Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris

Book 36

Book 4 of the Sookie Stackhouse series - of True Blood fame.  This book was so fun.  Sookie and Bill are broken up and witches have cursed Eric such that he has lost his memory.  Hijinks ensue.

Again with the adding more supernatural elements.  The final battle scene involved vampires, witches, werewolves and a really bad shape-shifter.  It also introduced the scary people that live in the "Hotshot" neighborhood.  They were introduced in Season 3 of the True Blood, but this book took their story arc in a slightly different direction.

Also, as Season Three of the TV show further developed Jason's character, this book hints at the direction that story might go.  It looks like Alcide is sticking around, which is awesome.  Although we know that the "canon" isn't necessarily the TV canon.

I do miss LaFayette.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blanket 35

This was an odd piece of fleece from Penny's stash.  Rather small, as for a toddler, with a John Deere theme and colors more appropriate for an older kid.  My mother said, "Some little boy will get that, feel like a big boy and love it."

I really have to get a new camera.   The pale beige yarn was also in Penny's stash.  It was unlabeled, so I can't identify it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Standing with the Women of South Sudan

Earlier this year, I began sponsoring a lady in Kosovo through Women for Women International, an organization that offers educational programs and other support to women living in war torn regions.  I am pretty new to the program, so I don't have much to say about it yet, but I feel the need to talk about something they are doing for South Sudan.

Sudan is one of the countries they in which they worked, anyway.  Now they are reaching out to sponsors and others in the community to send messages of support to women of South Sudan.  This is a video they produced a while back:

Well.  Sending a message via the Internet seems the very least I can do.  This is what I said:

"I congratulate the women of South Sudan for daring to envision a bright new future for their country. It had to take a lot of courage to make it happen.  I imagine the road ahead will be difficult, but I know that together you can pave the way for generations to come.  My thoughts are with you."

If you are interested in getting involved in this small way, Women for Women International has a page set up here.  On that page, there are also links to "Trusted News Sources" for updates on the region.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Would You Pay?

Back when I was researching adoptable dogs, I came across one that I thought was a good fit.  But when I read the adoption application for that particular rescue group, it asked some questions that irritated me.  One was something like:

"How much money are you willing to spend for the medical care of your pet?"

Well.  I had just spent a not-even-small fortune caring for a beloved pet in his last months.  Perhaps it was because of my emotional state, but I was offended.

I know why they ask the question.  They want to make sure that the first time there is an illness, the dog doesn't end up back in a shelter (or worse) because the adopter won't accept the expense.

I was still offended.

Interestingly, the question came up at my office today:

"Would you pay $3,000 for a surgery for your dog?"

"Um...yes.  I have, actually," was my response.

The debate started because a colleague had recently made that decision - surgery to repair the blown ACL on a large 4 1/2 year old dog.

The debate was impressive.  The responses were everywhere from "No way" to "Absolutely" and everything in between.

"How old is the dog?"
"Is it life-or-death surgery?"
"Are there any other alternatives?"

It went on for awhile.

The end of the story is the best:  said colleague returned home after deciding to go ahead with the surgery.  He found his three children had set up a lemonade stand in the front yard with a sign:

"Our Dog Needs Surgery"

If that wasn't enough, the dog was in the yard with them.  After they closed up shop, they handed their dad the $39 and change they had earned that day.

I feel like handing him some cash myself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blanket 34

Barbie fleece?  Really?  Wat would one reasonably do with that?  Kiddie pajamas, maybe?  She looked less slutty than usual, anyway.

The yarn was Loops & Threads Silky Soft in Magenta.  I don't think they even make it anymore, because I haven't seen it at Michael's.  It wasn't as thick as most yarn I use, so I did four rows of single crochet rather than three.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies, the Julia Alvarez novel, has been on my shelf for over a year.  I seem to recall it was a One Book, One Chicago pick awhile back.  It was loosely based on the true story of four sisters in the Dominican Republic that fought against a dictator in the 1950s.  Last night, when I was clicking through the free movies on, I found the Showtime movie that Salma Hayek based on it.

I have to tell you, watching Edward James Olmos play the bad guy was really disconcerting.  I had assumed that he would play the dad.  Also, Marc Anthony has a small role as  a cute revolutionary boy, which was rather distracting in light of his recent headlines.  Also, I had to skip a scene where someone was being tortured.

Finally, it was such a short film.  I very much had the feeling that it was glossing over things.

