Saturday, December 29, 2007

rubber ducky

Neither Teddys nor buggies enjoy baths. Ridding shelter kitties of Shelter Funk is not a fun or easy process, but i've found its easier to take Teddy in the shower with me than to try and bathe him in the sink. We're taking him to the vet this upcoming week to introduce him to her and get a prescription for Frontline or something. He's about 9 weeks old and in ostensibly good health (read: he's a complete nut, which is perfect for kittens) so he should be a fine candidate for a de-bugging goop. Boots did fine with it for at least 10 years (i can't remember how long she wore a flea collar, but bugs never seemed to bother her. in any case, Boots was an indoor-outdoor cat who remained healthy and happy for at least 17 years (read: nearly 3x her life expectancy) with regular flea gooping. i don't know why some people are so freaked out about it. She got worms occasionally from eating rodents but she went crazy if we kept her from going outside.

We're trying to keep him clean and keep bugs out of his fur until we can get him some goop. It doesn't help that this is the weekend and the year-change holiday is monday and tuesday, so there's not much chance of getting a vet appointment. Oh the paranoia of knowing your pet plays home to bugs! I keep thinking i see them everywhere. Poor kitty. When he's properly insect protected i'm going to wash every item of clothing I own. Bleurgh.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Welcome Home, Teddy!

Teddy Kitty, born around October 8, 2007, moved into my parents' household December 20, 2007 weighing about a pound and already litter box savvy. Prior to joining our family he had been at the York animal control center for 2 weeks, so we don't know anything about his family or background. He is healthy and happy, incredibly friendly and playful, and cute enough to get away with murder. For now he lives indoors, but once he's big enough we'll start letting him play outside with the neighborhood feline gang.

I hadn't posted this till now because we spent several days trying to think up a good name for him. He seems pretty cool with Teddy. He loves pencils, laps, and laser pointers, sleeps through the night, and cries to be picked up when he's tired. In all I think he's a very good kitten and he is welcome. We're trying to discourage people food and toilet drinking from the outset, but we'll just have to see what happens. We're suckers when it comes to a cute kitty.

Note: Teddy is Not the cat we took from the hospital parking lot. That cat disappeared the first night he was here. No idea where he went, but i hope he's okay. He was just too wild to settle into living with humans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I can has pardon me?

Has anyone not encountered the “I can has cheeseburger” website? Home to those lovely people who paste captions on their cats? I assumed, wrongly, that the interesting phonetic spelling and garbled grammar of the captions was a joke of some kind--perhaps a suggestion of how a cat might approach the English language. It was only later when I began reading photo comments that I realized this has escalated into a much larger phenomenon. Readers post paragraphs of this free-written drivel, comprehensible only if you sound it out like a first grader. It is no longer a joke or even a code for finding other like-minded web surfers--it is a full written dialect, in the vein of French Creole or Gullah, but without the regional, cultural, or lingual backing to categorize it as much more than a fleeting pidgin. This is not the truncated text message speech so readily popularized by 125-character limits and inattentive keystrokes, but rather a popular rejection of the constraints of standardized spelling and grammatical form. It is likely a natural derivation of English--much as French and Italian wandered off from standardized Latin--but it has emerged and evolved far more rapidly than previous dialects on account of its birthplace--potentially millions of people recognize it as a legitimate means of communicating online.

"Yes," says my reader. "You've not said anything I haven't read or thought before. I'm rapidly losing interest."

The reason it occurred to me that this may be an issue warranting some concern is it dawned on me just how much of my communicating I do online. The majority of my friends live in jarringly different time zones from me--from KST clear on through GMT, the rotation of this planet makes it very inconvenient for me to keep in touch with the people I care about. But the trusty Internet has come to my aid. I am in daily contact with friends across--or even straight through?--the world, without stamp, surcharge, or the hours of waiting endured by lonely World War girlfriends as the lines were slowly connected by hand, region by region, across the globe until their loved ones' voices trickled back to them like the last, dying ripple of an echo.

erm. I lost my place.

My point is, my intense exposure to internet-based linguistic variation has certainly impacted my relationship with my language, from casual exchanges with friends to the very format of my thoughts. And I'm not alone. Millions of people spend at least a few hours a day glued to their computers, interacting with humans and robots alike in an endless quest for information and entertainment. And this truly bizarre interpretation of an established language, made available to them, has ballooned into usage well beyond the niche group of photo caption writers who birthed it--in under two years. African American Vernacular English (AAVE), on the other hand, has been developing for centuries, providing linguists with endless glee as they discover root pronunciations and grammatical characteristics in it from all over the world and all over the timeline. Millions of people communicate effectively using this dialect all over the world, whether or not their parents use it and even if they're not a member of an AAVE-speaking community. As media technology has facilitated the introduction of AAVE to people outside its cultural community, and vice versa, the dialect has adapted and its influence has expanded, particularly since the 1960's. In the 50-some-odd years since the federal repeal of segregation law, to varying extents this dialect has become common in around half of American households.

