Monday, January 27, 2014

Wrong Number

The phone rang today, and I answered it.

Me: Hello?

Phone: HI.  DON.

Me: Uhhh?

Phone: I'm looking for Don.

Me: I think you have a wrong number.

Phone:  No, I'm looking for DON.

Me: I think this is a wrong number?

Phone: *click*

So after that I came online to blog about it, because I forgot that I had a blog and realized I should probably post something.  Sorry for forgetting, blog.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Facebook Petition

My last post was about a petition I didn't sign, today's is about a petition that I did sign.  Because it's only fair to provide balanced non-biased petition coverage.  Also because I'm lazy and this was an easy post.

People should sign this!  It's a petition asking Facebook to expand the options regarding gender and sexuality in a profile's Basic Info section, to include genders beyond just male and female and to include sexualities beyond just straight, gay or bi.  It's important!

I think these two petitions are a pretty good example of something that probably isn't all that helpful and something that is.  Well-meaning (though shark-racist) it may be, the dolphin petition doesn't seem like it will be all that useful in the grand scheme of things.  I mean, why would the Government of Peru care about some random Canadian lady's opinion on how they enforce their dolphin ban?  Or a hundred random Canadian ladies, or a thousand.  Basically, the opinions of a few average citizens in another country just aren't that important to foreign governments.  I don't pay taxes to Peru, I don't vote there, I don't even think about Peru all that often.  But I do use Facebook.  I'll go out on a limb and say that most people on the internet use Facebook.  Most everybody signing that petition will be a Facebook user.  Unlike Peru, Facebook will have a reason to care about the opinions of people signing this petition.  If it gets enough signatures it might make them realize that while it seems like a simple thing, it's important to a lot of people and thus something that they should consider changing, to better serve their customers.  There are loads of people who are unable to express their gender or sexuality accurately on Facebook, and considering the amount of time people spend online, and how our social interactions are largely taking place on sites like Facebook these days than they are in face-to-face situations, I think it's a pretty big deal that people can properly say who they really are in those situations.  And it's not like it would be a lot of work for Facebook, either; unlike Peru, which will have to spend a lot of money sending ships and crews out on regular patrols and then having officials work extra time dealing with the increased numbers of caught offenders, all Facebook has to do is add another button or two to their website.  And Facebook changes their website constantly.

So, to compare:  the dolphin petition is asking Peru to a) listen to the opinions of a bunch of random foreigners who offer nothing to the country but criticism, and b) spend a ton of money to placate these foreigners (who will probably forget about Peru entirely the second they do).  Sure, there are ethical and legal reasons to do what the petition is asking, but those reasons are not actually affected by the petition in any way.  The Facebook petition, though, just asks Facebook to a) listen to people who are probably already users as they express a grievance with the service they are being offered directly, which impacts their active use of the site rather than just their polite sensitivities for a situation that they aren't directly involved in at any stage, unlike the Peru one, and b) make a small change to the profile setup that won't affect anybody but the people who are asking for the change, and which can probably be done the next time Facebook does some big huge redesign that everyone will hate like they do two or three times a year.  The difference is huge regarding the amount of work the petitions are requesting be done as well as in the direct impact the issues have on the people signing the petitions in the first place.  So it's kind of disappointing that the largely impractical, armchair-activist dolphin petition has almost eighteen thousand signatures as of this time while the Facebook petition that has an actual day-to-day effect on a number of Facebook users over a relatively simple issue only has about a hundred.

Also, it never occurred to me to post this Nimona strip on my last post about sharks.  So this is to make up for it.

Any day where I can plug Nimona is a good day.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Screw Sharks, Think Of The Dolphins!

So I was going through the junk folder on my oldest email account, just to see if I was missing anything, and I found this petition: "The Cost of Shark Bait Soup: Dolphins Chopped Up And Skinned Alive."  The hysterical summary cries out about the sadful sadness that is the dead dolphins, butchered by those horrible fishermen.  They just don't appreciate these amazing creatures!  Also something about havoc on the ecosystem.  The dolphins, though!  The dolphins!

Seriously.  The first paragraph of the petition's description reads, "Shark fin soup comes with a price. And we're not talking the thousands people pay to eat it — we're talking the mass killing of sharks, the disruption of our oceans' ecosystem, and the brutal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of dolphins used by fishermen as shark bait."  The other two paragraphs, however, focus exclusively on the fate of the dolphins, and the petition itself is asking the Peruvian government to better enforce the ban on dolphin meat.

