Friday, July 24, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #115: Tortoises (and Turtles)



The other day the dude and I went swimming at the lake and whilst undergoing the grueling several-minute hike from the parking lot to the swimming beach, we crossed paths with a couple of his friends, having a picnic with their respective pets. This was interesting because one of the pets was a bird of some kind (I can’t remember what species, but it was tropical; guess I should’ve taken notes), and the other pet was a red-footed tortoise. It was surprisingly adorable, and now I want one.

Unfortunately, over-collection has made this species vulnerable to extinction.
Red-footed tortoise by user OldUncleMe from Wikipedia.com.

Until today, I thought that tortoises stayed on land and turtles live in the water. I must have thought that because l spent too much time hanging around with British people (ha, as if such a thing were possible) because that’s consistent with British usage. In American usage, however, “tortoise” is used to describe slow-moving, land-dwelling turtles, specifically those of the order Testudines. Examples include the Aldabra giant tortoise, one of the world’s largest tortoise species, which is native to the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles.

“Turtle,” on the other hand, is a general term referring to all members of the order, whether land or water-dwelling. Box turtles, for example, are not tortoises, but dwell on land.

Speaking of box turtles, did you know that they can die if you take them away from their territory? A box turtle that is removed from the area in which it lives may “wander aimlessly” in an attempt to return home, until it expires. You heard it here first, people – don’t pick up box turtles and carry them off to release in your back yard or whatever. It kills them.

"Don't kill me!"

Also, you should probably not keep a box turtle as a pet, or if you do, do your research first and don’t get it as a pet for a child. Box turtles are pretty hard to care for. They need to hibernate in the winter and require a varied diet consisting of earth worms, insects, millipedes, fruits, berries, and vegetation. Box turtles need to spend time in an outdoor enclosure, so they can get sunlight. Pressure from the pet trade is threatening box turtle populations in many areas. As many as half of box turtles captured in the wild die in captivity before making it to market. In many states, it’s illegal to collect box turtles from the wild, and your state may require a permit for these animals.

While box turtles live for an average of 50 years, it’s more than possible for these turtles to live for more than 100 years. As you may already know, tortoises (and turtles) are some of the longest-lived animals. Individual tortoises have been known to live longer than 150 years. Green sea turtles can live for 80 to 100 years or longer. The oldest known tortoise that ever lived was called Tu’i Malila. It was a radiated tortoise that lived from 1777 to 1965, or 188 years, and was allegedly a gift from Captain James Cook to the royal family of Tonga. The body of the tortoise is supposedly preserved on display at the Tongan National Center on the island of Tongatapu. Only one other vertebrate has been confirmed to have lived longer than Tu’i Malila, a koi named Hanako who died in July 1977 at the age of 226.

But you can't get a goldfish to live for a week.

Adwaita, an Aldabra giant tortoise that lived in India’s Alipore Zoo, was another extremely elderly tortoise. Adwaita took up residence in the zoo when its keeper, Lord Wellesley, gave it to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875. Zoo records confirm that the tortoise was at least 150 years old, but unspecified “other evidence” suggests that the tortoise may have been as much as 250 years old. A Seychelles giant tortoise, Jonathan, currently living on St. Helena, may be between 178 and 182 years old, making him the oldest living animal on the planet.

Here he is as a young tortoise of 70 years.

When I was a little girl, a man in the neighborhood killed a snapping turtle and brought it to my grandparents. Grandpa apparently loved to eat snapping turtle, and in his excitement, he showed me how to butcher the animal. I fear Grandpa wasted his time, because I have never felt the need to eat a turtle and, barring an apocalypse, I never will. I hope there isn’t an apocalypse because I don’t really remember much of that long-ago lesson, but I do remember Grandpa removing the snapping turtle’s heart from its body and placing it in my hands, with the words, “A snappin’ turtle’s heart keeps beatin’ for hours after its death.” And yes, friends, that snapping turtle’s little heart sat there in my palm and pumped away for no reason at all.

I mention that because 17th century Italian naturalist (that’s that they called scientists back then) Francesco Redi performed an experiment in which he removed a tortoise’s brain, presumably to see how long it lived. It lived for six months.

I'll show myself out.



Monday, July 20, 2015

5 Drawbacks of Working from Home No One Talks About

I’ve been working at home for going on seven years now, and now I’m just going to take a minute because holy shit, that’s longer than I’ve done anything. Wow.

