Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Education is Important? Bah.

Well, lawmakers in South Carolina have made it very clear that they don't actually value education, unless, of course, it furthers their political and religious agenda. Supporting a private school with a very specific political and religious agenda (and let's not ignore that these two are linked more often than we'd like) is ok --apparently even if you have to change the rules to allow a substandard, non-accredited school. Wasn't the legislature in SC nice to make such a special exception for Bob Jones University?

State lawmakers shot down a request for extra financial help for low-income students who will attend South Carolina's public colleges and universities next year.

Meanwhile, they approved $2.5 million to help low-income students attend Bob Jones University, a private school in Greenville.

The State Commission on Higher Education had requested $10 million to increase grants for some needy students attending public colleges and universities. Last year, low-income public school students received, on average, $1,158 in grants while their private-school counterparts received $3,100, nearly three times as much.

It's not that I'm upset that private schools get grants (although, why they would need 3X the public support than a public school is a bit questionable)--Private schools have been able to get grants in NC for years, of course, as long as they were accredited schools, non-profits, with a major campus in SC. But, the rules were changed so that any school that gives bachelor degrees and was started before 1962. Hey! That describes Bob Jones University to a T! What an amazing coincidence, isn't it? Like it was designed just for them!

And then, well, we better made sure that we fund the program enough so that can attend BJU with financial aid. Oh, we don't need to increase the amount for non-private schools! But look at all the people who want to attend BYU and just can't

Eddie Shannon, executive director of the Tuition Grants Commission, said that with the extra money, the commission can give about 800 low-income Bob Jones University students $3,200 next year. That's the same amount most other needy private school students will receive, he said.

The bill to include Bob Jones University was sponsored by Sens. Michael Fair, R-Greenville, and Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins. Shannon said that although the bill didn't specifically mention Bob Jones University, "it happens to be the only new one that qualifies."

Must be nice to have he legislators looking out for you, eh? And it seems a pretty innocuous piece of legislation (you can view the actual text here) -- unless you, like me, actually value education.

In general, the rest of the collegiate world views Bob Jones as a bit of a joke, and for years they wore their non-accredited state as a badge of honor -- making it very clear that they were more interested in indoctrination and specious curriculum than reality. But hey, you can't focus on religion and dogma if you are actually being held to some sort of standards.

Bob Jones, like many other ultra-conservative religious instituations, teach creationism in their science department instead of, you know, actual science. One of the sponsors of the bill was also a sponsor of the failed bill to require teaching intelligent design in schools in SC last year. Well, this just deftly bypassed the Instead of funding highly accredited schools like Clemson, the University of South Carolina, legislators decided to keep South Carolina in the Dark Ages.

Bob Jones University is finally an accredited school (in April 2005) -- no, wait, that's not entirely true. They are accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. TRACS grants accreditation only to evangelical Christian institutions of higher learning. One of the nurses that works at the same hospital as the husband was denied the ability to join the military as a nurse, because her degree was not considered from an "accredited institution" -- in this case? BYU.

Yeah, they need all the help they can get.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Free Ebooks

Since I got my (fabulous!) Sony eBook Reader for Christmas last year (best present ever!) I've been constantly searching for good ebooks to load and read. They have a Connect Store, which has a ton of the newest releases, and I have a program to reformat Microsoft Reader files that I buy. I've also discovered that there are thousands of free eBooks from the Gutenberg Project.

A few other places to fine free (and legal) books --
baen sci-fi -- absolutely free books in several formats, from the venerable Baen sci-fi line.
wowio -- a variety of books (mostly new releases) that are free for those registering for the site with demographic information.

I signed up for Wowio two days again, and have received no spam or other email trash that appears to be related to the signup process. They require a verifiable email address (not hotmail or yahoo or other anonymous-type emails), and that always makes me a bit nervous, but so far, nothing has arrived.

Very cool.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Running with the Big Dogs

We go to puppy class twice a week. It's not actually class, of course -- it's more playtime with a five minute lesson in there somewhere, but the Weasels love it. Puppy Kindergarten is supposed to be for puppies 8 weeks to 16 weeks -- we're worried that in another two weeks or so, they're going to be so big we can't bring them to puppy class at all. They're already the youngest puppies in the class, and just about the biggest (the adorable Newfoundland puppy has them beat). It's so important that they get all the socialization that we can cram into their little brains, so hopefully we can manage!

At the vet today for their 11-week shots, and they weighed 24 and 26 pounds. I need to stop calling them Weasels and look for a larger animal. Badgers, maybe. Or wolverines, with those sharp fangy little teeth!

I don't have pictures of puppy class, but here are some puppy pictures to tide you over. This is what they do 90% of the time:

Look, I know there's something in there. C'mon! Dig with me!

Talk to the Paw!