Having said that, I bought Hayek's performance.  She does really well with portraying the, "I am scared out of my mind but trying to keep it together," bit.  

I am happy to say that watching this film made me more interested in reading the full novel.

Gibbs at 15 Weeks

This week, we learned that Gibbs is ok with the storms.  After that first incident, we had another one come through Thursday night.  Because he had gone potty before it started, he pretty well slept through it.  However, he had gotten up onto my bed by then.  Friday morning, I had an appointment, so he went into his crate.  Then this happened:

It was officially the biggest one-day rainfall total in Chicago history.  When I got home, he was totally fine.  Excellent.

He learned to disembowel his toys.  Which means I may actually have to buy some for him.

And because Fluffycat like the updates, there have been one or two confrontations with Spooky the cat.  He moves in fast, which Spooky hates, but he seems to have figured out that the cat doesn't want to play with him.  When he gets too close, Spooky will smack him and he will back off.  No drama.  This picture is cheating, in that I took it last week.  The point here is that sometimes, Spooky is the one that moves in and starts it:

He finishes up the puppy shots this week.  Then finally, we can take him out and around.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Red Leather Diary, by Lily Koppel

Book 35

I found The Red Leather Diary the last time Borders was clearing out stores.

Lily Koppel rescued an old diary, and some other stuff, from a dumpster when her building in Manhattan cleared out their old storage spaces.  It was the five-year diary completed by a teenaged girl in the 1930s.

Florence was the daughter of Jewish immigrants - a doctor and a dressmaker - and led a rather privileged life.  She was also really bright, in the days when skipping grades wasn't such a big deal.  At age 21 she had a Master's degree from Columbia and all her mother wanted to know was when she was going to get married.  And she did a whole lot of exploring her sexuality.

So Lily tracks Florence down.  Alive and well at age 90+ and living in Florida.  They become friends, Lily gets the rest of her post-diary story and Florence determines that the girl that she was would be incredibly disappointed in the woman she became.  As if that doesn't happen to us all.

New York was very vivid here, almost like a different character.  Koppel notes that her New York is very different from Florence's.  And that Florence's is way cooler.  I thought of Miss Busy while reading this, as she likes a good hometown history.

I enjoyed this book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

True Blood, Season Three

Clearly, I have not outgrown the vampires.

I believe I mentioned, after Season Two, that I just don't like Sookie Stackhouse.  And I can't stand her stupid vampire boyfriend.  But there are so many compelling supporting characters that you could make half a dozen spin offs and I would watch every single one.

So.  Bill is kidnapped by the King of Mississippi, blahblahblah.  Betrays Sookie's trust blahblahBLAHBLAH.

We get Bill.  He loves Sookie.  He is just an idiot.  But among the other vampire characters, you can never quite tell what they are going to do..what their true motivation is.   Love it.

It is still fun watching Jason trying to grow up.  And Jessica has really grown on me.  Very tense watching Sam wrestle with his demons.  Oh, and poor Tara.  The aforementioned King is very scary, and at the same time gave us the best of the season's laugh-out-loud gore.  It is cool to see the barest hint of emotional layers in Pam.  And don't get me started on Eric.

I am continually wary of the introduction of more supernatural elements to the show.  As if they don't have enough to work with.  But the werewolves were effective and Alcide was appropriately dreamy.

I am still disappointed in the development of Sophie Anne, Queen of Louisiana.  And the vampire torture scenes are a bit too much for me.  But damn, I love this show.  I am charging my Kindle so as to read the fourth book right now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

House Training and Thunderstorms

3 a.m. I am awakened by a thunder storm. I have four problems:

1. Said storm also awakened Gibbs, age 14 weeks.
2. Gibbs has outgrown his puppy crate and is sleeping on a fleece bed on my bedroom floor.
3. Gibbs did not wake me up at 2 a.m. for a potty break.
4. I need a potty break.

The only other storm we have had since bringing the puppy home was on a day that my mother was working from home. His response was to go into his crate and take a nap.  

As I mentioned, Gibbs can jump up onto my bed. At 10 p.m., he tried twice. But I put him back down on his floor-bed and he settled down. Awesome. 

So. 3 a.m. I don’t move a muscle, listening to what he will do and wondering what my counter-play will be. I know that if he gets up, he will have to pee. Then I will have to choose between taking him out in the storm and having an accident in the house. And I really had to pee, too.

