Wanna go walk?

Part 2 of 5 (Part 1 of 5 here)

Mickey 1
Mickey 1

Part of my desire to further train the boys is selfish. I hate leashes. I hate walking dogs with leashes on. I am not making some grand statement that leashes are bad and wrong and should be abolished. They have their place and can be great tools. But in a way, I compare it to potty training a kid. It sucks to do, but life is a lot better once they get it. (And I have never met a dog who walks off leash, who poops on pavement of any kind, or anywhere near the paths people (and animals) use. Off leash dogs go poop alone in the woods, or tall weeds, or in the middle of some bushes, somewhere out of the way, behind some cover.)

Max 1
Max 1

The first general objective in training and specifically leash training, is to get to the point as rapidly as possible where you no longer need the leash to control your dog. This is one of the most frustrating and misunderstood parts of modern life with dogs. Putting a leash on a dog does not mean that the dog is under control. For the vast majority of non-city situations, dogs (even or especially untrained dogs) are better to deal with and less likely to cause damage and chaos off leash than on it. A well trained dog needs a leash like butter needs margarine.

Mickey 2
Mickey 2

This is what kills me about leash laws and the method of enforcement. Like so many of our laws, the letter of the leash laws does not at all match the spirit of the leash laws. But people do not understand leashes, or dogs. The point of having a leash law is to capture the idea that you (human) are responsible (morally and more important to this discussion, legally) for the actions of your dog. Your dog should be under control. Well – that probably should be the intent of the leash law, but in practice that is not the case. In practice (and in enforcement) the law is simple – keep your dog on a physical leash at all times. This my friends is completely counter productive.

Max 2
Max 2

A poorly behaved dog is a poorly behaved dog. On leash, off leash – it makes no difference. If you can’t keep your dog from coming to eat my sandwich at the park (or whatever) when it is off leash, what makes you think you can manage it with him on leash? I am in decent shape now, but still had actual muscles (small ones) and stuff back in the mid 90s when I really began dog training. One 65 pound hound dog could pull me down off my feet and drag me around if I was not careful.

Sad Guthrey
Guthrey: "Don't believe his lies! I was perfect!"

And he grew to be closer to a one hundred pound dog. Now, working with a dog to get them prepared to walk off leash (and on leash) is not automatic, and there are many steps between getting your dog home from the shelter and happily walking through the woods (or the city) leash free. It is going to take longer for some teams (dog/s and biped/s) to get there and some may not. But the end goal is just that – an END goal. The pursuit is life long and enjoyable. You and your dog will teach each other stuff. You will both get and stay healthier (inside and out). There will be less and less need for you to say anything negative or even commanding to your companion.

Mickey 2
Mickey 2

So – it burns my biscuits that there are still people that we see regularly that at a minimum frown and scowl and refuse to say “hi” every time we see them because Lucas is walking beside or behind me passively while I stroll along with his leash tucked in my belt. Some of these folks have seen us doing this for over 10 years. And some of these people still actually say to us, out loud, every time, “You need to put that dog on the leash right now!” I try to stay polite, but I always retort. I cannot let it go. To the folks with excessively bad attitudes who refer to the fact that “It is the law!” I usually end up with some form of, “hey, want me to follow you around and see which laws you decide to break today?”

Max 3
He is so cute amidst the rose petals

Maybe this comes from folks who have been seriously hurt. Maybe these are weird ass law sticklers. (I don’t think so. I have watched some of them and they don’t use their turn signals which is also illegal and way more dangerous than Lucas walking beside me.) Or maybe these are just deeply unhappy people who need stuff to yell about and get mad at. I am sure they find no shortage. But what kills me is the misunderstanding of the law (or the purpose of the law). I have talked with cops, park employees, and animal control workers in several states (at least 5) about this and they all say the same thing. They do understand and agree that control is the objective not some piece of fabric. And they generally only issue citations to people whose dogs are out of control. But they almost never give any citation or even a verbal warning to the folks whose dogs are on leash, but out of control. And when the old lady complains (or whatever) they crack down on everyone who is off leash regardless of the level of control.
Like I said. Burns. My. Biscuits.

Once you get to that state, that well-behaved-off-leash state, you can begin to do some really fun stuff together and you can take your dog everywhere and people will be amazed (most people).

Link to video of Mickey

Stay Tuned…Part 3

Blog me like a hurricane!

If you have not already done so, you must now mentally prepare yourself and unleash the falsetto metal god within. (I am lookin’ at you MBIH!)

Here i am…
That’s all for the topical weather related commentary, but i think a fairly good intro to something new here at the bone. In the tradition of great writers and hacks alike, this marks the beginning of the first serialized set of stories at Bone of Contention. I can tell you that it is all about dogs, dog training, a wide-ranging though not exhaustive discussion on leashes, and a weird lady. It is currently 10 single spaced pages without pictures, and I have it broken into 5 semi-equal sections. It isn’t going to change the world, or make your cry, but it does give me a chance to share a few things and more importantly, work on the writing. I did largely start this blog to get me to keep writing and working on storytelling, and this story was very good practice. (And you thought i just wanted to complain to the universe about web browsers!)

