When we moved to our new data-centre there was an automatic light in the garden, triggered by body-heat to light-up for thirty-seconds. It was lighting up rather a lot and the wife, that’s Mrs skankworks.net, was concerned that people were trespassing.
As a quick reassurance I attached a junk webcam to one of the test servers in the basement and constructed a temporary stand for it to point out of the basement window. Its viewing area was at ground level and captured images no more than knee-high, but it covered the main point of ingress. I triggered it to record on motion-detect and pretty quickly established that the traffic passing by our data-centre was in fact cats. I quickly forgot about the catcam and left it there.
The previous owners of our property didn’t keep a cat and our gardens have become a kind of neutral thorough-fare for the local community of cats. They will pass through, generally one at a time, and keep out of each other’s way while doing so. Cats respect neutrality, especially Swiss cats.
Over the first couple of months we recorded hundreds of clips of the local cats, usually just passing by but sometimes negotiating right-of-way and safe-passage agreements amongst themselves. A few of these cats seemed to be quite interested in the window, affording us the capture of some blurred close-ups as they nosed the glass in front of the cam. It was as if they had noticed the webcam in the window and were investigating.
Shortly afterwards the webcam was destroyed.
How it Happened
I came home one afternoon after doing a little CSV on some medical diagnostics software, and there was an attractive, albeit forlorn looking, young cat sitting in the corner of the front garden. Mrs skankworks.net said it had been sitting out there most of the day. I went over to talk to it but it got scared and dived down a hole where the pipes to our fuel tank come through. Simple enough for a cat to get into, but given it leads only to a narrow drop down into the tank room practically impossible for it to get back out again. So I’d have to go in to rescue it.
The tank room doesn’t have a door, but there is a hatchway leading to it from our nuclear shelter (shelters are mandatory in Swiss homes). So I went through the nuclear room, opened the steel door to the hatchway, which serves as an emergency exit in times of great peril, and climbed through.
I hadn’t been in the tank room before and it was a bit like Indiana Jones with all the cobwebs to hack through. In the far corner was the cat, stuck there with nowhere to go. I picked her up and handed her through the hatch to the wife. She took the cat through the nuclear room, into the main cellar and let it out of the house.
The server room is next to the shelter and I had an hour’s work to do in there so that was my next stop. Some of the P1650’s are a bit loud and with my sleeping room right above I needed to work on the acoustics. An hour or so later I locked up the server room, went upstairs and spent a few hours in the office and finally to bed.
Shortly after bedding down I heard a crash from below and feared one of the servers had blown up. I went down to investigate. As soon as I put the light on I saw where the noise had come from – the smashed webcam that had ‘fallen’ from it’s makeshift perch, lying there in pieces, on the opposite side of the room, as far away as possible, from an incredibly guilty looking cat. The same cat we’d thought we had ejected hours earlier.
There’s no way the cat could have got back in. The server room was locked and the window that the camera was pearched against does not open. When the wife had put her out of the cellar door the cat, in panic, must have failed to notice the stairs outside leading up to ground-level freedom and had doubled-back behind the good lady and made a lightening-dash into the only other potential escape route – the server room.
When I had gone in there to work the cat must have hidden, then found herself trapped in the dark after I locked up. She must have mooched about a bit, probably meowed a little, then gone to sleep. When I went to bed in the room above my footsteps must have woken her, she would see a lot of blinking lights from the servers, and a patch of diffuse streetlight coming in through the window. Climbing up to investigate she’d knocked down the webcam.
I picked her up – she meowed once in fear, her little heart pounding – and put her out properly. She went up the stairs, discovered it had started raining, looked back once (unlike that ungrateful Richard Parker), then trotted off.
There rests the defense in the case of the crippled catcam: “An accident, your honour”.
However, at the skankworks.net we do like a good conspiracy theory and we believe there is one here. This cat was wearing no collar. No identifying insignia at all. She came into the house not once but twice, showing distinct determination despite the danger.
We believe that after we moved in and put up the catcam the local community of felines decided to take direct action against this intrusive surveillance over their neutral zone. The young cat was selected from among her peers, possibly because of her lack of insignia, and charged with the mission to destroy the catcam, a mission accomplished.
We have never replaced the catcam since, and we have taken account of feline feelings and declined to post any of the clips that might further violate their privacy. All of those clips have been destroyed (in a hard-drive crash).
The skankworks.net admires the way the local cats took action against surveillance and destroyed our catcam. We’re waiting for their owners to show the same kind of initiative, but as above we will not be waiting up for it. Good night.