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Plea to Mexico 


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It all started on Saturday night when I finished off my El Fenix hot sauce prize, that 454 gram jar of Texas charm. I immediately cracked open a 430 mL jar of Tostitos Medium Salsa.

Yuck.

We were talking tomato soup with the broth squeezed out. Bland. Unrefined. Barbaric.

Days later I give the Tostitos another try. Perhaps, unhindered by the memory of the great-tasting El Fenix, the Tostitos will once again shine.

With each nibble, gingerly taken, the truth about Canadian Mexican cuisine slams against my brains like a wildebeest stampeding whilst blinded by a cauldron affixed over its head.

There is a game about bad Canadian Mexican food. The Nacho Incident is based on the premise that the Mounties confiscate quality Mexican food at the border. Mexican smugglers defy the palate police, at whatever cost, be it braving alien enemas and carjacking UFOs or struggling on canoes down Canada's frothing waterways, to relieve the hungry masses.

People of Mexico, if you read this, send help!


Valentina 


Friday, February 24, 2006

About a month ago, I began fostering a baby hamster for the Small Animal Rescue of BC. The rescue group told me that they auctioned off a choice of names for the girl on eBay but that I was welcome to rename her. Looking over the Petfinder site, I couldn't even figure out if she was Renee or Jane.

Hoisting my unrealized maternal greed on the baby, I decided to christen her the good old Romanian way. The new hamster girl will go by Valentina, the feminized version in honour of my cousin Valentin.

Valentina

I didn't write about Valentina because I was hoping to get a photo of her to show her off. The above is the best I could do.

Hamsters, you see, are a very jittery bunch. Get in too close and they get curious.

Valentina Chin Cleft

Then they lose interest.

Valentina's Ear

They're kind of like sasquatches. All you get is a blurry, was-that-what-I-thought-it-was? Bigfoot shot.

Valentina's Fur

Then they're off and you're left with is a distant view of hamster butt.

Valentina's Butt

Welcome, Valentina!


Crenguţă's Tumour Goes Bye-Bye 


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Crenguţă

Crenguţă's surgery went without incident. She woke up in full force soon afterwards. Then, about an hour later, the effects of the painkillers wore off. She froze in pain and I put her back into her hamster potty.

Um, yes, I forgot to mention the potty. She received a potty for Christmas and loved it. So much so that in the last two weeks, she took up permanent residence in the potty. She dumped out all the litter mix and moved in her tissue nest.

Back to the surgery conclusion. I lowered her water dispenser so she wouldn't have to stand up. Then I gave her dinner in bed.

Her chest or chin - you can never quite tell on a hamster - was soaked with blood. The vet said she had a little bruising, perhaps from Saturday's pinprick. The tumour is going out for a biopsy with results in two days. Otherwise, the vet warned me that she should not scratch her sutures.

"How do you do that?" I asked. "Don't I get one of those Elizabethan dog collars?"

"No, they don't fit on hamsters," said the vet. "You might try pulling up the skin from her feet and wrapping it around her."

Like a foreskin?


It's a Tumour 


Saturday, February 18, 2006

At least she enjoyed her field trip out to the vet.

The vet was too busy to see Crenguţă. I really liked this vet when she treated my previous hamster Anişoara, who died of cancer in 2004. The vet oohed and aahed over my darling; anyone who likes hamsters this much guarantees quality hamster care. Also, she didn't coerce me to put the girl to sleep but offered me the option of giving her painkillers until her time came.

It's too bad this vet hires the meanest receptionists. After Anişoara died, this one receptionist continued to irritate me for weeks. She was ugly to boot. I thought you can't double whammy yourself with both mean and ugly. She must have missed that class. I wrote a story about her, avenging my wounded pride by hoisting a bitter lovelife on her. (The story was published. If you want to read it, let me know.)

I changed vets.

The new vet took Crenguţă out of the room. When they returned, he confirmed that the disfiguring bump was a tumour. A needle prick had brought out no liquid so he ruled out the abcess.

