Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Cautionary Tale?

As I wait for it to get closer to time to get ready for New Year's festivities, I'm sitting here watching TV. As I scanned through the online "what's on" guide, I saw that National Geographic TV was running one of their Aftermath shows.

The series, as a whole, is based on some fairly far-fetched premises. However, those premises were, previously, ones that conceivably have the capability of having a "life goes on" outcome. The episode that's on,now, Population Explosion, doesn't really fit that mold. It has as its premise that (somehow) the earth's population has somehow managed to double overnight.

Yeah, I get that this is supposed to be a cautionary tale for our future that collapses the time-frame of whats to come as the Earth's population doubles on a more natural time-scale. However, doubling over a course of decades versus over the course of a day (or even months) results in a completely different set of stressors and outcomes. Population is an inherently self-limiting problem. Explosive population growth is even more self-limiting. I'm not seeing on this episode that people have somehow become immortal, so a lot of the problems they're positing seem unlikely. Long before we'd have to worry about creating new housing, beefing up infrastructure and finding more farmlands, energy and other resources, people would have already started to die, on a massive scale, from lack of food and environmental exposure. Let's face it: if you doubled the human population, overnight, and even had double the farmland (and seed-stock) available to plant new crops on, those crops aren't going to come online for a month or more - billions will have starved before then. Along with them starving (and running out of water), your doubled need for housing is going to disappear.

Oh well.. I guess National Geographic had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for this one. Seriously, this one borders on the mind-bendingly stupid. Would that doubled population still exist three (or more) years from the doubling-event? Don't think so. I have my doubts that, post doubling, we'd even have our current levels of populations surviving over the course of even half a year, let alone ofter three. The damage and deprivation caused by that doubling would be severe. Not only would all of the new population not survive, but a significant chunk of the incumbent population would die along with them.

Sorry, National Geographic, but gonna have to give you a big, fat "F" for this bit of shoddy programming. This is even worse than the A&E's Ancient Aliens shows.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Value Proposition of Movies

Last night, a buddy of mine and I went to go see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It wasn't a horrible movie but it was hardly "art". Two tickets for the non-3D version ran $24. Add in two 1qt bottles of water for $9 bucks (that's $18/gal. for water - even at its peak, gasoline wasn't that expensive) and you're at more than $30 for two hours of mid-grade entertainment.

Today, while at work, a box arrived from Amazon. In that box was the full, 8-movie BluRay set of Harry Potter movies. Sixteen or so hours of quality entertainment. Total price? $60. And that's $60 for unlimited viewings by me and any number of other people that might come over during our ownership of the discs (and, lets not forget loans/swaps with neighbors and friends).

So, tell me, again, why Hollywood thinks that piracy is why annual ticket sales are down by a half-billion seats?

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind spending money if I'm getting good value. But when every trip to the theatre becomes a $20-$40 gamble whose odds are worse than rolling a hard-8 in Vegas and it should be fairly self-evident why everyone's staying home.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

FaceBook Timeline

A week or so ago, I disabled my FaceBook account. I'm almost tempted to reactivate it to see what my Timeline looks like. Unfortunately, it seems that FaceBook only is granting you seven days from activation to edit your Timeline contents.

Given how much data I generated since opening my FaceBook account, I don't think seven days is going to be enough time to do the requisite edits of my Timeline page. So, it kind of removes the desire to re-activate.

Oh well: I'm sure that FaceBook will eventually make activation of Timeline not an option, which will pretty much completely remove any desire to reactivate my account.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quality Verizon Wireless Technical Support

Still kind of chapped at VZW. I'd done the OTA update of my phone to get the device and SD card encryption that was listed in the update's feature list ( Yet, when I looked through my phone, I couldn't find a method for enabling the encryption.

Initially, I opened a support case with VZW via the web portal. They took forever to get back to me, then, when they finally did, the instructions they gave me were wrong. When I pointed out that they were wrong, they eventually responded that I needed to call in and speak to a support rep to walk me through the procedure.

I then called in. The first-line support rep didn't know what I was talking about, so, she called one of her "back line" support folks. She was apparently informed that the encryption was automatic. Seemed unlikely. Seemed more likely they were just trying to get me off the phone.

A few days later, I decided to try sending a Tweet to VZW's twitter-based support account. We went back and forth. Finally, they asked where I saw that this feature was even available. I sent them the link at the Verizon site (quoted previously). After that, their Twitter team stopped responding to me.

I can only surmise that Verizon's official company policy on support is to stop providing support as soon as someone has a question they don't know the answer to. Awesome, guys. That's a really great support model.

Even better: since doing the stupid OTA upgrade to get this feature that no one at VZW seems to know how to activate, my device's GPS and LTE antennae have become flaky.

Good work, Verizon Wireless. And, a hearty "fuck you" for your shoddy efforts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Not quite sure how it passed me by, until today, but it did. Maybe it's a good sign. Still, it did hit me,  that, two years ago, today, I woke up for the first time with no person of last resort to talk to.

Even given how much I write (or perhaps that's a proof of its own), I am a classic introvert. While I've got a number of people I'm friendly with,  I don't actually count many people as "friends". I'm one of those people for whom "friends" are people I share a deep connection with. Everyone else lies somewhere outside of that term. Hard to explain if you don't share a similar measure for what you refer to as "friends".

At any rate, my father was one of the few people I counted as a friend. He and I could talk about anything and everything. From the most cerebral to the most inane of topics. We could speak briefly. We could speak at length. We could convey volumes in very few words and we could spew volumes of words and say next to nothing. More importantly, we could exchange ideas without taking personally things that most others would take personally.

Really, my dad was one of the few, possible only people in my life that I could speak freely and fully with. Sadly, with him gone, I've no longer got such outlets. And, while I very rarely availed myself of that outlet after I moved out, I always knew that it was there if I ever really needed it. Now, that's gone. Now, I have no one really left to speak freely to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Don't Cry for Paterno

While I am a graduate from Penn State University (PsyBS. `92), I've never considered myself to be part of the "bleed blue&white" crowd. To me, Penn State was where I spent five falls, four springs and three summers collecting a piece of paper and getting a lot stuff out of my system.  My reduction of the experience to bland descriptions of my time there is not to be construed with me saying that I didn't enjoy my time at Penn State. It's not to say that I didn't go to a lot of football games, parties, etc. I'm simply putting it out there that I didn't have a lot of personal investment in being a "Penn Stater".

That said, it's hard to spend that significant a chunk of time, surrounded by a particular culture, and not absorb at least some of it. The lure of the cult and Blue&White is hard to resist. And, even if you don't end up bleeding Blue&White, you are changed for having been there.

I was also very fortunate to have been at Penn State when Joe Paterno was still looked upon by many as some kind of quasi-deity and/or paragon of virtue. It's hard not to buy into that. It's hard not to want to buy into that. And so, to a degree, I did.

In watching the current horror-show unfold in the news, I can't help but be saddened by it all. The rational me always knew that Paterno was human. The rational side of me always knew that, as a human, he had to have flaws. And, while being rational allows you to not be completely taken by surprised when those flaws come to light, it still doesn't stop that gut-punch feeling when they finally do.

In the end, though, I don't know what's sadder: that he didn't (and couldn't possibly) live up to the legend, or that there seem to be so many people eager to participate in the sadistically gleeful feeding frenzy around the destruction of that legend. Watching it all is like watching when a malicious older sibling takes special joy in the distress caused by telling a younger sibling, "Santa isn't." I take that back, I do know which is sadder.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It Tastes Like Winter

I think chestnuts are an underutilized nut in the American diet. Previous to this fall, it had been at least two decades since I'd had anything featuring chestnut. Last month, while Donna and I were celebrating our Anniversary down in Williamsburg, we were served a chestnut icecream with our dinner. Tonight, Donna made a brusselsprout (another under-used food) hash for dinner that featured a heavy use of chestnuts.

There's just something nifty about chestnuts. They've got this lovely, delicate, earthy-sweet flavor. It lends itself well to both sweets and to savory food-stuffs.

Tonight's hash was something that Donna just winged. Basically, she took her usual brusselsprout hash, and enhanced it with white wine and chestnuts:

• 10 chestnuts
• 2 pints fresth brussel sprouts (trim, cut in half, then slice thin)
• 6-8oz crimini mushrooms (sliced)
• Penzeys Fox Point seasoning
• dry white wine (recommend a sauvignon blanc)
• extra virgin olive oil
• butter (a good, rich, European-style is best)

Chestnut prep:
  1. Slice an X into the flat side of each chestnut
  2. Scatter nuts onto flat baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes
  3. Let cool enough to handle, then peel.
  4. Chop chestnut meat into crumbles and set aside

Mushroom prep:
  1. Sauté sliced mushrooms in large skillet in a mixture of olive oil and butter
  2. Season with fresh-ground black pepper and liberal dash of Fox Point seasoning as they cook
  3. Cook till browned
  4. Remove mushrooms to bowl and set aside

  1. In same skillet, heat and melt 1Tbsp. of butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
  2. Add brussel sprouts and saute till they edges begin to brown (about 8 minutes)
  3. Add half cup of white wine and let cook till wine is mostly gone.
  4. Season to taste with more Fox Point.
  5. Add in chestnuts and mushrooms, stir well and heat through
  6. Serve
The hash worked very well with a nice, rare sirloin (in our household, we generally use bison, but standard beef would likely do, as well. Garnished with some locally-sourced dark cherry tomatoes. Served the meal with red wine (the Vicious Petit Sirah's cranberry notes were a very nice complement both to the hash and to the sirloin).

Brusselsprout/Chestnut Hash with Bison Sirloin

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Listening to the printer churn away on a thousand page document is like listening to trees scream.

Shared Spaces

In the enterprise I work for, there's more employees than there are desks to seat them all. This is resultant of a number of factors: frequent need for people to work at different locations, people that telecommute regularly, and just an overall short-fall of available office/desk space.

