Friday, July 31, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: Pandora's Shanty

The Ballad of Pandora As I've mentioned before, I play the MMORPG Puzzle Pirates, where you're basically a little nose-less cartoon pirate who plays puzzles. A couple years ago, for one of their "Pimp My Sloop" forum contests, I came up with the following. I was bored, and I do strange things when I'm bored. Like email CNN and tell them they need to stop making Michael Jackson their top news story or else change their name to "Celebrity News Network." Anyway, here's The Ballad of Pandora. I can't even tell you now how long I spent trying to extract fuzzy Pandora from pictures so I could paste her into screen shots from the game.

The Ballad of Pandora

The Ballad of Pandora There now is a cat named Pandora
Who truly did come from Glendora
She looks at her person
Wonders if there's a worse 'un
And dreams of sailing to Bora Bora

She'd take to the high seas in style
Her fuzzy lips they would curl in a smile
But without a sweet sloop
She can't fly the coop
She'll just have to keep dreaming awhile

The Ballad of Pandora She wants the wind to ruffle her fur
Go so fast that the sky is a blur
She'd slosh in the rum
Though the crew might get some
But left at home she'll think you're a cur

Under the sun she'd pad on the deck
Shoot some ships until they're a wreck
She'd give orders and bandy
Plank lazers someplace sandy
And she'd really keep those brigands in check

The Ballad of Pandora But some cheap sloop won't do for this kitty
Because really she is much too much pretty
Her ship needs to be sleek
Anything less is just weak
And her ego is not itty-bitty

Taking to the high seas is a great leap
But my kitty locked at home I can't keep
She must rule the waves
Hide her treasure in caves
Or else she might kill me in my sleep

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Knittin' Crap: Blood Feud

Crocheted Cultist
The Cultist says, "I'm crocheted and I'm proud!"1
I taught myself to knit and crochet from books. Apparently, I did a piss-poor job of educating myself, though, because I did not learn that crocheting and knitting are anathema to each other.

No, it's true, there's a serious us-and-them attitude among many knitters and crocheters, although it seems to be almost completely localized to our beloved country, not to be confused with Alan Paton's beloved country. I don't think I personally know any South African knitters or crocheters, but I have to suspect they'd be shocked that apartheid is alive and well in the U.S. with respect to whether you attack your yarn with a hook or a pair of sticks. Many languages don't even have different words for the two techniques. And, in fact, Japanese yarnie-books very often have knit and crochet projects side-by-side, with no overt distinction between the two other than the technical bits.2

Ravelry is the perfect place to witness the knitters who look down their noses at all things crochet, and crocheters who, well, actually, the crocheters are generally much more polite about the whole thing. Even the ones who don't knit usually just chalk it up to never getting around to it or not enjoying it as much as crochet, but they don't use that as a reason to denigrate all things knitted.

Now, any yarn-ignoramuses out there who are actually still reading are probably scratching their heads, mostly because they still can't tell the difference between the two. (I'm not even going to confuse matters by bringing, say, Tunisian crochet into the fray.) It probably comes across as a religious war where the two factions are waging battles over the interpretation of a single line of scripture. Actually, I'm sitting in the middle, and it seems even more absurd than that.

I'm too lazy to do any hard research, but some people cite a Victorian-era preference for knitting in the upper classes and crocheting in the lower classes. (This doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me, because, as I said, this prejudice seems most deep-seated in America.) And many people, when they hear the word "crochet," probably get blinding mental images of granny-square blankets made of multiple shades of orange acrylic yarn, afghans which can be keeping you warm one minute and then sanding the old varnish off a wooden table the next. But times change, and it's absurd to stereotype a craft technique based on the color choices and limited crochet skills of a bunch of 70s-era post-hippies.

Whenever I hear someone say they do one but not the other, I wonder if they'd ever tried the other. That's fine; it's up to them. But for those who haven't tried, then say they really like this pattern but they can't make it because it's The Other Yarn Technique Which They Simply Do Not Do, I just shake my head and think, well, the only reason you can't make it is because you won't try. Granted, I'm a pragmatist, so if there's something I Really Want, I'll learn how to make it. And, honestly, I might not have done much crochet now if it weren't for amigurumi, which is more often crocheted than knit, because the shaping involved is usually easier with crochet. But now I'm not only crocheting little critters, I'm actually making full-fledged crocheted garments. And I might actually finish one of them someday.

