Friday, September 29, 2017

No Place To Call Home

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Throughout my growing up, I chafed to get away. It never really felt like "home" to me.

To be fair, I don't know that any place has ever felt like "home" least not in the sense that I hear other people describe their feelings of "home". For me, places are mostly more or less alien. Some places have people that are important to me. Even a few places I've been lucky enough to travel to, I've felt almost immediately comfortable.

On FB, I have connections to several people I grew up with. I guess the biggest thing that the POTUS Trump era has really done is shown me part of why I never really felt at home in the town I grew up. The people I grew up with who all sought lives elsewhere - typically cities - and the people who never left exhibit quite the dichotomy. It feels like I have far more in common with those who left (and the ones who left but came back for various reasons) than the ones who stayed behind.

I don't post on FB much any more - mostly comments on things people have posted on their walls. When reading through others' comments, I pretty much never have to click on people's profiles to see if they are a "one who left" or a "never left". It's pretty much immediately evident in the tone of their commentary ...and it reminds me of why I left. It reminds me of why, when I reach an age where I'm no longer working and no longer able to afford to live where I do, I won't move back "home" but, instead, try to find a more affordable place that isn't quite so alien as places like where I grew up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Impacts of Loss

Found this link...

Every time I've lost a dog, it's been a complete gut-punch. More than when grandparents died. More, even, than when my dad died.

For me, I think it comes down to the responsibility component combined with the "they can't talk" problem. I wasn't responsible for the lives of my relatives. Even if I had been, that responsibility would likely have come in the context of caring for someone in decline - that the trajectory was known and the responsibility was simply to help them to the best end that medicine, society and finances allow. With dogs... There's so many places you can feel guilty. Did I put them down too soon? Did I do enough for them? Did I wait too long to put them down. Did trying to help them just put them through more pain? Did I do enough to help them through what has to be a frightening process?

Dogs can't talk. You can try to read them, but it's still, in the end, just a guess. When people talk about "wouldn't it be great if pets could talk?" I always answer, "no, I don't really want to try to have a conversation with my dog. What I _would_ like, though, is to know what their state of wellbeing was - how best I could help them feel better or have them ask me for comfort or help letting them go."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Daig Noise

Interesting progression in dog ownership.

Our first two dogs were, from a barking standpoint, very quiet. Lana earned the nicknames "Lana-moo", "Moo-cow" and just "Moo" because she liked to conversationally-vocalize in a manner that was somewhat bovine (obviously). Puckett was generally too goofy to bark or even growl. Only very rarely would he alert-bark or warn-bark - basically, just when he thought there was a threat I hadn't seen or that I had reacted to but that he thought needed further discouragement. Otherwise, his vocalizations mostly came when he saw other dogs that he wanted to play ...and then his low-pitched voice became an embarrassing mewl.

After Lana passed (euthanasia b/c of a combination of cancer and a degenerative spinal-condition), we got Cira. Cira was generally a very low-key dog. There were things that _did_ excite her to the point of actual exuberance, but it was a _very_ quiet exuberance. Her expressiveness was far more physical than audible. Her most-audible expressions were her expressions of gustatory delight - a very hearty belch after wolfing down breakfast. Her entire bearing before eating in the morning was one of, "OH MY GOD: _BREAKFAST TIME". The daily-BRACK would only come after she would come flying back into the living room and launching herself onto my couch. Usually, the belch would be followed by a bullie-grin ...framed by specks of errant rice stuck to her snout.

After Pucket passed (euthenasia b/c of very aggressive cutaneous lymphoma that spread to his lungs), we got Lady.  Lady... is the first dog that we had tendencies towards barkiness. She can be conversationally vocal in a manner similar to Lana. However, a lot of her vocalization comes as excited barking: get her spun up through playing and playful growling becomes playful barking. She will also bark when we leave the house and don't leave the TV on (at least the conversational audio) for her. If someone knocks on the front door or rings the doorbell, she also barks. Other than that, though — and if you don't count her snoring and brachycephalic snorting — she's fairly quiet.

After Cira passed (euthanasia b/c of severe, suddenly-manifesting end-stage renal-failure), we got Kaiya. Unlike the previous dogs who were all bullie/bullie mixes (Cira being the only "pure" bullie - a staffy), Kaiya is a bullie-mix that isn't all bullie. She's a bullie/lab mix. She's also considerably barkier than any of our other dogs had been. If she hears a noise, she's gonna bark at it. If it's a noise from out-of-sight, even if she's hearing the same noise multiple times in a given timespan, she'll bark each time she hears it. For example, my wife was just out in the front-foyer's closet, organizing it to store some new stuff in it. Each time Donna's activities made bumping-sound, Kaiya would bark. I love our nubby-dog (recently had to have her tail docked due to "happy-tail" related infection) to death, but the frequent alerting is maddening - especially the re-alerting.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Happiness Penalty

Our most recent canine addition to our family - Kaiya - suffers from happy tail. If you've never heard of it, it's what happens when you have a dog who's so emphatically waggy that they injure themselves whacking their tail into things. The first time we came home to a blood-covered wall, the vet advised us to get her tail docked.