For the most part, this hasn't been a problem for me. If anything, it encourages me to work from home (and, I tend to get more done while working from home, at any rate). Unfortunately, when we have our meeting days, it causes a larger number of people, than normal, to concentrate in the meeting facility. This tends to create an acute shortfall in desk space. While I have an assigned seat in the building where our large-group meeting is held, most attendees don't. So, if I arrive other than ass-early the day of the meeting, I frequently find my desk occupied by visitors.

On days where I'm not going to be busy, elsewhere in the building (typically, when I'm stuck in one of the labs), I politely evict the visitor. If I know I'm going to be elsewhere most of the day, I typically just set my stuff in my cube and let the visitor continue borrowing my desk. Generally, it's not a problem - if I'm not using it, I don't care, overly much, if someone else does.

That said, there's always people that seem to feel compelled to abuse the courtesy. Most frequently, the abuse are merely annoying. Generally, it's limited to my stuff being moved out of their normal places or paperwork/trash being left behind. While annoying, it's not a big deal. What is a big deal, however, is when people "borrow" stuff from my desk (note to people who borrow desks: if you find things like plastic silverware, blank CDROMs, pens, etc, in the desk, those are not consumables there for use by all an sundry. I pay for the shit sitting in my desk and your use of it is petty-theft).

Oh... I also always love when visitors take it upon themselves to make themselves at home at my desk by adjusting my seat to their personal comfort. It's oh so lovely to come back and find my chair's settings completely jacked up. It's also nice when one of the visitors has been eating at my desk and left food debris ground into the chair's fabric.

Monday, October 31, 2011

EMS in The `Hood

Dunno what's going on in my neighborhood, this week, but it seems like there's been lots of EMS activity every day. While we live near a couple major routes used by the local EMS to get around, that traffic is usually just passing by our neighborhood. This week, they've actually been stopping in the neighborhood.

Today, when I came home from work, an ambulance was stopped in front of a house three houses down from mine. Unfortunately, they were parked in the middle of the street with no indication of moving. Further misfortune is the fact that my street is a long, curving, one-way street. So, my choices were to: wait for it to move, do the long reverse the wrong way down the long, curving narrow street, park and walk the rest of the way home.

I'd considered backing, given that there was another side-street I could reach my house from. However, the length and curving narrowness of my street, combined with the relatively short walk and temperate weather, made me opt to just park and walk home.

As I passed my next door neighbor's house, she'd asked why I was walking rather than driving as I usually do. I indicated the ambulance with a somewhat annoyed look on my face. She informed me that it had been there, like that, for at least half an hour.

As I'd walked by, I'd noted that there was an empty stretcher in front of the house the ambulance crew was attending to. The door had also been hanging open, with no real sign of activity. It struck me as odd, at the time. My neighbor's mention of when it had arrived made me think, "if the ambulance is there for over an hour and the stretcher's empty on the lawn, someone's probably died." I noticed more than an hour later, that the ambulance was still there (though, thankfully, they'd since chosen to move it enough for traffic to get by). Given my prior thoughts, I looked to see if there might also be a Coroner's vehicle nearby. None was in evidence, but, perhaps I'd missed its coming and going? At any rate, the ambulance finally left the scene a little more than two hours after I got home.

Still don't know what it was all about. Generally, when an ambulance is called, they arrive quickly, act quickly and depart quickly (that whole "critical first hour" thing usually driving the pace). If an ambulance lingers, it's generally a sign of something not - or no longer - being an emergency. If something's not an emergency, you generally don't summon an ambulance and incur the visit's expense, so, lingering ambulances are generally a sign that an emergency became a non-emergency. Typically, this is because there's nothing urgent the EMS crew can do for the summoners - in other words, someone has died.

I'd also noticed, as I'd passed the house, that there had been a "For Sale" sign planted on the front lawn. It kinda made me wonder if, perhaps, the owner had had financial difficulties resulting in an attempt to sell. I further wonder if, maybe due to the current housing market, the owner couldn't get it sold before panic/despair set in and that, perhaps, the ambulance was called for a suicide. Still don't know. And, while it's morbid to ponder it and write about it, I don't feel inclined to inquire further. Don't want to cross the line from merely morbid to ghoulish.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Loves Me Some Cheesery

This movie, if they ever get it made, will probably be utterly horrible. But it looks so cheeserifically awesome that I'm probably gonna have to go see it (or download it, if it's only available that way):

Moon-Troopers from Iron Sky

I mean, c'mon: NAZIS IN SPACE! As it is, you have zepplin-style mother-ships disgorgin swarms of flying saucers. Only way it gets better is if they sneak in some zombies.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Diminished Highs

There's good and bad to being goal-oriented (though, in truth, it more frequently seems to be bad than good).

The good is the sense of accomplishment you have when you finally reach that goal. To a lesser extent, there's also that sense of joyful anticipation when the achievement of the goal is imminent.

The bad: the impatience to achieve that goal; the frustration of things outside your control thwarting the accomplishment of that goal; people pestering you about when you're going to achieve that goal, especially when they are responsible, in no small part, with your inability to get it done; the "now what" feeling that immediately follows the sense of accomplishment of achieving a goal.

On balance, I just can't tell, any more, whether the high of reaching the goal is anywhere near enough to balance out all the other things. I guess what I loved about consulting was that the "high" I got from achieving goals came so much quicker and more frequently. And, before you could fall into the abyss of "what's next" and the frustration-cycle of the path up to the next achievement, you already had your marching-orders for what to do next.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grimm Reality

It looks like NBC is playing with social media to promote new programming. If you follow their Twitter account for the soon-to-air series, Grimm, they'll private message you with a code that allows you to preview the show's pilot.

When I'd seen the commercials for the show, it had piqued my interest. So, I hit their "follow" button Twitter. A short while later, I got notification of the private message's arrival. Donna and I sat down and watched the episode. It wasn't horrible. Has a decent enough premise. However, it was a bit on the predictable side.

I can't say that I'll go out of my way to watch the show, but I won't avoid it, either. If I happen to hit the channel when it's on, I might watch. If the actual series is better than the opener, then I might seek to watch it. Who knows, it could get good. Star Trenk: Next Generation started out poorly, then eventually found its stride. But, for now, it's a bit weak.

Which Side of the Bed?

Frequently, I wake up before I really want to. Generally, my body seems to only want about 3-6 of continuous sleep. So, if I go to bed much more than five hours before my alarm is due to go off, there's a better than even chance I'll wake up before my alarm goes off. Unfortunately, that generally happens close enough to when I'm due to get up that it's not even worth trying to go back to sleep. Frequently, I just lay there, waiting for my alarm to go off, to actually get up out of bed.
This morning, I woke up before I wanted to. I'd gone to bed just after midnight, but, wasn't due to wake up till at least 8:30 (so we could make the regular pilgrimage to the Saturday farmers market in Falls Church). I spent a few hours memory-walking, while waiting for my alarm to go off and wake Donna.
When I say "memory-walking", it's basically just me sitting/laying there and letting my mind float over my past. I just sorta bounce from memory to memory, letting the threads of their interconnectedness play themselves out. The bouncing is rarely linear. I can find myself remembering things as far back as my first days of preschool or my earliest nightmares/dreams to things that have happened as recently as just a few hours' previous. They can come in any order. One recalled memory triggers the next. It's fascinating how the memories string themselves together; how they order themselves; and how vivid they tend to be - even the extraordinarily mundane ones.
It accomplishes very little, but, it's good existential-wanking, I suppose. It's a far better way to while away the time than the ones spent contemplating darker thoughts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Money vs. Happiness

Just saw an infographic claiming the median household income for Fairfax county in 2010 was $113K.

Back in the 2005-2006 timeframe, there was a global income study that supposedly concluded that $75K was some kind of magic income number beyond which you reached a point of diminishing returns for increased happiness. Presumably, since that figure was shown in USD and was a global study, that magic number was normalized against some other measures. I would presume that they chose to normalize against each studied country's median household income at the time (about $48K in the US in 2006). That means that $75K figure would represent a figure that was 150% of the US median household income.

Given the number in the infographic and the presumed method for deriving that $75K figure, I would have had to have been earning just shy of $177K in 2010 to be making the normalized equivalent of that magic $75K figure. On the plus side, I guess that means I've not crossed that diminishing returns threshold. However, there are definitely days where it feels like it.

Even though I now make several times more than I did when I was much earlier in my career, I'm not sure the salary improvement is  linearly-reflected in overall life-happiness. I'm not sure there's even some kind of parabolic curve I could chart (passing through the peaks and valleys of life-happiness).

Maybe times have changed. Maybe it's not (or never was) the kind of statistically meaningful figure that some people like to quote. Maybe it wasn't so much a diminishing-returns point but a peak-return point. Dunno.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Police Games

Had the news on, this morning, as I readied myself for work. There was a story on about the turmoil in Greece related to the austerity measures. Protesters were hurling rocks and such at the police and government buildings. The police were responding by hurling smoking tear-gas canisters at the protestors. All I could think was, "so the Greeks were playing rock/paper/tear-gas, today?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Placement Is Key

At the office building I frequently work at, the restroom doors are all on hydraulic openers. Several paces from each such door, is a pressure plate you smack to activate the doors (they look just like the ones you see at hospitals for their big, swinging automated doors).

I will admit that I tend to walk faster, from place to place, than a lot of people do. I'm fairly no-nonsense when I'm going places. I want to get from point A to point B as directly and quickly as possible. So, I frequently find myself having to wait whenever I encounter automated doors.

This week, some of the bathroom doors at work had signs on them saying something to the effect of "automatic door: do not manually open". Well, that's fine in theory. However, if you don't want me yanking the door open, you need to make sure that, by the time I reach the door after hitting the pressure plate, the door is open far enough for me to pass through it. The bathroom doors at work just don't manage that "trick".
Seriously: if an automated door opens slower than a bank vault, and you don't want people manually opening it, set the activator button further from the door!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not Quite Integrated

Google is trying to link together their various services (Picasa, BlogSpot/Blogger, Plus, etc.). It's sort of a Good Idea™, but it's "not quite there," yet.

