Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EAC, or How to Rip CDs

Although many of my friends resolutely refuse to read the blog, despite the fact that it is written for them, and despite the fact that John is one of them and this post is prompted by his interest in this topic, I shall proceed.
Many people, of course, already know how to "rip" their CDs so as to have the music on computer or mp3 player. One can do this with a variety of programs.
I myself had no interest in such things until I was preparing to go to Prague and realized that it would be a good thing to take some familiar music along. It's true that Prague is a great place to buy reasonably priced, good-quality classical CDs, but I like a lot of variety in my music, so I bought an iPod and some portable speakers and set about learning how to get the music I already had onto the iPod.
I read a couple of articles at C-Net about it all, and ripped a few CDs, but immediately discovered that the sound quality for certain albums was terrible. Bryan Ferry, for example, lost all distinctive quality to his voice and became a mere male vocalist. Certain instruments on a Pentangle album sounded tinny even though the voices were all right. This just seemed noxious. It was bad enough that some LPs I had had to replace with CDs some years ago had no richness in the CD format.
I began searching around for "mp3" and "audiophile," which initially brought up only two categories of hits: those that claimed that only a few so-called golden-eared audiophiles were unsatisfied by 128kbps lossy mp3 compression, and those that claimed that no audiophile would be caught dead listening to mp3 music, or at least not without $900 headphones.
I thought both these attitudes were pretty insulting.
Eventually, however, I found that people who want the best of both worlds use a free program called EAC (Exact Audio Copy). While EAC is not the most user-friendly program in the world (it was written by a Geman grad student), it is not all that hard to use at a basic sort of level. Basically, you download the program and also a codec called (for reasons unknown to me) LAME which handles the mp3 compression aspect. (The EAC site suggests places where you can download LAME, which exists in various versions.)
Once you have installed EAC, the program leads you through a configuration wizard that lets you show it where to find the LAME codec, directs you to input an email address so that you can use (which you will want to do) and so forth. Initially EAC lets you set up your mp3 to a couple of different choices, but if you want the highest quality (largest-file) mp3 possible, you go back later and set it to 320kbps. There are some web sites that advise how to specify this. In the meantime, EAC will still be making far better mp3 files than you would get at the standard tin-ear 128kbps rate.
What next? Well, stick your CD into the CD drive, wait till EAC recognizes that it's there, and then hit Alt-G (while online) to see if has it in their database. Usually it will. Using means you don't have to type in all the descriptions.
Then, you click on the MP3 button to the left. You don't want to be running much of anything else while EAC works, as this could introduce errors. But, once it finishes the process, you have mp3 files that are worth listening to.
I won't go into all the additional steps involve in digitizing LPs. I'll just say that if you tend to swap your computer's CD player out for something else like a second hard drive, you will have to reboot before EAC recognizes the CD player again. But hardly anyone but me is likely to run into this problem.

Ads Against Land Mines

The marketing blog Read Between the Ps brings to our attention an interesting New Zealand ad campaign against land mines. Check it out! This blog always, as I've noted before, has an eye for fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes extremely thought-provoking ads and marketing from around the world.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unexpected Mural

Blogger can certainly be annoying at times, like when it devours an entire post instead of posting it. That's why I usually don't write them directly in Blogger.
However, this one is/was short, so it's easily reconstructed. Cesar and I were out looking for dinner in the Mission when we ran across this mural.
While the Mission District is known for its murals, most of them are more hispanic in theme or emphasize historical figures or groups of children from many ethnic groups. Consequently, this one surprised and intrigued us.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

BibliOdyssey: Young Japanese 100

I have on occasion mentioned BibliOdyssey (see link to the main page in my set of sidebar links). I'm now thrilled to note that PK, who compiles the gorgeous thing, has seen fit to mention my own more modest effort as worth visiting. To see some fun images from Japanese children's books and discover PK's lists of neat sites (the latter is toward the bottom), go to BibliOdyssey: Young Japanese 100.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Orion the English Spot

Kristen inquires, not without reason, whether we traded Willow for Orion.
Well, I was quite taken with Willow. My heart really went out to her (I can't really say why she was previously thought to be male, so don't ask). I felt sure that what she needed most was a good home with an affectionate companion. However, her basic reaction to Ms. Spots was to sit rather tensely in the corner. Ms. Spots was, I thought, quite sensitive about this on their second encounter, and spent much of the time sitting in a bread-loaf posture near but not touching Willow. This seemed kind but not conducive to quick bonding. The staffer there thought there was not much chemistry.
We tried a lively young guy next. To my surprise, he was primarily interested in checking out the litter box and climbing the sides of the enclosure, although whenever he did go near Ms. Spots, he was friendly and wanted to lick her forehead. She didn't seem that interested in him, though. I couldn't tell if it was nap time or what. She had, after all, gone into the carrier of her own free will even though that meant going to the HRS in the car to see Willow (I tell her what's in store).
After awhile, I asked whether there were any other rabbits Ms. Spots might like. The response was that we should try Orion.
I had seen him briefly before (he was pretty new at the HRS) when spending time with Willow.
Ms. Spots immediately woke up from her nap-time lethargy. While she didn't go right over and put her head near his, as she has with several other rabbits, the two immediately began flirting. She was very skittish around him, but in an obviously positive way. Neither rabbit had biting or fighting in mind. We enjoyed watching them race around; they were like a couple of sparks, or magnets that are constantly attracting and repelling. We agreed I should bring Ms. Spots for a second visit.
I had a very good feeling about this match. Ms. Spots and I were excited all the way home.
The next day I came back from the library in time for a late lunch before taking her over, but I never got to have lunch because she bounced into the carrier and stayed there when I asked if she was ready to go over and visit Orion.
They were more subdued this time, but still had a positive energy to their behavior. After awhile, Ms. Spots did get a bit testy, but I had decided they were getting along well enough to take Orion home, so we put her in her carrier to calm down while I did the paperwork. She made no objection when we added Orion awhile later.
I was determined to make this bonding process as painless as possible for everyone, and my technique worked! Basically, I drove them around in the car for about an hour and a half (half an hour locally and sitting in the car while I loaded it at the house, an hour getting into San Francisco), and then installed them in an X-pen in the middle of Cesar's living room with two litter boxes, plenty of hay, and a bowl of water.
By the time they clambered out of that carrier, they were not interested in having any fights; they wanted to see where on earth I had brought them. Ms. Spots was in one of her "I must nap in order to recover from my ordeal" moods and spent most of the first hour lying in the carrier watching Orion explore. By the time John brought me a burrito, Orion had devoted at least twenty uninterrupted minutes to licking his new doe's face. While she was still a bit skittish, both rabbits were obviously madly in love.
John's reaction to my pronouncement that these rabbits were in love was to remark that he's never had animals and isn't a romantic. Since he does like animals and finds them quite interesting, I had to conclude that this was just one of those moments of ignorance. One doesn't have to be a romantic to be in love or to admit that humans fall in love, and likewise for rabbits. While of course rabbits are not humans and don't fall in love in quite the same way, their emotions are very similar to ours. Anyone who spends much time with them sees them experiencing a wide range of familiar emotions.
What I was seeing with this pair was a strong mutual attraction and liking. Since they've been spayed and neutered, the sexual element is reduced, but it wasn't gone. Actually, Calypso Spots seemed quite content to have Orion mount her backwards, but she objected if he mounted her in the standard mating position. And, interestingly, Orion was unusually sensitive to her preferences right from the start. He doesn't give up trying something that makes her run away, but he never forces the issue. Instead, after one or two tries, he stops and does something else, which could include ignoring her for a few minutes. Eventually he'll try again.
I was much impressed by Orion's tactics, as they are not typical. They have worked beautifully with Ms. Spots, as instead of riling her up and getting her ready to bite him, he piques her interest and causes her to come sashaying up to him after a minute.
After two nights at Cesar's, I decided to go ahead and bring the honeymooners home. The fine pair have some things to work out about sharing the house, but there have been no fights, and they are still quite affectionate, if not quite as nonstop about it.
My parents, who have been visiting my aunt and some friends, called this evening and I was relieved to learn that the plastic tube Orion had bitten is an unused tube designed to supply water to refrigerators that require it. My mother was surprised to learn that it had any water in it. Well, I would estimate it produces about 3 gallons an hour, but it is now clamped shut and there is very little water on the kitchen floor.
To be sure, in the meantime Orion has insinuated his way behind some rabbit-proofing and chewed on some LP covers, and he and/or Ms. Spots have rendered the speaker wire into quite a few pieces (apparently they objected to my playing so much music during their nap time; I'm not sure why this particular wire was unprotected).
Today it has been quite clear to me what parents go through: no, you don't actually want to return the kids, since you think they are awfully nice and ridiculously cute, but you really wish they would calm down and stop getting into so much mischief.
But altogether things are well in the lapine world.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Honeymooners Return