She's a lab/pitbull mix and loves to go swimming. She loves to play fetch in the local river with her floaty toys. We were reticent to get the procedure done during river season, so we kept her tail wrapped to protect it.

Unfortunately, Kaiya developed a tendency to pull the wrapping off - exposing her to re-injury. We had been addressing this with a comfy-cone. Unfortunately, because she's still quite young, she's also quite flexible. Sometime Friday night, she'd managed to pull the protective bandage off - in spite of the cone - and had chewed the end of her tail. Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, where she'd chewed got infected and painful. Took her to visit the vet for an emergency visit. The wound was irrigated and she was given pain meds and antibiotics ...and put on today's schedule for tail-docking.

Just got back from dropping her off at the vet for surgery sometime, today. I know she needs the procedure done - especially since it got infected. But it still feels like I'm penalizing her for being a very happy dog. Of course, the fact that it's now an urgent procedure and she was in pain from the infection compounds the "I'm a bad dog-parent" feeling because I wasn't able to protect her from herself well enough.

Yeah... I would have been a mess each time my kid hurt themselves had we actually been able to have kids.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Silver Linings

As I sit here, watching Fight Club for the nine millionth time, a thought rings through my head. For whatever reason, Fight Club has always had a resonance for me that I never really understood. Very little about it has any direct connection to my life. But, I sit a little longer, and eventually the movie gets to the scene about Tyler's job as a projectionist. As the scene concludes, it occurs to me, "it's probably a good thing that I have the kind of epilepsy that's controllable by medicine."

I expressed this thought to my wife. Initially, she didn't see where I was going with the thought until I explained it to her.

Let me preface by saying: I've never particularly considered myself to be a nice person. Indeed, when a co-worker recently told me that one of the new hires was talking shit about my particularness for writing, I responded back to him that I'm not trying to win a popularity-contest. When it comes to work, I'm there to get shit done, and get it done well. If my standards annoy some people, so be it. Again, not seeing myself as being nice, I feel free to do things that don't align with being a "nice guy".

At any rate, the explanation. I point out to her that having medicinally-manageable epilepsy meant that I always sort of had to worry about retaining (financial) access to medicine and the specialists that prescribe them. Epilepsy medications can be ridiculously expensive (one medication I was on, at one point, was $1500/month). The easiest way to do so being to have the kind of employment that typically includes health insurance. Being hirable to those types of jobs generally means not being able to engage in the more anti-social thoughts that randomly enter my brain and rattle around.

Hearing that explanation, my wife laughed. But, she also agreed with the line of reasoning.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's a Racket, I Tells Ya

Even when the whole IT certifications thing started, it felt like a scam. But then the certification-sellers (and, not to be unduly uncharitable, but all that the vast majority are doing is selling false assurances) did away with "forever" certifications and replaced them with expiring ones. While you can argue that there's validity to skills being "perishable", most of what's certified is "you either know and have internalized the principles or you havent". While specific symptoms and scenarios may evolve, the underlying principles are generally fairly static. That said, a 3-5 year validity window isn't awful, just inconvenient. You drop down to 2 years (the guilty certification-players know who they are) and you've gotten uncomfortably close to doing to certification what has happened with password-expiration policies.

To illustrate, one set of certifications I have has a two year lifetime. Six months before they're due to expire, the certifying authority starts sending out, "you need to re-test to stay certified - do it early and we'll cut you a break on pricing". Here's the thing, though: if I do the early re-test thing, the next chunk of 24 months' validity isn't tacked on to the end of the soon-to-end 24 months. No, it starts the day you're tests are verified as having been passed. So, if I retest early, I've sacrificed up six months of that 24-month validity (i.e., up to 1/3 of that already short validity is pissed away). So, yeah, "I saved money by re-testing early".

It's like, "dear certification sellers: when my logins start getting that 'you've got 14 days till your password expires' thing, my response is generally, 'good to know: I'll change it in 14 days'. Not having stackable re-certification creates the same kind of outcome."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why Have a Car

When I see commercials for new cars and they're talking about the monthly payments, they just don't make sense to me. It's like, ok, your monthly payment is less than $200. Great. But your down payment (on a rental?? I mean, they're not calling it a "deposit", presumably for a reason) works out to more than a year's worth of monthly payments ...and the lease-term on some of them is now down to only two years. Meaning that, to get that $200/month term, you're paying three years' worth of money and committing yourself to paying down-payments every other year.

Of course, the above ignores that the amount of mileage you're allowed to put on your rental is trifling (unless you commute the way I do)? And, if you live in a state like I do, just because you don't own the vehicle doesn't mean you're absolved of the tax-liability for the vehicle (VA has "personal property tax" that you have to pay whether you own or lease) Seriously: why do people lease any more?? I just don't understand the financial advantage of it.

Granted, the purchase options seem kind of silly, now, too. When I was first buying cars, typical notes were still three years long - though four-year notes were starting to become the norm. However, it seems like we're now into terms that are six years long ...and the typical warranties are lagging the notes' lifetimes even more than they used to.

And car-makers are wondering why those damned millennials have less interest in cars than previous generations. I mean, if I were forming my buying habits during the current market, I probably would have low interest in owning or leasing a car.