one half (vertically). I tried to take this pic from a more flattering angle:

Makiwara Board

At least all of my fingers survived.

Notice the pic was taken at night under my garage light. Yes, I insisted on getting it done anyway. I used my father-in-law’s post hole digger to dig a hole just over 2.5 feet deep in the corner of the yard, then attempted to screw the 2x4s to the makiwara post. My cordless drill ran out of juice, so I used a corded electric drill, only to strip the shit out of the screw heads before they could bury themselves completely. I decided it didn’t need to look pretty because they’d be buried anyway, but as it turned out the 2×4 — even as short as I had them — didn’t fit into the post hole. Good thing I tested it after the first 2×4 and didn’t waste my time on the second.

No worries, I thought, I’ll just take the one 2×4 off the post and wedge them both in around the post in the hole. I wondered how I’d get the 2×4 off the makiwara post with the screw heads stripped, and as it turned out I was able to just yank it off. One screw had gone maybe an eighth of an inch into the 4×4 and the other two screws never made it through the 2×4.

Yes, I made pilot holes with a drill. Like I said: I am the world’s worst carpenter.

The 2×4 wedged neatly down into the hole, though I could barely reach it as I laid on the ground and reached into the hole. It held the post nice and still (and level!), however, and even with no room for the second 2×4, the makiwara post was good and stable. I think it helped that I used a post hole digger rather than digging a big hole with a shovel. I filled in the dirt, tamped it all down, and boom, I had my makiwara post.

I wanted to use string to tie down the rubber pad, but the Home Depot guys talked me into screws. The screw went right through the rubber and through the back of the makiwara post. So much for that idea. I turned to black electrical tape as a temporary measure. When it starts to fall off, I’ll go back to string.

Here’s what I ended up with the next morning:

Makiwara Completed

Not too shabby despite being built by the world’s worst carpenter.

Now to screw up my knuckles beating on it. I gave it at total of about 40 good whacks on a side yesterday and have small cuts on each of my middle knuckles.

Masochism: it’s what’s for dinner.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.