Who Wears the Fur in this House?

Cats pretend to be high-maintenance overlords; dogs pretend to be slavishly devoted minions. Some people fall for this, but do not be deceived! The true state of affairs is revealed by one simple word: poo.

dog poo fairy

A cat, given the requisite freedom, will do (and bury) its poo somewhere you will never see it. A dog, on the other hand, will poo right in the middle of the lawn (and probably not even your lawn) and thus require you to pick it up. This is not the action of a devoted minion.

Aldous Huxley said that “to his dog, every man is Napoleon,” but can you really imagine Napoleon on pooper-scooper duty? Didn’t think so. On the other hand, there is an entire luxury industry based around the poo of a certain kind of cat. I am not making this up.

A dog is like a permanent toddler: they’re bumptious, they freak out if you’re not on hand, and they will always need you to feed, bathe, and clean up after them.

Australian Cattle Dog puppy mascot

Cats, on the other hand, are more like teenagers: a broad degree of independence with occasional outbreaks of frolicksome childhood (when they think you’re not looking) and, of course, they’re always ready to veg on the couch. They are also always ready to devour anything left out on the bench, but at least they don’t have opposable thumbs. The fridge and microwave are safe.

I am, it is true, a cat person. I have had cats for most of the last twenty years. On the other hand, I have also owned a dog, and I think I can say that I was not a great success as a dog owner. Dogs, like children, are high-maintenance and high-energy, which does not fit well with a low-energy person.

If you are considering parenthood, I recommend you try a dog first. The feeding, the excursions, the cleaning up messes you didn’t make, the constant behaviour-correction, the inability to go away for the weekend, the broken nights (children and dogs don’t have inhibitions about volume nor sharing their feelings with the world) – it’s all there. If you can’t hack the canine version, consider carefully before embarking on the human version.

Our dog getting treated like a baby, again.

Cats, on the other hand, only require feeding. They clean up after themselves; they don’t need to be taken for walks in the pouring rain; they don’t mind if you get someone else to feed them for a couple of days (but they’re happy to see you when you get back) and once they’ve learned what behaviour you don’t like, they’re careful not to do it when you’re looking. Cats only emit high-decibel noises in an emergency, and they prefer to spend their nights (and indeed, their days) curled up snoozing on your bed.

And despite the bad press, cats do care. I had a cat once that would climb into the lap of a crying person, rub up against them, emit concerned mews and generally be as consoling as possible. Admittedly, she couldn’t tell the difference between laughing and crying, but it’s the thought that counts.

I think I can safely say Absinthe's a lap cat now.

Cats have also been known to warn their owners of house-fires, attack intruders, or snuggle up to elderly people in rest-homes who are nearing their end. Mind you, dogs are also known to do these sorts of things – especially if they’ve been trained to.

Don’t get me wrong: I like dogs. But until they learn to clean up after themselves, it’s the human who’s the devoted attendant, not the dog.

Interchangeable Knitting Needles: A Thing of Beauty and a Joy Forever

You know how it is. You get to hear of something, you maybe see one somewhere, and then you see the price-tag and it gets firmly shelved under F for Fantasy. But you keep thinking about it. You keep looking at the options, and one day you realize you could actually make it happen. The idea frightens you a bit, but you keep thinking about it, and then one day you actually take the plunge and buy it.

Hammer about to Smash Piggy Bank

And then, in my case, you sit back and wait for it to arrive, and wait, and wait, because they’re out of stock (although it doesn’t mention this on the website) and then there are manufacturing problems, and then you have to wait for them to be shipped from the manufacturer to the merchant, and then to you (all three of you being in separate continents).

The treasure for which I was so eagerly waiting was a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, the apogee of knitting needle technology. First there were straight needles, then double-pointed needles or DPNs, then fixed circular needles, and now, at last, the inexorable march of progress brings us the interchangeable circular knitting needle. (Once we have accumulated sufficent spondulicks.)

Ball of Yarn 5-1-09 1

The set I got is known as the Karnation set, despite this name not being mentioned on either the merchant’s website (eknittingneedles.com) or the packaging. It’s not the usual way of marketing a product, but then, they apparently keep selling out, so they must be doing something right.

This set has 13 colour-coded sizes of aluminium needle (2.75mm up to 10mm) with five different lengths of cord (16in to 4ft). That is the equivalent of sixty-five different interchangeable needles, even if you don’t take into account the possibility of linking two or three of the cords together to create a needle so long you can skip with it. Or knit a blanket in one piece. Although maybe not both at the same time.

Two cord-connectors are included with the set, along with a rubber pad and a couple of little key-wires so you can tighten the connections to the point where you can’t undo them by hand (nor, more to the point, by knitting with them). There are also a packet of end-caps (to hold stitches on a cord while you are using the needles with another cord) and a card which tells you which of the colour-coded needles is which size. This all comes in a surprisingly small black zippered case (about 18 x 20 cm, closed). It looks something like this:

Knitting needle set

On the downside, the shortest cord (16 inches with needles attached) is so short you can barely get the needles’ points to meet. On the plus side, it’s still useful as a stitch-holder, or an extension to one of the larger cords.

The only thing I don’t like about this set is that the smallest needle is 2.75mm, which, while not huge (and smaller than a lot of sets go), is still larger than I use for a number of things, most notably socks. And this is where the delay came in handy: as compensation for waiting so long, the merchant offered me a 20% discount, which I took up in sets of double-pointed sock needles (three, the smallest of which is 2mm).

Of course, once I had this equivalent-of-sixty-five-circulars set, I had a lot of old needles I no longer needed, so ‘sorting out the knitting needles’ became an important item on the July purging list.


In July I purged:
nine circular needles (of various lengths and widths)
three pairs of straight needles (ditto)
and nineteen books, including poetry, prose, and reference.

This may seem like a short list, but to a bibliophile, purging books is a slow and arduous task. I’m lucky I have my knitting to help me stand the strain.

Lesendes Mädchen 19 Jh