31 December 2009

A Last Hurrah

Last night, David and I were sitting upstairs watching a bit of TV (courtesy of Netflix) when I heard a jingle and a crash. Cougar was downstairs, so I pretty much knew what had happened. Camera in hand, I ventured downstairs to confirm my suspicions. This is the sight that awaited me at the bottom of the stairs.

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The monkeys are now all in a bag and the tree is very nearly bare. I guess Christmas is over.

In Other News

I finished the Stone Soup Kitchen Sink Sleestak mittens tonight in between patients.

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They were supposed to be framing Tuck, but as soon as I knelt down he decided he needed to come see me. I'm thinking they'll come in handy with the storm coming this weekend, though they've downgraded expectations a bit over the past couple of days.

28 December 2009

A Final Xmas Video

We can always keep hoping, right?

25 December 2009

A Sacrilicous Nativity

So I participated in a little bloggy gift exchange organized by Josh, and one of the rules was that we needed to take a photo of our gifts after we received them. The fleecy throw was the perfect shade of Virgin Mary blue and inspired this, um, slightly syncretic nativity scene.

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Happy holidays too all of you this season!

24 December 2009

Christmas in the Jungle

For a second year now, we've used an artificial tree that starts as a decoration for David's annual warehouse sale before coming home to finish out the holiday season. Also for the second year, it's come already covered with Paca Monkeys. Of course, monkeys are always in danger when they enter a house that's inhabited by a Cougar, and scenes of carnage like these have become fairly common over the past few days.

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(FYI: Those are two different monkeys with matching outfits. He likes pulling them down in matched pairs, it seems.)

Like any monkeys, the Paca Monkeys have responded by trying to relocate to the safest part of the tree possible. Things are starting to get a bit crowded, though.

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22 December 2009

One Down, One To Go

With the sudden and very aggressive onset of cold weather a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking that maybe I needed some new mittens. So I started reading through Robin Hansen's Favorite Mittens and made a mental checklist of what I wanted in the perfect cold weather mitten.

I decided first of all that I was more concerned with functionality and an easy knit than I was with "pretty". Also, I needed it to be a stash-busting project and had some C220 readily at hand to that end. One of the main deficiencies of my last pair of mittens is that there's not enough wrist coverage, although I've dealt with that by wearing wristwarmers under them. The new ones, though, should have a longer and more substantive cuff.

The other problem, though, is that I can't really drive or do anything requiring dexterity while wearing mittens, so they have to come off, leaving my fingertips exposed. Since I've developed a mild case of Raynaud's syndrome in my old age, this can actually be a painful proposition, so I decided that mittens with an individuated index finger would be useful to address this issue.

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And since I wanted them to be warm plus I also had plenty of roving at hand, I decided they should be both stranded and thrummed. However, since the appearance of thrummed knitting has always struck me as rather poofy and, well, girly, I figured I could anchor the thrums completely on the inside using the floats of the stranded knitting.

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Sounds (and looks) like quite the Frankenmitten, no? Unfortunately, that title has already been appropriated by Steph, so I'm not quite sure what to call mine. The Perfect New England Mittens, perhaps? Stone Soup Mittens? Kitchen Sink (as in everything but) Mittens? Sleestak Mittens? Regardless, I've only got the one done so far, so I need to get cracking on mitten #2.

19 December 2009

Expedition

I finished up Expedition last night, wove in the one and only end that needed weaving, since I'd taken care of ends as I went along, and immediately put it on. I did take it off for bedtime, but then I put it back on to wear into work. I love, love, love this sweater - so soft, so warm. I think you'll all agree it's very flattering on me, too, though it does appear to change the color of my eyes a bit.

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We'll just pretend that underneath the sweater I've got Hugh Jackman's body, too.

2,000 Miles

My absolute favorite Xmoose song. Ever.

18 December 2009

Do They Know It's Christmas

Considering current problems with drought and crop failure in Africa due to climate change, this one's more than a little topical again. Of course, it might help if they could do something constructive at Copenhagen, but it doesn't sound terribly hopeful.

16 December 2009

Santa's Baby

I said there'd be more Jackie Beat. Not for the delicate.

14 December 2009

A Twofer

Since it's still technically the Advent season, I'll start with this one from Belle & Sebastian. Even it weren't a required by The Gay Agenda, I'd still love this band, and this particular tune is heart-achingly beautiful.



And this is someone's video interpretation of the Grandaddy song, Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland. A cheeky interpretation of a standard that any former or current New Waver should love.

11 December 2009

Ocho Kandelikas

It's now Hanukkah Chanukah, or at least it is here in Maine, where the sun's already gone down. Anyway, since I've been posting holiday videos, I thought it fitting to put one up for this holiday, as well, though it's never figured greatly in my Calvinist-turned-Unitarian-Buddhist background.

I tend to think of the Festival of Lights as a primarily Ashkenazic holiday tradition, though I think that's more a reflection of the preëminence of that particular lineage in this country. Personally, though, I've always had an interest in and affinity for Sephardic traditions (más que na' por su influencia e historia respeto a la cultura ibérica). So I found this rocking version of a traditional Sephardic song about the "eight little candles" as performed by The LeeVees. Enjoy!

09 December 2009

Ancient Music

An appropriate verse for today's very inclement weather, even though we've missed any snow accumulation right here and I do generally like the season. Still, my poor aching fingers aren't pleased at the moment.

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
An ague hath my ham.
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Thank you, Ezra Pound.


07 December 2009

Snippity

Warning: The weak of stomach may wish to stop here. On the other hand, anyone visiting this blog regularly should know to expect it by now.

As I recently mentioned, we found out at shearing that the boys were, um, a bit more boy than we had thought. According to Meg, this is sometimes done to maintain the testosterone levels in animals being raised for meat (as most ram lambs are), while cooking their little swimmers to minimize the risk of unwanted breedings.

In fact, over the past week they've become rather amorous with Posey, who suddenly decided that maybe they weren't so bad. Seeing as she's had a rather long dry spell, I suppose it's understandable. Shaun Fergus seemed to be the most attentive to their collective needs. It also turns out that whoever banded him was sloppy and only got half the scrotum, meaning not only has he earned the nickname "Lowball", there may be a chance that his boys weren't quite as cooked as they were supposed to be.

So I brought them in to work with me last night so that we could do a proper snip job this morning and, a few issues with IV catheters notwithstanding, everything went, well, swimmingly.

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Mountain oysters, anyone?

The one at lower left is the one with greatest potential to cause trouble. The others are all a bit underdeveloped as a result of the increased heat, but Ol' Lowball there is a fair bit larger, meaning there's some possibility that, despite his tender age and lack of experience and Posey's (hopefully) atrophied and unused ovaries, we could see an unplanned new addition to the farm come May. I'll keep y'all posted.

In the meantime, being a sharing sort, I thought my coworkers might get peckish during the night.

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I hear that brining improves the flavor.

Fortunately, the boys don't seem to be carrying a grudge for the injustice visited upon them, but I expect a little extra attention will be in order for the next few days.