Snarly Snarly Bitey face:

Drinking from the Big Dog's Bowl:

The cuteness is killing me daid. Of course, more photos on Flickr.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Plague Monkey Husband

Ok, the Adorable Husband was sick over the weekend, stayed home from work on Monday, and has been sick and headachy and generally icky since last Sunday.

He has a horrible headache, everything aches, feverish with chills...and now, SPOTS. He's definitely got West Nile Fever.

So, from the CDC:
It is estimated that about 20% of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks.

The symptoms of severe disease (also called neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease. Serious illness can occur in people of any age, however people over age 50 and some immunocompromised persons (for example, transplant patients) are at the highest risk for getting severely ill when infected with WNV.
He had blood drawn to test for West Nile last week. They won't get results for another few days, but he definitely looks like he's managed to get it. I'm the one who gets eaten alive by mosquitos -- quite literally, dozen of bites -- and he gets bitten three times and gets sick. It's self-limiting, in most cases, and most people recover in a few days, despite all the hype and scare-words in the CDC page. We're not sure how I managed to avoid this, unless I really did have a very mild case last year that has given me some immunity. Colorado is expecting a very bad year for West Nile this year.

So far, he's not staying home from work -- he's not listening to me! I think he should be home, in bed (or at the very least in the chair) until he feels better! Send him emails and tell him to stay home!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fangy Toothed Weasels

They don't fit under the ottoman anymore -- so now they just run around and around and around.

No, she's not trying to eat Berit, but the little beastie is being seriously annoying today. Uulaq doesn't take much guff.

Free! Cheap!

Does anyone want a puppy?

Take two, they come as a matched set!

They're driving me absolutely NUTS today. While they haven't quite mastered the whole housetraining thing, they have definitely learned that by whining in a specifically urgent way, that we will ask if they want to "go outside?" and they get to go romp in the backyard.

I am SO being played by the little weasels.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Beet Pulp Safety Warning

A rather amusing story for aninal lovers -- Beet Pulp Safety Waring

Operatic Range

So, an experiment in single-puppyhood last evening. The Adorable Husband is sick (they actually think he has West Nile -- and he has the spots to prove it) so I took ONE puppy to the puppy kindergarten class.

Packed up Rowan, put his cute little harness on and went to class. Left Berit at home in the puppy pen, with a gate across my office door, just in case.

The shrieking started immediately. And continued, unabated, for two solid hours. The husband got up, picked her up and carried her around, tried to calm her down...no go. Operatic screeching punctuated by pathetic little whimpers for the entire time we were gone. He said that nothing calmed her down.

We've had them separated before -- in fact, we're very careful to do it just so this sort of thing doesn't happen. We take them for separate walks, but apparently that's not enough. So far, it's only been for 15-20 minutes or so.

When we got home, she snorfled him all over, then laid down on top of him to sleep, still whimpering occasionally in her sleep.

I sincerely hope we haven't just cemented serious Separation Anxiety in her teeny little puppy brain! I think we'll be trying very short separations and work up to class all alone in a few weeks. Oy!

Executive Privilege

Even if you don't pay much attention to the news, you've probably heard the words "executive privilege" bandied around fairly often in the last few weeks. Citing executive privilege, Bush has forbidden his aides and other associates from responding to Congressional subpoenas, refused to provide information for ongoing investigations, issued an executive order to prevent the Justice department from prosecuting contempt charges, hidden all information about the friendly-fire death of a US soldier; pretty much anything that he doesn't want to talk about is suddenly covered by "executive privilege". Even Cheney, who a few weeks ago was claiming that he wasn't part of the executive branch, is happy to make claims of executive privilege when he doesn't want to come clean with the American public.

There are certainly things in the executive office that are covered by the rather nebulous concept of executive privilege -- but it is not meant as a get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid any and all transparency of the action of the executive branch. I'm all for making sure that national security is maintained, but this is beyond the pale.

Bush has invoked and expanded this idea to be a shield against everything. Generally, the idea of executive privilege means that the president's involvement in things can be shielded from public view, so that he can continue to do his job without constant interference and investigation. People aren't compelled to discuss conversations that had with the president. It isn't meant to cover any one who is even remotely associated with the executive branch -- waht Bush seems to mean when he claims "executive privilege" is that anyone who talks to him about anything is immune from Congressional subpoenas, even about matters which they did not discuss with him.

If Bush wasn't involved in the attorney firings (which have prompted a number of subpoenas and now contempt charges because Bush has told people in his administration to not respond to them) then Executive Privilege doesn't apply. If this was entirely within the Justice Department, and no wrongdoing was perpetrated...then Bush has absolutely no reason to invoke any kind of privilege for himself, adn certainly doesn't have the authority to claim it for others just because the outcome of the questioning might be embarssing for the administration. By claiming executive privilege, Bush is implicitly admitting involvement, which means that he was lying before when he said he wasn't involved. Either way, an unacceptable position.

