Cast of Characters:

Enkidu (AKA Slim)
Beowolf (AKA Wolfie)
Blaze (AKA Blaze)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

German assignments should be given in English, I guess

I gave my students surveys to get their input on the class. Here's a quote from one:

What would you like to see done differently?

"I often get confused about homework we are expected to do and the due date. It would be helpful if the assignments were given in English as well."

I don't know...I think that assignments given in German by the 2nd month of class should be OK, considering that it's essentially the same thing every week. And heaven forbid that the student email me with questions about the assignments...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The squeaky-toy...slowly but surely...

Well, Chaos has long been a convert to the cult of the squeaky-toy. Fuzzball, however, has consistently ignored it...until today. Today, she is starting to realize that running to the squeaky-toy means getting a treat....she just takes the long way around to get there. Hopefully she'll figure it out soon and come running as quickly as Chaos. He's to the point of coming from just about anywhere in the apartment. She's more easily distracted/diverted.

Those poor conservative Catholics (this is not against mainstream Catholics)...

Opus Dei wants changes to The Da Vinci Code

I read in the above linked article that Opus Dei wants the movie to be "changed so that “there aren't references that would hurt Catholics.”"

The following argument isn't very coherant, but I hope it communicates how I feel about this in some sort of meaningful way.

Give me a break! Since when has anyone ever cared about hurting anyone else??? I see Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses portrayed badly all the time. Has anyone looked at the portrayal of the 'stupid Black Southern Baptist' lately? How about Shamanism? Should I even mention popular media's portrayal of Islam?

High ups in the Catholic Church have been given rather sinister portrayals for quite some time, however, with items such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and collaboration with Hitler, I think the Church might deserve some of that. I've seen a number of works of fiction portraying Opus Dei and other groups in the Church as to say this... viciously zealous in the service of the Church interests, even if these interests don't serve individuals or the world at large. I don't recall this kind of offensive on other such films and books.

Any time that you have a highly verticalized organization, be it a government, corporation or a church, it is open to corruption and evil. People are going to talk about it. Sorry!

I think that Opus Dei should just grin and bear it, unless they choose to actually demonstrate that the portrayal is completely false.

Dad's still in the hospital

As some of you know, my dad has been in the hospital since Monday. He went in with an intestinal infection and out of control diabetes. They've gotten his blood sugar under control and have found an inflammation in the duodenum. They say that it should be treatable with medicine and diet. Dad is still looking for an operation, but hopefully it won't come to that.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rabbit down!

At approximately 11:55 this morning, a rabbit was found with suspicious saliva spots on him. A suspicious character was seen leaving the scene of the crime...

Because once is never enough...

I occasionally clean with vinegar. Anyway, I had left a dish of white vinegar on the floor. Chaos went over and sniffed at it. He didn't seem too sure about it, but then he decided to flip it over, so he drug it across the floor and finally managed to up-end it. Of course the little dear poured vinegar all over himself. That was pretty funny. Funnier, though, was when he sniffed at the vinegar on the floor, and then tipped the dish again, getting more vinegar on himself! I was laughing so hard, that I decided to call home to tell the folks about it. While I was on the phone with my brother, Ratboy did it again...and seemed surprised at the less than pleasant result!

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time!

In related news, Ratboy hasn't been chewing on the tape at the bottom of the oven since I put chili sauce on it. (The vinegar was good as long as it was wet, but then it would evaporate, and he'd be back to chewing on the tape. Cayanne pepper sauce coats!)

Sugar doesn't make kids hyper

Well, 20/20 just told me that it isn't the sugar that makes kids hyper, but rather the situations that they're in. For example, if they're playing with their friends, they get high on life from stimulation from the other children.

Here's the abstract from the article that they cited:

M. L. Wolraich; D. B. Wilson; J. W. White
The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis
JAMA, Nov 1995; 274: 1617 - 1621.

The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis
M. L. Wolraich, D. B. Wilson and J. W. White Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Child-Development Center, Nashville, TN 37232-3573, USA.

OBJECTIVE--To examine the effects of sugar on the behavior or cognition of children by using meta-analytic techniques on reported studies.

DATA SOURCES--Studies were identified through a literature search of the MEDLINE and PsychINFO databases and the authors' files using sugar, sucrose, and attention deficit disorder as the search terms.

STUDY SELECTION--Studies were required to (1) intervene by having the subjects consume a known quantity of sugar, (2) use a placebo (artificial sweetener) condition (3) blind the subjects, parents, and research staff to the conditions; and (4) report statistics that could be used to compute the dependent measures effect sizes.

DATA EXTRACTION--Variables included publication year, study setting, subject type and number, gender, age, sugar and placebo type and dose, prior dietary condition, measurement construct, means and SDs for the sugar and placebo conditions, and direction of effect. DATA

SYNTHESIS--Sixteen reports met the inclusion criteria for a total of 23 within-subject design studies. The weighted mean effect size and related statistics for each of the 14 measurement constructs revealed that although the range for these means was from -0.14 for direct observations and up to +0.30 for academic tests, the 95% confidence interval for all 14 mean effect sizes included 0.