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05 December 2009

White Xmas Redux

I love this version from the Flaming Lips:

03 December 2009

White Christmas

Here's Jackie Beat's take on it. Not necessarily something to be playing at the office. Unless, of course, you work with a bunch of sick people like I do.



This is probably not the last you'll see of Ms. Beat this holiday season.

30 November 2009

Santa's Beard

Another one of my holiday favorites, from TMBG:

28 November 2009

While We're on the Subject

I wouldn't mind a little Courtney Taylor-Taylor in my stocking, either.

'Tis the Season

Surely one of the stranger pairings in the history of Xmoose music, but I'd be hard-pressed to listen to Bing otherwise, knowing what an insufferable bastard he was. This number is nice, though.

24 November 2009

Shorn

So early last week I came down with what turned out to be one hell of a cold. Hit me hard enough Tuesday morning that by that night I realized I needed to call in sick for Wednesday night. No fever, but I was still pretty sure none of my coworkers wanted me to share it. I made it in for Friday night's shift and am much improved, but I'm still dealing with lingering effects of it. And on top of that, Tuck came down with pneumonia very suddenly Friday morning, though I caught it almost as soon as it broke and he's responded incredibly well to antibiotics.

Anyway, in the midst of all this, Paula was able to get in touch with a nearby shearer to come shear Angus and Shaun, but David really wanted to get photos of me holding the boys first so y'all could get a better idea of just how tiny they are. Here's Angus:

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And a pre-shorn Shaun:

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If you embiggen, you can see all the weed seeds they'd picked up from being let into overgrown pasture that morning (not by me!). That should be fun to card out.

At any rate, the shearer arrived, started shearing away Shaun's belly fleece and made a slightly disappointing discovery. Whoever castrated him didn't make sure his testicles were in their proper place before placing the band, so he has no scrotum anymore, but his family jewels are tucked right up in his crotchular area. Poop.

And then we found the same had happened with Angus. Double poop.

So probably next week sometime I'll be doing a bit of surgery to rectify that situation. Fortunately, it shouldn't be terribly difficult, but it's one more thing I'd rather not have on my plate, either figuratively or literally. It does, at least, explain the head-butting issue.

Anyway, now they're even tinier and look like this:

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And once they were all done and let back out into the pasture, they did what rams tend to do, especially when they're freshly shorn. They decided to figure out whether there was going to be a new king of the hill.

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You'll notice Shaun doesn't look so brown anymore. If you didn't read my earlier post about it, his color is mooskit, which is primarily grey with brown fibers. Since this was their first shearing, he still had his baby coloring, but from now on he'll look more like these.

18 November 2009

New Beginnings

On Saturday I went to pick up the newest members of our little farm family. One of the biggest advantages to sticking with smaller animals is that you don't need a livestock trailer to move them around.

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Paula and Wendy were so excited that they stayed up late to wait for their arrival. Because the remnants of Hurricane Ida were blowing through, though, it was too messy to get a temporary holding pen ready for them for the night, so they got to spend a night camped out in the back of the pickup. Since they're maybe 30 pounds each and had plenty of hay and water, and a few apples, it was more Hilton than hardship for them, though, and they've since settled in quite nicely.

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That's Angus on the left and Shaun on right. Or maybe he's Fergus - it's a topic of debate. Either way, Posey is less than amused at the moment. I'm sure she'll get used to them in time, but she's lived with goats for so long that I think she's forgotten what other sheep are. Still, she's as big as the two of them combined, so it's pretty funny to see her take off whenever they come near.

One thing I can see we're going to need to work on, though, is their tendency to butt when they want food. I learned about that today when I hand-fed them a little grain and Shaun/Fergus lowered his head and rammed my hand when the grain was gone, apparently in hopes that would make more appear. They're little, but those little heads are still hard. I'm expecting a bit of TTouch work and lots of handling will make a big difference with them. And eventually, I'm thinking it may be fun to learn to hand shear them. I'm definitely looking forward to using the wool, but even more toward seeing how their personalities develop.

10 November 2009

Swatching

Just a quickie to show an I-cord-as-swatch I knat up of wool from one of the Shetland wethers, whom we should be picking up this weekend pending the last bit of health testing. For the blood draws I had to clip away a bit of wool, so I washed the locks, carded them open, and spun this yarn up from the brown boy (who appears to be more properly mooskit in color and will be much lighter in color once shorn). This is the finest yarn I've ever spun, and I am pleased with how it turned out. I'm even more pleased with the color and softness of this wool. His fiber may get a little bit coarser as he ages, but as a wether it's not likely to change by much.

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I also have a brief anecdote to share. We had a husky in over the weekend who had been shot by a hunter (who is now in trouble with the game warden service, because shooting domestic animals is a big no-no). Anyway, the owners came in last night and were going to take the dog home because she was doing well, and I was talking to the mother about the dog's care and couldn't help but notice that she was wearing a very nice handknit Fair Isle sweater.

So after we'd gone over the important matters regarding the dog's care, I finally had a chance to ask her about the sweater. She told me that she and her late mother had owned a yarn store in the Midcoast area and her mother had designed all manner of Fair Isle patterns, including the sweater she was wearing, and knit them up in Jamieson & Smith yarn. She said she'd considered trying to get her mother's patterns published, so I encouraged her to do so. It was nice work and would certainly find a welcome audience.

08 November 2009

Relationship Borg

Friday morning I had a fairly critical case show up right at the end of my shift, which is never fun because it makes my 15-hour shift at least an hour or two longer. Anyway, since I'm usually too tired to drive home at end of shift and end up sleeping here, it also meant that it was fairly late in the evening by the time I came to and I was still faced with the hour drive home.

I called David to let him know I was coherent and about to leave for home and was thinking as I talked to him that I really didn't want to have to cook dinner when I got home and really, really would prefer just to order pizza, which we maybe do 3 or 4 times a year at most. So in order to try to steer the decision in that direction, I started out with an innocent, "What are you thinking you'd like for dinner?"

His response was immediate and unequivocal: "Pizza!"

He ordered marinara and mushroom, and I picked it up on my way home. We are, apparently, singular of mind and act as a colonial organism. But we don't assimilate.

Knitting Update

One sleeve down, one to go on Expedition. Since I've spit-spliced and woven in the few ends as I've gone along, there won't really be any finishing when I've finished with sleeve #2. I may give it a wash, but I'm more likely just to start wearing it.

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The buttons are ram's horn buttons I got at Rhinebeck last year from Elaine at Frelsi Farm. I think they're perfect for this sweater. Keep an eye on her website, because there may be a photo on there of a certain dashing frenchie (modeling his sweater from her yarn) in the near future.

05 November 2009

Thankful Thursday

It was Carole's idea to start this, and although I won't promise to remember to do this every Thursday, it's a good little reminder this week that the sky didn't fall down Tuesday night. So this week I am thankful for:

1. David, of course. He makes me laugh, we finish each other's thoughts, and I truly am thankful every day to be married to him.