And one more bit of pre-post business. I don’t know what is happening with the formatting here. The text fields and where i have made paragraph breaks look different in the wordpress post creation screen, full screen mode, and preview mode. Why this would be, i don’t know. Sorry about that.
I had an oddly fascinating/annoying/just-plain-weird encounter yesterday (August 26th) and decided to share it here with you all.
You will be shocked to learn that, first, there is some back story. I believe anyone who reads here is familiar with this fella…

Mighty Lucas rids the world of another groundhog.
Mighty Lucas rids the world of another groundhog.

Only three of my pals have met Mickey and Max (and I think only one of them reads this).

Lucas, Mickey, and Max
Lucas, Mickey, and Max

Right now, Lucas and i are living with Mickey and Max and their two bipeds. We used to go on our walks together – at least two bipeds and the three dogs, but as Lucas gets older, this has become more and more difficult. Lucas does not like to walk quite as far as he used to. He often walks just long enough to do his thing then he stops in the middle of the path and turns to face the car and stands there until you recognize your error and go with him back to the car. (The guy is 15 so it is hard to blame him.) Lucas also gets bored quickly. He likes to go to new places and take new walks.
Mickey is about 3 and Max is about 5 and they have different needs. We can’t do what we used to do. I get up about 6 every day and take Lucas out. I used to take everyone. At first, the other boys were frustrated that we did not all go together, but Lucas and I solo are always back inside before 20 minutes passes and that includes the round trip drive in the car. My friend takes his guys out later and they do about an hour. I take Lucas to a different park in the afternoon and my friend takes his guys out a bit later. I walk Lucas alone a bit in the evening, and then I walk Mickey and Max around the neighborhood.

Everyone is adjusting to the routine pretty well. Mickey and Max do like the routine of going on the same walk twice-a-day every day. They understand what is expected of them. There are no cars. There is plenty of water for cooling, playing, drinking.

Mickey, Lucas, Max
Mickey, Lucas, Max

There are lots of smells and animals and other dogs. It was fairly common that we would end up in a pack of 15 or so dogs as we walked this mile and half (one way) stretch of path through the woods.
Several months ago (maybe March?), i started working with Mickey and Max. They are pretty well behaved and have been trained to do certain things, but they are young still and they need to improve their skill set to be able to easily go to more places. They were both raised on those extendy retracty leash things. I don’t know what they are called because i have never bought one or looked at it in the store. While i concede and can envision that it is possible that there may be some very small market in which these are useful, i do maintain that these are evil.

For most everyone out there (dog and person) these are a terrible idea and can seriously limit your ability to actually train (much less control) your dog. I am not coming down on my buds who have used these on M+M, or you if you have one and like it. The physical tools are the least important aspect of training. Your interaction with the animals, that bond and that love and that joy in being together. That is what gets it done. That and consistency. Build a schedule and stick to it. Same rules and expectations. Same rewards and punishments. But good tools can help and inferior tools make things harder. The retracty leash thingys may be fine for most dogs and people out there if you are only dealing with one dog. Once you have two dogs (or meet other dogs or runners or babies or whatever) it is much harder.
M+M know “sit”, “come” or “to me”, “off the road”, and they are around 80-90% compliant with their male biped and when we started, 60-90% compliant for me. I started out simple with them. Mickey actually listens to me a little more than Max at this stage, but Max stays closer to me and is less likely to bolt after something. I kept Max off leash from the start and left Mickey on his retracto device for the first quarter mile or so just to get him settled a bit, to keep him close until the path gets to an area with decent sight lines, and to get him used to listening to me early on in the walk. Then I let Mickey free as well and pretty much leave them alone to play and enjoy the rest of the way out.

On the way back, I start to impose a little more order – shortening the distance that I let them roam, talking to them more often, having them sit every so often just to get them used to it. Once we get back to the area where the sight lines get worse, near where I let Mickey off leash on the way out, I corral the guys and teach them “heel”.
My “heel” is different from many other people’s “heel”. All I am looking for in a “heel” command is that the pack actively gives over the “point” position to me. I go first and the dogs stay behind me (relatively close, but they don’t have to stay in a geostationary position). They can play and sniff and switch sides or whatever, as long as they stay behind me. It does not take them very long to get this. After they have it down, I show my buddy and he likes it. After we quit walking together, he keeps this up and finds it very useful…

Stayed tuned for the next chapter, Part 2.

Good News Bad News

When i began this blog, there was a cool “publicize” feature that automatically threw up a message on my Facebook whenever i published a new post. It even automatically used the blog post title in the Facebook post. It was a seamless and convenient way to publicize.

Both of my readers would flock to the new posts and the other 8 or so regulars usually turned up by day’s end.

A few months ago, this broke. I don’t know why, but i thought it was related to my dedication to an ancient (and super fantastic) browser called Firefox 3.

I have talked about browsers on here before and may hustle you up some links. But the short version re-cap is that i have tried most all of them and have been happiest with Firefox.

Until Firefox 4. This took away/changed many things about the UI (user interface) experience that had been my main reason for sticking with the fox instead of moving full time to the Chrome.

