I just read this. Apparently if humans go in for radiation treatment on their thyroid glands, they are instantly sent home, free on their own recognizance, which is legal for "out on their fanny." The reason this is odd is that if your cat goes in for the exact same procedure, she is quarantined for three or four days while her radioactivity wears off. And if anything, your average human is much bigger and more radioactive than any cat, except the jug-butt one down the street that probably has a thyroid the size of a bagel. The real reason they punt out the human patients is it costs five thousand dollars an hour to be housed in a hospital, even if you're in self-wiping condition, and the insurance companies would rather take their chances sending you home on the bus where most of the other passengers are probably uninsured.
They're pretty strict about the cats. I sent my cat Larry in for the procedure after I made her promise to live another three years. It's expensive. It was just under a thousand bucks at the time, and available only in two places in the whole state. I felt lucky we were only twenty miles away from the facility. I imagined the radiation involved a huge machine and the cat would be splayed out and duct-taped down and passed through it while it buzzed and bonged and Dr. House smirked at her from the observation room. So when I came in the door and traded my boxed kitty for a sheaf of papers to fill out, and she was whisked away, I asked when the procedure would be done. "They probably already did it," the receptionist said. Huh? "It's just an injection of radioactive iodine," she said. "It goes straight to the thyroid gland." Nine hundred and some dollars for an injection? "And the boarding," she pointed out.
Boarding means Larry is in a little cage for three days with a camera trained on her so that we could visit her from home via our computer. We studied the grainy image for days. It was the quality of a convenience store security camera. "That's her, all right," Dave said. "She isn't moving."
"She's asleep," I said, hoping that was what she was. The second day a tabby came in wearing a ski mask and made off with her kibble.
They're serious about the radiation thing. When I picked her up, I was given a list of instructions. Her bodily waste was to be considered highly toxic for a month. We got a special bag of lead-pellet litter and sturdy sacks and two-foot tongs and a prayer book. Everything was to be double-bagged for a month and put directly in the garbage can outside. We were to avoid getting close for a week--no lap-sitting. It was unnerving. I listened for a hum from the cat and reminded myself she'd always had green eyes.
Disaster struck immediately. The combination of being shot up and kenneled for days and crated and put in a car unraveled Larry's last tether to sanity. When we pulled onto the freeway, she suddenly cut loose with three days of liquefied radioactive poop. The crate looked like something had blown up in the microwave and the stench could have dropped a moose. Larry kept up a siren yowl while I drove home doing 85mph with my head out the window, mostly in my lane, and once home I held the crate out as far from my body as I could and dropped her on the mudroom floor, still yowling, and phoned the clinic in a panic.
"My cat, crate, and parts of my car are covered in radioactive shit and I'm not supposed to touch her. What do I do? Put her in the alley and open the hydrant?"
They were very calm and instructed me to wash the cat in the sink and clean everything up and everything would be fine, by which they meant the statute of limitations on their liability would expire before I do. I suppose there was nothing else to suggest.
I don't see why people don't get the same treatment. I wouldn't want a camera trained on me at all times, because I'd never get my nose picked, but all kinds of people are happy to, and they end up on magazine covers and the whole country knows them by first name. The people defending the release of radioactive humans from the hospital point out that people can be trusted to follow instructions regarding their own effluent and maintain a proper distance from others, which is not true. Many adults of my acquaintance are capable of filling their shorts at any time. And if Dave came home radioactive and was told to stay several feet away from me, he would rise from his chair and lurch towards me all tilty with his arms out and a zombie leer, just to see me scream and run away. He could do this all week, and never tire of it. This is a fact.
The discovery of a body in a marsh just north of here has turned the red-legged-frog-egg-mass-monitoring world upside-down, as you might well expect. Amphibian monitors were indeed credited with the grisly find, and now monitors throughout the greater metropolitan area are quaking in their chest waders. It is all too easy to imagine the scenario.
Dave and I did our first amphibian-egg-mass survey of the year last week. He holds the bamboo stakes and flags and I carry the clipboard and data forms. We insert ourselves into a cold swamp up to just below (ideally) the top of our waders and hunt for frog and salamander eggs. If Dave spots a clump, I stop the stopwatch and ask for details. These include the stage of the eggs, their depth in the water, and what they're attached to, if anything.