2. The fact that, despite the economy and the belt-tightening we've had to do in the past year, we still have plenty of food and a roof over our heads, which is more than a lot of people can say.

3. My family, who really get it.

Computer Says Yes!

Took me a little bit to get everything pulled together and notify the winners, but I did the drawing for the Raffle for Marriage Equality tonight as promised. The winner of the main drawing is Knitnzu! It just so happens that she's having a drawing of her own (leave her a comment by Friday) because she won another drawing and ended up with two copies of a romance novel, which is one more than she really needed. Talk about some people having all the luck!

And the winner of the drawing for furr'ners who got the word out is JoVE! I can't seem to find a current e-mail address for you, JoVE, so e-mail me directly so I can get some details. For folks who want to see the yarns our winners have to select from, I put them into a Flickr set here.


And for folks who don't get the reference for the title of this post, I present Carol Beer:

04 November 2009

A Modest Proposal

So the election is over and it appears that No on 1 has lost this battle. I am, of course, angry about this - angry that some people still think it's okay to put other people's rights up to a vote, angry that they find such glee in purposefully and maliciously hurting other people's families - but it's not a hot, weepy, tearful anger. No, this anger is cold and calculating and resolved that this war is far from over.

What this campaign has really done is to gel and confirm my belief that it's time to use their playbook against them. Bishop Malone has at least intimated that he's not opposed to civil unions, per se, and that his big problem was using the word "marriage", which he sees as a religious sacrament, for same-sex couples. Fine, then. If the word is his hangup (It isn't, really, but he needs to be hoisted on his own petard), then I say we let the word "marriage" be the exclusive province of the churches.

I was married in a church by a minister, and that makes my union a marriage, as far as I'm concerned. If what it takes for my relationship to be legally recognized is for the state to call it a "civil union", then so be it. The only way for that solution to be fair and equitable, though, is for the state to stop using the word "marriage" altogether and apply the term "civil union" across the board.

I propose a campaign that we call "Preserve Religious Marriage". We talk a lot about God and allowing churches to exercise their traditional values unencumbered by the state and throw in a lot of talk about "no special rights". In short, we completely co-opt their language, then change all the language in state law to use the term "civil unions", which are the same as marriages under current laws in everything but name and their availability to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. It is completely constitutional and it basically renders all the arguments they used in this campaign moot.

"Marriage" won't be taught in schools at all because it's a religious institution. We don't talk about the fact that there are some churches which are perfectly comfortable calling a union between same-sex couples a marriage. Maybe we don't even show any same-sex couples in any ads at all. Basically, we use their language and their imagery to defuse their message and completely fuck with the minds of their supporters.

It is, admittedly, a cynical approach, but at the moment I simply don't care. What they did in this campaign was completely cynical and mean-spirited and hateful, and they deserve to have that turned back on them.

03 November 2009

Raffle for Marriage Equality

My caseload was fairly manageable last night and I had no inpatients, meaning I actually had a rare shift where I was able to get in a fair amount of sleep. Where "a fair amount" means about 5 hours. So even though I wasn't completely rested this morning, I had enough energy after my shift to spend a couple hours volunteering at the No on 1 headquarters in Portland.

Polls are showing our side essentially in a dead heat with the people who don't think mine and David's marriage should be recognized. This means that this campaign will be right down to the wire, and it will all come down to whether or not the bigots and fearmongers can get more people to the polls than we can.

Anyway, I've been thinking of what I could do to help raise the money which is very badly needed. It's needed to pay for the phone banks, produce ads and get them on air, and to counter the hateful and nasty lies, which they're already recycling outright from the Prop 8 campaign in California last year. It would be nice if that money could go elsewhere, but seeing as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is closing down parishes and parochial schools and taking second collections to spend on attacking my family and others like it, we have to meet the fight head-on.

So I decided that since this is (primarily) a knitting blog, I should do a raffle involving knitting. I thought initially about offering to knit a sweater for the winner, but as a process knitter I tend to be a bit too slow for anyone to wait on a project of that size. That and I don't know that I've got enough of anything in my stash, which is where the yarn will need to come from given how tight money is these days. What I do have in stash is a fair selection of sock yarns, including some very nice handpaints. Some were gifted to me, but I'm going to make them all fair game because it's for a very good cause.

So here's the deal: To participate in the raffle, go make a donation to No on 1, then send me a copy of your receipt (either send a pdf copy of the receipt page or forward me a confirmatory e-mail to mel(daht)vassey(at)gmail(daht)com). For every $5 you contribute, you will get one "ticket" in the raffle. Donations can be made through November 3, Election Day. On November 4, I will use a random number generator to select a winner.

The winner will get to select a yarn from my stash of sock yarns, from which I will handknit them a pair of socks, the pattern for which will also be selected upon consultation with the winner. In addition to this, David is also offering a free pair of RedMaple Sportswear socks, winner's choice, to wear while waiting for me to knit up a pair. And as if that weren't enough, VUBOQ has offered up a piece of his lovely hand-turned pottery to sweeten the pot even more. Photos to follow, of course, once I manage to dig out my stash and assemble all my sock yarns in one place.

Oh, one more thing. Because this is a political campaign and donations are governed by campaign finance laws, No on 1 can only accept donations from US citizens or permanent resident aliens. However, so those of y'all who are "from really, really away" aren't left out, I will hold a second drawing for folks who do not meet the citizenship/residency requirements but who link back to this post to put the word out and encourage your US readers to chip in.

If you do so, just be sure to let me know you've done so and where, so that I can be sure to get your name on the list. The winner of this drawing will get second pick from my sock yarn stash, and I'll knit them a pair of socks after I finish the first pair.

Um, which means my knitting will be all booked up through next summer, I'm thinking.

Election Day!

David and I actually voted early at our town office yesterday and were encouraged to see the numbers of people coming in to cast their ballots. Then we headed over to the local No on 1 headquarters (at York Harbor Inn, for any locals who can go volunteer today - you're needed!) and put in 8 hours helping to organize things for today. David will be going back to help out today, as well, while I head back to work. They've been making good use of his organizational skills over the past few days.

In related news, the Raffle for Marriage Equality has raised $1010 so far for this campaign. If you have not donated and gotten your name in for this, there is still time to do so. I will accept any entries before midnight tonight. Even though the ads have all been run and the campaign is winding down, those donations are still very much needed to get through the last flurry of expenses. And I shouldn't have to tell you how important even $5 & $10 donations when you add them all up.

And now it's time for me to get some sleep. The two sides of this campaign are pretty much running even and it's anyone's guess as to what will happen, but I hope that today Mainers will stand up and do the right thing. If they should fail to do so, though, I've been through enough of these campaigns to know that time is always on our side. If the matter isn't put to rest this time, then there will be as many next times as we need to do so once and for all.

02 November 2009

Sheepies!

It looks like the farm will soon become the new home for this pair.



Malaga, the last goat on the farm, is now 13½ years old and pretty severely arthritic, so even though he's in fairly good spirits at the moment, it's all but a certainty that he won't survive another winter. The problem with losing him is that Posey, the resident Shetland ewe, would be all alone, which is generally not good for sheepies, even primitive breeds like Shetlands that don't have as strong a herding instinct.

