Archive for October, 2011

The Tales of Zeus, Chapter 2: It’s my Birthday and I’ll Bark if I Want to!

Greetings and salutations to the human internet community. Zeus the magnificent yellow guidedog here, back again by popular demand to make a very special report. On Sunday, October 23, I officially made my rite of passage into canine adulthood. That’s right! I am officially 2 years-old, and a grownup dog! Truth be told, though, I don’t feel much different, and the other day one of Mom’s friends said I still haven’t grown into my paws yet. Apparently this means I’m small for my age, which, to a newly adult male trying to assert his authority in a human universe, is slightly problematic.

Mom and I had a party last weekend, which Mom said was for her, because apparently humans have birthdays too. There was a lot of human food, and that drink they call alcohol. Humans drink the alcohol stuff because they say it makes them funny. Personally, I don’t know why they go to so much trouble; they’re already funny enough if you ask me. They should really take a good look at themselves walking around on their hind legs some time—if they don’t get a good laugh out of it, then obviously they need an emergency sense of humor transplant.

Anywags, I hear that when you humans come of age, it’s a big deal because you can legally purchase that alcoholic mess that, quite frankly, makes you look a bit daft. Really. I’d never conduct myself like that in public. Mom told me some funny stories about when she could first legally buy alcohol, but I’m not allowed to repeat them.

I figured since I came of age, Mom and her friends would make a big deal out of it, but I must say I feel rather cheated; I don’t really see upgrading from puppy to adult kibble formula as an acceptable marker of my rite of passage into adult masculinity. Mom could’ve at least stuck a candle in my food dish or something. Geez.

The only real thing of importance that happened was when Mom sat me down and told me that now that I’m 2 and a grownup dog, I have to start acting like an adult, because I’m the man of the house. Mom used to have a boyfriend, but I don’t know what happened to that, so now she needs a real man to take care of her. Mom says she can take care of herself, but she’s terrible at it, really. Just don’t tell her I said that. So: Mom says that being grownup means I’m not allowed to jump on people, or look cute, or put things in my mouth that don’t resemble food. I’m really starting to think that being a grownup isn’t all beer and kibble.

Mom says it’s time to go—we have to go to one of her classes she teaches at night, and I love those because it means I get to stay up way past my bedtime. Before I go though, I need to ask one favor: apparently next Monday is this day you humans call Halloween; I don’t know much about it, but Mom keeps talking about how she wants to dress me up in something called a costume. How utterly absurd! What is wrong with my shiny yellow coat, I ask you? Besides, grownup dogs don’t participate in such puppyish behavior. Please intercede with Mom on my behalf and beg her not to subject me to this torture!

Bye for now though; licks and wags to all my human friends!



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Channeling My Inner Bridget Jones: My Birthday part 2

As promised in my last post, I am continuing to channel my inner Bridget Jones, and what follows is (roughly) accurate, give or take a few drinks. Names have been concealed where possible to protect the guilty from further incrimination.

Thursday, October 20. 6:30 A.M: I have to clean my entire house by tomorrow, besides working, continuing to edit my current dissertation chapter, and possibly making yet another attempt at world domination. Somehow, I will accomplish everything, and live to tell the story.

6:45 A.M: Apparently the world will end tomorrow (again), according to Harold Camping. Well, isn’t this convenient. How many people can say Jesus gatecrashed their birthday party? Of course, since my life is nothing if not a continuous reminder that God gave control of the universe over to Murphy’s law eons ago, the world would naturally choose to end during my first attempt in about ten years to celebrate my birthday with people outside my family who legitimately care that I inhabit the planet. I predict the moment of total obliteration at approximately the point at which I’m blowing out my candles and wishing that Mark Darcy would make a spectacular entrance, singing a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in which he actually knows my name.

11:25 A.M: I’m trying to decide whether I should clean my house, or torch the place, collect the insurance, and build a replica of Pemberley…on the beach…complete with stunning grounds, lake, and a live-in Darcy.

2:30 P.M: My house is cleaned. Maybe I’ll just convert this place into a mosque and ask everyone to remove their shoes at the entrance.

11:00 P.M: I should attempt going to bed, but can’t sleep. Have I got enough sauce for the meatballs? Will there be enough food? (Translation: to an Italian, “enough food” means that each guest can partake of at least 3 helpings of each dish, and there will still be left-overs).

