The Last Graduate (spoilers)

Novik is an excellent storyteller in the the sense that she's got very decent pacing, dialogue, and characterization. Her major flaw as a writer is that she doesn't seem to think through the logical consequences of her Cool Idea, until someone points them out, and then she has to retcon. You can see this in the Temeraire series, where the Cool Idea is "The Napoleonic War, but with dragons!" As many people pointed out, if intelligent dragons existed, then why did they not exercise a huge influence on European history prior to the point the books are set? When the series later moves on to other continents, we see that the existence of dragons has changed their histories vastly, which makes the closeness of European history to our own even weirder.

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While I know that we can't even think about the possibility of getting another dog until November, I keep sneaking peeks at various adoption places anyway. I cannot help but notice that there are significant differences between the ways the various types of shelters and rescues advertise their dogs.

1. County Animal Control, i.e. The Pound:
"Here are a whole bunch of dogs, with some intake notes from staff and volunteers. If you're 18 and breathing and have the fee, you can take one. (PLEASE GOD TAKE SIX WE DON'T WANT TO KILL THEM ANY MORE THAN YOU DO.")

2. Larger private shelters:
"Here is a fine selection of dogs, most of them with a cutesy short bio. Please answer these basic questions to prove you're a responsible pet owner, bring in any resident dogs you have for a meet and greet, and if all goes well, here's your dog, for like three hundred dollars more than the pound charges."

3. Smaller private shelters and breed-specific rescues:
"These dogs are our PRECIOUS CHILDREN. We don't give them to just anyone! Fill out this extensive questionnaire, agree to a home inspection, put down a non-refundable application fee, and maybe, just MAYBE, we will let you take one of our dogs on a six-month probational basis. What? There is DEBRIS on your back porch? DISQUALIFIED! Good day to you, sir! I SAID GOOD DAY!"

The =other= thing I've noticed about looking for a dog is that there are these accounts on Facebook and Twitter that post dogs which are coming to the end of the line at kill shelters, and try to get someone to adopt them. Invariably these accounts post something like "Snookums was cruelly abandoned by her family after years of selfless love! She's a perfect innocent angel, and she'll DIE if you don't adopt her RIGHT NOW! Yes, YOU!" If you click through to the actual notes from the shelter on Snookums, you find out that Snookums is a fear-aggressive resource guarder who eats the couch if left alone in the house, the reason her family turned her in is that she bit their kid's face, and she growls and snaps at all the shelter workers.

Many years ago, we'd adopted a cat from... I think it was the Humane Society. We had gotten a free vet check up at their clinic with the adoption, and we were taking advantage of it. There was a woman ahead of us who'd adopted a dog, some kind of chihuahua mix, I think, and she was explaining to the vet that it had bitten her. The vet suggested that she exchange it for a better-tempered dog, and she said she couldn't do that because then it would be euthanized. The vet gave her this exhausted look, and told her that he saw dozens of sweet, friendly, wonderful dogs get euthanized because there wasn't room to keep them. And he had no sympathy left for bad-tempered, bitey dogs that got rescued in their place out of misplaced sentiment.

That vet's words have always stuck with me. I consider myself a moderately experienced dog owner. I am no stranger to problem dogs. Sam always had to be muzzled at the vet, and I was always duly cautious when handling him myself, because when you poked him in a way he didn't want to be poked, he sometimes snapped. He never bit anyone, because I and my vet managed him so that he wouldn't have the chance. Sinji was fear aggressive with strange men – she was fine once she knew them, but she had to be introduced. We were always aware of their limitations, and what we needed to do to keep them and the people around them safe. I would never have let little kids pet Sam or Sinji the way I let them pet Bo, for example.

But given the choice, I would much rather have a dog who doesn't need special handling. Much less one needing extensive behavior modification, possibly involving expensive trainers. I would not want to take on a dog like Snookums, because I know that she would need far more training and supervision than I have the time, energy, or money to give her. The number of potential owners who could handle a dog like Snookums is, alas, much smaller than the number of dogs like Snookums. When rescuing dogs, perhaps it's better to pick your battles. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

He was the best of dogs, he was the... no, he was just the best.

So what happened with Bo was, about two months ago we noticed that he was less enthusiastic about his dog food than usual, and there were intermittent traces of blood in his saliva when he licked his paws. We couldn't see any obvious bleeding -- it was just a pink tinge in his spit. We thought maybe that he'd cut his tongue on a cat food can, which he occasionally steals. We took him to the vet, who couldn't find anything obvious either. But he wouldn't let her look in his mouth, so we thought maybe he had a bad tooth. She gave us some antibiotics, and we scheduled a tooth cleaning. The antibiotics seemed to mostly clear up the bleeding, but he continued to be 'meh' about his dog food -- he'd eat it, but slowly. And he started getting sort of listless and off in general.