"Attachment: grass, wood, or none?"
Dave would peer into the water and back away. "Ring finger," he'd intone, while the background chorus of frog bleats is suddenly echoed by banjos, and slowly, slowly, a rising form would break the surface of the water and--but no, no, it's too ghastly to contemplate. What if his eyes were open? What if he were purple or otherwise unsightly? What if he were someone we had recently disparaged in a public place? Would the fact that our car does not have a trunk be considered exculpatory?
At least we do not work in peat bogs. Peat bogs in the British Isles have been producing remarkably uncorrupted cadavers for years. They barely deteriorate over the millennia in the anaerobic peat environment. Anyone unearthing one of these is likely to cause the local police department to scour their records for missing persons last seen wearing 2,000-year-old tunics.
No, our swamps are seasonal ponds, wet in the springtime and summer-lush. The regional government Metro sends us to tromp through them every February to search for evidence of frog and salamander romance, considered a reliable metric of goodness in the world. It can be risky, especially for Brewsters, who are congenitally tippy. My niece Elizabeth abandoned the effort after our first season due to her inherent inability to keep the swamp on the outside of her waders. She was replaced by my husband Dave, who is dependably sturdy when sober and also wears much higher waders. Still, rampaging nutrias and irritable herons are a constant threat. Deep down, the amphibian monitors' greatest fear is that the body in the marsh is one of us, from a prior year. After we inventory the amphibian eggs, does Metro inventory us?
If there's no blog post here next Saturday, please give them a call.
I am about to impart to you some information that you have either never heard before, or you have, and it made you want to slice your ears off. Either way, I apologize.
You can, if you wish, buy your dog a silicone sex doll.
This isn't breaking news; these things have been around for a while, though, were I you, I'd get a new one. One brand, of many, is the DoggieLoverDoll (by Petsmiling). The French version comes in noir and blanc and comes with a "cone de remplacement," in case the original cone accumulates too much je ne sais quoi. They come in three sizes, and include an "easy to clean reservoir" and a tube of lubricant to "increase the useful life of the doll." Or at least get it in the mood.
I have maintained for a while, as quietly as possible, that people are entirely too indulgent with their dogs, and I believe this constitutes mounting evidence. I don't mind if people think of their dogs as their children. I just believe they have an obligation to civilize them. The dogs, too.
I had a puppy once who, thanks to rigorous training, was a model citizen. She was very happy because she had a clear understanding of the rules, and didn't need to sit around wondering what to whine about next. Unlike most dogs I know now, whose owners refer to them as being trained because they almost always come when they're called, if it happens to coincide with what they want to do, my dog came when I wanted her to. She lived a very full life because her sterling behavior meant she could come with us everywhere. This point no longer resonates with modern dog-owners, whose dogs come with them everywhere in spite of their behavior. Some of them are even carried, stashed inside purses amongst the Kleenex, and extracted only long enough to expel a pellet, like popping a Pez.
The target market for the doll is the owner of a humping dog. Most people find this behavior embarrassing, especially in front of (or on) company. The idea is it would be somehow less embarrassing to have the dog wanking away at a sex doll in the corner of the room. Maybe. Some of your houseguests will find this amusing, although not the sober ones.
Expert advice abounds. "Leg humping is not a sexual behavior," says one article, although it seems to me anytime Pinky comes out to play, you could make a pretty good case for it. What these experts are suggesting is that there are other, non-sexual, reasons to hump a leg. For instance, your dog could be anxious. In these cases, the experts say, you should attempt to relieve the dog's anxiety. That doesn't mean I want to watch you do it.
Another reason dogs hump is to determine pack order. This behavior must be nipped right in the old bud. You don't want your dog to be the alpha male in the household, or you'll never be able to get anything off the bottom shelf again.
There are several resources on line to help you with bud-nipping. One of these begins: "If your dog's mounting isn't bothersome to you or others, it's not necessary to stop his behavior." I assume if you don't like it, you could always give him some pointers on technique.
This expert recommended a number of things. You could cope by "somehow adopting a position that prevents him from mounting," such as, for instance, clinging to the chandelier, or shutting yourself in the broom closet. It's a thought. You can also "give him a time-out," making sure he does not have any of his toys with him, although many of these perpetrators have their favorite toys with them at all times.