1:00 A.M: Can’t sleep. I’m having visions of blue meatballs dancing in my head. This is all going to go horribly wrong. These meatballs are going to be the most incredible shit. Have I got any eggs in the house? If any of the food actually is blue, I might die of humiliation (or laughter). Unfortunately, K is probably the only guest who would spot the humor in the situation; K remains the only one of my local friends who appreciates the hilarity that is Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Friday, October 21. 6:30 A.M: The fact that I’m concentrating on remembering to defrost the meatballs before I’ve started the coffee says something about my fervent desire to avoid culinary disaster.

12:28 P.M: 6 and a half hours till my grown-up birthday party; this is either going to be the bash to end all bashes, or no one will show up, and I’ll wind up sitting alone in my apartment with a crockpot full of meatballs, watching Pride and Prejudice.

3:45 P.M: In a little over three hours, people will be descending upon me; what made me even think I could throw a party? I’m going to crawl into a dark hole with a bottle of wine and stay there until everyone goes away.

6:30 PM: mercifully, everything is done, with half an hour to spare. I’m going to stop compulsively rearranging the bread dish and pass the time constructively by watching an episode of Will and Grace.

7:00 P.M: R arrives, closely followed by K; K bears a birthday cake containing a cryptic message that she will have to read to me, R with “another surprise dessert”. I’m slightly alarmed, and have officially put K on poison control watch.

Several (possibly 2, perhaps 3) mimosas later– I have officially lost track of the hours and am measuring the passage of time in alcohol units: I have officially been crowned the birthday princess—I have the crown to prove it. A.A has decked me out in an “It’s my Birthday” hat and a string of pink beads that, not through any planned color coordination, happen to match the stripes on my shirt. Hurrah for an arbitrary moment of appearing to have a fashion sense.

K ceremoniously unveils what we have been referring to all week as “the cake of epic awesomeness”; it is, in K’s exact words, “totally a Mark Darcy cake”. She has written the following, in blue cookie-icing: “Blue is good, and so are you. Just as you are. Happy Birthday.” The message is bordered by decorative blue squiggles, meant to represent string. K later informs me: I actually went and looked up the scene to make sure I got it right.
Me: Wow! You actually did research for my cake. Now that’s cool.

My friends then proceed to read their birthday cards to me aloud, and K presents me with a gift of a copy of the latest film adaptation of /Jane Eyre/, because “Every girl needs a copy of Jane Eyre”

Later: R: Are you ready to try the other surprise dessert?
Me (hesitating): I don’t know.
R hands me a plate laden with something that, when I dig into it with my fork, feels lumpy and moist, but otherwise unidentifiable; I am instructed to taste and identify the substance.
Me: What’s the surprise? Is it Mark Darcy?
R: Yes, I’ve minced up Mark Darcy, and you’re eating him.
Me: Noooo! (Turning to K): I thought you were on poison control watch!
K: It looks safe. I promise. It doesn’t look anything like human flesh.

I take a fork-full of the as-yet unidentified dessert and, still hesitating, taste it.
Me: Yummy, and it doesn’t taste anything like Mark Darcy.
R: How do you know? How do you know what Mark Darcy tastes like?
Me: Because Mark Darcy doesn’t taste like pumpkin. (It has taken me several bites, but I have now identified the surprise dessert as pumpkin flan, which is perfectly delicious).

Me: This really is very good. Allow me to tell you how much I ardently admire and love your pumpkin flan.

Still later: A.M arrives and is forgiven for his tardiness because he comes bearing cake. Chatter and alcohol continue to flow steadily; topics of conversation range from our respective jobs to the reasons why it might be unsafe to place a blind person behind the wheel of a car. R makes a badly-timed joke while K is midway through swallowing a mouthful of wine, and she only narrowly avoids choking. We envision the headlines in the local paper the following day charging R with having caused K’s demise, and I lament the tragedy of having to write the article about Sherlock Holmes K and I are working on entirely by myself were she to randomly succumb to sudden death.

11:30 P.M: all guests have left the building, with the exception of K; after returning the apartment to relative order, we spend another half-hour or so giggling over an NPR “Fresh Air” interview of Colin Firth, inserting commentary when appropriate.

