Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big Dogs - Big Bones

Katy and Yuki both got a special treat this morning — a super sized chew stick bone. Yuki went to work on it straight away while Katy hung back and slept next to it before getting up to "kitty cat" it. That's what we call it when she bats stuff around like a dingbat. She had to check on Yuki's progress a couple of times.... all part of her delaying strategy to lord it over Yuki when Yuki finishes first. Katy always waits until Yuki is finished chewing on something big before she starts in. That way she can torture the younger pup who always comes to watch Katy. One of these days Yuki is going to get wise to Katy's antics and swipe Katy's waited for treat right out from under her nose. One of these days...

.. but not today.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Foray into Felt Food

Over the last few days I've been making a sandwich out of felt — using no patterns, just winging it.

The sandwich has:

* 2 slices of bread, with crust
* swiss cheese slice
* 3 slices of thin cut deli turkey meat
* 2 pickles
* 2 tomatoes
* slice of ham/bologna
* an egg with yolk
* cheddar cheese slice
* 10 leaves of lettuce

After making it, I came to realize that people who sell felt food on etsy severely underprice their creations. I've seen sandwiches, albeit not as complete as this one, for sale for as little as $11! That's crazy. It took me at least an hour alone to sew just the bread and cheese. And, it's not like I'm a novice hand-stitcher either — I've been sewing since my grandmother taught me when I was 11. And I have gotten plenty of practice making all those stinking OrnaMonkeys! There is definitely an upper limit on how fast you can stich by hand, so to see people so severely underprice their work it makes me wonder.

Of course, some of you may be wondering why the heck you'd make felt food, let alone buy it in the first place. Well... if you've got kids or are expecting them, they do make super cool toys. Kids can assemble their own sandwich, picking and choosing what they want to put on it to pretend to eat (or to pretend to make their dolls eat). This let's them practice at making their own food long before it's safe to. And, there's no mess. Depending on the type of felt play food they have to play with, they may even be more adventurous with eating the real deal. Play with fake asparagus enough times, or sushi, or pita sandwiches, and maybe just maybe she'll ask to eat that instead of a whole litany of other things that wouldn't be as healthy.

Baby Field Notes will have a well stocked felt food pantry by the time she's old enough to make believe. I can't wait! I've already bought some super awesome felt food from GoBuggy on etsy. Her creations are amazing — so much so that I now know it's not worth it to even try. I did try to make a lobster like her crawfish. It has joined the domain of Projects I Started And Never Finished. What was I thinking?! You can see her talent on display here in this crawfish dinner.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Birth Classes: To Take or Not To Take?

Usually when confronted with a decision where some research would help, I consult sources to help me make the tough choice. For the decision about whether to take birth classes, also called 'antenatal classes,' it didn't take much to convince to pass on them. Before you gasp and say, how could you? Let me just say that: a) they aren't free, b) the latest research report says they don't decrease the use of an epidural or create a more positive 'birth experience,' -or- reduce the rate of a C-section, and c) are considered by many women to be a waste of time — especially if you are the type to educate yourself.

Now, cost is not really a big concern, but the cost of dragging myself and Mr. FN to a class every Thursday night for 2 hours from 7-9pm is a significant cost. I start heading toward snoozeville at 7pm and both of us are ready to be out like lights by 9pm. Put me in a room where I have to listen to someone tell me crap I already googled or read on my own and make feel dippy by having me practice breathing (something I already know how to do from meditation practice) and I am bound to drop out.

Add in the latest research, reported by the BBC and based on the study of 1,000 women who participated in classes, and I am not inclined to go. The research found that taking classes to learn and practice breathing and massage techniques to reduce pain did not lower the rate of epidurals, C-section or use of instruments like vacuum and forceps, nor did it affect the perceived quality of the birth experience.

