Friday, January 13, 2017

Well, hello there, Friday the 13th.

Some things I learned today:
  • Time it takes to put together Insanely Awesome Meatloaf from scratch: about 30 minutes.
  • Time it takes to cook said meatloaf: 70 minutes.
  • Time it takes to pull said meatloaf from the oven, lose control of the pan and splatter dinner all over the kitchen floor: 3 seconds.
If anyone needs me, I'll just be in bed.

No, this is not what it looked like. Imagine less composed and more exploded.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

UFOs must die!

(Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Still a little raspy, though I no longer sound like Pat Buttram, so that's a plus.)

Having recently returned from the annual Christmas trip, I've been forced to realize something.

My house is full of UFOs.

No, it's probably not what you think it means. In the knitting/crocheting/spinning/weaving/general fiber arts community, this term means "unfinished objects." And I have too many unfinished objects to count right now. From my current vantage point I can count at least five unfinished blankets, and I know there are more elsewhere. I've already mentioned that I have trouble finishing things, and this tendency is starting to bug me.

So. Moratorium on new knitting and crocheting projects until I have finished the ones lying in a partial state of completion all over the house -- or gotten rid of them. Making a metric buttload (it's a technical term) of LEGO earrings and putting them up on the Etsy shop. Buying a new binder and filling it with the postcards I want to keep (and ONLY the postcards I want to keep -- the rest are going in the trash or recycle bin). Etc., etc., etc.

BECAUSE I CAN FINISH PROJECTS AND I CAN PROVE IT. rassnfrassn gracknbrickn.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On anthropomorphizing animals

(Still sick. Still making stuff. But there's something about being physically out of sorts that inspires the need for a good rant, so here you go!)

We are fortunate to live near an excellent veterinary hospital, where we take Roxy-cat for occasional checkups. (Roxy doesn't consider herself fortunate in this regard, but hey, you can't have everything.) After several vet visits, though, I've realized I need to find a particular article of clothing to wear on future trips. It doesn't need to be particularly fancy -- just a well-fitting T-shirt in a complimentary color with the following words clearly blazoned across the front:

NOT MY CAT'S MOM

Several well-meaning vets and assistants, when Roxy has hidden behind me in an effort to avoid the exam table, have cooed at her, "Aww, do you feel safer with your mommy?" and each time I quietly grit my teeth. No, people. No. The people at the cat rescue place where we got Roxy kindly provided us with a small photo album containing pictures of her kittenhood, so if pressed I can point out the lovely orange tabby in the photos who actually IS her mom.

Maybe the moniker "Soozcat" is confusing, but I'm not Roxy's mom. I'm her owner.

Look, I know a lot of people -- including some dear friends and family members who read this blog -- who enthusiastically refer to the creatures living in their homes as their "furbabies" and call themselves "pet parents" and so forth. Everyone, from veterinarians to pet stores to animal shelters, seems keen to support and even encourage this sort of infantile talk. But, craving your pardon for stating the truth, "pet adoption" is a polite social falsehood, a veneer over the truth that you purchased and licensed an animal to keep in your home. No matter how much you love and pamper him, little Phydeaux is not your furry child. He will never learn to spell his own name, let alone graduate from Harvard or care for you in your old age. Unless you're in your eighties or older, you will more than likely outlive him. And you didn't adopt him. He's a dog, and in the eyes of the law, you own him.

"But that sounds like slavery!" I hear some of you cry. Well, it certainly would be if we were talking about owning human beings. BUT WE'RE NOT, because animals are by definition not human beings. This is why I take occasion to the use of saccharine phrases like "furry children" and "furbabies" and similar poppycock. I think most people use them in jest, but just enough people use them on the wrong side of earnest to make this nonsense potentially dangerous.

What happens when we forget that animals are animals, with their own thoughts and typical behaviors, their own ways of living and perceiving the world, and instead give in to the temptation to treat them like human infants? Bad things happen. Sometimes very bad things happen -- things that could have been avoided if people had respected the fact that animals are different from people.

The responsibility of taking a pet into your home involves far more than just filling the water dish and cleaning the litterbox. It also means you don't feed a vegan diet to an obligate carnivore. It means you make sure your pet gets proper stimulation and healthy levels of exercise. It means you don't overfeed your pet or give him too many unhealthy treats. It means you spend the time and money for regular vet visits. It means you teach behavior modification and learn to clip claws every few weeks, instead of cruelly declawing a cat who scrapes at the furniture. It means you do the responsible thing and have your pet surgically altered, so that pet won't have (or sire) lots and lots of young that end up strays, feral, or dead. It means you take the time to learn the behaviors of different species -- that when a cat rolls over and shows you her belly, for instance, it doesn't mean the same thing as when a dog does it. It means you don't become an animal hoarder. And sometimes it means you don't make heroic efforts to keep your pet alive if he or she is in pain and cannot be healed. That's hard. (Believe me, as someone who's had to put a cat to sleep in the past, I know just how heartbreaking this is.) But that's part of your responsibility as a pet owner -- knowing what your particular species of pet needs to be healthy and happy, finding out what your specific animal needs from you, and providing those needs. That is the truest sign of love for an animal you can possibly manifest. And if you don't think you have the time or desire to provide these things, maybe you should look into getting a pet rock.

