Thursday, August 30, 2007

Critiquing "writing"

So in the course of my life, I have the opportunity to critique other people's stories. Some are great, good characters, interesting plot, well-written dialog.

Then there are...the others.

Let me start off by clarifying that I don't claim to be an awesome writer (decent, maybe). However, if I write about a subject, I do at least basic research into the subject, and claim at least some proficiency. In other words, if you're going to write a science fiction story, know at least your basic science.

The following examples are all from one story sort of based around an artificial star that a ship is launching.

"[The artificial star] would heat up to more then ten thousand degrees Fahrenheit. It would then accelerate, moving away from the ship at ten kilometers a second."
1. That's the temperature of our sun (well, the sun's actually 11,000 degrees F, close enough). Wouldn't it be smart to move it away from your spaceship BEFORE it heated up?

2. You speak of acceleration, then give us a velocity. Minor detail, but again, it's a science fiction story. Your audience will expect accuracy.

"[The artificial star] pulled in mass from the area around it"
I'm guessing he wants to use "matter" instead of "mass." In other words, it would gain mass by collecting matter. Again, it's a science fiction story--keep your science-y words accurate. And where is this matter coming from? It's space...matter is in short supply. Fortunately, near the end of the story, he thinks to mention that there's a nearby asteroid belt. Oh, great, matter to collect! is the star attracting this matter before it has mass? No mass, no gravitational pull. Sort of a chicken and egg dilemma.

"[The artificial star] pulled in mass from the area around it, becoming it's own gravitational singularity"
We'll ignore the "it's," since we're critiquing the science. In this case, I'm assuming he just heard the phrase "gravitational singularity," thought it sounded cool, didn't know exactly what it meant, and decided to put it in anyway. I won't claim any expert astrophysics knowledge...but I do know how to use Wikipedia. Among other definitions, a "gravitational singularity" is a black hole, or at least the center of one. Since the whole point of this star was to send light back to Earth to communicate a message, a black hole would kind of defeat the purpose. (Or maybe not, it would still send back "light," just not on any human-visible wavelengths, but I don't think that's what he had in mind.)

Later, an alien satellite cuts their ship in half with a laser beam! A few more issues crop up.

"Suddenly a beam of light cut through space, streaming past them. It began to sweep around, looking a bit like the beam of a flashlight searching through the darkness"
Think of a night, where there's no smog or dust in the air, but there's a low cloud cover. Now shine the light on the clouds. You can see the light on the clouds, if you look directly at the spotlight bulb you can see the light there as well...but you can't see the beam itself.

Why not? You need photons from the light hitting your eyes to see it. And if there's nothing in the air (or nothing in the deep of space) to scatter/reflect those photons, they aren't going to reach your eyes. I'm not positive, since a laser might carry particles of whatever created it along, but I don't think you can see a laser beam "sweeping" through space. That's why when you see them at laser shows, they put fog into the air first.

I could go on about what it takes for a laser to "instantaneously" cut through a spaceship, and how you wouldn't see tendrils of melted metal at the edges because they didn't have time to heat up and space is very cold anyway, and how you better have a heck of a good computer to calculate the trajectory to shoot an artificial star from your "tumbling" half-a-spaceship at a moving alien satellite, and how it wouldn't matter anyway because the alien satellite would just move...but it's late and Child's gone to bed.

Now, with all that said, I can take as well as give. If any notices mistakes in what I've said, or wishes to clarify or outright contradict what I've said, then go right ahead. Like I said, I'm not a physicist, astro or otherwise, so everything I said was simply "from my understanding" and a little from Wikipedia. I'd be more than happy to be clarified on any points.

Child's Ninja-Dive Roll Ultimate Frisbee Catch

So Child and I went to play Ultimate Frisbee with a large crowd of people at the Kiwanis Park. Someone on her team threw the Frisbee, but it missed its intended target! The Frisbee was headed for the ground! All seemed lost!

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Child races forward and dives for the Frisbee. She grabs it right before it hits the ground, rolls into this ninja move, karate chops three enemy players, pumps six 12 gauge rounds into more charging bad guys, finishes her roll, jumps to her feet, and throws the Frisbee for a goal.