Everyone’s super jealous that I get to work from home, and sure, it’s got it’s upsides – no getting up at unholy hours, no hellish commute, less wear and tear on the car, smaller gas budget. But working from home has its drawbacks, and yes, most of them involve the lack of sick days, vacation days, or other benefits of any kind. There are lots of other things that you don’t see coming, however, until you're right in the middle of them.

5) You Start Getting Fat


I didn’t really start getting fat until after I moved back to America, quit smoking, and started taking antidepressants, so I’m 100% certain that those things played a significant role in my unprecedented weight gain. When you have access to your kitchen all day long, you have to be careful not to abuse it, because writing is surprisingly hungry work. I suspect it has something to do with how the brain needs glucose to function.

Also, when I lived in France, people didn’t show up to my house with multiple cakes they apparently expected me to sit and eat by myself, as I complained about recently. French people don’t try to make you eat yourself to death, inadvertently or otherwise. As my friend Kelly pointed out, I don’t have an office full of co-workers who can eat leftover desserts for me. I was going to say those cakes won’t eat themselves, but I guess they might if I leave them in the fridge long enough.

I'd feed them to the woodland creatures, but you don't want to know what sugar does to that woodchuck.

4) Running Errands Becomes a Real Mission


When other people need to pick up a jug of milk, they do it on the way home from work. When I need to pick up a jug of milk, I drink black coffee for two weeks until I finally break down and make a Special Trip to get a jug of milk. Then I get so irritated over having spent a huge chunk of my evening driving from my house, in the middle of nowhere, to the shops, in the middle of somewhere, that I contemplate buying my own cow.

Still not any easier, tbh.

And if I have to go to the bank, well, I don’t go to the bank. The president of the cat rescue I used to volunteer with can back me up on that, because I supervised the Sunday adoption events sometimes and collected a bunch of money in cat adoption fees, and then kept the money at home for two weeks until the president texted to nag me about it. I can’t stop at the bank on the way home from work until they open a branch office in my spare bedroom, which they’re not going to do, no matter how many sternly-worded letters I write them about it.

3) You Work Your Ass Off, but No One Realizes It


By now you’re probably thinking, “What do you mean you can’t find time to run errands, you work from home! Why can’t you just go to bank whenever you want? What do you do all day?”

Well, in answer to your question, Gentle Reader and/or People at Bars and/or All of My Extended Relatives, freaking work is what I do all day. Most people appear shocked to discover that I actually do have to complete specific assignments by a certain time each day, if I want to keep getting paid. 

I can either run around doing personal errands and meeting friends and relatives for leisurely lunches, or I can work. There isn’t time in the average day for both. This is a simple concept that lots of people can’t seem to grasp when they’re calling me up at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday to see if I can drop everything and meet them for ice cream. When anyone else says, “Sorry, can’t, got to work,” it’s accepted without question, but when I say it, it leads to twenty-minute argument about whether I or not I really need to work at that specific moment.

2) You Have More Pajamas Than Real Clothes


It seems like every freelance-writing, work-from-home-advice blogger has to write at least seven obligatory posts about how you shouldn’t work from home in your pajamas. You should put on proper, business-casual attire, do your hair, put on makeup, and coordinate your accessories. This, the (presumably) well-meaning bloggers say, will put you in a “businesslike” mood, make you feel “ready to take on the day,” and ensure that you’re prepared in case you have to hurry out for a last-minute, emergency client meeting.

Well, if you’re considering getting into freelance writing, I can tell you that no one really expects you to wear pantsuits. In all the years I've been freelancing, I’ve had to personally meet with a client exactly once, and he was happy to schedule a meeting at my convenience and did not demand that I hang up the phone and rush out to meet him in my pajamas. If I needed to wake up an hour earlier to go through the rigmarole of hair, makeup, and uncomfortable clothes to “get in the mood for work,” I daresay I would not have what it takes to succeed in this business. Besides, if I'm not getting health insurance, paid time off, or a 401(k), you can bet your sweet ass I'm going to take full advantage of those perks I do have, namely, "wearing whatever I damn well please or nothing at all if that's what strikes my fancy." Screw you, work-from-home-advice bloggers.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t get out of bed, feed the cats, and shuffle into my office wearing the same pair of pajamas that you probably imagine I’ve been wearing for days on end. No, each morning I change out of my night pajamas and into my day pajamas. That’s a lot of pajamas. And yes, once in a while I do forget and wear them to Walmart. Whatevs, everyone else in Walmart is wearing pajamas, too.

