Saturday, January 27, 2007

Delivery Zoo Animals At Your Doorstep

Delivery Zoo Animals At Your Doorstep

The zoo was delivered to the daycare center on Saturday 27 January 2007. They didn't have the complete zoo. No crocodile, no hippo, no tiger and certainly not an elephant. But they did have sheep, a goat, rabbits, geese, guinea pigs and little baby chicks.

All mobbed in relays by little itty bitty kids, who were given one hour per group for animal molestation.

The animal I found most interesting was the sheep, for the simple reason that the sexuality of sheep has been in the news recently. Because I personally do not have sex with sheep, up until now I have never given much thought to their sexuality.

But, as this subject has made it to the media headlines, particularly in Britain, I thought it would be interesting to actually interview a sheep on this subject, which I suspect few people have done, and to blog about the outcome of the interview.

So I sidled up to the sheep, who were two in number (whether they were an item or not I have no idea) and I asked, "Forgive me for asking, but can you tell me if you guys are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or celibate?"

Having launched the question I realized I had omitted a category, the category in question being the asexual, Adolf Hitler being an example of the type. But the question had already been launched, and it was too late to rephrase it.

In the even, the sheep declined to answer, so I had no light to shed on the mad scientist / sheep conundrum which has, if media reports can be believed, inflamed the blogosphere.

My daughter, the brave Cornucopia, now almost three, played with great confidence with the animals. The first time she came up against an animal assortment (an animal moriawase, we could say) was on the occasion of a visit to Nogeyama Zoo some months ago in 2006. Having been scared by a condor, her nerves shaken, she had refused to so much as touch a single animal.

At a later zoo visit, however, she had been confident in handling the goats in the children's petting area. And my wife reports that, on a recent return visit to Nogeyama Zoo, Cornucopia played confidently with the little animals, and also touched a snake.

My wife alleges that she, too, touched the snake, though I found this hard to believe. On the occasion of one of our visits to the Taj Mahal (we stayed in a hotel just down the road from it and visited it three or four times) we were promenading in the ornamental gardens when my wife let out what has to be one of the loudest screams in human history, this scream having been provoked by a snake. A dead snake, as it happens. Very dead.

Nevertheless, my wife asserts that, yes, she did dare to touch the snake at Nogeyama, though she declined the handler's offer to drape it around her shoulders.

I've never yet touched a snake though I have seen a few in the wild, "the wild" including the residential area of Hiyoshi, part of the city of Yokohama, Hiyoshi being a locality where we lived for a few years.

The zoo having come to visit the daycare center (this activity having been organized by a committee of the parents) my daughter got to ride a horse, or, more exactly, a pony. This was her second equestrian experience, and, by persuading us to stand in line for two more times, she got to ride it three times.

It was a week ago that my wife told me about the "delivery zoo" and I've been playing with ideas for other things which, fictionally, could be delivered.

In our real world society, the library gets delivered, if your local library has a book van delivery service.

And I exercised my mind by thinking of other things, such as zoos, which are not generally regarded as being portable, but which could be portable if you put your mind to it.

I figured that special delivery services could be a feature of one of the books I'm planning to go on to write in what is projected to be the TALES OF OOLONG MORBLOCK series, the first book in the series being the suicide bomber novel TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER.

The delivery zoo was, then, for me, at least, something of a literary experience.

I had another literary experience on Zoo Delivery Day: going to the library to listen to someone reading stories for little kids.

We were at the supermarket and my wife, still busy shopping, told me to go to the reading, which she said was on the first floor, as it was scheduled to start at 1000, and she still needed more time to shop.

As I entered the library with Cornucopia in two, I heard an intercom announcement in Japanese. I didn't follow what it said, but I did hear the words "ni kai," meaning "second floor," so I surmised, on account of the timing, that the announcement was to tell people in the library that the book reading would be on the second floor.

I asked the counter staff and they told me to go up the stairs and take a right, which I did. Someone was at the top of the stairs meeting and greeting, and directed me and Cornucopia to the appropriate room.

When the reading was ready to begin, the room was darkened and we saw an illuminated moon projected on a screen of some kind. Subsequently, various animal shapes were attached to the screen, which evidently had adhesive properties, and, as the shapes were manipulated, a story was told, which I will summarize.

A tortoise (or, in American English, a turtle) was wondering what the moon tasted like. Was it sweet or was it salty? He tried to take a bite but found it was out of reach. So he went to the top of a hill but found it was still out of reach.

"If an elephant gets on my back it should be able to reach the moon," said the tortoise.

A compliant elephant got on the tortoise's back but, sadly, was unable to reach the moon.

Along came a giraffe, and the giraffe got up on top of the elephant, which was standing on the tortoise, and the giraffe craned its neck and reached for the moon, but failed.

Animal after animal joined the increasingly perilously tottering stack of animals, with a result that was contrary to my expectations, and took me entirely by surprise, and made me laugh: the ultimate animal, a monkey, if recollection serves, was able to grab hold of the moon and to tear out a great big chunk of it for consumption.

And the taste of the moon? It was wonderful!

This story adheres to one of my notions as to how a good work of fiction should be structured, the notion being that, at or near the end of the story, there should be a perversion of expectations which causes us to revise (or, if you like, revision) everything that has come before.

