Tuesday, January 31, 2006

As it turns out, my pessimism yesterday about how short-lived I expected my sun break to last was completely unwarranted. The clouds decided to take a break for the evening, apparently, and I didn't see another drop of rain yesterday. I took Chloe for a nice long walk, taking about an hour to stroll down past 85th and enjoy the relative dryness of the air. We even saw stars! Well, I saw stars. I don't know if Chloe noticed them.

I love Chloe for her own sake, of course, but she's also providing a boost to my health by needing so much exercise in the mornings and evenings. She's a German Shepherd with a lot of energy to burn, so we try to walk with her as much as we can. We split the walking duties of course, but since Mr. Thel walks all day at work I tend to take Chloe farther than he does. I don't mind it; I've enjoyed exploring our neighborhood this winter. Most of the north-south blocks are split by these wonderful little alleyways that feel like country lanes--quiet gravel driveways split by the tufts of grass growing down the middle. We can amble along them without worrying about traffic, just casually walk around looking and sniffing at everything. (We make it a team effort: I look around and leave the sniffing to Chloe.)

One day as we paused at an empty cross street I noticed some shards of pottery scattered at the base of a stop sign. I bent down to check my first impression, and found that they were the broken bits of doll-sized jars. Four intact jars lay among the pieces. I was charmed and pocketed them. Who made the tiny containers? Why were they smashed? And why, when we wandered that way again a week later, were all the pieces of pottery gone, the muddy patch of grass empty again?

Monday, January 30, 2006


I saw a patch of blue sky today, and a burst of sunlight pierced through it for a moment.

It seemed worthy of a post.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

2006 Book Resolution: Book 2

Hey hey, ho ho! Only fifty weeks to go!

I've been taking the bus home more often in the evenings, which has given me more reading time than normal. Thus, I'm already ahead of my planned reading schedule for the year.

Book #2:
Title: The Dog Listener
Author: Jan Fennell
Date Started: January 7, 2006
Date Finished: January 8, 2006
Your thoughts, dear Thel? I picked this up last Saturday because Chloe has been with us for a little over a month now and is starting to get more obstinate. She's still tremendously well-behaved in general, but she's taken to ignoring our commands, lunging around on the leash every single time we take her for a walk, and generally acting like a willful adolescent. Which, to be fair, is exactly what she is, as a twenty-three-month-old dog; but that doesn't make it any less aggravating.

So I was looking for some good dog advice that would help me get Chloe to do what I want her to do, without getting into a battle of wills with her. Shouting "No!" at her had no discernible effect, and I flat out refuse to hit her or turn into a raging intimidation monster just to make her sit down or stop jumping up. The light swats I'm comfortable giving only make her more playful and mouthy. This book was a great find, because the author's whole philosophy is about getting a dog to want to do what you ask it to do, not out of fear but out of cooperation.

I know it sounds a little goofy, but her ideas were intriguing. She claims that most problematic behavior in dogs stems from their belief that they are the leader of their "pack" of humans, and their stress at being out of their league with such a strange pack. While I'm sure that's not really the root cause of *every* dog's behavior issues, she makes a persuasive case that in some cases that's the main problem. According to her research and experience, there are four situations during which a wolf pack re-establishes its hierarchy: when the pack eats, when the pack is threatened, when the pack reunites after a separation, and when the pack goes hunting. She "translates" these situations to mealtimes, visitors, humans' entrances and exits from the home, and walks; she then describes easy, calm, nonviolent ways that dog owners can take those opportunities to establish that they are the "pack" leader. Once the dog has been relieved of the duties it thought it had, it can calm down and enjoy its life as a subordinate, with all its needs taken care of by its leader(s).

We haven't gone full out in implementing Jan's "Amichien bonding" process, but we've started taking a couple of her suggestions, and I've noticed Chloe adapting to them a bit already. The main one deals with the "reuniting" situation, since that's when Chloe was really at her worst. Jan advises that an owner leave and re-enter their home without fussing over the dog--indeed, without acknowledging the dog at all for a few minutes at least. This supposedly helps the dog see you as the leader and able to come and go as you please. I have to admit that it's almost impossibly hard to come home and be greeted by a frenzied, wagging, delighted dog without immediately stooping down to love on her--but if I just ignore her until she settles down, and then call her over and give her all the loving and attention she needs, she really has been calming down a lot faster, and jumping up much less in the first place.

And I don't even have to yell or act intimidating to do it, just be completely calm and aloof when necessary. So that's a good thing.

The Best Blonde Joke Ever

I normally don't post things like this, but this is truly the funniest blonde joke ever. Read it all the way to the end; it's totally worth it.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Scene: early morning, in a car.