So, when I get asked if I can help a knitter who does not (and I don't mean "does not know how to" but simply Does Not) crochet with how they can make something I crocheted, well, sure I can help! I can help you learn to crochet! It's not that hard! (Natalie Dee's advice on learning to knit holds true for crochet, too!)

(Ok, so if I'm so egalitarian, why do I call my yarn-related posts "Knittin' Crap" instead of "Crochetin' Crap" or "Yarn Crap?" Well, fine, "Knittin' Crap" just sounds better aesthetically than the four-syllable "Crochetin' Crap," and I hadn't actually thought of "Yarn Crap" until now, but I think three syllables just works best here. And some people might include things like making summer camp God's-eyes under "Yarn Crap," and while that would actually make sense literally,3 that's not what I'm going for, either.)

1The Cultist is temporarily sporting a crochet hook because Spoon actually chewed the spear in half. I let it pass as it was the day after Pandora died, and I was mostly just relieved that he wasn't trying to eat it. The polymer clay can be toxic when ingested. I will definitely be more careful. A new spear is pending.
2I have, in fact, also seen American knitters, when they finally see these fabled Japanese knitting/crochet books in person, complain that there are too many crochet patterns in there, because They Do Not Crochet. (Granted, as I said, the Japanese use the same word for both techniques, and there's a line of Nihon Vogue publications which actually has "Let's Knit Series" printed in English on each one even though they often contain a mix of crochet and knit patterns, but that's no reason to get pissy at the idea of Japanese knitting/crochet books in general, which, yes, I have witnessed on Ravelry. They don't do it to mislead Americans who think the two techniques should be kept as far apart as orange and pink. They just don't give a crap about Americans who think the two techniques should be kept as far apart as orange and pink.)
3Seriously, I have no idea how many of those things I made in Girl Scouts and camp, but I can guarantee you that of the enormous amount of artifacts from my childhood that my mother still has, there is not a single popsicle-stick-and-cheap-acrylic-yarn God's-eye in the lot.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: The Training of the Human

p-bear1 (This post is dedicated to my fuzzy butt kitty, who definitely had me trained.)

The June 2009 issue1 of Scientific American has an article titled "The Taming of the Cat." After reading the article, not to mention living with cats my whole life, I really think it would have been more accurate to call it "The Training of the Human." It really gives the impression that humans didn't domesticate cats as much as the cats just kind of decided to move in. "Well, there are mice over there and the humans seem too stupid to catch them. They also throw out all the good parts of the big animals they eat. They're pretty dumb, but they don't seem too bad overall, although the smaller versions are much scarier than the big ones, always shrieking and running and pulling our tails. Ouch! Ok, time for some claw-point corporal punishment! Teach you to do that again!"

And according to Heather, that's pretty much how Pandora showed up at Heather'n'Dave's, a filthy, undersized, 5-month-old ball of fur. (She was, at that time, one of the ugliest cats I had ever seen. She grew into one of the most beautiful.) Her appearance was so mysterious, I thought of her as being sui generis, the result of spontaneous generation. If any creature could will herself into being, Pandora was it.

1Which I have finished, which means I am on the July issue and it's still July! Of course, I probably won't actually finish the July issue in July, and of course the August issue has already arrived, but at least I'm almost caught up!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Spoonerisms: Fat Man/Little Boy

To Laugh

I had to chuckle.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spoon'n'Me After Pandora

After PandoraSpoon seems almost as out-of-sorts as I feel. He seems even more confused than normal, if that's possible. He kept a close eye on me the first day, engaging in extensive weather-inappropriate snuggling, and for once, I welcomed it. Pandora never let him be a buddy, but her presence was inescapable for him as much as for me.

