Friday, November 25, 2011

Sounds of love...

definitely include a power washer that's been running on the front porch for almost an hour.

Monday, November 21, 2011


It would be a bit of an understatement to say that what happened at UC Davis on November 18th has been occupying my thoughts.  Of course by now you've heard what happened to a group of students at UC Davis protesting for the Occupy movement, the privatization of the University of California public education system, the proposed 81% tuition increases, and in solidarity with the UC Berkeley students and professors whose non-violent protests were met with batons and beatings earlier in the month.

These students were "occupying" The Quad (which is as you can imagine a large grassy public space in the middle of the university) with a small encampment of tents.  They had received permission from Chancellor Linda Katehi to break the "no camping on University grounds" rule on previous nights.  They went through the proper procedures for staging a peaceful protest.  They had the support of the Student Association.  Then on November 18th they received word from the Chancellor that they would have to remove their tents by 3:00 pm because of "serious health, safety and legal concerns".  Naturally, as their point was to stage a peaceful protest, which may include civil disobedience, they decided to stay.  The Chancellor sent in the University police to remove the tents and disband the protestors.  These police, who on normal days spend their time issuing tickets for rolling through University stop signs or not having a front and back light on your bike, came in with riot helmets, batons, and teargas guns.  According to reports and video, the students would not leave, the police started breaking down tents, a few students got arrested, and that's when the student protesters decided to sit in a circle around their tents and link arms.  And then this is what happened.

Here's another angle.

Students sitting in a circle on the ground had pepper spray shot at them multiple times, some down their throats, which led many to vomit and cough up blood.  Several of the students had to be seen by paramedics, and two were sent to the hospital.  Many had effects (in terms of continued burning) for over 24 hours.  This pepper spray is so strong and full of capaicinoid (the burning chemical in peppers) that it is  made chemically to get the burning agent up that high.  It's not quite as high as the concentration used in bear spray, but not far off either.

Professor Nathan Brown wrote an incredibly thoughtful letter to the Chancellor decrying the incident and calling for her resignation.  You should definitely read it.

This interview with one of the pepper-sprayed students is a must-read.  He/she gives the play-by-play from the protesters point of view.

From the Boulder Weekly:
Geoffrey Wildanger, 23, a graduate student in art history from Los Altos, said, "Three days ago, I was pepper sprayed. It hurt. It hurt a lot, but you know that already. What happened on Friday is not exceptional. Police brutality may not be the most common occurrence on UC Davis but it happens every day to poor people, women and people of color."
And this short article from the Davis Enterprise is quite interesting.

Professor Bob Ostertag has written an article about the incident on the Huffington Post.  This is a must-read.  Regarding the use of pepper spray use on criminals in prison:
[R]egulations prohibit the use of pepper spray on inmates in all circumstances other than the immediate threat of violence. If a prisoner is seated, by definition the use of pepper spray is prohibited. Any prison guard who used pepper spray on a seated prisoner would face immediate disciplinary review for the use of excessive force.
He also outlines one of the protesters' issues - the very large tuition increases.
 Just six years ago, tuition at the University of California was $5357. Tuition is currently $12,192. According to current proposals, it will be $22,068 by 2015-2016.
What this has to do with the Occupy Wall Street movement is quite simple.  The State of California in is a severe budget crisis.  You can easily argue that this budget crisis is exacerbated by severely inadequate tax revenues.  If corporations and the 1% paid more in taxes, the burdens of the budget crisis would not be felt so strongly by lower- and middle-class citizens.  Currently there are state worker furloughs, drastically reduced research budgets, and lay-offs.  Slashed funding for state parks (which actually bring in quite a bit of tourist revenue).  And slashed state funding to the "public" university system.  With this revenue gone, the expenses of the UC System has to be found in other ways.  Furloughs and salary and hiring freezes have been employed.  Unfortunately, that does not cover it.  With decreased state funding follows drastically reduced quality of education and/or increases in tuition.  The "public" university system gets dismantled.  Twenty thousand dollars a year for in-state tuition (currently out-of-state tuition in the UC system is $36,000 per year) is out of the league of a lot of qualified students .  Accruing these kinds of loans is a major burden for professions in which a university degree is essential, but pay is not stellar (I'm thinking accountants, nurses, and teachers here - and this is probably because these are the professions of my parents).*

