Monday, 21 September 2015

RIP, @PixelDoggy

There are many tears being shed in the anipal community today at the news that one of the best-loved of anipals, @PixelDoggy, is making the journey to the Rainbow Bridge. Pixel has not been well for some time, and as it became clear that she would not recover her family have made the painful decision to let her join her sisfur Angel @JinJinDoggy at the Bridge.  

Ahoy there!: @PixelDoggy
takes to the water
Along with Angel Jinny and younger brother @OtisDoggy Pixel has been a loyal and long-serving Barktender at #NipClub, as well as providing a lot of enjoyment to the many pals that she befriended at #LakeWithPetie, and her unfailing kindness and sense of fun have always made her immensely popular. She's joined enthusiastically in lots of crazy adventures, and it's good to see that today's floods of tears as the news has spread across the anipal community are being sweetened by a lot of reminiscences of the laughter she has brought to many anipals. 

Cheerleading: @PixelDoggy raises
the roof for Green Bay Packers
Today at 6pm EDT (11pm in the UK) @danapixie will be reciting Kaddish for Pixel on the #Kaddish4Pixel hashtag. For those unfamiliar with Kaddish it's a beautiful prayer, and you can read the words here. If you're following on a smartphone and can't keep an eye on the translation as well as the Twitter timeline, you can still join in by reading through the prayer first, then watching Twitter and tweeting Amen when others do. By doing so you'll bring a lot of comfort to Pixel's family, and it will show them how much we appreciate her.

Although today is a sad one for all who love Pixel, it's also an occasion to be thankful to her family for the years they've shared her with us. We have loved every moment of her company, and we want to share that love with her family as she is reunited with her beloved sisfur Angel Jinny at the Bridge. 

That's why my belated Thankful Thursday post this week is dedicated to a very special anipal, dear @PixelDoggy. 
Classic entrance: @PixelDoggy and
sisfur Angel @JinJinDoggy arrive in
style at NipClub in their Chevvy

"The pipes are calling": @PixelDoggie
joins in NipClub Bagpipe Boogie

Pals in pink: @PixelDoggy and brofer
@OtisDoggy take part in a Paintball contest
Reunited: @PixelDoggy and
sisfur Angel @JinJinDoggy

Saturday, 8 August 2015

A Meow Of Explanation

As you may know, I have the responsibility of selecting the charities that we support at #NipClub. It's a great privilege as well as a big responsibility, and something I take very seriously indeed.

Recently there have been some problems with charity selection for a purely technical reason. For reasons of security and transparency we always arrange for donations to be made through PayPal, but since the introduction of the Patriot Act we have been required to provide the PayPal email address used by the charity before we can set up our donation widget. That's a very understandable precaution, but it's made things a little difficult for us because we used to be able to set it up simply by using the URL of the PayPal page on the Donate button link, and not all charities make their PayPal email readily available.

Some actually show it on their PayPal page, which is great - others won't provide it even when I ask and explain just what I need it for. I imagine that they think I'm phishing, but I can assure anyone who's concerned about it that there's no way that would give me access to their account even if I wanted it. I simply need to know where YouCaring ought to send the money that's donated.

There are two reasons why I'm sharing this with you right now:- 

  1. Because I'm hoping that if you want to recommend a charity for NipClub to support you may, as an individual possibly already known to them, have more influence than I have as the head of an organization that they probably have never heard of in persuading them to supply the email that they use for PayPal and convince them that it's absolutely necessary if we're going to be able to collect donations for them; and 

  2. Because as none of the doggy rescues I have asked to let me have their PayPal email have replied I've chosen another kitty rescue for this month. I normally try to alternate them and from time to time put in a general shelter or rescue or one that helps another species, but although I've waited till the last minute in the hope of getting a response from a doggy one I've eventually had no choice but go with another charity for which I do already have a PayPal email, and it happens to be a kitty one. I promise that over the year as a whole our doggy pals will not miss out, and I hope you'll understand why it's been necessary. 
Thanks for your understanding, and I hope everyone will have a pawesome time at #NCAGC this weekend!    

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Anipal Times

One of the things I'm thankful for is my job as the Social Events Correspondent for the Anipal Times. It's terrific fun, especially as I get to go to lots of cool events and make a lot of great new friends!