The inimitable Calypso Spots and her new love, Orion the English Spot, have returned to the East Bay from a San Francisco honeymoon spent in an X-pen in Cesar's living room.
Photos and more details will have to wait as in his exploration of his new home, Orion demonstrated that it was not sufficiently rabbit-proofed for a being of his size and energy. Experiments are now being undertaken in routing water from a mysterious plastic tube out the back door. (Whether this tube is supposed to connect to refrigerator or stove remains a mystery to Orion's human, who has inspected the entire area thoroughly and is also unable to venture under the house in search of a shut-off valve due to recent earthquake retrofitting.)
In other news, Orion had his toenails trimmed this morning at the vet's, but apparently one was missed, which he managed to break off this evening so that he could leave dramatic trails of blood everywhere.
Calypso Spots and Orion remain enchanted with one another, although Ms. Spots was clearly taken aback that he was going to live in her home and that items with his personal scent had been placed there in her absence. She has been making sure to leave her scent all over them when not cuddling up with their owner.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Citations from Hell

One of the things we humanities grad students spend our time doing is chasing down other people's citations. As in, you find a handy quote (by, for instance, André Breton, or René Daumal, or Karel Teige) in someone else's dissertation. You stick it in your own and make a note to track down wherever that person got it from so as to cite from the original and perhaps find something else useful there.
Usually the main problem is in finding the original without having to resort to interlibrary loan. The quote is usually perfectly good and does not have more than one or two small transcription errors. One feels dutiful about catching these. This summer I have found a gratifying number of Breton and Freud quotations that no longer need refer to anyone else's book or dissertation.
From time to time, however, Citations from Hell arise. They are often related to that bane of my existence, endnotes. (Yes, I know that typesetters far prefer endnotes to footnotes, but have you ever tried to keep your place both in the text and in the endnotes at once? or had to keep page-upping and page-downing in a PDF dissertation with endnotes? Vileness!)
The Citation from Hell is one that cannot be located in the alleged source text. I have one of these where an article airily quotes a few words (in English) of a longish (Czech) text by Teige and says some interesting analytical things about what Teige was getting at. Have I been able to locate this in Teige's text? Of course not. In this case, it is probably there, but not in a form I have recognized in my several skim-reads of Teige's standard verbosity. It would have been nice if the author of the article had provided an edition and page reference rather than merely saying it was from (if I recall correctly) "Slovo slovo slovo." Uh, yes. Words, words, words. Teige had read his Shakespeare and proceeded to write way too many words of his own. (In this respect I should feel a special kinship with him.)
I had thought that example was quite the Citation from Hell, but it has recently been far surpassed by a dissertation whose citations (endnotes, mind you, not footnotes, to compound the problem) are in a state of complete discombobulation. The author used shortened citations, which admittedly are expected, but make one wander all over the place trying to figure out the name of the full title. This is especially un-fun in a PDF file. Her shortened citations, furthermore, are inconsistent. You see something like Powrie, 77. This is all you initially put in your footnote because you are trying to move along and not lose your place too badly in the PDF file. Later you look to see what Powrie, 77 might mean. You hypothesize that it is Powrie's journal article rather than Powrie's book, but for a couple of weeks you aren't sure whether 77 is the volume, the year, or the page number. All sorts of detective work and confusion ensues before you finally locate the journal and discover that the quote is from page 177, not 77.
You then figure you have some free time to root through volume 1 of someone's correspondence in the hope that this is the volume meant in several citations (volumes 2 and 3 are at the bindery). In some cases you have, in addition to the alleged page number, a mention that X wrote this to Y in 1926. You find that in no instance does the page number in any way correspond to the quotation you seek (given in English and sought in French, just to make life more complex). You begin combing through the book for everything X wrote to Y in 1926 and find that there is no rhyme nor reason to the cited page numbers; you manage to locate nearly every quotation but one is ten pages off and another is more like 70. If you weren't finding new and useful material in the course of the search, you would be frothing at the mouth at wasting so much time. As it is, you would really like to know what sort of drugs the dissertation-writer was on when shuffling those notecards or whatever were used to compile the citations. One quotation, cited to an entirely different book, pops up in the book of correspondence. In another case, your source has left out an entire parenthetical remark without adding ellipses. You wonder what else is lurking in this dissertation, which is not admittedly crucial to your own but has been pretty useful for one of your chapter subsections. You think it is probably only sloppy, not poorly researched, but you can't be certain.
After spending much of an afternoon dealing with the volume of correspondence and the recalcitrant citations, you prepare a libation of strong spirits and hope that it will not be too hard to persuade the Spotted Adventure Rabbit to come in before dark (since she is eating fallen plums out there).
(Note: the Spotted One is not currently outdoors but having an exciting adventure that will be described later!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bibliophiles Seek Kitsch