I can't say I am surprised by it, since I doubt there is anything that can prepare a person to cope with intense pain, besides perhaps, having already experienced it. Practicing breathing and massage in the absence of pain and expecting that juju magic to work when there is real pain is just plain naive if you ask me. I know it's going to hurt like hell, I can imagine it's a hell of a lot worse than the pain I got from endometriosis and cysts rupturing — the kind of pain where you are reduced to lying on the floor crying out for a god you don't even believe exists to make it stop. I remember that vividly, and I imagine what I am in for is at least that bad.

But, unlike then, now I know why the pain is happening, that it is for a good reason, and that it will not last forever. I think that can make quite a bit of difference, but we'll see. I do aim for a natural childbirth, free from drugs. Having an epidural strikes me as a good way to prolong labor and increase the likelihood of having surgery, something I definitely want to avoid. And, really, it will come as no surprise whatsoever given my academic background, that the knowledge that women have been doing this for eons is comforting.

This is one case where I can't wait to experience the pain. It means waiting will be over and the real fun can begin.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We canceled cable TV.

Although a recent AP story I read on the effect of TV networks offering their primetime shows for free online said that that few households were canceling cable because of it, we did.

For the past few months, well, really, ever since I started suffering the effects of pregnancy, we stopped watching primetime TV. I just couldn't stay up until 9pm to watch shows like Lost, Grey's Anatomy, 24, Chuck. So we started watching them online either the next night at an earlier time or whenever fit into our schedule. I don't mind at all watching the shows on my laptop while curled up in bed. It is far, far more convenient.

Not sure yet whether this was a brilliant way to save a couple of hundred bucks a year on a service we rarely use, or a decision I'll end up regretting, but we canceled our cable TV subscription yesterday.

The straw that broke the camel's back was getting selected to be a Nielsen family — you know the research organization that tracks TV viewership. Well, we got our TV watching log book for the week to begin filling out last Thursday and by Saturday we had not even turned the TV on. We only turned it on for a few hours Saturday when we were dog tired from gardening in the near 90-degree heat and had need for mindless entertainment. We channel surfed.

When we hadn't turned the TV on after that come Monday night, I suggested we just cancel the cable service. Why not? We're not even using it. The TV shows we watch we watch online, and they're ending for the season anyway.

If we change our mind, we will have to pay the $50-100 to have the cable guy come back out to hook it up, but if not, we'll have an extra bit of money in the bank each month — to put into a faster internet service for one. And if we can live without it for 6 months and decide that's long enough, the cable company will offer a discount rate to entice us back — right in time for shows like Lost, 24 and Chuck to begin.

I think we made a smart move. But time will tell. In any case, internet has killed the TV in our house.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Competitive Bird Watching: Separates the sparrows from the hawks.

Bobolink! Yellow-billed cuckoo! Catbird! American woodcock!

Just some of the rare-to-us birds Mr. Field Notes and I were excited to see within spitting distance of the place we lived during my grad school days. I never got to see the cuckoo, and allegedly there was a black-billed one spotted too, but bygones. I am *not* competitive when it comes to birdwatching. However, some folks are and take to an extreme level.

Each year in Texas competitive bird watchers gather in Texas for the Great Texas Birding Classic, a 5 day long event in which teams traverse woods and waterways all over the state to collect the most species sightings as they can in 5 days. The prize? Bragging rights, a humongous bronze trophy shaped like an egret and $10,000 to donate to a conservation project.

I really thoroughly enjoy bird spotting and have for a long time — ever since my 7th grade biology teacher had us do a version of the Great Texas Birding Classic for a class project. I racked up quite a few species, including an American Goldfinch, which for a kid used to seeing only robins and ducks, was really, really neat. I don't think I did much authentic birdwatching after that, until I met Mr. Field Notes, who from what it sounds like, grew up going birdwatching with his dad. I say 'going birdwatching' because there's a difference between being a bird watcher and someone who goes bird watching. The former are content to see who comes to patronize their backyard feeds. The latter travel on purpose specifically to spot 'life birds' — new birds seen for the first time in your life.