K (referring to Terry Gross’ description of Mark Darcy’s attire at the beginning of Bridget Jones’ Diary as “a silly sweater with a ridiculous moose head on it”): A silly sweater with a ridiculous moose head on it? Its! A! Reindeer! Jumper!
WE determined that Terry Gross is an abysmally bad interviewer, and Colin Firth is heroically attempting (not altogether with success) to keep an “You can’t see this, listeners, but I’m rolling my eyes” note out of his voice.
K (about CF’s description of the BBC’s humorous attempt to create underwear for the lake scene in Pride and Prejudice that resembled white silk sailor’s pants): God! That’s just screaming for someone to write fan-fiction about Mark Darcy in pirate pants.
Me: Don’t give me any ideas.

12:05 A.M: K has gone. I cannot sleep; I feel enveloped in large, invisible, snuggy-like warmth; I have the most amazing friends, there’s Bridget Jones birthday cake in my fridge, and the world did not in fact end according to the Camping calculation. I am at peace with the world and all its inhabitants.

This post brought to you by the color blue.

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How Many Ways can you Say Happy Birthday? (part 1)

Wednesday, October 19, 6:15 A.M: was awakened not by my alarm clock, but by a text-message alert, which I assumed to be from my mother—the only person who can text me at that hour and live to tell about it. The message turned out to be from R, inquiring whether I’d read a book about something-or-other to do with Christianity. Not quite the birthday greeting I was looking for, but given my semi-awake state, he might as well have asked me if my chewing gum loses its flavor on the bed-post overnight, or: on a scale of 1 to 10, rate your feelings about cheese.

6:30 A.M: coffee. Where’s coffee.

6:45 A.M: coffee has been obtained, and I’m comfortably settled in front of my computer, sifting through the first batch of birthday messages via Facebook. I’ll never cease to be amused at the illusion of popularity Facebook creates on such occasions; nothing says Happy Birthday like a wall post from the guy who spent your entire acquaintance from first to eighth grade sticking gum in your hair and shouting “Watch out for that tree!” every time you took a step just to laugh when you flinched. (I realize that it really would have been unfair not to expect my classmates to take full advantage of the opportunity of free entertainment offered by going to school with a blind girl. At a distance of over twenty years, I’ve come to terms with it, even if their amusement came at my expense).

7:00 A.M: ring ring, phone. Me: grumbling something that sounds nothing like, but never the less is probably hello.
R: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear crazy lady. Happy Birthday to you.
Me: you really shouldn’t sing to me before the coffee has kicked in. That was…painful.
R: I gave you fair warning. I texted you before to see if you’d be awake. (Aha, therein lies the explanation for the previous text about the literary merits of C.S. Lewes).
R: so how does it feel to be 29?
Me: I don’t know, I’ll tell you next year. (If it weren’t for the fact that I never hang up on my friends, I would have been well within my rights to do so; adding to a woman’s age, even in jest, is a criminal offense punishable by death).
Me: I don’t want to go to work.
R: Is this how your mornings start every day?
Me: Yes, actually, with minor variations.
R: what minor variations?
Me: (pausing to think)…I wear different pajamas.

10:00 A.M: My dissertation has officially sucked all of the excitement out of my day; it’s looking about as exciting as an episode of The Whale Wars.

2:00 P.M: Class; given that my students have no idea it’s my birthday, I really shouldn’t expect them to behave any differently. Apparently wishing they’d follow directions is like asking Santa Clause for world peace.

4:00 P.M: getting off the bus, my phone rings; it’s dad, and rather than telling him I’ll call him back, I decide, like the moron I am, to take the call. Talking on a cellphone while working a guidedog is the blind equivalent of texting while driving.

4:15 P.M: phone again. Me: Hello?
R: Hi.
Me: Are you at my house?
R: Yeah.
Me: Um, OK. Hang on.
R: Where are you?
Me: I don’t know.
There follows an explanation of how I managed to get lost in my own neighborhood and a subsequent one-man search party consisting of R, who is quite experienced at locating me when I manage to misplace myself.

4:30 P.M: I have been found, and R and I are off to obtain supplies for my epically awesome, first-ever, grownup birthday party, about which I’m behaving like a 5 year-old on Christmas morning. R has spent the entire evening announcing to everyone we encounter that “It’s her birthday. She’s not 29.”