Now, though, out of the blue and without much cultural influence, a group of--apparently--kids have coined a dialect for the purpose of anthropomorphizing cats, and in less than two years millions of educated humans around the world have taken to writing, speaking, and even thinking "Lolcats-ese."

I'm wondering, then--what does it take to make a dialect legitimate? How long will pre-teens have to practice this forced colloquialism until "i wuz en ur compootur, fixin your memorys" becomes your office's standard tech support memo? How long before grandmothers, smiling warmly as their families kick snow off their boots, hold up a dish and announce "o hi, ah made u a pie but i eated it."? The Oracle says an ongoing project exists to translate the christian scripture into Lolcats--are these the tireless monks of our age, the scholars whose pens scratch into the night over smug little treatises on the value of coherent theology? Is Lolcats-ese the common tongue of the future?

It is easy to learn and use--past tenses of all verbs are the infinitive plus "-ed," plural nouns are all the root noun plus "s." All spellings are the phonetic equivalent of a shot in the dark and need not remain consistent within a sentence. Zs and Ss, Cs and Ks, and most vowel sounds are interchangeable, and punctuation is creative at best. The easiest way to use Lolcats-ese orally is to pretend you're a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, which could be a helpful stepping stone for actual immigrants. All in all, its a far simpler, far more forgiving variation of my native tongue that could see expanded use in the near future. I don't know if this is a good idea, how long it could be expected to last in its original incarnation, if more books would eventually be translated, or really anything about it (as i'm not a linguist and i'm hesitant to use any lingual form that could hinder my job opportunities) but the questions arise--is it likely we will see more and faster language decay as the internet increases in popularity? will we be able to keep up with the kids' ever evolving jive? how much meaning is lost in translation? how much difficulty will speakers of these new colloquial tongues have in school, college, and their careers? are we witnessing the conception of a universal language? How can that ruin life as we know it?

abduction update

And the aforementioned F.D. has managed to utterly vanish. Mom inspected her car thoroughly before going out, and nobody saw any four-legged renegades darting out of the garage this morning. I don't know of any cat-sized routes into or out of the house from there. Could be anywhere. Delightful.


There is a very scared, confused, but warm young cat hiding somewhere in my garage. It was living in some shrubbery outside the hospital where my mom works, and out of concern for its well-being now that it regularly drops below freezing at night around here, we lured it into a carrier, zipped it in, scared the tar out of it, and let it loose to make a nest for itself somewhere under the bonnet of my mom's car. Brilliant. nothing like killing an idiot feline with a fan belt to get your day started right.

I didn't want the cat to freeze out there, but I'm really not ready for another bewhiskered addition to my household. Especially not one so timid and apparently brainless as this one. I don't know. Its really adorable--no more than a few months old, from the look of it, most likely male, mostly white with grey ears and occasional splotches, and ostensibly in good health. (not trying to advertise, just sayin.) In the next few days we're gonna see how it/if it settles in, and if it comes around to the idea of hanging out, we'll take it to the vet and get those hateful necessities taken care of. Right now i'm pretty sure it thinks i want to eat it, but it was very friendly at the hospital--almost too friendly. It had that "rub all over the legs, trip the human, eat its brains" technique down pat. (why else would they make figure-8s all over your feet?) We'll find out if its inclined to not run away in terror after a few days. I'd hate to wind up with one of those cats that you only know exists because the food dish empties and the litter box fills. damn useless pets who never leave a safe closet.

urgh. i don't know. i miss Boots.

In other news, can anyone explain to me the purpose of religion-themed billboards? They're obnoxious and pointless--avid believers may see them and feel smug, but non-believers are going to either not see them at all or see them and find them annoying. They're hardly an effective outreach campaign. your cheeky billboard is not going to break down the barriers to my psyche and get my ass in a pew--if anything its just going to encourage rebellious youfs to tag it or light it on fire. you're not going to change anything with it--the religious zealots will continue to be zealots and the educated elite will continue to think. Why waste the money? Who are you trying to impact?