What this means is that the Gootz needs an operation. It's a risky procedure for a hamster. Throw in anaesthetics and there is the chance she might not pull through. Heck, the cancer could be malignant and another tumour might be lying elsewhere in wait, negating the first tumour's removal.

With the biopsy, it is around two hundred dollars.

I will of course ask that they give me back the tumour once they're through with it. Some lucky wedding guest is going to have the wedding favour of a lifetime!


Hamster Tumour or Abcess? 


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Crenguţă tonight began sporting a very large lumpy thing* on her chest. This morning it did not seem to be there - hamster tumours are fast, but can they be that fast? With the death of celebrity hamster blogger, Baruchito, is Crenguţă on a copycat deathbed?

Whoa, let me back up a bit. Hamsters have a lifespan of two to three years. I once raised a hamster that almost made it to four years. The Gootz is a mere year and five months - her birthday is September 19, 2004. She still has at least seven months in her.

Yet she is technically old. And she is female, putting her in a higher cancer category.

Usually energetic, Crenguţă has exhibited signs of fatigue; in her hamster ball she is not as zippy as before. She appears to sleep more.

Then there is the nose issue. Every time I turn off the heat for over a 24-hour period her pink nose blanches. Tonight, despite the heat having been on all day, her nose turned white again.

But the weirdest thing of all, Crenguţă doesn't bite any more. I even poked at the tumour to see if there was pain and she didn't chomp at my finger.

I keep hoping that it's an abcess, which is relatively easy to treat by lancing and with antibiotics. Since the large bump is near her cheek pouch, it could be the result of hard food and lack of water. A few days ago she knocked down her water bottle during the night. Could it be that the resulting dehydration made her cheek pouch vulnerable to cracking and infection?

It's too late tonight for a trip to any vet that treats hamsters. Tomorrow night I'll have to see what help I can get the Gootz. As it is a tumour just under the skin, there may be a chance, albeit an expensive one, to remove it.

Oh, please let it be a piece of tissue that got lodged in her cheek pouch.

*The Gootz is still energetic enough to make photographing her an impossibility.


Here It Comes 


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Just as thought. Things get wildly out of control as soon as I announced the plans:
My parents added a whole bunch of people to their list. Looks like I have to start sponsoring Romanians for tourist visas, as they insist on having their goddaughter and godson and their child, their Romanian army patrons, as well as the friendly spinster down the street. Plus my poor cousin whose father died last September.
On the plus side, my parents did behave. I had asked them to stop spreading rumours about me a while ago. They obeyed. Today they asked me if it would be okay with me to start spreading the news. I sighed. "Yes, now you may go the whole hog."

In other news, I discovered that sea cucumbers are indeed edible. A seaside town like Vancouver must have sea cucumber for sale.

I also discovered that sulphur baths penetrate one's being to the core. It doesn't matter how many showers you take afterwards. You can count on smelling like a rotten slice of French toast for days to come.


Sea Slug FAQ 


Monday, February 13, 2006

A sea cucumber took the picture, right?
Uh, no. Next.

Okay, so who did take the photo?
Matt: You know, all the standard expected questions about whens and wheres and what-did-you-says and dates and rings and all that, and what's the most common question? "Who took the photo?!?" You know your friends are a bunch of photo geeks when. . . . Anyway, the answer? I took it. It required some clever tripod positioning and shooing-away-of-onlookers-in-the-frame and timer setting and driftwood log jumping and sliding into position as if I were stealing third, and, yeah, all that and still trying to make sure things were timed correctly to the shutter release. Photography as a full contact sport. Only because I didn't want to spoil the surprise by asking a friend to take it, and because this was something special between the two of us, so it would have been weird to have some dude with a camera following us around.

