Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sometimes I find human beings incredibly disappointing

Before I begin today's rant, please read this press release: SPCA Rescues 100+ Animals From Buffalo Apartment. Go ahead and read the whole thing, take some time looking at the pictures. I'll wait right here until you're ready.

Read it? OK good. Here goes: I adopted my rabbits from that SPCA. As far as I can tell, they were part of this rescue in July. Make sure that you look at the pictures. After adopting, I began volunteering at the SPCA to do as much as I could for the rabbits waiting for adoption and for the families who might wish to adopt them. There is space at that particular location for about 8 rabbits, and although a few get adopted each week, and most wait only a month or less to be adopted, there is never an empty cage. As soon as rabbits get adopted out there are more to take their place. Many of the rabbits that come in in such big groups are fostered in volunteer's homes until there is room for them at one of the shelters. There is no lack of really nice bunnies who need good homes.

Neither of the cases I've linked to seem to be issues of active abuse, they both seem to be cases of extreme neglect. How on earth could anyone live with animals every day who were this sick because they weren't being fed, because they were packed in too close and fought each other tooth and nail, and/or because they needed vet treatment they weren't getting? How can a human being allow animals to suffer like this, right in front of them? I have seen rescued rabbits with their ears chewed off because they were stuffed into a cage with lots of other rabbits, none of them neutered, and little or no food. At that point, it's a fight to the death. In some of the cases I've read about nationally, rescuers came on the scene to discover a number of dead animals in amongst the living, or they rescued animals who were so sick and so close to death it was deemed most humane to euthanize them as soon as they were rescued.

Again, what human being can do this? What part of them is so fundamentally broken that they can blind themselve to thier animals' suffering? The couple being charged in the first story I linked to have been quoted in the news as saying that they hadn't done anything wrong. Did you look at the pictures?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE ASSHOLES?!?!?!?!?!?! I'm sorry Mom, but I can't express my feelings on this without the cursing. And now these poor animals have a long road to recovery as they get medical treatment and wait to be given the chance to be adopted into new homes. I'm still spending time each Thursday night with rabbits who came in as part of that rescue in July. I'm also seeing rabbits who were born in the shelter because their pregnant mothers were rescued in July. And now we have more rescued bunnies who did nothing to deserve their crappy circumstances.

I love volunteering for the SPCA. I have a great time playing with the rabbits every week, getting to know their personalities, and getting them to open up to human contact. My visits with them are also intended to help them combat the stress of being in the shelter, which is not the easiest situation for a rabbit. I've only been able to get one rabbit adopted out since I started, but I could tell that he went to a great home. The mother and son who adopted him came back to buy him more food and hay and said "hi" to me, and told me what a good time they were having with him. I'm so glad I could be a little part in making an improvement, but it feels overwhelming when I compare getting one bunny adopted over the course of 3 months with an influx of dozens of miserable abused rabbits who all need decent homes.

I will not give up. I really enjoy the rabbits at the shelter, and it's amazing how sweet a rabbit can be, even after horrendous treatment. So I will continue to volunteer. Although I got Rusty, the best bunny in the world, from a breeder, I can't imagine ever getting a rabbit from a breeder again so long as there are so many rabbits in the shelter who need homes, and so many more waiting to take their places. I will continue to donate to both the National House Rabbit Society and the New York State House Rabbit society. I will continue to buy my rabbits' food and supplies from the Eerie County SPCA, to donate my time, and to donate money whenever I can. I will continue to introduce friends and family to our rabbits, and to work toward educating responsible pet owners about the joys of rabbit ownership. Rusty was so awesome that our vet used to introduce him to anyone who came in and thought that they didn't like rabbits, or weren't interested in them. She called him "The Bunny Ambassador" and would let them offer him a treat so that he would run right up to them and let them pet him. He just loved it at the vet's, which was great considering how much he was there!

If you're looking for a pet, please check your local shelter, there are lots of wonderful animals looking for homes. If you're looking for a rabbit, check your shelter and your local chapter of the House Rabbit Society, and if you have the means, please make a donation to any of the organizations I've linked to, and buy a rabbit a little time.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Word About The Future

Lately, I’ve been downloading some classic science fiction from Audible. I finished “The Robots of Dawn,” by Isaac Asimov and am more than half way through “Player Piano,” by Kurt Vonnegut. Both stories were written in the mid-twentieth century and set in the future. Vonnegut’s is in a near future that could be now, and Asimov’s is in a far flung future in which humans have colonized multiple planets and built “humaniform” robots who can do much of the hardest work and are kept in check by the three laws of robotics.

Asimov predicts a world with interstellar flight, advanced robots, and sexual morays vastly different from those of mid-twentieth century earth. Vonnegut predicts a much closer world in which efficient machines have taken over most human jobs, so that only the very intelligent are employed as engineers and managers, only a tiny proportion of the population has the chance to go to college, and even secretaries and barbers need a PhD to be qualified for their jobs. Everyone else must join the army or work on a road crew and settle for government pay.

The thing that amazes/annoys me is that neither one of them, in all their intelligence and imaginative capacity, conceived of a future world in which women could fill roles beyond wife/lover, secretary, or homemaker. There are no women taking significant roles in the work force or in the course of history in either novel. Are the 1950’s really so far away? Both these men were very intelligent, but boy did they get it wrong about human potential. I mean, I don’t have a single robot to my name, but I’ve had a significant job since finishing college. My family relies on my income just as much as my husband’s. In fact, I’ve been gainfully employed in my field since before finishing high school. I also have a high (erroneously labeled as “genius level”) IQ and a physics degree, both of which would have placed me in a desirable position in the world of either book. But no, women figure in both books as objects of attraction for the main characters, secretaries, or wives whose sole function seems to be party attendance and social climbing. In Player Piano, most housework is finished in seconds by automated machines, but still the women do not work. Yes, most of the populous is underemployed in this story, but the men are still sent out to do something.