I am, of course, second-guessing myself. The choice to put my little calico Clio to sleep nearly three years ago was patently obvious, if terribly painful. She had an aggressive cancer which was not responding to chemo. Further treatment options remained, but they were terribly invasive and painful, with a very low chance of success. I could not put her through that.

Pandora may have had a better chance at recovery, but I have to believe that, even if she did, it was slim and would have been terribly painful and painfully terrifying to a creature that cannot understand what is happening and why. But I don't think she would have made it. I hope I'm not just rationalizing my decision. The vet said she would need a transfusion in the immediate future, as her blood pressure was so low and the fluids were diluting the blood too much. Feline transfusions carry a higher risk of serious complications than they do in humans. She was almost certainly bleeding internally. The radiologist would not get in for several more hours, so a crucial sonogram was effectively far in the future. If she was bleeding internally, surgery would have almost certainly been necessary. If she had even survived surgery and they found the problem and repaired it, recovery at her age and in her extremely weak condition would probably have been long and difficult. And if she were septic, as they suspected, that had a good chance of killing her and painfully.

With her prospects so grim, I played the odds that she was just not likely to survive this ordeal, and as her condition steadily worsened, I just didn't want her to suffer more. She literally went from able to walk around, although with obvious difficulty, to being unable to hold up her head in a matter of hours. She was so weak when I went to say goodbye. And above all, if she was going to die, I wanted it to be painless and I wanted to be there for her to provide any comfort I could in her last moments.

I was raised in a home where pets are a treasure but where we have a lifetime responsibility to them. That responsibility extends not only toward making sure they have a good life, but also toward making sure they have a good quality of life. I am very grateful that veterinary medicine has made so much progress during my lifetime, but I also am acutely aware that keeping a pet alive as long as possible is ultimately not as important as making sure that I am not keeping a suffering animal alive for the wrong reasons. Allowing an animal to suffer for my own selfishness would cause me more pain in the long run than the loss alone.

I hope I did the right thing. I declined a necropsy because knowing the root cause would not only not change anything now, but I just don't want to know. And, honestly, the thought of having them cut into my kitty for what seemed like a pointless exercise was unbearable.

After Pandora I will eventually get Spoon a new friend, hopefully a cat who will welcome his presence more than Pandora did. I got Spoon less than two weeks after I lost Clio. I knew that I couldn't replace her (she was, in her own way, as singular as Pandora), but at the time, I needed to feel like I was making a difference in another animal's life. Pandora, though, she so pervaded my sense of self, I'll need more time. I know no two cats are alike, that they all have unique personalities, but hers was fantastic and extraordinary, and I need to wait longer until I can appreciate a new kitty for who they are.

Pandora was an iconic figure who ruled my life (but was more than welcome to do so), but she was also my pet, my companion, and the best lap kitty. I simply cannot express how grateful I will always be that I had over 17 years with her.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Miss Pandora

Pandora Fuzzy Butt Awesome Kitty
August 1991 - July 22, 2009
Picture from our 17th anniversary, plus 12 days

I will always miss my girl.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Other: Vive Veronica Mars!

I went on to IMBD to look up something that became totally inconsequential when I saw this headline in the news sidebar:

Ok, Veronica Mars is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It may not be able to compare to the childhood love I had for Wonder Woman1 or Dukes of Hazzard2, but children, well, have much more obsessive enthusiasm for pop culture entities than they have the taste in choosing them. Wait, what was my point? Oh, wait.

Back to Veronica Mars. I still can't help but sigh longingly whenever I think of the show's premature demise. I think, honestly, it was just too smart and too dark to appeal to a mass audience. But, well, what can you do? Oh, wait.

