On Starships

January 31, 2018

This appeared in The Vorpal Sword, a fanzine a friend from the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) ran. I and another minion, Debbie Kogan, assisted in printing & assembling this mighty tome.

The greatest advantage to helping my friends with this was it gave me a place to publish my not ‘very’ commercial writing. I say “not ‘very'” to mean no one else in the Universe would even consider my stuff worth the ink it took to mimeograph. This ‘zine was published ~1980.

Below is an article I wrote about a unique part of the Science Fiction Fandom relationship with the authors: at a panel discussion I was able to ‘argue’ a point with one of the most august writers in SF – Lester del Rey.

by Ron Stoloff

At the ’67 PhilCon we were graced by the august presence of Lester del Rey who chose to discuss the possibility of probability of starships of the Orphans of the Sky (Robert A Heinlein) and Starship variety: the multi-generational, one way trip. Mr. del Rel believes these ships will be sent out, but I disagreed with him and said so, but as anyone who has ever seen him knows, once he fixes his stare on you, the mind has an unpleasant habit of turning into a useless gel. It is partially to get even and partially to clarify my own thoughts that I write this, with apologies to Lester del Rey.

One of his basic arguments is that the ships will be able to keep in communication with the Earth by laser throughout most of the voyage so the disorganization of the typical starship plot will be impossible, though a four year or so time lapse will make all but simple information transfer impossible. Buy my argument with Mr. del Rey is not over technology, as I have the faith that almost any problem can be overcome if enough time and money is spent on it; my real argument is “Will they try? Will they spend the years and megabucks necessary for the building of what amounts to a hole in the ground that is then filled in?”

For the generation which sends the ship out will be long dead when it arrives and even more so when, and if, the ship is able to send any useful information back. What interest will a government of the future have in more information it, itself, will be unable to gain any propaganda value from? One of the obvious and real reasons our and the Russian governments have space programs in the first place is for this propaganda value. How interested would they be if they didn’t “pay off” for two hundred years? The answer approaches zero.

Even granting they would be willing to make this expenditure, how really valuable would that information actually be? To receive good information you need good men to uncover it in the first place. And here is the real problem. Though it would be very easy to get a crew (Heck, I’d be the first in line and the rest could be recruited from fandom alone) but what of the skilled men of the fields you’ll need when you get to your destination – men who would be long dead when they are finally needed? What geologist worth taking would be willing to give up any chance of holding a rock for the rest of his life when the entire solar system is just waiting for him?

And when the ship reaches its destination, how long will it be until they have something worthwhile to send back, let alone the capability to do so? When the colony is just founded will it be willing to spare the personnel and equipment for what, as far as the survival of the group is concerned, is unproductive work? Add to all this the men who will eventually try to do this work will never have had any actual experience outside the old books and taped lectures brought from Earth. These people are unlikely to have the skills necessary to produce any really definitive information which would be of any interest or use back on Earth.

As to the ship itself, Mr. del Rey had stated it is “on the drawing boards” and the size and complement to have all been computed, but as anyone who regularly reads Mechanix Illustrated knows, just because someone has made the plans for some gigantic project does not necessarily mean it will be built.

So as not to make this a totally downbeat and negative article, I believe there is one possible way a ship will be built. Mr. del Rey thinks it will be to raise the chances of survival of the species, the premise being the more places Man exists the lower the probability that he can be wiped out in one cataclysm, astronomical or otherwise. I find this reasoning somewhat flawed, as Man’s thought patterns have not been too radically changed by the presence of the capability to destroy himself in thermonuclear war, though his continued existence thus far leads to some hope. This aside, I feel that if the ships are sent out at all they will be not to assure the survival of the species but the survival of the political–social system sending them – a system which feels itself in imminent danger of destruction and looks toward the stars as a sanctuary no matter how misguided this effort may be. This will be why they do it. Therefor the starship would be a symbol of fear rather than faith or hope, even though the result will be the same: racial survival, and who would deny Man desperately needs all the chances he can get?


Saga – as a Youth goes from a TRS-80 to an IBM Clone

December 7, 2016

This is the story of a young computer user who bought his first computer in 1980 and his second in 1985. The story had many ups & downs but it never lacked for drama.

by Ron Stoloff

Once upon a time there was, in Philadelphia City, one who sought the true knowledge that was to be found only at the keyboard of a microcomputer. After diligent search, this innocent decided upon the TRS-80. While seeking enlightenment, this waif was not rolling in the shekels and so he sought the lowest price possible and got it – but only by buying the basest of all such machines: with but 16K memory and tape feed. But he feared not, as all told him that it was fairly easy to upgrade it to a mighty Icon of Knowledge and Truth.