The president does not have this power -- not by the constitution, not by generally accepted legal precedent -- not by assertion. It's astonishing, beyond astonishingto actually offensive, that the president thinks that he can simply disregard congress, disregard the American people, and disregard the law. He really does seem to believe that he's above the law and he can do anything that he wants, without fear of retribution, because he can simply bypass the laws by fiat whenever he wants to. I supposed the next step is just to get rid of the justice department and get rid of congress so the King can do whatever he wants.

Congress is not accepting this argument, as well they shouldn't. We -- the people -- deserve better than this.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


With the exception of food stuffs, I don't really pay much attention to to whether things are imported from China. I probably should, with the recent spate of information about chemical contamination in many chinese products -- toys, food, pills, etc. The whole fiasco regarding gluten products used in dog food was bad enough, but when you think about the foodstuffs that we import from China, it gets a bit scary.

But sometimes the juxtaposition of chinese goods and western sensibilities is a bit amusing. There is a clothing line called "Free People". They make kind of bohemian clothes, rather funky. You can find them at Nordstrems.

They're imported. Usually from China.

I'm really not going to pay $70 for a shirt made in a sweatshop in china. Especially not one with the label "Free People".

More Clicking

Well, apparently Rowan felt left out. Now he's started clicking, too! Aargh!

It definitely seems like a "growing pains" sort of thing. I'm pretty sure they're growing visibly each day. Every morning we come down and they're taller.

Issue of Suffering

CRAIGVILLE, MA hosted 80 religious leaders from at least five denomination sin a week-long theological conference (called the Craigville Coliloquy) to discuss issues facing the faith community. This year, the topic was the issue of suffering. Many people of faith want to know why a benevolent god allows innocents to suffer, and they aren't happy with the answers from their churches.
"The explanation for suffering has become a thorn in the side of many 21st-century congregations, and pastors acknowledge the challenge. "We chose this topic because this [struggle to explain suffering] is a reason why people are leaving our churches," says the Rev. Llewellyn Smith, one of the colloquy organizers."
There is no real answer to the question that still fits in with the christian view of god, and people are trying to come to grips with an answer.
"When discussing human suffering and God's relation to it, stakes are high for church leaders and laity alike. They must decide whether to say a tragic event is a) God's doing, b) something God could have stopped but didn't, c) beyond God's realm of power, or d) unknown to God.
It's a serious question, and one that I am sure bothers a lot of believers. Non-believers don't waste a lot of time worrying about it, except to note that the presence of innocent suffering in the world generates a logical contradiction with the concept of the christian god. All good, all knowing, benevolent, and caring don't mesh well with people dying of common diseases, floods that kill thousands, plane crashes, school shootings. But if you do accept that there is a god, there seems to be disconnect here. I can understand how it would disillusion churchgoers to be told that they simply don't understand that they are supposed to suffer as part of the plan, and that despite these actions, that god is still good and cares about them.

If you believe, could you stay in a church that said it was god's will that thousands of people died in a flood? Or that students died in the regent Virginia school shooting? Many people can't. It's become a difficult issue for religious leaders when faced with this sort of question from their congregations. I'm not particularly impressed with some of the proposed answers:
For some, it was occasion to be daring. Asked why someone should believe in an almighty and loving God amid evidence of suffering, Magill backed off traditional doctrine. "I give up the 'almighty' part," she answered. "God is as powerful as those who believe in Him or Her and who let God guide them.... But we don't always do that, so God becomes less powerful.
This is a perfect tautology, by the way. "God is only as powerful as you believe him to be, and if you don't believe enough that god is powerful, then he isn't." I don't quite think that's going to be the official position of many christian churches, although it's certainly a concept familiar with atheists: god exists because people want him/her/it to exist, because god serves an important personal and social need.

Interesting article, and an interesting conundrum in the realm of the faithful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Forensic Identification

I was a bit skeptical when newspapers announced that they had positively identified the mummy of Queen Hapshetsut (the Egyptian pharaoh from 1473-58 BCE). We visited her temple in Deir el Bahri when we were in Egypt, and her story is one of the more interesting pieces of Egyptian history.

She was the daughter of Thutmosis I, and married her half-brother Tuthmosis II. When he died, she became regent for Tuthmosis III, but after a few years, she assumed the throne as Pharaoh. She wore the traditional male articles of clothing, the false beard of the pharaoh, and reigned Egypt during a particularly prosperous period.

However, after her death, she was effectively "erased" from Egyptian history. Her statues were smashed, her name and image were defaced whevered they appeared, and she never appeared on the 'king-lists' that show the lineage of the pharaohs for over three millennia.

Like many of the pharaohs, her mummy had never been identified. So when Zahi Hawas and the Egyptian Antiquities group decided to re-open the search, I was expecting a much less positive result. Using a combination of CT scans, MRI images and even DNA testing, they assessed four possible mummies that might be Hatshepsut. The 3D image generated by the scans allowed them to compare known data and relics with the possible mummies -- and indeed, the final identifying bit was a broken tooth!