But i found an old version 3 disk image, removed version 4 and went back to the bliss of the browser i prefer.

The GOOD NEWS! This facebook/wordpress publicize failure thingy is not related to Firefox 3! I did some tests with Chrome and Safari and have the same problem. Most excellent as i do not want to lose what i love about the Firefox UI.

The BAD NEWS! I still have this stupid problem. WordPress knows about it, but does not seem to know what caused it or how to fix it. The steps they have listed for how to try to fix it are the cyber equivalent of rebooting, and that does not do it for me.

Not a huge problem, but just annoying.

If the feature had never existed, i do not think i would have ever missed it or wanted it. But having had it and now having it be gone – i do miss it.

In part, the Facebook “security” (this could actually be the browser – i am not sure – but i think it is the Facebook) usually requests that i go slightly blind trying to read fuzzy letters whenever i want to manually add a post with a link to the new blog entries. It generally takes me three tries to find one of these images that i can see letters in clearly enough to try to start typing. I have tried the audio version of this feature and it is even worse (for me). I can’t even tell what you are supposed to be listening for.

One more thing we can thank the spammers, malware folks, and other black hats out there for. You guys are like a gross cyber combination of ambulance chasers and panhandlers.

Anyway, rant over. (For now…and there are always more…)

Stuff ‘n’ Things

A snap shot from the middle of today. I’ll fill in some gaps and elucidate tomorrow if i get some sleep. If not – more rambling…

– –

I am borderline delirious in my lack of sleep and feel very uncomfortable in my skin today.

Lucas has diarrhea again and in addition to the immediate trouble and discomfort that causes him – it presents some difficult to solve diagnostic problems.

Vance is going to be in the hospital overnight (this was semi-planned not a fluke thing).

Pappy and Lucas and i have spent a lot of time alone in the house together the past 48 hours or so and it has been a little Flowers For Algernon up in here at times.

Part of me just wants it to be next week already, but them’s the breaks. The final season of Friday Night Lights premieres this Friday (for those of us without Direct TV), so it should be on iTunes Saturday. There is an excellent sale at my REI Saturday and i have a career counseling session set-up on the 19th with one of my favorite professors. So it ain’t all bad.

– –

Since about 9 pm last night, Lucas has needed to go out every 45 minutes to hour and a half. I did get to close my eyes from time to time, but i have not really slept. It started raining about 9 pm last night and has not stopped yet. In order to save time, i quit taking my clothes off after the second or third trip out last night and i slept in my damp outfit. Now i am feeling less than super, but i can’t tell if i am sickish or just overtired.

Luc had the diarrhea a few weeks ago. He and i had been largely alone in the house for a week or so with my dad and grandpa on the road to Mississippi, and my mom working a lot. The boys came back and Lucas got diarrhea in under 15 hours.

Luc and i just spent a nice weekend in NOVA celebrating a friend’s birthday. We get back and he gets diarrhea in under 24 hours. It could be my grandpa and/or dad feeding him. I don’t think it is my dad. He is a little more on alert now than before. But it is hard to say with my grandpa. It isn’t his fault, but there is no telling what he will or won’t remember from one minute to the next. Maybe he remembers me asking him not to feed Lucas, maybe not. Maybe he doesn’t remember feeding Lucas. Who knows.

And one of the rare but potential side effects of Cosequin, the doggy glucosamine/chondroitin that Lucas started taking on the 7th – diarrhea. Dogs’ systems are generally pretty quick, so it seems wrong to me that the Cosequin would be the culprit 6-7 days into taking it instead of 1-2 days – but what do i know? I stopped the Cosequin for now.

And, from time to time, there are outbreaks of giardia in NOVA in places where dogs and animals congregate. My buds and i have both abandoned the Dog Park and the adjacent woods, but even though we have shifted the walk-zone, there are no animal free areas in NOVA. So, it could have been something he picked up from the creek.

Mickey, Lucas, and Max - Holmes Run, Sunday, April 10, 2011
Mickey, Lucas, and Max - Holmes Run, Sunday, April 10, 2011

I have a detailed but brief email out to my vet and some oatmeal in the dish for Lucas. It is unlikely that he will eat the oatmeal. He is picky, and while he went through far fewer of these times with me than Guthrey did, oatmeal is our “poor” food. If he does leave it alone, i will try some rice tonight. If he skips that then perhaps a very small dish of each in the morning.

– –

Vance has been recovering well from the heart surgery and valve repair last October. He finished the physical therapy, played a little golf, and has resumed his usual schedule of going to the gym. But, during one of his last check-ups there was some activity that his team of doctors did not like. Today he had a dual catheter procedure where they went up into the chest cavity from the groin area of each leg to investigate and cauterize a few areas. It sounds grosser, cruder, and scarier than it is. The docs say that it went well. He has been out of surgery for a while in the recovery area, and will be moved to a private room later for overnight observation and monitoring. He will probably be released by noon tomorrow, but we will have to wait and see.

