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Hallucination catcher number one

This is a concept I've been noodling my way toward for ... forever, I guess. Probably dating back to the days when I loved watching Lilly Munster adorning her living room with fresh cobwebs.

Around the same time (mid-late '60s), I was also entranced by the hobo-chic that was popular with the hippies at the time. The Flintstones were my fashion gurus.

I think the seeds of the idea were planted way back when I was in high school, when my mom would mend holes in our old WWII-vintage wool Army blankets, which tend to spontaneously sprout holes here and there. (Even without moths to help the process along.)

She would center the hole on the sewing machine, and just straight-stitch back and forth over the hole until it was approximately filled in, and then repeat the process in the orthogonal direction, thus spontaneously creating new fabric.

Since this produces a pucker in the blanket, I started playing with doing this by hand with embroidery floss. Works and looks interesting, but I'm not sure even a WWII-vintage Army blanket is worth it.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. My Loyal and True old denim backpack has been steadily giving up the ghost, and I've been too lazy to make a new one, so I've been sort of babying it along by patching holes here and there. I started out by just embroidering backing onto the hole, but I found myself fascinated with the contrast of the plain denim with the stitchery of the patch, and have gotten progressively more elaborate, finally embroidering whole sections using varigated yarn I'd picked up to patch an old sweater I love.

Suddenly I found myself getting more compliments on the pack than I had in all the previous ten years I'd had it—random people stopping me in the street: "Cool pack!" What the hell, I thought to myself, and went with it. The trend continued.

Still don't have a word for the particular stitchery style I'm using here. I've asked a number of fiber artists, and the only word that comes up consistently is crewelwork, but that doesn't really describe it, as this is unbacked. Some Day Real Soon Now, I'll post some sort of demo.

Meanwhile, I've been developing a fascination with webby, organic forms like strangler figs.

This new stitch finally began gelling in my mind. And I started visualizing it on a frame...

More TISC(WIW)*:

Jon Singer commented that iridescent clouds occur fairly often in Boulder. So of course, I started watching for them the next time I was out:

Monday night:

Then Wednesday night:

This is one seriously niftly little camera. It's a Canon Powershot, though I forget precisely which flavor. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was Jon that recommended it to me. I did absolutely nothing special for these pics. Just set the focus to infinity and turned the flash off. Note the clearly visible planet.

*Technology Is So Cool (When It Works)

Oh no you didn't

Well, yes, actually. I did. Ah, the delicate flavor of feet.

It's amazing, when one has stepped in it, how powerful the urge to try to Fix It! can be.

I just made a blunder over on another blog, and caused someone pain.

This person informed me, in very emphatic terms, that I had hurt them, and then described how I had hurt them. And then laid out the whole category of hurt of which this person is, far too often, on the receiving end. And my blunder was right there, on that list. In several places.


What they heard was not what I was trying to say. And I stand by the insight I was trying to convey. But:

What they heard was what they heard, and what they heard caused them injury.

I drafted a couple of responses, including trying to rephrase my point in a way that would make it clearer. But thinking about it carefully, given the circumstances, it slowly came clear to me that there was nothing I could say to clarify that would not make things worse. Studying my feelings (that little, icky squirm of the kid who's just stolen a cookie and who's now trying to hide it), I realized that part of what I was wanting to do was to defend myself. "No, that's the wrong response. My idea really is good; let me phrase it better." Because I could see how the way I'd phrased it had caused the misunderstanding it had produced.

But, for a variety of reasons, Now's Not The Time.

"But, but…" squirmed my guilty little kid. "No," said I. "Just at the moment, It's Not About You." And not just now: I think, in this particular case, there is no chance of my conveying my idea to this person in any way that will not be damaging or, worse, insulting. Which is really frustrating, because it's a really really interesting idea. (I may outline my thoughts here at some point, but not tonight, Josephine.) But, ahem, It's Not About Me right now. The odds approach certainty that my pressing the matter in any way would just make things worse.

So, I'm fighting three prurient impulses:

1. "It's a really cool idea."
2. "But I didn't mean it that way!"
3. "Here, let me fix it!"

For once in my life, though, I was able to set aside the lower ganglion reflexes, and focus on what I really wanted. Which was to, if possible, mend the damage I'd done to the person against whom I'd sinned.

Clan Vorkosigan and Randy Pausch came to my rescue.

Randy Pausch says there are three steps to an apology:

1. "What I did was wrong."
2. "I feel badly that I hurt you."
3. "How do I make it right?"