1) Dear God, So Lonely


If you’ve never worked from home before, I’m here to tell you that you don’t realize how important your daily interactions with coworkers and customers can be when it comes to not going batshit insane. Being anintrovert, I foolishly thought that I’d make a smooth transition to working from home, alone, in silence, all by myself, all day long, but I took to it about as well as a fish takes to water when the water is in fact vodka.

So...not very well.
Image by torbakhopper from Flickr.

All those little “hellos” and “how are yous” and “would you like some cakes” add up, man. Of course, having been at this for several years, I can say that once you do go batshit insane, it all gets a lot easier.


Mwahaha.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #114: How Do Bumblebees Fly?



If you’re a person who exists, you’ve heard the urban legend that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly. Ignore the empirical evidence presented by thine eyes, plebe, for almighty Science declares that bumblebee flight defies the laws of physics! Those scientists, always with their laws and theories! When will they ever learn!

As you may have guessed, bumblebee flight does not defy the laws of physics. No one is quite sure how this urban legend got started, but its proponents insist that it was birthed from the mind of either a mathematician or an engineer at a party in the 1930s. That this unnamed but truly hard-hitting scientist was probably drunk at the time is conveniently left out of the stories.

Seriously, though, some accounts do attempt to name the scientists responsible for starting the rumor that bumblebee flight is a physical impossibility. The rumor has been pinned on German aerodynamicist Ludwig Prandtl, who lived from 1875 to 1953 and taught at the University of Gottingen. Others blame Swiss aeronautical engineer Jakob Ackeret.

A perhaps more credible theory is that the assertion first appeared in French entomologist Antoine Magnan’s 1934 book, The Flight of Insects. Magnan referenced calculations supposedly made by French mathematician André Sainte-Lague when he made the assertion that the flight of insects – not just bumblebees, but insects in general – should be scientifically impossible. No one knows how bumblebees, specifically, got stuck with the burden of impossible flight, but perhaps it’s just a natural consequence of being so fat and derpy and having such tiny, tiny wings.

"Derp."
Bumblebee in flight by Pahazzard from Wikimedia Commons.


However, Saint-Lague made at least one crucial mistake on the way to concluding that bees can’t fly – he based his calculations on the principles of fixed-wing aerodynamics, which you may recognize as the science of airplane flight. Bumblebees are not planes. Of course, if bumblebees were planes – with rigid, smooth, fixed wings – they wouldn’t be able to fly. Their bodies would be too big and they wouldn’t be able to generate enough lift.

But bumblebees aren’t planes, and they don’t have rigid, fixed wings. Their wings are flexible. Bumblebees don’t glide; they obviously flap their wings. But how does a bumblebee generate enough lift to take flight and stay aloft? Bumblebees’ wings aren’t long enough to generate adequate lift by flapping up and down, the way birds’ wings do. Instead, bumblebees flap their wings back and forth, in a horizontal figure-of-eight motion. That motion creates vortices, described as tiny hurricanes, above the bee’s wings. Because the air pressure is lower in these vortices than in the surrounding air, the bee is able to stay aloft.


How did scientists figure this out? In one experiment, Chinese researcher Lijang Zeng of Tsinghua University and his team strapped tiny mirrors onto bumblebees and then fired lasers at them. I am not even making this up. Somehow, this allowed the scientists to create precise models of natural bee flight that were more accurate than those created in previous experiments, for which scientists were forced to use tethered bees. Tethered bees apparently don’t fly right, for some reason. 

I'll leave it up to you to imagine how they attached the tethers to the bees. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #113: How Did Dinosaurs Become Birds?

I just saw Jurassic World tonight, and was disappointed to see that none of the dinosaurs were depicted as having had feathers. But that’s Hollywood for you, I guess. Historical accuracy doesn’t sell movie tickets. Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires sells movie tickets.
Also, if scientists did go too far and bring dinosaurs back to life for profit, they’d probably go ahead and tweak the genome to remove the feathers. You’ve got to give the people what they want, and the people want two things: naked, leathery behemoths, and, occasionally, to get eaten.

