A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: Probable Paws

I may have said this before, but I am going to say it again: Mystic Notch, New Hampshire, is one of my favorite places in the world. Sure, it’s fictional, and sure, people keep getting murdered there, but it has some exceptional cats, plus a really neat bookstore where the ghosts of Robert Frost and Franklin Pierce hang out—though the store’s owner seems to be the only person who can see them. That owner is Wilhelmina “Willa” Chance, a former crime reporter who inherited the bookstore and a cat named Pandora from her grandmother. Let’s just say that Willa had no idea what she was in for when she took over her grandmother’s business.

“Looking for the bathroom”

Probable Paws is the fifth installment in this series by Leighann Dobbs. In this volume, we meet Willa at the funeral of one Adelaide Hamilton, and Willa meets Adelaide, or at least her ghost. Ghosts don’t appear to Willa just to say hey; they always want something, and what Adelaide wants is for Willa to locate a book called Betty’s Recipes. The fact that she thinks one of her grieving relatives had a hand in her death is totally beside the point. The book must be found and passed on to Willa’s neighbor Elspeth, just as Willa’s grandmother had stipulated in her will—only the book couldn’t be found then, and it can’t be found now.

Of course, Willa pretty much has to identify the killer, because she is just that kind of person. So off she goes to the Hamilton family home, which smells “of lemon Pledge and old money” and has a family to match. She spends a fair amount of time “looking for the bathroom” in that house while actually looking for the recipe book.

Not simple

You will have realized by this point that we’re not talking about a book of actual recipes here. The town is called Mystic Notch for a reason.

Few things are simple in Mystic Notch, at least for Willa. She has this sort-of boyfriend, Eddie Striker, who is also the sheriff in a neighboring county. Willa and Striker have more in common than they know, because Striker can see ghosts, too. But—and this is the not-simple part—he and Willa can’t see the same ghosts, and neither of them knows that the other sees ghosts at all. This difficulty makes for some interesting exchanges when they and their respective ghosts get together, especially after Striker is visited by the ghost of Adelaide’s long-dead husband, Louis. Louis wants Striker to find Betty’s Recipes so he can finally be reunited with Adelaide—because he and she can’t see each other, even though they are both spirits.

Like I said, not simple.

Anyway, the action in Probable Paws centers around Willa and Striker trying to locate this elusive supposed recipe book, which must not fall into the wrong (i.e., evil) hands. Only neither of them knows that the other is after the same thing they are, and neither of them knows that they’re being helped by a whole bunch of cats.

The cats

Which brings me to the very special cats of Mystic Notch. See, some of the town’s cats belong to an elite type sworn to help humans in the struggle of good against evil. Pandora is one of these special cats, though Willa doesn’t know it. Pandora struggles to communicate things with her human—never an easy task, I can tell you. I admit to being biased in favor of the cat characters: Pandora, of course; the male calico named Otis; the chimera cat named Hope… I personally wouldn’t want to meet the evil Fluffy, but he’s a great character.

The verdict

Some cozy mystery series are entertaining, intriguing, funny, magical, enthralling, [insert positive adjective here]. I could say lots of things about Probable Paws, like Leighann Dobbs’s words just pull you in and carry you through every little twist in the plot. I could say all that, but there’s really only one thing I need to say.

I want to move to Mystic Notch.


Highly recommended!


A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Meet Some Cats on Stamps at World Stamp Show 2016

Like tigers and other cats? Like collecting things?
Come to the Javits Center May 31 to learn about
lots of  cool tigers on philately, like the one on
this stamp from Russia.

We are so excited to let you know about a special gathering happing in New York City from May 28 to June 4. It’s the World Stamp Show (that’s WSS-NY2016 to those in the know). This large show happens only once every ten years, so you know it will be special. But why am I telling you about it in a blog post that is supposed to be about cats?

Cats on Stamps Study Unit to meet

Sally Anderson-Bruce,
photographer for these shelter
pets stamps, will be there.
Well, I’m telling you because the Cats on Stamps Study Unit (COSSU to those in the know) of the American Topical Association will have a special gathering during the show. COSSU is a group of stamp collectors who focus on collecting stamps with cats on them. They will get together on Tuesday, May 31, to enjoy a presentation called “The Tiger in Philately,” by Marci Jarvis. Guest speakers will include Nancy Stahl, the illustrator for the Amur tiger cub stamp (pictured below), among other cat-related issues, and Sally Anderson-Bruce, photographer for the spay/neuter and shelter pets issues (pictured at right). Finally, Hope Tarr, director of the Prevent a Litter Coalition, will be there.

