Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Rat

I never mentioned The Rat, did I? Well, I've got a pet rat. We've had her for a bit over a year, but it looks like she's on her way out. R had noticed that she seemed a little clumsy recently, and this morning she presented with a pronounced lean and left-sided weakness. She fell over eating a peanut.

The Rat was originally part of the behavioral experiments done by the IB Biology students at the school where I was teaching, during the downtime at the end of the school year. Most of the rats, mice, and hamsters were taken home by the students in their respective groups, but the teacher made it clear that he would take any of the critters that needed a home after the project. He wound up with seven or eight, and even though he had five animal-loving kids at home, I thought I might adopt one. I'd been checking up on them after school went out, making sure they had enough food and water, and clearly had developed a soft spot for them.

I wound up taking home a black and white one who spent most of her time hanging out in a little woven basket inside her terrarium. R thought we should name her Skunk, after the little skunk-like stripe on her back, but the name never took and she wound up just The Rat.

In the beginning, The Rat was terrified of everything. We'd open the cage and she's freeze. Holding her left her quaking in terror, though she would make prodigious leaps to get back into her cage whenever she could see it. Getting her to take treats from our hand, even while she was safely in her cage, was clearly a major ordeal.

Eventually, we just started leaving her in her cage and handling her as little as possible. We'd give her treats, but mostly we just left her alone. Oddly enough, that seemed to be just what she needed, and she slowly became more confident and adventurous. She stopped shaking uncontrollably when touched and came up to us when we opened the cage door to give her treats. She was no longer contented with just looking out of the holes she had chewed in her cage, and we started waking up in the middle of the night to find her sitting on top of her cage.

In the end, we accepted that she would never be one of those rats who sit on your shoulder or hang out in your pocket. We bought her a three tiered metal cage and were contented to watch her climb around and organize her possessions. We'd put heels of bread and veggie scraps on the top tier of her cage, just to watch her drag them down to the bottom, into the corner where she ate. She would skitter over whenever we were near the cage, in hopes of a peanut.

She was full grown when we got her, so we didn't know how much time she had left. She seems to have enjoyed her retirement. She was an interesting little critter, and has definitely opened the door for future pet rats, once the baby is older and ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Filling my brain with knowledge... or something like it

Hmm... This week is week 5 of the two classes I'm taking.

I haven't posted anything in nearly a month.

... Yeah, that pretty much lines up.

So, what have I been doing, you ask? Attending classes, doing homework, and working, mostly. The class with homework is a class on ArcGIS, which will hopefully allow me to progress further in the mapping field beyond CAD-lackey. The class itself has been... well... as a teacher, I feel I could probably give the guy a few pointers. The first couple of class sessions, he just quickly reviewed what we had done for homework, so we wound up getting out pretty early. The third class, however, he realized that he was well into a condensed class and should probably teach us something, so we wound up staying until 10 pm (not expecting to stay that late, I had to quickly walk over to the parking structure at the break and buy another couple hours of parking). Since then, the class has mostly been Death By PowerPoint, though he will occasionally break out the program and actually demonstrate what he is talking about.

The other class I've been taking is a childbirth class. We decided to try the Bradley method, as I had heard several recommendations and am far too self-aware to be able to do Lamaze without laughing. The reality is, for a class that is supposed to be about better childbirth through information, there is a surprisingly large amount of questionable "information" and unverified superstition. So far, it's been about half good information and half voodoo.

A number of things seem to be done right for the wrong reasons, or not explained at all. The Brewer Pregnancy Diet is advocated, though they don't really explain why other than the fact that you need more protein. However, given that protein deficiency is not an issue in the U.S. (far, far from it), I wanted to know why they were so obsessed with protein. As it turns out, it may help prevent preeclampsia, something that I'm definitely in favor of. The teacher also has this obsession with egg. Again, why? My research revealed that Dr. Brewer developed this diet to help poor women in the south, for whom eggs and dairy products were the only affordable protein.

Still, the class hasn't been all bad. We have gotten some useful information, particularly now that we've gotten down to the meat of issues. It has lead us to do a lot of research on our own. Still, from the way some of the people in the class (and the instructor) act, you'd think doctors were never trying to do the best thing for their patients.