So Paula and I talked about it a bit, I did some asking around, and I found this pair of young Shetland wethers who were otherwise destined for the freezer, which is the fate of most ram lambs. Then there were negotiations with Wendy, who was pretty adamantly opposed until she saw their photos, and we have pretty much hammered out an agreement by which I will take over farm chores a couple of weekends a year so that Wendy and Paula can completely get away. I'll likely plan it so that I take time off those weekends, too, which will be like a mini-staycation for me since I never have a weekend fully away from work, either.

On Saturday, I drove up the coast after work to do a proper pre-purchase exam and get poop and blood samples to make sure there aren't any disease concerns that might be a problem for the 'pacas. I also came home with a few locks that we had to clip to do the blood draws, so I washed them up and just spun up about 9 yds of very lovely 2-ply laceweight from the brown fellow (whose color, I believe, is more accurately mooskit). I've got slightly less from the black one and will spin that up later, but I expect it to be every bit as nice.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes they are every bit as adorable as they look in the photo. They're 5 months old and weigh maybe 25-30 pounds tops. It was all I could do not to squee when I saw them. Here's another pic of them in the field with the resident ginger tom (who's maybe 13 pounds) hanging out with them for size comparison.

01 November 2009

A Guest Sermon

My friend Dawn, who is not a member of the clergy, gave her first sermon today. It is a must-read, and I don't think she'll mind me sharing it here. The original, along with a few additional words about it, can be read on her blog here. If you have comments or words of encouragement, I would like you to go leave them on her post, since she has worked tirelessly on this referendum and deserves to be recognized.

It is just two days before the election, and I am in a pulpit, a place quite frankly, I never pictured myself short of some kind of trial. Politics make strange bedfellows, though. And despite the fact that our democracy was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state, we as Unitarian-Universalists, are called to speak out for justice, and in this season, that means we end up mixing our faith and religious practices with secular concerns. And that, I suppose, explains how this grumpy middle-aged, lesbian, ex-Catholic semi-failed UU ended up in a pulpit two days before an election to not quite talk about politics.

As Unitarian-Universalists, what do we believe? What makes us what we are?

I remember when I was young and I was at that stage in a Catholic girl’s development when I began to realize that not every one of my friends was Catholic. I asked my aunt about different families we knew, and I remember when I asked about the Bennetts, she told me “they’re Unitarians.”

That stopped me for a moment. I had begun to learn a little about the various stripes of what had previously been a monolith of “Protestants” in my mind. I knew of Baptists and Episcopals (“Catholic-lite” I was told) and Pentecostals and Lutherans, but Unitarian-Universalists were a new thing to me.

“What do they believe?” I asked.

There was a pause, as my Irish Catholic aunt searched for her answer.

“Not much, as far as I can tell.”

More than thirty years later, I find myself here, asking the same simple question. The answer is far more complex than that first one I received.

What is it that we believe?

What is it that drives us?

We can cite the stuff that is written in the front of our hymnal and in all the literature, the lines about the inherent worth and dignity of each person, the bits about the interconnectedness of us all, the appreciation for our diversity and how we value each search for truth and meaning, but what DRIVES us? What makes us DO stuff? What makes us move?

What gives us passion enough to put aside the things that we do every day and invest a little bit of ourselves? And perhaps the more telling portion of this equation is this: how do we explain it to ourselves, and to others?

There are beautiful and intricate essays woven by theologians to explain why UUs are different from other Protestant sects, but for me, the thing that makes it real is what I call the “put up or shut up” principle. It is unwritten anywhere in our texts, you won’t find it in our creed, or in any hymnal or pamphlet, but it is something that runs through me that resonates within these walls.

We are people of action. We are people who put our money – and so much more – where our mouths are.

We do not only wail about hunger, we feed people.

We are saddened by oppression and seek to stop it and lift up the oppressed.

We do not just lament injustice, we work to fix it.

We prefer action to novenas.

Put up or shut up.

We exemplify faith in action.

The key thing, it seems to me, is that we like to be challenged. We like to have our ideas and beliefs challenged, else why would we show up every Sunday? Certainly not to be told repeatedly that we are right. Certainly not to have illogical things drilled into us by rote until we believe and chant it all back like so many automatons.

We want, nay, we DEMAND to be challenged, in all aspects of our lives. We need to hear “so what are you going to do about it?” We need to hear “please explain.”

Ours is not a faith of passive obedience, but one that demands rigorous action. As much as we need to be challenged, we challenge each other and the world around us. As often as we hear “please explain,” we say those same words.

“Please. Explain.”

“Show me.”

“Teach me.”

For what is it worth? To go through a day – or a lifetime?

never learning,

never growing,

never risking,

and never accomplishing a damned thing?

What kind of life is that? Where is the joy in being sedentary? Passive? Isolated?

When I first encountered UU-ism as an adult, it was at the Universalist-Unitarian Church in Waterville, Maine. I attended a service there as part of an assignment in a college class on modern religious movements.

I was overwhelmed.

The people were welcoming.

The readings were about love and sharing and helping and doing right, and you can only imagine my amazement when I flipped through the hymnal to find Holly Near!

I couldn’t go back for over a month. It felt so affirming -- it was more than I could stand.

I had never been in a church where I had been told that I was worthy. Indeed, as a part of the Catholic masses I used to attend weekly - sometimes daily – I repeated “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed” countless hundreds of times through my developing years and into adulthood.

To stand among people who did not ask me to hide my orientation or my politics was amazing. To converse with people who did not judge me because I had ideas that were different from theirs was enormous. To be welcomed and introduced to other, out queer people in a church was all a bit much for this embittered ex-Catholic to handle. I had no idea church could be like this. And it scared me.

What kept me coming back – initially – was the social and political action stuff. I was impressed by how active the people at the UU church were in politics. I was surprised to see people actually doing things – as opposed to just writing a check. In 1995, when I really became involved with the church there, it was because of the number of people from those pews on Sunday morning that I saw at the Maine Won’t Discriminate phone bank all the other nights of the week. We were fighting a No On 1 battle back then to protect the anti-discrimination law that had been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.

Sound familiar?

You knew I’d get to this part.

The No on 1 part.

And it’s true. That’s why I am here.

My job today is to challenge you, within the context of what we know of our faith, and ourselves, to be all that we can be, to do all that we can do. And to give of ourselves. I mean really give. Not the easy stuff, the check, the single shift at the phone bank, going to the polls and casting a ballot. I mean the tough stuff.

The put up or shut up kind of stuff. The ‘how much does this thing called equality mean to us really?” stuff.

We’re UUs. We’re already active. And, truth be told, we’re usually pretty smug about how active we are.

When was the last time you gave everything you had?

I mean everything?

When was the last time you stayed up late, got up early, worked tirelessly, round-the-clock, putting aside everything else for a thing that was bigger than yourself? And what was that cause? An event? A war? A campaign? A big project? A movement?

