Archive for February, 2009

For a long time, I’d been curious about learning American Sign Language; I enjoy learning spoken languages, and something like ASL represented a different dimension to that.

However, unlike living in Italy, working in France and Holland, visiting Japan and taking Spanish in high school, I had no real impetus to get the process into gear. As such, I’d learn a sign here or there, and most likely forget it again. So most of the signs I actually retained were the ones used for communicating with incompetent drivers with whom one is forced to share the road.

Along came L – a seemingly very bright miniature human. Learning to talk is a fairly slow process for the vast majority of miniature humans. However, he is in possession of increasingly fine motor skills. We learned that most babies can sign words before they can say them. And so there was a reason for the whole family to learn to sign together.

A friend of ours recommended the Baby Signing Time series of DVDs, and we picked up the first two. L now watches one of these each evening, and has amassed a healthy sign vocabulary. We just ordered the third and fourth DVDs, and I hope there will eventually be more in the series. Each DVD is a series of catchy songs written so as to teach a set of signs, and since we have been watching them so often, it is fortunate that the songs are sufficiently interesting and well-written as to not drive us crazy!

L’s most frequent signs are to ask for milk or food – very often ‘more food’ – but he also signs ‘all done’, ‘drink’, ‘sleep’, ‘please’, ‘hat’, ‘wash hands’, ‘brush teeth’, variously ‘signing’ or ‘time’ (when he wants to watch the DVDs) and a few others. He will often combine them in a logical fashion (the other night, when he was tired, he signed ‘please sleep’ at me). He has also signed ‘daddy’, ‘sorry’, ‘where’, ‘ouch’ and a few others, but only once, so it’s hard to say whether those were more than just coincidental… but he’s definitely able to express way more than he would be with speech alone by this point.

I’m immensely proud of my little boy, and I cannot recommend these DVDs highly enough. Hopefully I can keep up with him as he learns more and more signs!

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… and already I have this unaccountable urge to lick my own genitalia.

OK, perhaps that was already there.

And that joke was a desperate and perhaps a little pathetic attempt to make light of something which is very not.

During my birthday party on Saturday, I had my hand mauled by one of our cats, whom I shall refer to here as S.

hand injuries

S has never been a very sociable cat; he has dealt with us just fine, but 9 out of 10 times, other people in his space have caused him to get upset, growling and hissing at them. This is particularly true of kids, probably because they are more apt to run around, thereby shaking the floor and unsettling him.

That said, growling and hissing was typically the extent of it, and we would usually find ways to remove him from the action so that he didn’t have to deal with the crowds.

Such was the case Saturday, once the house began to fill up. Noticing the typical behavior pattern, I picked S up and proceeded to take him upstairs. We have generally opted to put him in the attic with a litter box and a water dish, which allows him space to move around and gives him the necessary essentials.

Before I could get him to the attic stairs, he freaked out and jumped out of my arms, leading to a growling, hissing (and quite honestly terrifying) faceoff. I couldn’t let him go back downstairs lest he hurt anyone – especially one of the kids – and he wouldn’t go to the attic. I attempted to coax him with some catnip and a soothing tone of voice, but as soon as I was within a foot of him, we were back to the faceoff.

Ultimately, I attempted to wrap him in a blanket in order to take him up to the attic, a technique which has served well in the past to stop his vet from getting scratched when he has become very upset by shots and the like. Unfortunately, the blanket in question was too thick for me to hold him securely, and as such the attack came.

I managed, eventually, to get him to the attic stairs and close the door behind him, and from there – once I was cleaned up – D and I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of our lives. After an incident like this, we couldn’t keep him in the house lest he hurt our 14-month-old son. We couldn’t put him up for adoption, because an antisocial 8-year-old cat would simply not find a new home. There was also the fact that we would probably not be able to get him out of the attic again without further attacks. And so we had to call Animal Control.

Those who know me well have seen me trap spiders and release them back outside rather than killing them. I get upset when I so much as look at a mouse trap. And I knew when I made the call that it would mean the worst for S.

I did my best to enjoy the rest of the party, and our wonderful friends did their absolute best to make sure of it, but there will always be a dark cloud hanging over my 29th birthday.

After the party, as we were getting ready for bed, D pointed out that my hand was very swollen. So I drove to the emergency room (driving sucked, but one of us had to stay with L, and I couldn’t do that and be getting seen by a doc) where I was given a week-long course of strong antibiotics in order to make damn sure that there is no lingering infection and that I don’t have to lose a major tendon.