We hadn't been taking him out for walks through the hottest part of summer, so I thought perhaps he was bored and depressed about that (walks were his favorite thing ever -- given a choice between leash and food, he'd pick leash nine times out of ten.) But it had cooled off a little bit, so I decided to take him out -- just for a short walk, because it was still hot, and I thought we should ease into it. He was very eager to go out, but it soon became obvious that something was wrong. He walked at his normal speed for a block or two, and then slowed to a plod. I cut the walk even shorter than I'd planned, even stopped to let him rest halfway through, but by the end of it, he was limping, and when we reached the front porch, his legs folded under him and he collapsed. We had to roll him onto a blanket and carry him inside.

An hour or so later he seemed to have recovered. We knew he had arthritis, for which he was taking joint supplements; perhaps, I thought, he was starting to get hip dysplasia, and we hadn't noticed because we hadn't been doing any strenuous walking with him. I called the vet the next morning, and she suggested that I bring him in the next day to do the bloodwork for his dental cleaning early, so we could check his kidney function prior to putting him on heavier-duty arthritis medication. So I did, and just as I was checking him out after getting the blood draw, the vet came rushing out of the back wanting to see him. She said the preliminary results they could get there in the office showed that he was anemic to the point of needing a transfusion. She managed to pry his mouth open this time, and... he had a cancerous growth all over the roof of his mouth. Same thing that our last dog Sam had, except in Bo's case, it was in a spot that made it impossible to remove, even if we'd caught it earlier. Given his anemia and behavior, it had almost certainly metastatized anyway.

So I cried a lot, and said goodbye right then and there.

I took the next day off of work, and put his leash and bowls away, moved the dog crate outside and replaced it with an end table, and took all his food to a local charity that provides dog care for housebound seniors. But there is still a huge Bo-shaped hole in the world. No Bo to greet us at the door, no Bo to agitate for a walk, no Bo to nobly put up with cats stealing his bed, no Bo to be Deeply Concerned when one of us goes out to the yard and the other stays in the house. I miss him so much. We have had dogs before, and I've been very fond of them, but Bo was MY dog, and I was his person, in a way none of the others ever were.

Part of me wants another dog right now, but another part of me suspects that what I really want is another Bo -- and that would be deeply unfair to whatever dog I ended up comparing unfavorably to him. Bo would be a hard act to follow under the best of circumstances: he was smart, good-tempered, easily trained, well-mannered, endlessly patient with cats and kids, and aside from being an inveterate counter-surfer, had no real bad habits. Besides, we're going to be out of town for a week in October, and it would not be good for a new dog to have to be boarded for so long so soon.

So I will wait -- there is no lack of dogs who need homes, no matter when I start looking. And perhaps by then I will have decided that convenience of not having a dog outweighs the pleasure of being greeted at the door. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

Cats and other things

Cashmere has turned out to be very, very sweet, loving, and friendly -- she was a little antsy in the house for the first week or so, but she's completely acclimated now. She's not combative, but she takes no guff from the boys. They can't chase her the way they do poor Little Bit, as instead of fleeing when they try to pounce her, she turns on them and growls a truly horrendous growl, and they back away in alarm.

I'm very cranky at the moment, as I recently caught up on a locked discussion elsewhere -- one of the members wanted to do something cool for fandom in their own space, away from the community or the website it's associated with. And the mods of the community jumped on them because they thought it would 'discourage other authors.' So now we don't get the Cool Thing. I get wanting to encourage new/insecure authors. But when you're shutting people down simply for saying "I liked this and this is why" because someone who isn't the author of 'this' might see it and it might hurt their feelings, we're heading into Harrison Bergeron territory here. If someone is so fragile and delicate that they will wither way like the Communist State, merely from the knowledge that some people like stories besides the one they wrote, I am sorry for them, but I don't think that everyone in the world has to tiptoe around them lest the time bomb of their insecurity explode.