I’m hoping that both authors changed their minds over the course of the next fifty years. Both lived long lives but are now dead, so I’ll have to take this up with them in the after life. (Both were secular humanists, so I’m not sure we’ll actually be able to contact each other in the after life. Maybe there are day passes to other eternities?) I won’t stop reading their books, but I sure do find science fiction stories written by women to be a relief after this stuff!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I've done it!

After about a year of procrastination, I've actually listed stuff for sale in my etsy shop. I don't know why I've put this off except for an irrational fear of buyer dissatisfaction, or people arguing with me about whether I deserve a living wage for my time. But enough griping! You can check out my shop here. I'm still adding to it, and will hopefully continue to replenish once I see how each category of item sells. I can't allow myself to do any more etsy knitting until I finish Mom's incredibly late birthday socks. I do however have a large stash of tee shirts I can make into rugs if other people like them as much as I do!

Also please check out my friend Margaret's shop and make her rich, and friend Emily's shop which includes some amazing resin pendants.

As for Mom's socks, they are much further along, and I hope to either interest Knitty in them or sell the pattern in my etsy shop.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Knitting Slump

Now that it is over I will admit, I have been in a knitting slump. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. I'm usually thrilled to to be knitting a project from start to finish, while thinking about and planning the next, and maybe spinning for something still 3 or 4 projects away. I spend time knitting every day. At some point in August, my enthusiasm crashed. Multiple days went by in which I didn't knit. Not one stitch. I had no idea what the next project would be. I had a friend with a baby coming, but kept putting off choosing a pattern and buying yarn.

I'm not sure how the slump happened, but I think that this was a factor:

Although this sweater is actually finished, I'm dissatisfied with the results and therefore never took a finished photo. There are things I need to change about the fit, and honestly, it may just not be the right sweater to make with this yarn. The other problems are fixable with some fitting, pinning, and re-calculating, culminating in ripping out most of the sweater. Frustrating. Disheartening.

Then I started the baby clothes. Now, the pattern is super-cute, but somehow knitting it was less than satisfying. I blame this almost entirely on my state of mind going into the process, not on Debbie Bliss's cute pattern. However, for me there are several things about this pattern that are my less favorite things in knitting: flat knitting, sewing, and intarsia, which I keep doing because I see so many intarsia designs that I love, and it is only when I begin to knit them that I remember how much I hate the act of knitting intarsia.

I could have converted the pattern to be knit in the round. I often do, but for some reason thought it would be a bother this time. And yes, I do sew for a living, and teach other people to sew or sew better, so you may think that sewing shouldn't be on this list of stuff I dislike, but here's the thing: anything one does for 40+hrs per week, no matter how much one loves it, feels like work. Doing it in on ones time off feels like unpaid overtime. In addition to that, I think that knitting a garment piece by piece and then sewing it together misses one of the great things about how knitting structure differs from sewing structure. In knitting, one is making the fabric as one goes, and therefore is not limited to what can be done with flat pieces. One can make tubes and shapes and attachments as intrinsic parts of the fabric, instead of manipulating it later. Also, one can avoid the unnecessary bulk of extra seams. There is a great place in the dress where Ms. Bliss makes use of this by decreasing fairly severely in the row after the skirt is finished. The effect is of a skirt gathered and then sewn onto the bodice, but it is done skillfully all in one piece and without a bulky seam around the little one's middle. I often wonder if designers are asked by their publishers to write their directions for knitting several pieces flat instead of making use of knitting in the round and picking up pieces off of the main body, like picking up a sleeve around the finished armscye and knitting down circularly toward the cuff. If any published designers stumble across this, would you please share your experience in this matter?

Now that I've complained about the baby clothes, let me also say that I can credit them with helping to end the slump. Towards the end of the baby knitting, I did something I never ever do, which is to cast on a new project before the old is finished. I'm not sure exactly why I did it, except that I had an idea for writing a pattern and wanted to start working out how I would go about it. I worked some of it out on paper, but quickly needed to get onto the needles to finish thinking. I would like to make a square baby blanket for my cousin's baby on the way, in a feather and fan pattern, that radiates out from the center of the blanket. The yarn was a gift from the students in the first play last fall, and the colors are, I think, to my cousin's taste. The challenge is to increase rather often in a very regular lace pattern, and keep the increases in harmony with the overall pattern. I think it is quite successful so far, and hope to submit the pattern for publication or sell it through my still empty etsy shop. That bit of procrastination will need to be it's own blog post.

After getting the blanket far enough under way to solve the patterning, I finished the baby things, and boy are they cute. I'm so happy I made them, and really, I don't know why they were part of the slump. (Remember what I said about only remembering that I hate intarsia when I am doing it?)

And finally, thanks to the slump I purchased yarn and cast on for my mother's birthday socks way too late to have a hope of getting them done on time. Even the yarn harlot would have been hard pressed to manage that deadline, and she knits much faster than I do. Mom's socks are also an original design which I am very excited about and again, am hoping to submit for publication. The whole pattern is not yet visible in this pic (I keep ripping them out and knitting them bigger) but it is beautiful after a few repeats, and since these are knee socks they will feature some really clever shaping down the back of the leg.

These are the final proof that my mojo is back. I hope to make good use of it on Wednesday when I teach a group of friends how to knit a mobius scarf. All that time Dad spent showing my brother and me how to make mobius strips is finally paying off.