What is it that is worth that much of us? Is marriage equality worth that? Some say yes, some say no.

Let me tell you what happens sometimes when my partner Laura and I visit an emergency room. Laura suffers from chronic back pain and chronic migraines. Sometimes we end up in the emergency room for acute care. She is in pain, blinded by her pain, often crying, sometimes being physically ill, barely able to speak. I am nervous. I am scared for my beloved. I want to stop her pain, but I am powerless. I want the doctors to respond NOW to make her better. I am frantic with worry.

And then a nurse steps in front of me and says, “you can’t be in here. You’re not family.”

I could cite case after case of similar instances, both in Maine and around the country, but I am only here to tell you about my experience. My truth. My reality. Where I live every day. And this is it. Unless we are married, by law, I am not a part of my partner’s family.

The hospital cannot release Laura’s medical information to me. I cannot have input or ask questions about her treatment or how I should care for her after I get her home. Under the law, we are strangers.

To me, then, this fight is worth everything I’ve got. And honestly, I don’t recall a time when I have poured more of myself into a thing than now.

I have devoted myself to causes and projects over the years. Some were logistical challenges, like conferences or retreats or weekend activities, but some were bigger than that.

Some, like this campaign, are about something that goes deeper than coordinating a weekend of picnics and hiking. This is about equality. And rights. And security. And dignity, and justice, and all of those things that are hard to describe but so important to us.

So important is this battle that I have devoted what some would call an unreasonable amount of my life to it in recent months. I am a small-scale contractor, specializing in home maintenance and repair. With the economy in a downward spiral, I have taken a leap of faith and thrown myself into this campaign. I have abandoned my business except for the most peripheral obligations and have begun to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers to pay my rent and other bills. I have not applied for public assistance, although it may come to that after the election.

I go to sleep each night and wake each morning thinking of the campaign. I think of how I can help, what I can do, where I can go to raise money, to recruit volunteers, where can I put yard signs, how can I get a house party put together in Bucksport or Stonington, or Ellsworth? How do I get my mug in front of voters and potential volunteers in Sedgwick or Gouldsboro, or Belfast?

Lately I have been having a recurring nightmare. I awake with a start from a dream in which it is November 4 and I am reading the election returns in the newspaper. Only I learn that if we had two more votes in each town, we would have won.

We UUs often talk about a faith-lived life, but what does that mean? To me it means living my life as closely in line with the things I believe as I can possibly get. It means put up or shut up.

It means doing what it takes to do what is right. It means giving of myself, laying myself on the line, taking a risk, speaking out, standing up and stepping forward.

It means volunteer. Put a shoulder to the wheel, stand and haul in line with the others, and do the work that is real.

Some of us are burned to a frazzle. Some are too overwhelmed by the enormity of what must be done to even begin.

And I am here, feeling just a little of both. Like many of my friends, have been fighting the long battle for equality for years. Many of us are more than just a little burned out. We feel as though we have been throwing ourselves at this particular wall for a very long time and we can see no sign that our efforts are doing anything real.

In the past few months, my role in the campaign has been to inspire people to give of their money and their time. I make ‘em cry and then I make them write checks and volunteer. It is what I seem to be good at, so it is what I do.

Not everybody can ask a group of strangers for money, and fewer still can ask their friends; but I can, and it needed doing, so that’s what I did.

The time for house parties is over. We are down to the sprint for the finish.

I stand before you with a complex agenda. I am here as a fellow Unitarian-Universalist, knowing what it is to be a cat who resists herding, and resenting mightily the suggestion that I might not be as enlightened and politically active as I ought to be already, thank-you-very-much.

And I am here as an organizer who knows just how much more there is to be done in the next 58 hours and who wants to inspire you to do it.

And I need to somehow wrap it all in a not-quite-political message that will both challenge and appeal to the pantheon of spiritual traditions and beliefs that fill the room.

Frankly, a house party would be a lot easier right now.

We all know what is involved in a political race. We all know what is involved in the last hours of a campaign. There’s a lot of grunt work to be sure, very little glamour, and much confusion and sometimes some shouting. But it is as necessary to democracy as air and sunlight and free speech. It is the stuff that makes our nation what it is – free people working hard for justice.

A faith-lived life is a light that can change the world. Gandhi taught us this.

How much is it worth to us, this thing called equality? What does it demand of us? What are we willing to give? How much faith do we have?

Are we willing to give our time? Our energy? Our talents?

Our hearts?

So now I challenge you:

What are you willing to do on faith?

How much of yourself are you willing to put on the line?

Are you willing to give of yourself?

Are you willing to give a day?

One day of your life?

Tuesday? Election day? Can you take that off to help drive people to the polls?

Maybe Monday, too? To make get out the vote calls and help people who want to vote early?

Two days?

Can you offer that much on faith?

It’s a lot, I know.

Are we willing to step out on that high wire and trust that we are doing the right thing and that the fates, or some higher power of our own definition, will preserve us?

Are we willing to put ourselves on the line?

Not as civil rights workers have in the past, stepping into the path of police dogs and fire hoses and riot batons; but to put ourselves on the line in a different way.

Personally, I’d love to see everyone here rush up to our volunteers after the service and sign up to work all day both Monday and Tuesday.

Not all of us can take two days off. But we can all give something.

Through this fall’s campaign, I have been using some basic math to inspire people to write big checks.

When a donor makes a one-time contribution of $100, that is a very good thing. But what does that represent? How much of that person is offered in that donation?

If the donor makes $30,000 a year, that $100 check represents one-third of one percent of his or her income.

One third of one percent.

How much are we willing to give of ourselves?

How much of our resources, whatever they may be, are we willing to put into this battle for equality?

One day of our year is – in easy math – one three hundred sixty-fifth of our year’s allotment of days. In easier to comprehend math, that’s something just over one fourth of one percent.

If we break it down into working hours, for those of us with day jobs, let’s say we offer up a whole workday. Based on 50 weeks of full-time employment, one eight-hour day is four tenths of one percent of what we pledge to our employer each year.

How much are we willing to give of ourselves?

The time for writing checks is past. Now is the time when justice asks us to give of what is real, to give of ourselves.

We talk in lofty terms about democracy and equality and justice, terms our Unitarian and Universalist forbears held so dear and suffered so to preserve, but how much of ourselves are we willing to sacrifice for those things?

What is equality worth to us? What value do we place on being able to visit a spouse in the hospital? How much of ourselves are we willing to give so couples will never have to hear again “you can’t be in here, you’re not family,” or worse yet, from a funeral director, “I’m sorry, you can’t sign for the body. We need a family member for that.”

This IS the single most important civil rights issue of my lifetime.

Marriage equality is going to happen on a state-by-state basis, creating a patchwork of equality until we arrive at a Loving vs. Virginia – type decision that will decide for all the land whether same-sex couples deserve the same basic civil rights as our heterosexual counterparts.

Maine is the only election this year dealing with marriage equality. 34 times the issue of same-sex marriage has gone before voters in one form or another in this country, and 34 times it has failed.