Vital details: when & where

She of Little Talent is very disappointed that she mistimed her trip and will miss this gathering (I don’t call her She of Little Talent for nothing). To avoid having this happen to you, I am giving you the details now so you can plan for next week:

You could meet Nancy Stahl, 
the illustrator behind this 
endangered species issue.


Event: Cats on Stamps Study Unit gathering
Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Time: 2:00–4:00 p.m.
Place: Room 1E20
World Stamp Show–New York 2016
Javits Center
New York

Monday, May 23, 2016

App Review: Cat Match




Today we have a brief review of a fun and addictive tile-matching game called Cat Match. In this game, you are the manager of a cat rescue center. As cats come in to your admissions wing, you get them ready for rehoming by playing match-three games to fill in their “attribute bars.” When the bars are filled in, the cat moves on to the cat wing, ready to be adopted. It sounds simple, and we found the game very easy to pick up and play, though there is a bit of a learning curve at the start, when you spend some of your coins to set up your cat wing and stock it with supplies.

Yes, I said “spend some of your coins.” Because besides being a fun match-three game, Cat Match requires you to manage your rescue center. This is not too difficult, though it is easy to spend your coins faster than you earn them, as some cats need vaccinations, neutering, grooming, or pain relief before they can be adopted. Some of them even need x-rays or treatment for diabetes. And of course they need food and bedding.


The match-three portion of Cat Match.
You can also expand your center to take care of more cats, and you can add things like a lab, a vet block, laundry, gift shop, and café. Then there’s the supplies to buy for each admissions wing and cat wing, drugs for the vet block, books for the gift shop, toys for the behavior suite…

Yes, you do have to watch your coins, but no, it’s not too difficult. Of course, if you run low, you can always make in-app purchases. The app is free to download, and we think the additional coins are reasonably priced, at 1,000 coins for 99 cents, 2,500 for $2.99, or 5,000 for $4.99. The best part is that the profits go toward helping cats in real life, through Cats Protection, a UK feline charity that helps over 200,000 cats each year.

You'll be rehoming sad cats like Molly, whose
former owners just got bored with her.
We found Cat Match to be really enjoyable to play. The match-three part is fairly easy, and it’s fun to watch the cat you’re playing for go from looking sad and unwell to happy and healthy. I say the matching is generally easy, but if you take too long at it, the cat will become too stressed and will have to go to the recovery wing until he feels better. So there is that pressure to actually help the cat instead of stressing him out.

And there is always another cat to play for. Often, our admissions wing is full and we’re matching, matching, matching as we try to make room for the new arrivals waiting to get in. We tell ourselves, “They’re not real cats. They’re not real cats,” but still, it’s hard to stop playing.

So, if you love cats, enjoy match-three, and would like to do some light management as an additional challenge, all while helping real cats with any real money you spend, try Cat Match. It's  available for iOS and Android devices.

Highly recommended!




Check out the video:



Friday, May 20, 2016

A Guide to Cats, Colors, and Luck: It’s Complicated


Well, this doesn't look good for you. The post hasn't even started,
and already there's a black cat on your path.
Do you believe in luck?
Stock image by Petra Kohlstädt via Adobe Stock. 
 
Humans have all sorts of sayings about luck. For some reason, humans have long thought that animals, including cats, have something to do with luck. You know how bad humans are at remembering things, so they’ve made up lots of pithy sayings to remind themselves of how luck works. You know the sort of thing:  If X happens, then you’ll have Y kind of luck. And so on.

She of Little Talent has done some digging into a book of Maryland folklore published in 1925, and she has collected several sayings about what kind of luck you’ll get from various encounters with cats of different colors. She’s put them into this handy little guide. Enjoy.