Soon he was able to get this growth underway and purchased an additional 32K of memory. As he sought to install this he was filled with much trepidation, for to do this he had to willingly break the HOLY SEAL TO THE VAULT OF KNOWLEDGE. This vault was sealed by just a scrap of paper but on that mere scrap was a curse of formidable portent. It spoke such that to tamper with it was to be doomed never to have the Icon replenished and/or refreshed by its creator if such were a need. But there was no turning back even though the instructions to violate the Icon were for an earlier one replaced by that which he now possessed. Even the instructions held fearsome portents, with statements to be careful not to move lest the gods strike him and the Icon with miniature lightning bolts. But at last he prevailed and looked forward to his next regurgitation from our Great Uncle, which was to come after the Ides of April.

Now he searched the hinterlands for one to aid in the further extension of his Icon, this time with a device such that to control it was to possess near infinite speed to move knowledge into and out of the Icon. This mighty device was called a DISC. He adjudged considerable faith in this, stimulated by its strange spelling of a device created by the Greeks many thousands of years ago.
He was escorted to one who possessed knowledge of such devices by a friend who was to become his mentor. They told him the operation would be brief and would as a result be endowed of not one but two of these miraculous artifices. He put forth his hard saved, meager earnings to a Keeper of the Light known as Caldwell and began a wait that was to extend to a point almost beyond endurance.

Soon the problems began. It was discovered that the High Priests of Percom would not supply just the Board of Control but would require that he pay a weighty tithe for one of their Discus’, thereby greatly raising the cost of the enhancement. Being a True Believer, he gave his affirmation for this with the understanding that the Keeper of the Light could still provide an inexpensive DISC that had been, Lo, resurrected from an Icon that had gone on to its Great Reward.

In a fortnight he was called by the Keeper Caldwell with the news that his artifice had arrived. Yet, when he arrived with his Icon, he was saddened to hear that all was not well – the High Priests of Percom had done it again: to secure the second DISC would require an additional talisman. The Keeper assured him that this was inexpensive and easily acquired.

The wait began.

In the mean time he made do with the single DISC, everyone telling him how much easier all would be when he received the second. They never realized how this cast the Youth into a great and deep depression, much as Moses on the mountaintop – would he, too, die in the wilderness, never to dwell in the land of Milk and Honey???

Finally, the High Priests informed the Keeper that the talisman could only be gotten if another gargantuan tithe were paid. In desperation the Youth decided on deception and sought to lie to the High Priests of Percom. And such a prevarication it was! He told one of its Inquisitors that in the midst of seeking to place the mighty DISC in his Icon, a disaster had occurred and, verily, a transformation device and its associated accoutrements had been horribly consumed by the angry gods. Begging their forbearance, he willingly offered to pay for another of these.

Amazingly, the otherwise wily High Priests were seemingly convinced of his squeaky honesty. He even offered to pay more so the messenger of the gods, a Mercury-like minion known as the United Parcelite, could bring his salvation more rapidly.

Alas, such was not to be.

The Parcelite was not so swift and the cruel vagaries of fate did once again do him in. You see, the transformation device he eventually received was not for the DISC he hoped to possess but for one to reside outside his Icon instead of within.

The Youth contacted the Priests again, informing them of the error, but feeling deep in his heart that this was one more test – a series of tests not much different than those which descended upon Job. But, yet the Priests promised to send, again, the proper talisman. When it arrived he gleefully flew in his chariot to the Keeper’s cave and felt all would be well and he would finally get the second mighty DISC after which he lusted.

Still the gods toyed with him: the fingers of attachment called “screws” (some ill-gotten joke?) would not fit and then the door to the new sepulcher would not open with the shroud emplaced.

Oh, the gnashing of teeth, the renting of cloth, the cries to the gods begging to know why he, of all men of Earth, had been singled out for such punishments!

His friend and mentor quieted his sobs telling him to follow to his abode and he would, by various devices and incantations, make the DISC function.

And LO, he did! Finally, after five months of nearly unbearable frustration his Icon was at the maximum functional level its creators had provided for it so long ago.

The moral of this sad but ultimately happy Saga? Cheap sometimes has an infinitely higher price that mere Shekels.

Time passed and as it did the Youth became quite adept in the use of his Icon. But nothing stays unchanged, not even in the realm of faith and in the fullness of time the Youth became aware of changes in his faith.

We rejoin this Saga as the young man began to doubt his faith and began to cleave to another – nearly breaking his own heart in the transformation.