So, iteratively swallowing down my defensiveness and my ego, I boiled my response down as close as I could to those three points. With a dash of Aral Vokosigan thrown in for good measure: "think: 'abject'."

Nyurgh <squirm> It was a pretty uncomfortable hour, (re)writing that response.

But, you know, copping to your bullshit is not unlike throwing up: you resist and you resist and you feel like you're just gonna die. But then you finally give up, let go, and get it over with, and son of a gun if you don't start feeling better.

Close Encounters of the Secure Kind

Okay, so for what happened at the airport:

Returned to Denver last night from a weekish long visit with my friend Matt for his and Katherine's hand-fasting. Interesting Times at the security checkpoint:

I'm actually willing to grant them this one, as I can entirely see their point. And this is Logan, after all, wherefrom the two planes that took out the WTC departed. They do have grounds to be disproportionately twitchy about such things.

So, there I am, walking down the long hallway to the security checkpoint, juggling bags and baggage, trying to get stuff into a configuration that would be easy to handle as I go through. Handily, there is a row of wall radiators along the side, making for a useful workbench to arrange my pieces-parts.

Get to the slidey table, deploy all my stuffs: backpack, then a tray containing liquids and open metal pencil case, one with my mac, and one with my purse and shoes. Turn comes, shove the whole business into the X-ray's maw. Step into the arbor and do the little scanning ballet. They had said, "Take all metal off your body," but of course I forgot the barret in my hair, so I got a very gentle pat-down on my head, to make sure there was nothing in or under my hair but me.

I enjoyed the screeners: older grandparently white folk with kindly eyes and friendly manner (whom I am entirely confident could become VERY FIRM and severe, should the need arise).

Get to the other side, look back: my baggage is not moving. There is not one, but two security techs staring intently at the screen.

I am asked to "step over here for a moment, please." I do, and after a brief wait, my pack and two trays are released. It is indicated that I may take the possessions that have come down the conveyor. "Go over there and wait, please." I do, go over to the indicated bench, and set about reassembly.

After a moment, one gentleman, also older grandfatherly type, comes over to the little screening table. He has that kind of singing tension that you see in a parent who has just snatched a child out of traffic and is checking for injury, but trying not to scare the kid.

He's got: my purse.

Oh dear.

My purse is not foldbox technology yet, but it is byzantine and labyrinthine in design. He's trying to get into it. I resist the impulse to try to help. He finally picks the pocket he wants, and begins extracting contents, meanwhile saying things on the order of, "this looks very bad."

"Very bad?" Out of my purse contents?

Cell phone in cell phone holder is a cell phone. Check. He finds my camera, establishes that it's a camera, whereupon I remember the instruction on the approach to the security station to "have all electronics out of their containers and in plain view." Oops. I start to apologize, he waves me off, continues his search.

He finally finds what he's looking for: my 'lectrics bottle.

I hadn't been able to figure out how to get my camera to talk to my MacBook, so at Matt's recommendation, I'd purchased one of those USB SD card reader things. It was just a LEETLE too big to fit in the bottle that my thumb drive lived in, so I went to the bottle the next size up.

But it's irritating to have to use up that much volume for those two items. Oh wait: I have other, related, items that would logically and usefully be carried in there as well.

So, after finding the suspect bottle and disgorging its contents for view, he gave me a little Instruction:

Take a plastic bottle: put in a thumbdrive and a USB card reader. So far so good. But if you then add in a wad of ear-buds-on-cords, and a coupla spare AA batteries taped together, you suddenly have something that, on the X-ray, looks VERY MUCH like an IED. "You know what that is, from the news?" Gulp. "Yessir."

He said about the only way it could have looked worse would have been if I'd had, like, an apple in there, which the X-ray would have parsed as "organic matter," which could have been, say, plastic explosive.

With that same "I'm under control, and I'm being polite and cordial, but I REALLY wish people wouldn't pull this shit because it scares the CRAP out of me" manner, he carefully explained this all to me, put my drives back in the bottle. But he then made it clear that I should store the batteries and the ear-buds Somewhere Else (preferably not together) for any future screenings.

I said thank you, collected my tray of stuff, completed reassembly, and headed for my gate.

Oddly enough, wifi stopped working at the gate about the time I got there. Hm.



Just floating this to the top for greater visibility. See my previous post on the topic.

Zowie! Tracfone FTW!!

I bought a Tracfone back in '08 to use for Worldcon, and it was handy. But since cell phones aren't really a tech that I've really bought into yet, I let the activation lapse.

So come time to visit my friend Matt for his wedding, would be good to have a cell again. But wait! Phone won't activate.