I didn't sign the petition.  Normally, I'm a sucker for petitions.  I know they don't actually have any real effect, most of the time, and they are an easy way for someone to pretend to be an "activist" without actually doing any real, meaningful activism.  But sadly, I'm guilted into signing them pretty easily.  A corporation has done something mean!  I must take a stand, or else I am supporting them!  An animal is being abused?  I must sign this, or else I will be as bad as the people abusing it in the first place!  Et cetera, et cetera.  But I didn't sign this one.  In fact, I was kind of offended by it.

For one thing, they don't ever mention which kind of dolphin is usually being slaughtered.  It makes me a little suspicious.  After all, while there certainly are endangered breeds out there, the bottlenose dolphin, for example, isn't endangered in the slightest.  Neither the petition nor the article it links even throws in a sentence like, all dolphins are killed, regardless of endangered status!  Also, dolphins are kind of dicks.  I admit, I've got a bit of my own personal bias going on too: dolphins are just so universally adored, but I just don't see how they are any cuter or more endearing than another type of animal, and after a lifetime of hearing about how they're so sweet and friendly and spiritual and they have such a connection to us and "My spirit animal is a dolphin because I just love dolphins" I just got kind of annoyed by them.  I don't actively dislike dolphins or anything, they just don't register as special to me the way they seem to for everyone else.  

Which leads me to what is probably the main reason I didn't sign the petition: it was just obsessed with the freaking dolphins, and it completely ignored the worse industry: shark fishing.  Even though the petition's page starts out by directly mentioning shark fin soup, which kills a huge amount of sharks annually, it's the freaking dolphins that matter.  They're as bad as dolphins, taking an industry that's explicitly about killing sharks in horrible ways and only being concerned with the way it affects the one animal that's popular and cute enough for them to stir up emotions over.  It's killing the dolphins that will ruin the ecosystem, folks! The shark killing is just a little side drama to add to this horrible dolphin tragedy!

You could probably say that sharks are my dolphins: everyone else seems to think they're just awful, but I love them to pieces, and the shark fishing industry just breaks my heart.  The dolphins are getting off easy here.  The article the petition links to even says, "the dolphin is hauled on board and almost immediately dies on the deck of the vessel."  Bleeding profusely, sure, but at least it dies right away.  Compare the poor sharks; a lot of the time, the fishermen don't even kill them before cutting off their fins, and they just toss them back into the water to sink down and die, eaten by predators or drowning without their fins propelling water through their gills.  And I can't think of any non-endangered shark breed subjected to finning off the top of my head.*  Great whites, endangered.  Hammerheads, endangered.  Mako sharks, probably endangered, I can't remember.  Whale sharks and basking sharks, both endangered and greatly sought after.  If the petition really cared about the plight of amazing creatures, it would be objecting to the entire practice of shark finning, not just the way shark finning also includes the death of "cute" animals like dolphins.

*Not to say that there aren't any; I can pretty much guarantee that there are plenty I'm not thinking of.  Just not off the top of my head, like I could with the dolphin thing.

But nope!  Hey Peru, get to work on saving those dolphins!  Those cutie-patooties are the real victims of the shark finning industry!  Assuming this is that magical unicorn petition that actually does have an effect on the real world, what would happen if it worked?  Peru would stop people from hunting dolphins, sure.  But it wouldn't stop anyone from hunting sharks, or from using a different animal as bait.  This petition isn't about animal rights, it's just about dolphins specifically, because people have decided that dolphins alone are worth protecting, but sharks aren't cute enough and "the ecosystem" is too broad and vague to have an emotional impact.  Look at Flipper!  He's always smiling!  Quick, pass a law!

Disclaimer: I'd just like to say, for the record, that I'm not an animal rights activist.  I strongly disapprove of animal abuse, and I love just about any critter that isn't a bug.  I absolutely think there should be laws in place to protect animals, especially endangered ones like the various sharks and dolphins mentioned in this post.  But I also approve of keeping animals as pets, and of using them when it's convenient, I approve of animal testing (look, it's sad that animals get hurt over it but I want to know that my makeup and medicine is safe for living things before it starts getting tested on humans!), and I approve of hunting.  In fact, I think hunting is more humane than animal farming.  At least my moose had the space and freedom to run around and live, and it's not stuffed to the moosey gills with steroids and hormones.  Basically, just because I disagree with how limited this petition is, don't lump me in with those Peta freaks.  