Let's focus on elementary-high school teachers here for a second.  They're supposed to pay $22,000/year for their education in order to enter into jobs which pay barely more than that?  How are they supposed to pay those loans off?  How do we expect to have qualified teachers, especially in the math and sciences where people with these skills can get other jobs that actually pay?  Teachers' salaries are laughable on their own, but with the added burden of an education system that will not give them a true public option and the loans that go along with that?  As individuals, and as a society, we need people to do these jobs, but we expect them to do them practically for free.  Meanwhile, we will not take care of or educate their children, because they don't have enough capital to pay for it.  And if you can't pay, it's too bad for you, deadbeat.

Public universities, which were meant to bring a quality higher education out of the exclusive realm of the elite, are very quickly not going to exist in that respect at all.  I can barely imagine a scenario 10-20 years from now, given they way we're going now - by which I mean not valuing education as a nation at all, in which it is possible to get a decent education without paying private school prices and tuitions from kindergarten through to college.  And in that situation we've separated the rich from the poor even further.  Further than now.  And the education system now is already defined by inequities in class and capital.  The difference is now, with hard work, you can still get by and get ahead by merit.  That is eroding quickly.  "Eroding" isn't even an appropriate word.  "Destroy" is more accurate since it is more a function of neglect and greed than some natural process.

So let's review.  These students were protesting the use of violence against peaceful protestors at Berkeley, and the blatant inequalities that seem to be exponentially increasing in this country.  We've got corporations  that do everything they possibly can to turn the biggest profit.  That is the one and only bottom line.  Mortgage companies had been basically swindling people into horrible real estate decisions to make a buck, and these kids are pepper sprayed in the face for breaking the "no camping on campus" rule.  Based on all reports (excepting the University of California police department) and multiple videos showing what happened, the police were under no threat whatsoever.  Their shields weren't down, their body language in no way depicts people under threat, and the protesters seated on the ground with their heads bowed.  End of story.  The pepper spray (pepper spray so potent that you and I can't buy it) was used at a cattle prod, or as a punishment.  Haven't we set up a judicial system to fairly mete out punishment according to due process?  I was under that impression.  I was clearly naive.  What has happened is that due process was not required for these kids, and either the UC Davis administration or police department got to decide on punishment on the fly - punishment for unauthorized camping.  Meanwhile, the police officers who used what many of us would consider undue force without provocation, and what some of us would consider assault, are not going into the judicial system but instead are being "disciplined" by paid leave.

From the California Penal Code Section 12403.7:
(g) Any person who uses tear gas or tear gas weapons except in
self-defense is guilty of a public offense and is punishable by
imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years
or in a county jail not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed
one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment,
except that, if the use is against a peace officer, as defined in
Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2,
engaged in the performance of his or her official duties and the
person committing the offense knows or reasonably should know that
the victim is a peace officer, the offense is punishable by
imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months or two or three years or
by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and
Now of course there needs to be an aspect of the law that protects police officers when they are doing their duties, and of course their job sometimes requires the use of force.  However force and violence are separate beasts - the use of violence should never, ever be taken lightly.  The use of violence when it is not in self-defense should be inexcusable, even for police officers.  Can you imagine what would have happened if one of the students sprayed Lt. Pike back with pepper spray?  Would that have counted as self-defense?  We all know that kid would be in jail.  Police should be protected by the law in limited instances and when they are doing their duties within the law, but they should not be above it.  That is not what we saw here, and it is not what we are seeing across the United States.