So I put in a customer support query and...

I have to say, they went the distance. Turns out the SIM had expired, so I needed a new one. But their projected delivery time would have been during or after my trip, so no joy. (I'd put off activating the phone because I anticipate using it for another trip in October, and I didn't want to have to buy more airtime.)

I'm not used to actual customer, like, service, so when the emails started coming, I responded politely and just sort of brushed them off.

But the service staff persisted, and even went so far as to call me on my home phone last night. How the hell often does that happen? I began to think maybe they were serious about this.

I get home from work this evening to find a FedEx package sitting by my door. Inside: a SIM.

So, zippo-bango, I'm armed and ready to text. I figured the least I can do is give them a little Google-juice.

Damn! Technology is SO COOL (when it works)

Went to see The Portal last night. As the show was closing I kept finding myself wanting to press Shift-Command-3 and get some screencaps. Just for the heck of it, I pulled out my little Cannon Powershot.

Son of a bitch if I didn't get some useable imagery:

I'm boggled. Leaving aside my credentials as a photographer (okay, you don't have to choke quite so subtly), I'm impressed. That it got any kind of image at all. I actually kinda like what I ended up with.

Miracles do happen

Guinea pigs get this thing, where they get lethargic and start building up fluid in the belly. Sometimes this is accompanied by noisy breathing. 24 to 72 hours later, they die. Period.

I've had one (1) pig survive this, little Gustav when she was a week old. (Found her all limp and unresponsive laying on her side in the bottom of the cage. I scooped her up and cuddled her and fully prepared to (not happily) See Her Off.

Miraculously, and for no reason that I can identify, she recovered. Same ailment took out her mother a couple of days later.

JJ's breathing started getting noisy on a Friday a couple of weeks ago, got progressively worse through the day, until it was really bad by about 11pm Saturday night. I tried giving him some children's Benedryl, but he was so clogged up by that point that he was having trouble swallowing.That was when I noticed he was getting edematous.

Sadly, I've been through this enough times that I just settled down with him to wait. Taking him to the emergency all-night vet was out, as they have proven to be useless AND expensive.

But around midnight, I got to thinking he sounded kind of "asthmatic," which led me to thinking about treatments. Usually, the vet tries albuterol and antibiotics, which, as mentioned, do nothing.

But, I thought to myself, if he's going to die anyway, there is absolutely nothing to be lost by doing a little experimentation, so I called the all-night vet. They didn't have a guinea pig doc on duty, so they referred me to another all-night vet. I called in, they said they could see us, so I called a cab, got a blanket for JJ, and off we went.

(Interestingly, as we rounded the corner in the cab and the sign came into view, JJ lunged at the window of the cab. "Okay, mom, we're here. Let's get going!")

The vet and her assistant were waiting at the door, and we got him in and into an oxygen box.

JJ was clearly digging the oxygen, but was fussing about being in the box by himself, so in between cooing at him through the side, we discussed options. I explained my thinking, and wondered if there was a guinea pig equivalent of theophylline. She got online and did some research (thank the ghods for the internet!) and came up with aminophylline.

So we popped some of that into a nebulizer. I wondered about prednisone, as he seemed to be suffering from upper respiratory inflammation, but she said the aminophylline already included some steroid.

So while the nebulizer bubbled away, we stood around and discussed the next move, and she toted up an estimate. Keeping him in the oxygen box for the day worked out to between $700 and $1K. Given the very poor odds for his survival, and the fact that he was already starting to look punky again, I decided to call it a good try, so after letting him have a bit more of the nebulizer, I paid up, and we headed home.

I snuggled him awhile (he was clearly happy to be back where he belonged), and then put him to bed, and went to bed myself, fully expecting to be putting him in the freezer when I got up.

But, son of a gun if, when I got up to check on him at 10am, he wasn't still wheezing along. He even evinced interest in breakfast. At 2pm, I couldn't hear him breathing at all, but he was crunching away on leftover carrot. By 6pm, he was demanding to be let out to go look at his girls.

By 10pm, he was chinning himself on the side of his cage in his enthusiasm for dinner.

By Monday, life was back to normal at the New Guinea Pig Palace.

Now, it might not have been the aminophylline. JJ's mom is Gustav, who, as previously mentioned, had been the only survivor of this kind of respiratory distress to date. And his dad (as well as Gustav's dad) was Junior (who died two weeks shy of his eighth birthday). So he comes from strong stock.

How to be a safe guinea pig parent

This is in response to gonadsandstrife 's post.