If you really want to refer to your dog as a "furbaby" or your cats as "little people in fur coats," it's your call. But you won't hear it coming out of my mouth. Experience has led me to believe that treating a pet like a person can be unkind and potentially dangerous, both for the pet and the person. So don't do it, OK?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gleaaaah.

It never fails. The one thing I never ask for but always receive at Christmas is a rip-roaring head or chest cold. This unwanted tradition has again foisted itself upon me, so right now I have squeaky laryngitis that makes me sound like a sick chipmunk, I'm coughing like it's going out of style and I'm downing NyQuil just to get some unbroken sleep. (I blame the lady with the hacking cough at Bavarian Meats. Grrr.)

The good news is that I'm surrounded by fantastic people. I love my family.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Let's make stuff! Quickly!

So I've been running into some difficulties with Homemade Christmas 2016. I should place most of the blame where it's due -- on my own head, for failing to stagger the process throughout the year as I'd planned -- but it's also been difficult because with a few notable exceptions (thank you, Notable Exceptions!), I received very few responses to the "what would you like for Homemade Christmas?" emails I sent out a couple of times this year. Now we're down to the wire and I'm trying to come up with quick-to-make gifts that would be well received.

Some items I'm making, or considering making, include:
  • homemade caramels
  • apple molasses
  • fruit leather
  • earrings
  • melt-and-pour soap
  • foaming hand soap
  • steak rub for Manly Men Who Grill In Manly Fashion
  • spice mixes for Mighty Cooks Who Make Nommy Good Food
  • potholders (Mom's suggestion -- not sure how well they'd be received, tho)
  • big ol' batch of Aunt Anna's almond cookies
  • placeholders for homemade socks or mittens, to be delivered later (yeah, I know, I suck. I didn't get people's measurements right away and I'm not a fast knitter)
Any other ideas? I could use some!

Knit, girl! Knit like the wind!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Want to see something fun?

The long-neglected Wish I Were Here blog is about to be showered in a veritable cavalcade of postcards!

No, really! A whole lot of college students and their doughty lecturer have gotten into the act and provided the project with a YOOOOGE stack of postcards from imaginary places. I'll be sharing them every day from now until the stack runs out (which should bring us well into the New Year).

Go have a look-see. Do it! Do it now!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thoughts on ASL

[NOTE: If you're part of Deaf culture, a lot of these ruminations are going to be of the "well, duh" variety. But since I don't currently know anyone who is part of the culture, all this was new to me.]

ASL
The other day I was watching a music video performed in ASL (check it out) and a few things I'd never noticed before caught my eye. One of them is that everyone who signs in ASL, whether natively or as a second language, has his/her own way of performing the same sign. It's almost like regional accents in spoken English -- still recognizable as a particular word, but with its own local spin. There are also variations in signed phrases; you can finger-spell things out, use standard signs, or create a slang term to express the same concept.

Another thing I hadn't fully considered was the relationship of ASL to spoken and written English. Years ago, I remember a member of the Deaf community being quoted in a press release about a book being released in ASL format; her comment was something like, "Of course I read English, but there were things about this book I never really understood until I saw it in ASL." I think of verbal English and ASL being tied to written English the same way Mandarin and Cantonese are tied to written Chinese -- users of both languages have a clear understanding of the writing they have in common, but they translate that writing into markedly different languages. We decode the written word into different things: a native English speaker translates the written word into auditory phonemes which form words, phrases and sentences; a native ASL signer likewise translates the written word into visual gestures which form words, phrases and sentences.

All languages of which I'm aware have some form of poetry (even if it's horrible Vogon poetry). Certainly this is true for ASL, where the gestures that form words -- whether earthy and choppy or expressive and delicate -- have a beauty all their own. But how easy is it, for instance, to understand the nature of rhyme if your native language is non-verbal, and you can't hear the similarities in the ways certain words are pronounced? And what constitutes "rhyme" in a non-verbal language? I suppose signed words that have similar-looking gestures form rhyme cognates in ASL and other sign languages. Thus it's entirely possible to compose a poem that has a beautiful rhythm and rhyme scheme in ASL, but not necessarily in written or spoken English.

Man, language is weird. But really fascinating.