From a sealed box that has been accepted as belonging to Hatshepsut -- it's provenance is well known and everyone agrees that the contents of the canopic box are hers -- contained a fragment of a tooth, a molar with one of the roots broken off. The scans show that is matches exactly to the remaining broken root in the mummy that they had believed to be the queen.

Discovery channel did a special on the investigation which was fascinating (and reminded me that Mr. Hawas has never met a camera he didn't like!).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Miss Clicky Butt

Well, the vet doesn't seem too worried about Berit's clicking -- he thinks that it is a tendon issue, probably in her left knee. Everything feels fine, nothing seems to be painful, everything seems to work.

Since she's growing so fast, it's most likely a transient problem. If it continues, he says, we may want to xray next week at our 11 week appointment. But, it hasn't slowed her down at all, so I'm going to try not to worry!

And the growing like weeds? Berit is 20.2 pounds this week, Rowan is 22.4. They're not quite 10 weeks old.


Deathly Hallows

No spoilers, I promise.

The Adorable Husband is avoiding me -- for fear that I will spoil the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for him. I finished yesterday afternoon, he's still about half-way through the book. We actually bought two copies because we couldn't figure out how to share nicely!

I really enjoyed it -- I think it's the best book yet, and I was very surprised by the plot twists. I haven't been keeping up with all the 'predictions' sites, so I really had no idea what the rest of the world seemed to expect. It was quite different than I thought it would be.

If you don't want to inadvertently get spoilers for the ending (or anything else in the book) then you had better sit down and read it quickly, and don't websurf or watch the news! Details seem to be everywhere.


Berit has started clicking. I can't tell if it's her knee, hip, elbow, or what. About half the time she's romping around, she sounds like someone cracking their knuckles, or those bad-knee clicks that the Adorable Husband has all the time.

We thought at first it was her collar, but after taking it off and letting her romp in the backyard, it's definitely her making the clicking noise. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, and it certainly hasn't slowed her down much.

I'm hoping it's just a fast-growing side-effect (they are about six inches taller than they were two weeks ago!) and it is nothing serious, but we have a vet appointment today, just in case. With such big beasties, we always worry about hip dysplasia or other bone problems, but just two weeks ago, our vet thought she felt fine. But, like I said, they are growing like the proverbial weeds, so who knows. Gah.

Fur it, or agin it?

This same bill that Bush threatened to veto back in May he is now using to slam his critics. Now it's the democrats who are against pay raises? After he strongly opposed the more-generous pay raise that the democrats sent him in May? Well, of course no one is going to remember that, and I'll give a buck to anyone who hears about it on the news now. Fat chance.

President Bush, (Friday morning):
I’m joined by veterans and military families here to express support to our troops and their mission in Iraq. I want to thank you all for being here today. We’ve just finished a really good meeting. In our discussions, these folks had a message that all of us in Washington need to hear. It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field, and give them everything they need to succeed. In February I submitted to Congress a Defense Department spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year that will provide funds to upgrade our equipment for our troops in Iraq and provides a pay raise for our military - a comprehensive spending request - that Congress has failed to act on.
President Bush, May 16, 2007:
Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President’s proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is unnecessary

Where is this granted?

Can someone explain to me where the constitution enumerates these dictatorial powers to the executive? Huh? It doesn't? Maybe someone ought to tell this administration.
WASHINGTON — In the growing battle between the White House and Congress, the administration will block the Justice Department from prosecuting any contempt charges that Congress may bring as a result of the administration's claim of executive privilege, according to a news report.

Administration officials have discussed the plan for several weeks, a move that could derail ongoing attempts in Congress to uncover new documents or testimony in the investigation of last year's firings of several U.S. attorneys, The Washington Post reported.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," an unnamed administration official told The Washington Post, adding, "A U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."
Here's the full report.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Me? Bad? Naaaahhhh

Of course they're little angels. They'd never do anything bad.....


I was woken up this morning by...two extremely happy little puppy faces at the side of my bed. On the second floor. Past both the puppy prison playpen and door gate meant to keep them in my office.

It took me a few moments to realize that something was wrong with this picture and quite a bit longer to chase down the little weasels and get them back downstairs (since they apparently can go UP the stairs, but not down.)As far as I can tell, they had broken out of puppy jail by pushing the whole playpen thing about six feet, until the free end was finally past the edge of the bookcase and then slipped out to run amok in the house. I have no idea how long they were out before they ventured upstairs -- but there was suprisingly little damage, all told. Shredded toilet paper, all the kitchen towels in the living room in little spit-soaked heaps, my shoes all over, tipped-over bag of dog food.