The day has largely been a series of nothing intermingled with occasional entertainment brought to me by my friends, in honor of whom I proudly present the top 3 Birthday wishes I received, courtesy of Facebook:
From A: “May Colin Firth, covered in chocolate, appear before you and grant you three wishes.”

This led another friend to inquire what I would wish for. My answer: a driver’s license, a silver Bentley, and world peace…just to prove that I’m not entirely selfish.

From T: “May the day be full of Firth and grading free!”

From K: “I tried to get you Colin for your birthday, but he’s busy being hot with Benedict Cumberbatch.” I think I might have spotted a trend in the above messages.

And so ends the first day of this trip around the sun. Up next: part 2: the adult birthday bash of epic awesomeness. Watch this space!

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Livin’ La Vida Libra

Saturday Morning, 10:00 A.M: my coffee cup was almost empty, a pile of laundry and myriad of chores cried for my attention, and I sat glued to the computer, flicking through page after page of the Yankee Candle website after coming to the decision with my mother that a pair of jar candles would be my birthday gift this year. Given the disproportionate cost of Yankee candles to the size of my bank account, I wasn’t complaining, but the problem arose when I was forced to make a decision; I needed to choose two fragrances and call mom back so she could place the order. Twelve pages later, my mouth was watering, my nose was twitching, and I’d managed to narrow my choices down to four. It wasn’t marriage, I reminded myself; this olfactory fling would probably last several months, given the rate at which I burn candles, but my tiny one-bedroom apartment that I share only with my dog is my sacred space—the only thing I can truly call my own—and creating peace and serenity in that sacred space depends pretty heavily on fragrance. Blueberry muffin? The aroma would make me hungry; chocolate truffle? I’ve smelled it in the Yankee candle store and am convinced that I inhaled about 1000000000000 calories (just a rough estimate). “Gosh,” I thought as I reached the bottom of the twelfth and final page of choices. “You really are a Libra.”

I typically don’t place much faith in astrology; occasionally my horoscope will be disturbingly accurate, like the day it predicted a mishap at work, and the strap of one of my new sandals snapped during the five-block walk between the bus stop and the building I teach in. the stars are never in alignment on the day my horoscope predicts a pleasant surprise; there are never any nice gentlemen standing in front of me in the queue at Starbucks offering to buy me a latte, and I usually wind up sharing the elevator with the guy who seems to have declared a legal separation from soap and water instead of the guy who smells of pine-scented aftershave and bears an uncanny resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Libra is represented by a set of scales; Libras are supposedly known for their love of balance,, harmony, and organization. My life is about as balanced as chocolate cake and cookie dough ice-cream for breakfast. As for organization, I follow the principles of basic chemistry—specifically the theory that all matter favors randomness. The Libra is, by definition, an unbalanced paradox who craves precisely what she lacks; I’m a perfectionist, for instance, true to my Libran nature, but said perfectionism tends to clash with my life’s general spiral in the direction of chaos. Libras like to balance the scales; we just aren’t the best at distributing weight sometimes. Make one wrong decision, one false move, and the entire universe tips over. (We’re also drama queens).

Sometimes I feel like my life is one of those toothpick models of the Empire State building; remove just one piece, and you’re left with a pile of splinters. Still, as I move closer to the day when I celebrate having taken one more trip around the sun without crashing my life, I have to admit balance and harmony sound like a pretty sweet mantra to live by, especially when I feel like 30 is staring me so close in the face that I’d like to ask it to step back and give me some breathing room. (I’m trying to fight the sudden surge of panic and the desire to check my birth certificate to make sure that I do, in fact, have two years left to prepare to face that. Given my abysmally bad math, a miscalculation is not outside the bounds of possibility).

So: I’m making a personal resolution for this next trip around the sun—to bring the balance to my life that I so obviously need. So here’s to the year of livin’ la vida Libra!

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Don’t Look Now, but I Think it Just Moved: Welcome to the Wax Museum.

