Saturday, January 28, 2006

Poems on the Job

There's nothing better than getting paid to read poems. Or to write blogs that include the reading and disseminating of poems. I mean, maybe the school doesn't realize it's paying me to do these things (I'm currently "working" at the hospital as a weekend radiology technician. My title today shall be henceforth: O Glorious Taker of Radiographs, O Illuminator of Fractures, Her Holiness of the X-Ray. Hmm...Now where can I find a nametag around here?), but I think it should be proud to witness the versatility of its students, who are not all nose-to-the-science-only-grindstone, but share art and wonder with the world. Share away, O Illuminatrice, I say to myself, share away!

The Onion
Wislawa Szymborska

the onion, now that's something else

its innards don't exist
nothing but pure onionhood
fills this devout onionist
oniony on the inside
onionesque it appears
it follows its own daimonion
without our human tears

our skin is just a coverup
for the land where none dare to go
an internal inferno
the anathema of anatomy
in an onion there's only onion
from its top to it's toe
onionymous monomania
unanimous omninudity

at peace, at peace
internally at rest
inside it, there's a smaller one
of undiminished worth
the second holds a third one
the third contains a fourth
a centripetal fugue
polypony compressed

nature's rotundest tummy
its greatest success story
the onion drapes itself in it's
own aureoles of glory
we hold veins, nerves, and fat
secretions' secret sections
not for us such idiotic
onionoid perfections

And the moral of this poem is: you can't radiograph an onion. How profound, indeed, how profound.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What I know about weasels

would take a long time to write down. I don't really have a long time, in fact, I'm supposed to go next door and have dinner in about an hour, and I should probably wash (if you're reading this, Dani, sorry, I probably didn't wash). But I was making chocolate chip cookies and thinking and I felt the need to write this down. (By the way, there's not a lot of things more comforting than chocolate chip cookies when you're having a nasty day. If you make them yourself, you can lick BOTH beaters and the bowl. And then have some cookie dough and remember the times you made cookie dough when your parents weren't home and you were finally old enough that the kitchen taboo had been lifted. And you made cookie dough and DIDN'T COOK ANY OF IT. Ahh, the surreptitious and careful cleaning of the mixing bowls and the measuring spoons. Our parents would never have believed us capable of such cleanliness, knowing how we chose to keep our bedrooms. I kept raw cookie dough under my bed. I think back and wonder how I escaped hideous food poisoning. Some things cannot be explained.)

Anyway, what I know about weasels is:

1. They aren't REALLY weasels. More like cousins. Same genus Mustela, but their own species.

2. This means, contrary to popular belief, they are not the same as their
black-footed friends living on the plains. They have actually been domesticated for thousands of years, if by domesticated you mean kept by humans for a purpose. Mostly they hunt out vermin, and were kept by roofers to flush and kill rats (in attics? in newly built houses? not exactly sure why the roofers got this job...)

3. This means (ATTENTION CALIFORNIA FISH AND WILDLIFE) they don't really exist as a wild population. But they are illegal in California. And truly, I don't think you could get all the factors right to make a colony of domestic ferrets a breeding colony in the wild (see the following points for supporting arguments). And anyway, California, what are you scared of: that they'll decimate the crops?

4. They like rough sex (this is a direct quote from a guy in my Vertebrate Zoology class when we had to give a presentation on a specific genus. We always suspected that socks and sandals heralded a disturbed mind. It appears in this instance we might have been right.) Anyway, females are induced ovulators, meaning they have a biological reflex that induces ovulation that is only initiated during sex; and I suppose, if Mr. Sandals did his homework; sex of the rather ungentle persuasion. So if you are a female ferret in heat, well, to be crass, you have to get it on to get out of heat. And being in heat for too long is actually very bad for you. (OK guys, this is for you: prolonged estrogen production is actually toxic. You always suspected it, didn't you?)

5. They are descended from the
European Polecat.

6. They are only sold in pet stores neutered and spayed. A good thing, too, since who wants to breed their female every time she's in heat?

7. However, even if one unspayed female got lost in the wilds of CA, what are the chances she'll find a ferrety-man in her area to help her out in time to establish a wild population?

8. I used to have to have licence to keep ferrets when I was living in NY State. However, I was disturbed that all I had to do was send the Fish and Wildlife people 10 bucks and I got a license to have, breed and sell ferrets, no questions asked.

9. I have two ferrets. For those of you who know me, this is an abrupt and probably poor way (sorry) to explain partially the reason for this post.

10. Ferrets are like kittens forever. Except more work. But curious and playful. And no scratching of the furniture. However, burrowing in the furniture is fair game.

11. I once wrote a cartoon about my ferrets in a
children's magazine.

12. I have had ferrets for 11 years (but not the same ones).

13. Ferrets can get the human flu virus. This doesn't kill them, but it's icky for them too.

14. Ferrets can live up to 9 or 10 years (maybe 11, if my friend Jen's ferret really was that old) but most don't, in my personal experience. If you hit 6 or 7, you're doing really well. However, every ferret I've ever owned has died with their very own tumor. Sometimes it's not the tumor that kills them, but if you have ferrets, you have tumors.