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Joke with no Punchline

Two factory employees are sitting at the workbench. One puts down her brush, stretches, and looks to the girl next to her.
"Good god," she says, "we paint knickknacks for a living."
"So?" says her benchmate. "Its a living."
"But they're useless. They're intended to be useless. They're highly-detailed, hand-crafted, hand-painted useless pieces of crap."
"But people want them. If they didn't want them we wouldn't be selling them in bulk."
"But is it really worth it? We toil our lives away, painting every individual shutter on these little plastic houses, so that they can be boxed up, put on trucks, put on huge boats, shipped to America, put on trains, put on trucks, distributed to a thousand little boutiques, and eventually find themselves collecting dust on some little old lady's mantle piece? I mean what's the point?"
"Does there have to be a point? We work. We get paid. At least we know that somewhere out there, there's a little old lady who'll get excited next week when the new ones arrive, so she can add to her collection."
"But for every excited old lady, there's at least one entire case of these stupid little villages that gets thrown out because one magnetic ice skater got broken in shipping," says the painter. "I mean, sheez, our work gets thrown away because some cargo attendant in Los Angeles throws his back out and drops the box."
"It doesn't come out of our paycheck. We can still provide for ourselves."
"Yeah, tell that to the new girl--or did you forget, the girl who used to occupy her bench got fired for using the wrong shade of yellow on her windows? She used "smoky autumn firelight" instead of "cheery holiday firelight."
"Be thankful you don't paint windows. Are you going to get some tea or not?"
"I just wish I could find, I don't know, a purpose."
"Yes, well," says her benchmate. "I realized a long time ago that life has no meaning."
And the girls get back to work.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Farfalle and Purple Shrimp

Instead of pinot grigio, try adding a cup of pinot noir to your garlic sauce for a bold flavored, slightly disconcerting seafood dinner. (note: i pulled the dish out of the fridge for the photo. it looked more appetizing when it was hot. just as purple, though.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Assorted Airline Musings

I tend to get introspective and stupidly philosophical on airplanes. whether this is brought on by the noise, vibration, or the subtle nausea that goes along with air travel, i invariably find myself writing deep thoughts in the margins of my Sudoku puzzle book. most of them are completely stupid once i get back on the ground, but i don't really want to keep this tattered volume on my shelf indefinitely as a reminder of the inaneness of pseudo-intellectualism. So I guess i'll put my pointless thoughts here to share.

I gaze down upon the distant land, all distinction blurred so that entire cities become blobs of blue and green, through the most delicate filigree of ice crystals visible to the unaided eye. What a beautiful juxtaposition.

Comically wiggly rivers squiggle across the landscape like so much dropped pasta, then peter out into nothingness with seemingly deliberate intention--as though drawn by an overzealous fourth grader.

You there! Yes you, you winking reflection of sunlight speeding down a motorway 30,000 feet below me. Who are you? How do we relate? Were you looking up when I looked down? How many degrees separate us from Kevin Bacon?

Do river systems look like neural systems, or vice versa?

I attempted to avoid allowing my mind to go numb as I watched the vast expanse of my planet's surface crawl along in miniature; all of human existence reduced to infuriatingly redundant straight lines and uniform seas of both shingled roofs and soybeans. The more I looked, the less I cared to see--it is all dirt and water, just rearranged. Often poorly. Is life so remarkable? All surfaces are made up of something--is it relevant that the surface of my planet bubbles and mutates and even occasionally moves around on its own accord? What difference does this make in the long run? I am the surface of the earth.

The only thing Elite about Elite Access is the font. How is it that Elitist, a synonym for Snob, has an overwhelmingly negative connotation, but Elite is a desirable adjective?

I don't like the idea of "meal time." Meal time is any time you are hungry enough to eat more than a snack. In this age of 24-hour business, it is baffling that any industry would find it justifiable to uphold the antique concept of food hours. If your pilot is flying, he's at work. It is business time. He gets lunchtime, even if it falls at four in the morning. How Dare you use the excuse of meal time to starve me! Do you have any idea when any of your passengers last had a chance to eat? My answer is Thursday, jerks.

I love "emergency feeds" on paper towel dispensers. For when the fate of the world depends on dry hands.

Helplessly inane airport "special announcements" required by the FAA:
Don't take stuff that isn't yours
Don't leave your stuff laying around in public
Keep an eye on your kids
Tell the police if someone tries to hurt or harass you
--all things people are going to do anyway, unless they're up to no good. In both cases, the statements are falling on unreceptive ears. Shut up. If that's all you're going to use your PA system for, maybe you should donate it to an underprivileged school system.

The government is really getting their money's worth out of that reflective street sign paint--it's visible from cruising altitude.

Heh. I wonder if the camera operators had a good time making the safety video section on seatbelts--this one has no fewer than 3 crotch shots.

Interesting--our species has lived under the same sun for millions of years, yet we still can't look directly at it.

The cars on the Speedway are the only visibly mobile things on the ground from my vantage point--and even then they're crawling along.

Oh, screaming toddler. Life not all you expected? You bought the same sales pitch as the rest of us, and now you've come to regret it. Nobody blames you. We do, on the other hand, blame your parents, sitting there in comfortable numbness, inflicting you on the rest of us. Parents--if your brat has figured out how to pretend to cry, your brat is ready to learn there are consequences for being a pain in the ass. It is in your power to shut them up. Do us all a favor and do some parenting.

In other news, my sister's radiator sounds like it's flooding the kitchen. And I saw Avenue Q last night--downright hilarious. Broadway almost justifies the rest of New York's existence.