He put his paws up on my bed and whined. I flew out of bed, turned on the light and told him to follow me to the bathroom. Solved that problem.  

Just as I was flushing, he started to go on the bathroom rug.  

“Gibbs, no!”

He stopped immediately. We raced downstairs and I put the leash on him. We stepped outside into the storm. It had let up a bit, so I wasn’t worried about being struck by lightning or anything. It took about 15 seconds of, “Gibbs, you have to go potty now,” before he did. For more than a count of ten, I might add. Then we raced back inside and upstairs where I grabbed a towel for him. Then he was in my bed before I had time to put on a dry shirt.

It has been years since I had a wet dog on my bed.

So. Now I have to decide if I am going to let him sleep on the bed. The “experts” say that they way to keep dogs from fearing storms is to make them a non-event. But we don’t have a normal routine yet! Does it make it a non-event to let him sleep on the bed or to make him sleep on the floor, all wet and anxious?

I let him sleep on the bed. And do you know what happened next?

Do you know what happened next?!

The cat came in. Jumped up on the bed and smacked the puppy.

I haven’t seen that cat in two days. He has wanted nothing to do with me and the puppy that I let bark at him. Now, at 3:15 in the morning in the middle of Gibbs’ first thunderstorm, Spooky wants to cuddle.

For God’s Sake.

By 3:30 a.m., I am happy to say, Gibbs was asleep on the other side of the bed. Spooky, curled up next to me, was staring at him.

Whatever, dude.

The morning routine went just fine. I am calling this a victory. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weekend in Review

Last Friday, I took Alex and Ainslie to the library.  I pushed Ainslie in the stroller and Alex rode his scooter.    He lost his control going down a hill and wiped out.  He knew he was going to wipe out and managed to angle himself onto the grass so as not to hurt himself.  But Ainslie saw him take the fall and shouted:

"OK, Alex!!  We're coming!"  Which was really cute.  OK, shut up.

In better Alex news, after we had lunch at Noodles, where he ordered Not Macaroni and Cheese again, we went for ice cream.  He tried pistachio ice cream.  And liked it.

Saturday, I attended my third Project Linus Blanket Day.  Again, all of the ladies were very nice to me even though I have next to no skills and am not particularly interested in learning anything fancy.  And for the third Project Linus Blanket Day, someone commented on the weirdo way that I hold a crochet hook.  I was mentally sighing, and getting ready to explain for the 80th time that between being left handed, having little ambition in my crafting and my mommy never teaching me anything... another lady jumped in:

"Everyone does it differently."

Which sort of shut down the discussion, and I appreciated it.

I came home to the first doggie vomiting incident of the Gibbs era.  It involved his lunch, sticks and dirt.  The incident threw off his eating and thus his potty schedule until just now.

In other news, he has outgrown his puppy crate and can jump up onto my bed.

I am exhausted.

But that has given me and excuse to dive right in to season three of True Blood, which I am finding awesome.  I still have to fast forward through scenes of torture, which are that much more dramatic when it is vampire torture.  More on that later.

Finally, I am still trying to knock out the sinusitis that came on while I was in Vegas - I haven't stopped coughing in two weeks.  

That about sums up why I haven't been online much lately.

Friday, July 15, 2011

European Civ, John Merriman

After finishing up his course on modern French history, I started watching the lectures from Professor Merriman's course on European Civilization on Academic Earth.   It was a survey course, so I can't say I learned a whole heckuvalot, but there were several lectures that stood out.

Professor Merriman maintains that the key to understanding the French is to understand that as a country, France was weaker in victory after WWI than Germany was in defeat.   That theme, that permeated the French history course, comes up again in this one.  He spend far more time on the 20th century than on those earlier, with particular emphasis on the World Wars.  He asserts that they were really just one war, that lasted 30 years.

I appreciated the recurring themes of nationalism and identity.  I liked the way that Merriman talks through the similarities and differences in national experience and character.  I particularly liked one lecture in which he describes why every country in Europe had some kind of proletarian revolution in 1848.  Except England.

Obviously, France is Merriman's area of expertise, so if you don't want to hear about it, you might want to skip this one.  But I could listen to this guy talk all day long.