The crowd went wild.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


A lot of disabled people don't like being considered "disabled." They simply have different abilities. Child tells me that the deaf community, for example, are very quick to point out that they are just as capable as any hearing person. So when a disabled person tries to use their disability as a crutch, it's not only annoying, but offensive to others with the same disability.

A lady called the animal shelter yesterday, and I answered the phone. The lady had apparently found a cat a few months previous, it had kittens, and now she wanted to get rid of the kittens. "They're tearing up my house," she complained. From the way she was talking, I got the impression she was a lower-income person, so instead of simply telling her she could bring them in and pay a $15 fee per animal to release them, I said, "Well, you can try giving them away; I've frequently seen people sitting on the grass by Walmart with boxes of kittens. Or you can post them for free on, and lots of people look there for animals."

I was going to finish with the option of bringing them in and paying the fee just to cover all the bases, but she interrupted me. "What if I just want you to take them?" she asked.

"Well, you can bring them in, and there's a $15 owner release fee for each animal," I said.

There was a short silence, then, "Even if I'm disabled?" she demanded.

There were so many things wrong with her reply that I wasn't sure how to answer. For starters, why would our fee depend on whether she was disabled or not? And plenty of other people seemed to get along just fine being "disabled."

"Um, yes." I said.

There was another silence. "Well, I'm disabled so I can't sit by Walmart with a box of kittens," she snapped.

"It sounds like is your best option then," I said.

"I don't have the internet," she said.

"Do you have a a friend with the internet?"


"A friend who has a friend who has the internet?" I said. I was getting irritated by her complete lack of helpfulness, she obviously wanted us to personally drive over to her house and take the kittens off her hands for free.

Anyway, she finally hung up. Ten minutes later, an animal control officer from her town showed up with a cage full of kittens in tow, and he was furious. "This woman is terrible," he said. "She has 20 cats at home, lets them have kittens all the time, then calls us up and expects us to come just take them from her. I've already refused to come get them several times, but she just calls when I'm off duty and the other officers don't know not to go over. She just barely called us, and I finally gave up and decided that the city would just eat the cost (each city pays for each animal their ACOs bring to the shelter). I'm going to check into the law, though, and see if we can refuse to take anything else from her house."

I'm not exactly sure what the point of this story is, except that there is nothing worse than a disabled person who tries to use her disability to take advantage. Grrr.

A Goofy Movie

Apparently I was fortunate to survive my childhood with my cultural identity intact, because I had never seen A Goofy Movie. Once Child discovered this, we immediately rushed out and got it from Blockbuster. It was good, with some funny parts to it, but I have to say it seems to teach some conflicting morals.

Goofy makes Max go back and tell Max's girlfriend, Roxanne, that he had lied to her...yet Goofy, a beloved American icon, had no problem sneaking into a concert without paying, eluding security guards, and destroying hundreds of dollars of stage equipment. And these are the characters our children are looking up to?!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jake the Malamute

Child's parents recently inherited a dog, Jake. He's a (large) malamute.

Acouchi wasn't exactly thrilled to see Jake on our front lawn, and we (read: Child) decided against introducing them at closer proximity, despite the fact that I had the video mode on my camera ready to go.

Vegetarian Cookies, Anyway?

My wife first noticed this quite a while ago, and tried to point out to the clerk that while technically correct (since ALL cookies are vegetarian), the sign's intent was probably "vegan" cookies. The clerk was adamant that vegetarian was correct, and Child finally gave up.

So I finally decided to go down and take a picture of the sign. Afterwards, while walking back to my lab, I called up the store and asked for a manager. I finally got one, and was able to raise the question of why the sign said "vegetarian" instead of "vegan."

Apparently the lady thought I was some sort of PETA organizer standing poised outside the door with several hundred sign-carrying protesters ready to start marching if the sign wasn't resolved immediately, because she was extremely apologetic, and hastened to assure me she would leave a note for the "guy in charge" to get the sign changed post-haste. That wasn't really my intent, but I knew it would make Child happy, so I cheerfully thanked her and hung up.

Remind me, and I'll check back in a couple weeks to see if they really did fix it.

It is not meet that I should command in all things...