Update: I was on Wikipedia and remembered this article, so I looked up shark finning!  Turns out that of the dozen or so species listed on the page as being commonly fished, only about three of them are non-threatened: blacktips, blues, and tigers.  Well.  They're "near-threatened," so still not great that they are being hunted, but they're still classified as "least concern."  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Disney's Frozen

So I went to see Frozen the other day.  The Snow Queen (which Frozen is very loosely based on/inspired by, and I am linking it because surprisingly most people I've tried to talk to about the movie have never actually read or even heard of Hans Christian Anderson's longest and one of his most famous stories) has always been my favourite fairy tale, ever since I was a kid.  When I found out a few years ago that Disney was making a film based on it I totally geeked out and I've been waiting for it in eager anticipation ever since.  At least until I saw the first trailer and lost all hope in a just and fair world.  I mean, look at this crap:

Oh joy, obnoxious non-human sidekicks, how original.  I can't wait to watch a movie full of that snowman's horrible voice squawk out gag-worthy one-liners while the big dumb caribou tries to eat his nose and they have horrible unfunny slapstick scenes all over the place.  The other trailers did equally terrible jobs of selling the film, because I just looked some up and they made it look like utter crap.  I'm really glad now that I only saw the one above and not any of the others, because aside from looking awful, they spoil some great jokes and some neat scenes in the film.  If this had movie bombed, I'd blame the trailers completely fucking over a good thing, not the movie itself.

Anyway, I went to see it anyway (because there was no way I was passing up any version of The Snow Queen, especially a Disney version, no matter how they butchered it), and was very pleasantly surprised.  It was actually pretty fantastic!  Not like the trailers at all!  There's still some stuff that I think could have been done better, but a lot of it really exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations.  I'm probably going to start going into spoilers while I write this, by the way, just in case anybody is worried about that stuff.  I forgot to mention it earlier -- sorry!  At least I remembered before I actually said any spoilers.  Anyway, movie talk.  Pleasant surprises!  Go!

There's the music, for one.  I didn't realize this would be a musical.  Well, I figured that as a Disney princess movie there would be a few songs thrown in, but Frozen was a real straight-up musical.  How do I know it was a real straight-up musical?  Well, it's because musicals are the only movies I can watch once then immediately have to watch again.  I downloaded the soundtrack when I got home, but it wasn't really the same because while the songs are still good, it's also a really, fantastically visual movie.  For example, when I went looking for that godawful slapstick trailer to post above, I found they'd also posted Idina Menzel's show-stopping number that I felt was really the centrepiece of the film's soundtrack.  Listening to it alone on the soundtrack has a very Wicked feel (because duh, Idina Menzel), but I didn't notice it quite so much in theatres because of how fantastic I thought all the snow and ice stuff was, plus I was thinking of her more as the character of Elsa and not as the actress Idina.  Watch:

How great is that?  It's a good song, I really liked it on its own, but the song paired with the visuals of Elsa blossoming into the Snow Queen, finding the beauty in her powers by sending gorgeous works of snowflake art spinning around, creating a swirling staircase of frost, and raising a massive palace of aurora-gleaming ice from the mountain and the air itself.  It's one of my favourite scenes in the movie, because it's just such a spectacle.  Mind you, not all the music was great.  I found some songs to be a little grating; for example, Anna's first song, where she is asking Elsa if she wants to build a snowman like she did before.  It's very cutesy, a bit too much so, and some of the lyrics are rather uninspired and don't make the characters all that impressive; for example, "Do you wanna build a snowman?" "Anna, go away!" "Ooookay byyyyyye."  The way the two words were dragged out sounded pretty bland, and it made Anna seem like the least determined person ever.  She desperately wants her sister back!  But as soon as her sister is all, no go away, she's like gosh ok what else can I do.  And growing up with siblings, let me just say I wish it was that easy to get an obnoxious kid to scram.  

Another good surprise was the characters.  The obnoxious sidekicks from the first trailer aren't obnoxious at all in the film!  In fact, they're pretty endearing.  The reindeer doesn't do any slapstick bullshit, as far as I remember, and while the snowman -- I think his name is Olaf?  Or Oglaf, but I hope it's not, for any google-happy kid's sake -- is goofy, sure, but it's not the grating in-your-face goofy that it was in the trailers, it's more...I dunno, I want to say understated but it's really not.  And instead of just being dumb one-liners he's actually got some really funny bits!  And a lot of the time he's not supposed to be funny himself, really, but more setting up for someone else's funny.  For example, when he's singing his I Want song, the song's a joke, sure, but the real joke in the scene belongs to Kristoff, at the end.  I won't spoil it here because I liked it, even though I think one of the trailers might have done already.  Neither of them get as much screen time as the trailer I saw seemed to imply, and what time they do spend onscreen they usually act as actual comic relief, bringing a bit of lightness and humour to an otherwise heavy part of the movie.  Compare Jar Jar Binks, one of the most famously annoying Adorable Non Human Sidekicks In A Kid's Film characters, who had long scenes of him being unbearably annoying and dragging the film down.  No, Frozen did it absolutely right.