The task before us is enormous and is of a level of importance that I cannot describe, but can only hope that you comprehend.

This is our chance to march to Selma.

The world is watching.

I have taken that step out into the ether and trust that the world and its people will not let me down.

30 October 2009

They're Not Bigots. No, Really.

A couple of news items as we approach next Tuesday's referendum on marriage equality:

1) Rev. Dallas Henry of the christianist group Maine Family Policy Council, which is of course a strong opponent of marriage equality, is at least implying, if not outright saying it, that gay people plan to murder Christians in their sleep.

2) A lay Eucharistic Minister from a Catholic church here in Maine was removed from her post after she wrote an article that was published in a local paper in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. Because, apparently, having a conscience of your own is against Catholic Church teachings.

In other news, the Raffle for Marriage Equality has so far raised $910 for No on 1! Unlike the Yes on 1 side, in which over 80% of the funding has come from two out-of-state groups (National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family, both rather Orwellian names, IMO) and the Catholic Diocese of Portland, this campaign has been truly grassroots, with large numbers of donors donating in relatively small amounts that have added up to a truly impressive total. If you'd like to be entered into the raffle, you have until Tuesday, Nov. 3, to donate here. Even donations of $5-$10 are welcome, so don't feel like small donations don't matter or aren't good enough.

I received a package yesterday from VUBOQ with a lovely mug he made and has offered up as part of the prize package. I haven't taken any pics of it yet (bad blogger!), but here's a photo of it I stole from his Flickr stream:



I think that it's not dishwasher-safe, but it's really very nice. My favorite detail is that little scroll at the bottom of the handle. Adorable!

Also, textillian has offered up some Brown Sheep superwash spinning fiber. If the winner doesn't spin, I may offer that up to the winner of the second drawing for furr'ners or even have a second place drawing. 5elementknitr has also offered up a set of her stitch savers - something every knitter should have in their toolbox (or on their keychain, as the case may be).

29 October 2009

Just Sayin'

I am so seeing this.



Because really, either Tony Leung or Takeshi Kaneshiro would be enough reason alone. Put the two of them together (Double! Yum!), add in an interesting story and beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and there's just no way I could possibly resist.

25 October 2009

Rhinebeck: A (Very) Brief Synopsis

Gah! It's been a whole week since Rhinebeck and I haven't posted a thing. Truth be told, I still haven't recovered fully, partly because it was a pretty exhausting weekend physically and partly because I haven't had very much downtime since we got back. Aside from that, I just didn't have time to take many photos. So here is my super brief photo essay of the weekend.

We were the clearly the most fun booth there. I mean, who else had a disco ball?

DSC_0049

And plenty of other folks have written about the cold all weekend and the rain on Sunday. David and I looked back through historical weather data, and it was the coldest by far for the past several years. After all the cold and grey and rain, though, and after all the crowds had gone away for another year, this is what the vendors got to see as we were packing up for another year:

DSC_0078


Marriage Equality Raffle Update


I've been really bad about updating y'all on this, but the raffle has raised $840 to date. There's just over a week to go and this is really going to be a down-to-the-wire sort of fight. Latest polls show the two sides running about even, with the anti-equality camp getting over half their funding from the same out-of-state group that spearheaded Prop 8.

Anyway, there's still time to donate and sign up for the raffle. I'm also throwing in some of the Alpaca with a Twist Socrates sock yarn that we brought back from Rhinebeck for the winner to choose from. We have it in Dress Blues, Americana, Natural, and Laura's Purple. At some point, I will work on getting up photo(s) of all the sock yarn options.

12 October 2009

Yummy Bowl

I can't let Torn be the only one posting adorable dog videos. I got asked sort of last minute could pick up tonight's shift at work, and since we kind of need the additional income I didn't feel like I could turn it down. In the rush to get out the door, though, I forgot to pack up food for Tuck, so I had to swing by the supermarket and grabbed some canned salmon and some potatoes to throw together something similar to what's in his regular food.

Anyway, he really liked it and spent several minutes licking the bowl all over the floor, leaving a trail of tiny chunks of salmon in his wake. I managed to capture three minutes of it on video, just for your viewing pleasure.

08 October 2009

Expedition

It was a knit-free summer because of some repetitive strain pain in my hands and wrists, but things have settled down a bit and I decided that Expedition (Ravelry link) would be the perfect pattern for the yarn I had spun up from one of my alpaca fleeces and the shetland fleece I got last year at Rhinebeck. It's been a really fast project so far, which is unusual for me.

100809Expedition

Tonight I should finish up the left front, do the three needle bind off for the left shoulder, and then move on to collar or sleeves. It would be nice to have this done in time for Rhinebeck, but I have other things on my plate that will likely take precedence, so I'm not exactly counting on it.

06 October 2009

On the Nature of God

Since I haven't really had either the time or the will to sit down and right a proper blog post this past week and since Yahoo is closing down their Geocities site in a few weeks, I thought I'd repost a couple of old essays that I had on my site over there. This particular one was adapted from an e-mail exchange I had over a decade ago with someone who couldn't wrap their heads around the idea of atheism. I'd probably write it a little differently today, but my basic premise and belief is unchanged.

In other news, my Raffle for Marriage Equality has so far raised $770 for the No on 1 campaign. A couple of people have pointed out that the date for that entry is set in the future, and that's intentional in order to keep it at the top of the blog until Election Day, which will be the final day to enter. If you haven't entered yet, please consider making a donation to No on 1, which is your ticket to doing so.



On the Nature of God

While I don't have a problem with creation stories being taught, per se, I have a HUGE problem with the idea of them being taught in the context of a science course. Fundamentalists have created a whole pseudoscience around the defense and rationalization of their "theory", but there is not one iota of real scientific evidence to support their claim. Simply put, creationism does not meet a single criterion that would make it a legitimate scientific theory. It doesn't even meet the definition of a hypothesis, which is basically that there are observations that suggest that the thought may be plausible and ultimately testable. After all, how can you measure a miracle, which is by definition outside the bounds of the empirical?

Stephen Jay Gould addressed this issue very eloquently in his book Rocks of Ages, which I highly recommend. He coins the term "Non-Overlapping Magisteria", or NOMA, to describe the realms of religion and science and to define the terms under which they should be separate from one another. He rightly points out that the purpose of religion is not to define or describe the how of our existence (which is the aim of science), so much as the why. Religion's job is to answer questions of the metaphysical realm, which cannot be ultimately decided by empirical observation and scientific process, while science must function in the realm of the observable and quantifiable.

Because each magisterium encompasses a very different realm of inquiry from the other, there is no reason that they cannot peacefully coexist, and they in fact do, as there are many scientists who are also people of faith, and vice versa.

The problem in this case (And Gould does cite improprieties in both directions.) is that religious fundamentalists (primarily Christians in this country) have decided to try to inject their literalist view of creation into a realm in which it does not belong. Gould points out the irony, however, that there are actually two creation stories in the Bible. Genesis 1 & 2 each have a different account, with the order of creation different for each. Which would they teach, or would they try to teach the synthesized version that's typically recited (In the 7 day creation story, Eve is actually created separately from Adam - "And He created both man and woman in his own image." - and not from Adam's rib, which is in Genesis 2, where the order of creation is very different, Adam being created from clay before just about anything else. Try setting this in front of a biblical literalist and see if their head starts to spin. )?