Last Sunday I developed a new appreciation for those people who can offer someone a drink/cigarette/card game, be turned down with a "No, thanks, I don't drink/smoke/gamble," and not let it bother them or be offended.

It's surprisingly hard! Granted, there's not usually any offense intended, but regardless, there's an implication of condemnation. Basically, you're calling them a sinner. I realized this when (long story short) some friends turned down board game playing on Sunday with the reason (in my understanding) that they didn't feel it was an appropriate Sabbath activity.

Of course they didn't intend to offend anyone, and I'm sure hinting that anyone who did was a sinner was the last thing on their minds. However, the implication was there, simply as an inherent factor of their statement of belief. I found it surprisingly hard not to grill them as to their rationale or basis for their belief, with of course the subconscious goal of proving that I was "right" in my beliefs and they were "wrong."

But the more I learn of how God really works, the more I start to realize that "right" and "wrong" really SHOULD be put in quotes. There's a reason Church leaders have avoided listing more than a general overview of "appropriate" Sabbath activities. There's a reason they don't define exactly what should be tithed. There's a reason Jesus didn't list off the exact nationalities that should be considered "neighbors" to the Jews in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

It all depends on your intent. If I think playing board games on Sunday harms the Spirit of the Sabbath (Monopoly, anyone?) but do it anyway, the Lord will judge it against me. If I think playing board games on Sunday builds stronger family relationships, then the Lord will judge in my favor. Exact same actions, but the intent was different.
...the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with areal intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
Moroni 7:8-9
Double standard? Maybe, but one we create ourselves. As a matter-of-fact, it's a multi-billion level standard, one for each person.

And that's why we're told to Judge Not. Only God knows everyone's real intent, and only He knows the proper standard to judge their actions by.

Team of Child Abductors Roaming Utah

According to the Daily Universe, "Utah Creates New Child Abduction Team."

No word yet on what age of children this government-sponsored abduction team will target, or what they'll do after they abduct the children.

On a related note, consumers are warned to avoid "Utah Soylent Green"-brand food.

True Computer Geek

Now this guy is really a computer geek. Arrested and convicted for uploading Star Wars III to the internet before it was released in theaters, he had to serve some jail time, and is now under probation. He also had to have monitoring software installed on his computer, which meant he needed to switch from Ubuntu Linux to Windows (since the government didn't have a Linux version of their monitoring software).

So what did he think about all this?
It isn’t the fact that I have to be monitored that bothers me, it is the fact that I have restructure my life (different OS, different software on that OS)
Wow. It wasn't the jail time that bothered him, or forced him to "restructure" his life. It wasn't the ankle bracelet he has to wear, the restricted hours he's allowed to leave his house (8:30 am to 5 pm on weekends), or even, as he says, that he's forced to have monitoring software installed on his computer. It's the fact that he had to change his operating system from Linux to Windows.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why, if I had a nickle for every time I've been shot...

There's been a story in the local (and apparently not-so-local) news recently. A police officer showed up at a 70-year-old lady's house, and asked for her name so he could write her a ticket for not taking care of her lawn. Apparently they were talking near the street, and the lady refused to give her name, then tried to go back to her house. When the police officer tried to stop her (apparently afraid she might be going for a weapon or something), she started resisting, and he ended up arresting her.

I'm not going to discuss the story. Instead, I was having an amusing time reading the discussion thread that followed the argument. Some people made good points, both for and against the officer's actions. One guy on the anti-cop side, however, made me laugh,
See this is why Police enFORCEment is sad, it's all about Force, What happened to the good Peace officers, I have had more guns pointed at me by police Officers in Utah then by anyone else, and that's when I have called them...
Really? I have yet to have a single gun pointed at me by ANYONE, much less a police officer. Am I doing something wrong? Offending the wrong people? Hanging out with the wrong crowd? Antagonizing the wrong gun-wielding demographic? I would love to ask him exactly how many times he's had a gun pointed at him, and what he was doing at the time.

(BTW, a picture someone posted in that same discussion thread is the one I used to the "You're doin' it wrong" post I just made.)