The Youth was a true believer in the Faith of his Mentors who originally brought him to the true faith in the World of the 8 Bit. That particular denomination was a fine one called Radio Shack, an old one which had spread its teachings via temples all over the land. It was much like the store front churches one finds in poorer neighborhoods. However, Radio Shack had almost all of its temples in shopping centers. At that, many of the temples did not just push the True Faith. They also provided for those who wished to make their own graven images – often in their own image. This at first troubled the Youth, not because he scoffed at what they were doing but because he did not see how HE could build a creed, all by himself.

Like most true believers, the Youth, when challenged by the holder of another sect, most notably, The Fruity Followers, was sorely discomforted as they often referred to HIS faith as “trash” often even giving it a number taken from its nick name. He was also disappointed in some of his fellow believers, as, is often the case of the persecuted, they began to refer to their faith by that scurrilous term – but only in the private company of other believers. The Youth always stood up for his creed no matter who or what the condition as his faith was insulted. It continually baffled him as more and more people joined the main rival faith of the Fruity Ones, even as many followers of that faith pointed out the faults of it. It never ceased to amaze him as this other persuasion quickly surpassed his and the leaders of that faith found their pictures and graven images on the covers of many magazines and in ads but his faith seemed to keep its LIGHT inside a basket.

But even though the Youth was concerned, he kept the faith, suffering the slings and arrows of the followers of the Fruity Ones and vowed that one day vengeance would be his.

One day, the instrument of this vengeance did come. Not from above as might have been expected, or hoped for, but from the followers of The Mighty Blue. This faith had existed for many years but mere common folk could not join as mighty temples were needed to hold the holy sepulchers. It was truly beyond the common folk. But as more people began to join the Fruity Faith and, to a lesser extent, the Radio Shack folk, the Great Blue began to realize that it too, might prosper among the common hackers.

And did it ever! Many who had hesitated before joining any of the micro faiths, now, as the Mighty Blue seemed to suggest it was right to join one of those of the “bargain basement,” great hordes began to flock – but not to the old, established, faiths, but to the new, Blue one.

And so it came to be. The instrument of vengeance against the Fruits was the cause of much damage to his own faith as many of the early members began to leave and head on up to the new, flashy, belief.

Many temples began to imitate the outer workings of the Blue Ones, seemingly cloning the inner workings and putting their own label to it. They even bragged about how much like the Blues they were, some saying they were more like them than any other.

And then the worst seemed to happen: the Youth’s OWN faith jumped on the downhill juggernaut and cloned itself not once but three times! Oh! The shame he felt! His own true faith had begun to sing the Blues! Sob! Now, as he went into the temples he saw the clones start to muscle out his faith. He felt as if the money changers had once again taken over the temples. But it was a seductive siren even for him.

Each time he approached, the Youth saw the new machines calling to him, to touch them, caress them, to fondle them.

Then another shock: All Hale Brown, the leader of his little faith group jumped to the Blue Clones. But he stayed ’round his flock, answering their questions about the faith he had rejected but all the while telling them seductive things about his new credo and showing them the neat tricks it could do. It was hard to resist and some began to fall.

One of the most dismaying of these defections was the Youth’s First Mentor, the one who had led him into the church and shown him the way to greater understanding and expansion. When he fell, the Youth felt there was little left to believe in – his leader, his mentor, his very faith had all fallen under the sway of the Blues and he perceived the foundations he had painstakingly built up over the past years being swept away in the maelstrom. It would be only a matter of time, he knew, when he too, would fall. And there was nothing he could do about it.

Eventually, he could resist no longer. He felt like a traitor but he would make the leap to the Blues. But then he found that the Blues, still remembering their heady days of the giant temples, required mighty tithes before allowing one to enter their church. It was then the Youth learned the advantage of his connection to his old faith – he could convert and still stay in the SAME TEMPLE! He wouldn’t have to give up all he had held dear (especially his money) to become one like unto the Blues. But he still needed money for the conversion ceremony, the ritual Dance of the DOS, and that meant he would have to sell his beloved Icon, the one to which he had grown so attached. He placed ads on the public ways and told all he came in contact of his plans and then finally he found another youth who somehow reminded him of himself so long ago.

On the night before he was to turn over his old friend, he lovingly packed the holy Books of Documentation and the program wafers and hoped that his Icon’s new owner would get as much pleasure from it as he had these past years. On the day, he took in his Icon and placed it upon an alter in the meeting room and told the new person how lucky he was to have THIS Icon. He pointed out the special ways this one was different from all the others in the world. As the time for final good-byes came he caressed its chipped paint and wished it well. That was the last time the Youth ever saw his Icon but to this day, whenever he sees one in an add, on TV or even in a store, he remembers the fine old times they had together.