I think a class called "Creation Stories" would make for a very interesting one and if approached properly (with stories from a representative cross-section of the world's cultures), would raise some fascinating questions about how we view ourselves and our place in the world - not to mention give us insight in to the fundamental psychology of religion, which has always fascinated me. I would even gladly defend its inclusion in a public school curriculum as a humanities course, but to try to pass it off as science does a grave disservice to our children and our community and is just plain wrong.

ENOUGH ABOUT THIS GOULD FELLOW, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?

That's a legitimate question. In Buddhist teaching (my religious lifestyle choice), our perceived reality is just that - a perception and not real unto itself - but that doesn't negate the existence of laws that function within the perceived reality and that govern the order of that perception. One of the main attractions Buddhism held and holds for me is that it takes the most empirical approach possible to religious inquiry and in doing so has an innate recognition of what Gould calls NOMA.

Although there are various mythologies that have found their way into Buddhist tradition, there exists no singular belief in a Creator or a Creation (Buddha is not God). Everything is ultimately energy, which has no beginning or end.

As far as the known universe, though, the Big Bang Theory is the one best supported by the available information, and natural selection is the most cogent explanation for the origin of species. One of the reasons I like Gould so much is that he is both an eloquent defender and an excellent teacher of Darwinian theory. He writes a monthly column for Natural History magazine and has published several collections of his essays, and he always makes for a fascinating read.

Fundamentalist Christians are terrified to think that life (particularly human life) on Earth may have arisen entirely by chance. My feeling is quite the contrary. It makes our time here all the more precious and the beauty around us all the more wondrous. It also puts us firmly in our place - as a strand in the web, rather than the top of the pyramid.

BUT I JUST VIEW GENESIS 1 & 2 AS DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY.


If you reread Gen. 2, you'll see that the order differs significantly from Gen. 1. In Gen. 1, man & woman were created on the 6th day - AFTER, the plants, animals, etc. In Gen. 2, however, it says "when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up" (RSV), God created man "of the dust of the ground". Only then did he create the Garden of Eden as a place to put Adam. Then God created the beasts to find Adam a helper, and Eve was made from Adam's rib AFTER they couldn't find him a likely companion among the animals (We won't even get into THAT one!). There's no real way to resolve that within the context of a literal interpretation.

As for myself and the Big Bang, current theory points to a sort of pulsation of the universe. Prior to the Big Bang, there was another universe that expanded until it began contracting upon itself and finally collapsed and then rebounded outward at the Big Bang to form the current universe, which will eventually collapse and another universe will form. Call it the breathing pattern of God, if you'd like.

I think we, as a species, have a hard time really understanding the concept of infinity, which is why we try to define a Creation event (At the tender age of 18, I had a very brief flash of understanding - what Japanese Zen Buddhists call a satori, I learned several years later. It was at once fascinating and terrifying, and it's a moment I'd love to recapture. And no, there were no mind-altering substances involved. ). Buddhism teaches that there are some things that are unknowable and unexplainable in the context of our perceived reality. The only way for us to know the answer, then, is to open ourselves up to the experience of infinity (which is something distinct from having faith that it exists), which is the gateway to Nirvana and Buddhahood.

BUT I STILL HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT IT ALL MUST HAVE BEEN CREATED BY SOMETHING.

That's what I meant when I said most people have a hard time understanding, or accepting, infinity. I think that's one of the reasons creation stories came into being in the first place. We tend to be limited by the realm of our senses, and because we generally only know finite existence, we have a tendency to define everything within that context. Of course, it still begs the question - who created God (and who created God's Creator, etc.)?

For me, finding an ultimate answer isn't necessarily as important as the search. The problem with faith, in my opinion, is that it's often (usually?) a way of avoiding the very questions we need to be asking of ourselves, not to mention the fact that it's just plain bad logic.

28 September 2009

New No on 1 Ad

If you haven't signed up for my Raffle for Marriage Equality yet, you can start by donating here:

24 September 2009

Take a Volunteer Vacation to Help No on 1

The No on 1 campaign is looking for volunteers to come spend a week or more helping out with the campaign this next month. David and I are among the folks who have offered up space in their homes to host a volunteer or volunteers. As I've mentioned before, this campaign is very much neck-and-neck, so if you can swing some time to come help, every little bit counts. The volunteer vacation page is here.

For folks who have the time but are worried about the cost or if you can help provide air miles or other help to get volunteers here, Travel for Change is coordinating travel assistance for this effort. You can find out more about that here.

The Truth About Yes on 1 Teacher

22 September 2009

Volunteer!

David and I are offering our spare room to host volunteers, we've donated and will continue to donate, and I'm working on squeezing in time in schedule to volunteer. Every little bit helps.

19 September 2009

Who Arrrrrr You?

Thanks be to Red Mary Kidd for this one. After a long night of plunderin' the seas, a meme like this was a comfort to these accursed bones. May all ye scurvy dogs have had a bountiful ITLaPD!



My pirate name is:


Dirty Roger Flint



You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

14 September 2009

Why Anna is a Merry Jew*


Stolen from these folks: http://www.greenposting.org/



Actually, the dog's name wasn't really Anna (though that's what I'm going to call her), nor was she particularly merry or, to my knowledge, Jewish. Her owners left her at the wife's parents' house this afternoon while they went down to Boston for a Red Sox game. When they got back, they found the dog extremely off balance and dribbling urine, so they did what most people do. They freaked out and brought her to see me.

When they got here, one of my techs brought the dog out back for me to evaluate, and sure enough, she was very wobbly on her feet, dribbling urine, and if she sat for a bit, she'd kind of slowly fall over and stare off into space. And I declared to all assembled, "That dog is stoned, and I am going to assume she ate pot until proven otherwise." So my techs did the usual asking of questions: Antifreeze? No. Mushrooms (not necessarily the magic kind)? No. Prescription drugs? No. Recreational drugs? No.

But then on the second round of questions (from me), it turned out that the owner's father is being treated for leukemia and, "There may be weed in the house." She was fairly certain, though, that he was anal-retentive enough to keep it locked away from the grandchildren and said parents are currently in England, so wouldn't likely have left stash out for the dog to find. And then a light bulb went on and she said to spouse, "Oh shit, remember those pot cookies we threw away yesterday?"

Turns out there had been some old chocolate chip cookies with a "secret ingredient" that they'd thrown in the kitchen trash, but they'd never actually gone back to check the trash when they found the dog falling over because they'd panicked. So spouse went back to the parents' house and sure enough, "Anna" had gotten the lid off the trash and all but two of the cookies had been snarfed. Mystery solved!