Uulaq was hiding in the other bedroom. She must have thought it was her fault they were loose and she didn't want to be anywhere near the fallout when I discovered that she'd let them run around the house!

No pee spots (at least that I can find). They must have had a great time!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Math Problems

I can't resist copying this snippet from Pharyngula:
  • Fundamentalists: believe 2+2 =5 because It Is Written. Somewhere. They have a lot of trouble on their tax returns.
  • "Moderate" believers: live their lives on the basis that 2+2=4. but go regularly to church to be told that 2+2 once made 5, or will one day make 5, or in a very real and spiritual sense should make 5.
  • "Moderate" atheists: know that 2+2 =4 but think it impolite to say so too loudly as people who think 2+2=5 might be offended.
  • "Militant" atheists: "Oh for pity's sake. HERE. Two pebbles. Two more pebbles. FOUR pebbles. What is WRONG with you people?"

Cellphone Danger

This is actually a pretty awful story -- a car accident in Lexington, KY, where a woman and her six-year-old child were serioudly injured after their truck flipped over in the oncoming lane.
Jacqueline Dotson and her six-year-old daughter had to be cut out of their vehicle after the accident in which Dotson veered into the median and over-corrected, rolling her truck over the guardrail and landing upside down after flipping several times.
A good samaritan stopped, and put a tourniquet on Dotson's severed arm. She and her daughter should be fine.

But I clearly recognize that I am a bad person because the following sentences in the story actually made me sort of laugh.
Several people stopped to help, and it turns out, the good samaritans may very well have saved Dotson's life. Sheila Vice, a nurse's aide, and an off-duty EMT from another county stopped to help, and put a tourniquet on Dotson's arm to stop the bleeding. Her arm was found near the accident still clutching a cell phone.
Let me just repeat: Her arm was found near the accident, still clutching a cell phone.

Think that was the cause of the accident? I see dozens of drivers every single day that swerve all over, stop or move abruptly...all because they've got that phone plastered to their ear. I was nearly hit in a parking lot when a women sort of spasmed and slammed on the brakes as she ducked below the dash to fetch her ringing cellphone. She was so absolutely conditioned to answer it Right. This. Second that she forgot everything else that she was doing.

The damn things should be banned while driving. Even hands-free phones, when the driver simply HAS to answer them the microsecond they ring, can cause drivers to be erratic and unpredictable.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spare Dog

Uulaq is molting. She does this twice a year, of course (more often if she's stressed) and hair is coming off of her in hunks. Her other name is "Sheds like Buffalo". The amount of hair is amazing.

This enormous pile is from one side of the dog. And not even that completely brushed out.

We also got the Weasels little harnesses -- so while we teach them to walk on a leash we aren't yanking them around by the neck. They look like teeny-weeny sled dogs.

More pictures on Flickr, of course!

Spare Trousers

I thought all the laughing commentary about 'wear dark pants' when you use Alli, the new diet-drug, was just that -- commentary. But no! The site itself actually warns you about something they are calling "treatment effects" (which the rest of the world call side-effects, I guess, except that these are pretty much guaranteed to happen. )

This is the same stuff as Xenical, and is supposed to prevent you from absorbing fat from the food you eat. But, eat just a smidge too much of the forbidden fat and...well, the warnings aren't pretty. Anal leakage? Eeeuuu.

So I checked the website for Alli (myalli.com)- here are some of the lovely side effects (which, while rather disgusting, aren't dangerous at all):
  • gas with oily spotting
  • loose stools
  • more frequent stools that may be hard to control
And yes, their suggestions actually do say, "wear dark pants". I bet Marketing is having fits.
You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work

You may not usually get gassy, but it's a possibility when you take alli. The bathroom is really the best place to go when that happens
    Methinks that this is not going to leap off the shelves, with warnings like that! Although, you know? It might work -- albeit in a completely different way than they intended.

    I think that Alli works more like electric-shock treatment -- you know how they convinced rats not to eat by zapping them every time they touched the food? If it's so absolutely awful and possibly grossly embarassing to eat even a middling-fat mean (say nothing of high-fat), you will eventually avoid them automatically -- negative reinforcement works really, really well. Alfredo sauce? Cheese? Big mac? Well, be prepared to change your underpants (after an extended period of IBS-like symptoms. From someone who has weekly attacks of The Claw (serious intestinal distress!), it definitely makes me think seriously about what I eat.

    It might actually work, if viewed like that -- not as a "I can eat anythign I want because I won't absorb fat!", but instead as "oh, shit, that's high fat and I'm waring white pants" -- it's quite possible that Alli will be very successful in helping people lose weight and keep it off. It will definitely change people's behavior, which is the only way that you can ever keep the weight off.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    There goes more important info

    I often joke that my bizarre ability to remember weird facts and trivia means that these little bits of data replace something important in my memory. Remember every wine bottle size? Whoops! There goes your memories of second grade!