I'm one of those people who uses online services like Picasa as a cloud-based backup of my home storage. I use BackBlaze for my general data (really sweet service: I recommend it to anyone that has a good up-stream connection and gives a crap about protecting important electronic documents, images, etc. against hard drive failures or home disasters) and I (currently) use Picasa for my photo memories (Flickr has better storage pricing, but, when I was making the decision, Picasa had the better management software).

When I first opened my Picasa account, it was very much a stand-alone service. This was reflective of it being one of Google's many acquired services. Eventually, I noticed that images I'd posted via my BlogSpot account were automagically showing up in my Picasa account.

When I cashed in my Plus beta invite, one of the things I had to do was link my Picasa account to my Plus profile (no choice was given: if I wanted to try out Plus, I either clicked on the "accept" button or I couldn't do Plus - in retrospect, the latter might have been the better option). It didn't seem like too big of a deal at the time, so, I clicked "yes". I didn't post my first photo to Plus for several days after joining up (might have even been a couple weeks). It was several days, after that, that I noticed Plus-posted photos were showing up in my Picasa account.

Honestly, I think what alerted me to that fact was that Donna and I were out and wanted me to show some pix of our dogs to friends. So, I fired up my Android phone's "Gallery" application and noticed there were photos showing up that were from Plus. When I got home, I logged into Picasa and, sure enough, there was an album (tree) of my Plus-originated photos.

Sidenote to Google: data aggregation is great, in theory, but the way you're doing it for me - and not giving me any good method to manage or override - makes my data utterly chaotic: not good. At least give me options to determine what things appear in multiple applications. The first time I end up embarrased by your "helpful" stream-crossing, you can expect a subpoena. 

It was mostly a shrug-worthy moment. I mean, at least I knew how to get at photos after I'd posted them via Plus. It did raise the concern of, "do Plus photos count against the Picasa quota I bought"? I'm hoping that what I discovered today indicates that the Plus folder-tree doesn't count against that quota: 1) it's the only album that seems to allow sub-albums; 2) unlike all of my Picasa-originated albums' photos, the Plus originated photos don't seem to be online-editable the way my Picasa-originated ones are. Dunno. It might be buried in a Google FAQ (or similar document) somewhere, but there's no quick indication of it.

I'll give Google kudos for making data available. Unfortunately, what Google really doesn't seem to get is that masses of data suck if you don't have good tools for logically-ordering them. And, no, I don't consider having a search engine to plow through the data-heap to be a good organizational method or solution for masses of data.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Damage to Program Reputation

Yesterday, Twitter was flying the Fail-Whale  (at intervals) due, in part, to Steve Jobs's death. Many of my friends were posting their condolences messages to FaceBook and/or Plus. I suppose it's all a nice tribute to someone whose singular vision helped shape an industry. But, at the same time, there's that part of me that was pissed by it all.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not denigrating the man's professional accomplishments. I'd be a fool to try to claim that he didn't have profound influences in a number of technical areas. My main beef is that, much like many people who had power derived from their mone and success, the man used that power to cheat. Worse, where he cheated helped to further damage an already problematic system - the organ donor program.

I've long had a problem with the whole organ donor program. The people who give their organs typically see nothing in return. The organ donor programs try to spin the whole thing as an enobling endeavor where a senseless death can be made meaningful.

Bullshit. While the families of the deceased are being fed this bullshit message, everyone else involved in the process are moving around piles of money. It's not like the doctors, nurses, hospitals (etc.) are working for free. It's not like donor recipients are getting the organs for free. And, worse, people with money and power are able to shove piles of money (or maybe just influence) and get themselves jumped ahead in line. 

The first memorable instance of this for me was when former PA governor Casey did it in 1993. Within a day of the need for a multi-organ transplant being determined, he "somehow" ended up at the head of the line for the procedure.

Jobs's instance wasn't quite so glaring. He actually set up temporary residence in state with favorable waitlist times. Thus, instead of waiting the best part of a year for a transplant, he only had to wait two months. By itself, this could just be chalked up to exercising one's money to move where the wait lists are shortest (Tennessee is a short-wait state for livers, for some reason). And, I could deal with that. However, Jobs's health history made him a sub-ideal candidate. With the organ transplant triage systems, people with a history of cancer - particularly a recent and/or active history - are generally given low to no priority on transplant waitlists.

Given the scarcity of available organs, it only makes sense: not only do you want an organ to go to someone with the best tissue-match, you want it to go to someone with the best, overall, prosspects for long-term survival. Cancer patients - particularly ones with recent and/or active history of the diease - generally aren't considered a good, long-term risk for an organ transplant. Judging by the time displacement between Jobs' transplant and his eventual death, he bore out this poor-risk rationale.

I can't help but think that, had Jobs not used his money to put himself someplace where he could jump the line, someone else might have gotten that liver. Further, "someone else" would likely have not been given special consideration in spite of a sub-ideal health history. The liver that died with Jobs might still be acting as a life-saver for someone else.

Yeah, that's a lot of mights. It's a lot of speculation. But, it just reinforces my whole distaste for the organ transplant system in the US. It contributes to my desire to not donate my organs were I eligible to do so. I mean, we have a system that essentially supports organ-selling where everyone but the organs' prior owners profits, but the donors' survivors see nothing of it but "nobility". Screw that. The "nobility" just strikes me as a very cynical method to get people to part with things for free that have a high, real-dollar value. And, at the end of the day, the people most likely to give out of charity are also the least likely to ever benefit from such charity (i.e., they aren't the class of people that will get preferential treatment due to social positioning).

For now, if anyone wants my organs, feel free to bid for them. If I pre-decease my "family", they're gonna be in a sub-ideal economic state. The least I can do for them is try to get them the last dollars my corpse can yield. And, if I can't do that, then there's no way I'm risking some monied line-jumper benefitting from my death. My organs die with me unless I'm able to put stipulations in place for who they may be "given" to (i.e., someone in the same or lower economic class and who have financial dependents that would face genuine hardship were they to die). Without those kinds of assurances on who can have them, no one can have them.

Yeah, that's selfish - I'm just making sure I'm not participating in a sham.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Restaurant Reviews

Recently, Donna and I took a mini-vacation to Williamsburg, VA. While there, we stayed at an "inn" at the Williamsburg Winery. It was a nice experience. We toured the winery and had a really nice dinner at Café Provençal, the inn's on-sit, gourmet restaurant.

We'd scheduled our trip a bit oddly: Sunday arrival with Tuesday departure. We'd done this mostly to try to avoid weekend crowds. Unfortunately, it also meant that a lot of things that would be open during a summer stay were closed.

While we would have gladly eaten a second time at Café Provençal, that wasn't an option. They were closed on Mondays. So, Monday night, we drove into Williamsburg to "forage".

We came to a restaurant named Opus 9. It was a higher-end chop house, probably designed to compete with places like Ruth's Chris. They had decent food and decent wine selection. And, they were priced in a similar bracket to Ruth's Chris (two people with meal, desert, cocktails and wine came to a little over $200 before tip).

In general, I don't so much care how much a given dining experience costs. That said, I do judge a place on value for the money spent. To whit, I've been to places where a $600 meal for two was a bargain and places where a $20 bill for two was an absolute rip-off.

Opus 9 was competent, but not a superlative value - particularly not when compared to what I get at home or what I'd had, the night prior, at Café Provençal. 

A few days after we got back, I got an email from US Air's "Rewards Dining" program. Turns out the Opus 9 was a program participant, thus I'd earned miles from having eaten there. So, "bonus." To get the extra points for the dine, I submitted a review. Overall, I gave Opus 9 a positive review. However, I'd noted in the comments section of the review:

The food wasn't awful, it was simply unremarkable. I don't have a problem with expensive restaurants, but I do expect to receive a good value for money spent (whether my tab comes to $20 or $200). The experience and food while "ok" simply weren't worth the extreme premium (especially for the overall area's cost of living) prices."

In retrospect, that comment probably seemed more negative than intended. It wasn't meant as a "don't go here" type of review, and I wasn't trying to trash the place. I was just expressing that, while what I got was good, I felt it was overpriced for what was delivered.

Today, I got an email back from the restaurant regarding my review. It was a nice, polite response, basically asking what could be done to improve the experience so as to raise the value proposition. So, I replied back:

The review may have been received as more negative than it was intended. I'm not saying that the meal or the experience were bad. Indeed, the menu had a good selection, the ordered food was competently prepared, the restaurant's facilities were rather nice, and the service was good - particularly given our server's experience level. That said, given the food quality/preparation, I would have expected a bill that was 65% of our total.

Overall, you probably suffered from two things: 1) my wife and I are probably overly particular about our food - when eating at home, we eat (almost exclusively) locally-sourced, seasonal foods and my wife is an a rather good cook; and, 2) we'd eaten at another, similarly-priced restaurant, the night before that had both better quality food and more-personalized preparation. So, we may have not been coming from a "fair" starting point. That said, once a two-person meal gets into the $200+ range, that kind of comparison is inevitable.

My overall suggestion for improvement of the food might be to make your menu selections more seasonal and, even if you can't alter your menu to be fully-local, create some selections that emphasize local food. Williamsburg is local to some really great food sources (there's really local produce and meat sources within a 100mi radius). It would be awesome if those local products could be played up and showcased.

In reading it, it felt kinda snotty. Unfortunately, I didn't really know how to give a critique of my experience without coming off that way.

It's episodes like this that really makes me question what I've become. I mean, it's not like I'm the offspring of monied parents. I wasn't one of the preppie kids, growing up. Hell, at one point in my life, I sorta lumped myself in the category that my punkier friends were in. Yet, somehow, as an adult, I've become a yuppy - and the whole exchange made me feel like a yuppy-tool.