Black cats

  • To meet a black cat early in the morning is a sign of good luck.
  • It is bad luck if a black cat crosses your path from right to left; good luck if from left to right.
  • If a black cat crosses you path, it is bad luck; worse luck if you are on a journey; worse luck still if she carries a kitten in her mouth. The same is true of a rabbit or hare. Best go home and take food before starting again, or wait until another day.
  • If a black cat runs in front of you, it is good luck.
  • A black cat looking in the window is a sign of bad luck.
  • If a black cat enters your house, it is bad luck.
  • If a black cat comes to your house and you take it in, it is good luck.
  • It is a sign of good luck for a black cat to enter a newly tenanted house.
  • If a black cat comes into a newly opened store, it is a sign of good luck.
  • If a black cat licks itself, it is a sign of good luck.

Is this white cat a harbinger of doom or a
good-luck charm? Either way, she's very pretty.
Stock image by seregraff via Adobe Stock.

 White cats

  • It is good luck to let a pure white cat go across your path.
  • If a white cat runs in front of you, it is bad luck.

 Gray cats

  • It is bad luck for a gray cat to cross your path.

 Tuxedo cats

  • A black cat with a white breast in a bedroom is a sign of bad luck.


Conclusion

To sum up, if you encounter a cat in the state of Maryland, you might have either good or bad luck, depending on (a) the cat’s color; (b) the time of day; and (c) whether you meet the cat, it crosses your path, runs in front of you, looks in your window, comes in your house, and/or licks itself. Apparently tuxedo cats affect luck only in the bedroom.

What kind of luck will you get from calico kittens in party hats?
We don't know, but it looks good.
Stock image by Katrina Brown via Adobe Stock.
Oddly, there is no saying about what kind of luck calico cats bring. I say “oddly” because the calico is the state cat of Maryland, so you’d think that encountering one would bring good luck. Unless you are on a journey and the calico cat crosses your path from left to right while walking backwards and carrying a black kitten. Then…well, you should probably go home and go back to bed. But buy a lottery ticket first, because you might just have good luck.

If you believe in that sort of thing.

Source

All sayings about cats and luck are quoted from Folk-Lore from Maryland, collected by Annie Weston Whitney and Caroline Canfield Bullock (New York: American Folk-Lore Society, 1925, Reprint 1929).



Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Tall Tail

On this Mysterious Monday, we are pleased to return to Crozet, Virginia, for another delicious mystery from Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. (Sneaky Pie is a cat, and therefore the brains of the operation. In case you did not know.)

The plot: past and present

This time, Mary Minor Hairsteen, known as Harry, comes across a deceased person when the deceased’s car tries to run into her. The unfortunate driver turns out to be one Barbara Leader, a home nurse who’d been caring for a former governor who is slowly dying of leukemia. You will have guessed that this death was no accident. But who on earth would kill Barbara, and why? And what on earth could it have to do with a mystery from 1784, which is told alongside the modern plot?

Let’s just say that in the South, the past never completely goes away.

Accompanied by her crew of pets (we’ll get to them in a second) and her best friend, who happens to be the governor’s granddaughter, Harry uncovers a deeply hidden secret such as could only happen in the South.

The animals

Now to our favorite part: Harry’s animal crew. There’s Tucker the dog, a corgi. There’s Pewter, a gray cat who’s a mouthy upstart. Basically. And then there’s Mrs. Murphy, the tiger cat who is one of my purrsonal heroes.* Mrs. Murphy is wise. Much wiser than any other animal, and certainly wiser than any human. We always enjoy the exchanges between the animals, which often take a humorous turn. Our one complaint about Tall Tail is that the animals don’t show up often enough, but this book has so much going for it that we just can’t complain too loudly. Plus, a dog named Piglet appears in the eighteenth-century scenes and is most important in leading the humans to something that is very, very wrong. And secret. Without Piglet, there would be no story.

The verdict

One of the joys of reading the Mrs. Murphy series is the vivid descriptions of the surroundings that make you feel as though you are right there in the Virginia countryside with the Blue Ridge mountains beside you. That strong sense of place, and of time, carries into the past too, as Brown and Brown provide exactly the details needed to make the 1784 scenes seem vivid and familiar.

Speaking of those 1784 scenes, another thing we enjoy about this series—and good books in general—is that you always learn things. In Tall Tail, we learned some new things about the time when the United States was barely born. We were reminded of some things, too: issues of race and politics; human cruelty…and kindness. And mostly, how the secrets of the past really do linger into the present.

Highly recommended!


*She of Little Talent made me write “purrsonal.” I apologize deeply.


A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!