Here are some other suggestions from experts on the web:
(1) Yell "NO!" [Submitted by Nancy Reagan.]
(2) Leave the room suddenly. [I think you can take your toys with you.]
(3) Ask your vet to give your humping male dog an injection of female hormones "and see if that helps." [Barbiturates work too.]
(4) Neuter your dog and you'll find the humping will slow down. [Perhaps you will take to it more.]
As my final piece of evidence that people have gotten way too indulgent with their dogs, I will quote the following comment on a vet's advice column: "My male Jack Russell pushed my hand under his penis and started humping it. He did it for a very long time." You all do what you want. I'm going to start wearing gloves in public.
Like a lot of guys, Dave used to have trouble coming up with something special to do for me for Valentine's Day, and mostly he didn't bother. He had the usual problem: what do you do for a woman when you already cook delicious meals every day, do the laundry, clean the house, muck out the toilets, lift heavy things, take out a wall so her new piano will fit in, and forgive her cribbage debts? Or pack away meals in the freezer, complete with instructions, when you're going away for a while, so she remains at optimal pudge level? What's left, polish the cat? The Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to honor his wife, but all he had going for him was money. Dave could sculpt it out of meatloaf. Plus he does little random things as a surprise, like fixing my bike brakes, because he knows I don't like to and let it go too long, and as I hurtle over the handlebars that first time out, the last thing I think before I smack the pavement is: that man is so thoughtful.
I don't do that much for him. My main function is to be entertaining, because Dave puts a high value on being entertained. And if I'm not amusing enough, he can always tip me over or jump out from behind a door and that'll hold him for days, no matter the consequences, especially since he already does the laundry.
But several years ago he hit on the perfect Valentine's Day gift for me. He takes care of the spiders.
Not all the spiders. I have no quarrel with spiders. If one has set up where I'd rather she hadn't, I might escort her outside by yo-yo-ing her on her little string, but that's as strict as I get. No, he takes care of the terrorist spiders. We have a cell of them in the basement. They get together and plot missions down there, working out the logistics so that by the time they crawl up three floors and into the bedroom to dance on the smoke alarm EEP EEP EEP, it will be precisely three in the morning. After I have come unpeeled from the ceiling and done an inventory of working heart-valve flaps, and finally drifted off again, the clean-up terrorist spider comes in to finish me off. By the third spidering I am weeping and homicidal. Sometimes the attack is so well-coordinated, the whole posse goes off.
I used to think the smoke alarms did this for no reason, out of pure wickedness, but then someone told me that sometimes a bug walks across them and that sets them off, as it would anybody, I guess. My money is on the spider. Our flies are too wrapped up in bashing their heads on the windows, and our fruit flies are single-minded dullards, but spiders have that look of intelligence in their eyes (eyes, eyes, eyes). They look like they could pull it off.
I make Dave get up and disable them. If he takes out the batteries, they still go off. If he yanks them out of the ceiling, they still go off. Finally he trudges downstairs and puts them in the freezer. For a long time I assumed he did that to make them logy and lethargic, but he says, no; we just can't hear them in there. I want the smoke alarms gone. I'm told they're hard-wired in and can't be done away with, but I'm not buying it. I'm going to get a Republican to come over here with his Glock and take them out. My friend John tried to talk me out of the plan, but he's biased. His house burned down. Twice. So I think we can safely disregard his opinion.
Anyway, Dave discovered that the terrorist spiders can be almost completely thwarted by the annual replacement of batteries in the smoke alarms, and we have not suffered a significant attack on the homeland in several years.
I'm not an economist. Fortunately, you don't need to study economics to form an opinion. You can get them at the opinion store. There are scads of economists of all stripes sitting around in bloviation tanks, and you can just pick one out like a lobster. They're like scriptures: you can find one to match any position you might want to take.
Usually, when people form opinions without the benefit of sound scientific knowledge, bad results happen. I make an exception for the science of economics. I will freely admit I have no idea how the economy works; this is the main difference between me and most economists. But I do have eyeballs, and time-in, and have made several observations.
