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A couple of times now, coworkers have commissioned some of my art. Here is a piece I drew for a coworker frustrated by her dog’s habit of pooping any time she leaves him alone in the house. I proposed (to be clear: in absolute jest) the installation of a colostomy bag and two cones of shame — one at each end — as a resolution to the problem. She asked for an illustration and I came up with this, which I will confess I drew somewhat hastily.

We have here a dog in shoes and with a cone at each end of his body. He is pointing with one foot like a hunting dog, and because he’s such a cool character, he’s got sunglasses mounted on his head cone. The spiked collar adds to his cool factor as well, I think. But he’s more than cool. Observe the Mona Lisa hanging on the wall behind him; this fellow has culture as well! The cat clock adds a touch of whimsy and marks the passing of time, which really sums up the artistic thesis here. Although I drew a happily erect tail, I might have done better to draw marks demonstrating its wagging motion, which would have reinforced this pup’s zest for life in spite of — or perhaps precisely because of — the ever-present awareness of the passage of time (carpe diem, etc.).

A careful observer may pick up on subtle hints of a lament for the bow-tie in this piece. Others may try to impose on it a meaning pertaining to firearms; art belongs to the interpreter as much as to the maker, of course, but I cannot (nay: will not) claim to have tried to imbue this piece with any subtext pertaining to firearms.

The tape measure is an inside joke. Enjoy!

Over the last year or two, we had started to be visited pretty frequently by a beautiful stray cat with large paws, snaggle teeth, an ear nicked from, we presumed, fighting, and thick brown fur. He visited so regularly last fall and winter that he wore two paths in our yard between our fence and our back deck, where we would feed him when we found him peering through the windows of our back door.

When the temperature dropped down well below freezing last winter, we took him in one night for fear that he’d die of exposure, and he spent the night snuggled up among our feet in bed, purring. The next day, he took a foul and aggressive dump on our son’s bed, and we knew that the arrangement couldn’t continue (also, one of our other cats hates him, and there was a persistent fear that they would fight). Still, we made what shelter we could for him on the deck and continued to feed him and let him in for brief supervised visits to warm up during the cold months.

Then he disappeared for a good long while. We had been on a mission to fatten him up a bit but feared that we had failed. Of course, we also hoped that perhaps someone else might have taken him in.

A few months ago, he showed up suddenly well groomed (he had begun to accumulate big mats in parts of his fur) and wearing a collar naming him “Chance.” He had been adopted after all! His visits were less frequent, but we felt at least as if he was being properly taken care of.

A couple of weeks ago, he showed up again, still wearing the collar and still reasonably well groomed (if clearly still largely an outdoor cat) but shockingly thin. Perhaps, we thought, he had shat his new owner’s bed as well and had been turned out. We loaded up on fatty food to try to help fatten him up again, as he would visit two or three times a day. We called the number on his new tag and learned, thankfully, that he was still being cared for and was being fed three or four times a day by the folk who had taken him to the vet. They suspected a thyroid problem and were looking into medication for him.

We’ve since learned that the thyroid problem has been confirmed, and he’s on medication. He still stops by a couple of times a day on a lot of days, and he eats ravenously. Hopefully now he’ll begin to put on a little weight (he weighs about half what he should). It’s really pitiful how you can feel each rib, feel his shoulder blades, and tell that he’s mincing about rather than slinking as a cat should. We had discussed with his new owners (to the extent that one can really own a wandering cat) the mercy of putting him down if the thyroid medicine didn’t work out (things like cancer had proven negative), but now we can have at least a brief hope that he might get better.

I’ve never really been a cat person, though I’ve now owned cats for some 16 years of my life. Still, I’ve grown to enjoy Robin’s (for I can’t make myself actually call him Chance) visits. The kids sure love seeing him around. I hope we can fatten him up indeed, and if improving his health means we see less of him because his voracious appetite diminishes, I’ll be glad to see him any time he does drop by our back door with his snaggle teeth and nicked ear.

Utah

I spent last week in Park City, Utah at the Canyons resort with coworkers. I had my first fly fishing experience, took a couple of short hikes, helped a few of my company’s support staff refine some technical skills, and spent more time talking to real live people than I do in probably an average month (which was both rewarding and overwhelming). The mountains of Utah are really gorgeous, as pictured below.