If you're not a regular AT reader I can tell you that the paper's a good read, with useful information, product recall notices, Anipal Shops, cartoons and a lot of other features as well as a weekly account of the (usually riotous!) social events of the week

Recently some anipals have asked me why their social event didn't get a write-up in the AT. That's a real shame, as all of us at AT love to give events the best publicity we can, but we really need the organizers to work with us to help us to do that so I thought it might be useful to explain what an event organizer needs to do if they want their event to make the news.

  • First, and most importantly - tell me that it's happening! I can't report on an event that isn't scheduled, and it doesn't make the schedule unless I know about it. Just like an off-line newspaper, AT doesn't go out looking for a wedding or a pawty to report on. We're all volunteers on the paper, and we simply don't have time for that. So, the first step in getting your event a mention is to... 

  • Put it on the Calendar. The Events Calendar is run by AT and curated by the Social Events Correspondent, so you need to check out the Calendar and choose a date and time for your event. Please note, you normally can't schedule an event on the Calendar if the time-slot is already booked. On very rare occasions that might work for two events that are completely different in nature and clearly wouldn't attract the same audience, but in general the rule is that if someone else has booked the date it's theirs. There's nothing to stop you going ahead with your event anyway, of course, but it won't be on the Calendar, appear in AT Upcoming Events or be written about in AT afterwards. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but experience has shown that competing events lead to bad feeling between the organizers, especially if the one already booked is a charity fundraiser, and AT isn't going to be caught in the middle of the fall-out. It's strictly "first come, first served", so if a particular date is important to you it's a good idea to book it early, before someone else does! Please also make sure you let me know at least the approximate time you plan for your event to happen. I've sometimes had an organizer ask me to reserve a full Saturday because they haven't yet decided on the best time to start a pawty that's intended to last 3 hours. That is just not fair to others who might be planning an event for earlier in the day or later in the evening, and it isn't going to happen. 

  • When you've decided on your date and time, your next step is to email me at shaynacatATanipaltimesDOTcom, or DM me on Twitter at @ShaynaCat. Simply tweeting me is not reliable. I love getting as many tweets as I do, but I have so much incoming that I can't guarantee to see them all. Also, it's important that you let me know at least two weeks ahead of the event, if possible. I try to fit in late notifications if I can, but it doesn't always work. Like any other newspaper AT has set times for editing and publication and can only include the information that's available at the time. There have been occasions when someone has been disappointed that an event has not been previewed or reported on after they'd notified me within a week of when it was intended to take place and my article had already been submitted. That disappoints me too, because I know how much work goes into these occasions, but the Pawties and Events column does end every week with a reminder of how and when to get the details to me, and there really is a reason why that's necessary. 
  • Please include some details of your event. The things I need to know are the event's name and hashtag, date and time you want to reserve on the Calendar, the Twitter name(s) of the organizer(s), what the event is about (e.g. an engagement, a wedding, a pawty, a fundraiser, etc), and a link to a blog post, Tweetvite or whatever else you're using to publicize the event. I'll also need a picture, but assuming that there is one at the link you give me I can normally use that. Please note there does have to be a site or page of some kind for AT to link back to, though!  
  • If there's any change in the arrangements, please let me know as soon as possible so I can at least amend the Calendar. It doesn't often happen, but it's a bit embarrassing if something is called off and people are asking me what happened to it! :D 

Once you've done all that, here's what you can expect:- 

  • A mention in the Events Calendar, showing date, time, hashtag, link and organizer(s) of the event. The Calendar has the facility for anyone with a Google account to click on the event and have it added to their own Calendar automatically, so it really is quite useful; 
  • A mention in the Upcoming Events section of the weekly AT Pawties and Events page, also showing the above information and including a picture and a link direct to the event's page;  
  • Promotional tweets about the Pawties and Events page, which will help to publicize your upcoming event; and  
  • A write-up of your event in the Pawties and Events page. That's usually in the edition that comes out on the Tuesday following your event, but sometimes if it's been a very busy week some events may be held over till the following week. Usually the earliest events get written about first, but just occasionally if one has a lot of detail that deserves a bit more time than is available that week it will be held over so that I can do it justice next time. In no circumstances is there ever any favouritism involved - writing and editorial decisions are always made in what's believed to be the best interests of all concerned. 

