Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snakes on the Plain(s)...

Hi all! Tippi your intrepid "Guest Editor" here. (Sorry, I really should be the head writer, but I got overruled.)

Here in the middle of Illinois, we had a lovely Christmas. Apparently, the human parents aren't used to dogs who REALLY like toys. Our respected elder dogs who've gone before us were used to milk jugs and the odd frisbee, but Quinn and I get the good stuff!

River just plans to kill them all.

So this Christmas, we hit the jackpot! We got a SNAKE! And it SQUEAKS! We got it from my hu-Mom's favorite pet shopping place: Fun Time Dog Shop. You can find them, she says, on the Internet --- which I'm not sure what that is, but here's where they are on that thing:

http://www.funtimedogshop.com/  And the neat thing about them is that they donate their profits to rescues like me and Quinn! Check them out. There's even a "snake fan page" because they're really popular. Lots of good, organic and tasty treats, too.

Here are some pictures. Dad got us some Kong toys, and I admit -- I'm smitten with the Chris-Moose. I tore a hole in his hat right off the bat. And Quinn tore off the fuzzy thing on the Kong Santa. The snowman's nose is still there, though.

I really AM staying!!!
 Here's Quinn - just waiting. Finally. She's a bundle of energy, and this is the longest I've seen her sit still. She really thinks it's HER snake, but it's MINE!

It's MY snake.
She has learned to take all the toys OUT of the basket, but she needs to learn to put them back in. The humans have a hard time walking around us AND our toys! Here's one of me. It's MY snake! But I can't choose between that one and the Chris-Moose.

I finally had to resort to napping with it. And the flat-rat beaver thingie that River tried to kill. That was one of my favorites, but River got them all. We call them "flat rats" because they're the toys without stuffing, but they do squeak. River doesn't like the squeakers, so she's trying to figure out the snake. Everyone says it's "indestructible" but I can see in River's eyes - she's figuring out a "destructible" method. One of these days, we'll come home and no more squeak.

Here's me. I'm just figuring out that if I whack it good and hard, it squeaks. And the tail rattles. And it's been THREE DAYS and it's still alive, and has its tongue, though Quinn likes to chew on it. I sometimes have to carry it around. But sometimes, that snotty little Quinn grabs it and we have a tug-o-war with the snake.

Snake Fight!!

I think this is almost (notice, I said almost) as fun as the dog park on a snowy day.

Speaking of which, I went to the vet on Monday. Those tasty treats I've been getting for obedience classes have gone right to my waist. Why does my hu-Mom call me "Wide Load" now?? We go to the dog park nearly every day, and the vet's not too worried, but he did say I need to "lighten up" and I think my humans are starving me. I try to look pathetic. We Elkhounds really have that down. Those Labs and spaniels think they can do the "sad, starving dog" look, but nobody does it like an elkhound!

All we get is fruit. At least they finally stopped trying to give me carrots. Quinn and River eat carrots. But I have standards.

One final picture: me with Chris-Moose. It's tough having all that stuff to play with. A girl needs her beauty sleep.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yippee Tippi!!

Hi everyone, Tippi here.

I’m a GRADUATE!!! We had a “mom & me” commencement weekend, because on SATURDAY, my mom got her MBA. And then TODAY, I got my certificate for Intermediate Obedience. I’m attaching some pictures.

It was fun. Myla had a bit of a rough day and I had to growl at her for a moment; her mom needs to work on her “big” voice…Because after that growl, *I* got my mom’s “big” voice and I straightened right up. What happened was that Bobbie, our teacher, let me “give a speech” and I got a whole cracker to myself. Well. There’s some serious scraps of treats on Bobbie’s cart because I was “hoovering” them up like crazy even when mom told me to “leave it.” So Bobbie gave me a piece of the bone. Myla wanted it. I didn’t want to share. My mom said I don’t have to share food, but I do have to be polite – not sure what that meant, but I lifted my lip and growled at Myla. She’s only 6 months old and needs to mind her elders.

Me and Shallot ready to graduate
Shallot’s owner asked if I could sit next to her for our class picture, because Myla was snapping at Shallot. Shallot and my mom played, and don’t you know – Shallot got her FACE into my mom’s treat bag and snagged a treat. Now, Myla does that, but she’s a GSD with a big old nose – Shallot’s tiny, but she did get the treat, and I think she was laughing! My mom kept laughing because I guess it looked like I was going to sit ON her! Shallot and I did a really, really long “stay” – almost 10 minutes, waiting for Myla to get it together. I finally just laid down because my butt was getting sore sitting on the concrete floor!

It was very crowded in the PetSmart. Lots of dogs getting pictures with Santa and again, I really WAS “just saying hi” to the cats. They weren’t interested. Not even a hiss or anything. Bummer.