John and I have the perhaps unfounded notion that it is possible for us to work on our dissertations together at local cafes. It is true that we have done something of the kind in the past, with reasonable success. So far, however, we have had only marginal success here.
On my birthday, we had plans to meet in Berkeley in the late afternoon. Since neither of us have cell phones here, and various family obligations on John's part took up surprising amounts of time, we both left several messages with my mother before getting together at some point in the evening, when we were more hungry than interested in our dissertations.
We then thought we would meet in San Francisco and work for awhile before making a trip to City Lights to explore its surrealist offerings. Some work was indeed accomplished, but between my thinking I had left behind the book I wanted to work from, and John having failed to charge his battery or bring his laptop cord, we were only moderately productive.
Before heading for City Lights, we embarked on a neighborhood search for San Francisco goods to send to John's Slovenian relatives, whom he met at a recent reunion. It was not difficult to find acceptable T-shirts, but the amazing variety of kitsch available along Mission provided us with hours of unwholesome fun. I was very disgruntled that I had left my camera on his bedroom floor. At some later date I will have to do a series on 1) animated, lighted scenes of San Francisco Bay, usually in clock form; 2) blinking lights on religious figures; 3) bespectacled Chinese athletic figurines; 4) glowing figures with flapping wings. Well, there is far, far, more. Mission around 24th St. BART is the land of kitsch emporia, embracing pretty much all races but a little short on Jewish and Muslim kitsch compared to Christian and Buddhist. We were in an altered state and had to be revived with burritos. Only then did we have the strength to tear ourselves away and catch the bus to North Beach.
Admittedly, we did not take the bus all the way there. Since no bus came along while we were on Broadway, John assured me that a walk through the Broadway Tunnel would provide a unique sonic space. (Musicologists are always saying this kind of thing to me about noise pollution.) It is true that I had not previously been a pedestrian in the Broadway Tunnel, and I do like to explore new places, or familiar ones from new perspectives. You could, I suppose, argue that the highlight of the walk was when a bicyclist repeatedly rang her bell at us so that she could pass. The bell had a climactic sound to it.
It had been quite a few years since I had gone to City Lights. My excuse is that I don't get to North Beach much anymore. In fact, it has been so long that the Condor, famed for the stripper Carol Doda, has been turned into a fish restaurant. I really didn't think that was acceptable, even though Carol Doda is probably in her dotage by now. Somewhere in my postcard collection I have a card of Ms. Doda. I'm not sure where I acquired it, as I never attended her show. Perhaps it was handed to me outside the door.
Anyhow, City Lights looked much the same as when I last stepped in: lots of books, and several customers leaning on the counter discussing film with the staff. John immediately joined them in discussing something or other, while I scanned the surrealism section. Since I rapidly picked out several titles I felt were required for my dissertation, I declined to look around the rest of the store. When one has just bought a new laptop with accessories, paid for 24 hours and more of intensive veterinary care, and bought a relatively expensive transatlantic plane ticket, the last thing one needs is to drop a few hundred dollars on books. John felt the same way, so we fled before we could be so tempted. An evening of avant-garde and folk music videos followed by Repo Man finished off the day. (I had seen Repo Man before and was surprised when John assured me I was the only one of his friends who would put up with its adolescent humor. Somehow I thought he had a wider acquaintance than that.)
Incidentally, has anyone else found that Blogger has been extraordinarily slow and temperamental lately?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Things Just Don't Tend to Go as Planned

My mother has a tendency these days, whether seeing me in person or calling home from a road trip, to inquire anxiously whether everything is going smoothly on the computer or if I am having "more problems." The way she phrases this gives the impression that I am having marital problems or some sort of chronic ailment.
There is, however, some basis for her concern. Of late the new laptop has been very unreliable about either hibernating when the lid is closed (and if it doesn't, the battery will quickly run down) or shutting off when instructed to do so. You cannot tell it to shut off and simply leave the room, but must periodically inspect it to see whether some arcane process or other is refusing to end. I found out that one problem I was having was due to something from my parents' printer software (there was a lot of angry online discussion about the HP1010 series), but removing that process from the Start menu didn't solve the overall trouble. The new laptop does, however, work well overall and I have got a second hard drive safely installed in it so that between the two drives I have 180GB. (The downside is that I am convinced I will lose or drop HD #2 or the CD drive when swapping them.)
And then... I had pretty much concluded that my old laptop was fine except for the 100GB drive, since it worked with the 30GB drive (until, of course, I attempted to recreate that drive so that it could be put in my parents' laptop, which I still haven't figured out how to open despite massive internet searches for diagrams or instructions). Since I had concluded the 100GB drive was at fault, and since Cesar had mentioned he wanted to get a laptop, I offered to give him the machine if he would buy a new hard drive for it.
Since Cesar was only prepared to spend about $500 on a laptop, he leaped at this idea and ordered the drive. It duly arrived at my place and I set about preparing it. The old drive still worked as storage, so I figured I could do an image of that using Ghost and restore it onto the new drive.
I had found that Ghost didn't like SATA drives, but these were not SATA. All the same, Ghost refused to work on the only functioning laptop with enough USB ports, which is to say the new one. You would not think that it having a primary SATA drive would matter so long as I wasn't trying to image that particular drive...
I had, however, bought Acronis True Image as it was supposed to work with SATA drives, so I gave it a try. It was certainly a lot faster than Ghost, although the terminology was a bit different and confused me somewhat. Still, before long I had made a clone of the 100GB drive onto Cesar's new hard drive.
You do not want to imagine how many times I have now unscrewed and rescrewed hard drives into my old Fujitsu. Fortunately, I have not been keeping count. It has been an insane number of times over the past month. I feel like an expert at this process, although in truth I am really nothing of the kind (or I would be able to open my parents' laptop). The last time I had installed the 100GB drive, it had completely failed to boot, so I was extremely relieved that it still worked as storage and I could copy files from it (quite a few gigs in just the past few days after getting the new secondary drive).
Well, what should happen but the new drive made exactly the same sickly sound as the old and also refused to boot? Not being a real expert, I am unsure whether the mechanism that tells the hard drive to run is dead, or whether there is some sort of boot sector corruption which copied from old to new.
I was very unhappy, as, I imagine, Cesar will also be when he returns from Guatemala and learns that he doesn't have a laptop after all but merely a hard drive.
In the meantime, I made another appointment to take Ms. Spots to meet Willow, since Cesar had offered me the use of his apartment as a rabbit-bonding venue during his absence.
We were somewhat late to the appointment, as Someone Who Will Remain Anonymous (in this context) felt a need to embark on an important conversation with me despite being aware that I needed to take Ms. Spots to the House Rabbit Society in ten minutes. While the conversation had its tense moments, Ms. Spots ultimately defused things by going into her Flopsy Bunny mode and demanding petting, which caused fond amusement in both humans.
Willow, still bereaved but perhaps no longer overwhelmingly depressed, looked utterly enchanting, but then I have a thing for smoky rabbits with white noses. The two rabbits initially stayed in opposite ends of the enclosure, which is neutral-to-positive behavior. Eventually Calypso Spots came forward and very gently snuggled up her head beside Willow's. We were ecstatic. She was being Dr. Spots, who is kind to sad rabbits.
Willow (who in the past week had been discovered to be female rather than male!) was clearly deeply touched whenever Ms. Spots came over and was gently friendly. She was open to being petted, but she obviously really wanted a kind rabbit.
To my vast disappointment, Ms. Spots really began to lose her manners during the visit. It was not an issue that she wet on the floor, as we had forgotten to provide a litterbox (although her behavior when she did so reminded me more of an unneutered male). But at some point she seemed to decide that although Willow needed some cuddling, it was also important to nip at Willow's scut and belly. Since poor Willow hadn't done anything even faintly assertive, let alone aggressive, this struck me as utterly uncalled for. It would not have bothered me in a different situation, but I didn't think Willow needed to be shoved around by a spotted diva. Willow is a small, shy, somewhat traumatized rabbit who needs gentle treatment. She began to look very uncertain about the whole venture.
After two or three of these experiences, we decided that while the two were bondable, another meeting was called for rather than an immediate adoption. While I'd like to get Willow and give her a loving home, I don't want her to be at the mercy of an extremely confident rabbit twice her size. Cami and Ms. Spots, for instance, were not the same size but seemed quite capable of having a relatively equal relationship; Cami was gentle but knew how to stand up for herself.
Calypso Spots and Willow will have another meeting on Sunday, which I hope will be agreeable to them. One thing about looking for a pal for one's rabbit, it can result in the human learning about a whole new set of traits. Now that Ms. Spots has learned she can train all her humans (not just me) to do her bidding nearly all the time, she has become something of a prima donna rather than the slightly shy but friendly rabbit she once was. When I bring her to the House Rabbit Society, she is not alarmed, but figures that she knows her way around and should either be petted or allowed to nap. I suspect she has already decided that the House Rabbit Society is part of her territory, although a part that has to be shared.
We will see.