At the same time, looking back, most of those tendencies have always been there. In general, I've preferred to do without rather than do with less than I wanted. I've always been a bit of an elitist - which, I might even be able to justify to myself, if I had some basis from which to be elitist. But, in reality, I don't. I owe a great deal of where I am to a fortunate set of circumstances and a willingness to exploit the opportunities that presented themselves. So, "what am I," and "how did I get this way" (and, yeah, you can set that to the tune of Once in a Lifetime).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Pain of Bully Ownership

Since shortly after moving in with my now wife, we have had one or more dogs. Due to my wife's allergic sensitivities to longer-haired dog breeds, all of our dogs have been bull mixes: our first pair were an American Bulldog/Boxer-mix and an American Bulldog/Bull Terrier-mix; our current pair are an American Staffordshire Terrier and a American Pitbull Terrier. All four have been great dogs. They've been friendly, happy, people-oriented dogs.

We frequently take our current pair for walks around the neighborhood. Most days, our walks are uneventful. We walk anywhere from a half to a mile-and-a-half around the neighborhood.

Late yesterday afternoon, we took our dogs for a walk. My wife wanted some stuff at the local convenience store, so, we leashed up the dogs and walked over. We decided that, rather than walk the short way around our block and back to the house, we would go home by the long way around our block. 

I'd had my head down, grinding documentation for work, all day. I had no real grasp on what time it was. It turns out, our walk back to the house coincided with when the local middle school was letting out. As we were comeing to the end of our block, the school bus left off a mob of kids. Several of them caugh sight of our dogs and came ambling over. They did the usual thing of asking "are they friendly" and, upon giving our affirmation, began to fawn over the dogs. We stood around and chatted while the dogs happily soaked up the attention. A couple minutes into this, one of the kids said, "wow, she's really pretty (referring to our blue-eyed dog, Lady): what kind of dog is she?" I replied, "she's a pitbull". All but one of the kids tensed-up and stepped back. Fortunately, the one most engaged in fawning over Lady kept right on going. She pointed out to her friends that "there's nothing to worry about - they're friendly dogs". They relaxed but didn't return to fussing over the dogs (though the one continued her attention). 

This strikes me as really sad. I mean, here they were, happily interacting with the dogs while they were unaware of their breeds. However, upon hearing the word "pitbull", immediately changed how they saw the two dogs. I get that pitbulls have had a lot of bad press over the years. And, if I were going just by that, I'd be wary about approaching them - moreso than, say, a Shi-Tzu. But, to have been interacting with demonstrably friendly dogs and then going cold at the mention of a breed? It just doesn't make sense: act based on what you see before you, not what you see re-hashed in the fear-mongering press.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Bygone Era

Being in middle and high school in the farmlands of PA, it was always such a freaking score to be able to find a place that had their stuff on the shelves. I mean, we had the local college station (WDCV) where we could hear all this great music, but no place to buy it (and, when you could find it, it was twice as expensive as the garbage on regular radio).

On the plus side, when I went away to college, it wasn't until my junior year that most other people started to be aware that I had a good music collection to raid (and my collection became an involuntary musical resource for a lot of people in my dorms and apartments). What started out as "1001 bad groups" (my cousin, John Kling, had similar tastes in music, and, one of his fraternity brothers did a charicature with that title) became the music resource for a bunch of people. When I started at PSU, I always had to scrounge for people to drive all over the state to go to small clubs to listen to bands we liked. By the end, could easily find people to make the weekly drives all over the state. 

Still and all, by the time I had the money, means and traveling companions to be able to see REM, live, they were well into the peak of their career. The best I could do were shows like the one at the old Capitals complex in Bowie, MD (please don't ever ask me to call it US Air Arena). Seating was awful, but was still a great show (well, Stipe still had an awful tendency to go on long preaching jags - you kinda just wanted him to "shut up and play" - but still, it was a good show). So, never got to see them in an intimate setting.

Oh well, era long gone. I was actually kind of surprised by the announcement, given that I'd sorta lost track of them. I'd thought they'd faded out 10 years ago.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Automatic Morbidity

Discovered one of the weirder things about this modern, socially-connected era. As friends, relatives, etc. die, not all the automated tools out there are willing to let you move on. It's kinda weird when your social reminders calendar shows a recently deceased friend's impending birth date. All you can think is, "thanks for the reminder, FaceBook."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fuck You, Huffington Post can eat a whole bag of dicks. It's really rather presumptuous to put up a "please connect with facebook" prompt that, the only way you can get it to go away is to allow them full access to your FB profile. Fuck. That. Noise.

Even better is, because of the way they've coded the popup, it causes my Chrome toolbar for StumbleUpon to no longer render. So, I can't even use the "no more Stumbles from this site" option.

Not Acceptable

I do *so* love having to edit my computer's hosts file just to blacklist a goddamned site.

Fuck you, Huffington Post. I hope you and everyone involved in your organization dies a slow, excruciatingly painful death.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UMD Just Put Out My Eyes With a Hot Poker

Good God: it looks like Maryland's state flag threw up on the UMD football team's helmets/uniforms.:

And, if the uniforms weren't bad enough on their own, they flag-puked all over the shoes (they're so nicely dressed in their matchy-matchy shoes!):

And, as bad as these atrocities are, we've got more eye-blights to come...

Seriously, other than "we can sell so many more souvenir jerseys!", w.t.f. was UMD thinking? I thought that, with the Oregon Ducks playing out of conference and out of time zone, I'd not have to be subjected to this kind of poncery. Yagh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time Differences

I dunno whether to be impressed with myself or absofuckinglutely livid at the contractor who was "helping" me most of the summer. I'm pretty sure I'm livid.

In the space of about three hours, I was able to just run through building and linking three functional backup servers - inclusive of downloading and staging software and repeating two of the servers (because I forgot to capture the install session to a text file). The contractor who had been previously "helping" me, had taken over two and a half months and been unable to achieve the same feat.

Now, I get that I am fast at doing things, but a time differential of two months versus three hours??? I dunno how a person with anything resembling personal or professional integrity can bill that much time and accomplish so little. W.T.F.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Over-thinking It

I'll be the first to admit that I don't necessarily think the same way most people do. I'll also admit that I frequently overthink things that most people just let slide - for which they seem happier for having done so. It really makes relating to things - particularly popular fictions such as movies (or the news) - difficult for me to do.
Recently, I watched another post-apocalyptic movie via an online video streaming service. I think it was via Zune, this time, rather than the usual NetFlix. At any rate, we just watched the movie Priest. Like many post-apocalyptic dystopian fictions, the world of Priest was mostly a wasteland. All of humanity had retreated from the desolate countryside into equally as grim walled cities.
As I'm watching this movie, I'm bugged by this common dystopian view. I mean, I don't necessarily have a problem coping with the idea of grim cities - urban existence is almost inherently grim. What I have problem with is the dichotomy of the "safe" megalopolis surrounded by the dangerous and desolate wastelands. I can't get past the basic, real-life problem of resources I mean, I've never quite understood, "where does the food come from", in the wasteland/mega-cities school of dystopian sci-fi. And, from there, the rest of my ability to enjoy a mediocre story goes downhill.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Need to Stop Listening to the Radio

When Donna and I take the SUV out, she frequently has the station on WTOP. For her, it's just background noise and easily ignored. With my inability to filter, I get stuck listening to each and every story they drone out. Because the programming effects us differently (Donna not at all and me listening), Donna frequently talks over things - with a special nack for being most radio-obliterating right at the critical part of a given news report. Simply put, I hate listening to news radio when Donna's in the car. This is not to say that I'm fond of having the news on, in the first place: generally, all I'm hearing on news programming is "news of the annoyingly stupid".

Today was another exercise in the "news of the annoyingly stupid". The 9/11 commemorartion riders came through DC on their 1800-strong motorcycle convoy. Ok... First, this weekend isn't 9/11 - it's not even September. So, why this weekend (and, no, I don't care enough to Google for it). Secondly: why try to stream an 1800 motorcycle convoy through one of the worst traffic regions in the nation during rushhour???

Yeah, I know I'm a cranky bastard on my best days, but nothing about this debacle made sense. On top of it, it made little sense to me that the ride-supporters were chapped by the locals who had complaints about the timing of the ride (not the ride itself, mind you, just the timing). I get that people like to commemorate major events. I get that DC was tied to 9/11 by the fact that the Pentagon was one of the sites directly impacted by the events of that day. However, I think it's at least as selfish of the riders to time their event as they did as the ride-supporters seem to think people like me are for not liking the inconvenience it caused.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think that just because something is "for a good cause" that makes everything about how it's conducted is justafiable. It's the same effect that powers all the legal abuses and shortcuts because of "think of the children". To the people in the 1800-motorcycle convoy, it's just a ride to commemorate a tragedy. To the people that live here, along the pathway of that convoy it's more than just inconvenience, it's lost time and lost money. The extra time in traffic means wasted gas - and gas, particularly lately, is decidedly not free. The extra time in traffic means time spent in traffic hell that could be better spent with family, friends, etc. Time has value and for the sake of 1800 riders, tends of thousands of locals were compelled to spend their time in a way that they might have otherwise more-constructively spent it. Some people, anticipating the hell that the convoy was going to cause, opted to take off work. That's vacation days that they won't have to spend elsewhere. That's work-productivity lost at what might have been a critical time in their job-cycle.

But, hey, at least 1800 riders got to commemorate 9/11. Fuck everyone else.

Tell me, again, what that commemoration did for the people who died on 9/11? At least the Rolling Thunder folks do their stuff on a holiday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Delegation and Failure

Honestly, I didn't know whether to post this on this site or my "serious"/work site. Technically, it's about work and would be well-situated there. However, this is more a philosophical post than a technical post. Thus, I opted to put it here...

For the last several jobs I've worked at, I've frequently been in the position where I had to push the tasks I was once responsible for onto groups with less exeperience than I have. This is the nature of an engineering role: you figure the stuff out, then you turn it over to others to manage - usually after simplifying and documenting that "stuff", first. Then, you move on to other things and act as a technical resource for those charged with the day-to-day care and feeding of that "stuff".