My mom has been there with him. He can’t have any more visitors until he gets to his room later anyhow. Mom and i will have to figure out a way to shuffle things around so that she can have a break, Pappy and i can see Vance, and Lucas doesn’t get abandoned for too long and have some kind of indoor problems…

– –

I am still pursuing some leads in “Big Consulting Firm” as well as leads with “Competitors of Big Consulting Firm”, but on a different track

– – (cliffhanger)

Stopped there to go see Vance. He is doing great. Lucas ate some oatmeal.

I call upon The Powers That Be to grant Lucas enough peace in the bowels that we might sleep tonight – i have been up since 5:30 am Tuesday

Big Ball o’ Random (or small pile of unassociated items)

1. Kelly made me realize that i did not put out the word on Lucas. After writing about it here, i never closed the loop. He is doing great. His stomach was pretty much settled by the time i got back on Monday. The vet visit on Tuesday was super and he passed all his various blood work and other tests. It was just a simple upset stomach with no larger issues related. That is what i suspected, but it always nice to get more definitive analysis.

2. Last weekend’s trip to NOVA was fantastic.  It was better than i could have imagined it would be.  I am not finished processing and feeling and remembering – but it was a great time.  The music was awesome, and seeing old friends was hard to describe – in a good way.  There are many people who showed up that i did not get to spend much time with, and there were definitely folks missing, and other friends that i did not get to see – but that is kind of the nature of trying to fit twenty plus years of catch-up into one weekend.

JS, TS, NR - photo KAB
NR, KAB, LT, KM(R) - photo some guy we got to snap a shot

Aside from seeing old high school buddies, i got to re-connect with some “newer” friends as well. When i lived in Annandale in 2006/7, Lucas and i made many friends through the Mason District dogpark, but there was one family we bonded with deeply and almost instantly. The whole circumstance is strange in that two less-than-social dudes met, bonded, and have stayed great friends. Like many situations, the dogs had a lot to do with it. Lucas will get along with just about anyone, but he has had few great dog friends. There were a few other street dogs or dogs that got loose regularly that he played with as a puppy before he joined my team. Of course he loved Guthrey. But Fox is the first dog since Guthrey that Lucas really seemed to love. And, Fox was the same way. He also liked to see other dogs, and could get along fine, but had really only had one other dog friend before Lucas. Who knows what the factors involved really are.  Did the dogs know that Mehdi and I had few friends and though we liked being alone, we were also lonely? Did the dogs simply like each other regardless of how the bipeds felt? Is it something deeper but ephemeral – that because these dogs chose us individually, that we were predisposed to like the same kind of people? Is it a combination? I don’t know, but i am glad it happened. I met Mehdi’s wife and we all became close.

N, L, G - Chimbo RVA 2002(ish)

As things do, we drifted apart a bit once i left for India and i had not really gotten back together with them since i came back to the states. In the interim, Fox passed and they have two new friends now. Not being able to bring Lucas to see Mehdi and Maria was the big downside of leaving him home last week, but i still think it was the right call. It was excellent to see my old friends and to meet the new dogs and go on some of our old walks. It did not take us long to discuss and then move past “the missing years”. The stuff i wrote above is of course “the good parts” version of the story. Not that there were problems between us, but that was not a very good time in my life – which is a different story – or a part of much longer story.

FOX - Mason District Dogpark - 06/07

3. La Traviata arrived and i have really enjoyed listening to it this week. I was planning on continuing to refine my Spanish skills (and vocab!) this year, but i may have to hit an educational detour to learn more about the lyrics to this opera. I only know a handful of Italian and have not used it since 1992. But that is quite a decision to make. I love this music and wouldn’t it suck to discover that the lyrics are trite! It is hard to imagine in this case, but let’s face it, most musicals are trite… My mom asked me recently if i wanted to go see a high school musical with her.  She has one private student that she has been teaching for about 8 years, and this girl was making her singing and dancing debut. I asked my mom, “what show is it?” She said, “The Music Man!” I told her, “No. Mom, that is a terrible show.” Which is true. I was in it. Like most musicals, it was fun to be in – and i believe we performed it well – but, like Tim Kelly adaptations, that does not make it a good show. Anyway – i am trying to decide whether or not to learn more about what is happening in La Traviata.

4. One of my very smart friends misused ‘comprised’ in a recent online self-published venture. I spent a few days trying to figure out how to deal with this. I am not a grammar or punctuation or even spelling Nazi like some of my smart friends. But the proper use of words themselves is one of the areas of language that i do care about. Comprise is one of my pet peeves. I do notice and get bugged by the common faults – their, there, they’re and such. But they generally make me less fussed than a misuse of ‘comprise’. People who mess up with something like ‘there’ and ‘their’ may have never learned the difference, or may be lazy, or may have difficulty proofreading. But comprise ain’t one of your common everyday words. It is one of those book learnin’ fancy words. I do not assume that my friend was attempting to put on airs by using the word, but i see this error all the time and generally, it is someone trying to sound smarter than they are, or trying to make their argument sound fancier, or more authoritative.