Friday, August 18, 2006


My birthday went by not long ago, and was celebrated in various ways at various times. My writing group made sure to take care of the event somewhat in advance in case I ran off back to Prague before they could see me again, and provided a very good cake. While I didn't quite have a chance to make a wish before blowing out the candles, we all thought the cake went well with an impromptu sauce of backyard plums.
My parents' card offered the following interesting sentiment: "To age is human... not to show it, absolutely divine." While it is true my appearance has not changed all that much in a good many years, I think I have inherited this trait from my mother, who has been told (by a Czech plastic surgeon we knew for many years, no less) that she never changes. Or, of course, there is the Dorian Gray hypothesis. (I am not going to reveal where I keep the portrait.)
My birthday itself was marked by such exciting tasks as getting plane tickets for Prague and picking up new glasses (lenses). I would not normally schedule such things for my birthday, but with terrorist activity being what it has been lately, I decided I needed professional help in avoiding Heathrow. Usually, British Airways is the cheapest way for me to get to Prague, but this fall did not seem like the best time to avail myself of their services. Their web site indicated that airlines flying through Heathrow were supposed to cut flights by 30% and that about all you could take in the cabin would be keys and glasses, preferably in a see-through plastic bag. I suppose I could tolerate that if I had to, but I really did not want to spend a transatlantic flight playing with my house keys and extra glasses. Besides, after John's laptop screen was ruined in the checked baggage, I am not too anxious to put my new laptop anywhere where it will be flung around by baggage handlers. Consequently, I told the travel agent that I needed to go to Prague and was willing to go to any airport in Europe except Heathrow, and preferably to avoid the UK entirely. After all, while terrorist activity can occur anywhere in the world, it is my impression that the Americans and British are particularly disliked at the moment, so there is no point in mixing the two. Now, if Air India flew to Prague, I would be quite content, as I enjoyed their service on my last trip to Britain. But there was no sign that Air India was a possibility. My itinerary will involve a German-speaking city rather than London-Heathrow and we can only hope for a smooth and unproblematic voyage.
As for the glasses, I had not been satisfied with the close-up portion of my Czech glasses. It did not seem possible to read comfortably out of any part of them. The staff at UC Berkeley's eye clinic assured me that the prescription seemed just fine, but admitted that the Europeans grind lenses differently and that there are many ways of making progressive lenses. I pointed out that I spend the majority of my time reading and working at the computer, so they fiddled around with things a bit and came up with glasses that will only work close up. While this is not my ideal, they didn't think my frames would accommodate all the distances, so I will have to learn to carry around two pairs of glasses all the time and swap them constantly. So far this has not been too bad since both the distance and the close-up prescriptions work well and I can tolerate temporary blurriness on whatever distance I'm not wearing. (Of course, we will see how this works on challenges like muddy night-time bus schedules posted above my head; I may have to rely on Jesse to read them for me again.)
But... so far it is not bad being a year older. I have no complaints yet and John did take me out for Thai food on my birthday.

Susie Bright Goes to BlogHer

Susie Bright always has something interesting to say, whether it's on sex or global warming. Check out her take on the recent BlogHer conference of women who blog (no, I wasn't there).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Calypso Spots Takes the Floor

Calypso Spots, like most rabbits, is very intimate with the floor. She has quite a few favorite places to nap or keep an eye on the humans. When she is particularly relaxed, she puts her chin on the floor and stretches out her hind legs.

When I first had my parents rabbit-sitting for me, they informed me that while they were happy to pet Ms. Spots, she was going to have to learn to sit on laps because they were too old to lie down on the floor all the time like I do. While I hear that Ms. Spots has become more amenable to being picked up and petted, I see that she has nonetheless trained them to get down on the floor. I think it is safe to say that this helps them stay flexible in a whole different way than gardening and reorganizing the garage do. Of course, if they would let her into the bedroom, I'm sure she would be happy to get on the bed with them just as she likes to do with me in her role as Spotted Alarm Clock. There is nothing quite like having a 7-pound rabbit fly into the air and land on your midsection early in the morning.

My father and I had been looking forward to taking Ms. Spots to visit Willow, but the House Rabbit Society staff thought he seemed too depressed to deal with such a potentially stressful event. In the meantime, Cesar offered me the use of his apartment while he's in Guatemala, which would be an ideal neutral location for rabbit-bonding, so I may try to get the Spotted Wonder in touch with Willow again.