This has always been my beef with the "protect the feeling of the authors at all costs!" mentality in fandom. It ends up stifling more discussion than it generates. And the fact is, it's impossible anyway. Authors are ALWAYS going to get grumpy when their story isn't mentioned/recced/lavished with unending praise. We have egos and insecurities the size of Jupiter. And you're not really doing us any favors when you cater to those egos and enable that insecurity. We don't need to be protected. We need to learn how to deal with the fact that no matter who we are or what we write, someone is not going to like it. Or will like it, but like something else more. AND THAT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

Might have beens

The mildly annoying thing about going through all that old Elfquest stuff was, I got an idea for a story, which would be absolutely impossible to write due to the impossibility of getting character permissions at this late date. It's not just that I've fallen out of touch with the people involved; some of them left the project in a huff long before I did, and others... well, let's just say some of them were difficult to work with. And this would be a story guaranteed to set them off. That was the overarching problem with the Tower, alas; too many people (and I don't entirely exclude myself) over-identified with their characters, and you could never write non-evil characters being at odds with each other without someone taking it personally. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

The state is on fire

There are several major wildfires raging across Arizona right now, Phoenix is wreathed in smoke, and it is 115 out, which is something like ten degrees above average for this time of year. The only reason it's not even hotter is that the aforementioned smoke is thick enough that it's reflecting some of the heat. I would like very much to take every climate change denier in the country and force them to stand in the street outside our house for a couple of hours every afternoon this summer, so they can get a good, up close and personal look at the problem.

The higher-ups at work let us know a couple of weeks ago that the company would be returning to the office in September, but with a hybrid model, so it would be roughly 50% work from home on a permanent basis. Yay! Today, our department was told that we would be moving to a newer, nicer building about half a mile down the street from our current location, because the new model will allow the company to divest itself of some real estate, and of course they want to preferentially get rid of older, less nice buildings. Yay!

Unfortunately, they also want to change all in-office work to hoteling -- that is, you no longer have a permanent desk; you just get whatever is available that day in your team's area, I guess. MAJOR BOO. One, I've worked in situations like that before, and it's really, really depressing and morale-sucking to have to work in a bare cube. If you're going to have to work in a cube to begin with, being able to decorate it is one of the few things that makes it bearable. Secondly, our department has very disparate teams in it -- a number of them are on the phone all day. If those of us who are doing Quiet Computer Stuff are going to have to share the same space as those who are doing Loud Phone Stuff, that's really not going to work. I'm hoping that once we get over there, we'll be able to wring some concessions from the Powers That Be, but I'm not looking forward to it.

There is another stray Siamese in the yard. (There are all sorts of ferals in our neighborhood, but she's here fairly consistently). Not sure if she's a relative of Valentine's or not. This one is (we think) a female, has much darker points, and is a medium-long-haired cat, so maybe not. She's much, much spookier and more feral than Valentine; she's been hanging around for several weeks, and Kathy was only finally able to coax her close enough to pet her today. We are NOT going to try to tame her and take her in, damn it. But we are putting out food and water, because not to do so in this heat would be animal cruelty. :/ We should probably at least try to get her spayed if she's going to hang around, because the last thing this neighborhood needs is more kittens.

Possibly related to the feral cats, I found half a dead rabbit in the back yard yesterday. It looked like it had been bitten right in half, so it's possible that Bo killed it, but he didn't seem at all interested in it, so who knows. It might have been coyotes; they can jump a six foot fence, and might think our back yard a nice secluded place to enjoy lunch.

I was hunting for something the other night on the computer, and happened on the folder where I'd saved a bunch of old Elfquest stuff -- half finished stories, old letters and emails, plot discussions. I didn't save all the emails we exchanged (there were a lot of them) but I have all of mine from around 1996 through 1999 -- at that point, I think, we moved from a private email server at the place where Kathy and I were working at the time, to one of the pro email list places -- Onelist or eGroups or something. And I didn't bother to download any archives from that when I quit the group in 2001-ish. I rather regret that now, but c'est la vie. It's nostalgic reading all the old discussions, and I'm reminded how much I miss having a good writing group to discuss things with. But it also reminds me of why I quit; even in these emails I can see the traces of all the feuds that eventually paralyzed the group beyond saving. Still, there were some decent stories there in my unpublished folder. Perhaps one day I'll clean them up and slap them on AO3, with a note to the effect that since they were never published in the zine, they can't be considered canon. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

:taps mike:

Since it seems I have some readers who may be unaware of this:

I am a pro-choice liberal atheist lesbian feminist Democrat. The main reason I'm not a socialist is that I don't think that they have any realistic chance of winning elections in my state; I support many of their policy positions. I support Black Lives Matter and all the letters in LGBTQIA+; trans women are women. Climate change is a real and present danger. I have no issue with people who are religious, but I do not take kindly to proselytizing, nor to people who attempt to impose their religious views on everyone else by law.

Just wanted to clear that up, so you can manage your expectations when you come into my blog and tell me that only racists care about racism. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me