An example of such a perversion of expectations is in Shakespeare's MACBETH, in which Macbeth proceeds with confidence because a prophecy has vouchsafed that his regime will not fail unless the woods come marching to his castle. Which is impossible. Only, finally, they do.

In the next story, an elephant goes for a walk and meets a hippo which hitches a ride. A crocodile then joins the hippo. The elephant bears up well under the strain. But, when a tortoise joins the crowd on the elephant's back, the combined weight proves too much for the elephant, which falls over, and all the animals, elephant included, end up in the pond.

And the third story? It's about a brain-damaged rooster which has forgotten how to crow. It can get started but can't finish, so it erroneously ends with the call of some other animal, such as "boo boo," this being what pigs say in Japanese.

Each animal tells the rooster, no, that's not what roosters say, that's what we say.

Growing despondent, the rooster wanders off alone and ponders his plight. Then he runs into a fox which thinks it would like to have rooster for lunch.

In something of a panic, the rooster starts crowing, and every time he crows he delivers the sound of another animal. All the animals, thinking themselves summoned, come running as a group. And the fox, seeing the onslaught, turns tail and runs.

We were all pretty tired, I think, by the end of what had been quite a long day. We had sushi for dinner and my wife and I had sake, with strawberries and apples to finish.

Cornucopia does not eat apple peel, but she likes to feed it to me. On this occasion, the first bit she fed me was somewhat on the slimy side, and I realized it had been prechewed. I thanked her but told her that, at the moment, I am not so old as to need to have someone prechew my apple peel for me. Though, no doubt, that day will come.

Today I found a couple of spare moments to tweak the magnifier that comes with Windows XP, a magnifier that Microsoft has very cunningly gone and hidden away at PROGRAMS -> ACCESSORIES -> ACCESSIBILITY -> MAGNIFIER, where you're most unlikely to ever find it. (Certainly I didn't find it in the first year of using XP.)

The magnifier, once you've activated it, puts a magnified strip across the top of the screen, and you can opt for it to follow the mouse cursor and text editing.

Originally, I set the magnification level at 2, because having it any higher causes letters to be larger than the magnification strip. But, recently, I've been doing a lot of search-and-replace to modify files, using a dialog box which has an extremely small font, and even with the magnifier I have trouble seeing a font that small without having recourse to my magnifying glass.

But today I remembered that I could tweak the magnifier, and did so, bumping the magnification level up to 4, which is just perfect for the dialog box, and which does not interfere with my ordinary text editing, as I don't use the magnifier for that, since I can adjust the text editor's font until it's comfortable for me.

What made me think of the magnifier was a helpful e-mail I received directing my attention to the existence of an open source magnifier which works with Windows. My helpful correspondent hadn't tried the magnifier and, at this stage, neither have I, though, when I have time to, I will get round to it.

I did find a moment to look at the page of open source Windows resources and saw some good stuff there, including Filezilla, the FTP program I use to upload stuff to the Internet. Also a Paint replacement, which I'd like to try out as, before I restored my computer to factory conditions, my XP version of Paint had fallen over. Paint still worked but I lost control over the font size for inserting text into pictures.

The page to which I was directed is, if you are interested:

http://www.listible.com/list/open-source-applications-for-windows

I have visited the page but I had not, as yet, been to the URL where, I believe, the download is located, which is:

http://magnifier.sourceforge.net/

Although I haven't downloaded and tried the open source magnifier yet, the e-mail has already been helpful because it drew my thoughts toward the magnifier I already have, one of two magnifiers that I have, the other being one which is part of the setup for my IBM TrackPoint mouse.

If you have XP and an IBM computer with the little TrackPoint mouse built into the keyboard, the settings for the magnifier are at SETTINGS -> CONTROL PANEL -> MOUSE -> MAGNIFYING GLASS and then click on SETTINGS to decide how big you want the magnification area to be. To activate the TrackPoint magnifier, hold down the middle mouse button, which wakes up the magnifier. You can move the magnified area around the screen by using the TrackPoint while keeping the middle mouse button depressed.

(My spellchecker would have me believe that "TrackPoint" should be "Trappist" but I have decided to beg to differ.)

Pop quiz from my wife, at the dinner table: "What is this stuff?" "Polystyrene." "So what's polystyrene?" "I don't know." At which point my wife decided I was bluffing and didn't know what this stuff was at all. I knew but I couldn't explain. So I've just taken a look at my dictionary, which gives the answer was follows:

"A rigid, clear thermoplastic polymer that can be molded into objects or made into a foam that is used to insulate refrigerators


---------------------------------------------------------
Excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary
Copyright © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved."

The font of the dictionary is pretty small. You can enlarge the display of the definitions but not the font of the box where you enter the definitions, and I realized that the Microsoft magnifier, set at 4, very nicely boosts that otherwise unmodifiable font.

I then tweaked the Microsoft magnifier to boost the magnification level from 4 to 5, and that works perfectly.

All going to plan, at the top of this blog entry there will be a picture of daughter Cornucopia on horseback (ie on ponyback). The picture was taken in the carpark of the Christian church just across the road from our Christian-run daycare. Although the management is Christian, they did the pagan Santa Claus bit as well at Christmas time, and Cornucopia got to meet up with Santa Claus face to face. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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