A surprising (and somewhat shocking) report reached my Twitter feed last night, courtesy of a friend: Colin Firth Set for Madam Tussauds. Perhaps I shouldn’t be terribly surprised—short of being knighted, he’s received every conceivable honor possible to bestow on man this year, and I’m not about to suggest that any of said honors are not well-deserved. Anyone who can claim even a casual acquaintance with me is familiar with my interest in and admiration for Colin Firth and his work; so why, you cry, the disturbed reaction? Simple: some people are afraid of spiders. Some people are afraid of clowns. Some people are afraid of cheese. I’m afraid of waxworks. For some reason, I’ve always found them creepy. Incidentally, I never liked playing with dolls much as a little girl; I never liked the texture of the plastic, and I insisted—much to my mother’s bafflement—that they had a funny smell.

Receiving this news moments before bed, I tried to calm my mind to avoid being haunted by nightmares of a waxy Colin come to life in the manner of a possessed Pinocchio. “It’s only a wax work,” I told myself, “and one that hasn’t even been completed yet.”. (Great, now the waxy Colin would be headless, or worse, have a partially severed, nearly-headless-Nick kind of issue going on with his neck. Distinctly unpleasant). In one last bid to make this image less psychologically disturbing, I texted a dear friend:

Me: Colin is going to be cast in wax in Madam Tussauds. I think I might be sick.
Friend: Haha.
Me: No, you don’t get it. I’m afraid of waxworks the way some people are afraid of clowns.
Friend: Haha, you’re silly. Go to sleep.
(Boys. Isn’t this the part in the story where you’re supposed to rush to defend me against the evil, possessed, headless waxwork?)
Me: But what if he comes in the middle of the night and attacks me?
Friend: Scream. (Not helpful.) I should probably explain that the last time I had enough usable vision to actually see a wax figurine, I was 11 years-old, and my family was on a summer vacation in St. Augustine that included a trip to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, featuring wax representations of a Siamese twin cow and a 1,064 pound man, among other exhibits of interest. This probably explains, at least in part, my waxyfirthophobia.

Well, this morning dawned, and I awoke after a dreamless sleep unpopulated by possessed wax effigies of film actors. And because my friends are my friends, several just had to point out that this recent rendition of Colinesque art means that he will now be rendered tactilely accessible to the blind. This is carrying things too far; there’s a reason why they’ve got those “Look but don’t touch” signs up at museums. My sincerest apologies to Mr. Firth: in addition to the rest of the attention you’ve attracted this year, you have now become the subject of blind jokes. (Consider yourself flattered).

Admittedly, the sighted friend who shared this information with me assured me that the clay mold of the head is actually quite a good likeness. If I’m never going to actually see it, I can at least rest assured that it’s going to be an accurate representation.

It really is something of an honor though, I suppose—if a creepy one—and I suspect Mr. Firth is accepting it with his usual humor and grace. I wonder what it would feel like to see oneself represented in wax. I can just imagine him passing through the exhibit with his kids:
“Is that you, Dad?”
“What? No, of course it isn’t; someone’s just gone and put my head on for a laugh.”

In any case, as my mom put it, “As long as they get the dimples right, I guess it’s OK.”

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Spell-Checkers: the Dust-Buster of Word-Processors

“The computer is only as smart as its user.”
“A computer is a machine that makes very fast, very accurate mistakes.”

We’re all familiar with these expressions, and those of us who’ve chosen the honored profession of teaching are reminded of them every time we sit down to grade a stack of student essays. It’s hardly surprising that the time-saving concept of the spell-checker built into word-processors would be appealing to the IPhone generation, nor is it surprising that in the age of texting, tweeting, and otherwise communicating in as few words as possible, that students have forgotten how to spell, let alone the value of proofreading. As someone growing increasingly accustomed to writing in academic jargon and battling daily with a word-processor that doesn’t recognize terms like heteronormative and liberatory, I’m constantly reminded that my spell-checker is only one useful tool that aids me in writing—my brain is the other.

I traditionally teach my students what I’ve come to call the “rule of 3”; that is, proofread any piece of writing at least 3 times. However, it’s become glaringly obvious over the years that to many, if not all of my students, running the spell-checker once constitutes the entirety of best practices in proofreading. The spell-checker, I insist, is the dust-buster of word processors—effective for tidying up your document, but you need something a bit more powerful to make it pristine and presentable. The “rule of 3” as I call it is more time-consuming than actually difficult.