Mr. Field Notes and I definitely fall into the latter crowd. Proof? We chose to go to southern Arizona in August on purpose for our honeymoon - so we could go birdwatching. Southern Arizona, specifically the area around Sierra Vista, is a birdwatcher's mecca, being the best jumping off place to see tropical species in the US. Later we went to Belize — to go birdwatching. We also snorkeled, and saw ancient Mayan ruins, and monkeys, but mostly we went there to see birds. And birds we did. We kept a list of everything we saw.

Some people who rack up birds on their lists give themselves credit for stuff they hear but not see. I think that's wrong. My personal standard is that I have to get a good enough look at the bird to make my own identification. I never check a bird onto my life list if I see it fly away after Mr. Field Notes does the ID work. I have to do that myself too, for it to count.

Another thing birdwatchers go crazy over, besides life lists and writing down heard-but-not-seens is equipment, specifically binoculars. Now, there are also spotting scopes, which come in very handy for identifying shorebirds, but, it's the binos that come in the most handy. And, as long as you are patient, and quiet, and observant, you don't need expensive ones with image stabilizing features, powerful lenses, and ultra-light weight. I get by just fine on my comparatively dirt cheep ones.

Needless to say, I am truly looking forward to teaching Baby Field Notes about birds and going out with her and Mr. Field Notes to see the birds in our area and then into the great beyond.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A trip down memory lane: Senior Year of High School

It's a meme. It's an easy blog post. I have 2 hours of the LOST season finale to catch up on, not to mention work! So here's a snippet of my former life, and please by all means, do one on your blog too so I can get to know you better too, dear readers!

1. Did you date someone from your school? --- sort of

2. Did you marry someone from your high school? --- No way. But I did from my college.

3. Did you carpool to school? --- No, I walked there in the blistering cold on days when my dad wouldn't let me drive or my neighbor didn't take pity on me and give me a ride. The walk was uphill both ways, through 2 feet of snow and 50 mile per hour winds.

4. What kind of car did you have? --- I didn't get my own car until I went to grad school, but in high school I enjoyed the occasional use of a then brand spanking new Ford pickup truck.

5. What kind of car do you have now? --- Honda CR-V but I still miss my red Audi 90 quattro very, very much. It's just not practical when you have huge dogs! And the CR-V is never in the shop for repairs that cost an arm and a leg... actually more like two arms and a leg!

6. Its Friday night ... where are you? (then) --- at a football game in the fall, dances in the spring

7. It is Friday night ... where are you? (now) --- at home with Mr. Field Notes and the two newfies

8. What kind of job did you have in high school? --- senior year? I don't think I had time for a job, but maybe I worked at the shoe store for a while then. I did work at Dairy Queen early in high school until I was fired for insubordination or some such thing. Come to think of it, that's how my other high school job at a video rental place ended abruptly. Apparently if you question management practices, you lose your job — a lesson I still have not quite 'learned.'

9. What kind of job do you do now? --- One that pays well enough for the time I put into it but is generally a pride-swallowing bore of a job that I'd rather not have to do for much longer.

10. Were you a party animal? --- No.

11. Were you considered a flirt? --- Heh. No. I knew boys were nothing but trouble.

12. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? --- No.

13. Were you a nerd? --- I still am!

14. Did you get suspended or expelled? --- I think I came awfully close one time as editor of my yearbook over a photo I thought we should not have to air brush. I was and still am an ardent advocate of free speech.

15. Can you sing the fight song? --- Not anymore, but I remember its tune is Anchor's Away.

16. Who was your favorite teacher? --- My biology teachers for sure.

17. Where did you sit during lunch? --- In the yearbook office. Even then I took lunch at my desk and worked.

18. What was your school mascot? --- Bison.

19. If you could go back and do it again, would you? --- Not a chance.

20. Did you have fun at prom? --- I hated it.

21. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? --- Every once in a while on Facebook.