Buy it now:



Friday, May 13, 2016

Pet Blogger Bloopers Roundup: May



Hello, friends. It's time again for the Pet Blogger Bloopers Roundup--and we're already into the May edition. This is a blog hop hosted by The Lazy Pit Bull, and we're having a lot of fun participating, joining other bloggers on the second Friday of every month to post the results of photo shoots gone wrong. Fortunately, She of Little Talent takes lots of bad photos.

Our May bloopers feature Real Cat Webster. They were taken when old SoLT was trying to get some pictures for a post about cats in boxes. The moral is, it may be easy to get a cat in a box, but it's hard to get the cat to sit still and look cute for just one lousy picture.


Webster practices being blurry.


Obviously, he's great at being blurry.
By the way, that giant thing on the left is old SoLT's finger.
A master photographer she is not.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Comet Named After Cat

Like cats, comets usually have tails.
Stock photo of Comet Hale-Bopp via AdobeStock.
Comets and cats have several things in common: They are somewhat mysterious. They have tails. They may hold secrets of the early universe.

Okay, I made that last part up a little bit, but there is no reason to think it might not be true (I refer you to the earlier sentence about cats being “somewhat mysterious”).

The tail part is absolutely, 100 percent correct though. Cats usually have tails. Comets* usually have tails—at least when they approach the sun and some of their ice vaporizes and trails behind, reflecting sunlight.

A Manx cat. Note the obvious similarities to a comet.
1895 illustration from The Cat, R. S. Huidekoper.
By Internet Archive Book Images via Wikimedia Commons
But recently, astronomers announced the discovery of a tailless comet, the first of its kind (that we know of). They needed a name for this tailless type of comet, and naturally they turned to the world of cats and dubbed the comet…a Manx.

So now there is officially a type of comet named after a type of cat, which makes comets almost as cool as cats. Almost.

*A comet, according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, is a “nebulous celestial body that consists of a fuzzy head usually surrounding a bright nucleus, that often when in the part of its orbit near the sun develops a long tail which points away from the sun because of radiation pressure, that has an orbit varying in eccentricity between nearly round and parabolic, that has an inclination from zero to 180 degrees, and that has a period from three to thousands of years.”

Source (and sciencey stuff)


Reuters, “Astronomers find a tailless comet, first of its kind,” April 30, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-comet-idUSKCN0XQ2HZ

Read more

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Are Cats in Boxes Passé?

It’s no secret that cats love boxes, and people love cats in boxes. Cats jumping into boxes, jumping out of boxes, getting stuck in boxes, playing in boxes, lurking in boxes, sleeping in boxes… It seems that there are conjunctions of cats and boxes everywhere you look online.

This has led Real Cat Webster to wonder if the Internet has reached its cat-in-box saturation point. Could it be that cats in boxes have finally become passé? That (gasp!) cats in boxes aren’t cute anymore?

 Informal study of cuteness of cats in boxes

To test this horrifying possibility, Webster tried out some different boxes and asked She of Little Talent to photograph him:
 
Photo 1: Webster in a box on its side.

Photo 2: Webster in a slightly-too-small box.

Photo 3: Webster in a different box on its side.

Photo 4: Webster in a large box with a window.


He even had old SoLT photograph Real Cat Paisley in a box:

Photo 5: Paisley in a box.

Analysis

Next, Webster examined the photos to see if they were (a) cute or (b) boring. He reports his data below:

  • Photo 1: (a) Cute
  • Photo 2: (a) Cute
  • Photo 3: (a) Cute
  • Photo 4: (a) Cute
  • Photo 5: (b) Boring*

[*Webster promises that his opinion of photo 5 was not influenced by the fact that Paisley ate his breakfast that morning.]

 Conclusion

So, 4 out of 5 pictures of cats in boxes in this informal study were considered cute. That’s 80%, clearly a majority.


Conclusion: Cats in boxes are not passé. Cats in boxes are still cute, and always will be, unless the cat in the box has eaten your breakfast.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book Review: The True Tails of Baker and Taylor

You know what the world needs more of? Library cats. This is what we have concluded after reading the delightful book called The True Tails of Baker and Taylor, by Jan Louch, with Lisa Rogak. More library cats would make dramatic improvements in the world. Don’t believe me? Read on.