1. Read through the document, spotting and correcting errors manually where you find them.
2. Run the spell-checker to pick up anything you might have missed, checking each change before you accept it to make sure that it is, in fact, the word or phrase you want to use. There’s a reason why the spell-checker offers changes as “suggestions”.
3. Read through the document a second time; when you do this, if you’re reading carefully, you will almost invariably make a few minor adjustments, especially if the spell-checker has insistently removed a comma where there clearly ought to be one, or protested a lack of subject-verb agreement where subject and verb are in fact co-existing quite peacefully.
4. Since you’ve made changes to your document, it’s best to run the dust-buster once more to check for stray crumbs.
5. Now that you’ve done that, read it through once more—preferably out loud—to listen to the flow of your sentences. If you have difficulty reading fluidly, you more than likely need to restructure any awkwardly-worded sentences.

Of course, it’s flat-out naivety on my part to expect students who consider themselves to have gone the extra mile if they run the spell-checker once to do it twice, to say nothing of manually proofreading their documents. More often than not, the results of such carelessness make me want to grind my teeth to splinters, but occasionally I’ll find a gem that offers me a moment of free entertainment in an otherwise tedious task. Allow me to share with you a few of my favorites:

1. When spelling out the number 6, students frequently insert an ‘e’ where they ought to insert an ‘I’. I admit, I’m hardly surprised to find such a slip in so many college students’ papers; calling Dr. Freud. Nevertheless, this is a supreme example of an instance where more than a cursory spell-check is necessary, since the spell-checker is most likely going to pass over the recognized standard word without considering the fact that it hardly fits within the context of the sentence. (Spell-checker minus 1).
2. “It’s a viscous cycle”; I typically run across this one in student essays dealing with the environment or issues of environmental sustainability. For instance: When we waste the earth’s resources, we create a viscous cycle that will continue with future generations. Hmm, a thick, gloopy, glutinous cycle; highly descriptive, I admit, but I think the expression you’re looking for is “vicious cycle”. (Spell-checker minus 2, in case you’re still keeping score).
3. In an essay about Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel /Dracula/, a student wrote that Jonathan Harker escaped Castle Dracula and was cared for by a religious covenant. Really? I thought he escaped to a convent. I wasn’t aware that he fled into the desert and struck a deal with the children of Israel to protect him against the evil King Vampire. (Spell-checker minus 3).
4. Also found in a student essay on Dracula: apparently, Dracula was written by Bram Stroker, not Bram Stoker, or so one of my students wrote. The blame here rests squarely on the shoulders of the student, as I’m fairly certain that the spell-checker would have sucked up that particular crumb (mine just did, anyway). I must confess I found this particular typo inappropriately amusing, and couldn’t help chuckling to myself when, upon reading the mistake, I recalled that Bram Stoker died of tertiary syphilis. I allowed my mind to dwell on the delicious irony for several moments before I continued reading.
5. I’ve saved this one for last, as it’s my favorite. Several years ago a student of mine wrote an essay about building accessibility for people who use wheelchairs, and said essay contained the word “handicapability”. (I seriously considered sending this one in to the Reader’s Digest). If this were an actual word in standard English, the definition would probably look something like this: Handicapability: noun- the ability to be handicapped or to have a handicap. Well, now that I know I have the ability to be blind—that it’s all about exercising my potential—that really informs my understanding of my handicap. Really; let’s just take a moment to admire how this word effectively renders itself meaningless—the ability to be disabled.

As much as these errors amuse me in the short-term, I ultimately find them unsettling, especially today after reading this article in the Gainesville Sun about Governor Rick Scott’s not-so-brilliant plan to cut Liberal Arts programs (which typically house English departments and university writing programs)from the Florida state university system. What a brilliant plan, Governor Scott; let me know how that works out. What place, I wonder, does Governor Scott think sound literacy skills have in the well-rounded education, and where, I wonder, does he think students acquire such skills?
So, Mr. Governor, go ahead with this cut to the humanities, but don’t come crying to me when your finely-educated college graduates can’t succeed in the professional arena because they lack even the most rudimentary of literacy skills to write a proper business letter.