Mr. Thel: ...blah blah blah, and it would have been fine if the leever was longer. [I can't remember what the hell we were talking about, but somehow it involved a lever. That's all we need to know about the preceding conversation here.]
Thel: Heh, yeah. ...Wait, the leever?
Mr. Thel: Right.
Thel: Like the soap?
Mr. Thel: Yeah.
Thel: Don't you pronounce it LEVER when you aren't talking about the soap?
Mr. Thel: No, only when I'm talking about a jacket.
Thel: When...what?
Mr. Thel: Like your jacket.
Thel: What?
Mr. Thel: Your lever jacket. [laughter]
Thel: ...Okay, but seriously, when on earth did you start pronouncing it "leever?"
Mr. Thel: That's how I've always said it. I guess it's a British thing. Like "batt'ries" instead of "batteries."
Thel: Batrees?! Oh my god, you've got to be kidding. You have NEVER said the word "batt'ries."
Mr. Thel: Yes I do, that's how I say it! "Batt'ries."
Thel: [dies laughing]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2006 Book Resolution: Book # 1

I made a New Year's resolution to read an average of a book a week for the year. It sounds like a lot, but some books are a one-day project, and I'm not restricting myself by genre or topic. As a super-fast reader, I don't think this resolution is unattainable. The problem with being a super-fast reader is that I don't tend to retain everything, so at some point I want to start writing a review of each book just after I finish it.

Dream big, right?

Uh, spoilers for the final book in the "His Dark Materials" series by Philip Pullman may follow. Vague ones, but nonetheless.

Book #1:
Title: The Amber Spyglass
Author: Philip Pullman
Date Started: December 30, 2005
Date Finished: January 3, 2006
Ill-informed first thoughts: I liked this series quite a bit, but this final book kept losing me. The ending...maybe I just need to go back and re-read all three books in the trilogy to put all the pieces together, but I felt a sense of loose ends at the end of the book. I wasn't quite sure why the two main characters' experience in chapter 35 had the effect that it did on the world; was it ever explained just why that was the critical, universe-saving act? (Probably, and I missed it by reading too quickly for comprehension!) Still, I like the premise, and the idea of overthrowing the Kingdom of Heaven and establishing the Republic of Heaven...it tickles me.

Incidentally, I dog-eared a page in chapter 34 on which a character muses, "This was the very thing she'd told Will about when he asked if she missed God: it was the sense that the whole universe was alive, and that everything was connected to everything else by threads of meaning. When she'd been a Christian, she had felt connected, too; but when she left the Church, she felt loose and free and light, in a universe without purpose....and it was plain that everything was throbbing with purpose and meaning, but she was cut off from it. And it was impossible to find a connection, because there was no God."

Very shortly thereafter that character does find a connection to the universe without God; I folded the page down because it was so much the opposite of my experience. When I "left the church," it was because I felt cut off from the universe--a universe that seemed alive and interconnected--by the image of God I'd been given. Only after I dropped that image of God did I feel able to be connected to the universe. As a Christian, I'd felt afraid of so much of the universe--afraid that liking something too much would be sinful, afraid that the very act of experiencing some aspects of reality would make God angry, or sad, or something. So I'd tiptoed through the living, roiling, throbbing universe, keeping my head down and my hands over my ears so as not to tempt myself to enjoy it too much.

And then I thought, why is it here, then? Why set up this gorgeous, complicated, heartbreaking reality if it's only to be crept through as blindly as possible? What is it for if not to dance in? I would rather, I thought, spend my life (the only blip of existence that I am certain of having) bathing in this wild reality, wallowing in it wholeheartedly, than timorously shielding myself from it all the days of my life.

I'm still working on the wallowing. Hence, the book project. If I am fortunate and have fifty more years alive in this messy lovely world, and I read only fifty books a year, then I will be able to read 2,500 more books in my lifetime. A mere drop in the bucket when you think of all the books in all the libraries and bookstores of the world, crying out for readers. If I don't dive in and greedily drink down as many of them as possible in the time alloted me, then I will truly have a reason for shame.

Well, Isn't That Just Dandy

First thing this morning, the first business day of the new year, what do I find?

Fraudulent debit card charges by someone in Edmonton, to the tune of about $1,000 over the weekend.

I do at least have the comfort of knowing that it wasn't any lapse of caution on my part that caused my debit card information to be ganked. No, I had a message from my bank Friday night saying that a block of card numbers had been "compromised," mine among them. I found the fraudulent charges this morning before I could even return the bank's call.

*sigh* And here I was truly optimistic about 2006! What a way to start it off.