Of course, the characters were also one of the things I didn't always agree with.  For one thing, the original fairy tale had such good side characters!  I was so looking forward to meeting the clever Princess, who has read every book in the world and when she decided it was time to get married, she turned down every suitor until she found someone who was only interested in her mind and knowledge and not her face or her riches or anything.  Or the robber girl!  She was just so rad, she's basically just the hero of another story; she shows up as a kid with her mother and the rest of their band of thieves to kidnap Greta (the girl in the original story, I'd say she's Anna in this but she kind of isn't, the Disney version is hugely changed), and steals her horse and her clothes and everything, and she's kind of like an anti-hero; she sleeps with a knife and threatens her pet reindeer with it for a laugh, and threatens to kill Greta, but then when she hears Greta's story she's all "Well that sounds like a pretty awesome adventure! You know what, you go and get on with your bad self, go save your boy if you really think he's worth it" and gives her back her fancy warm clothes (but keeps her fancy muff and instead gives Greta her mom's bulky old mittens, because she's amazing and takes what she wants) and lets her reindeer free on the condition that he will help Greta get to the Snow Queen's palace, and off they go.  And then at the end of the story she shows up again, riding Greta's stolen horse all grown up with a pair of pistols strapped to her hips because she'd decided to wander the world and find her own way, and she's just like "You did it!  You go girl, if I'm ever in your town I'll stop by for a visit" and rides off into the sunset.  But I guess the story was so changed in Disney's version that they couldn't fit them in, or didn't think they suited the tone of the movie or whatever, I don't know -- the point is, they weren't there and that makes me sad because I loved them so much when I was younger.  The Snow Queen was really just full of awesome ladies, and it bums me out that Disney's version didn't have them.  There was a lady for everyone!  There was the good but sad magic woman who wanted to keep Greta, so she tricked her into staying in her garden out of loneliness.  There was the aforementioned genius Princess and the badass robber girl.  There was the Snow Queen herself, who I always loved; she wasn't really a villain, not really.  At least I never got a sense of evil from her in the versions I read.  She was impossible and otherworldly and had a completely different set of morals; she invited Kay to come with her out of loneliness, I thought, and I don't believe it ever would have occurred to her that it was wrong.  After all, she's an ancient and powerful fairy queen who sees mortals live and die in misery all the time, who would miss the little boy who caught her eye?  But whatever.  The story I remember wasn't the story Disney was telling, and that's okay even if I'm sad I never really saw it, because the original story really was just too religious to go over well now.  Let's talk about the character problems that are in the story Disney was actually telling.

For the record, spoilers are going to start here, for reelzies.  I really did like all of the characters in the movie, at least for the first half.  I didn't have any real problems with the characters themselves.  My problem was really where they paired them up or dealt with them at the end.  For example, Anna and Hans, her prince.  They meet in the beginning of the movie and over the course of an evening fall in love and decide to get engaged.  Everybody gives them crap over it, though; Elsa refuses to give her blessing because they'd only just met (which upsets Anna, who grabs her glove off and accidentally reveals her hidden powers to everyone, setting the main drama of the film in motion), and later on Kristoff gives her a hard time over it too and is all, I don't trust your judgment!  Who gets engaged to someone they only just met?  Well...Disney princesses do.  That's why it worked for me.  In the context of a Disney film, especially one of this style, meeting cute and falling in love and knowing you are truly Meant To Be is the norm.  And Anna and Hans were really adorable; he was a super-cute dude, they had a chemistry-filled song about falling in love with each other, he was responsible and helped her kingdom and tried to save her sister after the whole snow thing went down.  So I was really surprised when Hans turned out to be a bad guy in the end.  It really felt like more of a cop-out than a twist, not least because it made a lot of his earlier actions not make much sense.  For example, his plan all along was to marry Anna and have Elsa die in an accident so he could inherit the throne through Anna.  But if that's the case, why try to save Elsa from the Weaseltown dudes when they invaded her palace in the mountains?  If he never loved her, where was all that chemistry coming from in their song together?  And if he's so brilliant he can just come in and take over the kingdom as easily as he did, why was he so dumb as to leave Anna alive in a locked room in her own castle, just assuming she'll drop dead, then wander out and be all "Oh yes, she died (just don't go to look at her ok) and we totallly got married without any witnesses and I have no proof but that's so totally how it went down you guys, and again she is just so very dead in that locked room over there, no need to check and please ignore all knocking or cries for help."  The apparent moral of "you probably aren't really in love with that dude you just met at a royal ball who sang a love duet with you" doesn't really work out very well in a Disney film.  It feels like a last minute change they made in order to set up Anna and Kristoff as the main couple, since they spend most of the film together.

