Saturday, January 12, 2008

Baby Teeth

I've got to stop taking Baby to the vet. I've only had her for a couple months, but every time she sees the vet she ages another year or two.

On Halloween when I first went to see her at the animal shelter, they told me she was two years old and had had two previous owners. I took her for her first vet appointment a couple weeks later. When the doctor looked at the severe tartar build-up on Baby's teeth, she told me that there was no way Baby could be just two; she had to be at least three or four years old.

So this week I took Baby back to the vet to have her teeth cleaned. ($450!) Bad news - her teeth and gums are not in great shape. Her gums are receding pretty badly, and she suffers from periodontal disease. One tooth was cracked, and she winced even under deep anasthesia, meaning Baby had to have been in some pain before I took her in. That tooth and another had to be ground out. This time, the vet told me that, with that kind of damage, she has to be at least five years old.

So my previously "baby" Baby is now much more an adult. She is home with me now, on antibiotics and pain-killers for a week. Dental disease in cats is pretty serious. With Martin, I never had his teeth cleaned because he didn't have any serious problems. And was was 14 years old.

Although Baby's problems are likely genetic, it's pretty obvious that Baby's previous owners fed her a lot of cheap canned cat food and didn't take care of her teeth. It took me a while to get her onto her dried food. She still gets canned food, but it's more of a daily evening treat for her. Also, she had unbearably bad breath. And, as it turns out, bad breath can be a symptom of dental disease in cats.

So, in the end, I'm glad I spent the money to have it done.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reclaiming Our Leisure Time

Happy New Year from New York! Wow, 2008 is upon us. There were over 1,000,000 people packed into the "crossroads of the world" last night waiting for the new energy-efficient ball to drop at midnight. On my midtown walk last night to get one last glance at the beautiful Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, I only came within about four blocks of that crowd. But I saw a lot of women in fancy dresses, black hose, and stiletto heels. And the strobe-lit glittery hats and big 2008 glasses were sold on every street corner.

I live in downtown Manhattan--not anywhere near midtown where all the New Year's Eve activities took place--yet when I awoke and looked out my window this morning I saw that even Pearl Street was lined with litter. Sanitation workers swept up more than one ton of confetti in Times Square in the wee hours of this morning.

Time sure goes by a lot faster now than it did 20 years ago. Thank god for one more day that the NYSE is closed. Today is my last day off before returning to what is easily the busiest job I've ever had. Over 20,000 emails pass through my Inbox every week. If it wasn't for Outlook rules (routing most of those messages into folders that I rarely look at), there's no way any human being could keep up with that volume of mail. If it wasn't for email archiving capability, my email would be shut down daily due to being over its maximum storage limit. It's too much.

This months' Readers Digest has an article about how we've let technology take over our lives and reduce our leisure time to almost nothing. According to the article, our lives have become much more stressful over the past five years due to the advent of text messaging and instant messaging, increased reliance on email, cell phones and PDAs for communication, and other forms of electronic communication that is constantly at hand no matter where we go.

It seems that technology has created the ability for people to be perpetually available; and those who succumb to that ability (or are forced to give in for business reasons) are leading more stressful lives than ever. I can leave my cell phone at home but I have to have my Blackberry on my belt wherever I go in case there is an outage at work having any potential to affect trading. So I'm tied to my job 24x7.

When I get home from work now, after setting my Blackberry on its charger and my cell phone within arm's reach, out of habit I'm expected to awaken my laptop and check email. Lately I've been leaving the laptop closed because after a full day of being constantly bombarded by emails and instant messages at work, I'm just not motivated to sift through yet more email at home.

Don 't get me wrong--I enjoy getting emails from my loved ones. It's just that email has become such a huge part of my work life that sitting down to read email at home is too much like what I do all day long at work. So I admit that I don't respond to personal emails as quickly as I used to.

Just how do we escape the electronic bombardment that is stressing us out? It's something to think about now that we've turned over a new year.

For one thing, we all need to understand that cellular phone technology does not have to equate with constant availability. I'm going to stop carrying my cell phone (which also serves as my home phone) to work. I have never had time for personal calls at work anyway, and I also am not one of those people who answers my cell phone no matter where I am or what I'm doing. For years we got by just fine with our land lines and answering machines. I don't see a reason to change that.

That's just one thing we can do - put the cell phone down on the kitchen table as we go out our front door to see a movie, go shopping, or take a walk in a park. As for email, there are ways to cut down on the crap that lands in our Inboxes. For those people who forward you every single humorous or religious email that they receive, it's time to let them know (nicely) that you'd prefer not to be on their forwarding list.

Another thing we can all do is stop sending so many stupid or meaningless email messages. One of my pet peeves is chain email - emails guaranteeing that if you don't forward it to 7 people within the next 10 minutes you'll burn in hell or suffer some other horrible twist of fate. What kind of 'friends' send you ultimatums like that? Whenever I get any form of chain email, I permanently delete it using Shift+Delete.

Also, you can keep a separate, free email account (like Hotmail or Yahoo) to receive incoming "spam" email. I rarely give out my personal email account. Instead, on Web sites that require an email account for access, for example, I give them a Hotmail account that I check monthly. 90% of the emails I receive on my Hotmail account are spam messages that I don't even have to open.

Let's take back our leisure time. We need to use technology to our advantage, not to the detriment of our health and enjoyment of life.

Leave the cell phone at home for a change. Stop forwarding every email you get in your Inbox, and reserve the forwards for the better subject material (i.e., the really good jokes, the family updates, the exceptional photographs, etc.).

Do you really need to spend an hour text-messaging a friend when you could have had the same conversation verbally in just five minutes' time? Or, if instant messaging is taking too much of your time, delete the application from your computer. I did that years ago and still don't use IM at home. It's too much of an interruption and time killer.

I generally don't do New Year's resolutions. However, going forward, I'm going to make an effort to reduce the inane electronic communication that is robbing all of us of our much-needed family and fun time. As the saying goes, don't forget to stop and smell the roses.

Happy 2008, everyone!