Perhaps one would think that I have a right to be resentful of S for my injury, but I’m not. I still love him, and would lose the hand for good if it meant I could let him know that I’m sorry. Right now, I still feel terrible knowing that he’s in a cage at the state health department so that he can be tested for any diseases he might have given me.

I hope that he wends his fuzzy way to kitty heaven, or gets reincarnated as something cool.

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It’s a loaded word – these days, it’s usually loaded with poison and lobbed from a safe distance (e.g. Limbaugh’s microphone or Hannity’s desk), but is it really so bad to be liberal?

What does it even mean? Literally, it means that you allow stuff to happen. As such, it has become the favored antonym to ‘conservative’, which literally means that you want to keep things the way they are or were.

No wonder many ‘liberals’ prefer the term ‘progressive’. Where you are is meaningless if you can’t move once you’re there. A conservative society, generally speaking, stagnates while the rest of the world moves along without it.

By definition, conservatism implies resistance to change. It’s a good thing we have Hannity around to be a standard-bearer for the conservatives, because I wouldn’t want to be the one having to do it.

Where would America be without change? Well, for one, they’d still be a British colony. Damn those progressives trying to cram their agenda down everybody’s throats. And throwing all the tea in the harbor was downright unpatriotic of them.

We’d still have slavery and segregation. Crazy liberals with their ‘equality’. Next thing you know, they’ll actually vote for one of the coloreds to become president or something.

We wouldn’t have any of that science crap. Any good conservative knows that God has all of the answers, all of the time, and that science is worthless. Not like these lunatics on the other side.

We’d still only allow men to have most of the rights. Those leftist nutbars seem to think a woman is good for more than cooking, cleaning and spreading her legs on demand. Only for her husband, of course.

My goodness, this archetypal conservative utopia is beginning to sound an awful lot like certain Arab countries which we insist are invincibly backward.

Liberals gave us the First Amendment, without which Fox News and talk radio’s torrent of bigotry and kakistocracy wouldn’t be allowed. Without liberals, Ann Coulter would have been told to shut up and get back in the kitchen long before she ever made the airwaves. Sometimes I wonder whether that was a mistake after all.

But no. The First Amendment, like much of the Constitution, is a glorious thing, and the vile vitriol spewed forth by the aforementioned blowhards and their cohorts is still a small price to pay for it.

Liberals gave us schools, hospitals and libraries. Liberals gave us the way to put a man on the moon. Liberals gave us the Internet. It’s because we’re progressive. We welcome change, and volunteer to blaze a trail while the conservatives cower at the back.

Conservatives want to take us back to where we were a couple of decades ago. Nevertheless, society will move forward, and in a couple of decades’ time the next generation of conservatives will be trying to bring us back to where we are today. They’re consistently a generation behind the rest of us, but societies evolve and change regardless of their members, so there will be change. They’re just the weight dragging the nation down rather than embracing the inevitable and offering to help lead – and shape – the way of things to come.

Conservatism is not inherently a bad thing, though; on the 233-year journey that is the history of America, we’ve gotten some things right. There are aspects of our lives that are worth keeping. Let’s not lose sight of that, but can we PLEASE find a more constructive form of dialogue than the hate-laden rantings of Bill O’Reilly?

Also, for anyone still reading – surely, by any logical view of his undertakings, Jesus was a liberal. I’m open to discussion on this one, but it seems to me that anyone who could cause that much upheaval and upset to the status quo – and especially someone who repeatedly defied the established powers in favor of the masses – could only be a progressive rather than a conservative.

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No, not the Super Bowl. Props to the Steelers for what sounds like an epic victory, but I didn’t even know they were in it until a few days ago, because American “football” just doesn’t do it for me.

However, I have been eagerly awaiting the news out of Punxsutawney.

So, bring on Phil!

Yep, that’s a shadow. Six more weeks of winter.

Fucking groundhog.

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*This is for a very broad definition of ‘nearly’ and a purely theoretical definition of ‘eaten’, but the alligator part is all true.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we briefly escaped the ice and snow of Rochester for a week in Fort Myers, Florida. Although more than 3 hours’ drive from Disney World, the place still has a vaguely unreal aura, at least for those of us unaccustomed to bright blue skies and 81° weather in late January.


See the difference?

Getting to see family again was great – and L got to meet his new cousin for the first time!

Also, there was an alligator.


There will be more to write about this later.

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