You're doin' it wrong V

Murder by Deer

As a country vet I did a lot of traveling, but I had never actually been to Justin's house. He shared his lane with a single neighbor, Carl, who was also in his mid-80s and living by himself. As a matter of fact, Justin and Carl were a lot alike, except that Carl was a widower and Justin had never married.

As far as I knew, Justin only had two hobbies: hating Carl, and feeding deer. As a relative newcomer to the area (9 years this spring), I only knew about the first from small-town gossip. Something about Carl stealing Justin's beau while Justin was off in WWII. The second hobby, I had witnessed myself. On at least three of the handful of wintery occasions I had visited his neighbor's small farm, I had seen Justin with his pickup truck pulled off the road, tossing bales of hay to the ground. I couldn't guess why; most farmers, even retired ones like Justin, hated deer for the damage they did to their crops.

Two days ago, however, Carl passed away. I heard about it while I was in the hardware store, stomping snow off my boots and trying to warm my hands by rubbing them together. Nancy, her head deep in a circle of people clustered around the cashier's desk, glanced up at the jingle of the bell over the door. "Doc V, you hear the news?"

I didn't think it had to do with the new calf I had just delivered, so I shook my head.

"Carl died," Nancy said. "Got in a car wreck up by his house. The sheriff just got back a few minutes ago."

I stared at her. Carl, dead? As old as he was, I had expected him to die in his sleep, not to go like this. "What happened?" I asked.

"He went off the road up by his house and hit a tree," said Nancy, shaking her head. The cluster of people around her repeated the gesture, and I noticed Justin's face among them. He looked slightly less dismayed by the tragedy than the others, and a sudden thought struck me.

"Any idea why he went off the road?" I asked, and Nancy shook her head again.

"Sheriff says maybe he swerved to miss a deer," she said. "Then with the roads all slick, he couldn't get control back."

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, and there's nothing I could go to the sheriff with. But for the first time since I had met him, I saw Justin smile.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Utah Community Credit Union and Customer Service

Even more important than the number of problems a particular company gives you is the speed and convenience with which they solve those problems. Think about it--if you had a company that you only had one problem with, but it took two months, a dozen phone calls, and the sacrifice of a goat to fix the problem, how would that compare with a company that gave you five problems but solved each one with a two-minute phone call?

Let's consider three companies:

Comcast, T-Mobile, and Utah Community Credit Union (UCCU)

Comcast: caused me lots of problems trying to get installed (do they want my money or not?!). Each time, I had to call and spend 15 minutes on the phone trying to explain the problem, then having to hear that the earliest they can schedule help is a week away. Three weeks later, the problem is fixed, but I have to make another serious of incredibly frustrating phone calls to get the billing fixed now. Customer satisfaction: non-existent.

T-Mobile: charged me a $30 fee, apparently a legitimate fee that the service rep forget to tell me about. Took one phone call, required a transfer to a supervisor, who then promised to call the service rep to double-check I was telling the truth. Supervisor couldn't contact the service rep, so went ahead and refunded the money. Great, but had the potential to turn nasty if the supervisor had actually contacted the service rep, and the service rep got scared he'd get in trouble and claimed he had told me about it. Anyway, problem solved. Customer satisfaction: good.

UCCU: charged us a late fee on a car-loan payment because the teller deposited the money in our checking account instead of loan account. Required a couple phone calls, and we had to do some digging in our transactions to find the day and error, but there was no need to transfer us to a supervisor, the first guy on the phone we talked to accepted our explanation and refunded the service food. Customer satisfaction: very good.

Gimp and the Libgimpui DLL

Note to self, since I know this is going to come up again and I won't remember the solution: after installing Gimp, while starting the program, if lots of "missing entry points in the libgimpui dll" errors start popping up, then uninstall, erase the old folders in Program Files, make sure the dll is gone from windows/system32, then reinstall Gimp but using a different folder name than the default given.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

You're doin' it wrong IV

Thanks to my beautiful wife, Child, for this one!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wives and toilet seats

I think I'm the only person whose wife reminds him to leave the toilet lid up. (Not the seat, just the lid.)

Why? Because Child's cat is too finicky to drink from her water dish, choosing instead the "giant water bowl."

Comcast...DE MUERTE!!!