Invariably, part of the push-down process is figuring out which things are suitable for push-down and to whom. Part of "to whom" is knowing who's available to do the work and their skills set or prescribing the type of person that should be capable of doing the work and allowing the folks in charge of staffing to find people that meet your prescribed skills set. At the end of the day, it's a process that, if executed correctly by all parties involved, allows the "stuff" to be more widely used and kept healthy, and allows the engineer to mostly divorce himself from that "stuff".

The push-down process is one fraught with challenges and fear. While you, as an engineer, can decide what things can and should be pushed down and who it should be able to be pushed down to, there's always the fear that you won't be able to push it down. You have fear that the people you're pushing to won't be up to the challenge. You fear that the people you're pushing to won't do things the way you had envisioned, ultimately resulting in more work for you (first, by having to fix any breakage that results; and, second, having to undo all the stuff that resulted in the breakage or, worse, having found the unanticipated deviance so pathologically and intractably ingrained that you have to leave it in place and work around it). Further, if your a conscientious sort, you always have the worry that you're setting people up to fail.

It's this last that I hear over and over when it comes time for the push-down: "we might be setting them up to fail."

This is a hard one to argue against. Any time you pass a resposibility on to others, you pass on the possibility of failure. It's the nature of the beast. If you're giving anyone the ability to do anything meaningful, you're also giving them the ability to screw important things up. That said, if you've properly described the expected skills set for the task(s) and/or provided good procedural documentation, you've not only given them the ability to fail, you've also ensured that they have the tools to succeed. The only time you're "setting someone up to fail" is if you give them a tasking that they can't reasonably be expected to handle. If the people responsible for staffing ignore your staffing prescriptions, that's not your fault. If the people handling the passed-down responsibilities ignore the procedures you've tested, documented and passed-down, that's not your fault. The best you can do is to act in good faith and be there to clean up the mess when your efforts weren't enough (oh: and document why the failure occurred so that it might not happen again for the same reasons).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Way to Be...

"Exceptionally useless" is not a Good Way™ to be exceptional.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


So, in today's email, I find the below image/message from Verizon Wireless:

I find it a tad confusing. I mean, I upgraded both phones to Samsung Charges in June. So, it's not like either my handset or Donna's handsets are eligle for a "new every 2" uprade for nearly two years. So why email this to me. Am I supposed to tell my freinds, who aren't yet VZW customers, "hey: look at this awesome deal?" I mean, if that's the intent, it makes no sense, either? Why the hell would I recommend, to anyone, "go get Verizon so you can stream video at LTE speeds and blow through your data cap in under a day!" Seriously: it makes no sense at all. It would only have made sense to send me this if: A) either of my phones were not recently upgrades; or, B) VZW hadn't just put data caps in place for all new customers. Neither A nor B is true, so why spam me?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lunchtime Atrocities

Where I work, most days of the week, there are very limited food choices. Basically, you have the option of eating down in the building cafeteria, walking over to the commisary (that's ½mi. walk from the exit of the building, which, itself is a ⅓ of a mile from my desk) or going off campus.

  • The building cafeteria has several "food" options: Subway, a Chinese food place (it's a chain, too, I just can't remember it), two other sandwich shops, a hot foods concession, a burger stand, a salad bar and a pizza concession.
  • The commisary is a ½-mi. walk from the exit of my building. And, since I work in a large building, the walk from my desk to that exit is ⅓-mi. walk). Down there, there's another subway, a pizza concession, a Starbucks, an icecream shop and a couple other low-grade concessions. If I wanted to walk further still, there's a Burger King
  • The closest off-campus location is a ten-minute drive ...and that's after you've walked out to your car. And, given the parking situation on campus, you could easily have walked a half mile or more to get to you car (and, if you're in one of the "close" spots, you won't want to lose it over lunch, any way). That location is full of higher-end chains, but still chains
I'm not a big fan of chain food, in general. So, if I'm going to eat chain food, I try to minimize the insult by at least restricting myself to cheap chain food. Subway's cheap and it's convenient. Notice, I don't use the term "good".

Usually, what I get is the seafood sub. I order the 6" sandwich made with the Italian herb&cheese bread. I get it with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and a ton of hot peppers. Frankly, the hot peppers are the only thing with any flavor on it. Yes, I could order something with more flavorful ingredients, the problem is, those other "flavorful" ingredients have an awful flavor. So, I go with the filling but flavorless wonder.

Now, under normal circumstances, the combination I choose would at least have some flavor

  • Seafood normally has flavor, but Subway's seafood salad is just chopped up faux-crab with no discernible spices and flavorless mayo (I assume it's mayo, but it's just as likely some kind of semi-edible bonding agent).
  • The bread I choose claims to be "Italian herb and cheese". As near as I can tell, the "Italian herbs and cheese" Subway uses were chosen more to provide texture than flavor.
  • American cheese, while normally mild, typically has flavor. Subway's? Not so much. It's mostly just a textural thing that provides a bit of filling - a very small bit of filling, given that they take one small square of cheese, cut it into two triangles and lay the triangles end-to-end, long-sides on a common axis, so as to give the appearance of covering the whole sandwich. Much as Mario's cake is a lie, so is Subway's cheese.
  • Lettuce can have flavor, it's just that most sandwich places seem to choose to use iceberg or other basically flavorless lettuces. I don't know what token greenery Subway actually uses, but it's flavorless.
  • Tomatoes... I loves me some tomatoes. As a kid, it used to boggle my mind that they were technically fruits. As an adult with a very nice garden in my yard, I almost find it hard to believe that I was ever confused about whether they were a fruit or vegetable. With Subway's tomatoes, the only confusion I have is, "is this actually food?" I mean, today's tomatoes were literally white (granted, it was a pinkish white, so, it had the suggestion that they were distantly related to the bright-red, flavorful tomatoes I've had elsewhere, but it's only enough of a hint to make you buy into them maybe being tomatoes). Their texture and flavor, however, I could replicate by cutting the bottoms off a styrofoam coffee cup, splashing them with ink from a red pen and tossing them on my sandwich.
  • The only saving grace is the hot peppers. I don't know why the sandwich makers always boggle at me when I ask them to pile them on (sometimes saying things like "take what you think is an obscene amount of hot-peppers, then double it" to try to give them a picture of how much I want). Now, you'd think that canned sandwich peppers were canned sandwich peppers. Growing up, it didn't so much matter which brand was on the jar, the crushed hoagie peppers were zesty. I dunno where Subway gets theirs, but it definitely isn't from Talaricos. Yes, they too are gutless versions of the food substances they pretend to be.
Oh well. It saves me the hassle of having to go off campus and it makes my stomach shut up. Though, in truth, I don't know whether my stomach shuts up because it's been sated or because it fears that I'll assault it with another wave of utterly indifferent food.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Your Eggs

Some good points in this article ( And, yes, I have a Plus account, but I won't soon be abandoning my other outlets.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Scarcity Improves Art

Improvements in technology are a double-edged sword. The shear, raw "horespower" of new technologies make all sorts of things that were difficult, if not impossible, to do in the past trivial. Unfortunately, it also seems that, as effort is removed, it lowers the bar to entry so much that the art is lost. You see it computer programming and you see it in movie-making. Much as "old school" coders were better because of limited resources, I think the same can be said of film-makers.

If modern coders were as efficient with their coding as the guys of the 50s, 60s and 70s were, we would already have truly immersive virtual reality and computers that put HAL 9000 to shame. Probably the only reason that the SciFi writers got things wrong on the timescale was because they were basing projects of technological growth and assuming the same level of skill and artistry would follow it. Unfortunately, not so much.

When I was a kid and first saw movies like Tron, Last Starfighter ...even up through Jurassic Park, it almost seemed like there'd be no need for physical actors within my lifetime. Unfortunately, what I've seen is that the effects have gone from enhancing the story to being the story. And it's sad.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Things Mis-heard

That Honda commercial sounds like they're singing, "I'm a horny ninja."

Supposedly, the song is actually "I'm a Hoodie Ninja", but, c'mon: tell me this isn't actually saying "horny".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why I Hate "The Hartford" Insurance Companies

So, on Saturday, May 28th, my SUV was backed into by a driver insured through The Hartford's Small Business auto insurance group. We exchanged information and went about our respective ways. I contacted my insurer to aprise them of the situation. They recommended I contact the other preson's insurer (The Hartford) and file a claim directly with them.

The Hartford, being a customer-service oriented company, doesn't really make themselves available for people to file claims. They only have agents available to open and process claims from 08:00-17:00 Eastern time during the regular business week. So, if you have a day job, you're stuck trying to call them during business hours. If you're like me, this is made difficult by not having predictable access to phones during those hours.

At any rate, the following Tuesday (5/31), I opted to go into work an hour late so that I could call the ass-hats at The Hartford. A little after 08:00, I called in and opened a claim. I was told that an adjuster would contact me within two business days. I informed them that I had limited phone-access, but they assured me that I would be contacted and that, if I wasn't reachable, they'd leave a message. Well, it's now 18 days later and I've yet to hear from an adjuster and there have been no voicemails left at any of my phone numbers. 

I guess I'm a bit spoiled by my insurance company. My insurance company allows one to file and track claims 24/7. Their only real hours limitation is that of individual claims adjusters. While their adjusters' hours are limited by comparison to the overall claims service process, their adjusters are very prompt about returning phone calls or contacting you via alternate means (such as email). Dealing with my insurance company shows how craptacular the service of companies, such as The Hartford's, is.

Interestingly, I opted to call the actual policy holder, Rick's Carpet and Flooring. I spoke with a nice gentleman (Rob, I believe) who told me that The Hartford had told them that they'd already taken care of the issue. I found this rather odd, considering that my vehicle was still not repaired and I had yet to be contacted by a claim's adjuster. Rick's is supposed to call me back, Monday, after they've had a chance to re-engage the Hartford and find out what the heck is up. They're a small, local, family-owned business, so, the solicitousness of their response was about on par with what I expected.