* As an aside, let's think about how much we each paid in tuition.  Personally, I paid $3500/year at my state university in 1997-2001.  Not because I couldn't get in anywhere else (in fact I was offered a partial scholarship at a private college in California), but because this in-state tuition is what I could afford without accruing loans.  If I had to pay $22,000/year for in-state tuition, I would currently be over $65,000 in debt.  With a Ph.D. in science, making about that in a yearly salary, that would be a pretty overwhelming situation.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Marcel the Shell Part II

It makes me happy.  Merry Sunday, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Working at home...

with some help.

Oh, then this move.  

This one's a little trickier.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did I tell you about the time Bubba tried to poison himself?

No?  Well, that's probably because I was super busy at the time.

About a week before the workshop I was putting together at work, I came home around 6 pm.  I immediately took Bubba for a short walk.  When we got back in the house he puked a dark brown liquid onto the floor.  Now, this dude pukes kind of a lot what with the car-sickness, so I had seen a lot of dog puke, but nothing that looked like this.  My housemate, The Baker, who had been home all day with the dogs, told me that Bubba had puked the same stuff a few hours earlier.  I looked at it, looked at him, looked at it, looked at him, and decided to look around the house for what he could have gotten into.

This didn't take long.

On the dining room table was a pan of brownies The Baker had made from scratch a few days earlier.  The day before I had moved all of his baked goods from the kitchen counter to the dining room table to make room to cook.  And then I forgot about it.  And I also forgot that when no one's looking Bubba will use the window seat to jump on top of the table in order to shamelessly go to town on whatever food is up there.  I have walked in on him a few times full on standing in the middle of the table eating something.

And then I left him out all day while I went to work.

The wax paper that was covering the brownies was off, but other than what looked like an irregular cut, or as if someone had just used a fork to eat one end of the brownies, it wasn't obvious that a dog had been eating them.  Bubba must have just eaten from the cut edge all neat-like.  He likes to cover his tracks.

So I took him upstairs and looked up how much chocolate is too much for a 12 lb dog.  Five minutes into this, I realized it would probably be a good idea to have him near me so I could monitor him.  I had him jump onto my lap, and then he immediately turned around and yakked over the edge onto the carpet.  Now this dark chocolate colored and smelling liquid puke was going to stain the carpet if I didn't get it up soon.  I got to cleaning and called Mr. Renaissance at work to have him continue the online research.  At this point I wasn't sure how quickly I would need to get him to the hospital.

Every chocolate-per-pound-of-dog calculator online said his dose (~1/8 pan of good quality dark chocolate brownies) was "severe" and to "take him to the vet immediately".  So I called the emergency vet.  The vet said definitely bring him in.

So off we went.  After hearing we were headed to the vet, Mr. Renaissance met us there.  Counting once more in the car on the ride over, Bubba puked a total of 6 times in a few hours (this brown puke was easy to trace).  Despite having never been to the emergency vet before, he smelled trouble and refused to go through the door.

So the vet saw him, at which point we learned that his heart rate was at 240 bpm.  I wasn't sure how to judge this until I learned it's supposed to be about 150.  His heart was beating so fast there wasn't time for it to fill properly.  He was flushed, he was jittery, and he was "quaking".  I told the doctor that Bubba has the shakes an awful lot for all sorts of reasons (he's part chihuahua after all), including being at the vet.

Given that he had already been puking a lot they thought inducing vomiting wasn't necessary, but they wanted to get an IV in to give him liquids, give him some valium to reduce his heart rate, and get some tests started.  Given that Tina Turnher had long ago convinced me to buy pet insurance, I said "Do it".

The tests showed that he indeed had a severe level of chocolate in his system.  Chocolate poisoning can not only kill a dog, but cause heart, liver, kidney, or brain damage.  We decided to do the "textbook" treatment.  I put a lot of stock in textbooks (literally and figuratively) so you know I was sold.  The plan was valium, IV fluids, tests including an EKG, activated charcoal to soak up the poison, and a catheter to keep his bladder empty (the chemical expelled into the urine can be reabsorbed through the bladder walls).