That night, for the first time in years, the Youth was without an Icon. Like an addict he paced the floor, constantly moving to the alter where he had kept the Icon, sweeping away some dust that had gone undisturbed beneath it and wondering what his old Icon was doing now: was it writing a story, making a list (checking it twice) or playing a game with its new owner? Then he realized there was no time for moping but that he must quickly seek a new Icon of the 16 (almost) bit type. He sought out an Icon provider in the Land of Jersey, ordered it and sat back, impatiently, to wait its arrival – all the while missing his old friend.

When he began to learn the strange ways of his new Icon, the Youth often paused, usually when trying to make a prayer move in the same way he had done with his old Icon. He glanced around, shamefacedly, looking to see if anyone had seen this misstep. But, of course, no one had. Often at that time a bit of wetness welled up in his eyes.

He told himself it was but eyestrain.

In the fullness of time the subject of our Saga, a Youth no longer – truly he had become Greybeard – continued to expand his new Icon filling its innards with the magical Tarot Cards of Expansion. But then disaster struck! One of his DISCs coughed and died. In its death throes it devoured the creative works not only of our Greybeard but of many others. By using several favored incantations and mystical machinations, most especially those of the Great Artificer Norton, most of these were saved from the abyss. But he knew that the DISC must be replaced as the tithe to repair the device was often more than that of a Virgin, fresh from the Styros.

The question was where was such to be procured? He questioned several of his Mentors as well as his cronies. Many advised he move on to another Plateau of Faith – that he cast not for a mere replacement of the DISC of the Soft variety but go far beyond its capabilities to a DISC of the Hard which possessed such unimaginable capacity that merely to ponder such made Greybeard’s mind reel. “No,” he protested, “I need only to procure what I have had…. Such a Grand Artifice is far beyond my needs or resources. I have a home and a wife to support…. To get such would be frivolous beyond words.” The others smiled and said that if he were to just replace the DISC he would eventually realize he had proceeded foolishly and he soon would be wretched and froth would boil upon his lips.

But the Aged One protested and he decided to go the Faire of Trenton, an annual event when purveyors from all over the Kingdom hawked their wares. There he would be able to reasonably purchase a new DISC. One the appointed day, he traveled to the Faire which was held at a University and, as usual, he cursed that he had tarried so long before he began his journey. He was forced to leave his chariot almost in the next county. Once he and his Trusted Companion, one that he had become a Mentor to, had located his Sire, the Search for a DISC began in earnest. He was disappointed at the prices – he felt that in the 3 years since he had last sought the DISC that the prices should have gone down further than they had. While he searched he happened across the new leader of the Faith who had risen to Power when All Hale Brown had sought, in the fullness of his years, to abdicate. Griggs, as the usurper was known, had in a mighty struggle been forced to pick up the Cudgel and lead the cantankerous and contentious lot. Most, though they seemingly made light of his accomplishments, were impressed with his leadership. Griggs, once again, when Greybeard told him of his quest, suggested the Hard route and again Greybeard protested. Griggs said that he ought to at least check the possibility.

The Seed of Temptation was so easily sown.

Alas, the purveyor Griggs mentioned had not the special ROM, that mystical rectangular, black compartment which would make Greybeard’s Icon talk with the Hard One. He had learned nothing in all his disastrous past experiences and Greybeard, once he made the portentous decision to leap to the Hard One, could not wait until such a ROM could be sent to him. He had to posses it NOW! Lust had swelled within him with such an all consuming fire, there could be no pause between purchase and fulfillment of the mania. Greybeard wandered about until he came upon one who claimed to have such a ROM. The symbol of this purveyor was an animal which stood for wisdom.

Greybeard spoke to the Purveyor and was assured the Hard One would satisfy the Lust welling up in him.

He bought.

The next day Greybeard disassembled his Icon in order to enshrine the Hard One. By now he had been inside so many Icons that there was barely a second of pause as he began to emplace the device. Some indecision began to strike as he tried to remember how the Purveyor instructed him to place the ribbons of connection. He called his Mentor and was given advice which he carefully followed.

At last all was in readiness and with just a small trepidation he threw the switch. Nothing happened as was supposed – the Icon refused to recognize the new artifice. More calls to his Mentor. Frantic changes to the Board of Control. All without fulfillment. Visions swept through his mind of somewhere the Purveyor laughing hysterically about how he had fleeced a rube of his wealth.

The next day Greybeard called the Purveyor who had a familiar answer the calls. Finally, the Purveyor responded that there was nothing wrong with that which he had sold but it must be the Icon that was the sinner. Greybeard protested and the Purveyor relented saying he could send it back and all would be made well in short order. Greybeard, being still impatient, asked if he could journey to his cave when he discovered it was in the nearby Town of Allen. Placing his wife in his chariot with him he made the frenzied journey. She was most understanding and had the kindness of not echoing the fears in Greybeard’s mind that this, too, was a Chase of the Wild Winged One.