So, it should be interesting to see how this all works out. I may have to delay the start of one of my work days, next week, to try to track down an adjuster from The Hartford. The damage was only slight, but, at this point, it's more one of those "the principal of the thing" exercises.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not How to Start The Weekend

This evening, as I drove home from work, I was thinking to myself, this looks like it could be a great weekend. I'd figured out that the reason why two weeks of my life had been spent troubleshooting a poorly performing system at work was because the standard Linux build didn't include PAE support. Thus, the 16GB-requiring application running on a 32GB system was thrashing the hell out of the host. I'd been able to get the requisite RPMs and shove them through our security process and get the boxes fixed before leaving for the day. All in all, not a bad way to end the week and start the weekend.

I drove home, with the top down, enjoying the beautiful, sunny weather (at least, that's what it was like at 17:00). First indications that my Friday - and possibly the remainder of the weekend - was about to go sideways was that, when I got home, the top to my car wouldn't go back up. So, I popped the rear seat cushion out and used the little allen-wrench thing to reset the top's safety lock. I hit the button and the top returned to the full, upright and closed position. So, no real problem, just a hassle.

Donna had come out to see why I was taking so long to come in. She suggested we pack up the pups and go down to the nearby dog-park. I was a touch leary, since Lady's only been to dog parks two times previous, and both of those with our dog-trainer present. She did pretty well, until a surly scotty dog decided to fuck with her. She didn't go nuts, or anything, but Lady definitely has an unnerving "back the fuck off" snarly-bark. No furball ensued, but, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and we left after a little less than half an hour at the park. One of the downsides of bully-ownership is that, no matter which dog starts it, the bully is seen to be at fault. C`est la vie.

Since we needed more milk and miscellaneous provisions, and it was nearby, we stopped in at Whole Foods. I stayed in the car with the steam engine-sounding, panting dogs while Donna ran in to shop. As I was sitting in the SUV, the thunder clouds started rolling in and the wind was kicking up. By the time Donna came back, the rain was beggining to come down.

We made our way home ...Duke Street to Telegraph Road, then onto Farmington. As usual, car after car was speeding through our neighborhood, using it as the shortcut between Telegraph Road and North Kings Highway. I turned onto Edgehill, on the home stretch to our house. Per usual, the oncoming cars were turning right off of Fort Drive and swinging wide into the oncoming lane - the one we were in. I was well on my side of the center-line of the street. As we were approaching the intersection, I saw a white Chevy utility-van roll the stop-sign and pull wide into our lane. I slowed to a near stop to try to allow him additional buffer to get himself back into our lane. He made no effort to cross back onto his side of the center-line. I sat there helplessly, a matter of seconds stretching into what felt like hours, as he smacked into my left front wheel and scraped the whole way down the side of my SUV. As he scraped by, I watched the mirro fold in and saw pieces of plastic popping off the SUV. I still don't know how the mirror did't get ripped off, given that he hit us hard enough to bend the wheel at the axel-mount and render the SUV undrivable. At least the airbags didn't deploy and the pups stayed well-fastend in their doggy seatbelts (yes, they actually make those - thankfully).

Now, this is the second time, in just about as many weeks, that the SUV has been hit by white utility-vans operated by careless drivers. The first time was two Saturday's ago at the 7Eleven near our house. The fuckwit driving it, a worker for Rick's Carpet & Flooring, had backed into us just as I was reaching for the drivers' door-handle. We'd stopped in on the way to the Saturday farmer's market in Falls Church (they carry Mtn. Dew Throw-back, so, it's a must to stop there). For some reason, he was unable to back out of his parking space without hitting us. It was mostly cosmetic damage, so, when his insurance company failed to return my call after I filed the initial claim, it hadn't been a huge priority to find out where the fuck their adjuster was.

Today's incident was a bit more severe. After waiting nearly an hour and a half for a Fairfax County Police officer to show up, we were able to start the requisite paperwork. In fairness, a hellish storm had just torn through and caused all sorts of havoc on Richmond Highway between the Mt. Vernon police-station and our house - it was just such a departure from the norm where it's usually less than 10 minutes from the time you start your call with the dispatcher till the time they're at your door to find out what's up. The guy was contrite and admitted full fault (and, even if he hadn't, the guy living three houses down from the accident had been working in his front yard and stated he was willing to sign as a witness to the accident). The cop gave him two citations: one for the accident and one for driving an unsafe vehicle (it's citeable, in VA, to drive a vehicle with tires so bald you can see the chording). Unfortunately, while the guy claims he has insurance through Liberty Mutual, he wasn't able to provide proof of such insurance at the scene. In VA, unlike DC, it's not a citeable offense to not be able to provide proof of insurance at the scene of an accident. The officer instructed him to contact me with his insurance info so I could file a claim. The guy claimed he would do so as soon as he got home. Unfortunately, we're now four hours post-accident and two-hours post-citing, and there's been no such phone call. Given that the guy was "self-employed", didn't have the insurance paperwork and was driving a citably unsafe work vehicle, I've the sinking suspicion that this is going to have to be run against my insurance. Thank god I've got USAA.

For now, we're kinda boned. It's not even Saturday and we're kind of limited in what we can do. No dog parks, this weekend. Won't be able to run errands and pick anything up. And, I've got the prospect of dealing with insurance companies and trying to sort out a suitable rental vehicle come Monday. What's more, if the guy does fail to provide insurance or whatever, I'll probably be having to go to court in July when Fairfax brings their case against him. Fmeh.

On the plus side, no one was hurt and we do have good insurance. It's just annyoingly inconvenient.

And, in case you ever are involved in a vehicular incident with Donna's not a pleasant experience. Even with her sole level of involvement being as a passenger - in both cases - she goes completely fucking bonkers on the other drivers. I really worry that if she doesn't start to keep her shit under control, it's going to lead to an unfortunate incident that I really don't want to have to deal with. Talk about need for "anger management" classes... Oy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Disheartening Realization

When Puckett died, after being my pet for slightly less than seven full years, I'd hoped that the rescue we'd gotten him from had been wrong on their age estimate. When we'd brought him home, June of 2004, they'd estimated his age at about 1½ years of age. That would have made him less than nine when he died. As awesome as he was, I didn't want to think that he could have been that young. Knowing that we were the second family to adopt him (he lost his first rescue home when the couple that had adopted him got divorced), I'd sort of assumed that they must have meant he was 1½ years-old when they adopted him. This would have hopefully meant he was at least two years old, possibly over three years old when he came into our home. This would have meant he was nine or ten when we put him down at the beginning of April. Either age would still have been to young, too short a life for such a great dog, but, still: better than nine.

Recently, we adopted a new dog. It had taken about two months to find a dog that both said, "hey, you really want to take me home" and was cat compatible. The only other dog that said "take me home" pretty much failed pre-adoption cat testing. Ultimately, we found an AmBull/Pitbull-mix that both said "take me home" and gets along with cats. This is her:

A Pet ConFab

She and Grumbles frequently share my couch with each other. Basically, if I'm home, they're both on my couch with me

The other thing you might notice, if you've read prior posts on her predecessor, is that the sorta resembles Puckett. That was an accident, more than anything. I wasn't looking for a Puckett-clone. And, personality-wise, while both are/were very happy dogs, they are more different than just their gender and breed-mixes. I don't have any temptation to call out "Puckett" when I really mean her (closest I came to that was a reflex response to Donna screaming at me, "call your dog!" when she was being under-foot in the kitchen: my programmed response, after years of such entreaties was, "PUCKETT!").

When we adopted her, the rescue had her name listed as "Miss Lady". In reality, she didn't really know she had a name. However, she's very much not a lady, so, I kept the "Lady" part of the name mostly for its irony-value. She's just in recent days started responding to it as though she understands "oh, when they say 'Lady' they mean me." She's only ten months old and is still very much a puppy in her actions and outlook on the world. Seeing this puppyishness and remebering back to when we got Puckett, it becomes evident that Puckett died on the wrong side of nine years old.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not a (Completely) Cold Fish

First, let me start out by saying that, if no one has yet coined the term "emotional initiative", I hereby stake my claim to its creation. What I mean by "emotional initiative" is the normal capacity to spontaneously react with appropriate emotional response for a given stimulus. In other words, the ability to viscerally feel the normal spectrum of emotions. Why this comes up is, lately, I think I've come to the realization that I generally lack this capability. It feels like most of my emotional existence lies on the bluer end of the emotional spectrum. But, mostly, I lack the ability to feel anything, or at least, it feels like I don't react with the same types or degree of emotions I seem to observe expressed by other people. I'm kind of dead inside.

What most brought this lack to light was the recent passing of my dog, Puckett. I've had pets "all my life". I've had dogs. I've had cats. I've had rabbits. While the passing of each saddened me, the loss of Puckett has been the one pet-death that has really hit me hard. He's the first pet I've actually missed. I've never really missed pets (hell, I don't really know that I miss people to any normal, non-detached degree). I think I've discovered why that is.

If you had to take the emotional state of "happiness" and put it into a tangible, physical form, that form would have been Puckett. There are plenty of dogs who are pretty up-beat, but Puckett seemed to just always be that way. I mean, the damned dog wagged his tail in his sleep! Even if you couldn't see him, you knew he was around just by the insistent thump of his tail wagging into his cage, a door frame, a door, a wall or whatever happened to be within tail-reach. He always had a kind of insistence with his happiness. As obnoxious as that may sound, somehow, with him, it wasn't. If it was anything, it was infectious. I don't know anyone that spent any amount of time with him that would disagree That's a huge part of why it has always boggled my mind that he was given up not just once, but twice. I still don't understand how it was I was lucky enough to have come upon him and I don't know how two sets of owners could have been stupid enough to let him go.

When we got the cancer diagnosis, it filled me with a sense of dread beyond simply knowing I'd too soon be without him. I knew that a big part of my happiness would be gone. It's that whole not seeming to have much of a capability to initiate the feelings of happiness or joy within myself. Things that tend to make most people happy sort of just roll off me like water off a duck's back. I'm able to acknowledge that good things have happened. I'm even able to sort of appreciate them. But, such things have, at best, a transient feeling to them - for better or worse, most things feel that way. Having Puckett around, I often felt like I was actually able to experience those kinds of feelings through him. He was the kind of dog you could just look at and it would lighten your spirits. And now, that's gone. All that's left is my "normal", dead self.