In Search of the Perfect Sofa-Bed

There was a time when I knew little of sofa-beds. I had slept on one or two, but I don't think I know very many people who own them; usually I end up on a couch or the floor when visiting friends.
Now, however, I am vicariously learning all about this underappreciated piece of furniture, because John, who recently moved back to San Francisco, is determined to find one. Since two of his bedroom walls are covered with bookcases, one of them has his desk and a closet, and the other will have a piano, his plan is to put a sofabed in front of some of the books.
This is not, I admit, what I would have recommended, but I know better than to expect anyone to decorate his bedroom according to my advice. My friends, John included, sometimes do ask my advice about such things, but I am sure that this is merely to cement their own notions. Personally, I would never put my bed in front of a bookcase (kind of hard to get at the books), nor would I conclude that my ideal bed ought to spend its waking hours as a couch (too much assembly and disassembly), but I have my own domestic quirks and John has his own opinions about them. I take the view that to each his/her own.
Initially, John imagined he would buy a used sofa-bed. After all, he is a grad student on a tight budget. Examination of the available offerings, however, prompted him to think about new ones. If the used sofa-bed was not in dire condition, its construction was cheap and its mattress did not meet his standards.
John judges the present-day sofa-bed by the one he used to sleep on at his grandmother's. This sofa-bed, he asserts, was a solid piece of furniture with a thickish, firm mattress.
Not having slept on his grandmother's sofa-bed, I would not dream of disputing its perfections. On the other hand, she may well have bought it back in 1940 or so. I am sure that large-scale commercial furniture-making practices have deteriorated over time. After all, when you consider the popularity of Ikea's particle-board offerings, which fall apart at a moment's notice...
John has visited the furniture department at Macy's, where he was advised that better quality could be found elsewhere. He has examined the offerings of discount furniture outlets, whose quality and aesthetics nauseated him. He has learned all about the many consumer lawsuits filed against Jennifer Convertibles. He has announced himself the foe of anything whose cushions are sewn to the back of the couch or whose cushions are only upholstered on one side.
Last week I offered to take him on a tour of East Bay furniture purveyors, although I did have to air out the car a bit in order to do so (you don't want to drive around on a warm day with a dead rabbit in the car, but after all, I had to keep Cami somewhere safe until she could be properly buried; the garage had to serve for a few hours instead).
We saw some possibles at the very first store, which was not far from the house: solid-color, full-size sofa-beds of decent quality. John was not sure, however, that the mattresses were ideal. In his view they were too thin and soft. It transpires that the mattress in a sofa-bed has to be relatively thin so that it can fold up inside the sofa. The foldable aspect may also affect its firmness.
We made a sort of grand tour of San Pablo Avenue (home of many furniture venues), detoured to Berkeley's Fourth Street where one can find Peet's Coffee if not actual sofa-beds, and proceeded onto Ashby.
We (or, I should say John) interrogated numerous sales people about mattresses and where the perfect sofa-bed might be found.
It is clear to me that the average sofa-bed purchaser does not buy one in order to sleep on it, but on the off-chance that someone else might. This was especially clear after John lay down on one of these beds and, although he is not unusually tall, I could see that he was longer than it was. Still, it is not for me to tell John that he should not sleep on a sofa-bed. If I were to do that, he might conclude that he should simply continue sleeping on the floor, which meets his standards for firmness. I am not unwilling to sleep on the floor, but I am really looking forward to having a place to sit other than the floor and the piano bench, neither of which is congenial to my back. I would put in a vote for an armchair and ottoman so that I can lounge at my ease while he sits at his desk or paces the floor.
Our friend Cesar is less interested in sofa-beds and appears to regard the search for them as a sign of mild insanity that Jeff and I are merely abetting by driving John to additional furniture stores. Cesar recently expounded on Time Management to me (I had not realized this was a topic of interest to poets, but Cesar is not your average poet) and stated that spending a day looking for a sofa-bed was a high-effort, low-yield activity, thus a poor use of time.
I said that although I had my doubts about the existence of the ideal sofa-bed, I did not think the search should be categorized in terms of time management. After all, one seldom needs to search for a sofa-bed. If one plans to sleep on one every night, it is better to find a model that will be satisfactory. You do not want to buy some piece of junk, spend a third of your time sleeping on it, and regret it for years to come. Some people will always buy the cheapest thing they can find in order to save money, which is often penny-wise and pound-foolish, while other people save their money and try to find something that will last years and serve them well.
Perhaps we should inquire among John's relatives to find out who inherited his grandmother's sofa-bed. If it is still in Colorado, we could entreat my parents to bring it back when they go there to visit my aunt. Then again, it may have gone to relatives in Nebraska or some other state. It may even have been sold. But you never know until you ask.
The true grad student can always come up with a new ploy to put off writing his or her dissertation.

Note: John has since found and ordered a sofa-bed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Last Photos of Cami

I finally felt able to get my photos of Cami off the camera and onto the computer. These were all taken the day before she fell ill, when she was feeling very lively and eager to explore her new home. This one is in the kitchen, where we put her pen and enclosure while cleaning her area in the dining room. It took her awhile to come out of the cage onto the floor, but once my mother put down a mat in front of her door, she was happy to emerge.

I am always amused by these views of rabbits exploring around corners. Furthermore, Cami tended to look somewhat bow-legged from behind, so she was especially humorous when creeping forward.

Cami looking alert, dignified, and probably wondering if Ms. Spots was about to come into the kitchen.

Cami was excited beyond words when she discovered that she could hop onto her pen. The staff at the House Rabbit Society later told me that this would have been particularly thrilling for her as when they received her she was practically too obese to hop, let alone jump onto things. We speculate that her previous condition may have left her with digestive problems or damaged her kidneys. It's anyone's guess what her original people fed her to make her so fat.

A joyful rabbit in command of her small territory. She was enchanted by the view out the window and entertained us during dinner by exploring the top of the cage and wondering how to get down. After awhile she hopped down on her own and was very pleased with herself.
The House Rabbit Society staff and volunteers who had known her were much saddened to hear of her death, but assured me that we had done all the right things for her. She was a bit of a favorite with them due to her sweet, highly pettable disposition. We had had her just long enough to start giving her nicknames. My father liked to call her Ears and Creature, while I was more inclined to call her Cami-O and The Camelopard. I was anticipating it would be only a few more days before she and Ms. Spots were happily bonded and could share the house.

I have been reluctant to try adopting another rabbit yet since I'll be leaving California at the end of the month, but I do drop by the House Rabbit Society center now and then. Yesterday afternoon I felt I ought to go, even though I doubted that there would be many new rabbits. During our review of Cami's last days, one of the staffers mentioned that a rabbit there had just died of a heart attack and left a bereft mate.
We went in to see the grieving rabbit. I remembered him well from previous visits, because he looks very much like Buster, the rabbit we got when I was eleven. Buster was a handsome smoky Dutch mix and a highly memorable character. Willow, the bereaved rabbit, has a very different personality and was noticeably shy in contrast to his lively, friendly mate. She had always been eager to greet me when I came by, and, as with several of the bonded pairs, I had been sorry I wasn't in a position to adopt two.
Willow was very quiet and sad, but he let me put him on my lap for petting. While he isn't an outgoing rabbit, and isn't sure he wants to get to know any humans, he seems like a a nice rabbit who just needs to be loved.
Calypso Spots, while territorial, has a lot of love to give. I made an appointment to bring her in to meet Willow this afternoon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