CONCLUSION--The meta-analytic synthesis of the studies to date found that sugar does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children. The strong belief of parents may be due to expectancy and common association. However, a small effect of sugar or effects on subsets of children cannot be ruled out.

Fuzzies playing

I got some pictures of the ferrets wrestling. I also have some pictures of Rat Boy tearing through my stuffed animales.

This is Chaos meeting Raccy, my stuffed raccoon that I've had since it was bigger than I was.

This is the stuffed elephant that Chaos has pulled off of the shelf behind the couch and left on the couch.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ratboy loves tape.

I had to tape off the front of the oven by the floor, because Fuzzball ran underneath there the very first day that I had her here. Since then I've been fighting with Chaos. He loves chewing on tape. Today I finally had an idea that I think will help solve the problem. I rubbed vinegar on the tape. He doesn't much care for vinegar. Hopefully, he'll leave it alone now. Of course, I'll have to re-apply the vinegar anytime that he decides that it would be fun to chew on the tape again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Week 5 of the semester...

So, I'm teaching German 101 at LMRU (Large Midwestern Research University). Since we are technically limited to 3000 photocopies per semester, I send most of my students' homework assignments per Email. Last week, at the end of week 4, I still had students asking "What assignment? Is that what was in that Email?" Get a clue! Yes. That's what that email with the subject line of "German101: Homework" was all about!


I guess I can't complain too much. Most of my students are getting As and no one is failing.

I did have to lay down the law on late assignments, though. Usually it doesn't much matter for me whether I get an assignment turned in one day or the next, but when I get assignments from the previous week or even two weeks ago, that's kinda annoying. It's even worse if it's something that I actually have to read and correct (as opposed to listening lab stuff that I just mark done or not done). There's nothing like the feeling of getting to the bottom of a stack of 15-20 student essays and being done, fertig, terminada, klaar, fini...and then getting another one turned in a day or two later. So, I've told the students that any late work will only receive half credit.

Note: If I assign verb drills to be done before the grammar test, then maybe it would be beneficial to do the verb drills before the grammar test. Practice making perfect and all. It really burns me to see students with blank sheets...and then they wonder why their grades suffer.

That's a good thing...if they choose to not do the work, their grade will usually suffer anyway on test day. Then I don't have to feel bad about it.

I like teaching, but it's annoying as a teacher to have slacker students. On the other hand, I tend to be a slacker student, so I can see both perspectives.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

new ferret stuff

I read in my ferret training book that a squeaky toy was the key for getting a ferret to come running from anywhere anytime. So, yesterday James (my neighbor from across the hall) and I took the little dears to the pet store to pick out a squeaky toy, per the book's advice, to make sure that they would respond to the particular squeaker. Well, Chaos responded to EVERYTHING. Fuzzball, ignored everything. So, if I need Chaos, all I have to do is squeak the squeaky toy. Fuzzball keeps playing in her plastic bag.

While at the store, I found this lovely 1970s colored cat bed, that looked ferret friendly. I let the kids try it out and they seemed to like it, so I took it home. Fuzzball likes it. Chaos still prefers the carrier.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

ferret toys

I must say, hands down, the favorite ferret toy for both Fuzzball and Chaos has got to be the plastic grocery bag.

The first thing that Fuzzball does when she gets out of the cage (A) is to make the rounds:

Run over to the front door (B),

run down the hallway by the bathroom (C),

run into the kitchen by the fridge (D),

run into the dining area under the table (E),

and run over into the blue shawl behind the chair in the corner (F). Sometimes there is slight variation. Sometimes she doesn't run over to the front door. Sometimes she doesn't stop behind the chair to sleep, but rather plays in the rest of the room first, and then goes behind the chair to sleep. Regardless, she stops to terrorize every plastic bag along the way by snuggling into it, rubbing against it, wallowing in it, and whatever else you can imagine doing with a plastic bag, short of eating and intercourse (I knew someone out there would go there, so I thought I'd preempt it).

Chaos also loves playing in bags, though he doesn't have as concrete a route established as Fuzzball does. He just kinda ambles around doing whatever whenever. It's quite common to see him playing in/on a plastic bag or taking a nap in one.

Both ferrets like the perforated drainage pipe that I got them, with a vinyl dryer hose extension. Yes, much happiness in ferret land.

The ball of string is also a strong favorite, especially with Chaos, who pushes it around and carries it in with his teeth bit hard into it.

Fortunately, neither one is a cord-biter, so I don't have to try to hide the power cords for the TV and computer!

I've never seen either of them play with the stuffed ferret toys that I got from the shelter lady, though they love plowing through my stuffed animals. Unfortunately, Chaos really really likes chewing the tages and eyes/noses off of them.

Today, for only the first or second time, I saw Chaos play with the little plastic cat balls with the jinglebell inside. I was just laying on the couch and I heard this really wild bell ringing, that was just way too wild for one ferret harness bell alone. I looked over and there was Chaos just going after that little plastic ball, as vigorously as any cat! I've never seen Fuzzball play with them, though, which surprises me, since they were her toys from before I got her.