So if I attempted to chronicle all my dealings with Comcast in the last month, attempting to set up internet at Child's and I's new home, this blog post would be several pages long. Instead, let me just comment on the latest call.

Background: due to circumstances, for the first three weeks of our "service," the internet didn't work. Each time I called and talked with a Comcast representative, I was given a "confirmation code" that they said I could use after the service finally worked to make sure I wasn't billed for downtime. In addition, one of the techs that came out to the house gave me a $20 discount for the trouble we've been going through.

So I finally received the first bill: $8.14.

$27.95 for the bill, minus the $20 credit the technician gave me, plus $0.19 tax. Makes sense. But no credits for the three weeks I was without internet--fair enough, I'm supposed to call up and cite my "confirmation codes."

I call Comcast and try to talk to billing. I run through the automated message and get to a prompt that asks for the last four digits of my account number, which I don't have handy.

I hang up and call back, this time aiming for an operator. I find one and he checks my name and phone number, then asks for my account number as well. I tell him I don't have it handy, so he asks for the exact amount of my last payment. Well, for starters, I haven't made ANY payments yet (except for whatever they charged when I signed up over the phone a month ago), and I wouldn't remember the amount off the top of my head anyway. I verbally spar with him for a few moments, asking if there's any other way to verify myself, but he remains adamant. No account number, no help. I hang up.

I call back again. Instead of asking the new operator for help with my bill, I ask her for my account number. She gives it to me. Ah, the joys of large corporations. Since this lady was helpful in giving me my account number, I decide to stick with her. So, over the next 19 minutes, I try time and time again to explain my situation, everything that's happened, everything that SHOULD happen. Finally, FINALLY, she tells me that all the additional changes/credits, whatever, should appear on my next bill. "As a matter of fact, it should be negative," she says.

I asked her three different times, in three different ways, to confirm that my next bill will be negative (i.e. Comcast should have credited me) and each time she confirmed it.

We'll see. I have more faith in Osama bin Laden converting to Christianity than in Comcast getting something right.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Letters to the Editor: Dead Birds

I forgot to post this "letter to the editor" earlier, but it's pretty self-explanatory. I submitted it about two weeks ago, and it was published on August 9th.

Might I also point out that while I am known to misspell words on occasion, the only misspelling in the letter below is in the title (where casualities should be casualties), and that was put in by the newspaper. ;)

The reason I remembered it today was because the officer I wrote it for came to the shelter today where I had clipped a copy of it.

Bird casualities

This letter to the editor is actually on behalf of a friend of mine, a Provo police officer. He told me they frequently get calls from people on BYU campus asking them to take care of a dead bird. For starters, as my friend pointed out, BYU not only has its own police, but it also has a maintenance crew for each building. Not only that, but he assured me there was no law against people picking up the bird themselves (using gloves, a trash bag or something similar) and simply throwing it away.

I understand "911" has fewer numbers than "422-2222" (BYU Police) or "422-INFO" (BYU Info for maintenance phone numbers), but as college-educated people I'm sure we can handle the extra digits.

Not only that, but since we're at a school run by a religion that emphasizes self-reliance, I am confident we can even learn to handle a dead bird ourselves (I suggest "Handling Dead Birds 101," "Coping with Death 230" and the whole "Turning Wal-Mart Bags Into Makeshift Shrouds" course series).

Call Provo police for emergencies such as your roommate's meth lab, but BYU police or maintenance should be able to handle a dead bird.

You're doin' it wrong III

Thanks to Alan Atherton for the inspiration for this one.

Oh, the usual...I got peed on...

It's been a long day: a praying mantis tried to assault a shelter employee, a policeman beat it back with his baton, and a dog peed on my leg.

Alright, it's not really as exciting as it sounds. I was in the kitchen eating some inmate-grown corn when there was a sudden burst of shrieking from the hallway. I went to investigate and found two of the girls that work at the shelter trying to alternately catch a praying mantis and fleeing in terror when it would fly at them. Once it landed in one of the girl's hair and the girl ran shrieking down the hall.