So here is a good rule of thumb, a fast and loose usage guideline for you folks. ‘Comprise’ means ‘made up of’, ‘consists of’, or ‘composed of’. There are many specific cases we could go through, and i will be happy to address any if you send in your questions, but the most common mistake is people saying ‘comprised of’. As you can see from having just read the definition, saying ‘comprised of’ is like saying ‘composed of of’ which sounds a lot less fancy and authoritative than the user is probably going for. “The US is composed of 50 states.” “The US comprises 50 states.” Those two sentences mean the same thing. That is probably enough said.

Wrapping up now as i want to finish some research and preparation then head down to Maryland for a quick look at REI (i got my 2010 dividend in the mail), and then some hiking.

– – In the next episode –

Exercise update

Spam Bin update

an informal poll on the issue of discussing hiking equipment

Anybody seen Rerun? Update IV

The Nova Trip

I am going down to NOVA for two musical events and several sort of mini-reunions.

I have never been to any of my “Official” reunions, though I may drop in on one of the next in the series. Partly this is because few of my best friends from high school were in the same grade or even attended the same school. Partly this is because they cost a lot of loot and are not even at the school. We are denied the sort of reunion we grew up thinking about, hearing about, and watching on the big (and little) screen. To me, these official functions seem more like conventions than reunions. I know I am not alone in this and some of our modern social media tools are helping to fix this. My class has a group on the Facebooks, and there are at least two gatherings a year organized that way. And, there is always some “unofficial” (less costly) gathering to coincide with the official convention gathering.

This weekend’s events are neat in that they revolve around a place and a band (or bands). This cuts down on the limitations of school and grade and allows people who cared about the same kind of stuff, and the same people, to come together. I like that. Truthfully, I was not crazy about the place nor many of the hangers-on. But I too had some special times there. And I too had some special people connected to that place. And so I also go to look, to listen, to imagine, to remember, and hopefully – to connect.


This will be only the third or fourth show I have been to since 1992 where I was not playing, or doing sound, or being a guitar tech or general roadie. It is always a little weird for me to try and simply relax and enjoy. I feel like I should be doing something. The levels are not mixed well, the sound is not balanced in the house, and that guy broke a string, but the dudes at the door made me check my leatherman, I forgot my flashlight, and I don’t have any extra strings in my bag! It can get a little tense…

Lucas and Brio

I am also excited for reunions with some non-school friends. Lucas and I were looking forward to seeing our old pals and hitting some of the old trails. But he has some kind of stomach bug and will have to stay behind in PA. I don’t want to risk infecting those we visit. “Thanks for letting me and my dog stay at your house. Here’s a little special something we brought just for you!” I don’t think it is a real medical problem, just a stomach bug. But, we do our last walk between 10 and midnight. Two nights ago he woke me and my dad up at 4:00. This morning he got me up at 1:30 – two hours after the last walk. I am not complaining.  It is not his fault and I am sorry he is suffering, but that is definitely not the kind of gift we want to leave behind…

Solitude in the Burbs

Let’s segue into

Hiking Part III – Tent of Lucas

I got this wicked badass tent for Lucas last year. We did one hike up Crabtree Falls and on to the Priest Shelter. There had been thunderstorms forecast, but I looked at the weather and it seemed like your average Virginia summer thunderstorms – sweep in and dump water and sweep out. It rained for at least 12 hours. Lucas was not pleased.

I started looking into doggy tents as soon as we got back. There are many on the market. Few are actually designed for backpacking. REI has one that seems ok except the floor is not fully attached, so you are going to have water flowing through the tent – which defeats the purpose if you ask me. I found one that sounded good and was reasonably priced.

The tent itself is good. Nice solid construction. The side panels and the door work great. The flaws were obvious and immediate. It uses the fabric sleeve method for the tent poles instead of clips. I hate tent-pole sleeves. Feeding poles through fabric tubes makes me feel like I am not living in an era where we have sent men to the moon and miniaturized computers that are more sophisticated than those astronauts had down into the palm of my hand! Anyway, it is hard to feed the poles through these fabric sleeves.

Lucas testing the tent

Part of the reason it is so difficult is the second flaw with the tent. The poles are total garbage. They are super cheap and flimsy. I felt that right out of the package. I was actually surprised that they made it through the first trip without breaking. I set-up the tent indoors for a trial and to get Lucas used to it. I set it up in the woods for one overnight. And I set it up to clean it before I put it away for the winter.

The first time I set it up post-winter, about a week ago, two of the poles snapped. I went to EMS to discover that they do not have any kind of replacement poles. Later I took a road trip to the closest REI in Towson MD and discovered that they also do not carry replacement parts for poles, or replacement poles. I did get some great intel on a company that does make poles, and that may be the way to go.

One idea that I had (unfortunately a little late in this whole dog tent process) is to look at children’s tents. I bet that there are kid sized tents made by reputable companies that would fit the bill. And with our “protect the children” litigious society, I bet they would be decent quality. But, I am going to continue to explore fixing the one I have for now. The folks at REI had some good advice. Check out the used equipment sales. I can probably make the poles from any tent work with a few adjustments, so any inexpensive tent with decent poles would be good.