Even in very small societies, people quickly discover they are better off if they band together for some things. In very large ones, it's the only way to fly. We need to transport goods to market, punish miscreants, and make sure our poop has somewhere to go. We all need to chip in to see these things done. Reasonable people can disagree on what and how much should be done. Many people think the government goes too far in providing things, and they make good points. I think access to adequate health care should be provided for all, and I think we might economize a bit by reducing the amount of wherewithal available for the country to bomb the living crap out of another country. I think this would make us safer, too. That's just my opinion--you might draw the lines elsewhere.
But whatever it is we agree to go in on together, taxes are how we pay for them. Who pays them, and how much they are dinged, is the subject of much discussion these days. Some people think the rich are the last people who should be asked to pony up. I disagree, and not just because they're the ones with the money, although I wouldn't look for olives on a walnut tree. I think it comes down to fairness.
Some people believe a flat tax is the most fair, because everyone pays the same percentage of their income. I disagree, because I believe it is the sacrifice that people make that needs to be evened up, not the percentage. Let's see how this works by using the arbitrary but easily-calculated tax rate of 50% as an example. A man making $20,000 a year is really going to feel a $10,000 tax. But I would imagine one lives just about the same on a billion dollars as a half a billion dollars. I don't think I could even tell the difference. I also think that those who could tell the difference should not be considered moral arbiters.
You hear claims that wealthy people have earned their money. Some have, and others haven't done a damn thing for it. And there is a certain amount of money I don't think it is possible to earn, not in a moral sense. I don't care to listen to anyone farting through silk who thinks he's worked hard for his money, not when I've watched my husband come home for 35 years shredded, sliced up, and, on some occasions, on fire. In fact, above a certain level of income, I'm all for a 90% rate. If you can't live as well on a hundred million dollars as you can on a billion, you need to work on your priorities. You may have problems, but they're not ones I should have to subsidize. Because that is what we are doing. Whatever we decided to pay for as a society--missiles and healthcare, or just basic cable and donuts on Fridays--we need to come up with a way of paying for it, and if the lucky sperm club shouldn't be asked to contribute, then the rest of us have to. If you are so fortunate that your own money is making all your money, why should that be exempt from taxation when the meager earnings of the single mom holding down two crappy jobs isn't?
The current theory is that the rich people should not be inconvenienced by the demands of comity because they're the ones who are providing jobs for the rest of us. Those jobs should be kicking in any time now, because we lowered the taxes on the rich people several years ago. There should be so many jobs by now that they're just loitering in gangs, making nuisances of themselves.
In fact, very wealthy people and corporations have created gobs of jobs in the last few decades. Unfortunately for us, they're in China, where most of our manufacturing jobs went. People work for way less money and no benefits and no one whines about the pollution. What's not to love? A dangerously obese corporation called Walmart got the ball rolling by going Godzilla on our economy. It was a win-win for Walmart. They got everything made a lot cheaper, and destroyed entire manufacturing towns here, the factory workers and the diners and ma-and-pa stores they shopped at, until no one could afford to shop anywhere but Walmart. People who invested in Walmart did really well. Even better, because they don't have to pay as much tax on their "earnings" as the people who have to haul their carcasses out of bed to go to work do.
The next time you hear some politician railing about "job-killing taxes," haul him back to relevance by finding out where he stands on rewarding companies that send jobs overseas. It's sort of like the people who don't want gays to marry (they mean "exist") because it harms the institution of marriage. Are they working hard to criminalize divorce? No? Huh.
Rhetoric on estate taxes is equally revealing. Now it's being called the "death tax," and the claim is made that "they even tax us when we die." Well, no. You're dead. Your tax-paying days are over. The people who claim to be upset that they're taxed when they die won't even need any more money where they're going. Heat is provided by the management.
It's Junior, who just got a slab of money landing on his head, and who may or may not be a worthy contributing member of society, who is being taxed. Not on what he's earned, but on the slab that just fell on his head. If you think it's unfair for him to pay taxes on that money, you're saying it's more fair to take it out of the hide of the woman who cleans his house. Pardon me for calling this an immoral position.
I guess we could go ahead and cut taxes on everybody. But don't blame me if your poop doesn't go where you want it to.
