Thursday, August 23, 2012

on extreme violence.

as part of my new job as a full-time professor, i have been required to attend a spattering of meetings and seminars this week.  this has led to a lot of boredom but also a fair amount of excitement--excitement that was entirely unexpected.

it all began with boa constrictors and miniature horses.  did you know that the US government has redefined what a disability is and what constitutes a service animal?  yeah, me neither.  anyway, apparently people can have miniature horses as service animals and just about anything--snakes included--as therapy animals. 

just try to imagine this is you will.  you are sitting in a classroom, taking notes, trying to concentrate, but the horse standing next to you keeps whinnying(sp?) in your ear.  or the girl in the corner keeps stroking the snake she carries in her bag.  weird.  just plain weird.

after the tons of excitement that was the ADA meeting came my favorite experience on a college campus thus far:  crisis management.

with the rash of random mass shootings lately, the state of texas has revamped its active shooter protocol and we, the educators of the state, have to relearn everything as well.  it basically went like this:

police officer:  you know how before you were just kind of supposed to lock the door, turn out the lights, hunker down and pray?

us:  yeah.

officer:  yeah, change of plans.  you'll still want to lock the door, turn out the lights and pray, but the hunkering down, not so much.  instead, you need to fight. if a shooter comes into your classroom, use extreme violence to take him down.

that's right, folks.  we get to beat the shit out of someone with anything we can find to prevent them from killing people.  we were also informed that if someone happened to accidentally, oh i don't know, maim or kill the shooter in the process, that no one would really care.

chairs, backpacks, desks, computer monitors, tv cabinets, you name it--they are all weapons.  we also learned how to appropriately hit and kick people to inflict the most damage once they are on the ground.  don't screw with me, peeps.  just saying.

after this very informative meeting, we were placed in a simulation to try out our new combat skills.

it went a little something like this:

officer:  i'm going to need a volunteer to act as our pack leader.  remember, this is a fight for your lives!

my good friend and colleague:
  i volunteer as tribute!

(laughter erupts, fifteen minutes go by, we manage to subdue our giggles and get our heads back in the game)

officer:  okay folks, you'll notice there are rolls of toilet paper on your desks that have been labeled with a variety of items you might find in a classroom.  let's have a real quick safety briefing here.  the toilet paper is standing in for the actual object.  if the roll says "chair," pretend it's a chair.  it's not a command telling you to throw an actual chair.

us:  wait...what happened during yesterday's session?  did someone actually throw a chair?!

officer:  i can neither confirm nor deny that.  are y'all ready?  GO!

gun shots are heard and we rush into action, having armed ourselves with our toilet paper weapons.  the room we were in didn't have locking doors, so we turned out the lights and split up, half of us on one side, half on the other, waiting for the attacker to enter.

gun shots rang out (like a bell); yelling and screaming ensued.  we waited, crouched like lions waiting for a nice, juicy gazelle.

finally the attacker came in.  we pounced into action, bombarding him (another police officer in an extremely padded suit) with our toilet paper weapons.  someone grabbed his leg, knocking him off balance, and another person grabbed his arm.  he released the gun and we kicked it away, maintaining a hold on him.

i guess feeling that the situation wasn't quite under control, someone then proceeded to pick up the room's trash can and repeatedly bash the attacker over the head with it.  she hit him at least ten times.  it. was. awesome.

finally someone called out OK!  THAT's GOOD!  and we all stopped attacking, laughter replacing violence. 

the chief of police walked up to the poor "attacker" and asked if he was ok.  it took him a second, but he finally got to his feet, smiled, waved, and left, complaining of dizziness.

we milled around a few more minutes, laughing, smiling, trying to slow down our furiously beating hearts.  eventually we looked to our police officer instructor.

officer:  wow you guys.  i should have stopped that three minutes earlier, but i was having too much fun watching. 

with that he released us, and we left, filled with adrenaline and just a bit in shock.

i learned about miniature horses, snakes and participated in a small-scale version of the hunger games by helping beat the crap out a police officer; what did you do at work yesterday?