22. Are you planning to go to your next reunion? If I live within driving distance at the time.

23. Were you a good student? Yes.

24. What did you like most about high school? I guess, being done with it.

25. Do you still talk to people from school? --- All the time on Facebook.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Katy scores another football! And we got our car back!!!

If this keeps going the way it's going, we're going to have to get her a jersey! Katy just adores football. Yuki does too, which is ultimately why Katy got another football today.

We drove a long way away to get it too, but got to do so in our own car. We finally got it back from the body shop after driving around a rental for 3 weeks. Keep reading for why we had a rental for so long...

... back to the football ...

Mr. Field Notes thought Katy deserved to have her own football after Yuki usurped it from her on our last football adventure to the dog park. This is the brand new football she just got a week ago and was bought specifically for Katy after she went bananas over the one she found at the park and wanted to bring home. Well, at the dog park to break it in, Yuki just would not let Katy fetch the ball, or alternately, Katy just wouldn't assert herself to snag it out from under Yuki. So, Mr. Field Notes had to get Katy another football today so they could both have one. Now, really, we did not make a special trip to the store (an hours drive away) just to get Katy a ball, but rather were already in the vicinity on account of needing to go retrieve some custom framing that was finally ready. Target just happened to be conveniently located and we thought we might be able to find a broiler pan for Mr. Field Notes to use in his new oven. The footballs were an impulse buy, so to speak.

Katy certainly appreciated it and posed for a second or two with her new ball. I had to snatch the camera and quickly take a pic to capture the fleeting moment so the photo has a funny exposure and is out of focus, but you can imagine how majestic and proud she looked in real life as she posed.

... and so the car ...

A guy slammed into us in rear end collision while we were stopped at a red light back in February. It seriously screwed up our Honda CR-V (incidentally just a few weeks after I finished paying it off! Murphy's Law, isn't it?) He hadn't even hit his brakes, so it was a pretty good size jolt we got. No one was hurt in the slightest but our car sustained enough damage to warrant 3 weeks in the body shop. The other driver's insurance covered the repairs and the rental. The only pain in the butt was that we had to wait almost 2 months before our car actually got into the body shop.

We got a brand new Toyota Highlander to rent. It was nice. Huge. HUGE. Compared to our CR-V. There's no way we can transport 2 newfies, a baby in a car seat and any stuff in our CR-V, but we could if we had a Highlander. It rode much more smoothly than the CR-V too. More like a car than a truck. Ours rides like a truck. But, the Highlander got horrible gas mileage so we weren't tempted in the slightest to go out and trade our wrecked car for a Highlander.

I am glad to have our own car back. No more worries about whether the dogs would mess up the rental too much. They only road in it once, to go to the dog park, the day before we got the call our car was ready — Murphy's Law again. So we (ha ha ha!) I mean Mr. Field Notes, had to clean up the Highlander, when if we had known, could have waited a day on then not been bothered with the clean up. Oh well.

Pur CR-V looks a little strange with a brand new back end and darned if it doesn't look much, much nicer with a washing! I swear they returned it to us cleaner than it has ever been since we took possession of it 3 years ago. We both remarked we're going to have to actually wash it every once in a while because it looks a lot, lot less ratty when clean.

My other brilliant (I think?) idea with the car is to install the baby's car seat now and put a stuffed animal in it to get the newfs accustomed to having to sit in their places and not jump or crawl over the back seat. I think that will allow us to see whether they might ever be able to ride in the car with the baby. Otherwise, it will be just the dad guy taking them to the dog park for years while I stay home with the baby. Or vice versa. Humpf on that. That's no fun.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Copyright Infringement vs. Fair Use

Recently one of our YouTube videos, of the newfies of all things, was flagged for copyright infringement. I wasn't going to write about this because I didn't think I'd be able to keep it clean, but I figure as long as I make a good argument and use some good vocabulary words, I can use a few swear words in the process.