Back the article. Apparently Kristen Bell, who totally embodied the show's title character, tweeted,3 'VM movie fans- rob and i took it to WB- and they said "there is no enthusiasm" to make it :( so fans have to convince WB! rob and i r in!'4

So, of course, I went poking around and found the "Save Veronica Mars" site, no doubt created before the show actually got the ax, and while they appear to be bugging the crap out of Warner Bros, it soon became obvious to me why I don't actually go to these fan sites: they're scary. I love the show to pieces, but the cheesy quality of the hyperbole just... ew. And it's still not clear to me what I, as an individual, could do to help. And VM is far from the only show that has such a site. Anytime a show, particularly one with some kind of "cult status," is threatened with cancellation, these sites pop up like whack-a-moles. Letter-writing campaigns have worked only a handful of times over the years. Ok, it supposedly did actually save the original Star Trek for a third season, the first such time the technique succeeded, but it has become overused, often for shows which really don't deserve it, because they are clearly neither innovative, before-their-time, nor actually any good whatsoever, but as long as the fans are capable of cutting and pasting a canned email these days, boom, there's your letter-writing campaign. The studios and production companies must have staff members dedicated to sorting through and dealing with that stuff, and it must drive them insane, especially the illiterate emails asking when Full House is coming back on the air because it was the greatest show ever! I think I was working up to a point here... Oh, wait.

Ok, the next site on the google results looked a little more tastefully done, although WTF is with the nickname "Marshmellows?" Dare to be different, people! Wasn't that one of the tenets of the show? Not to label people? Especially not with such an incredibly inane misspelling. Geez.

Anyway, they have actual mailing addresses to which interested parties can send their pleas. Actually, from where I live, it's just over the river and through the woods. Well, if I'm feeling generous enough to call the Los Angeles Drainage Ditch a river, which it hasn't been in awhile.

1Which I still have fond memories of, even though, yes, it was a little cheesy. And it left me confused for awhile because they would talk about Nazis and then they would have a scene where they flashed "Nazi Headquarters" or something and I didn't put the spelling together with the pronounced word because, well, I was 7 or so and didn't know what Nazis were, really, except that Wonder Woman didn't like them, and I also didn't know it was a German word. And what about that theme song? I guess disco was a really good anti-Nazi weapon. Those Manhattan Project scientists were working in the wrong direction!
2Which I don't really have fond memories of. But I was 7 or so, and 7-year-olds, honestly, have crappy taste.
3I'll forgive her, because, well, it's about Veronica Mars!
4"WB" is, of course, Warner Brothers, which produced the show and therefore owns the rights. "rob" is Rob Thomas, the show's creator, not to be confused with the lame guy from that lame band.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Metro Journal: Jul 16 Asshole Express

I had a job interview in Westwood this morning, so, well, of course I had to test the public transportation waters. It's actually a fairly long way, over 20 miles, and as far as driving, the two main highway choices both suck ass. I can go through downtown Los Angeles to get to the 10 to go west, or I can take the 134->101 so I would then have the privilege of parking on the 405. Fun! By PT, though, I only need to take two buses. Yes, it's about 1 ½ hours, but sitting in traffic even for half that time? I don't think so.

The first bus was my old favorite, the 780. This time I stayed on way past Hollywood and got off on Wilshire, where I caught the 920 Rapid Express. The Rapid Express is, well, what they have while they sit around waiting for the permission and the funding to extend the Purple Line further west beneath Wilshire. It makes very few stops, even compared to a regular Rapid. (It overlaps the route of the 720, and makes maybe ¼ of the stops.) And it stopped a block from my interview!

The morning trip went well, the interview went pretty well, and I got out around 12:30. The building is right across the street from Westwood Village, but I was wearing my angry shoes.1 However, while I was now armed with a Band-Aid® Friction Block™ Stick, I still had no intention of taking a detour, say, through the La Brea Tar Pits, which the bus did, after all, pass on the way back. (I ended up with two small blisters this time, but it was still a massive improvement.) I decided I'd head back, but get off the 780 at Vermont and Hollywood and eat in one of the little places there. I had to take the 720 going back east, because the 920 only runs during rush hours.

I had a nice lunch at Mamma Mia's, which, of course, made me think of my beloved card game, which I never get to play. Then I got back on the 780 to go home. I was surprised when it was standing-room only. It was only 2PM.

Now, standing-room only brings out one of my pet peeves and increases the likelihood of another. The former peeve: people getting on the bus and then standing right at the front, making it impossible for more people to get on or requiring them to squeeze past the immobile assholes to find a place to stand. Move back, people! Jesus Christ! The second peeve: able-bodied people who sit in the front seats, the ones with signs above them clearly stating that these seats are priority seating for the elderly and the handicapped, and particularly when those people make no effort to move when someone who clearly falls in to that category gets on.