And I realize I'm getting into very shippy territory here, but I don't think they really work out all that well together, either.  Well, they're cute, I guess, and the romance is very light.  But they seemed more like friends for most of the film, with a few ham-handed "he totes has feelings yo" scenes here and there, and I really thought Kristoff would meet and fall for Elsa, the Snow Queen.  It makes sense; his immediate reaction to seeing her beautiful ice stairway and palace is to shed a tear, because as he says, ice is his life (he sells it for a living).  Of course his reaction would be one of admiration before one of fear; he is very well aware of the beauty of ice and snow, and is struck speechless by it the first time he sees anything she's made.  I was really looking forward to them meeting properly for the whole film, and just never really happened.  I don't think they had a single conversation.  Bummer.

But there was another thing I liked!  They kept the shards of ice in the heart/eye from the original story.  Well, the original story actually had shards of glass made by the devil to make things ugly, but I've seen the ice version before too so it works out ok.  And they didn't keep it completely true, but they had the "ice in heart freezes it" thing, and part of the drama at the end is Anna trying to find an act of true love to thaw her freezing heart.  The characters went looking for true love's kiss, and I was sitting in my chair going, "Man, wouldn't it be great if the act of love wasn't romantic?  Elsa loves her sister, she could give herself up and risk being locked away and losing her newfound freedom in exchange for a chance at saving Anna."  And the movie subverted both itself and my expectations; the act of love came from Anna herself, sacrificing herself at the last minute by running away from kissy Kristoff in order to save Elsa from Hans' blade and turning to solid ice right then, so his sword shatters on her frozen hand.  I really liked the idea of the act of love coming from within rather than without, because it shows how powerful love can be.  I kind of liked how Anna saved herself, but then I was like, can it really be "she saved herself" if she did it by sacrificing herself?  There are a lot of narratives out there about how women need to be loving and self-sacrificing, I'm not sure if this one needs fanfare.

Another problem I had with the films were the character designs.  Don't get me wrong, everything was very pretty!  But seriously, everyone looks identical.  Elsa, Anna and their mom have completely interchangeable faces (which, it has been pointed out to me, look basically like Rapunzel's face in Tangled, because Hollywood is only interested in having pretty white girls around and can't figure out how to make them both pretty and look like individual people at the same time.) and it's kind of dull to look at.  If you saw them without the hairstyles or colouring to distinguish them, would you be able to tell them apart?

Courtesy of this tumblr...I think.  I really don't understand how tumblr works, tbh

Another thing I regret about the film is how little I feel like I know the characters.  Compare other movies; in Beauty and the Beast we know Belle spends all her time reading and being a weirdo with her inventor dad.  In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is obsessed with the human world and spends all her time collecting human artifacts and being a weirdo about boys with legs.  Tiana in The Princess And The Frog has a hell of a work ethic and spends as much time as she can working and reading cookbooks and being a frog, which is pretty weird.  In The Aristocats, the kittens spend their time studying high-class stuff like painting and music, but are still kids and would rather play.  The kitten Marie likes to be very feminine and thinks of herself as a lady, while her older brother Toulouse wants to be big and tough like an alley cat.  In Lilo and Stitch, Lilo's main character trait is what a weirdo she is, doing strange things like making weird dolls and practicing voodoo, and she loves to hula dance and take photos of random tourists.  My point here is that I don't get anything like that from Elsa and Anna.  Elsa spent years alone in her room -- what did she do in there all that time, aside from "have magic ice powers"?  Anna ran around the castle....talking to paintings, pretty much.  She rode her bike down the stairs once.  I have no idea what their lives are like or what they do.  What are their personalities like, how do they change once they aren't all alone any more?