Fortunately, this is a good thing, as cannabis toxicity is a fairly minor concern and most cases will recover in a day or so with little to no intervention. We could have admitted her for IV fluids, but since "Anna" had probably gotten into the cookies about 9 hours or so earlier and she tends to get stressed out (or, dare I say, paranoid?) in veterinary offices, her owners decided to let her sleep it off at home.

The funniest part? The owners brother had been over to walk the dog in the afternoon and had noticed she was walking a little bit funny then. The time he came over to walk her? 4:20.

*Get it? Merry Jew Anna?

10 September 2009

Because I Haven't Used This Tag Enough

I first blogged about this very British product here.

From the UK's Daily Mail:

For generations it has risen above all the schoolboy sniggers.

But it appears the smirking has to stop as modern sensitivities struggle to cope with the jokes prompted by one of our most loved puddings - Spotted Dick.

Now those sensitivities have seen a prudish council changing the name to Spotted Richard after canteen staff tired of the giggling.

The latest attempt to censor classic Victorian suet and raisin pudding has angered traditionalists, who have fought several battles in recent years over the name.

The defenders of the old ways have been joined by Klaus Armstrong-Braun, a councillor who was taken aback when he saw the name change in the canteen at the headquarters of Flintshire council in North Wales.

'I couldn't believe it, it seemed ludicrous,' he said.

'Spotted Dick is part of our heritage.

'It just seemed political correctness gone mad.

'There was a sign in the dining room for things like rice pudding and then this Spotted Richard - I had to ask what it was.

'Whoever has changed it needs to be told they are being silly.'

Yesterday a Flintshire spokesman explained that Spotted Richard was now on its menus at Mold county hall because of 'childish comments' from diners.

He said: 'The correct title for this dish is Spotted Dick.

'However, because of several immature comments from a few customers, catering staff renamed the dish Spotted Richard or Sultana Sponge.

'This was not a policy decision - staff simply acted as they thought best to put an end to unwelcome and childish comments, albeit from a very small number of customers.'

It is by no means the first time the name Spotted Dick has come under threat from the PC brigade.

In 2001, Tesco also opted for the name Spotted Richard, claiming women shoppers were offended by having to ask for Spotted Dick.

Others followed suit, with Gloucestershire NHS Trust among those who tried to popularise the 21st century version.

Both eventually admitted defeat, and yesterday the Pudding Club - which seeks to preserve traditional British desserts - predicted that Flintshire would go the same way.

'This is totally bonkers,' said chairman Peter Henderson.

'Spotted Dick is part of our heritage, and I can't believe people are really offended by it.
'If they were changing the name in a tongue-in- cheek way, that would be fair enough - I've seen it sold as Blemished Richard.

'But for a council to ban the name is a waste of time and money.'

Belabored

*Gore alert: Bloody pics below!*

After spending the midweek getting through what may or may not have been the piggy flu (still haven't heard test results), I thought I was ready to head back to work on Saturday. I was still a little on the weak side, but I had slept, I was rested...

...I was so very wrong.

In general, our two busiest weekends of the year are Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend - the two bookends of tourist season here in Vacationland. I also worked Memorial Day weekend, and it was pretty manageable. The rains were starting, people were nervous about spending money, and while we were reasonably busy, we were spared too much hell. Not so for Labor Day weekend, though.

The weekend came after a week or so of gorgeous weather with the beginnings of dry, autumnal air, so the hordes descended like we hadn't seen for at least a couple of years. And at the clinic it really, really showed. In the course of my nominal 15 hour shift, I saw 24 cases, which exceeds the Upper Limit of Manageability (ULM) by quite a few. In fact, the overage could have made for a moderate night in itself.

The end result was that my so-called 15 hour shift lasted for 21 hours. And by the time I collapsed in the overnight room and managed enough of a sleep that I could drive home without being a menace to others, I had been at the clinic for about 28 hours. I got home about 30 hours after I'd left, then got up the next day to do it again.

Thankfully, Labor Day itself squeaked in right about at the ULM. Truly, the most beautiful sight of the day for me was driving up the Turnpike to work and seeing tens of thousands of vehicles heading south. Traffic was literally at a crawl or a standstill all the way up to the 20 mile marker, and they were all leaving for the season. Had I not been driving, I'd have danced a little happy dance to celebrate.

Of course, not all my cases were happy ones. One of the first ones I admitted Monday night was an old brittany spaniel who turned out to have a bleeding mass on her spleen. About 80% of these masses are malignant hemangiosarcomas, which I understand are fairly rare in humans but are very common in dogs. Survival times for these are incrementally better with surgery and chemotherapy, but the bottom line is that about 95% of cases are dead within a year, even with aggressive chemo. In a nutshell, double plus ungood.

Still, the owner wasn't quite ready to say goodbye and opted to proceed with a transfusion and surgery. I was able to pick up the bleeding mass readily on ultrasound, but I was reluctant to put the dog into potentially stressful positions because of the hemorrhage and shock and had missed a couple of other masses in the spleen. Note the fist-sized clot I took out of her abdomen.

090809Hemangiosarcoma 001

I had also not been able to get good views of her liver and had not seen one large mass taking up most of the quadrate lobe, which is essentially a time bomb waiting to blow. I called the owners during surgery just to make sure it wasn't going to change their decision, and it didn't. I also could feel at least two other nodules in the liver that weren't readily visible at the surface. And this is the blood I suctioned out of her abdomen.

090809Hemangiosarcoma 002

That's like a pint and a quarter. If it were Ben & Jerry's, you'd gain about a pound eating it, though I'm not sure it's a flavor that'd sell. It's also more blood than I transfused into her, but it's clear that without the transfusion first she would not likely have survived surgery. As it was, she did relatively well and went home the following afternoon, albeit on borrowed time.

In Cheerier News...

I finally got the chicken coop up on pressure-treated stilts today. And for extra butch points, I did it all by myself. Well, Tuck supervised, but I provided all the muscle. Despite my efforts at engineering the coop to be relatively light, it's quite a heavy and bulky beast. But by cleverly using braces and leverage I was able to get the stilts on one side firmly screwed in place, then jack the other side up with my shoulder and a brace board to get the stilts on the other side. I didn't even strain my back doing it, either.

I also got a double layer of predator-deterring chicken wire laid across the top with a layer of mylar-coated bubble wrap insulation sandwiched in between, plus a layer of chicken wire on the underside for more predator deterrance. Tomorrow will hopefully be spent on getting the corrugated metal roofing on and getting a ramp/hatch in place so they can enter and exit from underneath.

The plan is to enclose the area underneath to they've got a protected area where they can hang out in inclement weather. Aside from that, there are also little details to attend to - latches, window and windowsill, wheels, some sort of system to hold window and doors open, etc., but it looks as though I may actually have it ready for them before really cold weather sets in.

04 September 2009

Same-Sex Marriage Lowers Divorce Rates

From Rachel Maddow. Massachusetts already had a low divorce rate, but since same-sex marriage was legalized in the state five years ago, their divorce rate has now dropped to levels not seen since before WWII. And yet, the Catholic Church, the fundies, and other hate groups still tell us that recognizing all families will hurt marriage.