I did “repair” the existing poles with duct tape and set the tent back up and it held overnight without signs of over-stress. The question now is probably cost effectiveness. Is it better to get replacement poles, to cannibalize poles from a used or cheap tent, or to find a children’s tent that will work?  I don’t know.  Back to the research cave…

For those who may have been thinking, “why not just put the dog in your tent?” Good point. But, the last hike with all the rain is my counterexample. I love my dog and would do just about anything to protect him if it were necessary. But he was already soaked. I mean super soaked, by the time we got to camp. I had some dry clothes and gear, and could keep the tent and its contents dry. There was no way to dry off the dog. Inviting him in would not dry him, only wet me. Also, while Lucas is an affectionate creature, he doesn’t really like anybody messing with him while he sleeps. He will snuggle for a minute (or allow you to snuggle for a minute) and then he wants to go somewhere else and stretch out without you bein’ all up in his chili. So, that’s why…

What’s happening Hot Stuff? – Update Part II

Random Goodie –

I decided to search again and I found the version of my favorite opera that I have been looking for on and off for years. I had one of those awesome “greatest moments from” $3.99 tapes from a bargain bin and I have wanted to get the full recording ever since. This is Verdi’s La Traviata – Pavarotti, Sutherland, Bonygne, New York Met Orchestra and Chorus.

iTunes and amazon US only have the version with the London Opera Chorus and Orchestra.  That one is good too, but the recording is not as clear, and I came across the other one first and it simply moves me more both for its own sake and for associations I have with that version.  Amazon UK has dispatched (which does not mean killed) this version right on out to me and it should be here in early April (for less money than the download of the version I did not want…)

Hiking Part I –

I have gone back through my gear the past week.  Cleaning this, re-organizing that, and tightening up my list of required goods and desired goods. I got 2 new stuff sacks, a collapsible lightweight trowel, a tiny swiss army knife, and my first Nalgene bottle (and yes I did get the orange). After some mishaps and some advice from my hiker pals, I only use Sea to Summit stuff sacks. I generally buy the compression sacks, but the other models have their uses as well.

I am stoked about the knife and the Nalgene. I love knives. I have loved knives for as long as I can remember. But, I am trying to adapt and learn newer ways of being in the woods and carrying less weight. I came up in the climate of metal frame packs, hiking in with axes, canned goods and freakin’ potatoes – so I am definitely making progress. This allows me to have a knife, scissors, and tweezers – all of which are regularly useful, without carrying a giant leatherman or other assortment of tools.

The Nalegene is also great. I have never had one. I use Gatorade or Powerade 32 oz jugs in my daily life for water. For hiking, I take my 3 liter camelback, another 1 liter bladder and round out the supplies (when necessary) with my daily jugs (simmer down).  Part of the whole “lightweight” hiking thing involves food and cooking.  I don’t measure at home, but if you are on limited water and gas resources, you want to get your food right the first time, so I measure when I hike. I have used the Nalgene of my hiking companions to measure in the past, but now I have my own.

I also noted that many folks use their Nalgenes as a place to carry a few feet/meters of Duct tape. The folks at GSI noticed that too, and designed that into this bottle.  Since I have already loaded mine up with about 2 meters I can tell you – it works great! The tape wraps in that recess (they call it a “dog-bone” design) and then you slide that mesh thingy overtop for added protection and grip.  I am also pleased with the lid design. Easy to open even in gloves and uses nice (and replaceable) cord instead of plastic as a lanyard.

This is all exciting. It gets me excited to go out backpacking again. It also is exciting that I am nearing the goal I set that must be met before I get a new pack!

A good buddy and AT through-hiker advised me about pack replacement – if you want a new pack, first replace everything else that you think you might replace. Then take all that crap with you to the store and buy the smallest pack all that stuff will fit into.

Good rule of thumb I believe.

So I am close. I have to do some more experiments with stoves/cooking/eating gear. What I have now works great, but it is bulkier and heavier than I need, and difficult to gauge for fuel consumption.

Dragonfly in action at The Priest shelter

Also, I have given up coffee and not replaced it with other hot beverages since I last did a trip. My needs have simplified.  I am thinking of moving into a self-made denatured alcohol stove (just one of many info sources out there, but I like the Pirsig reference)- but I am also looking at Jetboilthe pocket rocket (simmer down), and other stoves.

I have always been an “eat from the pot” guy in the woods. Without the need for hot beverages, I think I can get this down to a much simpler, more compact, and lighter system.

After that – it is time for the big three: bag, tent, pack.

Note – there are some better hiking and equipment pics coming in Hiking Part II – i can’t find them on my computer (grrr) and Facebook totally changed the image download rules and procedures (grrr) so i have to figure out how to use photo grabber or some such to get the darn pics back onto my computer. If you are burning with desire and cannot wait – check out my Facebook album “Little Sluice Mountain”.

What has been happening? – Part I

Here is a relatively brief update given the preceding period of silence –

I had a little alone time here in PA as my folks and grandpa went to Florida for Spring Break! It was an up and down week for me.  It should have started with a phone interview with “Big Consulting Firm”, but that did not happen, which made me less than positive feeling. I fell off of the regular exercise, I did not run for about a week, the weather went into the cold cold place again with touches of snow, and I got a little cold that I am still fighting off. I almost never get sick so I tend to fight sickness with denial!