Blanket 33

Ha!  Finished the stash just in time for the Project Linus Blanket Day tomorrow:

Not sure how many kids in Chicago would dig a University of Arizona Wildcats blanket, but there must be at least one.  Three rows of single crochet in White Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Dare Not Hope

I may have mentioned that when we adopted Gibbs, my friend Karen (who has three dogs in the five to ten pound range) gave us about a million toys that her dogs weren't using.  Today, she gave me some more.  In the pile was a brightly colored star-shaped frisbee for dogs.

First, he waited nicely for it:

Then I threw it, and he chased it (ignore my dried out lawn):

Ran it back.  It's bigger than his head!

Then he wrestled it down:

(He also took it to the bushes to show his imaginary friend, so it is now filthy, but nevermind.)

Ten minutes of this and he was totally worn out.

I have never had a real frisbee dog.   Shadow found no joy in running and Dallas didn't have the focus.   I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, but seriously.  This dog is fast.

In other Gibbs news, he had a Mexican standoff with Spooky the Cat and totally got his ass kicked.  I didn't actually laugh, but I absolutely let it happen.  I am happy to say that he took it like a Big Boy - no whining or crying during or after.  I hope he has learned his lesson, but am not holding my breath.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blanket 32

This was from a stash of Bernat Satin yarn that I picked up on clearance:

Banana and Lapis are the colors.

The other night, my mother reminded me that I had to make a Christmas stocking for the puppy.  Yeah.  Everyone gets a stocking in my house.  But I still have one last fleece blanket to finish before Saturday.  And a lot of yarn.

But I'll get to it!

Things I Have Taken Out of the Puppy's Mouth

Tree bark
Clumps of dirt
Crab apple – so I am doubting that “bitter apple spray” will work on this one
Cat food
Bird food
Pine nuts – in the shell
Bird paper
Bird perch
Bird playstand
Dog bed
Dog crate
Bath towel
Chair leg
Table leg
Power cords
TV remote
Used Kleenex
Used dryer sheet
Used bottle rockets
Used socks
Clean socks
Shoes  So.  Many.  Shoes.
Empty cicada shell (I hope that is what it was)
Dead cicada

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Off! Clip On

I am not up to date with my insect repellent technology.  The last thing I remember is the discovery that Avon's Skin So Soft spray worked really well.  But I am housetraining a puppy and spending more time outside at odd hours than I have since the days of pretend camping at Woodhaven Lakes.

I was lucky in that I only took two bites that first weekend.  West Nile hit my town earlier in the season than I remember.  Then my mother bought me this:

Down side:  Not cheap.  Amazon Associates is saying 13.89 for the starter.  And it requires a battery.
Up side:  I have not taken a single bite since that first weekend.

It is quiet, and doesn't have enough scent for me to notice it.  Because I am just out with the dog, I just hold the device - I haven't tested whether the clip thingy can hold up to a lot of physical activity.  I also don't know how long the battery will last.

But this sucker works.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


It is incredibly foolish of me to get distracted by, but there I was and there was the link to Howl, the 2010 film about the work by Allen Ginsberg.  I seem to remember reading it during the five-minute Beat Poet phase of my early 20s.

This short film is based on some recordings Ginsberg made while his publisher was on trial for selling obscene material.  The narrative bounces between several things:

  1. a coffee house reading by Ginsberg - shot in b&w
  2. the action that inspired the work - with Kerouac and Cassady, et al
  3. the trial with the expert witnesses from academia debating its literary value
  4. said recordings
  5. dreamy interpretation in animation
You would think the last part would have irritated me, but not so much.  The awesome thing about this film is that it reads the text of the poetry several times over, generally starting with the coffee house reading.  The subsequent readings build on one's understanding of the language from different points of view.

Someone should have taught it this way in English class.

Back to the Spaceballs cartoon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gibbs - After Three Weeks

Three weeks ago, when we adopted him, Gibbs was ten weeks old and weighed seven pounds.  At 13 weeks, he is 12.2 pounds.  Is there a metric for how big he is going to get?

He is not entirely house trained, but does well at night in his crate.  He has learned to go up and down the stairs.  Except at 2 a.m. when I know he has to go outside and he doesn't want to get up.  He stretches and yawns rather dramatically.

He has about one encounter each day with Spooky the Cat.  The best we can say about that is that he is still alive.  He has taken bites - no blood was found - from each of the birds and now stays away from them.

He has made up an agility course in the backyard, made up of bushes against the side of the house.  This was all fine and good until he learned that if he went deep enough into the bushes, it was really hard for people to grab him.  He is unbelievably fast.  And smart.  He knows that he can out run me, but also that he will get tired before I will.  So there is a timer in his head that tells him exactly how long he will have to go before he has chewed and swallowed whatever it is I don't want him to have.