Here's a shot of Fuzzball caught with a plastic bag handle around her, after she tunneled through it!

Don't forget to tip your waiter

I went out with a friend of mine yesterday. She's a wonderful person, but she does something that really bothers me. She doesn't really believe in tipping. She told me that it is not possible to undertip.

We were at Olive Garden and my meal came to about $8 ($8.44 w tax), and hers came to $12 ($12.66 w tax) (total of $20 + $1.11 tax = $21.11). Of course, they bring the bill to you with everyone's meal on the same ticket. I had cash, and decided to just throw in a $10 bill, because I was rather happy with the service, and it was easier to than figuring out a more exact tip.

(The waiter was friendly, but not patronizing. He was also attentive, but yet discrete. Really I couldn't complain about his service in any way.)

Well, she decided to pay with a credit card, so she picked up the $10 and put her card in the little folder. I thought that the tip should be $3.50, which I came to by multiplying the sales tax (5.5%) times three, and then a bit more to round it off. Well, she only gave him $3.00 in tip. When I asked her why, she said that it was because she didn't tip on the sales tax, so I guess she figured that $3 being 15% of $20 was good enough.

I was upset, because my generous tip had just turned into a bare minimum.

I tossed an extra $.50 in the folder before leaving. When I got back to the car, I did the math and found that she had indeed undertipped, because even 15% of $12 would be $1.80. (If she'd given her minimum fair share of $1.80, the total tip would have been $3.36.) When I confronted her about it, she insisted on paying me back for the $.50 that I'd left on the table, which I didn't want from her. I really think she missed the point.

She's not from America, so maybe her world view in the restaurant atmosphere is just different enough for this whole tipping thing not to fit. Here, when you to go a sit-down restaurant, you know that you pay for two things. One price, that of the food, is set. The other, the service, is variable, but should fall between 15% and 20% of the total. I don't know what the official word is on whether you should include the sales tax in your calculations or not. At any rate, the idea, at least as I understand it, is that you would have to pay more for the food if the restaurant paid the waiter for the service. So, it's your own responsibility to be fair in paying the service in exchange for not having had to pay more to the restaurant.

With some people, I think rough estimates are fine, but I think in the future when I go out to eat with her, I will just insist on an exact calculation of each person's check, and then have each person pay separately. That way, I can figure out my own tip, and not have it be affected by anyone else's lack of tipping.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rat Boy in flight!

Chaos still wants that package of toilet paper on top of the chair. I put some placemats and stuff on the chair to protect the upholstery. Fortunately, they are quite slippery. Rat Boy can't catch his claws into it. He keeps slipping both on the linoleum floor and also down from the chair. He's realized that he can't climb up there, so he's started jumping for it. Anyway, this picture catches Rat Boy in mid-flight…I'm not sure if he's going up or falling down.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

happy ferret home

For those of you who haven't had a chance to see the setup at my place, here are some pictures.

I took the door off of the front closet and put the cage in their. That way, they are protected from direct sunlight and the cage isn't in the way of anything else.

They have a litterbox on just about every floor, two hammocks, a little house and a sleep sack. The food and drink are on the top floor on the right.

All of the floor sections are close enough together that they can either climb directly from one to the other, or get there by means of a little ramp (the ramps are on the left side of the cage, which doesn't show up on this picture).

I constructed a little bridge/stairway thing for them to be able to get into the cage from the floor when they are running around and would rather be in their little beds. Chaos often takes advantage of this. He also likes curling up in his little carrier.

They often sleep together. Many is the time that I have found them curled up together in their little bed in the cage or perhaps behind the chair inside a shawl.

Fuzzball's surgery

I've got an appointment set up for Fuzzball's surgery. The appointment is for Tuesday, March 14th at 8:30am. That'll mean leaving here no later than 7am to get there on time.

They said that Fuzzball shouldn't have food in the morning, but that her regular dose of Prednisone (for the low blood-sugar) is OK.

Thanks again to everyone who is making this surgery financially possible!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fuzzball still ain't fuzzy, but there's been progress.

Fuzzball, despite being far from fuzzy, has started growing in some fur. There is one round spot of it at the implant injection site (compare small "time of injection" shot with larger "now" shot) and there is also a dark stripe across her shoulder blades. Hopefully she will continue to grow in a beautiful coat. At the moment, it just looks more like a 5 o'clock shadow. She's an ugly little rat, but I like her :)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Chaos, come here, boy!

I've been training Chaos to come when called using clicker training. Basically, you get the animal to associate the clicker with good things, like food, and then whenever he does what he's supposed to do, you click for him and give him a treat. You then slowly start eliminating the treat and just clicking for him, because the click has become a convincing reward...of course you still throw in a treat now and then.

It seems to be working, at least at short distances. I haven't tried calling him when he's all the way across the apartment and really busy terrorizing a plastic bag yet.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Prednisone and FerreTone go great together!

Fuzzball doesn't like Prednisone. Fuzzball likes FerreTone. Fortunately, Prednisone and FerreTone go well together! I mixed 2 parts Prednisone with one part FerreTone. I put a bit of it on a spoon and she happily licks it up. :)