Odd timing – my folks came home and I had the phone interview the next day.  That went very well and has my spirits lifted. I am still pursuing some other leads, but I would really be pleased if this one worked out.  I should know more within two weeks or so. I am still a bit under the weather, but I am doing my stretching and exercises and running again.

Running –

That week long break is going to disrupt my first set of goals, but I will keep going and simply make new ones after the 20th.  It is now impractical to meet my frequency goal, and my distance goal, but I might still make the pace goal.  The pace goal was simply 5 runs at or under 9’00/mile pace by 3/20. I got my first one on a two mile run about 11 days ago. Last night I ran 1.4 at a 9’00 pace.  I did not quite make it up the hill after the break and with the sicky feeling, but it was awesome to get out there and run through the first wall of discomfort.  But that gives me two runs towards the goal of 5 at that pace.  I walked for awhile and then ran the last .5 back to my house when “For Whom the Bell Tolls” kicked in.

Tech goodness –

My Lacie 2TB firewire 800 drive arrived and I am very pleased with it.

Lil' Lacie

This allowed me to move all of my data off of the Seagates and reformat those.  They were still formatted for Windows, and had some suspect sectors as well.  Now all my data is not just stored, but actually backed-up. I have not gone to the next next level with off-site back-up but this is good enough for now.

In honor of the new drive, I decided to take the time to learn how to rip my dvds. I am not interested in piracy or anything like that – I just wanted to back-up my tv shows and movies as i already have several damaged disks, and I would like to be able to watch my collections without carrying the disks, and being able to watch on the iPhone and (one day) iPad is also a plus.

I knew that I had the software to do this as I have started this process several times, but got confused and quit.  You need Handbrake, which is free (or something similar).

I finally found a decent enough step-by-step guide online to help me have the “Ah-Ha” moment. For me, the problem was looking at all the files on a dvd and trying to figure out “where is the movie, or episode”.  Even in Handbrake, with a dvd inserted, then mashing “source” you get the same kind of view as in Finder or Windows Explorer – what files to choose?

The “Ah-Ha” moment came in realizing that all I had to do in the source window was select the DVD and click OK.  Then Handbrake would read the DVD and give me new options. For movies, it is pretty simple, you select the longest unit.  For TV shows, you have to do a little leg-work.  Note the total time of the individual eps, then you can select them and get the right names or ep numbers with the right episodes.

Smart folks can probably do cool stuff with all the options, I just left the stock settings and mashed the iPod 5 support button and hit start.  Voila!

These import into iTunes as movies and thus are under the movies tab instead of the TV tab (another good reason for giving your new files good names.) But that is a small issue and they move right on over to the iPhone – which is lovely.

I have not done my whole collection (much of it is still in India) but I did a few seasons of TV and some movies and some comedy shows. Not since the era of cassette tapes and Walkmen have I been able to listen to the comedy stylings of Chris Rock while out walking, but now I can – again!

Lil' Lacie playing with all her Apple buddies

The new iPad has been released and I did have to fight the urge to go get it.  Several things made that simple to do.  That’s a lot of loot to put on credit without a better paying job than the ones I have now. They two key elements I was most excited about did not materialize – the bigger 128 GB HD (which is still very small to me, but much better than 64GB, and a method to access a USB external drive to move data without needing a computer.  That second part was not in the official plans, but I can’t be the only one who is excited about moving into a “Post-PC” world (to quote Steve Jobs).  I can’t go on the road for very long with just a 64 GB HD.  I can go longer with a 128, but it would be best if they just built/released/fixed the interface to allow something like Finder to work on the iPad to move stuff on and off via the USB kit.

And finally, the Otterbox defender case will not be ready for a while yet. As cool as the new little magnetic cover they built is – that is not enough protection to me. I am not sure for whom that would be enough protection.  So, hopefully the universe will align and I will get a new job and Otterbox will release the defender case at about the same time!

User Error, or Eat Your Words Fool!

Voice Over on the Shuffle – it works great.  I was terribly wrong.

You know what really helps hardware work correctly? Downloading and installing the proper software!

Somehow, i did not fully activate Voice Control before i dissed it as having a limited capability.

I fixed that and it works great.

In my defense, i did fix the printer yesterday…

I have uploaded the new version of the resume to RAI for view and download. Yesterday’s task – struggling with the one remaining “working” Windows system we have at RAI to review the MINDS and RAI websites.

The Last RAI Windows machine

I never use Internet Explorer, not even when i only had Windows computers, but loads of the people will view these sites that way, so it is potentially worthwhile to ensure that the sites do not look too bad.

Sadly, my old Dell died so i have to use my dad’s which has his customizations and the system hog Norton/Symantec suite and a bunch of other less than useful Windows garbage clogging up the works…

A terrible thought has been in the back of my mind for almost two years now, as the Dells began to die and we began to move to Apple. It is possible that i may have to buy another damn Windows computer just for checking out website designs! I know about some of the alternatives, but i am not putting Windows on my Mac, it is bad enough that i am forced to use Word and occasionally PowerPoint.

