Friday, November 28, 2008

In Which I Ask The Age-Old Question: Who Is Dumber, Sarah Palin or a Japanese Zookeeper?

Sorry for the stretch between posts. Things got a little...busy at the other place. I think I've got things well in hand over there now, so I can breathe again and get back to running the joint here. Onward.

And I must also beg your indulgence while I bring up yet another story provided by our friends at, again involving our neighbors of the Asian Persuasion. And animals.

Because goshdarnit, as I said last week, "when there's a good Animal VS. Human tale, I'm all over it. That's my vow to you." And this one is especially dear to me because, as an American Public School Teacher, I'm really freaking tired of hearing just how goddam smart everyone else in the world is compared to us. How our schools are producing a nation of drooling, pantspooping idiots who are too stupid to know that "Africa" is not a country, but a continent. What? Sarah Palin thought that Africa was a country? Well...she is a pantspooping idiot. But I digress.

The story is this one, and the headline reads "Zoo Solves Mystery of Celibate Polar Bears." The dateline is Tokyo, Japan. Now we all know how smart the Japanese are. They can make an entire computer so small that it can fit onto the butt of a gnat. They have a rail system that runs entirely on human waste. They don't even use money over there anymore, just debit cards. (All of that is true. I got it from Wikipedia.) Anyway.
(the polar bear in question--look how dirty it is!)
It seems that three years ago, a zoo procured a polar bear cub, named it Tsuyoshi after a famous baseball player, raised it, and then in June, introduced it to its 11-year old resident female bear Kurumi and waited for a romance to develop. But, much to everyone's disappointment, nothing ever happened. Tsuyoshi never made any amorous advances at all, aggressive or otherwise, towards Kurumi. Finally, the zookeepers decided to find out if there was anything amiss.

"Earlier this month, zookeepers put Tsuyoshi under anesthesia to get to the bottom of the matter. That's when they made their discovery: Tsuyoshi is a female."

So! Let's review:
1. Japanese=way smarter than Americans, but
2. they raised this bear for three years
3. they thought the bear was male for three years plus
4. they had to anesthetize it to find out is was a female only after it would not mate with a female
5. they had the bear for three years when it was a baby (this, I think, bears repeating)

Yet, it gets better.

Tsuyoshi's "brother," who was adopted by another zoo, has also turned out to be female, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Now! Let's recap:

1. Chinese college student breaks into panda enclosure because he wants a hug
2. Japanese zookeepers cannot tell the sex of polar bear they have raised for three years

Gosh, I feel smart!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stupid Human Tricks, The Chinese Version

You know, it's nice when it's not Americans making headlines for doing stupid things, for a change.

I'm talking about this story, but really, there's no need to go there. I'll be quoting from it extensively here because A) it's about pandas, and B) there's just so much great stuff in it that I can't resist it. It's right up there with the Pelican Story. And you know me--when there's a good Animal VS. Human tale, I'm all over it. That's my vow to you.

First of all, thank you for this stellar headline: Panda Bites Student Seeking A Hug. There is no freaking way I'm not reading this story. Half of me is hoping that it's not a real panda, but some minimum wage-earner dressed in a fake fur suit doing on-site promo work for a Chinese restaurant who is being mauled by some drunken college frat boy on a bender. Okay.

But no. "A college student in southern China was bitten by a panda after he broke into the bear's enclosure hoping to get a hug," says's source. Further, "the student scaled the fence surrounding the panda, named Yang Yang," a park employee said. How many of you--right now--are saying "Why isn't this kid in class or in his dorm room studying? What was he doing at a zoo?"

"Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him. I didn't expect he would attack," the 20-year-old student, surnamed Liu, said. And this kid is in college? What is he majoring in, underwater basketweaving? The history of Hello Kitty? What the hell kind of logic is that? Is this kid from Oz? His parents better do him a big favor and keep him away from the pretty, pretty kitty-cats with the fluffy heads. Or the big, brown teddy bears!

And now, to the question that we all have been asking all along and that, if this were an American newsreport, would have already been cleared up: "The student was pale as he was taken away by medics but appeared clear-headed," a park employee said. Which is the Chinese equivalent of the American "alcohol did not appear to be a factor."