The flagged video can still be watched in the US, but not in some other countries. The video in question is called "Sleeping Dogs: Smells like 2 dogs napping." Katy and Yuki rest on the back couch barely awake despite the Nirvana song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blaring in the background. It lasts all of 69 seconds. The Nirvana song is not played in full. In fact, there's 40 seconds of one part of the song and another 29 seconds of the tail end of the song. In other words, what I would think would constitute fair use.

I revisited the issue today when I uploaded a video of the girls playing football at the dog park. All the YouTube site says upfront is:
Important: Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts, or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself.

Okay. I didn't do that. Still not satisfied, I read the "Copyright Tips page" where I got some really cheesy advice: "The way to ensure that your video doesn't infringe someone else's copyright is to use your skills and imagination to create something completely original." Feeling like a 5th grader, I clicked on the "What about fair use" link to 'learn more' and there I went straight to "" where I finally learned something from the George Washington University School of Law after reading their answers to some of the FAQs.

In the event that the owner of the copyright to the Nirvana song (would that be Courtney Love?) takes us to court for copyright infringement, the court would weigh 4 factors. Now, nevermind that I doubt she'd bother taking the time to take us to court over 69 seconds of Newfies sleeping to Smells Like Teen Spirit, but if she or whoever actually owns the copyright did, the court would consider:

Basically how new, novel or creative is the creation in question? The more it is something novel, the more likely there's no infringement.

Basically, if it's a work of art as opposed to a piece of fact, the more protection the copyright holder has. I think in this case, Smells Like Teen Spirit is a true work of art. I'd be busted if this were all that mattered. But it's not, which brings us to factor 3.

The less used, the more it falls under fair use. This is like the difference between a fleeting expletive and a whole freaking song littered with F-bombs, which I happen to not find offensive, but that's another blog post subject entirely. "If, however, the defendant copied nearly all of, or the heart of, the copyrighted work, his or her use is less likely to be considered fair." Here I think that since I used only 23% of the song (69 our of 300 seconds) and that it was not the heart of the song, I would have a leg to stand on, especially in light of factor 4.

This one basically says that it isn't fair use if my use doesn't circumvent the copyright owner's ability to exploit his or her original work. Basically, since no one in their right mind, or even their severely deranged mind, is going to download the newfie sleeping video just so they can listen to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and avoid having to buy the song themself, then it's fair use. My use is not a direct market substitute for the original work.

Furthermore I might point out that when visitors to this blog watch the newfies sleeping video, or find it on YouTube and watch it there, they are actually encouraged to buy the Nirvana song where they can do so with a mouse click. In essence, the copyright holder is getting free advertising and anyone who doesn't own the song and is reminded of how much they like it when they see the video, may be compelled to buy it. Meanwhile, I earn nothing from the video whatsoever.

Thus, my use of 69 seconds of Smells Like Teen Spirit as background noise in the Sleeping Dogs video constitutes "Fair Use."

I rest my case.

And, here's the football video, for anyone who is ready for some lighter entertainment. If you look closely you'll see a tiny Yorkshire terrier who wanted to play with the big girls. I think he was smaller than a football.
Football at the Park

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Week in Review

Don't worry grandma! I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! You're probably the only one who still reads this blog now that I post so infrequently — for that I blame pregnancy and the horrible, horrible heartburn I still get. I wake up with it; I go to sleep with it; I pretty much feel like throwing up most of the day because of the acid reflux that goes with it. And now, I am huge enough that I walk funny and have to think about how I am going to get back up if I squat (there is no such thing as bending down anymore) to pick something up off the floor. Needless to say, I sort of wish I had more orangutan-like toes. I would put them to good use.

This week, I managed through 3 days of solo dog duty because Mr. Field Notes was away at a conference. They were sweethearts, mostly, and did remember to wake me up for work in the morning so that was good and all I really expected of them.