I heard about the birds-evolved-from-dinosaurs thing when I was a kid, and I’ve always sort of wondered how that happened. Researchers have only recently been able to put together a complete picture of the evolution of birds. For a long time, scientists knew of only one evolutionary link between large, land-bound dinosaurs like the T. rex and the tiny, feathered creatures that seem to line up and take turns going at my birdfeeder (ooh, that reminds me, I’d better fill up my birdfeeder). That link was Archaeopteryx, a birdlike dinosaur that lived about 150 million years ago and weighed about 1.7 lbs (0.8 kg).

Image by Nobu Tamara from Wikipedia.

While researchers previously assumed that Archaeopteryx represented a sudden and mysterious evolutionary jump of just 10 million years, a plethora of fossil evidence uncovered in the last decade has revealed that Archaeopteryx and other early birds were the result of a much more normal, slower progression. Instead of birdlike dinosaurs emerging suddenly about 150 million years ago, dinosaurs began evolving birdlike traits pretty much from the time they first emerged on Earth about 245 million years ago. Modern birds evolved from the maniraptoran theropods, of which the velociraptor is one. As the millennia passed, theropods developed increasingly birdlike traits. The dinosaurs that would eventually become birds also got smaller and smaller over about a 50 million year period. The earliest bird ancestors weighed around 359 lbs (163 kg), but they would eventually shrink down to the size of the smallest modern songbirds.

Birds slowly became birdier, and when the basic components of birdiness – hollow bones, birdlike pelvises, three-fingered hands, wishbones, fully articulated quill feathers, and small size – came together in the Archaeopteryx, conditions were finally ripe for bird evolution to take off. As early birds began learning to fly, they started shrinking faster, and the smaller they became, they more adept they were at flight – large winged animals can glide, but true flight requires the right ratio of weight to wing size. The lineage that would become birds proved itself to be far more adaptable than other dinosaur lines, and shrank 160 times faster than other lines were growing.

The earliest birds also pulled an evolutionary trick that has helped other animals, such as humans, nurture greater intelligence: paedomorphosis. Paedomorphosis occurs when an animal stops developing physically at an earlier stage of its life than its predecessors, in a way proves advantageous from an evolutionary standpoint. Dinosaur embryos had larger, rounder skulls and shorter faces, and as birds evolved, they began to retain that larger, rounder skull shape into adulthood. This allowed adult birds to develop bigger skulls and bigger brains to fill them. It also allowed birds to ditch their ancestral snouts and start developing beaks, which would rapidly become specialized to the needs of each species.

As seen here.
Image by L. Shyamal from Wikimedia Commons.


Their newly small size must have provided dinosaur-birds with an evolutionary advantage, since it allowed them to fill ecological niches left unexplored by their larger cousins. Of course, when a six-mile-wide asteroid slammed into the Earth about 65 million years ago, the small, easily adaptable birds, with their powers of flight and their significantly reduced nutritional needs, were able to ride out the cataclysm, while their enormous cousins dropped dead all around them. And that, friends, is why we have chickens.  

And that, friends, is why we have chickens.
Image by misha3637 from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #112: Same-Sex Marriage in History

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, thus effectively bringing marriage equality to every state in the Union. This made me fantasize about what it would be like to buy a newspaper (for proof), climb into my time machine, and travel back to 1997, where I would interrupt my mother in the middle of her I-don’t-care-if-you-like-women-but-no-one-needs-to-know-about-it speech, and tell her to kiss my ass. But we don’t have time machines yet, and I’m going to hazard a guess that we don’t have them in the future either because I don’t remember Elderly Me showing up waving a photo of the first gay president and First Husband. So in recognition of this wonderful, wonderful day, on which a ray of rainbow-colored hope has emerged to suggest that, as Allie Brosh would say, “Maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit,” I’ve decided to dedicate this Friday’s facts to the history of gay marriage.

Image by Benson Cua from Wikimedia Commons

The history of same-sex marriage is one that is along as the history of civilization itself. Same-sex marriages existed in both ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In Egypt, at least one same-sex couple was buried in a pharaonic tomb, suggesting that the couple enjoyed legal status. In Mesopotamia, which I might point out has been dubbed the cradle of civilization, same-sex marriages were well-documented and were just one of various so-called “non-traditional” forms of marriage practiced. Among some of the other forms was polyandry, the practice of marrying multiple husbands, which sounds like it could simultaneously be both the best and worst thing ever.

As most people know, same-sex unions were common in ancient Greece, where the most common form of the institution involved an older man and a younger boy. Scholars insist that these unions were mostly, ahem, educational in nature, with the older man acting as a teacher and the younger boy as a pupil. Such a relationship certainly didn’t end when the participants both married women, as they were expected to do.