Arriving at the cave of the Purveyor, Greybeard was told that there was no real problem. All would be well with a few simple incantations. So simple would these be that mere moments would be necessary to conclude the Ceremony. Greybeard was still unsure but the Purveyor spoke reassuringly, saying that it “Probably” was now cured but if Greybeard was that unsure he would keep the Hard One, test it and send it by the United Parcelite when assured of the exorcism. Greybeard was still possessed by the Lust and fled the cave, hurling his chariot homeward to reemplace the Hard One.

Need we recount the next heart rending episode of this Saga to you or can you guess that the gods laughed down the corridors of time, echoing in Greybeard’s mind? More calls to the Purveyor and this time the Hard One was sent back to the Purveyor’s cave with assurance that only days would be necessary.

Days stretched into weeks as Greybeard paced the floor in frustration. More calls to the Purveyor. Each time the promise was the same, “Next Tuesday, for sooth.” Then at last the United Parcilite appeared at the threshold with the hopper containing the long lost Hard One! In a flash Greybeard placed it in his Icon, mouthed a silent prayer and threw the switch.


It worked! When Greybeard entered the sacred command of DIR the response was 21,000,000. His eyes gleamed with relief and lust as he thought of all that he had gone through to reach this point and with what he could do with this new artifice. Now all he had to fear was the dreaded CRASH. This will hopefully not become a part of the SAGA.

Life in the Policy Committee

June 14, 2016

Passing the Transgender Policy for
the Wissahickon School District.

When I was first elected to the Wissahickon School Board (WSB) we were asked which subcommittees we wanted to be on. I made my selection and the one I didn’t want to be on was the Policy Committee.

Policy? Ugh! Boring!

I deliberately made it a point to never attend any of those meetings but in 2015 – two years in – when the then head of it decided not to run again, the President of the WSB appointed me in her place.  I thought she was trying to get even with me for something I’d done as it was the committee that I thought I had the least empathy with.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I tell everyone who asks about how I feel about all the work associated with being on the SB and the hostility that it sometimes entails but I always reply, “I’m having a ball!” They look at me as if I’m nuts (which I may be!) but it’s true. Being on the SB has been fun since the first day.

In the months since I started as the Chair, I’ve been able to see how the entire SD was moving and what pushed it – policy. This became another part of the Ball I’ve been having.


About a month ago, everyone started to hear stories of Transgender people wanting to get into bathrooms fitting the gender that they ‘identified’ with. There was much talk and expressions of fear verging on hate. Then there was the North Carolina law that blocked Charlotte’s regulation that permitted Trans people to use the bathroom of their identification. The general theme was that if a Trans women went into a woman’s bathroom, it would only be to rape or violate as many women as possible. Our little girls wouldn’t be safe in schools, museums or anywhere else.

There was a nation-wide negative reaction to NC’s moves with concerts being canceled by major names and talk of taking major athletic events out of NC.

With the little I know about Trans people I felt this was crap generated by fear but I wondered what the Wissahickon School District (WSD) was doing about this so I emailed our Superintendent – as the head of the Policy Committee – to see if we had a policy, what it was and if not, whether we needed to create one, plus wondered if we had any Transgender students.

Neat how power works, huh?

The response I received was that we had no ‘policy’ as such but we had a number of Trans kids and we worked with them on a case-by-case basis and they were permitted to use a single stall, unisex, bathroom. He further informed me that, besides the HS, we had one or 2 Trans students in our MS and even one in one of our elementary schools. He agreed that we needed to create a policy to cover this so that the students would be protected and treated properly and fairly. We directed our Solicitor to begin formulating a policy.

Right after that came a policy from the Federal gov’t, under Title IX, which requires equal protection of the sexes in public schools under punishment of withholding Federal subsidies.

When the Policy Committee met, finally, to study and discuss this proposed policy, there were a number of students attending the meeting as well. This was quite unusual as we are often in these meetings all by ourselves. At a pause between the policies up for discussion, I asked the students what brought them there; was it some kind of cruel teacher’s assignment?

A young woman, who turned out to be the leader of the group, told us that they were part of the Gay/Straight Alliance at WHS and they wanted to see how this policy was being built and discussed.

Interestingly enough, our Solicitor had built a policy based on some other nearby SDs who had created policies recently and what he and they had built was virtually identical to what the Federal requirements were. With only a few tweaks, we agreed we had something we could all work with. It was at this point the student leader spoke up and suggested some additions – mostly additional and modified definitions. We agreed to add them to the ‘definitions’ section.