So didn't it spoil it for her when you were setting the camera up?
Maktaaq: I was devastated! What kind of guy doesn't have the courage to propose in front of seventy thousand strangers at a football stadium? He wasn't even wearing a gorilla suit! Matt: The actual proposal evolved over the course of the previous week. After a couple of sleepy late night discussions it was already decided by Tuesday or so, and we were really only waiting for a time when we saw each other during daylight hours that we could take a decent photo, because we thought that would be a great way to tell everyone. Of course, all these theatrics surrounding the photo meant that we had to deal with the sarcastic comments from this one guy who kept hanging around, saying, "Whoa, like, THAT doesn't look staged or something." Of course, you know it's staged because this is the only outdoor photo I have of her when she's not wearing a scarf, I think.

So when we saw you guys Tuesday night, or Saturday morning, you were . . . you already . . . .
Yep. And here we always thought we had terrible poker faces. Guess not.

So you weren't proposing at all in the photo?
Matt: Funny how things like that work out sometimes. When we were talking about the engagement before, I had never actually said, "Will you marry me?" On Sunday afternoon, when we took the photo, the first take felt really weird since the engagement was really already on (especially after dealing with Mr. Sarcasm, above), so we tried again, and this time I got down on my knee and popped the question for real. That photo didn't look quite right on the tiny camera screen, and I wanted to take a few more just in case, but when reviewing them all later, the one with the real question was the clear winner. You can't fake the look she had on her face that time. So, was the photo staged? Well, it was supposed to be staged, just as a great way to break the news, but in a way it accidentally became authentic.

I dig the boots.
Maktaaq: Cool.

Were you nervous?
Matt: About the proposal? Only a little, since we had already talked about it. I was mostly excited. However, if I do look a little nervous in the photo there's probably a reason: If you look closely, you'll notice that my back pockets are empty. Right before taking the pictures, I realized that my wallet was gone, and couldn't figure out whether it had been stolen, or if I'd left it back at the apartment. I was pretty sure it had been the latter, since I had been feeling a bit scatterbrained with all the excitement, but I was still a little concerned that some homeless guy was wandering around downtown buying heroin with my money, while I was busy playing on the beach. The real nerves didn't kick in until she and I were sitting at the Blenz on Denman, having just uploaded the picture, and looked at each other before running the publish script to tell the world. Guess it goes to show how much I trusted her response compared to the world at large.

Do sea cucumbers actually travel in herds?
Maktaaq: Yes. Philip Lambert, with the Royal BC Museum, characterized them as a "miniature herd of gnus trundling across the abyssal plains, they graze on the rich organic snow that has drifted down from above." It's one of our favourite bits of trivia in the world. Matt: And what does that have to do with the two of us? Not much, except that it's a perfect example of what 30 seconds of our typical private conversations are like. Welcome to our universe.

Did you get a ring?
No, we decided to get matching noses instead.

Seriously.
Maktaaq: I've never really worn rings before, so this is a new thing for me. I even have a drawer full of unworn rings because it's written in the Romanian constitution that Romanian girls must have rings. Not to mention, diamond trading directly supports human rights violations in west Africa, and even though so many other people have diamond rings, I have to go with what I've so often preached. Matt: She is pretty vocally opposed to supporting the diamond industry since she's seen the deleterious effects of this and other western industries in Africa firsthand, so we've discussed alternate ideas, including finding something nice and non-diamondy at a vintage jewelry store. We both realize that this plan sounds great on paper but will probably take months to execute, but who knows -- we might find something extraordinary. If anyone has any suggestions for places to look, we could use the help.

Enough of this proposal talk. Have you set a date yet for the wedding? How did you guys meet? How long have you been dating?
Matt: The first day seems a little soon to ask about a date, doesn't it? Of course, both doing project management / event coordination sorts of work, we couldn't help but at least throw something on the calendar to start. But first the other questions. We met (appropriately enough) at a weblogger meetup at Steamworks last May. We were both early, and no one else had shown up, so we had each other's company for a while. We corresponded via website comments and email for a couple of months, including meeting in a small group for dinner later, but our first official date was at La Bodega tapas restaurant, in late July. What was supposed to be a low-pressure friendly only-a-date-if-it-turns-out-that-way 1 hour dinner turned into a 5 hour conversation which forced the staff to ask us to leave so they could go home. A few weeks back she ran across a study which claimed that May 19 is the "happiest day of the year", as measured by people's average moods. She looked it up, and, sure enough, the day we met. So when arbitrarily choosing sometime in mid-2007 or so for a wedding, what date could have seemed more appropriate?