Romans also practiced same-sex unions, and more than a dozen Roman emperors either played for both teams or were outright gay. No less than two Roman emperors are rather famously known for marrying men, including Nero and Elagabalus. At least one of Nero’s cronies, on being asked if he approved of the emperor’s choice of a teenaged eunuch as a spouse, declared, “You do well, Caesar, to seek the company of such wives. Would that your father had had the same ambition and had lived with a similar consort!” Because you know, then Nero wouldn’t have been born. Sick burn.

On the other side of the world, folks in ancient China were gay-marrying it up, too. History brings us the story of Pan Zhang and Wang Zhongxian, two Chinese men who fell in love at first sight and lived together as domestic partners for the rest of their lives thereafter. They were said to be as “affectionate as husband and wife, sharing the same coverlet and pillow with unbounded intimacy for one another.” Legend has it that the two men died simultaneously, and were buried at the peak of Mount Luofu by their grief-stricken neighbors. A tree sprang up from the grave, and its twigs grew wrapped around one another as if embracing.

According to controversial historian John Boswell, a form of same-sex marriage known as “brother-making” existed in premodern Europe, as detailed in his extremely dense tome Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. Boswell claims that the brother-making ceremony served as a form of religious same-sex marriage in the medieval Catholic Church. 

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were alleged participants.

While church officials and theologians alike dispute this claim, there is some evidence to suggest that a similar practice did exist in late medieval France. Affrèrement, or “enbrotherment,” allowed two or more unrelated men to establish a household in which all members shared property jointly, as in a marriage, and became one another’s legal heirs. These contracts were entered into via public oath before a notary and witnesses, and while they may not always have been used to formalize a same-sex relationship, the parties involved “frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another.”


In 19th-century and early 20th-century America, a similar practice emerged among women who chose to live together as committed partners instead of taking husbands. These unions were known as Boston marriages. Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake entered into one of the better known Boston marriages. The couple was recognized by their families and community, and to some extent even by the law, as a married couple. They share a tombstone in Weybridge, Vermont. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #111: The History of Eyeglasses

A dear friend who is also blind as hell recently asked me what people did before they invented eyeglasses.

“Well, glasses were invented in like 1300 so they probably just wore glasses,” I said, pulling what I now know was a completely accurate tidbit of information right out of my ass.

“No, I mean, before that,” he replied.

“Oh, I don’t know, squinted a lot I guess,” is what I would have said if I were half as clever as I let on. According to Quora.com poster Kathleen Grace, “They didn’t do much, they just tried to cope as well as they could.” While ordinary people may well have been reduced to squinting, holding things really close to their face, and feeling around for stuff on tables, but lucky for them, there weren’t a lot of things in their daily lives that required sharp vision. Books were uncommon and widespread illiteracy meant that most people didn’t need to write, either. Neither was there any driving. But now that I think of it, I wonder if all those alleged “blind people” that Jesus healed in the Bible weren’t just really, really myopic.

Seneca the Younger noted that “Letters, however small and indistinct, are seen enlarged and more clearly through a globe or glass filled with water.” The Roman Emperor Nero used an emerald as a corrective lens to watch the gladiatorial contests. Lenses made of rock crystal, such as the Nimrud lens, have been in use for at least 3,000 years, but it is unclear whether these ancient lenses were used for magnification or simply as burning lenses à la Lord of the Flies.

Both uses are legit:
Photo of the Nimrud lens in the British Museum by user Geni from Wikipedia Commons.


The first mention of a convex lens used to produce a magnified image appears in 1021 in Alhazen’s Book of Optics. By the 11th or 12th century, Vikings were crafting rock crystal lenses capable of producing imaging quality on a par with 1950s technology. “Reading stones” made of glass became common in the scriptoriums of European monasteries between the 11th and 13th centuries, as they helped nearsighted monks work on illuminated manuscripts.

By the early 1200s, the imaging properties of lenses were well-known. In China, sunglasses made of smoky quartz had already been invented, and in the Arctic, the Inuit were already using snow goggles. Eyeglasses were invented in Italy sometime between 1286 and 1306, according to a 1306 sermon by Dominican friar Giordano de Pisa, who mentioned that “It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses.” It should be noted that Marco Polo claims to have seen glasses in China as early as 1275, though it is unclear whether those glasses were for vision correction or just to look cool. By 1301, guilds in the glass making city of Venice had established regulations governing the lawful sale of eyeglasses.