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A couple of weeks ago, I found a freshly molted cicada on our front porch. A few days later, we encountered the one pictured above emerging from the shell. The bug was so still that we figured it might actually have baked in the sun and died. I meant to check back the next day to learn about its fate, but I forgot, and now I suppose it’ll remain a mystery for the ages.

Last Monday, I happened to be in downtown Knoxville and ran across this neat scene. It’s apparently an annual occurrence in which folk from the community bring their sunflowers and weave them into a big sunflowerish circle in one of the little parks. It was really lovely. We used to have a few sunflowers growing off the corner of our back deck, and they tended to draw goldfinches into our yard, and they were lovely.

 

Cicada

While walking the kids to the bus stop this morning, I found this cicada clinging to our house. I’ve never found one freshly molted before. It’s been a while since I remember finding a live one, in fact. This took me back to my childhood, when I would find them quite frequently in my neighborhood, often on our driveway, where they would get turned over onto their backs and buzz their wings rapidly to try to flip back over. It’s a very distinctive sound that I hadn’t thought of in many years but that I still have a vivid sensory memory of. This guy’s still pretty green. I suppose that’s because he’s freshly molted; I remember them as being much darker.

I had heard Iggy’s song Fancy on the radio many times, but not until Weird Al’s hilarious parody did the association between the song and children’s book character Fancy Nancy come to mind. I here offer a rendering of the late-breaking juxtaposition for those who may not be familiar with one or the other of its constituents.

Fancy Nancy Do Dat, Dat's Who!

I had cause last night to consider the best way to pluralize the possessive form of “fish.” It’s tricky because “fish” is both the singular and the plural, and since our apostrophe rule for plurals is that if there’s an irregular plural form, you add the apostrophe-s as you would for the singular, the possessive for the singular and the plural forms both for “fish” would be “fish’s” (just as for “child” it’s “children’s”). Well that leaves room for ambiguity, doesn’t it? Consider this sentence:

The fish’s lips were beautiful.

Are we talking about one fish here or two (red fish? blue?)?

Of course, sometimes we see the plural form “fishes,” as when we’re talking about loaves and fishes. But it turns out that in current, non-idiomatic English usage, it’s not the preferred form. Usage expert Bryan A. Garner explains it all nicely in his Garner’s Modern American Usage, which is one of my favorite books (not merely one of my favorite reference books):

The Evanses wrote in 1957 that the plural fish is of recent vintage and opined that “the life expectancy of a new irregular plural, such as fish, is not very long.” But the OED cites fish as the plural form as long ago as 1300. Today, fish is the firmly established plural. Fishes appears rarely, at least outside ichthyology. When it does appear, it usually refers to more than one species.

Fish does take the regular -es ending to form the plural possessive — e.g.: “A Yozuri Crystal Minnow seems to be the fishes’ preference.” David Sikes, “Island Time,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 4 Aug. 2002, at B14. And the plural form fishes persists in idioms such as The Godfather‘s “Luca Brazi sleeps with the fishes,” as well as the biblical allusion “loaves and fishes.”

Quinoa Tabouli

I’ve made tabouli a few times, both from scratch and from a mix, but I’ve always used bulgur for the grain. This weekend, a coworker posted a photo of tabouli made with quinoa, and I thought I’d give it a try. I found this recipe and whipped up a batch yesterday with three varieties of local tomatoes (an orange, a red/oranged stripey one, and a green/purple one) to add some more color. This tabouli also has carrots in it, which I had never tried in tabouli but which is a good way to get a veggie that I don’t usually go out of my way to eat. Confronted with the options of regular old white quinoa, red quinoa, or a three-color mix, I opted, at my daughter’s urging, to get the mix. This stuff is delicious and promises to get even better over the next few days.

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We spent some time building with LEGO as a family this afternoon. LEGO? LEGOs? How you pluralize seems to depend on who you ask. A Danish fellow invented the blocks. Many years ago, I listened to a Danish or Swedish or Somethingish fellow insist that they were called LEGO (no s), so the pedant in me wants to go with that pronunciation. But whatever your pleasure.