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The Tales of Zeus: the Magnificent Yellow Guidedog

Greetings, all you non-furry humans of the interwebs; Zeus the magnificent yellow guidedog here, wagging my way into the blogosphere by popular demand. My human mom told me I could play around on this computer contraption while she’s busy working on her what’s-it-called…diss-diss-diss-er-t-tation. (Such a big word for a little puppy like me!). I’ve only been living with mom and going to school with her for five months, and I’ve already learned so many big words like: theoretical, literary, adaptation, and episteme-episto-epist-I can’t say that one. (Mom just came in: it’s epistemology). I don’t know what they mean, but between you and me, I don’t think mom does either.

Anywags, Mom and I have been a team for five months, and she’s probably told you all about the bad things I do like eating her shoes and trying to make friends with squirrels, but I bet she doesn’t ever talk about all the awesome tricks I can do (You humans are all such ingrates. Like taking one shoe is going to counterbalance the car I saved you from last week, Mom. OK, so it was more than one shoe, but that *was* a big car! Credit where credit is due, please).

I’m luckier than your average pup, because I get to travel everywhere mom does and be her eyes; I don’t know what’s wrong with hers, but I’m sure glad she needs MINE! It’s awful to be a puppy out of work in this unstable economy. It’s my job to help her find things—like stairways, doors, and street-crossings, and to keep her safe. I think I do a fairly decent job, but mom says I’m still learning and I’ll get better when I’m older. Hmph. I’ll have you know I’m almost 2 years-old—that makes me almost a grownup dog! And allow me to remind you about that car; just to put things into perspective, I weigh 61 pounds; that car weighs, like, a million. I put my little Labrador self between mom and that car, because that’s my job, and I do it well, so there.

Mom takes me to this place called THE UNIVERSITY, which is where her “work” is; she trains other humans—imagine that (but she calls it teaching. Whatever, same thing to me). How can you humans think you’re good at training dogs when you’ve got to train your own kind too? I don’t really like this teaching gig; I’ve got to lie down at the front of the room and just look like a yellow rug, and mom’s students—who I guess are like human puppies—aren’t allowed to pet me or talk to me, because I can’t be distracted when I have my harness on. I like wearing my harness because it tells people that I’m a special smart dog, and I get to leave my paw prints where other dogs don’t, but I have a really difficult time with the don’t-pet-me part. Sometimes people walk buy and pet me without saying anything to mom or even asking if it’s OK to pet me; then Mom thinks it’s my fault, because she can’t see that the human who can’t read the “don’t pet me” sign started it, and I get corrected. The injustice of it makes me want to growl! So a word to all the humans, if you see me or another guidedog on the street and think we’re cute (which none of us would disagree with) the kindest thing you can do is smile and keep walking. For one thing, it helps me to do my job and keep mom safe; for another, it keeps me from getting in trouble. I hate it when Mom yells at me, so please don’t give her a reason to do it. Also: if you leave me alone, or stop to tell mom what a smart dog I am without petting me, she’ll give me lots of praise and pets anyway, and Mom’s pets are better than anyone’s, because she’s my mom, and I love her like crazy!

The other thing I don’t like about mom’s teaching is that her puppies bring food, and they don’t share it with me because I’m not allowed to eat when I’m working. Geez, ever heard of a business lunch, Mom?

Speaking of food, I really must protest to this business of only eating twice a day. I’m a growing boy, you know. I think that in a gesture of acknowledgement to the English lineage of my breeding, we ought at least to have afternoon tea; I could really fancy a cucumber sandwich about now.

That reminds me: when Mom is working, she talks a lot about this English person…What’s his name…Colin something-or-other…oh right, Colin Firth. (I just looked him up on Wikipedia). She says he’s done a lot of really great work in literary adaptation (there’s another one of those big words) and she really loves teaching about him and would love for us to meet him some time and chat about his work. Personally I think he’d be more interested in me than in Mom, because I’m way cuter and smarter than she is. This Colin Firth person must be important, because Mom says if we ever got to meet him, she’d let him pet me if he wanted, EVEN THOUGH I’D BE “WORKING”, because he’s Colin Firth. Personally, unless this Colin Firth walks around with sausages (or cucumber SANDWICHES) in his pockets he’s willing to share, I’m not too fussed about the petting, really.

Anywags, Mom says it’s time for me to wash my paws and get ready to eat; I’m starving!

Bye for now then.

Licks and wags to all my human friends

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