Earpieces would not be invented until much later. Early pairs of glasses had to be held in place with the hand, as depicted in this Renaissance-era painting, Seated Apostle Reading While Feeling Annoyed as Hell:

"I wish Jesus would heal me of my blindness already so I could hold this anachronistic book with both hands."

Pince-nez style glasses stayed in place on their own by pinching the nose, hence the name (which is French for “pinch nose” for you non-Francophones readers). Modern-style glasses with clearly superior temple earpieces had been invented by at least the 17th century, as they were depicted in this circa-1600 El Greco painting of Fernando Nino de Guevara:



However, the modern style of glasses did not catch on immediately due to what many considered their sheer ugliness. Four-eyed freaks like George Washington, Napoleon, and Lafayette preferred ornate French-style binocles-ciseaux (“scissor glasses”) like these, which date from 1805:



Lorgnettes, or spectacles with a long handle, became popular in the 19th century, especially among fashionable ladies, although these were considered more like jewelry than corrective eyewear. Today, Wikipedia notes that “glasses remain very common, as their technology has improved.”

No shit.




Friday, June 12, 2015

Fun Friday Facts #110: What Makes a Person a Cat Person or a Dog Person?

I don’t want to write this blog post, because: a) I’m tired, OMFG, what was I thinking when I decided FRIDAY would be a good day to write a regular blog post? Past Me was about as sharp as a marble sometimes; and b) I’m now pissed off after spending the past 45 minutes doing research, which in this case amounts to reading generalization after generalization about how dog people are friendly, extraverted, and conscientious, while cat people are cold, aloof, and introverted, and dog people should never, ever marry cat people because we are so deeply, horribly, and fundamentally flawed.  

I don't want your smelly dog in my house anyway. *pout*

According to research performed at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, dog and cat owners do tend to have differences in personality. In a survey of 600 college students, the researchers found that dog lovers are “more energetic,” extraverted, and more likely to follow the rules. Cat lovers, on the other hand, are non-conformists who tend to introversion, sensitivity, and open-mindedness. Cat lovers are, somewhat perplexingly, both more neurotic and more open to new experiences – adventures, art, new ideas, etc. Cat lovers are also smarter, BECAUSE OF COURSE WE ARE.

Carroll University researcher Denise Guastello believes that extraverted people may decide they prefer dogs because they believe that dogs’ supposed personality traits make them an ideal pet for an active, extraverted person, while introverted or shy people may choose cats for themselves for a similar reason. The study also suggests that dog and cat people want different things out of their pets – dog people say they want “companionship” from their dogs, while cat people claim to want “affection” from their cats. That’s all well and good, but if you want companionship, cats are the reason why bathroom doors have locks.

I took this picture while I was writing this.

One sociologist has a different theory about cat people and dog people – and it’s one I like, because I’m a feminist killjoy. Lisa Wade PhD, writing for the blog Sociological Images at The Society Pages, asserts that the cat person/dog person debate is really a discussion about one’s perceived masculinity – or lack thereof. She writes,

After all, don’t we stereotype women as cat people and men as dog people? And don’t we think men with cats are a little femmy, or, at minimum, sweeter than most…even, maybe, gay? And don’t we imagine that chicks with dogs are a little less girly than most, a little more rough and tumble? The cat person/dog person dichotomy is gendered.

Dr. Wade goes on to point out that, while dogs are considered a “manly” pet, this is only true if the dogs in question fulfill an arbitrary size requirement. A large dog is a “real” man’s perfect companion; it is loyal, dependent, obedient, and perhaps crucially, doesn’t talk back. A small dog, on the other hand, emasculates its male owner more and more with each high-pitched yap. I would take this a step further and venture to suggest that the breed is important as well; I recently got into an argument with some man somewhere (I can’t remember who or where) about whether or not a standard poodle makes an appropriate “man pet.” Apparently it doesn’t, because despite the fact that standard poodles are huge and also a hunting breed, the word “poodle” alone is enough to make a red-blooded man’s balls just shrivel up and drop right off. Even so, Dr. Wade points out that cat owners are considered “less cool” than dog owners and “no one ever fears ending up a ‘crazy dog lady,’” although that might have at least as much to do with the lowered risk of toxoplasmosis as with the gendering of pet preferences. In any case, one thing is clear: men who love cats (and small dogs) need feminism, too.