The second peeve really made my blood boil today. An elderly couple got on at my stop. Half a dozen people got on in front of them. I stopped and let them on in front of me. No one made any effort to offer them a seat, particularly the woman, who was noticeably stooped and frail-looking. I glared at the teenager sitting right at front. The asshole was oblivious. Everyone acted oblivious. I Just Could Not Believe It. The elderly man helped the woman shove through the people in the aisle who, of course, had not moved back, and someone at the very back finally offered them seats, but they had to walk through 45' of assholes until then.

Seriously, I could not believe that I had gotten on a bus with 45' worth of assholes. Doesn't anyone's mama raise them right anymore?2 I couldn't find the words. Finally, I resolved that the next time I saw this kind of bullshit, I would use the excessively-polite guilt card. "Would someone please give up their seat so this lady can sit down?"

What the fuck is wrong with people? And, yes, while I may have been standing in my angry shoes, I would have been equally pissed off in my Birkenstocks.

1See this post for my previous adventures with these shoes. See the movie Fear of a Black Hat for the reference.
2I don't remember if I've told this story before, but maybe one or two mamas do. One time I was on a very crowded 780 which was full enough that a couple of people ended up standing. The young man in front of me, probably late teens, dressed like a skater-headbanger with long black hair, black t-shirt, and carrying his skateboard, twice got up and offered his seat when an older woman was standing nearby. Without being prompted. (Both women took him up on it; he reclaimed the seat when the first got off, but then gave it up again when another woman needed it.) Just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: Feline Dental Hygiene

Note the little "here's where we put the IV" bald spot on his right leg
Spoon got his teeth cleaned today. Because it's impossible to keep one cat segregated from food and water1 in a one-bedroom, two-cat apartment, particularly when one of the cats is Pandora, and expect to get any sleep, I boarded him at the vet the night before. Pandora had a 24-hour, Spoon-free party zone. It felt weird without him, though.

And, of course, I felt a little guilty. He doesn't really have a favorite non-wand toy that I could send with him. I decided I should make a mini-version of the squares blanket with the leftover yarn so he can take it with him when he's not at home. Or something. I'm still so burned out from finishing the big one that it's going to be some time before I can face even a small one.

blanket thief
Pandora sheds on Spoon's blankie while he's gone
I picked him up this evening. As part of the discharge instructions, the assistant told me to keep his activity level low for the next day. "I'm not sure it can get any lower than it already normally is." He was actually pretty excited on the drive back, when normally he'll just lay in the carrier as long as I keep the lid open. He really wanted to get out. He wanted some love, dammit!

For a cat who was supposedly going to have a sore mouth, he sure is talking up a storm, demanding lots of attention. Pandora was less-than-thrilled to have him back. He's a little lethargic right now, even for him, but he seems to be doing fine.

1For those who've never had dental work done on their pets, the animals must be anaesthetized during the procedure to keep them comfortable and pliable.

Other: Happy Bastille Day!

Today is the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The overrunning of the infamous Paris prison marks the beginning of the French Revolution, an event as bloody as the marching song that became the country's national anthem and remains so, minus some imperial interregnums, today.

We had to memorize the first verse of the Marseillaise during one of my years of high school French. Over 20 years later, I can still (badly) sing the whole verse and could probably write most of it out with reasonably correct spelling and punctuation, and it's not like I get to practice my French ever to keep it in shape. Pretty scary what my brain has kept. I hope you're happy, Mrs. Russey!

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé...

Other: More New OED Entries

  • brisk food (n): food that takes longer to prepare or serve than fast food but is still basically fast food.
  • inactivist (n): someone who desires to effect change in the world but is really just too lazy to get around to it. Deciding that she was never going to go to a rally, no matter how important the cause, that was held in 90+ degree heat in downtown Los Angeles, Karen had to acknowledge that she is basically an inactivist.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Knittin' Crap: I Am Da Geeky Bomb!