He has three weeks to go before his immunizations are complete and I can start taking him to a training class.  I'd better start looking for one.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blanket 31

The Bulls fleece blanket:

The foundation row is Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn in White and the two rows of single crochet are Red Heart yarn in Cherry Red.  This will make some kid very happy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day Grinch

Dear Neighbors:

In addition to being kept up past 2 a.m. on a work night, I have pulled no less than four pieces of bottle-rocket debris from the mouth of my puppy.

You suck.

Edit:  8:30 p.m.  That would be five pieces of bottle-rocket debris.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Book 34

Neverwhere is a book that my friend Liza raved about (she raves about everything Gaiman), but it sat on my shelf until it was chosen as the last One Book One Chicago of Mayor Daley's reign.

It is a dark, dark fantasy set in London (sort of).  It is so dark that it took awhile before I fully engaged.  I actually had a "why am I reading this" moment, but I liked the heroes from the beginning, so I held on.

Wise choice I made there.

The thing with fantasy novels is that the author is creating a whole new world, and the reader has to buy into that world.  Buy into its rules and care about what happens there.  The world Gaiman created runs parallel to London reality, and our hero, Richard comes from the Real World.  So his introduction is our introduction and it works nicely.  There was only one major moment where I thought he was an idiot - and that involved a girl.

You have your battles of Good and Evil, your Friends and Foes and trying to figure out which is which. You have your Truth and your Consequences and it is all so cinematic that I had problems eating lunch and reading this thing.  Seriously, it has a pretty high Ick Factor.

Having said that, it really is a beautifully written piece.  If there were a sequel, I would read it.  Is there a sequel?

How to Contribute without Spending a Dime

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about “donor fatigue”, which defines as, “a general weariness and diminished public response to requests for aid to needy people or donations to charitable causes”.
Between the natural disasters and the puppy mill raids and the increased need for services in this economy, it is easy to see how people might start to grow weary of the concept of “giving”.
The other day, Jacqueline, who blogs at 365 Give, reminded me that there are several ways to “contribute” online without shelling out the cash.  She pointed me to Click to Give, a website that supports six charities in different areas of need.  The concept is that all we need do is click a link, and the site’s advertisers make a small donation to the cause.  Clicking through the six links for the six causes doesn’t take much time, even when I am conscientious about looking at the advertisements.
The Greater Good Network is a group of websites that does similar work.  They have a “click to give” program as well as merchandise sales that support charitable causes, include many Fair Trade items that I am flagging for the holiday season.   According to their website, in 2010 they contributed over $400,000 to the Petfinder Foundation alone.  Not an animal lover?  They also contributed $579,000 to the National breast Cancer Foundation.
Finally, if you really enjoy wasting time on the internet, Free Rice is a website that has games to make charitable contributions.  There are six subject areas (when did they add Literature?!) with multiple choice trivia questions.  For each question that you answer correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated by advertisers.  That doesn’t sound like much, but I have cleared 600 grains just while fooling around for this post!
So if you are like me and spend too much time online, please visit these sites. Every click counts!
Also posted to Glenview Patch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Blanket 30

This is another example of making the best use of small pieces of fleece.  Of course, I didn't sew those panels together.  One of the other volunteers that prepare the fleece handled that.  I just stitched my standard three rows of single crochet.  Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn in White:

I considered using red yarn, to mix it up a bit, but this seemed safer.  I was really worried that I wouldn't get through this stash of fleece before the next Starbucks night.  But I only have two left and plenty of time to go.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Crisis at the Animal Welfare League

Of all the vile things I can think of, stealing from a charity ranks way up there on the List of Things that Make Me Sick.  But last week, thieves stole the A/C units and parts from the Animal Welfare League's building on Wabash in Chicago.  Here is the story:


I set up a project on Crowdrise to try and help them out.  If you can make a small contribution, the site is here.  It features the awesome pic of my puppy, Gibbs.  He was not not adopted from this shelter, but we like to spread the love.  Thanks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blanket 29

Another solid fleece, and this one was hard to find a color combination.  I considered pink, but figured I should keep it gender neutral.

Two rows of Pound of Love yarn in White and one row of Vanna's Lion Brand yarn in Dark Grey Heather.