If you judged America by my Facebook friends, about half not only did not watch the Super Bowl, but didn't watch it vehemently. The rest of them were rooting for the Packers. We did watch it this year, right at home on the world's crappiest TV set, surrounded by mounds of salt and fat in several forms. I thought the Packers were going to win, and I based it on a vignette I saw while waiting at a traffic light earlier in the day. A car rolled up and honked and the window rolled down and the driver started yelling Steelers! Steelers! Steelers! while flapping all the Steelers paraphernalia festooning his ride. This outburst was directed at a gentleman on the sidewalk wearing a Packers hat. He started yelling Packers! Packers! Packers! while pointing at his jacket (Packers), peeling off his jacket to reveal his sweatshirt (Packers) and peeling off THAT to show his Packers wife-beater and bicep tattoo. I blacked out before he removed his pants, but declared him the winner. He's got devotion. (I would have had a Red Sox tattoo by now, but it would have to go between my legs.)
Hall-Of-Famer Franz Liszt
Anyhoo, we really pumped up our street cred this year by not only watching the Super Bowl but by skipping a classical piano concert to do it. It's been on the calendar for a while, and Dave noticed it last week. "That Louis Lortie concert is during the Super Bowl," he said with resignation, "I guess we can go and then we can always come home and finish cutting off my nuts." Dave likes piano more than football, but it is a source of some dejection to him that we hardly ever seem to take in the Super Bowl. It started 25 years ago when we went furniture shopping instead. Subsequent years have even found us in the fabric store, where they have a little joyless room set up with a TV for all the other nutless men to watch the Super Bowl on.
Well, the concert was all-Liszt, and I'm not that big a Liszt fan. Liszt is like a moon shot: all flash and technical prowess and brimstone, but an awful lot of trouble to go to just to hit a golf ball and bring home a bag of dirt. We found a good home for the tickets and stayed put.
It was a pretty good game, for football. I didn't much care whose side God was on this year, and I never have. I used to root for my numbers in the office pool. "Go, five to one! Go, five to one!" I'd shout at the screen. But I'm no longer employed. I had to find other areas of interest.
One was the possibility of a blowout, a giant explosion of lineman meat. The field looked like a Spandex proving ground. Everywhere there were men so enormous they could eclipse a blimp; they shouldn't have been able to move at all; but thanks to their being encased in miracle fabric, they got around just fine. They each had so much potential energy from the heroic compression of the uniforms that whenever a hole opened up, they'd blast right ahead. I think that's how it worked. The announcers were always pointing out where the holes opened up.
But the announcers were a letdown in general. They were okay if all you wanted to know was who had the most heart or the most adversity, but they were a total washout in the figurative language department. I'm a fan of analogy and metaphor. When you compare something to something else, like Liszt to a moon shot, you allow the reader's mind to make its own connection, which makes it that much stronger, especially if the things being compared are not obviously related. [My favorite example from the archives is when I compared evolution to both a videotape and the U.S. Congress.]
In drawing his analogy, this announcer dude went from football all the way to baseball. He was proud of it; he hammered it home. The quarterback could not be counted out, he said, because he could hit a home run at any time, and it was just a matter of how many at-bats he had. Really, dude? That's all you got? If the announcer dude had been Lord Byron, we would never have had:
"The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold;" it would have been:
"The Assyrian came down like a sneaky Babylonian." Lame.
There is something to be said for not using references so obscure your audience fails to make the connection (see obscure Red Sox reference above), so maybe that's the justification. If so, maybe this is an audience I don't want to be a part of.
I'm penciling in facials for next year. We want to look good for the ballet.
The name of the class Dave and I are taking is "Crash Course for Weddings," so we were expecting a little violence. The basics were easy. The man clutches the woman by the shoulder blade and hand in such a manner she cannot escape, and then he tries to step on her. She, in turn, tries not to be stepped on, and with the addition of grace, you've got your ballroom dancing. It's a six-week course, and we're not scheduled to learn grace until the final week.
Most of my personal grace is tucked inside. I don't like to let it out where just anyone can see it; I'm not that kind of girl. There is a young man in our class who already has grace and his own dancing shoes, so he may be a plant. Most of the rest are couples with some seasoning. Our teacher, Melena, wrote out the plan of attack on the blackboard. In the first lesson we were going to learn Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango. The second lesson would cover Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, the Stumptown Stomp, the Guacamole Two-Step, the Halifax Hop, and, time permitting, the Zombie Cannonball.