After that was decided, along with a discussion of the bill estimate ($1900-2400), we went to visit him in the back in his little vet cage with a an IV, a purple bandage, and a cone, and then left for the night.  He would stay at the vet overnight.  Honestly, that was the scariest part.

When we got home I tried to be cool - he was being taken care of very well, and he is a dog after all.  This was successful as long as Mr. Renaissance didn't try to discuss it or show any sympathy.  He couldn't.  So I had a mini-breakdown about the fragility of life, and how everyone I love will someday be taken from me, including this little guy.  It's just a taste of the inevitable.  Jesus, even now that's depressing.  But true.  And depressing.  Let's stop this cycle for now, shall we?

Anyway, the next day we called and he was doing well, his poison levels had dropped, but he had still been dry-heaving pretty much all night.  They did an x-ray and found a lot of dense pieces in his stomach that looked like they could be bone fragments.  I told them, I guess that sounds about right.  He steals his Rottweiler housemate's bones all the time and gnaws on them for hours.  One time he got a bone that was about as big as he is back to his crate after eyeing it and plotting on it for months.  They said this was probably irritating his stomach which is why he kept dry-heaving.  It would likely pass through, but they'd have to keep an eye on it in case it all ganged up together and formed an obstruction.  They planned another x-ray for that afternoon.

When I called after that x-ray they said the bone fragments passed through just fine.  They said they wanted to keep him until he "was eating food and drinking water again".  I said, "oh my god, he's not eating?!?!", because things would have to be seriously wrong for him not to want to eat.  They said, "Oh, we just haven't offered him any yet".  Well, say that then.  Jesus.  They said they wanted to keep him another night to make sure everything stays down.  I thought that sounded a bit excessive, but you're the experts.  I didn't go to vet school after all.

When I talked to Mr. Renaissance, who had also spoken to the vet that day, he called shenanigans.  We were going to give it until later that evening, and if he was still doing fine we were going to take him home.  He called the vet and told them this, in a very professional yet firm manner.  I was so grateful.  I don't have this ability.  I either agree with what is going on, or I go fully indignant.  That middle ground is tricky.

So we picked him up that evening, and he was acting a little weird.  Just not quite Bubba.  We had to feed him a small bland meal (cottage cheese and rice) four times a day and give him two pills (a preventative antibiotic because of the suture he needed to keep the catheter in place, and Pepcid AC to help settle his stomach) for a week.  In the morning he was back to his old self.  He must have still been on valium or something.  And since he kept everything down, he didn't need to go back to the hospital.

So to recap:

  • Don't let your dog get into chocolate.  This was the first disadvantage of having a small dog.  Small quantities of the no-go foods are dangerous.  
  • Bubba has now had an EKG, an x-ray, antibiotics, Pepcid AC, and valium, in addition to the Immodium AD that I had to give him when I first brought him home with the doggie flu.  I've never even had valium.  
  • Pet insurance is awesome.  His little chocolate episode cost $2700 in vet fees.  I have paid $15/month for insurance since I've had him, plus a $200 deductible for this and 10% of its cost.  So about $700 total.  I win.
  • Also, pets are expensive.
  • Bubba isn't allowed to chew on his housemate's bones.  
  • In fact, he'll be kenneled a lot more when I'm not home.  Because he doesn't understand that chocolate is not delicious.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Playing catch-up

Oh man, it's been awhile.  I've been super busy - work, new relationship, adventures, etc.  But also, it has started to get rainy and gray here.  And combine that with daylight savings time (ugggggh), and I always feel like hibernating for a month or two.  Watching some hulu, reading some books, cuddling with the dog - I could fill weeks with those things.  But I can't.  And so I do it a little bit.

Now, I don't even know where to start.  So many things to say.  How about a list?

1.  When I was in Montana hanging out with The Wanderer I dropped my camera in a tub of water and Epsom salt.  We may be a little picture light over here for awhile.