One thing I really took away from this movie was, I want more.  Like I was saying earlier, I'd love to see what Elsa did when she was locked alone in her room most of her life, afraid of herself and of what she could do.  Did she become the well-read princess of the original story?  I can imagine her room full of shelves upon shelves of books as she tried desperately to lose herself in fact and fiction in order to distract herself from her hellish, lonely life.  Or what about Anna?  Did she read too, or did she run around bothering the servants all the time?  Did she go outside?  She must have, because she had a horse when the movie started.  Why would she have a horse and know how to ride if she wasn't allowed to leave the castle?  Or how about what happened after the film; did Elsa ever tell Anna that the reason she hid her powers was because she hurt her?  Did Anna ever remember?  How did they deal with suddenly having so many people around; after all, they aren't used to social interaction after being kept shut in for most of their lives.  Does Elsa retreat to her ice palace when she's feeling overwhelmed?  Did Kristoff ever mention that he saw them that night when they brought Anna to the trolls for help?  Basically, I just want all of the fanfic ever, pretty much, because I just didn't get enough character interaction in the movie, and the stuff that I did get was good enough to show me that it would be worth seeing more of.  It might be a little early to say this (and I might be jinxing it, considering Disney's past track record with the subject), but I'd like to see a sequel where we get to know everyone more.  And maybe Elsa and Kristoff will get together in the next film....ah, I kid, I know that a Disney princess is paired for life.  Still though.  It'd be neat.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Adorable Things Day!

Happy Christmas, Merry Hanukkah, Presents Wednesday or whatever holiday or non-holiday you celebrate/don't celebrate this season!  My gift to you, my dear darling nonexistant readership, is adorableness.  Holiday or winter themed adorableness.  Check this stuff out.  So cute!

look at the fuckin' waddles with the christmas tree tail so friggin round i cannot even omfg

Boomf, right into the snow!  


And look at all these friggin christmas puppies holy shit they are so cuddlesmall and christmassy I have to hug every one of them and I can't I completely understand how the cat lady feels now look at how tiny they are

And now for the stereotypically ugly Christmas-colour-themed randomly-changed-font tween-girl's-MySpace-page-style holiday post signature:

Merry Christmas Everyone!!
i am sorry i couldn't figure out how to make it more obnoxious

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rudolph Update

New information in the Rudolph saga.  The note on the fridge was apparently written by my brother Sandy; when he woke up today he asked if we saw it.  We were all, yeah but the trap sprang without catching anything and he was like, what.  Apparently he heard what was, according to him, the most disgusting sounds he's ever heard.  He was convinced he was listening to Rudolph die, he heard the snap and a scuffle and then what he described as "arterial gushing," the sound of blood gushing out in time to a heartbeat.

So into the bathroom we go to check again, this time with a flashlight to make sure we don't miss anything.  And sure enough, about two feet back underneath the tub was a pool of blood...

...But no rat.

And there are no tracks to or from the blood either, no sign of anything being there, just a dried puddle of blood on the ground.  And it's pretty far away from the trap too, it was like two feet away and didn't have any blood on it at all.  The only explanation I can think of is he was flung there, bled out and died, and after the blood dried he reanimated and scurried off.  Clearly we have an undead rat living in the walls of our  house.  This will be Ground Zero for the zombified rat army uprising.

Honestly, I'm starting to think we should just give up and move out.  This is just too much for us.  He can have the house, we don't want it any more.

Rudolph The Rat

So, we have a Christmas rat in the house.  I've named him Rudolph, in the spirit of the season.

Artistic interpretation of Rudolph, except not.  It's just a random Christmas rat picture I stole from Google Image Search.
Sorry for stealing, The Dapper Rat.

He got in a few days ago.  I know, because I'm a complete night owl so I was the only one awake all night to see him.  And I saw him all right, because he was freaking all over the place.  First I heard something moving in the kitchen from my seat in the living room, so I get up and walk down the hallway just in time to see a dark thing scurry across the way from the kitchen door to dad's office.  "Okay," I think to myself, "So we have a mouse."  No biggie.  We live kind of far back from the street, a little into the woods, so we get mice on a regular basis.  Especially in winter when they are looking for someplace warm and full of food to snuggle up in during the cold weather.  In fact, we'd just gotten rid of a mouse or two in the past week with sticky traps.  Personally, I hate the things; I can't stand hearing mice squealing in terror when they're trapped in one, and pretty much all you can do with sticky traps is either crush the mouse to death (we use wine bottles) or, if the poor thing is unlucky, you don't notice it's there so it dies of thirst over a period of days, all the while struggling and screaming and biting at itself in a futile attempt to escape.  Unfortunately they are easily the most effective type of trap.