We've been trying for coming up on two months, now, to try to find a pup to fill some of the huge hole he's left. What should be a fun experience, getting to "interview" lots of dogs, has been a soul-crushing experience. Each time, I go out, hoping to find that connection. For the most part, I haven't. Yeah, the first part of the visits are often uplifting, but then there's the hangover from it - the emotional letdown of going home, empty-handed. Sometimes, it's even worse.

A couple weekends ago, I met Mook. He was a nifty Boxer/American Pitbull mix. Something about the way we interacted said to me, "you need to take me home." He was too big. He was an energetic handful. But, in spite of that, there was still that, "you need to take me home" feeling to him. Unfortunately, he fairly badly failed cat-testing. Give we've got two cats, we have to have a dog that gets along with cats. So, I had to take a pass on him.

This weekend, we met two dogs, Micah and Miss Lady. Each had qulities to recommend them.

Our current dog, Cira, seemed to love the time we spent at the dog park with Micah. Yeah, she was having fun playing with all the dogs, but she did seem to be gravitating towards him, in particular. I got the feeling that, were we to bring him home, they'd be the doggy version of "best buds for life." Unfortunately, I didn't feel much of a "you need to take me home" feeling from him. I don't know whether this was just because he was surrounded by and distracted from playing with a pack of other dogs or just that there wasn't really a connection to be made (I'm firmly of the school that dogs claim their owners at least as much as we claim them). I just don't know. I'm thinking that, before I can say, "we need to bring this guy home," we need to try to get a meeting under circumstances that are likely to foster a connection. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how best to go about that. Worse, because of prior disappointments, I'm afraid to try to make a connection in case he fails the cat test.

After meeting with Micah, we had to take Cira home to bathe her. She'd gotten quite dirt and slobber covered from the 40+ minutes of running around in the Clarendon dog park. This cost us the opportunity to meet another boy - at least for this weekend - but still left us with time to go meet Miss Lady. Like Micah, Miss Lady is a gorgeous-looking dog. Where Micah was a gorgeous red-brindled and sleek bully, Miss Lady is a too-skinny ball of energy recently rescued from a high-kill shelter. She has arresting white/blue eyes and a friendly demeanor that says, "you want to take me home." Or, at least, I think it does.

Her eyes and her manner are evocative of Puckett. I'm hoping it's mostly her manner and not just the color and quality of her eyes.

At any rate, meeting her did make me feel something. I should probably sort out the source if I'm to do the decision justice. Yesterday, her interaction with Cira was very poor. So, I'd thought I'd been rescued from having to sort out whether the source of that feeling was genuine or not. Today, however, when we went to a dog adoption event in Columbia, to meet a different dog, Miss Lady was there. And, today, she and Cira got along very much differently than their first encounter suggested they ever might. There wasn't anything in the way of raised hackles. There wasn't any growling, snarling, barking or baring of teeth. There also wasn't any of the "I don't like you so I'm going to go over here and do my best to ignore you" posturing we'd seen the day before. In fact, they just generally seemed a lot more interested in each other and able to get along. At one point, I was giving dog-treats to each and Miss Lady thought she'd try to intercept one that I was giving to Cira. Cira calmly asserted herself and no growling (etc.) was evidenced from either dog. More of an "it's my turn" from Cira and an, "ok, we have to take turns" from Miss Lady. So, now I'm torn, again.

Worse, I'm a touch beaten. Part of me really wants this dog. Part of me is really afraid that the universe is teasing me, again. And, a third part of me is thinking, "you're really overthinking all of this." Probably, I am. I don't know that most people go through this when looking for dogs. Most people are more impulsive in their decisions. Most people are easier to let themselves go. Or, at least it seems that way. I just don't really know. All I know is that it's really draining. All I really know is that feeling tends to be really draining. Perhaps that's why I tend not to do it, much?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is There a Doggy eHarmony?

Seems that the recent spate of bad dog-luck is extending into our search for a replacement for Puckett. Winston's rescue organization non-sense and Snoop's cat-test failure both sucked, but they'd mostly appealed to Donna rather than me.

Recently, we'd found Mook. When we first visited, my initial thoughts were "this guy's too big" and "Donna would never be able to control him." So, I'd sorta written him off almost immediately. Unfortunately (not under normal circumstances, but in this case, sort of "yes"), the rescue-coordinator that was seeing after him was the same one that we got Cira from after Lana died. She had pictures of Cira as a puppy and her siblings that she wanted to show to us. So, while she and Donna looked through her computer for the pictures, I was left to commune with Mook. Unfortunately, that was long enough to let me see something in him I liked that I hadn't seen in the others.

After we left, and we walked into Snoop's cat-test failure, I found myself less than disappointed that Snoop had failed. Snoop was a nice enough dog, but, he hadn't stirred anything in me like Mook had. So, it left me with a reason to contact Mook's rescue-coordinator and ask "can you please cat-test him". She was happy to do so. 

That request was made Sunday evening. I've been waiting, cautiously hopeful, since then. Today, the result of that test came in:

We did the cat test.  I picked up Mook and took him to Kitty City.  [The Evaluator] was there and performed the test.

[Evaulator's] Write-Up:
Mook is too interested in cats for me to feel safe about suggesting him for a home with cats. He viewed a cat thru a wire door and barked intently and loudly. He did re-direct easily for a treat somewhat easily and focused on me when I asked him to sit. This was positive. When I put down a circular, plastic cat toy with a fake mouse in it this REALLY seemed to interest him, so much that he bloodied his mouth playing with it trying to get the mouse. He became VERY fixated on this toy and the fake mouse.

I suspect strongly that a cat that moved quickly at all would catch his interest and he would give chase. I think that he has a strong chance of hurting a cat (perhaps unintentionally) by chasing/catching. If a cat hissed or scratched back he may go after it and hurt it. He may retreat but from what I saw with regards to his interest in the cat via barking and VERY strong interest in the small fake mouse, I suspect he has a decent sized prey drive.


My current dog, Jack, and my deceased dog, Dylan, are/were also very interested in cats and at times acted similar to Mook.  They were around a cat at my parents, but they never hurt one.  I agree with [The Evaluator's] description of the events that took place, but I am not sure I would rule him out of your home - because of your past relationship with AFH.  We know you care for your animals and would not risk anyone getting hurt.  Mook's website postings will be updated to no cats for other adopters.

Should you decide to try Mook, you will need to make a lifestyle change (keeping the cats and dog separate, etc) indefinitely to keep the cats safe.  This type of change is certainly not something everyone wants to do.  And, you can't risk not knowing where the animals are and forgetting to shut a door or gate to keep the cats separated from Mook.

When Mook first arrived, he did not play well with other dogs and was a complete pain-in-the-ass with his jumping/humping, so I see hope for him, but hurting a cat is not something anyone wants and it would make sense if you decided he is not the dog for your family.  If the prey drive is there, the training won't change the behavior and things may not still work out in the long run.

Please let me know your thoughts.

My thoughts? Ugh... My thoughts were split. The emotional part of me that Mook had grown on while Donna and his coordinator looked for pictures made me want to risk it. For better or worse, I have a strong "executive function" to my thinking processes. For as impulsive as Donna tends to be, I tend to be deliberative. So, even though I wanted to take the risk, my rational side said, "no, not a good idea." So, with a heavy heart, I wrote back to Mook's coordinator:

Dunno if you remember our house. We live in a two-story duplex with a semi-finished basement. The bedrooms are on one floor, Donna's work-space is in the basement and the main floor is where day-to-day living takes place. I'm not sure how we'd be able to partition the house such that we could ensure no bad "accidents". It wouldn't be fair to either Mook or the cats, even if we could partition, as it would mean keeping one or the other mostly segregated from the human occupants of the house. For me, that would probably only be marginally better than kenneling. While it might be ok for a short-term fostering situation, I wouldn't want to make it a permanent thing for a dog that likely has the best part of a decade left on his clock and cats that have the best part of half a decade left on their clocks.

Ugh. Seems our dog-luck, with the exception of finding Cira, is at a low, lately. Who knows, maybe with the luck-run we'd had in finding Lana, then Puckett, then Cira - all with next to nothing in the way of compatibility issues - we ran through our fair allotment of dog-luck and need to "recharge" it.

I'm feeling like I need to find the canine equivalent of Match.Com. =)

The part of me that he grew on while you and Donna looked at Cira's picture, make me want to take the risk. However in good conscience (i.e., my internal "voice of reason"), I don't think I can. I don't want to put him through the disruption of trying to integrate him here and then, if that fails, having to put him through the disruption of putting him back into fostering.

Have you any suggestions on how we get our luck back (since there is no dog version of Match.Com)? I mean, the run of three (Lana/Puckett/Cira) made it seem like it wasn't unreasonable to expect to find a bull-type that would work and that "spoke" to us. Just been a lot of disappointment, post-Puckett.

It sucks. Mook is a really awesome dog with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, right now, Mook isn't a dog I can take the risk on. When I adopt a dog, I want to pretty much know that we'll be his furever home.

So, I guess the question stands: is there a Match.Com for dog rescues. If there isn't there damned well should be. I think I read, recently, that something like 1-in-600 dogs that ends up in shelters/rescues/etc. ever get placed. Between basic compatibility issues (such as getting along with incumbent pets), the whole "is this my dog/am I this dog's human" question and finding rescue organizations that are worth working with (I've found several good ones and, unfortunately, a couple really unpleasant ones, over the years), trying to do the right thing and going the rescue route is hard. The experience makes me really understand why it is that people, looking for a dog, don't go the rescue route. Finding a puppy is just easier, and most people are all about "easy".

