Saturday, May 29, 2004

Enter Tippy

Let me make something perfectly clear. I love Gato. Gato will always be my cat -- my beloved bad-ass psychopathic kitty friend. There is no replacement for the Gato-Cat, nor shall there ever be. But Gato is so very very far away, and a Robyn without a pet is like a day without sunshine.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce the addition of a new Washington-based feline companion, Tippy.

Tipster. Tipmonster. Tipperary. Her Supreme Tippness.

Tippy comes to us from the animal shelter where I've been volunteering for about a year. It is a no kill shelter, which is a good thing in that it gives a lot of nice animals a chance to find good homes. One of the drawbacks, is that unfortunately, some well-deserving critters wind up doing more time there than necessary. This is true for most older cats, cats with minor health problems, black cats (travesty!), and other cats who just aren't as cute, as young or as outgoing as some of the competition.

Tippy is such a cat. She was given up by her owner afer having lived in a comfortable home for five years. Despite being well-cared for at the shelter, she quite understandably didn't thrive in an environement where she was locked in a cage half the time and subjected to an unceasing cacophony of barking and mewing from her more outspoken neighbors. She became very withdrawn and shy, hating to leave the cage for fear of the other cats, and slowly gaining weight due to depression and inactivity. Although she actually is quite pretty, her greay, white and tan coloring is rather common at first glance, and so she was overlooked in favor of the sexier Siamese or Himayalan or altogether fancier breeds that are usually there. She was so shy, she required a covered litterbox because she was afraid to do her business in plain sight.
She remained at the shelter for two years.

I decided to adopt Tippy because I wanted a cat who wouldn't mind having therun of a quiet house for most of the day and who was old enough and mellow enough to be trusted not to tear the place apart out of boredom. I also discovered that if you were patient enough, she may be willing to uncurl herself from her bed and put her chin on your lap for a bit. So we bought her some playhouse to hide in if she needed them, and mentally prepared ourselves for bringing this special-needs case home in the hopes that in a few days, weeks, or months she'd come out of her shell.

It took about 20 minutes.

The sad thing is that sometimes you don't really know how a shelter kitty will behave until you actually get them home. In Tippy's case, we were prepared for her to immediately hid under the bed and not come out for days. In reality, as soon as she stepped outside her carrier, she immediately waled the length of the apartment, and decided that wherever this place was, it was a lot better than where she had been, and very soon was sitting in our laps, purring, chattering and generally behaving as though the apartment were hers to command.

We've discovered that she's actually very personable, and will jump in your lap as soon as you sit down. She's also playful, and will most likely lose a lot of her excess weight if she keeps up her activity. She is in many ways, the anti-Gato -- just as sweet as you could hope a cat to be. Not that crankiness, belligerance and independence can't be charming traits in a cat, it's just that it's nice to know that there is an alternative as well.

So we're very happy to have Tippy, and we think she's glad to have us as well. As long as I convince Gato that he hasn't in some way been sacked, all should be well.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

A Most Momentous Week Indeed (Robyn Meets Bono)

I was off to such a good start, update-wise, this month. A run of three (three!) updates in a row promised to result in breaking my all-time record of four updates in a row, set sometime in the spring of 2002 when cool stuff was actually going down on a regular basis.

Alas, my renewed diligence was interrupted by really cool stuff going down, and my not having the time to write about it. No disrespect to the website audience (both of you), but I wouldn't mind a more regular occurrence of this kind of dilemma.

The first week in May was a brief respite between moving into DC and helping to set up the annual InterAction Forum. To recap, the Forum is an event at which the executives and employees of the nation's leading humanitarian organizations come to the Washington Marriott for three days and go to workshops and eat salmon and wear nametags and discuss the current state of international development and humanitarian workers (here's a hint: it's currently pretty crappy). Very important issues are discussed and very important speakers are in attendance (see last Update).

The whole shebang this year was essentially organized by a relatively new and preternaturally capable employee named Cassandra who has never done anything like this in her life. Cassandra was primarily assisted by an equally capable consultant named Beth. I was on hand as well for much of the week leading up to the event.