    The weird thing I learned yesterday? Bowling Shoes are sold as right-handed and left-handed pairs, since the soles of the shoes are different. You have a 'sliding shoe' and a 'braking shoe'. The sliding shoe is on the foot opposite your 'handed-ness', so you can do that little flourishy follow-through you see in professional bowling. If you're serious about it (like my Dad was), you might have interchangeable pads on the soles to handle different lane conditions.

    Rental shoes, of course, are the same for both feet, with a composite sole that is neither grippy nor slippery.
    [image from bestbowling.com]

    Forget we ever said anything

    From the Center for American Progress:
    Conservatives who are now fully embracing the filibuster as a tool to thwart passage of Iraq redeployment bills are the very same lawmakers who were calling for the "nuclear option" in 2005. At the time, Republicans held 55 seats in the Senate and were constantly voicing anger over the "obstructionism" of Democrats, who objected to the confirmation of a few right-wing judicial nominees. In 2005, the majority called for upending the practice of filibustering judicial appointments.

    Now, those same senators -- who are currently in the minority -- have been constantly deploying the threat of a filibuster. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) previously said the filibuster was "bad for the institution. It's wrong. It's not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I'm perfectly prepared to blow the place up. No problem."

    Now, Lott, along with Kyl, are using the filibuster to provide political cover for President Bush and prevent passage of legislation that retains the majority support of Americans.
    So it's only bad if the "other people" do it. Judges are only "activist judges" when they disagree with what you want them to do, policies are only wrong if they aren't your policies, behavior is only criminal or immoral if the other guys do it.

    I know that both sides (all sides?) do this sort of thing. My astonishment here is that the republicans made such a huge deal about how the filibuster was baaaaad, and how it was obstructing the workings of the government, and how we simply shouldn't tolerate those damned democrats trying to frustrate Bush's grand plan.

    Now? They are more than happy to use exactly the same tactics, do exactly the same things they accused the democrats of...but now it's a gooooood thing, and they're protecting us. Seriously, shouldn't their heads explode from the hypocrisy?

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    It's a BOX!

    We have probably bought about a zillion dollars worth of puppy toys. Stuffy toys, chewie toys, toys that beep, toys that sqeak, in an attempt to keep the puppies from chewing us, the furniture, and the house.

    And what do they love playing with?

    An empty water bottle.

    Fill it with puppy kibble and it's the Bestest Toy Ever! The chew it (and it crinkles and makes a great amount of noise) and sometimes, food flings out the open end. Woot!

    It kept them amused for almost an hour today. Considering that they have the attention span of a budgie, I'm impressed!

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    On the way to Harvard

    We took the Weasels to Puppy Kindergarten class today -- basically playtime and a Q&A session with a great dog trainer at Bolder Dog Training. We worked with Gigi ten years ago with Rukh and we decided that her guidance was at least partially responsible for the fact that he was the Best. Dog. Ever.

    So we arrived at class with both puppies, with the full knowledge that we might not be able to bring them both to the same class -- one of the major concerns with raising siblings is that they become Siamese Twins, they can't do anything without the other one and focus on each other to the exclusion of everyone else, including the humans in the family. So, we talked to Gigi ahead of time to figure out how to handle it. We tried both at the same time...and it was a rousing success. With eight other dogs at the class (including a Spinone, a breed I'd never heard of before) and a couple of labs and retrievers, there was so much to see and smell that the Weasels barely noticed that they were there together. Most of the other puppies are older than they are, so they are about the same size (Rowan is about 19.2 pounds, Berit 17). Give us another few weeks and they'll be bigger than all the other puppies, but for now, they get pretty well mauled by the 14-week old chocolate lab puppy, and can't just thunder about intimidating smaller dogs.

    When we brought them home, they slept for almost SIX hours. We obviously overstimulated their teeny little brains.

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Imposter Student

    This is not a new story. Earlier this year, a student at Stanford University -- who had attended classes for nearly a whole year and lived in two different dorsm -- was discovered to be a complete fraud. She had not been accepted to attend Stanford (indeed, she had applied and been rejected), but she showed up anyways and managed to scam her way into dorm rooms, meals, classes, study groups, and the campus life in general.

    Azia Kim was like any other Stanford freshman. She graduated from one of California’s most competitive high schools last June, moved into the dorms during New Student Orientation, talked about upcoming tests and spent her free time with friends.

    Kim, an 18-year-old from Orange County who graduated from Fullerton’s Troy High School, lived in Kimball throughout fall and winter quarter. She lived in Okada, the Asian-American theme dorm, until Monday night, when University staff finally caught onto her ruse.

    The "roommates" with whom she shared a room (which she entered by climbing in through the window, since she had no keys) are saying they feel 'betrayed' and 'freaked out' because the school allowed this to happen.