Monday, August 20, 2012

on narwhals.

okay, let me begin by stating that i am a fairly intelligent person.

i went to a good high school.  i took honors classes and made excellent grades.

i went to college.  i went to graduate school.

i have spent 19 years of my life in school.  i have been a student of life for much longer than that.

so, perhaps you guys can forgive me for this one little thing i seem to have overlooked for my entire life:  NARWHALS ARE REAL ANIMALS! 

like real-real.  like swimming around in the sea as i type this, eating shrimp apparently and rubbing their horns on each other.  freaky.

i have spent my entire life thinking of narwhals as some mythical, magical creature—like unicorns, fairies, centaurs, and dryer sock goblins, if you will.

then, earlier today, when reading one of my new favorite blogs, brittany herself, i had my mind figuratively blown.

i mean, how many of you guys knew that these things were real?!  and why didn’t you tell me?

i think my lack of knowledge here is pretty understandable when i’m bombarded with pop culture and internet trash like this:

but seriously—how did i not know this?!  how did i make it through 19 years of school without ever stumbling upon this little factoid?  i took biology.  i studied evolution.  you would think that an actual mammal with a wicked freaking horn would be discussed in one of those subjects.  but apparently not.

i LOVE aquariums.  i visit them rather frequently.  i have never seen a narwhal.

none of the zoos i’ve visited have had them, either.

that seems to be a serious oversight.  if you want people to know that narwhals actually do, you know, exist, you need to let the people see them.

or maybe that’s the thing.  knowing about the existence of narwhals is a club.  and the first rule of the narwhal club is that you don’t talk about narwhals.  or their actual existence.

well, i’m onto you narwhal club members!  your secret is out, and i’m going to tell everyone i know, and they’re going to join your secret little club, too!

so, of course this discovery set me off on a google firestorm. and Oh.My.God. what i found will amaze you (and possibly horrify you if you ever plan on swimming around in the arctic ocean [which may or may not be why i’ve never seen a living narwhal in a texas zoo, just spinning my wheels here folks]):
  • they are real!
  • they only have two teeth; for males, one tooth grows through the narwhal's upper lip into a swordlike, spiral tusk up to 8.8 feet long! some of them have two.
  • some female narwhals grow these teeth-tusks, too, but theirs aren’t nearly as long or impressive.
  • they are mammals—related to dolphins and orcas.  technically speaking, they’re porpoises
  • they usually swim in groups of 15 to 20, but sometimes are spotted in groups of hundreds—or even several thousand—YIKES!
  • they communicate with clicks and whistles
  • they eat shrimp
  • they can swim really, really deep—like 4500 feet deep without breaking a sweat (or whatever the equivalent water-mammal bodily secretion would be)

now, expand your knowledge and check out this wicked video of narwhals:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

on damages.

it's funny the way our minds work.

you live through something major, and for the immediate future after said survival you panic that it will happen again.  or at least i do.

my pup is sick.  he has a corneal abrasion/ulcer that popped up sunday night.  he didn't do anything in particular to cause it and the vet said it's a pretty common occurrence with his breed, so she wasn't too shocked to see it. 

he had to have his eye dilated (like a human--i know, it's weird to me, too), a funky light shined in it to see what was going on, and is on an aggressive treatment of dilation drops, antibiotic drops, and pain meds for the foreseeable future.

he's been so utterly listless the past couple days.  he eats, drinks, and does his business, but otherwise he just sleeps--which is very peculiar for this particular little hellcat.

i'm filled with panic.

this has become the norm for me, unfortunately.

my mom gets the sniffles--i panic.

my best fried sneezes--i panic.

one of the dogs has the slightest ailment--i panic.

ever since my daddy passed i have lived in a fairly predictable state of panic.  i've come to expect it, but it is certainly not welcome or healthy.

it's as if i'm just waiting to relive the events hell of the last seven months all over again, with a different cast of characters.

as if i'm eternally waiting for the other shoe to drop. for someone else to leave.  for grief to take me under one more time, never to surface again.

but i take the fact that i recognize this panic as nonsensical as a good sign.  at least i realize i'm being ridiculous even if i can't ebb the flow of panic welling within.

my little buddy's eye is all messed up right now.  but he's okay.  the vet thinks he will recover completely. 

i am going to keep telling my panic-filled psyche that over and over again in the next few days, hoping that eventually it will stick.