Fishheadred doll You may remember my confession about converting arrt from the MMORPG Puzzle Pirates into 3-D yarnie goodness.

Well, it turns out that one of the game's arrtists named Fishheadred saw it on the game's forums and must have really liked it, because he gave my game character one of his dolls! See, people who work on the game, known as "Ringers" (the company that makes Puzzle Pirates is called Three Rings), have little "dolls" of their characters in the game that they can give out when they feel moved to do so, but it's usually considered a pretty special occasion when they do. So I was totally shocked when I logged in and he had left a note for me and gave me the doll! It means I'm kind of a Big Deal now, at least for, well, ok, I guess my 15 minutes are already up.

Zombie Hunter Trophy P.S. I also recently made a version of the game's Zombie Hunter trophy. I know this means I am a total geek, but the game's arrtists really make some great designs!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Other: Going Postal, International Style

I'm participating in a mini plushie toy swap, and my partner happens to live in England. I mailed off her package today, but when I was looking at the USPS site to get a feel for what it would cost, I took a gander at their page on "Country Conditions for Mailing — Great Britain and Northern Ireland." The list of items that the UK has banned for importation includes some things that make sense, like firearms and "infectious biological substances," but they also have some real headscratchers there. "Horror comics and matrices?" And this one: "Goods made in foreign prisons, except those imported for a non-commercial purpose or of a kind not manufactured in the UK."

Well, I didn't see anything about cute little yarnie critters which I fortunately did not make in a prison, so I'm hoping they won't confiscate the box.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: Typical Male

Typical Male
  • Remote control: check
  • Beer: check
  • Sprawled out on couch: check
  • Snuggling with favorite blankie: check

Friday, July 3, 2009

Knittin' Crap: Why Knitters Really Knit

My first graphjam:

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Other: It's Funny 'Cause It Is So True

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

And that's also why this bullshit and absurd level of grief pisses me off even more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Knittin' Crap: First PIFO Lands, Hits Target, Collateral Damage

Pay It Forward #1 Well, bradymom29 (Crystal) from Ravelry got the first PIFO! I made her a scarf in the hopes that it wouldn't be appropriated by one of her six kids. Instead, she reports that her mom wants to borrow it.

Who will be next? What will it be? When will Karen get around to doing it, now that she's also in another swap now? Stay tuned to find out!

Other: Insomniac Blues

Things to do at 3AM when you just can't sleep:
  • Actually send that open letter about CNN that you posted to your blog to CNN, sans postscript.
  • Go to the couch and notice that Spoon is passed out on his blankie in almost the exact same position as he was two hours earlier.
  • Bemoan the fact that you had just returned all your DVDs to Netflix and thus have nothing to watch that you can doze off to and then rewatch when you're awake.
  • Watch a bit of a show about the C.I.A. on one of the myriad Discovery Channels and learn that the Theremin was used, albeit indirectly, as an espionage device. Also note that, at least as played in the re-enactment, the instrument doesn't sound nearly as spooky as it did in those '50s B horror movies.
  • Look up how to build your own theremin, recalling having seen instructions before.
  • Realize that you had the idea to make a theremin before and didn't get around to it then, either.
  • Find out that there's a freeware program that uses your webcam to simulate the playing of a theremin.
  • Decide that's still not an adequate reason to get a webcam.
  • Check your Ravelry projects page to see if anyone favorited anything in the last 5 minutes, which was when you checked it last.
  • Think about doing a "bedtime" yoga DVD, but then realize you're tired enough, if not sleepy enough, that you'd probably fall over at some point and hurt yourself.
  • Look over at the TV, wonder where you saw that guy on the screen before because he looks awfully familiar, then realize he was the one talking about Theremin twenty minutes ago when you got up to write this post.
  • Decide to try to go to bed again, even though it doesn't seem promising.
  • Look at the word "theremin" and wonder why it hasn't been appropriated for some cough syrup brand.
  • Remember to look up the etymology of "highfalutin," a question which had been knocking around your brain while you were failing to fall asleep earlier.
  • Finally muster the critical mass to get up and go to bed again.