    It's not like Kim was dangerous -- she never threatened anyone, she never seemed to be outwardly odd; she just attended a school she had been rejected from and apparently built an extremely complicated lie to make it work. I can understand them feeling betrayed, but feeling unsafe or scared seems a bit over the top to me. Although, if one "imposter" can make it through almost a whole year without anyone really suspecting, how many others are out there who are doing it better and getting away with it? Kim did not seem to have any malicious intent, but I'm sure others could. Quite a few people are very concerned that this is a serious security breach (read the comment son the article, they're quite interesting).

    Obviously this girl has some serious problems -- some have suggested that she did this because of unreasonable pressure at home to attent a prestigous school, others that she had a burning desire to attend Stanford despite her lack of credentials. I think she deserves sympathy more than condemnation -- and some serious counselling to discover why she did this. Whether she's a pathological liar or simply desperate remains to be seen.

    Puppy Zooms

    Well, the weasels are actually quite a bit calmer during the day. They've figured out that I sit at my desk and make weird clacking noises on the computer, and pretty much ignore them except for carefully timed potty breaks. Of course, Berit has taken to standing up with her paws draped over the top of the Puppy Prison and staring at me underneath my monitor. It's at once pathetic and adorable. She doesn't understand 'off' yet, so we're working on not chewing on the myriad cables on the back side of my desk.

    Still, taking them outside is a bit exciting -- they take off into the yard at full speed and run around with the Puppy Zooms for half an hour, then collapse in unconscious heaps and sleep for two hours or so.

    Are you on your meds?

    In Newmarket (a small city near Toronto) a woman called 911 to report that elephants were eating her trees at about 3am on Thursday morning.

    The massive pachyderms, named Bunny and Suzy, had escaped from a circus at about 3 a.m. in Newmarket, a town of 75,000 people located 45 kilometres of Toronto.

    The animals, performing at the Ray Twinney Complex with the Garden Bros. Circus, strolled the streets near Yonge Street and Davis Drive, munching on trees, shrubs and flowers.

    I can only imagine the 911 call.

    911 operator: "Um, elephants?"

    Caller: "Yes. You know, big, gray, long trunk? In my yard."

    911: "Are you sure?"

    Caller: "I've been able to identify them since I was four years old. Definitely an elephant."

    911: "Ma'am? Have you been drinking?"

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Puppy Jungle Gym

    The Weasels have discovered that it's FUN! to race around the dining room table and hide underneath it. It's even better than the Ottoman Fort!

    Seriously, they should be blurry in these pictures -- they were racing around at top speed, barking madly.

    If you repeat it often enough...

    President Bush, defending his troop surge in Iraq, insisted Thursday that the insurgents attacking US troops in Iraq "are the same ones who attacked us on Sept. 11."

    Bush was speaking at a White House press conference on the same day an interim progress report on his troop surge in Iraq was released. Asked for proof of the connection between insurgents in Iraq and the 9/11 hijackers, Bush said both had pledged their allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

    "The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq are the ones who attacked us on Sept. 11," Bush said. [Rawstory]

    Well, that will just reinforce the 50%+ of people who think that Saddam Hussein/Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Link them enough verbally -- even if you don't explicitly say that they were responsible--and people believe it. Of course, now we have Bush actually saying it explicitly, I guess.

    Recent intelligence reports have concluded that al-Quaida has actually rebuilt their organization (if you can call it that) to levels that have not been seen since 9/11. THey have been able to rebuild despite six years of war.

    How can this be viewed by Americans as anything other than proof positive of the utter failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy?

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Improbable Cows

    Did you know there's a breed of cows in Scotland that look rather like Oreo cookies? Belted Galloway cows are solid colored cows with a thick stripe around their middles. How on earth is that a consistent genetic trait?

    The cows are part of the Galloway breed group, which has solid white, solid black and this -- the stripe-in-the-middle version that has been popular since the turn of the 19th century. They're raised as beef cattle, it seems -- but more often they are kept for the head-turning sight of a field full of oreo stripes.


    Oklahoma links

    Monday, July 09, 2007

    Fear Imprinting

    Some time between eight and ten weeks, puppies go through a fear-imprint period,(also here) where they can really develop bizarre fears of things, people, or situations if they are scared or hurt. You have to be very careful that they aren't frightened or traumatized during this period.

    I've been telling everyone this -- be gentle, don't frighten them, be careful that new things are introduced slowly, that sort of thing.

    And then I managed to shut Rowan's head in the back door. It's didn't slam or anything, but it definitely swung shut on his head. I took them out at 3am to pee and then on the way back in, he darted into the doorway when I was shutting the door.

    He's fine, but I feel like an idiot!

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    "Smart Puppy" food

    I'm a worrywart, and the Adorable Husband is finding it very, very amusing.

    Iams now markets its puppy food as "Smart Puppy" food, since it contains something called DHA that enhances brain development. It's some form of natural fish oil for "optimal brain development and a smart, trainable puppy".

