Don't share your ice cream cone with your cat

From messybeast.com, a discussion of zoonoses, which are not Halloween masks but diseases you can get from your pet.

Quick summary: you cannot get a cold from your cat, but your cat might get the flu from you. You can get Cat Scratch Fever from your cat. Toxoplasmosis--the reason pregnant women are not supposed to clean litter boxes--may, or may not, have some really weird effects. Both cats and humans can get SARS and bird flu, but they do not seem to transmit it readily to one another. Cats can get mad cow disease, or in their case mad cat disease (Feline Spongiform Encephalitis), only from eating infected meat. Likewise, humans cannot get it from their cats unless they, um, do unspeakable things to them.

And yet, Slim has a cold right now, and so do Goatdog and I. You do the math.

In other news, if you want to know the changes that were made to the Harry Potter books for American audiences, they're all here.



Pudding Is Not Dessert

So, with classes over, I'm on a trip to England, and am in Oxford now, staying in style in a guest room at a college, that, for the sake of anonymity, I will call only "the Latin for the thing the piece of bread turns into after the priest mumbles incantations over it." On second thought, that's a bit unwieldy, so let's just say the College-that-shall-not-be-named. I'm here doing research, but thanks to the good graces of a colleague I am staying in his college and, after doing a talk in the department last night, was treated to dinner in style with the President and Fellows of the College-that-shall-not-be-named last night.

The only reason we were not required to dine in full academic regalia (well, gowns) was that the Hall (designed, I am told, by the same chap who did Hampton Court) was in use by Undergraduates Celebrating the End of Term, so instead we ate in some sort of "senior common room" rooms, a multi-course dinner that included a duck course, a fish course, a lamb course, and a pudding course. (My vegetarian stomach managed for the sake of politeness to get down some duck, but could not handle the rack of lamb, and so I contented myself with vegetables, which fortunately--contrary to what they say about England--were available in abundance.) We also had silver flagons of water that, in a reversal of the usual joke, it took me a while to understand were for drinking and not for finger-washing.

Two different seating arrangements were posted in advance, one for dinner and one for dessert. (Goatdog would call it a mixer. In fact, it did require me to mix quite extensively with a retired lawyer and her husband, a materials scientist. This gave me the opportunity to declare that Great Britain giving a billion--or whatever--pounds to the European Union was not as bad as giving them to Halliburton. I wonder if one is expected to abstain from political discussions in such settings?)

So when the Baked Alaska came and we still hadn't moved, I asked whether the second seating arrangement had been dispensed with. Oh no, I was told, this isn't dessert, it's pudding! So we retired to the common room to wait for the table to be re-set in the new arrangement. When we returned there was fruit, there were chocolates, and there were four glasses set at every place: one for water, one for claret, one for port and one for Sauternes.

The penchant for alcohol is not reserved for the dons; the Undergraduates Celebrating the End of Term, when they finally had to leave the Hall, turned up on the roof outside my window at 2:30 in the morning.

So I then overslept my alarm and woke only an hour before I had to get to a meeting to look at the archival materials that are the subject of my trip. I manage to get there on time, and had a productive day, more productive than I could really have imagined. So that's good. I managed to find wireless access and got some other details taken care of, including responding to a student who asked to switch to Pass/Fail in my class unless I could guarantee her an A or A-. Sigh.

Oxford at Christmastime (or almost) is a consumer paradise--not exactly what I expected. I can't help noticing that the nice pedestrian streets with all the fancy shops are fully equipped with anti-homeless benches that make it impossible for anyone to sleep on them.

The cafe I'm in is closing, so this is all for this dispatch.

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