Going Public

The next Board meeting came and we were to present the proposed policy. In the ‘Public Comments’ section, the student leader spoke and it was a remarkable and wonderful presentation. Toward the end, with little fanfare she shared with us the difficulties of being a Trans person and the problems she had had when she ‘came out’ to her parents.

So much for stereotypes. My wife has often said I was particularly dense but I, for one, ‘would never have guessed.’ But that’s not the point – or rather it is the point. Whichever you chose, she deserves to be treated the way she wants to be seen and our new policy will move to make sure that happens.

After the discussion and in the second of our Public Comments sections an elderly women spoke of how the entire transgender issue is all wrong and that G-d had made the decision for us as to who we should be and the sex we should be and that it was decided by the ‘plumbing’ that we were equipped.  She further suggested that young girls would be unsafe in our bathrooms from pedophiles dressed as woman whose intent was violate our innocent children.

In the Board comments I pointed out that the policy requires that for someone to be considered Transgender they would have to be that way constantly – not just on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to get into the girl’s locker room to take a peek at naked girls. I pointed out the extreme act it would require to get to see something that is readily online.

Finally, on June 13, 2016, the ‘final reading’ was to take place. The student again spoke in the ‘Public Comments’ section and complimented the WSD staff for squelching any incipient harassment in any of her classes and generally said that WHS had done an excellent job of protecting Trans students.

To Work

In the discussion on the actual policy, there were some uneasy comments from Board members, mostly about privacy for the non-Trans students. I pointed out that there are strict guidelines in the policy to do exactly that: all they have to do is indicate they feel ‘uncomfortable’ with a Trans student in their locker/rest room and they will be given a privacy shield. Also orientations for administration, staff and students will be held in September and repeated each year and as often as necessary to make sure everyone is protected. During all these discussions the 3 girls, members of the Gay/Straight Alliance sat, their hands clasped together. It was quite emotional to watch.

Finally, the vote. It was 9-0 for passage.

Wow! I love our Board.

During the final Public Comments section the same woman came up and asked if ‘We could still fight it.’ The Solicitor pointed out that it had passed but that didn’t stop her, or anyone else, for that matter, from bringing it up at subsequent meetings of either the entire Board or the Policy committee.

In the Board Comments section, I complimented the Board for its ‘courage.’ It isn’t easy going out on a limb as an elected official, making a move that might put us all in the outs. Other members pointed out that while they might still have trepidations about privacy, they had faith in the Administration to assure that the privacy of everyone will be protected.

It was quite a night. As I said, I’m having a BALL!

$10,000,000 Part 5: Conclusion

November 30, 2015

Our 3 legged wonder

Our little three-legged darling, Persephone, spent the next few years happily, running as she alternately chased and was chased by her brother.

Alas, this was not to last. One morning she didn’t show up for breakfast. Fearing the worst, we searched the house. Finally Shirley found her in the Lower Living Level under a lamp table. Perseph wouldn’t come out. Shirley yelled for me and I pulled her out but as she slid out from under the table she gave that strange grumble that cats make when they are very unhappy but don’t want to spit – yet.

I put her on the floor and then I saw a sad and horrible sight: she dragged herself forward by only her front legs. My heart sank.

I called Hickory even though it was late since they are a 24/7 hospital and they said to bring her in. I pulled the carrier out, placed her carefully in it and we were off, back to the vet.

When we arrived they did a quick check and suggested that we leave her since they’d need to do x rays and that required knocking her out. I could have taken her home and brought her back but I figured it would be more trauma than leaving her.

The next day we got the call: her femur – her thigh bone – was broken just short of the joint. We rode over to the vet and talked with Persef’s doctor, Stefanie Dobbins, and saw the x-rays. Dr. Dobbins went over the choices for us, acknowledging that none of them were good. In fact, the owner, Dr. Brown, who had worked on Persef advised that we give up and put her to sleep. Dobbins suggested that we give her a shot and operate on the leg, put a plate and screws to hold the bone together. She admitted we only had a 50-50 chance of success but Persef had been through so much and was still feisty, we decided to give Persef one more chance.

She came through the operation with no problems and we took her home but she still had to be confined in her cage. Through the subsequent weeks we gave her plenty of lap time and she seemed to be doing well. Finally, she was liberated – or was supposed to: she couldn’t put any weight on her leg. Back to the vet and more x-rays. The news was as bad as we feared. The entire bone had collapsed into multiple pieces.

That was it.

