To YA or Not to YA, That is the Question

After much deep and profound brain things inside my head, as King Julien would say, I have come to the conclusion that what I really need here is your opinions. As many of them as possible, in fact, although ideally not more than one each. (Unless you can support them with reference to the text, as my first-year Shakespeare lecturer would say.)

Lemur catta 3
The brain-thing which is currently circulating inside my head is this question: what constitutes a Young Adult novel? More specifically, was I mistaken in not classifying Restoration Day as a YA novel?

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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.

Licensed to Kill

Ever been in a car when the brakes fail? Halfway up a steep hill with a drop-off at the bottom is where it happened to me.
Add to that the general non-workingness of the handbrake and the fact that I had only been driving for a few months at that point and you have the explanation for my subconscious distrust of brakes (and general avoidance of hills).

No, this isn’t the reason for the mid-week quote, that’s more to do with how much our world (at least here in the West) is set up for cars instead of people. Which is in large part why I will tomorrow be sitting a driver licensing test – even if you don’t want to live a car-centric life, it still pays to be able to drive. (Legally.)

New Zealand’s driver licensing system, for those of you unfamiliar with it, has three stages. First the Learner’s, for which you have to pass a multichoice theory test, and which entitles you to start learning the practical (with a qualified driver beside you). After that the Restricted – a fairly rigorous practical test, after passing which you can drive solo (although, true to name, with restrictions). Finally there’s the Full licence test – and two years after that you can start teaching others to drive, God help them.

All of this is intended to make up for the fact that NZ allows teens to become licenced drivers when their hormone-raddled under-developed brains probably shouldn’t be given charge of anything more dangerous than an electric toothbrush (never mind a tonne of speeding metal). Even after the recent changes to up the age, it’s still possible to be driving solo by 16 1/2.

I was at the learner stage when I had my hill-side inkling of mortality (don’t ask me how I got down safely, I have no idea). My aunt had nobly volunteered to teach me the practical side of motoring, although who knows if she would have if she’d realised what a job it was going to be. (I highly recommend psychiatric nurses as driving instructors, by the way – they don’t scare easily.)
I am not at all talented when it comes to modern technologies like the horseless carriage, and have lived a mostly car-free life, which is how I’ve managed to procrastinate on sitting my full until a week before my restricted expires. That makes ten years since I got my learner’s licence – five times the minimum for progressing to a full.

I didn’t actually realise the full effect the hill episode had had on my driving until the instructor I recently drove with pointed out that I tend to overuse my clutch and underuse my brake when I need to slow at intersections. Misuse my clutch might be more what she was thinking, but she was too kind to say so.
She’s more or less broken me of that habit, but unfortunately I’ve got several years of not doing the right combination of brake and clutch in/change down/clutch out to make up for – most of my driving experience, in fact. As the saying goes, practice makes persistent.

So I’ve got to get that sorted before I sit the test tomorrow. I figure practice today, practice tomorrow, don’t get flustered, and I might have a chance. Wish me luck!

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you behind the wheel of a car? I probably won’t see your comments before the test (practice practice practice!) so don’t worry about psyching me out – let ‘er rip!