It is definitely possible to resocialize guineas; my Mr. Fuzzy Logan was a skittish paranoid biter when I got him. The biting lasted about two days because I would simply fail to react when he nipped, beyond saying (or yelling) "Ow!" in a volume directly proportional to the force of his bite. I would then coo and praise him when he was gentle. Took him about two days to decide that licks were more satisfying than bites.

Your own attitude is paramount: if you're anxious, pigs pick up on that. Approach them slowly, with love in your heart. And when I say slowly, I mean ssssllllloooooowwwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyy..... If you think you're moving slowly enough, move about half that speed. Remember, you are In Charge. If YOU'RE worried, things must be Really Dangerous.

Keep in mind that pigs are, first and foremost, prey animals. And domestic cavys' most dominant recent evolutionary adaption is to be prey to humans. Any form of grabbing at them, especially from above, will trip the panic flight reflex.

Don't take them outdoors if you want to calm them down. Guineas are familiaphobes. When they're startled, they scatter. (This is so the owl or fox doesn't get the whole family.) Their instinct is to run away from you, not to huddle close. Similarly, when you give them floor time inside the house, don't put them in large open areas. This leaves them frighteningly exposed. (Think "bug on a plate.") A tile or linoleum kitchen floor is a guinea pig nightmare, because when startled they can't get traction and will "spin out" trying to get away. The combination leaves them feeling extremely vulnerable and threatened.

A carpeted (or blanket-strewn) room with lots of furniture to run around, under, and through is ideal. In nature, guinea pigs are more like quail than rabbits; they head for the bushes rather than hiding in holes. If you want to participate in play with them, try what I call "the table game." Get down on your knees and elbows, with your knees far enough apart that they can pass through easily. Drop the top of your head down to the floor between your hands. This turns you from a large, predatory, and possibly hungry animal into a feature of the landscape with interesting chambers to explore. Be patient and plan on waiting ten minutes or more, but they will eventually come around and check you out, and as they gain confidence, they will very endearingly bump their faces against your knees and arms to "make room" to go through. Keeping your head down hides your eyes from their perception. This makes them feel much safer. Guinea pigs thrive on regularity; if you play this game with them every evening, it will become part of their daily ritual, and you will be scolded for any failures to show up.

If you really want to make yourself an attractive toy, wear a long shirt open down the front, so that it drapes down from your sides and makes a "cave" under your belly. Going in and out of this space is a great guinea pig fun. You will hear a great deal of cluckity commentary about this fascinating new feature in their world. Do not ever ever EVER attempt to grab them or trap them when they are under your "table." This will ruin their trust in you as a safe harbor, and make your job of connecting with them just that much harder.

Guineas are supernaturally aware of eyes; despite not being able to see all that well, they can tell from across the room if somebody is looking at them. If they're being watched, they're probably being stalked, or so guinea reasoning goes.

If you want to teach them to be calm in your presence, put them in a cage about arm's reach from the seat you favor, out of your direct line of sight (by preference, you should have to turn your head at least a little to look at them), and ABOVE YOUR HEAD when you're sitting down. They're not wired to be afraid of things that are below them. This puts them in a "dominant" position to you, which offsets your greater size, and allows them to view you more as a peer. This allows them to experience your companionable company, even (especially) when your attention is elsewhere.

When you approach them and want to interact with them, greet them vocally and say calming things. Very gently blow in their direction. This will tell them who you are and what your intentions are. Wait until they sniff and maybe lift their nose a little bit before your come closer.

To teach your pig to be copacetic when picked up, arrange things so you can, very slowly and gently, corner them in their cage between the angle of your two hands. Then move you hands towards them VERY SLOWLY and from underneath their line of sight. You can, by placing one hand behind their butt and then moving the other gently under their chin, teach them to step up into your palm, whereupon you can just lift them into your arms. This allows them the feeling of having some control, and they become much more cooperative about being picked up. (I have a couple of boys who, when it's time for them to play, will CLIMB ONTO my wrist when I offer my hand palm up along their side. It takes six months to a year to get them to this level of cooperation, but even the process of getting there is calmer than trying to catch them.)

When cuddling a guinea pig, lift them up so they can hide their face under your chin against your neck, leaning their weight against your chest. This allows them to feel fully supported and balanced, especially if you're moving around with them. Hooking your chin over their face, you simulate the safe feeling they had as babies hiding under Mommy's tummy. Further, if you get it right, they can press their ears and eyes up into the soft part under your chin, and this makes it dark and quiet, which equals Safe. You know you're In when they gently press their nose up against your jaw.

Just a few tips. Hope this helps.