To which I reply, then what the hell is his excuse?

But here's one of my favorite parts: "Yang Yang, who was flown to Guilin last year from Sichuan province, was behaving normally on Saturday and did not seem to suffer any negative psychological effects, the park employee said." I'm telling you--the Chinese are all about their pandas! Remember, there are 1.3 billion Chinese, but only between 700-1000 pandas. Which do you think is more important, some idiotic 20-year old who thinks he can hug a freaking wild animal or a precious endangered symbol of an entire country and valuable link of an ecosystem already threatened by earthquakes, climate change, and habitat encroachment? Duh.

Finally, I love the common sense of the Chinese. No constant threat of litigation there. Witness the testimony of the park employee when asked if they would be adding yet more signage warning people not to climb in and try to hug the pandas: "We cannot make it like a prison. We already have signs up warning people not to climb in," he said. "There are no fences along roads but people know not to cross if there are cars. This is basic knowledge."

Well, maybe for most Chinese. For Americans...we still put warnings on our sleep aids that they "may cause drowsiness." Sigh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter Cleaning: Also Known As Cheap Therapy

Let's play a little game. It's called Cheap Therapy. I get to dump a Whole Ton Of Mind Crap on you and toss my head junk out, and then in Comments/Brainstorms, you can clean out your Cranium Clutter. Doesn't that sound great? Here we go:

^*^My blog is currently blue to celebrate the Democratic Mandate Of November 4, 2008, AKA: The Day America Returned To Its Senses. I am not particularly fond of the color scheme, so I will return the Dept. to its regular appearance pretty soon. I just really needed to react on the Interwebs.

^*^Can I just start bitching RIGHT NOW about the onrush of The Holiday Season and how it is being shoved down my throat incessantly and how it started on...oh, like November 1st? Seriously, I get that the Economy sucks and that Consumer Confidence is at an all-time Low and that if I don't start spending my huge enormous monies that WE WILL ALL BE STANDING IN SOUP/BREAD/CHEESE LINES TOMORROW, but enough already! I am not yet ready to start You-know-what shopping, so back off my jock, everyone in retail! The fact that I ordered my Thanksgiving Turkey already is major. I usually talk about ordering it weeks before Thanksgiving but don't actually get around to doing it until about four days before. So, I'm all holidayed up, thanks.

^*^Did anyone else see Brian Williams on the cover of the Sunday (11-16) Parade newspaper supplement? Was that the dorkiest picture, or what? And the accompanying piece was terrible. Come on, BW. Do not tell me that you are so pedestrian about food. Food court food? Ugh.

^*^I found a CD on my desk at home by someone named "Missy Higgins." A couple weekends ago, Rick finally decided we should listen to it. After a few tracks, this was the conversation:
Me: This isn't too bad. It's sort of like Sarah McLachlan meets Anna Nalick.
Rick: And a little Sinead.
Me: Plus some Alanis Morrissette tossed in.
Rick: Wow.
Me: Really, then why do we need Missy Higgins?
Rick: Exactly. Time to thin the herd.

^*^It's been snowing here every day for three days. I repeat: snowing. And it's sticking. On the ground and stuff. Hideous. I can think of no good reason for it. I blame the republicans.

^*^Rick has a little crush on Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. I am so proud of him. He said, "I don't know. There's just something about her. She's so intelligent and capable and has such strength about her. I'm really attracted to strong, intelligent women like her." And yes, he knows she's a lesbian. He also told me after watching the interview with the Obamas on 60 Minutes, "Wow. If Michelle came in here interested, I'd follow her right out the door." Bless his heart. I would, too.

^*^I'm looking for the perfect pair of black dressy boots. I want a high heel, but not so high that I look like I'm into S&M. I want the boots to be up to my knees, but not covering any part of my knees. I want a little embellishment, but nothing flashy or whorey-looking. And I don't want to pay more than 75 bucks. Can someone please get on this for me and save me a lot of calisthenic malling? Size 8 1/2. Oh, and no patent leather. (See "whore" ref. above.)