15. There's a lot of speculation about the reasons for this, since it seems to be related to American stock only. Apparently their European counterparts don't have as many problems. This is in part due to our limited breeding stock. If you go into a random pet store and check out their ferrets, they will most likely have two little blue tatoos in their ears. This doesn't mean they're rebellious. This means they come from
Marshall Farms, a large breeder of many animals. The thing about Marshall Farms is that half their animals are sold to reasearchers (see number 13). And researchers want genetic homogeneity. And the public isn't all that well informed about this fact, so no one goes into a pet store thinking, uh oh, genetic homogeneity. I sure didn't when I was 20.

16. Pet stores and Marshall Farms and the public like cuteness. But they like easy cuteness. So young ferrets (called kits) are sold young (6 to 8 weeks) already neutered, and often descented (more about that next). I'm not against neutering, believe me. But
new research has shown that, unlike dogs and cats, early neutering may be harmful to ferrets. Their adrenal glands seem to be wired a bit differently and early neutering may contribute to the development of adrenal tumors later on.

17. People are working on strategies to prevent this. And you can buy a from a local breeder, if you hunt for one.

18. In my experience, descenting is crap. Truth is, ferrets smell. The scent glands they remove don't prevent this. If they empty those scent glands, believe me, you'll know. I've smelled those scent glands only once, when two of my ferrets were fighting. And they didn't smell like the normal ferret musk. It was STANK.

19. The best way to prevent overwhelming ferret stink is laundry laundry. And clean litter boxes. Baths last 3 days, tops.

20. You either hate the smell, or you don't care. Actually, it seems to me you either like ferrets or you don't. These things go together.

21. Ferrets can be litter box trained. But unlike cats, their proficiency needs constant help, and it seems to wane in direct proportion to the size of the room and the number of corners. They like to poop in corners, usually the ones that are the hardest to put litter pans in.

22. Landlords aren't really keen on this, nor the smell. But if you're a careful owner, the house WILL NOT smell like ferret when you leave. TAKE THAT (you shall remain nameless, but even you admitted the truth of this statement when I moved out).

23. My ferret Oliver was named both for his atonal compositions on the piano (after
Oliver Messiaen, the avant-guarde composer) and because I couldn't resist the pun: "My ferret wants to be oliver the house." (tee hee).

24. Oliver is henceforth known as the "Solid Gold" weasel, because he has had part of his liver removed, and had his spleen out, and not at the same time. This was rather expensive.

25. I have had 7 ferrets total. Between them we have had:
3 adrenal tumors
2 cases of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
uncountable numbers of insulinomas (tumors in the pancreas)
5 mast cell tumors (not a big problem for ferrets, thankfully, just itchy)
1 hair ball the size of a finger
2 biliary cystadenomas (benign liver tumor)
1 splenic mass (benign)

a case of raging lymphoma (tumor of the immune system)
This sucks. But ferrets don't.

26. Ferrets are the best ever when they are happy. They jump around and make little chuckling noises. If they are scared they will puff out their tails.

27. When they jump around they open their mouths. This does not mean they want to bite you. This is called the open-mouth-play-face. I don't know who came up with this, but I really like the phrase. The thing is, they do know the difference between a play bite and a real bite. If you have a really young ferret you might have to teach them this.

28. My ferrets love tubes. You can buy french drain at Home Depot. It's cheap. If you can find the clear kind of tubing (not at Home Depot), they run through it and you can watch them wag their tails.

29. I made both my ferrets' cages. Much cheaper than buying them, but you need a feed store.

30. All my ferrets except the first one came from ferret-only shelters.

31. Oliver is the smartest, and therefore the naughtiest. He pushes books off of bookshelves, anything off the desk, climbs the chair onto the desk, etc. He is especially naughty if you have been ignoring him, a fact which proves his intelligence.

32. Sebastian was abandoned by his owner. When I first got him he was anxious and ran away if you walked towards him in a fast or aggressive manner. I'm not all that into psychologizing about my pets, but the day we put him in the car to move across the country he didn't sleep like the others, and I swear he thought he was going back to the shelter.

33. Sebastian has very particular ideas about where his toys go, If you move them, he will move them back.

34. After college, I wanted a dog but couldn't have one. So my friends and I decided that 5 ferrets taped together equalled a dog. I've never made it to 5 ferrets at once, though. One of my friends had 7.

35. My friend Skye wanted me to call my ferret Roo, "Plop." This was a great joke when he developed diarrhea, and I got to tease her; saying she must have caused it.

36. I called Roo: Chicken, Bug, Roo-bug, and Fatty fat fat. He was the fattest weasel. If he had been human he would have been a big jock, friendly and not that bright, but the kind of guy who was everybody's friend.

37. This is the part that sucks: Roo died today. I have been crying a lot. He was good bug. I don't really ever speculate on the afterlife, but I hope if there is one he'll be galumphing over when I get there. Him and all the other weasels. You guys are the best stinky weasels a gal could have ever had.