The story

On July 22, 1982, a new branch of the Douglas County Library opened in Minden, Nevada, and soon after, the staff discovered there were numerous mice outside it. Naturally, they decided they needed a cat to, you know, protect the books. And while they were at it, they thought they’d better get two cats to, you know, keep each other company. This was a totally, 100% professional decision based solely on a desire to safeguard the library’s assets. A desire to have cats at work had absolutely nothing to do with it. (Ahem.)

Of course, cats need names, and what better names for library cats than Baker and Taylor, after major library wholesaler Baker & Taylor?


Baker sleeping on duty, and on a
box of voter registration forms.
Photo courtesy of Jan Louch.
Soon enough, two Scottish fold cats took up residence in the Minden Library. Baker (pictured at right) arrived first and proved to be the social butterfly of the pair. He liked to hang out where he could greet the public. Taylor (pictured below) was more reserved, preferring to nap at Louch’s desk. Louch describes the cats as a sort of feline odd couple, with Taylor playing the neat freak and Baker “the good-natured, hedonistic slob.”

Even in that age before social media (back when people used to talk to each other), it wasn’t long before patrons started walking into the library and asking for the cats. Thus began their popularity, which really took off after Baker & Taylor the company began using Baker and Taylor the cats in their marketing campaigns. Louch takes us behind the scenes of photo shoots with the cats, and we learn—surprise, surprise—that they hated these sessions of being posed repeatedly and exposed to flashing bright lights.

But without those photos, which were reproduced on posters and shopping bags, the cats’ popularity might not have exploded at library trade shows, where librarians were soon flocking to the Baker & Taylor booth to pick up their own poster or bag or what have you. The posters went up in libraries all over the country, news stories were written, and almost before the Minden Library staff knew what was going on, their cats were famous and had their own fan club (made up of second graders who sharpened their writing skills by sending cards to the cats; and yes, the cats answered, with Louch’s help).

Changes, changes

But as it turns out, Baker and Taylor’s story isn’t just about a couple of cats. It’s also about the many people whose lives they touched, it’s about Jan Louch, and it’s about the area of Nevada where they lived.

Taylor enjoyed sitting in a "Buddha pose."
Photo courtesy of 
Jan Louch.
See, sometimes you’re changing and you don’t even realize it—as in Louch’s transformation into something of a sourpuss after her divorce and then  her reemergence as she softened and learned to laugh again with the help of a certain pair of cats. Other times you know things are changing—as in the Carson Valley’s period of rapid growth, when quite a few Californians transplanted themselves to what had been a pretty sleepy place. The library staff saw change firsthand (literally) as new technology crept in and they had to type information from the card catalog into the new computer system.

Cats hate change, and we’ve found that most people are really not that crazy about it either. But if a person has a nice soft kitty to pet when things get rough… What’s more healing than that?

The verdict

I could write and write and write about all the little things we enjoyed about this book. The True Tails of Baker and Taylor is a page-turner not because it’s suspenseful but because it’s just such a pleasure to read. Of course we enjoyed reading about the cats and their quirky habits, but it was also fun (and enlightening) to get a peek into the life of a librarian. She of Little Talent enjoyed the book for its time period, when a much younger old SoLT loved her local county library and spent a fair amount of time haunting its stacks and searching through the card catalog. The only problem with that library was, it did not have a cat.

You know how sometimes when you finish a book, you hold it for a while and flip back through the pages because you really don’t want it to be over? This is one of those books. We feel like we know Baker and Taylor, and Jan Louch and Minden, Nevada. We wish more libraries had cats, because cats and books just belong together, don’t they? The True Tails of Baker and Taylor is also a reminder that cats can do some pretty amazing things, like make a library a more welcoming, happier, homier place; soften a wounded person so she can laugh again; help children learn to read and write; inspire people to travel to a library just to see them; and cause librarians to descend en masse onto a trade show booth to grab some cat-themed tchotchke.

This is the point in our reviews where we usually point out some flaw, large or small, that could be improved in a book. But the only problem we can think of is that reading about Baker and Taylor made us long for a library with a cat. Because wouldn’t it be just perfect to be browsing through the stacks and come across a cat waiting to be petted?


That would make the world a better place.


Very highly recommended! And don't miss the video [below] of members of the Baker and Taylor Fan Club singing their song about the cats!


A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!