Anyway, I thought nothing of it at first, but Rudolph wasn't exactly shy, so I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't a normal mouse in the house.  I caught another glimpse of him as he ran behind a cupboard later, and I thought "That seems to be a bit bigger than your average mouse."  Later on I'm back in the living room, sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my lap, and I see something out of the corner of my eye.  I look up just in time to see his tail flash by in the gap between the garbage can and the chair; it's long, dark, thick and held at least an inch off the ground.  I don't know a lot about rats, but as an animal lover I've happily played with friends' pet rats and none of them seemed that big.  But it was most definitely a rat's tail.  Next time I go into the kitchen, I see his adorable ratty face poking out from behind a bag before he takes off.  Later on I get a properly good look at him (and he is huge) when he climbs up onto the tv stand to explore...about five feet away from me.  I guess he figures that as big as he is, he can take anyone, especially the short person on the sofa.  To be fair, he probably has a point.

Anyway, clearly something must be done before Rudolph starts feeling at home.  I spent most of that night chasing after every noise I heard with a bit of pipe in my hand, stomping and shouting at him.  I have no idea how my family slept through it.  I didn't have any proper rat traps, but I had a few mouse-sized sticky traps so I was hoping they could do the trick.  No luck.  I set one behind the bag and in front of the drawers, where I saw him before, and not fifteen minutes later I hard thrashing and the bag rustling in the kitchen.  But when I get there the bag is already knocked over and the trap gone.  I pull out the drawers (they are a plastic set on wheels, we are theoretically still renovating the kitchen) and yep, it was hauled underneath them, no rat inside.  Damn.  Later on, when I catch him trying to go at the big garbage bag (successfully tearing it all to pieces before I can chase him off) I take the ineffective trap and put it by the bag to ward him off, using his freakishly large intelligence against him.  We both know the trap won't actually stop him...but he knows it is a trap.  It must have worked, because he stayed away from the bag after that.  The next day I go to Canadian Tire with Dad and we buy half a dozen rat traps.

The big ones.

We set two as soon as we got home, then promptly lost the bag.  Grammy was spending the night that night, so I stayed up later than usual (or rather, as late as I normally do, but intentionally this time) both to be around to help her if she needed it and to listen for Rudolph and keep him from eating my sleeping grandmother's face Compsognathus-style should he show up.  I heard him rattling around a lot and I think I caught a glimpse of him once or twice, but nothing like the night before.  The next night my brother Sandy hears him; he was int he front of the house, and I was in the living room at the back.  He comes tearing down the hallway like a shot and vanishes into his bedroom, bellowing "MOM SAID I COULD!"  I figure out what he's talking about when he comes out and runs off with a bow and arrow; clearly a Rudolph situation.  I haven't got the pipe at hand this time, so I grab the death stick (an electrified tennis racket I use for flies, a gift from my mother last Christmas) and follow behind.

We don't catch Rudolph, because rats are quicker than people looking for weapons to kill rats with, lucky for them.  But we do find the Canadian Tire bag with the rat traps in it, so we set a bunch.  Two around the front of the house, where we keep hearing him.  One behind the silverware drawer, where I saw him that one time.  One in the attic where Sandy thinks he heard him and where we found a dead bird that Rudolph may or may not have been eating.  One in the bathroom behind the tub, where my parents think he might have gotten in by squeezing around the pipes.  One underneath the record player; I haven't seen him over there yet, but mice like that area as we've caught a few in the sticky traps below there, so we might luck out with Rudolph.  I feel like there's another one or two that I have forgotten, but I don't think there actually are.  I'm just imagining things.  Anyway, we rat-proof the house as best we can and post a list of the traps on the fridge so nobody breaks a finger digging too deep in the food cupboard under the microwave and go to bed.  The next day when I get up somebody's scribbled "RAT IN BATHROOM TRAP" but I checked and the trap has been sprung but there's no rat in it.  I think he set it off and someone heard that and wrote it down without checking to see if it actually got him.