^*^I'm giving up my short hair. Main reason: I. Am. Freezing. I never realized how warm my hair kept my neck and shoulders. Secondary reason: It consistently pisses me off. I cannot count on it. It is worky. My hair looks different every single day. Yesterday, Great Hair Day. Today, Okay Hair Day. Last week, several Total Failure Hair Days. Amount spent on new hair products: Enormous. Amount of satisfaction derived from success rate of new hair products: zero. Conclusion: might as well use Jell-O, Elmer's Glue-All, Minwax, or Vaseline. (Sidenote--Rick says, "I think your hair always looks nice." Sigh.) Okay. Maybe I have the order of Reasons switched.

^*^I keep thinking about getting a cat. I KNOW! Someone stop me. Now. And hurry. Jared says, "Mom, what is the big deal?" I say, "Jared, it's the hair. THE HAIR!" He says, "Mom, it's only an issue for you." Duh. Does he realize that statement speaks volumes?

Probably I should quit now and give all of you a chance. Vent away! Rid your brains of their burdens. OR--go ahead and psychoanalyze mine. Just be careful in there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Words are my business and my passion. And I'm not going to lie: words are my favorite weapon, too. I teach my students that all the time. Nothing is more valuable to put in your personal arsenal than an impressive vocabulary. And they believe it, too. I never dummy down my vocabulary when I talk in my classroom, and I tell them to sing out when I use a word they don't know. Often, I have a Designated Dictionary Person in the room and that person knows to go get the dictionary, look up the word, and once he has it, raise his hand and read the meaning out. It doesn't happen as often as you'd think, though. One, they don't often care, and two, much of the time the word's meaning is apparent through context. (I feel like #1,however, is the biggest reason.)

Anyway, I try to instill an appreciation of words in my students. In honors, we look at diction and the way writers write. Even with my regular juniors, we take a look at that when we can, especially when I read aloud. They humor me when I fling around a few "big words" here and there at them; they retaliate by slinging slang at me.

I love to keep current with slang. I find it refreshing and encouraging. The English language is such a vibrant, living organism to me. It's constantly expanding and accepting; it morphs and grows as the world changes and moves forward.

My new favorite slang term was introduced to me on Monday. My student Taylor was tardy to class without a pass. She came charging in, breathless and apologetic. She's never tardy and kids in Creative Writing want to be there. I merely looked at her and waited while she gulped air and composed herself.

"Ms. D," she said, fanning herself and huffing and puffing, "I'm so sorry I was late, but me and Ms. Roberts was in the team office choppin' it up about colleges and we just lost track of time."

*choppin' it up--talking things over; chatting about a topic extensively

I love it. It's very evocative and somehow precise. Not too far off from "chewing the fat" but so much and simple.

Yesterday, I thought I had invented a new word. Well, not an entirely new word, but a noun form of a word that would, I thought, be so nice and easy to say. I had never really heard it said, and I already had a snippy little snarky use for it. I rushed to a dictionary just to be sure and...crap. It was already a word. That word? Ubiquity. I love the word ubiquitous already. I use it often. It's even fun to type. (Go ahead and try it--ubiquitous--it's quite the workout getting that q in there.) Anyway. I never knew that there was a nice, short noun form already. I thought it would be fun to start putting some of Brian Williams' ties in a Fashion Den of Ubiquity--you know, the ones he wears all the time--and thought, wow, Nance, you invented a cool little word, there. Except, not. Sigh. Dammit.

Finally, I do want to invent a new use of an existing word and here it is. You know how some people just wear you out? (In the interest of fairness, I must admit that my Very Own Husband will immediately nod and say, "Yes, Nance, I do. You, for instance." ) How those people put you through an incredible amount of arduous and strenuous effort or mental distress? These individuals might be co-workers, children, family, or even friends. Here is the new word we can use to describe them: calisthenic. Heretofore, this word has been a noun only, meaning "exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus." Well, forget that. Now, we are going to start using it as an adjective, and it is going to describe people who just work us out until we are exhausted. Here is an example:

I am done with these hour-long phone calls with my mother; she is just too calisthenic.

My friend Leanne finds purse shopping with me to be calisthenic. I find my seventh period junior regular class of 16 boys and 4 girls to be highly calisthenic.

What fun! I just love choppin' it up about words.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

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