At the same time, an ACO came in bringing a squirrel. He heard the noise and came to investigate, then caught the mantis himself once he realized what they were doing. The girls were trying to catch it to feed our chameleon, so the officer tossed it in the cage, but it landed out of sight of the chameleon. Next thing I know, the ACO whips out his beat-stick (billy club? baton?) and starts poking the mantis, trying to get it to move. It doesn't work, so the ACO sticks a piece of tape on the end of his baton and picks the mantis up with it.

On an unrelated note, a dog peed on my leg. Oh well, part of the job.

A less fun side of the job is the disease we get occasionally. Right now the shelter is abnormally empty, we have pans of bleach everywhere to sanitize our shoe-soles, and there's practically armed guards patrolling the halls to make sure no one touches any of the animals. It started when a dog became sick, but it was an internal disease and we couldn't tell until it died suddenly. Since visitors (and even a couple shelter workers--we won't name names) can't seem to get the concept of "germs" through their head, the dog had been petted, then the people went on to pet half the other dogs in the place without sanitizing their hands between dogs.

The first dog died, as did a couple others that were adopted out. The decision was made to clean house, so we euthanized anything that looked in the least bit sick, or who's time was up. So the shelter is spookily quiet, no one is allowed to adopt a dog for a while until we're sure everything is safe, and we're keeping a close eye out for any more sick dogs.

The happy (sad?) thing is that in a week, we'll be back to full capacity. So many dogs...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

You're doin' it wrong II

You're doin' it wrong.

This is the first post in my upcoming "You're doin' it wrong" series of pictures. I'd welcome other suggestions.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Today we got a Cooper's hawk at the animal shelter. The man from the raptor rescue who came and got it said it was actually still young, as large as it was. He said it probably had just left its nest.

Also, if your dog gets loose, make sure it's friendly, especially towards any cop that might pick it up. Today wasn't the first time a cop brought in a dog and told me he was going to give the owner a ticket because the dog played hard to get. Technically they can give a ticket to every single owner whose dog is loose, since there's a leash law, but they normally don't bother, unless, as I said, the dog causes them problems.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Your babies are ugly! All of them! ...except two.

Today was the third week Child and I attended our "married student" church, where 70% of the people have a baby under a year old and 60% of them are expecting in the next two months. 1% (Child and I) have neither a baby nor are expecting.

As you might guess, this has caused some problems, mostly for Child, who feels (fairly enough) that she is somewhat of an outsider and that nothing relates to her. Our sacrament meeting was composed of ten or so short talks, assigned by the bishop and given by the church members, illustrating faith. Most of them had something to do with childbirth.

"My wife was in labor for thirty pain-filled hours but we had faith..."
"I had these various complications with the pregnancy but thanks to faith..."
"My wife had horrible nausea and cramps for the last eight months of her pregnancy but with faith..."

I'm setting next to Child cringing. At the end, Child leans over to me and says scowls, "We're never having children."

Curses! I'm having a hard enough time convincing her she wants a baby.

Then we split up for our guy/girl classes. Afterwards, I reported that us guys learned about reverence. Child grumpily said she had learned about how to teach your children to be reverent.

She also handed me a schedule of activities for the women she had gotten. I was pleased, because the previous week she had complained that the only activities were for women with babies. "Hey, you like swimming, you can go to the swimming group!" I suggested.

She pointed to the description. "Come enjoy the shade and company while you watch your children swim..."

"How about the walking group?" I suggested.

"Join us as we push strollers around the neighborhood..."

"The cooking group?"

"Want to make your own baby food? Come learn how..."

Poor Child. I feel for her, I really do.

There was one bright note: our meeting time will be moved from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM in two weeks. It won't solve any of the underlying problems, but at least Child won't have to face them on too-little sleep. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Starting a new short story

Alright, I've had three short story ideas bouncing around in my head, but all of them seem to have difficulties. In addition, I'm starting to get motivated to return to my novel and start over with it.

However, I've finally decided to give short stories one more shot. I've picked the least-problematic one of the three, and here I go. We'll see how it turns out...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Mac-Cat

Child and I watched a movie last night. We left briefly to find some food, and came back to find Acouchi apparently intrigued by the rolling credits. Perhaps she had a friend playing an extra in the movie, and was looking for the name.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A seven-woman show

At the animal shelter, there are eight employees. One is the director. He's a guy. The other seven are women.