I am hoping we catch him before Christmas.  I don't want Rudolph getting into and ruining my Christmas candy or anything.  Sandy had to get rid of his Christmas stocking last year because a mouse chewed a hole in it.  Not during Christmas, I mean, but over the summer when he had it put away.  And Dad is already sick of dealing with rodents getting into the garbage box down the driveway and ripping the garbage bags up and spreading trash everywhere, we would rather keep that out of the house if at all possible.  If we do catch him I will post updates and possibly pictures, if I ever find my camera cable to connect to the computer so I can actually take my photos off the camera!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Important Breaking News, Man Has Kids?

In a fine display of "Who cares about this non-news" reporting, CBC has informed me that "families believe" that the late ex-PM John Diefenbaker was not childless after all, but in fact has two -- that's right, count 'em, two! -- sons.  According to CBC, having two kids is enough to count as "leaving progeny scattered across the country" because woah, two children?  Such a voracious output of sperm is absolutely unheard of!  Neither me nor my two siblings have ever heard of anybody having more than one kid.  And the two sons live in different places in Western Canada!  Holy cow!  Scattered across the country indeed, CBC.  I gotta say, I'm really glad somebody is reporting on this truly important breaking news that is the personal life of a guy who died over thirty years ago.  Way to be relevant, CBC.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Okay, it's officially-officially winter now.  It's the first proper snow of the year!  Sure, there have been little dusty-bits of snow so far, but that's not real snow.  This is real snow.  Yay!

I love being in that first week where snow is exciting and new and not horrible and hateful like it is the rest of the year.  Right now I'm just cuddled up in a fluffy robe sipping on hot chocolate while I watch the snow.  It'll probably lose its charm as soon as I have to wait for a bus, but for now I am entirely too satisfied with this weather.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Last Call at Christian's Bar

Well, I'm officially done with Christian's, the bar down on George Street.  I don't often go downtown, but when I do go it's usually with Ash, and when I do go we usually visit Christian's at least once, mostly because we're just amused by the irony of the name.  But it's really not worth it, all things considered.  It's a dark, small, crowded bar and everything there is way more expensive than it really ought to be.  Including forgetting your credit card, apparently.

But normal bullshit first.  For example, when I'm downtown I usually drink sourpuss in pepsi, because it tastes like candy and I am basically a child who is for some reason everyone thinks is an adult.  Every other bar on the street charges $5.25 for my usual drink.  Or at least I think they do.  Every bar I've been to and bought a drink at charges that much, at least.  Christian's, on the other hand, charges either $7.25 or $7.50, I can't remember because after the first time they told me the price I didn't buy another drink any time I went there.  I also have never used the ATM in the back of the bar, because it turns out they charge you ten fucking dollars to take money out there.  I've never seen a store's ATM charge over three dollars on the outside to use their machine, so that's just highway robbery, it's obviously just to take advantage of anyone too drunk or distracted to read the screen as they put their PIN in.  Especially since there's an ATM just a few feet from the door outside, not owned by the bar, that charges a perfectly normal small-change amount.

But still.  Even considering the complete lack of atmosphere and the naked profiteering, I'd still stop in with my friends now and then just to see if we can find a seat and hang out to talk before hitting another bar when we get thirsty again.  But after reading this news article, I'm so grossed out by the place I don't even want to do that any more.  Apparently someone left their credit card at the bar one night, and when they came back for it the next morning Christian's straight up robbed and insulted them by putting a 25% "idiot tax" on the card.  That bar officially gives zero fucks about their customers; that shit is credit card fraud at the very least, since the owner of the card obviously didn't authorize the charge, and the bar owner doesn't even act like it's a problem.  He implies that the multiple people coming forward talking about the 25% charge are lying by claiming it's a (still unauthorized, and thus thieving) 15% charge, never apologizes, and then acts like serving drinks that they pay for is some special service.  He goes on about how so many people cancel their cards so he's losing tons of money all the time over it, but like I was pointing out earlier, the bar is overcharging everything to a ridiculous degree (seriously, ten fucking bucks to use the damn atm wtf), and I haven't heard about any of the other bars (who don't act like thieving bastards and seem to get by well enough) complaining about this or charging people to get insulted for making an honest mistake.  I even asked a bartender friend whether or not this was a common thing, and he was all "Wtf no way!  That's insane, we NEVER do that, Christian's is the only place I've heard of that pulls that type of stunt."  If people cancelling their cards is such a huge problem for the bar, there's a pretty simple solution: stop accepting credit cards with open tabs!  Either it's worth it and you don't need to rip off innocent people for not pulling that shit, or it's not and why the hell would you do it.

Also dang, it has been like a whole month since my last post.  I gotta work on that.