We took her home, back into her cage and we had to decide what to do. Actually, when. We waited until after the election. I must admit I was a coward about it and just wanted to wait. I’d been through this part of being a pet owner with Oscar and just wanted to push it off, knowing it wouldn’t make any difference but unwilling to make the decision.

Finally, we couldn’t put it off any longer and made an appointment to end it. It was more complicated and less personal than the way we ended it with Oscar. With him, the vet gave him 2 injections: one to put him to sleep, the second to stop his heart. All this with the little guy in my arms, tears streaming down my face. At Hickory, they put Persef in an anesthesia box, when she was out, they put a mask on her, and gave her an intravenous ‘overdose’ to end her life. We could hold her but only at arm’s length. While this was less personal, it didn’t stop the tears. Why didn’t I insist on the simple method? Probably I was intimidated by the clinical setting but now it was over.

We came home to only one cat for the first time in 12 years.

Achilles has seemingly taken it well though he doesn’t have his playmate any longer and doesn’t have someone to lick and be licked back. He spends a lot more time with us especially while we’re watching TV. As for me, I frequently look at the pictures I have of her, especially on my phone.

I frequently think of the line from ‘The Hammer of God,’ Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, where he describes the sadness of pet ownership and the seeming insanity of humans having a companion that we are doomed to lose:

“Why, Robert Singh often wondered, did we give our hearts to friends whose life spans are so much shorter than our own?”

The $10,000,000 Cat Part 4

November 30, 2015

I dropped Persef off early on Friday morning and by the afternoon we learned the amputation had gone well and I’d be able to pick her up Sunday – again! – but she’d need to stay confined in her crate for a few days, then into a private room so her brother wouldn’t lick her stitches out. All this with a cone collar so she couldn’t do this, herself.

Do I need to tell you that everything didn’t go as planned?

She was listless with her head down, not eating or drinking. When I put her in my lap she didn’t raise her head and seemed warm. After calling the vet, I took her in and they determined, quickly, that she was dehydrated and had a 103 degree temperature (101 is normal for cats.) They also discovered a ‘pocket’ of fluid below the incision that had collected, partly because she was inactive.

The vet used a syringe to drain the fluid. Syringe after syringe. The fluid was red but not all blood. Perseph was given – subcutaneously – fluids + 2 injections of antibiotics and we went home for the night.

Next morning, no change. More blood tests. Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of a cat for a blood test? The biggest problem is finding a vein: you *can’t see them* because of the fur, so the tech must feel for a pulse under the neck and search for the vein. Needless to say, this was not fun for Perseph. In fact, if she had been well, it would have been impossible.

Results came back: she was anemic probably because of the surgery and the pocket.

The next morning we got a call that Perseph needed a blood transfusion. ‘Where do you get cat blood?’ I asked. Turns out that have a small herd of cats they can ‘tap’ once a month.

So here was the situation: she’s still on the subcutaneous fluids in the hospital, her fever is down and she is eating a little and has 2 drains from her incision.

We went to visit her every day and she looked much better: she was walking around, the drains looking like 2 cow teats, still hooked up to the IV. She was alert and when we opened the cage, it was obvious that she wanted to get out. Part-way through our visit, she excused herself and went to her litter box and urinated – abundantly. She then *jumped* out of the box. We were elated.

Here’s another fun part: we were leaving Friday for 2 weeks and she was in no shape to take care of herself and we can’t ask the people coming in to feed them and change the litter to take her back and forth to the vet so she had to stay. It was hoped that after a few more days she’d be able to be shifted from ‘Medical Boarding’ to just ‘Boarding.’

The saga continued.

The $10,000,000 Cat Part 3

November 30, 2015

Another year of every week – usually very early Sunday mornings. Finally, the wound looked fairly good and we all agreed that we’d experiment with letting her run free – no bandage.

This lasted about 3 days before the wound opened up again and it was back to bandaging.

After it began to heal a little bit, another suggestion came up: boots. Actually, 1 boot. This was a rubber boot held on by Velcro that would give her foot some protection butIMG_0340 eliminate the constant bandage changing. Two weeks later, she was ‘fitted’ for the boot and we were home. She ran like the wind but several days later began limping. Back to the vet. The wound had opened up again because the boot moved every time she stepped and rubbed her foot.

Back to bandaging.

The head vet suggested that we do a culture to find out why the infection wasn’t responding to the antibiotics and it was discovered that Perseph has MRSA – this is the very staff infection that is sweeping human hospitals and is resistant to most antibiotics. Problem is, most of the effective antibiotics can be damaging to her kidneys or liver so we held off.

Finally, in late June, the vet figuratively threw up her hands and said that there doesn’t seem to be any point in continuing this path and we reluctantly agreed on amputation. Once more we checked the X-rays to be sure that the other leg would hold her and surgery was set.