I feel sorry for him sometimes. Usually everyone gets along well, but when differences arise, as they are bound to with that skewed of an employee gender-makeup, then he's the one who has to solve the problems. He spent all this morning (seriously, like two hours!) talking with two of the women about some issue, which started with a misplaced soda can, I believe.

Oh well, that's part of being the director.

On an unrelated note, here's a picture of the fawn we got in at the shelter a little while ago.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Crazy-psycho religious nut

Crazy psycho religious nuts and normal jailed citizens. Something interesting seems to happen every day at the animal shelter.

First, religious nuts. When someone wants to adopt a young kitten, we have them foster it for a couple weeks first, to make sure it's not going to die on them. If it's healthy after two weeks, they bring it back to us, we finalize the adoption, then they can take the cat home.

So this guy brought in his kitten to finalize the adoption. He was a pudgy, middle-age guy with a butch haircut and worst of all, a truculent expression on his face. The first words out of his mouth after the poor girl (we'll call her Amber) at the front desk said hello was, "I ain't getting the cat microchipped."

That was somewhat of a non sequitur, but Amber said, "Excuse me?"

The man snapped again, "I ain't getting the cat microchipped, and I don't care what you say."

Amber was somewhat at a loss, but hesitantly pulled out the fostering agreement and pointed to a line in it. "But you agreed to get it microchipped, and you even signed right here that you would."

The man was adamant. "You can take the cat back, but you ain't putting a microchip in it."

Amber didn't know what to do next, since our director wasn't in (it was Saturday), and the man was very confrontational. I stepped in, "Why don't you want to get it microchipped?"

"Religious reasons," he said.

"Oh. What religion are you?" I asked.

"Mormon," he said. That happened to be my religion also, but I couldn't remember hearing any sermons about the evils of microchipping, or reading any scriptural verse warning against it.

"Exactly what religious tenet warns against microchipping?" I inquired.

For the first time he hesitated. "Well...I just have my own ideas about where microchips are heading."

I got the impression he thought we were going to tattoo a "666" on the cat's forehead, then have a dozen spy satellites tracking its every movement. How do you argue with religious belief, though, especially when it's a "personal" one and not even in line with the man's religion? "Um, I'm sorry, your religion doesn't actually believe that. Now, do you want a matching microchip in you, so our agents can know where to find you at all times?"

Amber and I huddled, and I suggested that she go ahead and do everything else, let the guy take the cat, then we could discuss what to do on Monday, when our director would be in. We had the guy's address and phone, so we could get the cat back if necessary. She agreed, and the guy left, happy in the knowledge that he had saved one more poor cat from the belly of the Beast.

Later than afternoon, I was sitting with our three inmates in the break room, eating lunch with them. I was telling them about the psycho guy, and bemoaned the fact that there were so few normal people around.

"Hey, I'm normal," one of them protested, hesitated, then added, "Well, except for being in jail," and he grinned.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Shelter events

Microchip your pets, people! Yesterday, we had a couple pugs brought into the animal shelter by the Animal Control Officers. We scanned them for microchips and found that they were chipped. We called the owner, who was shocked to hear from us. "They've been missing for six months!" she said.

Shortly after, another lady called. "I just lost my two pugs, have they been picked up?" The story wasn't too hard to figure out. The original owner had lost the pugs six months earlier. The second lady found them, and rather than bringing them to the shelter, had kept them. Only when they had escaped and been brought to us and scanned had we found the original owner.

Ironically, the ownership of the dogs is still not clearcut. Apparently, as long as the finder makes a "good effort" to find the original owner, they can keep the animals. Since the original owner put up flyers all over town looking for their dog, and the finder had never brought the animals to us (or even taken them to a vet's office to be scanned for microchips), I would personally say that the finder didn't make a good effort, but I'm not the judge.

Adding an additional problem to the mix, the original owner had already gotten another dog (dogs?) to replace the pugs, and now if she takes the pugs back, she'll have more dogs than her city allows her to have. I'm going to keep informed on what happens, and I'll post here if I find out.

(Later: we gave the pugs back to the original owner, and promised the newer owner we'd give her first dibs on the next small dog [pug, chihuahua, dachshund] we got in.)