Right now, I just feel soul-punched. I miss Puckett. It feels like "my dog is dead" in a much more significant way than just the fact of Puckett's passing. It feels like there's not a light at the end of the tunnel. It's particularly weird given that, in my life, I've seen five dogs to their end. This is the first time I've felt like this is my end with dogs. Half the time, I feel like the dogs we're looking at are more for Donna's benefit than mine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Just Don't Get It (The Dog Rescue Organization Edition)

There's a lot of things out there that I just don't "get". So, undoubtedly, I have or will continue to post "I Don't Get It" posts. This post is prompted by the complete and utter dismay, hurt, confusion and fury caused by our attempts to wade back into the doggy-adoption pool.

Back in 2003, when Donna and I were in the first year of our marriage, we'd decided we wanted to add a furry member to our family. We knew that we liked boxers, bulldogs and similar dog breeds. We had a shelter near our house - the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria's Viola Lawson dog shelter. Unfortunately, at the time, they didn't have any dogs that both spoke to us and didn't trigger Donna's (mild) dog allergies. So, we expanded our searches.

Initially, we tried to see if any of the breed-specific specialty rescue groups had any dogs we were interested in. Our first stab at this process was the local Boxer Rescue group. We got in contact with them and ended up selecting a pup named AnnaBelle:


As you can see, she was a lightly-brindled, Bogey-faced boxer with un-altered ears or tail. She was very sweet. Unfortunately, she was overly excited by the presence of our cats. We were willing to work with her to help her adjust. However, the woman who was fostering her decided that we were an unfit household. Apparently, our yard and our house weren't big enough and we didn't have enough time for her. Now, I might have been able to take this at face value had I not seen the house where she was being fostered (I'd gone there to do the initial paperwork). This woman lived in a townhouse not even half the size of ours and it had no yard. Factor in that this woman already had another boxer (or two - can't remember, clearly, at this point) and had a day-job of her own, and all I could think was, "are you fucking crazy?? How is her fostering situation even remotely better than what we were looking to offer that we could be considered unfit for the reasons given?" So, I kind of decided, "lesson learned: don't go to breed-specific rescues. The people that involved with them are well-meaning but a little too into their charges to see the big picture."

That lesson learned, I decided to do a more generalized search. We tried again with the Lawson shelter, but they still had no pups that we liked and didn't trigger Donna's allergies. So, I hit up Google. By way of Google, I found PetFinder.Com. I put in the search string "boxer" and our ZIPcode. Bunches of results came back. There were few fully boxer dogs in the results that weren't in breed-specific rescues. Since I'd already decided to avoid breed-specific rescues, they were straight-out for consideration.

However, I did find a sweet-looking American Bulldog/Boxer mix named Lana that was in the care of "A Forever Home" dog rescue.


Her PetFinder profile said she was sweet-natured, low-key and good with cats and young children (at the time, we were still hoping to have human children). So, we contacted A Forever Home to find out when/where we could meet her. They were having an adoption event at the PetCo in Chantilly, VA in just a few days. So, we put in an application and marked our calender to go meet her. We got there before she did, so we waited. Eventually, they brought her in and I think we fell in love almost immediately. We made arrangements for home inspection and a home visit. In just a couple weeks, Lana was ours and our family was starting to feel complete.

By the next summer, we were feeling the urge to get a playmate for Lana. Things hadn's been going well on the baby front. We'd not yet given up, but we still felt the need for another dog. So, same lessons from the past in mind, we started searching again. We tried A Forever Home, first, before hitting up PetFinder, but they didn't have any pups whose pictures spoke to us (no bullies of any sort at the time). I still don't remember what my search term was this time, but it turned up Puckett:


The above isn't really a bad picture of him.Puckett just was not a classically good looking dog. He was 100% personality. Fortunately, the Picture that his rescue organization (Friends of Homeless Animals) had placed on his profile page captured that personality (I've done a lot of perusing of PetFinder, in recent months, and I've yet to find a picture of a dog that really makes the dog speak to me in quite the same way). So, we called their phone number and made arrangements to visit and to bring Lana along for an introduction.

FoHA is out in the boonies of (barely) Northern Virginia. So, it was a little less than an hour's drive from our house to their compound. It was a beautiful, late-spring day that day. We hopped out of the Saturn and uncarted Lana and tracked down the woman we'd spoken to prior to our trip. She let us into the play/introduction yard and went to fetch-up Puckett. Lana had scurried off to explore  the play yard. Eventually, the staffer showed up with Puckett and brought him into the yard. Puckett introduced himself by rushing headlong at Lana and attempting to bowl her over. He kind of bounced off and the two of them began running around the yard, playing with each other. Things looked good, so we arranged the home inspection and visit.

Later that week, a volunteer came out to bring Puckett for a visit. We needed to ensure he wouldn't try to eat the cats and FoHA needed to make sure our home was adequate for his needs. The visit went well, and by the following Sunday, they brought him back and we signed paperwork on our new boy. So, by June 21st, we were a two-dog househould.

We went along as a two-dog household until December of this past year. Then, we were, briefly, a one-dog household, again. Fortunately, we were able to find a new pup through A Forever Home, again.


Things were right with the world: we were a two-dog household again. Then, Puckett got sick and, all-too-quickly, we were, yet again, a one-dog household. All in the space of about five months, two dogs, gone, and a hole left in our lives, again.

So, I started the search, again. I tried with both FoHA and A Forever Home. Neither seems to have as many bullies, any more, as they did when we got Lana and Puckett. I can only assume that, with things like the Michael Vick nonsense (and the resultant awareness that seemed to spawn TV shows like The Pit Boss and Pitbulls and Parolees) that there's an up-surge in interest in rescuing bullies. This is good for an unjustly-maligned group of breeds, but not so good when you're the one looking to fill a hole in your home. Worse, it seems like the ones that are available for rescue are getting snapped up by breed-specific rescues.

And, that's where we found ourselves: stuck with having to contact breed-specific rescues. I'd learned my lesson once, before, and had avoided them. Unfortunately, it seems that I no longer had the choice on dealing with them. Unfortunately, it seems that what caused my prior lesson to be learned hasn't really changed. Worse, it seems like, with the influx of new "rescuers" the "blinded by good intentions" effect is even worse.

Yesterday, we had a second home visit with this guy:


Yeah. He has a resemblence to Puckett. It was accidental. The first pictures we'd seen of him, he looked only like a white dog with mismatched eyes and batty ears. Wasn't until they sent us more pix that the resemblence became more acute (and, I overheard our neighbors comment to that effect during his first visit).

Everything had seemed to go well. The woman who ran the rescue was present and agreed that he wasn't cat-aggressive, just very curious. She offered us the option of keeping him a few weeks to see how things went. She said she'd just need to set us up with a "foster-to-adopt" contract. Unfortunately, she hadn't had the contracts with her. So, she'd need to arrange to come back the next day (today) with the requisite contracts.

In retrospect, this seemed kind of fishy. I mean, what kind of well-run rescue organization doesn't bring the paperwork with them for an adoption visit? When I offered to let her use my computer to download and print any forms she needed, she balked, claiming that she didn't have her login information to get the forms. So, she and the woman who was actually fostering the dog packed up and left indicating they'd bring him and the paperwork by at around 13:00.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I was excited by the prospect of the new dog. I didn't get to sleep until after 4AM, this morning. Thus, I ended up sleeping in later than I usually do. I came downstairs to take care of my morning medicine and finish readying the house for the new arrival (we'd gone out the night before, after they'd left, and picked up toys a second pet gate to assist with the transition process). I then logged into my computer to read the morning email.

I was really only expecting to see the usual FaceBook notification and miscellaneous spam. Instead, I found a fucking bomb in my inbox:

Good morning Tom,

[The foster] and I have intensively talked about Winston and we both feel that he is going to be "too much dog" for your household. He is still all puppy and needs intensive training and exercise, more than other puppies his age because he is so outgoing and interested in everything. You are working fulltime and Donna seems very busy with her household plus he will need to get desensitized with the cats which will take much effort and patience to do so. Sarah [sic.], your dog is absolutely adorable and we think a little more laid back older male who gets along with cats would be a much better fit for you.

I have asked [the foster] to not bring Winston over today. After all we need to make sure that everybody, dog and human, are happy at the end. Let me know how you feel about it. I would be happy to talk to you about it on the phone if you wish. Thanks, and I am looking forward to your reply.

Each time I read this email, I get more furious. I play back in my mind what could have caused this and can't really find anything. I mean, for fuck's sake: the foster for the dog has a day job. This dog sits in a cage, during the day, while she and her husband are at work. At our house, Donna is home all day and would be able to oversee the transition. We already have a trainer (we've used previously for Cira) who is a pitbull specialist (he has three of his own) to help us with training and adjustment. We have one bully and had two previously. Our pets are well fed, receive lots of attention and get regular medical care. The foster, at the prior visit, had been all too happy with the situation, as had the person that did the home inspection and the person who did our background check.

Judging by how the foster reacted to the rescue organizer's weird conduct towards the end of yesterday's meeting, it seems unlikely that the foster had any part in the decision. I can only assume that something she wasn't willing to discuss changed the rescue organizer's mind. Worse, rather than saying, "I can't place this dog here, we need to find a better fit," it seemed like she chose the ruse to disengage. So, right now, I'm feeling hurt, confused and lied to. It actually feels worse than our first foray into rescues.

Dear rescue organizers: one in 600 homeless dogs ever finds a home. It's great that you care about the dogs you've accepted into your charge, but your level of "caring" blinds you to the ability to place dogs in good homes. Worse, because you're holding onto these dogs for some kind of "perfect" home, you can't accept new dogs. It's your conduct that means that more dogs die than have to. You are the embodiement of "the road to hell being paved with good intentions."

Granted, this isn't true of all rescue organizations. Like I say, we've had good experiences with two places, now. For those two organizations, I feel eternally grateful. Now, though, I'm just really gun-shy about breed-specific organizations. So, I dunno if/when I'm likely to find a pup to fill this hole, because it seems like these groups have cornered the market on the kinds of pups we like.