2.  The Violent Offender, The Shutterbug, Mr. Renaissance, and I went to see The Flaming Lips at The Puyallup Fair.  Of course we wandered around the fair for awhile first, ate 7 courses of fried food, and commissioned an air-brushed t-shirt.  Thanks to Mr. Renaissance's iPhone and The Shutterbug for the pics (it should be pretty obvious which is which).

 3.  I need to learn how to spell "Renaissance" correct the first time.  That would really simplify things over here.

4.  I met Mr. Renaissance's mother.  Bubba wore his bow tie for the event.

Our matching outfits and the slightly-inappropriate-for-Sunday-brunch-cleavage were unintended.  It was a warm summer day.  I'll say that.  I'll also say that his mom was very sweet.  She loved Bubba.  But how could you not?  Did you see that bow tie???

5.  I met a few more of Mr. Renaissance's friends at a birthday cocktail party.  I wore my new blue and lace dress!  Finally!  With tights and these shoes.  And Le Fuschia lipstick of course.  

This is the only pic of that night that I can show you.

6.  Mr. Renaissance is building a house.  But you knew this.  The plan was to make it a small open first floor with a sleeping loft above.  Now that is the old plan.  The new plan is to make it a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home with a full second story, a master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet, a large kitchen with an island and a built-in dining nook, a small laundry room, possibly a small pantry under the stairs, potentially a window seat, and a living room with a library nook.  That's the part you might not have known.

So we're working on that.  Well, ok.  He's mostly doing the working so far.  I'm just helping make decisions, meeting with the architect, and devouring home design books by Sarah Susanka, as per the recommendation of the architect.  I'm learning a lot about nooks, away spaces, private and public spaces, window placement, lighting, etc.  It's incredibly fun.  But also, making the decision on the general floor plan was a teeny bit stressful.

 Originally Mr. Renaissance wanted the downstairs to be basically all open.  I like open too, but this means it would be pretty modern.  And it also means that if you've got a family in there, there is no way to get away (like an away room, or public/private space) to get a little privacy except for the bedrooms upstairs.  I didn't think that sounded like a very good plan.  The downstairs would basically be kitchen space open to living room space, with a small powder room.  What was super cool about this plan, however, was that the back wall of the house could be all windows.  All windows that accordioned open to completely open the back of the house to the deck.  Pretty cool, huh?  But I also thought about how this would only be awesome for 3 months out of the year here.  In the winter it's just a wall of windows to dark.

My point here is that deciding on one general floor plan meant saying no to everything else.  That seemed like one of the harder decisions.  Once you make that decision then you have a box in which to make smaller decisions.  But we've done it, and we feel really good about it.

The foundation of the house got poured this week.  We went over there and put our handprints in it.

7.  Mr. Renaissance and I went to Hump!  It's The Stranger's local, amateur, porn festival hosted by Dan Savage.  I had never been before.  Having never gone before you might assume that you would be viewing sexy things.  You would mostly be wrong.  There were some that were funny, some that were cute, some that were cartoons, or claymation, or stop-motion, and a few that were actually sexy.  But.  There were a few, in the 'kink' category, that were just pretty disturbing.  And not in a "oh my god, this is terrible I can't watch this, this goes against my morals" way.  In a "these consenting adults are doing things or simulating doing things that I can't look at anymore".  One with fake blood and fake nurses and drugged boys being dragged back to labs, one with a knife and the threat of cutting and blood which never actually happened (but we had already seen the fake blood so we were just waiting for it), and one cheery, friendly, colorful one that involved waaaaay too many donuts being sacrificed all over a couple people's bodies.  Sprinkles everywhere.  Icing everywhere.  Such. a. mess.  I was mostly disturbed by the mess.  And the fact that sugary foods, while quite amazing, are not sexy.  They do not belong in sex.  In my world you are either eating sugary junk foods or you are having sex.  There is a relationship, but it is an inverse one.


I'll probably go next year.

And I guess that's all for now, friends.