More Libraries

Large universities have a way of sticking lots of their books into dedicated subject-area libraries for the benefit of individual departments. Back in Pittsburgh, I quite enjoy having the art library right in the Fine Arts building and getting to have my own delightful carrel (now, alas, assigned to some other grad student) for book storage and window-gazing.
I am not quite as big of a fan of separate libraries when I visit other universities, to be sure. It's just that much more terrain I have to familiarize myself with.
Nonetheless, it can be rather nice. My past exploration of UC Berkeley's subject libraries has been limited to the Art/Classics Library, the Environmental Design Library, and the Music Library. I don't recall that I found any of these particularly conducive to anything except finding books.
This week, however, I have ventured over to the Education/Psychology Library. It is on the north side of campus, which is to say alien territory to me. I found, however, that the walk from BART was rather pleasant and went past some nice trees and architecture. And, while most mid-twentieth century architecture strikes me as truly abominable, this building is relatively interesting.
Better yet, the library itself is highly agreeable. Not, perhaps, one of the nicest spaces in which I have ever worked (my standards are high), and a bit short on electrical outlets near the tables, but really quite pleasant. It's roomy rather than cosy, and at the far end is one of those quintessential mid-twentieth-century walls consisting solely of window.
As a rule I don't care for windows that start at floor level; they tend to make me feel unsafe, that it would be much too easy to fall through or kick the glass. I prefer to have a couple of feet of wall at the bottom. But, perhaps because I had no reason to go anywhere near the glass (my electrical outlet of choice is at least 30 feet away), this did not really bother me. Instead, I enjoyed the view, which of course is the only excuse for a window that large. One sees a small grassy rise with very large pine trees spreading their branches overhead. It's quite lovely.
The book collection is quite satisfying too, if one likes psychology texts, which I rather do. There are a great many books on and by Freud, Jung, and their associates. Next thing I knew, I had spent three hours reading Wilhelm Reich's The Function of the Orgasm. It was the wrong translation and edition for the quotation I sought, but it was interesting. Eventually it occurred to me that I was starving and had not yet dipped into Ernest Jones' book on Freud for the item I sought there.
Jones proved a little annoying because it turned out that he was, in fact, quoting Freud but while he gave the page number for the German edition, he only gave the volume number for the Standard Edition. My desire to track down a relatively unimportant Freud quote (compared to the many hugely significant Freud quotes I will be using) did not extend to looking it up in German so that I could narrow down the English-language search. I really don't care whether Jones translated the passage or Strachey et. al. did. Once in awhile I feel it is best to err on the side of laziness.
I had noticed the previous day that Moffitt Library's Free Speech Cafe had food as well as drinks. I don't remember this cafe as being anything more than a place to get soft drinks, but either my memory is faulty or it has been enlarged greatly and redecorated. It is presently a fine place to have a good tuna sandwich. I felt very content as I looked over my section on the Artificialist Manifesto and devoured my sandwich.
Moffitt Library itself is a pretty good place to look at the Standard Edition of Freud, but only because it has become such a marginal place to work that no one thinks to go there to look for Freud. Once upon a time, undergraduates were stuck with Moffitt. Now they can work in the remodeled Main Library (or sleep on its tables, as they so often do, rather like Prague students at the Národní knihovna). Moffitt is an aging, unattractive space, but a good place to find basic texts. And so I spent the remainder of my afternoon with The Interpretation of Dreams.
What more could one want (other than an electrical outlet)?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Back at the Library, Now and Then

While it hasn't felt like I am getting anything done on the dissertation this summer, it turns out that that's not actually true. The other day I printed out a chapter to look over and made the horrible discovery that two of my sources had vanished (being replaced by notations like "REUSE" and "Prague: Torst," which told me that in my drive-swapping I had apparently not copied some database files and was seeing old duplicate entries that, somewhere, I had rewritten with new sources).
While this was an appalling discovery--I knew which sources they were supposed to be, but how many others might I have messed up?--it forced me to print out the whole thing so that I could have a stable reference before I messed up anything further.
I had two reactions as I flipped through the pages. The first was to feel depressed that I had written all this stuff and it was not in better order. The second was to realize that, actually, I had changed and added a lot of stuff over the past few weeks.
It was nice to be reminded that my several days of going to the library and finding 1) stuff on and by the early French surrealists; 2) the Standard Edition of Freud; 3) books on early 20th-century sex and gender HAD ACTUALLY BEEN PRODUCTIVE. I could see a lot of footnotes that no longer said "quoted in so-and-so," and a lot of places where I had incorporated useful new data.
The main difficulty for me in working at the UC Berkeley library is that I don't have a carrel for book storage. Either I have to finish using what I find while I'm at the library, or I have to bring it home, where it is likely to sit around while I pet Ms. Spots or show my father how to do something on his computer (especially now that I've changed his email program). I guess I could try to hide a stack of books on one of those rolling shelves, but this does not seem wise. And usually if I find one book I want on the shelf, I discover ten others in close proximity that I would never have known to look for. (This is why I oppose closed stacks and putting books in storage.)
Speaking of storage, I also have easy access to the NRLF (Northern Regional Library Facility), which is perhaps two miles from the house. This is where all the storage books from the UC system's northern campuses go. And, in fact, it's a very pleasant place to work, especially after the recent remodel job. You drop by, hand the receptionist a list of the storage IDs you want (not even the titles), and shortly someone brings everything to you. The reading room is spacious and has lots of electrical outlets, and you can either leave the books there or check them out.
I spent a couple of hours at the NRLF yesterday, which proved to be exactly the right amount of time for the four items requested. I am sure, however, that the page wondered how Soupault's Ecrits sur la peinture and Aragon's Une Vague de rêves related to Wiener's Deutsche Dichter aus Prag and Van de Velde's Sex Hostility in Marriage!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Love and Hate in the Computer Realm

I keep having the noxious feeling that despite my knowing a reasonable amount about computers, the computer gods are determined to put me in my place this summer. I just hope they aren't trying to do an imitation of Cami's last 24 hours and let me have minor successes here and there before killing me.
How many computer-related things have gone wrong or had strange problems in the past month or so? Really, I'm losing track.
It all began with the laptop making strange noises during the conference at České Budějovice. While the 100GB hard drive that was in it at the time works pretty well as an external drive, it definitely doesn't enjoy having to run the operating system. You don't want to know (I have lost count) how many times I have moved that drive in and out of the laptop lately in order to temporarily use some program's special settings that are only on that drive.
Now, of course, had I simply bought a new hard drive to stick in the old laptop, life might have been easy (I would have duplicated the old drive onto the new using Norton Ghost), but I wasn't sure how long the rest of the laptop would keep working. It might go on for a long time, or it might give out in the Czech Republic as Dawn's did. Let's just say it would be a major problem to buy and set up a new laptop there.
So... I ordered a new laptop. The kind I wanted (which has been very well received by users) was being discontinued, so I had to order it from a store that claimed to have it in stock. I could have ordered a refurbished model for $200 less at another vendor, but decided to go with the brand-new. Well, I added on a second battery and so forth to my order, the credit card company had to be reassured the charge was ok (they didn't ask me about a series of fraudulent charges that someone was making around the same time!), and this whole process took a week or so, by which time another store employee called to tell me they had none but could get me a refurbished model for $50 less. Since I had no idea whether the other vendor still had its refurbished model, I agreed. The thing then arrived (after a week or so) with no second battery or any vendor paperwork. OK, there was a second AC cord, which will come in handy if Ms. Spots chews the original (which she has been known to do), but that's not what I ordered. This means I have to have a little talk with Customer Service now that it is clear no second battery is coming separately.
Anyone who has ever replaced one computer with another knows that it is a time-consuming bore and aggravation. So many programs to reinstall! So much data to copy! Since the hardware is never the same, it's not practical to use Ghost or other software to image the old hard drive onto the new. Fortunately, I had brought most of my installation disks to my parents' just in case something like this happened, and I try to keep the installation files for downloaded programs on the computer itself, but it is still a major pain. Most of these programs want you to connect to the internet for registration and other tasks; some don't even work if you can't connect to the internet. Well, I can't think of a time when I had just gotten a new computer when I was actually able to get it connected to the internet in the first few days I had it. There is always some complication that has to be resolved about my connection files.
Internet aside, it is amazing how many programs require passwords, serial numbers, and special setup decisions when being (re)installed. All my Adobe software wanted me to connect to the internet and "activate" it to prove I hadn't stolen it. Microsoft Office, Nota Bene, and The Master Genealogist wanted serial numbers and such from the installation disks or purchase email (which, fortunately, I had but searching for those emails is always a real pain). Programs that had had numerous downloaded updates, like The Master Genealogist, had to have each of them installed. After each installation, the computer had to be restarted. Imagine doing this fifteen times in a row. After all, pretty much every time you install a program or an update, you have to restart the computer. Massive tedium.
And what on earth were the special settings I had put into EAC so that when I ripped CDs I would get the highest quality result? What are the Skype names of the various people in my Skype contact list? And so on and so forth.
Getting DSL set up for the house was not too hard, thanks to Dirk's recommendation of, which is local. I had no problem configuring my new laptop to use it. But of course things weren't so simple on my parents' laptop. I ended up having to take the thing over to LMI, where we ended up uninstalling Norton's firewall and going back to the one provided by Windows. While I suspected there might be a firewall conflict, I didn't know how to handle it myself. (We still haven't got their laptop ready to use LMI's email account because it's not accepting the password I thought I had assigned it, and while I would like to install my 30GB drive to replace their 10GB, I cannot figure out how to open the machine, nor does there seem to be an instructional diagram for the HP Pavilion n5415 anywhere on the internet.) So, their computer is semi-upgraded. Of course, it remains exceedingly slow and the new theory is that it really needs more memory. I doubt my parents are willing to pay for more memory since they take the view that you should just read a book or go make coffee while waiting for it to do something.
Returning to my new laptop, I was only able to get it with a 60GB drive, which naturally doesn't hold the nearly 100GB I had put on the other laptop. I bought a 120GB drive under the impression it was SATA and thus could replace the 60GB. In fact, it was PATA (the new term for IDE). Well, fine, I could still prepare it to be a second internal drive as I could buy a caddy to use it in the so-called Slim Select Bay. But after a week I concluded that the 120GB drive was simply defective, as no matter what I plugged it into, nothing recognized it and hence I couldn't format it. Imagine the time-sink it is to repeatedly, carefully, screw and unscrew a hard drive into various caddies and laptops. After all, if it isn't really dead, you don't want to render it so yourself. Fortunately Compusa made no fuss about taking it back.
In the meantime, I had attempted to use Ghost to image the 60GB drive onto an external backup drive. This was met with utter failure. Apparently Ghost 2003 can't deal with SATA drives. The website claims that it can if you update the program, but my attempt to update the program resulted in it telling me that the program was perfectly up to date. Since by the time I learned this, I already knew I wasn't replacing the 60GB with the 120GB drive, I did not gnash my teeth into stumps. Instead, I learned that Acronis True Image, a similar program, can image SATA drives. (Of course, it cost $50. I already had Ghost.)
I can't finish off with the dying 100GB drive, since I need to deal with the hard drive issue on the new computer. Is it better to order a 100GB or 120GB SATA drive and have the 60GB as a nice little paperweight (since I have no other equipment with an SATA connector), or to order an PATA/IDE drive of the same size and hope that I can still get the caddy and connector equipment for the secondary drive? Ah, choices.
There are probably more issues that I have forgotten (ah yes, the disappearance of some texts from my bibliographic database, doubtless due to all this switching back and forth of hard drives), but at the moment my father needs to go on line and it is time to surrender the DSL cable to him. We have been trading this back and forth all morning since I didn't think I really needed to buy my parents a router for their DSL.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Unexpected Kindnesses