Everyone at AT wants to help you make the most of your event, because not only do we want you to have a great and memorable time but we also want to inform and entertain our readers. That means you can be sure we'll do our utmost to give your event the showcase it deserves, so we really hope you'll understand how important it is that you take the steps I've outlined so that you can help us to help you to do that. 
Happy organizing!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Calling All Kitties: How To Be A Cat Scout!

I got into a new adventure last night - I discovered Cat Scouts

I followed a link from the #ThankfulThursday Blog Hop, and next thing I knew I was talking to some very interesting cats indeed. They're very much like human Scouts, except way cooler, of course. They have a Cat Scout Law, and a Pawbook, and lots of Merit Badges you can win. They do a lot of service to the community, both on- and off-line, but in case that sounds too serious I can assure you they have plenty of fun, too, with pawties and adventures and trips to all sorts of pawesome places. There's a Sea Cat adventure happening tomorrow, for example, and a trip to the Grand Canyon due to take place shortly. Oh, and you can win badges for taking an interest in astronomy and botany and all kinds of fascinating things! 

You start off as a Tenderpaw, and after a while you do a test about your knowledge of the Cat Scout Law. If you pass you get to be a Bobcat, and that sounds exciting! The first Merit Badge is for Friendship, and it's easy to win - you just introduce yourself around the Campfire and tell everyone what kind of noms you most enjoy on an adventure. You get to wear a very snazzy uniform (I'm being fitted for mine shortly!), and I'm very proud to be one of the Worldwide Wildcats Troop and a member of the Wolverine Patrol. 

I'll report back in due course on how the Sea Cat adventure goes, but better yet, why not come and check it out yourself? I'm sure that you'll enjoy it!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thankful Thursday - For All Who Work At #NipClub

One of NipClub's first DJs:
Club Manager
This #ThankfulThursday I want to give a huge meow-out to all the anipals who work at NipClub, the online nightclub which does double duty as an entertainment for anipals and also as a fundraiser for small no-kill rescues and animal shelters. Most of our customers very understandably have no idea at all of how much work goes on behind the scenes as well on the timeline, but the fact it takes me around 30 minutes at the end of every weekend pawty to post my thanks to all of them should make the point - especially as I generally thank around 6 pals in each one of those tweets! And apart from those who do their work in public and whose names you recognise even THAT is generally limited to the leaders of the teams who work so hard and loyally behind the scenes, 'cos if I listed absolutely everyone who helps I'd need to start mid-morning with some hours still to go. 

High paws to pals:
joint NipClub Manager
You probably know a lot of our front-of-house folks already - our DJs, Barktenders, Quizzers and Sekurity staff work right where you can see and interact with them. They'd be the first to admit, though, that they're actually just the tip of NipClub's iceberg, and hard though they work the club would not be running long without our back-room folks. 

We have pals who think up themes, devise the entertainments, vet suggested charities to make sure they meet the club's criteria, co-ordinate and schedule the shifts for all the club staff that you see online, produce the pawesome graphics, update the blogs, source prizes, and work each day and every day to publicize events and make sure patrons know what's going on at NipClub... and the best of all is, they are great fun, enthusiastic and a total joy to work with!

So, on behalf of all the charities that NipClub helps, and all the anipals we entertain, I'm very thankful for the great team that I have the honor to be leader of. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

NipClub Gatecrasher Alert

I've heard some hashtags have been having problems today with norty ladies and other uninvited guests, so it seems like a good idea to mention it in case we run into any difficulties tonight with Christmas in July, or at the weekend with #NCGYM. The whole reason why we started using individual hashtags for our weekend pawties instead of sticking to our usual #NipClub one was because over the weekend there were so many of them found us and started posting some very inappropriate messages that it was decided to use a one-off name in future for each weekend pawty. I wasn't here when NipClub started, but I've been told that it never occurred to those who founded it that nip could be taken to mean anything other than catnip, and I have to say that it would never have occurred to me, either. However, it has unfortunately occurred to a number of unwanted visitors since then, so we decided a long while back that we needed to be at least one step ahead of them.

We haven't usually had much difficulty with our Thursday pawties but we do have a procedure that we fall back on when it's necessary. Because it's been a while since it's been needed it's very likely that a lot of our newer members may be unaware of it, so it seems like a good moment to go through it. It's very simple - if you start seeing stuff on the #NipClub hashtag which shouldn't be there (typically norty ladies, but can also be people inviting you to buy Twitter followers, or assorted other stuff that doesn't belong at a #NipClub pawty) please use the Block and Report facility immediately. 