So our “Advanced” class starts in January, and then I’m going to take my CGC. Then I’m going to work with mom for Therapy Dog training. I think I may have to wear a jacket that says, “Don’t bother me, please – I’m in class” because lots of people wanted to say hi. I had a bit of a problem, because I really wanted to say hi back. Somehow, I think it was the full moon – mom kept saying I wasn’t “focused.”

Me with my graduation hat
But we did all the stuff we had to do and I got my diploma. And as you can see, I wore the funny hat. My mom has one just like it, but *I* have a red tassel. I think that means I’m special.

I'm also going to put a picture of our whole class on here. I'm not sure what happened to Elphie, the golden retriever, but no matter. The 3 of us are going on to Advanced and Bobbie says that it'll be good for Shallot and Myla to be in the class. They need the work and they need to mature, Bobbie says. I guess that means I'm already mature.

Our Graduating Class
Bobbie would like Shallot and me to take the "Tricky Dog" class. My dad thinks Quinn would be better at that, but maybe we could take it together. I'm already "pre-loaded" with some tricks. I can sit up, shake and speak. I used to "high five" but if I can get treats doing a shake, I figure I can just keep doing that.

Your friend, Tippi

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm D-O-N-E!!!

Last night was The Night. We had our presentation and got our grades.

And I need to vent a little bit.

There were 3 groups presenting, and we were lucky (thank you, St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of students, and St. Bridgid of Ireland, the other one!) to be able to go first. As we were setting up, B, one of our group members, asked the prof how long we had, and the prof said, "Oh, about 40 minutes." Well...T in our group had asked that question the night of our "final" which was thinly disguised as a "mid-term" exam and we were told "about 1 hour." So that's what we planned. Since we had so few groups presenting, we figured, heck with it. We did our hour. That included a 20-minute video segment of W in our group, since W was absent due to a job interview -- and in this market, Lord knows you just go to the interview, and we make do with what we need to do to get our presentation off the ground.

Luckily, Hubby was able to videotape W and B was able to get that into the presentation. I'm tellin' ya - it was slick! It was funny, because we talked about what to wear, and it ended up we all did "office fancy" --- and T and I nearly wore the same top, which would've been funny, since we'd have looked like Tony Orlando and Dawn... But both of them, B and T, are too young to know who those people are. Ahhhhhhh, youth.

We did our presentation and it went well. There were no typos on our slides (of course), and the majority of our slides had a "hook" to them, if you were paying attention, that related to the subject being presented. We all looked at our audience and only briefly noted the slides on the screen behind us.

We were peer-graded, plus the instructor. The other two groups (here's where the rant comes in) did their presentations in less time than we did, though the second group did do about 45 minutes - they had one less person in their group, so that made sense.

But....(cover your ears, here's the rant - or at least Part A of the rant) they had typos on at least 50% of their slides. Both of the other groups. And several times, they read from the slides. With their bodies partially turned toward the screen.

OK, I'm picky. This is the last class in your MBA. You're an adult student. That presumes that at some time, somewhere, you've had to speak in public. It also presumes that somewhere along this track, you've had a communications class or two, and you've done small group work in other classes, and presented in front of at least a class-sized group. And you may have had to use a PowerPoint presentation. You need to spell-check them. Twice. At least. And please don't read to us. We can all read, I hope, by this time.

Part B of the rant: Today, I heard that one of the people in one of the other groups was "mad" at us, and put that complaint onto FaceBook because "we graded poorly."

Well, your presentation was poor, and if it was mine to do, there'd have been extra points taken off for "reading to the screen" and "typographical errors." Look, I know everyone's human and there are people who are petrified of public speaking, but by this time - again - you should either have had a chance to rehearse or you should be a little more adept at faking being able to do it well.

I talked to W in our group, and explained my objections. Met with agreement. It's not that I'm overly-exacting, though I am. It's that I expect a certain amount of professionalism at this level. We had a bloop in one of our video pieces; you just move on. Like when I flub a chord --- I've learned that people notice it less if you keep going. When you stop dead in your tracks, they kinda notice that the music isn't playing!

W says that it might be that the other groups "wanted to do the bare minimum." And if that's so, my grading of their presentations reflected that. If my work and the work of my team is "A" level, then I demean my efforts and those of team by giving a sub-par group an "A" grade.

Anyway, it's done. The book will be resubmitted (it's in proof stage right now) and will be ready for sale shortly. The instructor stopped dead at my desk and picked up our book, saying "Wow, this is gorgeous!" Yay!!!

So now, I can concentrate on some freelance gigs that I've got, I can knit and I have to find something else to do with my Tuesday nights. My mother says I'm "much more human" and not as cranky. She mentioned something about tossing raw meat to me during the class, but I told her today that like as not - I'd probably have whipped it back to her!!

Off to go see what the weather is doing. Supposed to be a winter storm watch, but so far, nothing but cold.