At the beginning of that second lesson, Melena inquired what we remembered from the first lesson. In the ensuing silence it was possible to make out the little grinding noises old people's brains make when they're trying to re-wrinkle, but sadly, most of ours had gone smooth. We spent the next two hours reviewing the left side of the waltz box-step, with particular attention to style, coordination, and the care of the fractured pelvis. Progress was made, and towards the end a dozen couples were lurching across the floor with true bumper-car gusto. Melena was very encouraging, noting that it takes upwards of 10,000 hours of repetition to learn one thing, and recommended we consult youtube videos in our spare time to review the steps, generously assuming we were wieldy with the interwebbing.
By the midpoint of the third lesson, we were enchanting; we were a vision; we were Swan Lake reinterpreted for balky grocery carts with a bad wheel. Melena revised her pep talk with the additional observation that most of us were seventy or eighty years past the time in our lives we were actively acquiring new knowledge, and shouldn't expect to absorb things with as much zip as we once might have. Which is about as delicate a portrayal of what happens to old brains as I have ever heard. She's a good instructor, patient, knowledgeable, and probably very entertaining to her friends over beers right after our class.
The "frame" is the contact point of the two dancers and helps to keep the smaller one from tipping over. With the frame, the leader can telegraph his course of action, if he happens to know it in advance, to the follower, much as a Segway vehicle infers direction by the momentum of the rider. Dave is exactly half-again my weight and packs a lot of momentum, plus his Segway is broken. Still, we managed at least the degree of elegance demonstrated by a man steering a file cabinet across the room.
Full-contact ballroom dancing does bring out the competitor in each of us. Unfortunately, we are not yet moved to compete, Bristol Palin-style, with the other couples. We just compete against each other. It's a start. We're pretty well matched--no telling who's going to win. He might be able to take me in the East Coast Swing, but the money's on me to finish first in foxtrot. Cha-cha-ching!
As we have all been instructed, September 11, 2001 was the day everything changed. We went from a state of innocence to worrying about each other's underwear, and we rolled out a five-color terror warning system in which the cooler colors are purely nostalgic. Now, after nine years, Homeland Security has announced that the well-known markers of green, blue, yellow, orange and red will be replaced with a new system sometime over the next three months. To avoid disruption, the current system will not be yanked away outright, leaving the public without a measure of how frightened to be, or what to wipe, but rather it will be phased out. Beginning next week, the code will be mint, aqua, ecru, peach, and pink. The final replacement system is still under development.
Big Day for Pootie
The Physicists For Scientific Literacy, for its part, proposes a new spectrum of up, down, charm, strange, and bottom. But many experts in the field of public-panic generation question the move away from a simple color code, pointing out that it follows a model with which Americans have already grown comfortable: the fire danger threat in the national forests. Those familiar signs also use the color system and, unlike the terror warnings, suggest concrete behavioral modifications, from green (campfires may be doused with gasoline) through yellow (cigarettes should be stubbed out before being flung out of the car window) all the way to red (no corduroy pants).
Officials at Homeland Security bristle at the suggestion that the color-code system was not helpful. "On the contrary: it issues clear protocols for first responders and people in the security industry," a spokesman said. "Green: lounge comfortably with one thigh draped over the x-ray equipment. Blue: sit upright and cut eyes from side to side. Yellow: bounce lightly up and down while muttering hummina hummina hummina. Orange: assume crouch position with hand on holster. Red: retreat to luggage locker and whimper."
Still, this does not satisfy critics who contend that the general public is poorly served by the system. "Not so," the official retorted. "With the terror warning system, the public is able to adopt a precise degree of dread, from qualms and willies all the way up to a dead faint. Any time we change the code level, the American people will have the opportunity to make adjustments in their travel plans, pharmaceutical usage and sphincter response. This is news they can use. What we hope to accomplish in the new system is more clarity, with the removal of nuance."
The final system is still in the planning stages, but sources inside the HSA have divulged themes: warm milk, butterflies, that little queasy feeling, rapid heartbeat, and explosive diarrhea. Accompanying graphic depictions, if available, have not yet been leaked.