Different apps and Twitter clients do this slightly differently, but it usually involves finding a Settings-type icon (probably looks a bit like a wheel) somewhere close to the Follow button. If you click the icon (NOT the Follow button :D) you will see a Menu which will include the facility to block or report. The best thing to do is click on Report, then when you're given a choice of reasons for reporting click the one that mentions s p a m. That's all there is to it!

If you want to alert others (you may be the first one to see the offending message(s) or you may want to encourage others to report, as well), it's best to say something like "Blocking intruders" - please DON'T us the word s p a m, unless with spaces between the letters, as believe it or not it's one of the triggers these folks use to find an active hashtag they can post on! 

If enough of us use the block/report facility within a short time these folks are usually kicked out by Twitter fairly quickly, so that's often quite enough to get rid of them. Sometimes an attack can last around 10 minutes and it seems like hours, but then it usually ends as quickly as it started. There have been occasions, though, when pawties (fortunately not our Thursday ones so far!) have been disrupted so severely that the only thing to do has been to leave the hashtag altogether and move the pawty to another one. 

If we need to, one of NipClub Management will give you another hashtag and ask you to move on to it. In that case to prevent these bots (they're only rarely human) from following it you'll notice that it won't be written with the # sign - the message will say something like "#NipClub pals. pls switch to XYZ". That would mean the pawty would continue using #XYZ, not #NipClub. If that happens, please do NOT use the new hashtag to say #XYZ and #NipClub in the same tweet. Hopefully the gatecrashers won't have a clue what's happened and will go on happily tweeting only to each other and themselves.

If absolutely necessary we can make that switch as many times as we need to, though hopefully it won't ever come to that :-) 

Oh, and if you're wondering what happens if you get there after the pawty has moved on, don't worry - one of NipClub Management (whoever happens to be around at the time!) will be monitoring the #NipClub hashtag for any genuine pawty-goers and directing them to the right place. 

Hopefully the norty ladies and the other gatecrashers will stay away, but even if they don't, at #NipClub we always do our best to pawty on! 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Man Who Brought The Cat In From The Cold

In the boss's chair: one of up to
96,000,000 cats in USA
Never let it be meowed that human TV is useless - well, not entirely, anyway. Every now and again among the game shows and the soap operas they have something of real interest to cats, and tonight is one of those occasions. 

Did you know that in the 1940s cats were not as well appreciated as we are today? I know - it's truly shocking, but it's a fact. Back then most people preferred to have a dog as a companion 'cos they could train a dog to go outside to answer calls of nature, while cats... Well, you know as well as I do, we train humans, not the other way around. Those cats who did have staff prepared to work for them found their services came at a price - the cats were generally expected to spend the night outside. Now, granted, lots of cats are fine with that, but not all. Speaking personally, I would truly hate it. 

Those who couldn't bear to leave their cats outside on a cold winter's night would use a pile of ashes, dirt or sand. It worked, but it had a major drawback - the ashes, dirt or sand would cling to the cat's paws and end up being trailed all over the apartment or the house. Staff didn't like it. 

Staff appraisal: feline employer
assesses human servant 
One day a lady in Michigan approached her neighbour, Ed Lowe, a businessman who sold sand, and asked if he had some that she could use in her cat box instead of ashes. He had a large quantity of Fuller's Earth, a kind of clay which is full of highly absorbent minerals, which he was eager to get rid of, so he gave her some of that instead. The clay worked way better than anything she'd used before, which as it can absorb its own weight in water was not surprising. She told her friends, and they came around for Fuller's Earth, too. 

An astute and innovative businessman, Ed Lowe realized he was on a winner and he made a fortune - but here's the spin-off for us cats. Humans began to realize that applying for a job as servant to a cat didn't have to mean constantly cleaning up after us or putting us outside. Once that problem was out of the way, there was no longer any barrier to giving us our rightful place as the boss of choice of millions of humans who need an anipal employer. There are now believed to be 74-96,000,000 cats with staff in the USA alone, with 30-37% of households headed by a cat. 

So, Mr Lowe, on behalf of indoor kitties everywhere, thank you for being exactly what the TV documentary called you - the man who brought the cat in from the cold! 
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