    They note that:
    A recent study from The Iams Company indicates that puppies nourished with enhanced (high) levels of DHA were significantly smarter, more trainable than typical-DHA (low-DHA) nourished puppies. (3).
    Sounds like a good plan. But this was for Iams -- we feed Eukanuba (also by the Iams company). I had the Husband reduced to hysterical laughter at dinner (to the point where other people were staring at us) by wondering out loud if we "were feeding the Smart Puppy food? What if we weren't?"

    "Oh, no, " he said, absolutely deadpan, "we're probably feeding the Stupid Puppy food and they'll be developmentally delayed or something!"

    Apparently my expression set him off into gales of laughter. Well, I worry about these things! What if they aren't smart? I still think they aren't eating enough food and are too skinny, and he laughs at me about that, too.

    Friday, July 06, 2007

    Yup, Still Cute

    Another quiet night -- the Adorable Husband was at work until 12:30 am and let them out when he got home, then again before he left for work. No problems!

    No, of course I'm not chewing the carpet....I'm...ah, testing it for colorfastness!

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    All Puppy, All the Time

    Our first vet visit was a success -- the puppies were absolute angels, slept peacefully the whole time, never once showing the clear and undeniable signs they have at home that they are possessed.....

    Berit weighs in at 14.2 pound and Rowan is 16 and a bit. They're a little skinny, but that's probably a side effect of the heat and stress, and our vet isn't worried at all. She also suggested that we bring them into the office, oh, three or four times a week just to be weighed. Just in case. So they could all coo and snorfle the beasties. All in all, it was a grand outing.

    Flickr Account

    Since new parents tend to take hundreds (if not thousands -- thanks to digital cameras) of photos...I started up a Flickr account for puppy pictures.


    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    Crazed Weasels

    Well, the beasties have "settled in" -- or at least, they have come out of their little fuzzy shells and revealed themselves for what they really are: crazed, rabid weasels. They've grasped the concept of "outside", and when we herd the crew into the backyard, they start galumphing around with wild-eyed abandon. Poor Uulaq is just trying to keep up!

    I missed by a millisecond catching the puppy flinging himself off the steps like superman. They're pretty fearless little beasties. Thjs is Rowan (the boy -- now clearly identified by his blue collar!)

    Perhaps a more flattering angle? They both seem fascinated by the ottoman and use it as a "fort" in the living room. Luckily, they haven't realized that they fit under the couch as well. That might make finding them a bit difficult. It's a great game: hide underneath the fort, then dart out to gnaw on the ankles of any creature that passes, before retreating again like a turtle.
    One of the few moments where they're not running around like crazed weasels.

    Lovely Berit (you know, the Adorable Husband picked the colors for the collars. I thought we should have purple and yellow, or something, but these are temporary, at best, so the obvious choices of blue and pink were made.)

    And Rowan.


    We were 99% sure that Uulaq would love the puppies. She has always loved puppies, and she's been so lonely lately that we hoped she'd think the little creatures were there entirely for her.

    Well, she does love the puppies, and other than their annoying habit of pouncing on her tail and biting it, they seem to like her, too. She's a bit nervous--she still isn't quite sure how to deal with them, but she's been very gentle and awfully tolerant of the Crazed Weasel Twins.

    If they get out of line, she snarks at them. The puppies, though, were raised with three adult dogs and they know to just "stop, drop, and roll" when a big dog tells them to knock it off. If they push it too far, Uulaq will growl and they just flop down and roll over and look up at her adoringly. Like us, Uulaq is a pushover and in seconds, they are back to chasing her tail and chewing on her ears.

    Every time they cry, she runs in to see what's wrong, and they actually do seem to be happier when she's around.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    A Rose by any other Name

    A bit of confusion on the naming front. So, we liked the name Berit (me from a novel, Mark because it apparently has Scandinavian roots). We originally called the little boy puppy Berit. I still think that it's a boy's name, but I've been disabused of that notion by several sources, the least of which is that every Berit my family knows is a girl.

    So - since we have had less than 24 hours to try to stick a name to each of the beasts, we realized that the Adorable Husband and I both like the names Berit and Rowan but we had each assigned them to opposite dogs. In the end, we've decided that the girl is Berit and the boy is Rowan. Now all we need to do is convince them. The way to get a puppy to recognize its name is to say their name until they make eye contact, then stuff a puppy treat in their face. A bit harder with two puppies, but I figure with enough puppy treats, we can convince them of anything.

    We even bought a blue collar and a pink collar, since from any distance, it's impossible to tell them apart!

    Deceptively cute

    They're finally sleeping. I could take pictures. This is the little girl (probably Failte or Rowan or....)

    And here's Berit:

    And puppy feet.

    I am the source of all things good and wonderful....

    Except the biscuit the little beastie found!