Mr. FN's nearly 100 year old grandpa died. He was a Lt. Colonel in the Army so he had a military service, complete with gun fire out at the army fort. We couldn't be there because I'm too far along for air travel. I'm glad I at least got to meet him when I did.

My belly button is starting to pop out, but still no stretch marks for now! Did I mention I feel like barfing? Ugh. I really wish that would stop.

Yuki has to go to bed now with her "Shreddy Bear" nearby. It's her ball made of rope. She has to have something to chew on every night before bed and the pieces of it come apart and scatter all over the floor. It makes a colossal mess, but she loves it and it helps her get to sleep, sort of like a teddy bear.

Two movies I watched were sursprisingly bad: The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I didn't have high hopes for the former one, given it's a Keanu Reaves movie and he never makes good movies. But it had Jennifer Connely in it and is a sci-fi doomsday flick so I couldn't not see it, but jeeeeeez - who the heck wrote the script? Aliens want to wipe out humans because we are killing the earth's other life forms due to our selfishness, but the alien meets a kindly (female) scientist who takes him to meet an evolutionary biologist who is working on "biological altruism." This is supposed to show him that not all humans are selfish and that we can evolve altruism. The alien still has to help him hammer out the exact formula for it though. And then later the alien has a change of heart about destroying humankind when the scientist's kid demonstrates grief. Good grief, I say! Just because one kid is capable of grieving the death of his father does not mean humans are capable of being altruistic to other life forms. Ugh. And, whatever. At least the special effects were decent and I didn't fall asleep. The Brad Pitt Button film was a royal snoozer. I fell asleep numerous times and had to watch it in two parts on different days. It was at least a good story. Based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Who knew?

So that's pretty much it. Oh yeah, and I am finally reading a book for fun. Granted, it's an academic one (the only kind I really ever read) but it's a snoozer too. I don't think I'll finish it.

Good stuff happening? Ummmmm, lemme think. The flowering trees are stunning and I've already got snapdragons in bloom. The weather has been warmer and I'm eating ice cream like no one else! It cures heartburn, wouldn't ya know! And, if you put bananas and peanutes in it, you can *almost* call it dinner. Least, that's my reasoning tonight!

Friday, May 01, 2009

One bright bird brain: MAGPIES!

Add them to the growing list of animals that can recognize themselves when they look in a mirror: magpies. If you don't live in the West, you probably aren't familiar with them, but they are really neat birds that I happen to be rather fond of. They are showy, the West's version of a tropical-looking bird. I know some people don't like them because they're scavangers, but whatever. I think they're cool and they just got a whole lot more cool!

According to research published in the Public Library of Science - Biology, magpies passed the famous mirror test that psychologists have been using since the 1950s to determine when babies (and animals like apes, monkeys, dolphins and elephants) have a self-concept. Presumably, if they show evidence they know the image in the mirror isn't somebody else and show signs they recognize themselves in the mirror, then they have a sense of self.

The mirror test involves placing a mark on the individual while they are unconscious. Controls get touched, but no mark is left. When they wake up in front of a mirror if the marked ones touch the mark after looking in the mirror, they 'pass' the test. They also have to not touch the mark if they're not in front of the mirror.

Self-recognition is linked to highly developed understanding of social relationships, empathy and perspective taking.

According to the researchers, magpies were chosen because they compete with conspecifics for food that they hide and have a memory for where food is hoarded, making them good candidates for complex social understanding. They were also chosen because they're smarter than monkeys, i.e., magpies achieve the highest level of Piagetian object permanence (ability to recognize an object still exists even when it is out of sight, i.e. why peek-a-boo is so amusing with babies) whereas monkeys don't. Magpies are curious and "prone to approach new situations, making them ideally suited for an experiment that requires spontaneous interaction with a new and puzzling context," the researchers said.