There were several 15 hour-plus days which consisted of padding around the dark office in socks, sticking little flags that say "Advocacy Day" to roughly 2,465,634 name badge holders (unofficial estimate), running off enough copies to bring the Rainforest Action Network to its knees in despair, removing roughly 394,857 "Advocacy Day" badges from the nametags of those who cancelled, and vicious tirades aimed at attendees, hotel organizers and, at times, colleagues all in the name of "therapeutic venting." For good measure, I hyperextended my knee early on in the process and so continued the rest of the endeavor hobbling around and whacked out on painkillers. The first day of the conference revealed that even the most empathetic and saintly of humanitarian workers who would lay down their lives to get a bag of rice to a village in Ethiopia will just about disembowel you for mis-alphabetizing their program packet. Pulling off a conference like this with little direction and little perspective of what the hell you're doing is much like making sausage. Just enjoy the tasty treat before you, and inquire not about the nasty, bloody work it took to get it to your table.

But this is a not a hard-knock tale, dear friends, for there was considerable emotional payoff for myself on the first night, when Bono made his appearance. He was a bit late, which accounted for a good deal of poorly concealed concern on the part of those staffers who had earlier been practicing shepherding a Bono stand-in through the catacombs of the hotels service entrances with walkie-talkies and all manner of gratuitous, CIA-style rock star-wrangling (by comparison, Colin Powell and the Secret Service-type folks just walked through the door and locked it behind them). But he arrived, the staffers still got to play Secret Agent, and he delivered a very good speech that had those who were skeptical about his inclusion in the program fairly well converted. After his speech he was led by his "people" (easily distinguishable from the non-profit crowd by their black suits, black shirts, and red neckties) into a room where the InterAction staff gathered for a group photo. Sadly, I am a bit obscured in the shot, and there was no verbal exchange nor a handshake between myself and the guest of honor. However there was a point in the evening after the initial insanity of the early morning had faded away, the event seemed to be well on its way to success despite many long hours of doom-laden prophecies on my part, and I was standing (quite literally) shoulder to shoulder with someone whom I can claim as my hero without fear of being guilty of overstatement. At this point, all the grief and trauma that marked not only the past week, but the past year and a half, was all worth it, and I was ecstatic.

And just in case it's not all worth it, I have a nice chunk of overtime coming my way. Don't even worry about that.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Bono is Coming...

I know it's been a busy month, what with moving and all, but I'm a bit surprised at myself for not having mentioned this before. I share this news with not necessarily out of my own personal proclivities, but because it is my professional duty to promote the efforts of my organization:

Bono is coming.

As part of the InterAction Forum, a yearly gathering of the CEOs and other interested parties of the leading international American humanitarian groups, Bono will be speaking at the Humanitarian Awards dinner, at which I shall be reporting the proceedings in a most objective and dignified manner for InterAction's esteemed publication, Monday Developments.
It shall be a most informative evening at which the leaders in humanitarian policy and practice will be honored by their peers, and a multitude of insight and ideas shall be exchanged among luminaries of the international development community. Rest assured that I understand the magnitude of the event, and the professionalism it requires.

However, in the context of my own personal website, my feelings regarding the proceedings can be summed up thusly: Holy crap in a chicken basket, this totally rocks.

Also in attendance will be Colin Powell, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees Ruud Lubbers, etc., etc., etc.

And to think, this time last year I was folding pants at Express.

More to come, of course.


Saturday, May 1, 2004

Smarty Jones

How nice to see a horse from the Palookaville known as Philadelphia Park win the Kentucky Derby.

Philadelphia Park is located in beautiful Bensalem, Pa., a mere 15 minutes from the family home in Richboro. Although I have never gone there for a race, I am well acquainted with its grounds, as it hosts the Pennsylvania Fair every May.

Philadelphia Park is very blue-collar, very not glamorous, and very un-Kentucky Derby. Which is why Smarty's recent bitch-slapping of the other contenders at the Derby is so very satisfying.
If only that horse could give the Philadelphia Eagles a talking-to on how to kick ass when it counts. If only...

Well done Smarty Jones, his trainers and the Philadelphia Park. Mad props to y'all. Quite.