As you might imagine, I felt pretty drained and unfocused after Cami's illness and death. It wasn't very easy to pay attention to things like dissertations and setting up my parents' new DSL connection. Furthermore, Ms. Spots needed some time to herself right when I really needed some petting.
All the same, I have to point out that some nice things happened on Friday as well. The staff at, where I had ordered the DSL, were very pleasant when I asked incoherent questions about installation and assured me that if I could set up DSL in Prague, I wouldn't have any problem at all here (mostly true).
My parents claim they don't get many phone calls, but I think that these days they get quite a few (all the more reason for that DSL!). One that came in Friday afternoon was from a man named Leon who told me he lived nearby and had done some work under the house for my mother. He said he had some pictures of rabbits that he wanted to give her, because he knew she loved bunnies.
This certainly wasn't what I expected to hear when I answered the phone and admitted that I wasn't my mother. While my mother is wonderful with animals, she is the member of the family who apparently never feels any need to bring them home with her. I never think of her as being unusually fond of rabbits; that's my father and my role. My mother simply deals with and becomes attached to the rabbits we bring into her sphere of influence. But, of course, she becomes very fond of those she gets to know.
I told Leon that we would all be happy to see his rabbit pictures. I wasn't at all sure what these would be like--photos? cutesy cartoons?--but I wasn't about to reject someone's kind thought. Leon said he could drop them off in about fifteen minutes.
Leon arrived with 11 or 12 stunning photos, printed from an email, of a rabbit and a deer who clearly had an amazing and wonderful relationship. Anyone who spends much time with animals discovers that interspecies friendship doesn't always involve humans, but I had never seen anything quite like this. The two were touching noses, grooming together, resting together, and so forth.
I told Leon that the photos were gorgeous and that he could not have chosen a better time, because we had just lost one of our rabbits. He didn't say much, just reiterated that he thought my mother would enjoy them.
When my parents came home this afternoon, we took a lot of pleasure in the photos. I think we'll want to put them up somewhere where we can see them often.
Another call that came in around that time was from my aunt. Usually my parents call her, since her health is a little uncertain, but apparently she was feeling well enough to call them. Although her voice was too weak for me to recognize at first, she seemed to be in better shape than when I visited her last summer, and we had a nice conversation. One of my cousins was with her, so the two of us got to talk too. I didn't tell my aunt about Cami, but my cousin and I had a long talk about pets, as she and her husband had had a wonderful dog named Muffy for many years and they still miss her.
Not long after that call, one of the members of my writing group called to offer her condolences. She wondered whether Ms. Spots and I would like to house-sit for ten days in the near future. Granted, there would also be cats, but we didn't think that had to be a problem. I don't know whether I will house-sit, but if I did happen upon another suitable companion for Ms. Spots, ten days in a San Francisco victorian ought to be enough to sidestep lapine territorial issues on the home front.
Finally, John called to suggest I come over for dinner and a movie. I did try to suggest that we do it on my side of the Bay in order to keep Ms. Spots company in her own bereavement (I think she may never have spent a night all by herself before), but to some extent I wanted to get out of the house, so I consented and put the radio on the classical station for Ms. Spots.
During all this she was very anxious for petting and obviously wanted me to get off the phone, although she wasn't so rude as to bite through the cord as Rabbitoid used to in his heyday (a rabbit who believed the phone was his mortal enemy in coming between him and his humans). She merely grabbed the phone in her teeth once or twice and made a threatening gesture toward the cord prior to settling in a pet-me posture where Cami's pen had been. After I got off the phone and was ready to give her my full attention, she looked disdainfully at me and removed to the back yard (fortunately not for long).
So, while I felt very fragile and so did Ms. Spots, we got through the day and people were pretty nice to us in unexpected ways.
As for the movie, we ended up with Pennies From Heaven on the grounds that neither of us had seen it and I tend to like Dennis Potter. And, admittedly, that it wasn't as long as some of the avant-garde compilations lurking in John's collection, or as twisted as some of the other possibilities. It was still pretty strange, but at least it wasn't upsetting. It went well with the pasta-and-pesto and red wine.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Rabbit of Good Character

