Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ordinary people and their extraordinary pets

I've been reading the want ads lately for a bargain on a good dog. I've got the house, and a big, fenced yard. Time to get another dog. And stingily, I hope. I've been thinking about it.

My younger son has a Welsh Corgi I love to death. He is smart, beautiful, and just about the perfect middle-size dog I want. But he sheds incredibly, and I am not a woman given to mopping the wood floors every day (now there's an understatement). So probably not a Corgi. I still get all excited when I see Scotties, but I haven't seen ads for any. They aren't very smart, but they are fiesty, and you can't hurt their feelings and they are affectionate and very, very cute. But. Not another dachsund--I've got stairs. I'm looking. I'm looking.

Today I ran across another pet choice. To quote, "Hand tamed fancy rats. $8 adoption fee.3mos. old. Black/grey. For pets only, not snake food,pls. Very sweet/great pets.(Number followed.)"

I snickered. With all the universities around, a proscription on using them for lab testing might also be wise.

When I was a sophomore, I took an introductory psychology class, and we were required to do a lab experiment using rats. The professor brought in his daughter's brown rat named Friar Tuck. Friar Tuck was indeed a calm, nice-mannered rat, who ran up my professor's arm and kind of cuddled next to his neck. He insisted we all come up and practice lifting the amazingly patient rat up by the tail and set him on our hands, then lift him back. This was to prepare us for doing the same thing with much less attractive, much less socialized lab rats we would be using in a maze experiment that semester.

Desensitization, I think we call it.

I had no trouble performing the chore, setting him or her in the maze and recording the results. The problem was, to me one grey lab rat looked like another. Halfway through the experiment, I somehow started using the wrong rat. My error wasn't discovered until the testing period ended. To say my professor was not pleased would be to state the patently obvious. He didn't rip me to shreds, but for a few minutes he looked like he wanted to. My mistake had basically flawed the entire experiment for everyone. I had made all my lab sessions. I had written up my results. I had done well on all my tests. So with extreme restraint, he gave me a C for the semester instead of the F he probably wanted to award.

The next semester I took abnormal psychology. I really enjoyed it. No rats.
I have played with someone else's rat on a few occasions. I have never wanted to own one.

So I wish this rat owner well in providing happy homes for the rat babies. At least they smell better than ferrets. (Do pet snakes --isn't that an oxymoron?--eat ferrets, too? I thought folks mostly bought crickets and mice.)

I look for biases in my makeup and realize I am highly skewed as a pet owner towards dogs, then fish, then cats. I knew a family with an adorable pet chicken once, and the folks across the street have bunnies, and my niece once owned a corn snake for awhile. I've seen enough ferrets to know I wouldn't want one. Gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs? We had the guinea pig when my sons were young, and I'm still convinced I killed it by feeding it some banana. Pot bellied pigs? Parrots?

So. Did I say I was getting a dog? I'll stick with that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Cover Doesn't Begin to Explain the Book

This is a transaction thought from a conversation from my third grader:
She was telling me how you can't judge a friend by looks(ugly or good-looking) or dress(shabby or smart). And that is a good lesson. And I thought.

Earlier, she and I had gone to Lowe's for some construction stakes for posters I want to put up for my church chocolate festival. I was told to go to aisle 13, where I met a salesman who told me I wanted aisle 16, and walked along with us to find them. They were fairly bulky, not unmanageable, but he insisted on getting a cart and walking with us to checkout. Then he offered to carry them out. I told him no, I could manage. We left. Just as we reached the trunk of my car, a well-built, 20-something man appeared and asked, "Ma'am, do you need help?"

I laughed. I told him no I didn't, but since he was there I relished the assistance. I opened the trunk, he deposited the stakes, then told me he would crate the cart since "it's on my way anyway." And he did.

When we got in the car, I told my granddaughter, "You have just witnessed three blessings. One was the man helping us in the store. The second was the man who showed up to help me at the trunk. And the third is I recognized the first two as blessings."

Earlier in the day I had been fuming to a friend because of my bad knees and arthritis, I limp. And because I lost weight after age 60, I have wrinkles. And my hair is greying. And I feel sometimes as if people spring to help because of the old lady with the limp, and I'm stronger than that and I hate it. All of which is true when I am feeling negative. BUT. All of this happened later, and wasn't it nice? Human beings are still kind to one another. Of course I smiled.

I have been thinking when to bring another interchange up. It was in the shop where my damaged car was being repaired. A woman came in, carrying a couple of Walmart bags. She was picking up her own repaired car. She was wearing a navy blue shirt and khaki pants. As she and I waited, I asked her,"Do Walmart employees get a discount?"
I was genuinely curious. I have had nothing but intelligent, good service there. And I know the pay is minimal, so I wondered if there were perks.

She huffed,"I do not work at Walmart", and sailed out the door. Almost immediately, she came back in. She said, "Why do you think I work at Walmart? I am a professor at _______." She seemed flustered.

I answered truthfully, "You are wearing a navy shirt and khaki pants, the uniform for Walmart employees, and you are carrying Walmart bags."

She blurted,"I will never wear this outfit again." And she left.

I thought at the time she was oversensitive.

Today, I examined that in view of my 8-year-old getting lessons in not picking a book by its cover, so to speak, and in my own almost terminal prickliness when good people try to help an independent, aging, limping woman. Today I had the sense not to be prickly. I hope later, the prickly professor laughed.

But all of us, my 8-year-old, myself, the middle-aged professor, are always striving to read and be read, as a book without our cover.

We aren't. Most of the time. What I personally have to learn is to bless the goodness of people when they mean well, and only whop them in the chops when they try to escort me across a street I didn't intend to cross.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When I can't prevent evil but deplore it

I am sorry. I am a dilettente, and perhaps a sponge. I remember reading that when FDR said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself", he was quoting. Which means it had happened before.

And it is happening again.

It has happened many times. We fear, we strike, we kill, we fight....

Doesn't mean there are are not reasons to fight. Doesn't mean we don't have enemies that imperil us. But in fear, we often include innocent people.

My fear is that it is happening again. It has happened over and over. A lot of times, it is the little guy that loses--life, liberty, possessions.

There's the mosque or community center several blocks from ground zero, where by the way, several Moslem (even American) victims fell.

Then there's the bookburner who plans to burn the Koran on Sept.11. A bookburner in particular is repugnant to me. That he chooses to burn religious books, of whatever faith, makes me want to vomit. He has the right. But he is evil.

I don't use that word lightly. Evil. I've seen it. I know it exists. It is horrible when directed towards children or neighbors or supposed friends. Evil. It is a total disruption of the peaceful,loving course of life. It is a total disregard of the well being of others.

Do we have to have someone to hate? Is it a human need, at least for some? Sept. 11 gave us no country to fight, and in my opinion, no religion. But there are terrorists. Extremists. Do we blame a whole religion for that? Some apparently do.
Tim McVeighy parroted Christian teachings. And he bombed Oklahoma City. Very successfully. And we don't condemn Christianity.

We don't know the Koran. How many of us have read the Bible? Damn few. Moslems, Christians, and Jews share two commandments: Love the Lord Your God with All Your Might, and Love Your Neighbors As Yourselves. Most of us in all three religions fail to live up to that.

That causes trouble.

Will there be protesters at the burning of the Koran? I hope so.

This is a better country than that. We can absorb such as these. We do not have to agree with them.

And I do not. I hate it with every fiber of my being, and agree with my country's constitution that however repugnant it is, he has the right. Goddamn him. That, of course, is out of my hands.