Where will the wedding be?
Matt: In Vancouver. She has quite a bit of family here. We have mutual friends here. My family and friends are all over the place, so if they're going to travel anyway, they might as well visit the greatest city in the world. No word yet, though, how big we want it to be. She and I both prefer small and cozy, but if that meant family only and no friends, we would be horrified. So we still need to work that out. If nothing else, it's the one way we could finally get my parents to come visit.

Any locations yet?
We know planning for a sunny day in Vancouver is like hoping for a doubloon in your spare change, but we're envisioning something outdoors. Possibly at UBC. But possibly not.

Have you planned your babies' names?
Maktaaq: Nicoleta, Cǎtǎlin and Valentin. Possibly Rareș. Unfortunately, I am not really a mommy type. Never have been. I played with toy trucks and planes and cassette players instead of dolls when I was little. After I grew up, I realized that I made a better pet owner than a parent. Rather distressed that I would not have offspring upon which to bestow the names of my sister and cousins (and that obese construction worker with whom my parents set me up), I asked for my sister's permission to name my next hamster after her. "I don't know how I feel about that."

I do hope to one day adopt, though. I am looking for an artistic child circa four or five whose talents I can nurture and help earn all those arts scholarships I wish I'd known about in high school.

Will you be adding more hamsters to the family?
Maktaaq: Matt has a cat and I have a hamster plus a foster hamster. Matt joked that it's more of a formula for subtraction. I asked how he felt about chinchillas, but he deflected my question with a "how about them honey badgers?" I am working up to getting a few attack momongas.

But back to that, what raised the curiosity on sea slugs?
Maktaaq: When I snorkelled in Taiwan, a diver told me that if a barricuda took a bite out of me, I should grab a sea cucumber and slam it on the sea bed. He demonstrated with a passing sea cucumber. Turns out that injured sea cucumbers secrete a white viscous gel. Divers can use this substance to bandage their wounds. The diver further told me that sea cucumbers, in Mandarin, are called "Men of the Sea." Ever since then, sea cucumbers have surpassed geoducks as my favourite marine invertebrate to have nightmares to.

Any more questions?


Two Questions 


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Two questions were at the forefront of my mind today.

The first was whether or not sea cucumbers travel in herds. Yes, these weird slugs of the deep do indeed.

As for the second question, you can find the answer here.


Bibliophilic Anxiety 


Monday, February 06, 2006

This Canadian craze over downsizing and reducing clutter is great. I hate knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, baubles, bibelots, tsochkes. I am all down with getting rid of them. My house will be minimal, everything that remains must be purely functional to maintain its place in the household. A few souvenirs of quality or mementoes of sentimental ties can remain.

De-cluttering is the purging of our times. A blood-letting procedure to rid ourselves of the weight of materialism. All of us have accumulated so much.

Today a volunteer dropped by the museum with a stack of books to donate.

"If I won't read them again in the next two, no, five years, I get rid of them," he said.

My new boss has a disdain for books. "I've reduced all my books to one shelf. Really, you don't want to move everywhere with those things."

Matt twice told me that books don't really fit into the decor of any room. "The spines are different colours. They can't match the surroundings."

My mother, meanwhile, threatens bimonthly that she would burn my library the next time she's in town. I foiled her this time, by not revealing the identity of my $300 library sale find.

Everywhere, the signs read, Get rid of your books. I am beaten from my vision of a Viennese living room library, where the books threaten avalanches to the television cowering in their shadow.

I must comply.

I must get rid of my books.

It's made me depressed. No, I don't want to.

Anyone! Does anyone have a reason why I can feel good again for owning hundreds of books?


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