The Tale of Cami has come to a sad end. Why? I'm not sure.
When I first filled out the adoption paperwork at the House Rabbit Society, there were many possible boxes to check describing the ideal rabbit for me. Did I prefer an independent rabbit? a shy rabbit? a friendly rabbit? an active rabbit? I contemplated these options, and the fact that I have enjoyed rabbits described in quite a few ways. An active rabbit could be a lot of fun (and get into a lot of mischief), and a quiet one could be very relaxing. A shy rabbit could still be loving. I wrote that I wanted to find a rabbit of good character who would get along well with Calypso Spots.
Cami was certainly a rabbit of good character. She was a little reserved, but friendly. She loved to be petted and she wanted to make friends with Ms. Spots, although at times she was skeptical that it would happen. She was a little funny-looking due to having once been obese, and also due to having severely atrophied muscles from lack of exercise, but she had bright eyes and nice English Spot markings. We were looking forward to seeing her in glossy new fur, which was in the process of coming in.
I don't know why she got sick on Wednesday. She was diagnosed with bloat, which is one of the most common reasons rabbits end up at the vet, and a common reason rabbits die. She had been eating and eliminating well the day before, and hadn't had anything new or surprising in her diet. She had been enjoying jumping on top of her pen and looking out the window. There didn't seem to be any special reason for her to get sick.
All of the five rabbits I've lived with in the past twelve years have had at least one incident where the patient lost appetite, felt bad, and had to go to the vet. This is actually the basic symptom of a sick rabbit, not just of bloat. I don't think all of them had bloat, but some of them, including Ms. Spots, did experience GI stasis and gas. None of them were ever judged to be in critical condition for gastric problems (although there was great worry in all cases!) and none died of the digestive problems. As a rule, subcutaneous fluids, B vitamins, and greens got them feeling better in a day or two.
Because of this, I was not initially panicky about Cami. I did take her to the emergency vet shortly after realizing she was ill, but mainly expecting that she would be given fluids, come home in an hour or so, and be feeling better by the time of our scheduled appointment the next morning.
The emergency vet was concerned about her low temperature and somewhat distended stomach. He recommended we embark on an aggressive, expensive course of treatment. I had already had a financially draining month and had just cancelled my credit card because a string of improper charges had appeared on my last bill. I was hesitant to go wild with treatment that I hoped could wait until morning and the cheaper rates of the daytime vet. We came up with a compromise package.
When I arrived in the morning, I learned that they had removed an enormous amount of gas and fluid from her stomach and that she would definitely have died had I not brought her in. She was feeling a little better, but needed to be transferred to my regular vet's facility right away.
All of Thursday became a day of waiting for veterinary updates. Blood tests showed that her kidneys had been compromised, presumably by toxins from the bacteria in her digestive tract. At times she rallied a little and nibbled treats, and at times she threatened to go into cardiac arrest. The vet and I agreed that she would try to save Cami if Cami seemed to want to live, and let her go if she seemed to give up. We wouldn't try to rescuscitate her. This was the approach that had worked for me with George: he had experienced some really bad times, but his desire to live never seemed to falter. Of course, by the time George got sick, he had been living in a good home long enough to have reason to value it.
Cami was up and down all day, so she had to go back to the emergency vet in the evening for night monitoring and more fluids. She looked fairly alert when I picked her up, but by the time we got to the night vet, she had to go on oxygen again. I was having a very bad feeling about all this. I was suspecting she wouldn't make it, but also feeling that if I didn't put out enough positive energy for her, she wouldn't be able to do it on her own. I didn't want to be resigned to the worst, merely prepared for it.
A little after one in the morning, the call came that although Cami was still alive, she was failing and had become cyanotic despite being on oxygen. The vet thought it was time for euthanasia but was willing to wait if I wanted.
I didn't think there was much chance of saving her. Even if we got her through the night, she might not survive the day. If she lived, she was going to need heavy home nursing for a couple of weeks--which at least I felt confident we could provide.
I hated to do it, but I had also felt we were putting her through a lot of stress already. I agreed to the euthanasia.
The vet offered me the chance to come in and be with her at the end, but it didn't sound as though Cami was aware of anything except the effort to breathe. She had liked me, but I didn't think I had become special to her yet. I didn't think my presence would ease things for her and I knew it would only upset me more.
At about 1:25, Calypso Spots, who had been resting in the living room, raced over to Cami's area and finished off the piece of apple that Cami had refused the night before. It was clear she knew that Cami had just died.
In the morning I picked up Cami's body so that Ms. Spots could say goodbye. I wasn't sure to what degree Ms. Spots was upset to lose her new companion, or glad to have her territory back. She sniffed the carrier and the body repeatedly, and obviously had strong feelings, but I wasn't sure what they were. Eventually I moved Cami out to the garage to await burial in the back yard.
It makes me very sad that this charming and sweet-natured rabbit, who had not had an easy life, never had the chance to really enjoy the loving home we wanted to give her. She enjoyed our petting and treats, but since she and Ms. Spots hadn't finished getting acquainted and learning to share territory, she wasn't able to get the full benefit of living with us. She had a bright future full of love and petting, but never got to experience it and learn how wonderful a house rabbit's life can be.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Now What?

It seems as though every time I think things are settling down and beginning to go smoothly around here, I am promptly proven wrong.
I thought the old 100GB hard drive had been working just fine for quite a while, so I put it back into the old laptop in order to do things I couldn't otherwise take care of. Naturally it went back to sounding like it was at death's door.
I finally cleared everything off the 30GB drive and cloned my parents' drive onto it... but then discovered there seems to be no way to get their laptop open to swap drives. They may be stuck with their 10GB drive after all.
I ordered DSL service so that the online portion of life, at least, doesn't move at a glacial pace. Can't report on that yet.
Ms. Spots and Cami seemed to be getting along better, and Cami was enjoying all the attention from her three humans along with the various vegetable treats. She was proving to be a rabbit of vigorous appetite. My parents then went off for a little trip up the coast and I went out to lunch with a friend. When I returned, Cami seemed to be resting, and it was still a standard nap time, so I paid little attention. Around 7:00, my mother called to ask me to measure the kitchen window (!), and happened to inquire how the rabbits were. I said fine, and then realized it was about time they had an evening treat. Cami showed absolutely no interest in her treat, which was sorely different than her usual voracious habit of grabbing food out of one's hand. I rapidly realized that she wasn't feeling well.
Luckily, the vet's office hadn't closed yet, but they weren't taking any more clients this evening, so I made an appointment for the morning and got the number for the emergency vet in case that was needed. Cami has been sitting in the corner of her pen, not moving around much, and has actually permitted Ms. Spots to invade her territory and use her litterbox. I suppose this was a positive thing in its own way, especially since Ms. Spots did lick her forehead at one point in addition to devouring the treats, but I wasn't relying on Cami getting sick for them to finish the getting acquainted process. It is true that Dr. Spots was always very good at caring for George, but it seems like a stretch to expect her to take care of a rabbit she was recently trying to bite.
I suppose I will be sleeping on the floor tonight instead of in the vacated bed. Let's just hope Cami doesn't need to go to the emergency vet, as it is just about impossible to tell when that's necessary when the rabbit is just sitting there refusing to eat and looking uncomfortable. The situation could be anything from minor to life-threatening. (And this is only a day after the patient was happily bouncing around and climbing on top of her cage to look out the window...)