Friday, December 10, 2010

So I've Been a Little Busy...

IT'S ALMOST HERE!!! No, not Christmas (though it's causing me no little angst), but COMMENCEMENT.

I finished my final paper; the book is due on Monday from the publisher. Our presentation is Tuesday. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can smell the diploma cover. This weekend, I'm taking the cap and gown out of the box and hanging it up to "unwrinkle."

2010 Ornaments
But lest you think I've been "all work and no play," I can tell you what I've gotten done for Christmas. My baking is woefully behind, but here are the ornaments I made for the nieces and nephews.  If you want an up-close view, click on the picture - you should also be able to zoom in a bit.

As you can see, the list is getting a little smaller. I'm still not sure if I'll do ornaments for my nephew's coming baby. The issue isn't necessarily the painting. It's the getting of the ornaments! I had to buy out what I could get my hands on, and it looks like, if I do decide that, I ought to go buy more. Luckily, we know it's a boy, so I could technically pick up 18 of the same thing and just vary the paint schemes. I usually try to do that anyway. See the little angel with the star? That's my niece's - she's gotten an angel in some format since I've been painting them for her. I can't always do that, so the kids get what I can get my hands on.

And of course, there's the knitting. Today I learned a new skill: double-pointed needles, also known as DPNs. It's kind of like wrestling an octopus. And not only that, they were size 3.... like knitting with toothpicks considering that the baby afghan is on a set of size 8s and my "foofy" shawl (still on the needles, by the way) is on size 10s.

Still on DPNs

I was at the LYS today and I needed the respite. I've worked a truckload of hours this week including the homework stuff, and I just needed my "fiber" today. As I was rearranging my office closet, which has once again, despite my best efforts, become Christmas Central, I found the baby alpaca hat I started what? Two years ago? I thought it was lost, but hey, there it was! It was in my "Sisters of St. Benedict" bag. As the pattern progresses, you go from 16" circulars to DPNs when necessary. I figured I needed expert help. I kind of got the hang of it right away. This shot shows the hat still on the DPNs.  You can see that I'm nearing the point where I can just pull the yarn through and quit. When I was at the LYS, we were looking at buttons. It's a lovely yarn, but the hat is plain. I thought a button that I could put off-centered on my head when I wear it would be a nice touch - or maybe 3 buttons in a cluster would be nice. I can bring it in next week and see what looks good. As I progressed, though, I think  something went slightly awry in the pattern. It was supposed to be a flat-topped hat. Well.... It's not. As you can see by this picture, there's a little "nose" on the hat. No phallic jokes, please!! I really don't even like tassels, but I figured this puppy needed some help.

Finished hat matches my snow jacket

Here are the yarn and pattern specs: I bought both from Chix with Stix, located at http://www.chixwithstixknitting.com/ - you should check their website; it's awesome, and they have great specials. Anyway, my friend Sue hooked me up (ba-dum-dum) with them when we went on a little jaunt, so I figured I could get input into the stash. The store is in a lovely historic shopping district; the floors creak invitingly when you come in, and the staff are a friendly bunch. Too far away for me to make it my LYS, but hey - you never know when you'll want to take a drive to go play with yarn.

Well. I'm a "yarn snob" apparently! OK, I earned that.  So here are the details. The pattern is "Whimsical Hats" by Linda Niemeyer, out of Blue Sky Alpacas, http://www.blueskyalpacas.com/ - another great spot to explore on your web wanderings. The yarn? Come on, you can guess.  Blue Sky Alpaca, of course. Sport weight 100% baby alpaca. I was diving for the pale blue, wearing my blue & periwinkle jacket, when one of the Chix said, "Hey, that grape matches your coat." Which it did! In spite of the "grape" moniker, it is more periwinkle. Click on the picture to see it up close.

Baby alpaca, at least this stuff, is hand wash or dry clean only. Since the hat is for me, I'm fine with that. I can take care of my own stuff!! Each ball is about 110 yards, the hats take about 2 balls, and I used size 3 needles. The pattern is a cute one; you have the flat-topped hat that I somehow failed to make, and then 3 "lengths" of stocking cap. I can see myself making the middle-sized one for my Hubby.

 I can tell you that I think I screwed up the decreases. And I need to fiddle with knitting in the round more. I had a mental-pause and couldn't get my markers right. Also, I think I was a "tad" stressed, because as I progressed with the DPNs, the stitches got tighter. I'm not a tight knitter --- I think I was afraid I was going to drop something. As a hint, use bamboo needles your first time out. They "grip" a bit and you won't scare yourself silly.

I don't normally wear hats; I'm an earmuffs kind of gal. But THIS hat matches so well that I think I'll break tradition and use it often.

What's your favorite hat pattern? And how are your holiday plans coming?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Yes, I'm at it again. And this time, it's going snail-mail. E-mail is likely to be ignored. So is this, but heck -- I'll feel better.