The $10,000,000 Cat Part 2

November 30, 2015

Then, about 4 years ago, she began leaving spots of blood where she walked. We discovered she was bleeding from an open wound in her right leg. We quickly made an appointment with our ‘regular’ vet and they bandaged her up. Fine.

About 4 hours after we got her home, the bandage was off. Ugh. We upped the ante and called in the big guns. They looked at it and bandaged her so she kept it on. Unfortunately, this became a sad routine for the next 2 years. There would be some progress, then it would start leaking again, then a major set back: as the original wound began to heal, another began to develop – possibly because of the bandaging. This new wound became worse than the original. I finally asked our doctor if there was anyone, like doctors who specialize in diabetic wounds, in the vet world. Didn’t appear so. I asked if we could get another pair of eyes on Persef’s wound and the vet had no problem with having the head of the vet hospital see her.

The head looked at the wound and concluded – especially after a year of bandaging – that it wasn’t going to heal the way we were going. She suggested several paths:

  1. ‘Abraiding,’ literally rubbing off the ‘bad’ flesh to get down to ‘good’ flesh.
  2. Worse case scenario: amputation

This was not a happy perspective as amputation for Persef would mean at the hip, as we couldn’t go the prosthetic route as there is no way we could conceive of her letting it stay on as she and her brother chewed off their flea collars in about 10 minutes when they were kittens.

I asked the vet if her left leg could hold her up since the plate in her leg was already cracked (we saw in the x-ray) and she is not exactly svelte and she’s more like a little bowling ball but she indicated that it would.

We tried the abrading but the stitches didn’t hold as she ran around. The vet suggested that we do this again but this time confine her. We reluctantly agreed as we weren’t getting anywhere this way and I realized it would be much easier for both of us in getting her ready to travel to the vet.

Why? Over the year Persef has become very aware of the clues to her imminent travel. We often thought that she had the appointments marked on her personal calendar because when it was time to load her up she would be nowhere to be found. It was a game of cat and mouse as I learned her hiding places and she sought out new ones. Her best was under our King Sized bed: she discovered I couldn’t reach her if she hid in the middle. We tried coaxing her to no avail so I tried the spray water bottle. This worked – once. The next time we tried it, she just crouched there, almost saying, ‘You can soak me all you want but I know what you’ve got in mind and I’d rather be soppy wet than go to the vet!’ [Cat owners have these conversations a lot, by the way.] Finally I used a broom and this was effective as I – literally – swept her out.

Each time, after rousting her, I would put her in our powder room, get the travel case, then get her out of ‘storage.’ She would entwine herself under the little table, yelp a little, sometimes even hiss at me but never bite or scratch. In fact, once I got her in my arms, she would kind of just collapse as if she was saying, ‘OK, you got me,’ as I put her in the cage without any resistance.

IMG_0077At the vet, it was a different story. All over her file – rapidly approaching War and Peace size – were orange stickers reading, ‘Beware! Cat bites!’ This was because, following the operations I would drop her off for a bandage change and she would be rather restive and the only way they could do it was knock her out. This was quite expensive – about $85 a pop. But in this series the vet did it differently: I would reach in, the vet tilting the cage up and I’d drag her out on to the exam table. Then two aides would be ready – one had ‘lion tamer’ gloves – I’d put Persef on her left side, then a bath towel would be placed over her – especially her head – and the aide would more or less lean on her as the other aide held Persef’s leg up so the vet could cut the bandage off, clean and examine the wound and wrap her up again. This was much better: faster – only about 15 minutes – and even though it involved 3 people, it only cost $30 a time (later $60) + antibiotics. For most of the time, this was once a week but for a time after the abrading we were talking every 3 days.

Finally, the head vet, thought it might be a good idea to bring in another specialist – a physical therapist. [I can’t tell you how our friends reacted when we told them about this.] When I dropped Persef off I was given a bio on the woman and it seems she specializes in ‘alternative medicine’ such as acupuncture and herbs. In the conference after the examination the PT said that she walks well with the bandage but the problem is the wound is not healing fast enough and suggested an alternative – laser treatment, but not as zapping but to use heat, without removing the bandage every day + still changing the bandage every 2-3 days. The idea is that the heat would encourage the skin to grow over the wound, something that wasn’t happening very well. Another alternative is something that is actually done with diabetics: a honey-based salve placed on the wound.

One of the receptionists at the vet told me, ‘When I die I want to come back as one of your cats – you treat them so well!’ but what choice do you have when one of your closest family members is ill?

That’s how we stood 13 months after the wound opened up.