Pardon my frustration release but i fought with this half of the day.  One of the little things that just pisses me off royally about Microsoft is their total lack of responsibility or acceptance of the issues they refuse to fix. Without getting into that whole can of worms, here is an example of the attitude to which i refer by way of a brief story.

The only reason i needed to do so much web work is because Internet Explorer does not display webpages/code the same way every other browser i am aware of does.  I commonly check my work in at least three browsers – firefox, safari, opera and/or chrome. So far, things always look the same in each of these, but something is always off when i check IE. Granted, i am a much better developer than designer, but if i can make it look right in 3 or 4 others what’s the problem over in Microsoft town? So, i am reviewing lines of code trying to see if i can even figure out why things are mussed and i notice this little button on iE i have never seen before. I hover over it and it says something like “Compatibility mode – websites designed to look good in older browsers may not look right in IE.”

The balls on these frackin’ guys! Older Browsers! The other guys’ old products just can’t keep pace with the innovators over at Microsoft! I hear that the crack team of code monkeys over there are about to fix some of the security flaws in Windows 3.1!!! Seriously, IE is one of the oldest browsers on our planet. Sure, they do update it, but so does everyone else.  Firefox, Chrome – older than IE?  I don’t think so you bullet dodging, pass the buck, we hide our code so you can’t see how terrible it is…people.

I don’t bag on Microsoft just because it is easy, or because i am a Mac guy, or because it is popular, or anything like that. They have all the money in the world and still refuse – simply refuse – to make software and particularly Operating Systems that work.  If you are one of the people who thinks vista or “7” is great and finally has Windows on-track – let me ask you this? Have you been able to replace the sound card on a one-year old system without fighting IRQ problems for hours or weeks? OK – i am done for now.


Anyway – i finished (for now) with the RAI site. There are still some tweaks i would like to do (that list never ends) but i did clean things up a good deal and updated some info. It looks pretty good on “older browsers”.

The left-hand menu spacing is still fracked up in IE, but it does look better over there than it did before…

Gulash – another mash-up

I have been playing with the scheduled release of blog posts and liking it. If you do not know, you can write entries and choose when they will be automatically published.  This is awesome for me given that i go through droughts of not writing and then writing four or five posts at once.  Now, i can spread those out.  It is a little difficult to deal with both tense and timeline issues, but i think it is worth it.  I released two or three posts via the scheduler Fri-Sun.

A little job news – one of the places i applied that i was excited about was the Apple Store at the local mall here in Millersville PA.  They are revamping their Business Team (which is a great and necessary idea) and have some openings. It has been a week and i have heard nothing.  I did go in the day after i applied online and spoke to one of the managers briefly just to verify that they were still looking as the post had been up since september.  It was a nice chat and i left feeling positive.

There is an up and a down side.  The up is that i do not really want to stay in Pennsylvania. I was serious when i applied and i would take the job if they offered it today, but i would want to learn and position myself to move before next winter. The down is that i do not understand why i did not get any contact. I felt like my package was good. Some of the folks in the store know me, a few managers, lots of floor staff, the Business guy, and the Regional manager. I am considering contacting my Business sales guy to try to set something up to find out what happened. Not so much to be begging for a job there, but to learn what was wrong to help me in the future. Did i make some gross error i am unaware of? Is it the pitfall i have found many times – overqualified? Is it the employer second guessing the applicant game of ‘he can’t really want this job, he’s been a CEO!’

The other facet of concern – I also applied for the same job in Georgetown as well as a job one rung up in the business division also in Georgetown.  Those jobs i am very interested in, and i have a bud in Apple throwing a good word my way. Probably the Apple thing is not going to work out right now, but that is OK. I have some other consulting leads and am setting up meetings for this week (and next if necessary). I do plan to go into the Georgetown Apple store though while i am down NOVA way. I can probably make much more money consulting, but i imagine that i would be happier working at Apple.

State of the Blog – I believe it is about time to kick it back into gear with the move to a self-hosted blog.  I did seriously slow down on that effort, but i hit an unusual wall.  I could not make the self-hosted site work on the free space at godaddy.  I read that many people had the same problem, and a few people made it work.  That was only designed to be a temporary stage anyway, as it would include godaddy banners at the top of each page.

I have been working on a post about Malcolm X (and a little about Martin Luther King Jr.) and some decent ideas hit me while walking this morning and i used the voice memos thingy on the iPhone to capture them.  I wanted to intersperse these voice clips with text in the entry, but you cannot upload mp3/m4a on a free blog hosted through wordpress.  The upgrade package to be able to post audio is about $20.00 a year.  Not bad, but if i have to pay, i would rather pay to host it myself and get the rest of the features that i am missing and the additional customization.

But – all that will have to wait until i get a new job.  I refuse to spend money on my blog while under-employed!

The Malcolm entry is probably going to stay in draft form for now.  It is too important to me to not craft it well, and that is going to take some more time, and i need to get back to other things.

For now let me just say that i hope we all take a minute to remember Malcolm today (he died on Feb 21, 1965).  If you do not know much about Malcolm, i encourage you to learn.  One of the best places to start is here!

If you know some about Malcolm and have a negative opinion, i encourage you to read this!

Martin and Malcolm