Dear President Obama:

Please forgive the informality of this letter. I have something to say and since I’m sure the White House is buried in e-mails, I figured I would put fingers to keyboard and let you know what’s on my mind.

The clip art included in this letter shows something you need to use. It’s a “veto pen.” I suggest you find the drawer in your desk where that item is kept and get it out and inked up. And if you can’t find it, please ask the First Lady to get you one for Christmas. Or call me. I’ll give you one. I’d be happy to do so.

I have been a life-long Democrat. Actually, a tree-hugging, Birkenstock wearing liberal. I have voted in every election since I could vote. I voted for you.

And now I’m having a problem. My problem is you. I work at a university, with adult students, so I see the fallout from the economy: tuition benefits cut totally or greatly diminished; jobs lost mid-semester; reinventing yourself after a downsizing and paying your own way. These are adults who will be affected by what you do in the next year and a half, not counting how often you’ll be away campaigning.

Look, if you want to be a 1-term President, fine. But please leave our country in better shape than when you got hold of it. This is not the University of Chicago. This isn’t even “Chicago-style politics.” This is worse. This is a bunch of rabid rats that are teamed up to exterminate the black guy in the White House. Blunt, right? Well, that’s what it looks like from my seat. We Midwesterners are typically straight-to-the point people, so please hang on and listen to me.

You can’t negotiate with people who are determined to bring you down, and who apparently have the resources to make you look like the embodiment of evil. That’s what the Republicans are doing. They’re making your presidency as much of a joke in Washington DC as Blago’s stint as governor here in Illinois has become.

Conciliation doesn’t work with these people. I am reluctant, being an “elitist, over-educated liberal,” to call names, and I really don’t like the “these people” connotation, but when the shoe fits, you buy it. A total of 42 Republicans have signed up threatening to block everything you propose. And you’ve done what? Come on, Mr. President. I’ll give you your lines: “If you fail to give me what I want in the tax cut legislation, I will veto every bit of it until I get what I want.” Or better yet, “I will sign an Executive Order recasting this legislation in a form more conducive to the welfare of the majority of American citizens, not just the wealthiest 2%.”

Here’s another suggestion; you can use your own lines: Get the Democrats in line – it’s like Bo herding cats. Stand up and tell them to resolve their rectal-cranial inversion.

Look, it kills me to have to argue for you when I talk to people who are Democrats. There’s a wide swath of disillusion in the ranks of the Democrats. If you want to capture the “Yes, we can!” spirit of the election that swept you into the White House, you’re going to have to do more than make inspiring speeches. You are going to have to stand up to the Republicans, and some of your fellow Democrats. They don’t seem to have a problem standing up to you and rewriting the news to make it seem like you’re an idiot and they can manipulate you all they want.

Where are your advisors? And what do they say? Either way, if it’s not “You have to stand up for the people who voted you in,” then you need to reconsider who’s advising you. Unless, of course, as I said – you want to be a 1-term president. At this rate, a number of loyal Democrats I know would elect my half-blind 11-year old Siberian Husky as president rather than you. At least she barks.

You cannot cave in or compromise in the matter of tax cuts for the wealthy. You just can’t. You promised us. And that’s an easy promise to keep – much easier than the one you made (and summarily broke) to get us out of Afghanistan. You need to prove to us -- those of us who live in the rapidly dwindling middle class, who are for the most part employed for now, who may have kids who’ve moved back in because they can’t get, or lost, a job – that you are the man we elected to get the job done. Who keeps his promises to the people, not the cronies.

You don’t have to turn into a flaming ignorant jerk. But what you do need to do is get out of “collegial” and into “presidential.” I’ve been in higher education long enough to know that “governing by consensus” means that you spend lots of time in committee meetings and nothing really gets resolved. But you’re supposed to feel better about it because you’ve come to an agreement. Or stalemate, which is how I see it.

Let me put it in canine terms. We do a lot of rescue work and this past year, we added 2 dogs to our pack. When you have a pack of unruly animals, one of them has to be the alpha. In the dog part of our family, the half-blind husky is the alpha. If one of the other dogs misbehaves, she disciplines the rule-breaker and it's a swift and sure punishment, no questions asked. In the entirety of the pack (human and canine), I am the alpha. I didn’t get there by consensus. I got there because I know where I want my pack to go. I see where the future of my pack lies. And I know that I’m the alpha that they need to get them there. My kids will tell you that I don't operate by consensus; I operate in a framework of what needs to get done, who needs to do it, and when I need to see results. You can do this. I know you can.

Are you the alpha who can get us out of 8 years+ of mess? Or have we just elected a place-holder and is Rove’s dream of a permanent Republican majority going to come true? Contemplating that prospect gives me the cold shivers, because I don’t want my kids living in that world.