As interesting as that situation is, it isn't the only one of its kind when it comes to microchips and pet ownership. We got another microchipped dog in, and the owner said something similar about it being missing for several months. While we were waiting for the owner to come in, another guy came in looking for the same dog. We told him it had a microchip that said the owner was someone else, and asked him how he had gotten the dog. He gave a name (we'll say it was "Mary") and said that Mary had given it to him. We told him we couldn't release the dog to him until we got the situation worked out, and he beat a suspiciously hasty retreat.

When the original owners came in, we told them that a "Mary" had apparently given the dog to the latest owner, and the original owners looked shocked. "Mary is our relative! We gave her the dog to babysit while we were on vacation, and she said it had ran off!"

Apparently Mary had some sort of grudge against the owners (or perhaps dog). And apparently the guy she had given the dog to was at least somewhat aware that all was not kosher in the way he received the dog. Last I heard, I think we just left the original owners to deal with Mary how they would.

Remember: collars can be lost...or deliberately removed! Microchips are like diamonds: forever. (Or if not forever, at least a step more permanent than collars.)

Only last small incident, not concerning microchips this time. We had an old lady come in yesterday, accompanied by her younger neighbor and her neighbor's daughter. They were looking for a dog for the old lady, who's old dog had died a week previous. (Interestingly, three separate neighbors had called asking about getting a dog for the old lady.) Anyway, they wanted to look at a chihuahua, and I was taking them to the "Get Acquainted" room so they could let it run around. As they went in, the old lady leaned toward me and said solemnly, "I'm a child."

I stared at her, not sure I had heard correctly, and if I had, wondering if it was some manifestation of the slight dementia that her neighbor had whispered to us the old lady had. I said, "Excuse me?" and the lady repeated, "I'm a child."

I still had a puzzled look on my face, and the old lady finally clarified by saying, "Before I married, my name was 'Child.'"

Oh! That's...nice. I gave a polite nod of still-puzzled understanding. The lady followed her neighbor into the room, and I shut the door behind them. I went to the front desk where I repeated the incident to our shelter mom, who laughed. "'Child' is the big name in her [small] town," she said. "If you're a Child, you're really someone. You were supposed to be impressed."

Oops. Oh well. I guess I've been working with animals too long, because as a general rule, I'm as impressed by names as a dog is.

Rather sleepness night

Last night was one of those restless nights where you seem to wake up every couple hours for no particular reason. Warning: studies have shown that hearing other people describe their dreams is the most boring thing in existence, so if you don't want to read a couple (very brief) descriptions, skip this post. I'll blog about some amusing animal shelter events next as an apology.

I remember having two dreams. The first, I was at someones house with a lot of relatives, it seemed to be a family reunion of some sort, when I noticed in passing that my Grandpa on my mom's side was there. That wouldn't be too remarkable, other than the fact that he passed away a few years ago. I seemed to be the first to realize that he was there, so I called out and went up to talk to him. I wish I could remember exactly his words, but they were simply along the lines of, "I hope *you* aren't doing anything to make me disappointed," then I woke up.

Now I do believe in "religious" dreams, but actually, I don't think this was one. Whether or not it was, though, it was a good question for me to ponder as I lay awake in bed.

Falling back asleep, I had a totally unrelated dream, and one with no real point to it at all, but an intriguing twist that I haven't seen in any of my dreams before. Child and I were in a big ol' house, where there seemed to be some sort of party going on. Suddenly, a couple guys charged in and started shooting all over the place with automatic weapons. Child and I raced upstairs to hide, and watched out the window as the Bad Guys loaded all sorts of boxes into some trucks. I got the impression this was a rival gang's headquarters, and they were robbing it.

They left, and all sorts of people showed up, including the police (and oddly enough, one of my ex-girlfriends). Still upstairs, I leaned out the window and called out that I could help the police since I was a witness, and that I had actually been in the same house a year earlier when the exact same event had happened then. I woke up about there, and realized that I had actually had the same dream a year earlier, and understood that that was what my dream-self had been referring to. Intriguing, no?

Anyway, enough dreams. On to a new post and some shelter news.