An obit for Pearl

No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch.”  -Leo Dworken


DSC00632My old cat, Pearl, died last week. I’ve probably had at least a hundred cats in my lifetime. Of those, a handful are particularly memorable, and that was the case with Pearl. For whatever reason, I’ve always found calico cats to have the most interesting and intense personalities. Pearl seemed to have some inner agenda, known only to itself, and she moved about with purpose, looking annoyed at any impediments. She was truly a cat with nine lives. She cheated death years ago as a shelter rescue cat. She roamed the neighborhood, sometimes for 12 hours or more in any kind of weather, crossing major traffic intersections and fighting other cats, yet she always came home with nary a scratch.

 “Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”  -Christopher Hitchens

DSC00576Pearl had two obsessions in life…first, it despised any interlopers in it’s backyard territory with a passion. It loathed other cats, who would DCIM100GOPRObe met with blood-curdling yowls if they ventured onto Pearl’s turf. Any small wildlife that had the misfortune to encroach on it’s space would suffer a brutal end. It once killed 7 bunnies within a week, bringing them to the door and meowing to show me it’s determination to guard the perimeter. Many people think that it’s cruel the way cats will kill something, not eat it, and then bring it to you, but really it’s their natural inclination to rid the home area of anything that it perceives as a scurrying pest…and it’s ego demands credit for the kill. I surely never had a problem with rabbits feeding on the garden. Pearl was always “on the wall”…the thin calico line.

“Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.”  -Jim Davis

It’s other obsession was water. Every cat that I’ve ever known had some sort of quirk, but Pearl’s odd fascination with water was really unique. It would sit mesmerized by the sight and sound of water coming from a faucet for as long as I would let it run, sometimes climbing into the sink to let the water pour over it’s face. It loved to go out in the heaviest rain storms, and I would often find it sitting in a deep puddle. Trying to figure out a cat is a futile exercise.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”―Ernest Hemingway

IMG_0759Pearl was notably aloof and treated most people with ambivalence. You really had to work to get her trust. Once you did, it would sleep on it’s back near your feet to show acceptance. For a cat with an acute sense of survival and self-preservation to put itself in a vunerable position like that requires a lot of trust. I always found it calming when it slept nearby while I was editing video. I understand why Hemingway worked with cats around him. Once I was on a Google+ conference about social media with university students in Amman, Jordan. In the middle of it, Pearl jumped on my lap and started yowling for attention. It got a big laugh from the students and gave Pearl some international face time.

It is difficult to obtain the friendship of a cat. It is a philosophical animal… one that does not place its affections thoughtlessly. -Theophile Gautier

IMG_0752In the last 3 or 4 months, Pearl started to decline. There is, unfortunately, no cure for old age. I would have to lift it up onto the sink when it was no longer able to make the jump. As it’s metabolism faltered, it ate less and less, and I started calling it “Perlita” because it began to resemble skeletal Mexican folk art. Yet, it nonetheless continued it’s lengthy roaming sessions. It was during this time that I discovered it had a large network of neighborhood cat lovers with whom it spent portions of it’s day. Pearl always wore a tag with it’s name and the home phone number on a break-away collar. Occasionally, it would lose the collar and I’d get a call from someone who had found it. These were over a surprisingly large area. I found that it had fans all over the neighborhood, one gentleman referring to it as “his cat.”

“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”   -Mark Twain

IMG_0045It’s last week was pretty grim. It could barely walk, yet it still pined at the door to make it’s daily rounds in the neighborhood. I think most people would have had it put down by this point, but I decided to let it go out on it’s own terms, rather than having it die afraid, on a cold table at the vet’s office.

I’ve spent time in about a half-dozen Muslim countries where cats are respected for their function of ridding the area of pests. There is an Islamic Hadith about a lady who fell from grace for imprisoning a cat, and did not  “set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.”  Pearl was clearly near death, but I allowed her the dignity of spending it’s last few days as a cat, letting it roam and fulfilling it’s predatory instinct. Amazingly, it would be gone for hours at a time, apparently still traveling long distances on it’s wobbly legs. I doubt that it caught anything, but at least it got to visit it’s numerous admirers during it’s last days.

IMG_1878It even got in one more day-long journey in the rain…a rain so hard that I received a flash flood alert on my cell phone. I found it sitting in a rushing stream of flood water, looking quite calm and happy. I carried her inside, soaking wet and looking like a drowned rat, where it sat on my lap and purred while I toweled it off.  For Pearl, it seemed to have been a perfect day.

A few nights later, it’s heart gave out while it was attempting to jump up on the couch. Adios, Perlita. You are missed…although probably not so much by the neighborhood rabbits.

“If you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”  -Arnold Edinborough

Technology On My Back

Originally posted on

A seasoned traveler gears up for education marketing with lessons to share.

GUEST COLUMN | by Richard Lakin

CREDIT Richard Lakin 18 rabbitsIn my youth, as an avid backpacker, I was a devotee of Colin Fletcher, who had walked the length of the Grand Canyon and wrote The Complete Walker, a book that significantly contributed to the wilderness adventure boom of the 1970’s. One of the things that I learned from him was that you could allow yourself any luxury on the trail, as long as you’re willing carry it up a mountain on your back, so I became that kind of backpacker. Rather than “do without,” I would carry whatever would make my wilderness experience more enjoyable regardless of the added weight. I had many great morning espressos in the forest because I carried one of those Italian stovetop espresso pots and a small folding chair to sit in while I drank…

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Originally posted on Education in the GCC:

Middle-school students at The International Academy Learning Center in Dubai Knowledge Village show us what’s important for learning.

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International Day/ Dubai Knowledge Village, UAE

Encountering an unexpected global dance party



Today I was on a video shoot at the Dubai Knowledge Village campus. When I went to lunch, I walked into an international day celebration that one of the universities there was staging. There was food, traditional dress and, best of all, music from all over the region: Africa, Middle East, India, and Pakistan.

It occurred to me how unintimidating an iPhone camera is. If I had tried to use my pro video gear, I don’t think people would have played to the camera like some of them do in this video.

Dubai/ DWC High School students paint a picture of empowerment & national pride

Originally posted on Dubai Women's College High School:

Congratulations to Dubai for being picked as the host city for Expo 2020!

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CAFFÈ VERGNANO 1882/ Dubai Mall, UAE

I’ve never seen this before…and I’ve had coffee all over the world…the name of the place is spelled out in chocolate. IMG_1632I have to say, this is one of the best cappuccinos that I’ve ever had. The big Italian expresso maker is not just for decoration. They actually make your coffee with it. Coffe eccellente!


Apple strudel at 10,132 ft (3,089 M) Gornergrat, Switzerland


Last Saturday morning, I took a walk in the mountains…


Gornergrat is on the ridge of the Pennine Alps above the town of Zermatt. The Matterhorn (far right in the panorama photo below) attracts climbers from all over the world. Over 500 climbers have perished while attempting to climb it.IMG_1448