Sunday, August 21, 2005

He's gonna be famous... Posted by Picasa

Another small knitting breakthrough

Woo hoo -- I can do cables! It turns out that they're even easy. I need some practice reading graphs before I can decode them easily, but I can follow verbal directions perfectly fine.

Last night I took a brief break from knitting felted tote bags for the Beardie Rescue Parade and thought I'd try working on a cabled scarf in Kureyon color #134. That yarn has been calling my name from deep within the stash pile for a long time now, and finally I succumbed to its siren song and picked the thing up. The pattern comes from Noro, The World of Nature #15 and is fairly simple: two sections of 4x4 ribbing with two 6-stitch cables in the middle.

With some practice, I'd like to tackle a couple of the cabled sweaters in that book. There are some gorgeous designs in it, and the Noro yarns make them all the more spectacular.

Progress on the Musical Front

Greg has spent most of his time this week finishing up the orchestration for his Water suite. He hopes to get it off to the conductor within the next few days. Last night, he decided to add a tuba to the mix, and the resulting change in orchestral coloring is breathtaking. It's amazing how that one line just adds so much depth and dimension to the piece. He already had scored bass trombone and contrabassoon, but this latest addition created the perfect mix in the bass line, like just the right amount of pepper in a sauce.

On Thursday night, we attended the opening concert of this year's Portland Chamber Music Festival. We primarily went up to see Elliott Schwartz (a friend of Greg's from way back) and to hear his work "Tapestry," but they also performed a pleasant little throwaway piece of Rossini's and Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence." The program notes and newspaper critics tend to dump mercilessly on "Souvenir," but it isn't the horrible work everyone says it is. The instrumentation is unusual (two violins, two violas, two cellos), and the individual parts don't all tend to stand out at every moment during the piece, but it was very well played and a ball to listen to. Granted, Tchaikovsky himself never really cared for the piece, but the poor man was critical of much of his own music, and he hated The Nutcracker.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Seamus and I are repeating the Advanced Basic Obedience class, and I'm glad I decided to go back. There are only 4 or 5 dog/handler teams in the class, so we get plenty of time to repeat individual exercises. Seamus's down-stays, always the weakest part of his obedience repertoire, are getting much better. I don't know whether we'll manage the 30-minute down-stays we've been given for "homework," but we can make 10 minutes without too many problems.

When he's not busy making me proud in obedience, Seamus has been discovering buried treasure in the toy box. Before he lost his hearing, Doogie used to love toys that made noise. He has toys that squeaked, toys that played tunes, toys that sounded like animals or objects... you name it. Doogie would take one of those toys and squeak it over and over and over and over until Charlie got tired of the sound and killed the squeaker. My favorite of those toys was the yellow submarine (which, sadly, didn't play the Beatles song), but Doogie also had croaking frogs, mooing cows, an ambulance with siren, a school bus with honking horn and screaming kids, and a green alien that sounded a little like the Theremin part in "Good Vibrations."

Lately, a couple of the toys Seamus has unearthed have come back to life (mostly). The musical duck plays a tremendously silly little melody while a duck quacks along, and the tune just gets inside your head and refuses to leave. (No wonder Charlie silenced it the first time.) When Seamus found the duck and pulled it out of the toy box, it started to play the tune (though at a much reduced volume, thanks to Charlie's adjustments). The expression on Seamus's face was too funny for words: "What is this thing DOING?!". Since then, he has found the squeaky tugboat with its "boat whistle," and has been squeaking that around the house as well. Charlie probably wants to kill the squeakers all over again.

Seamus's CKC papers finally came through, after his breeder called the CKC offices to ask what the holdup was. There's only one hitch: they printed Greg's last name as Hill. We have to return the certificate to CKC with a note from us, a letter from the breeder certifying that she was the one who goofed on the spelling, and a surprisingly large amount of money ($29 Canadian) just to fix a stinkin' typo. If we're lucky, we might get the new certificate back by Christmastime. We only waited four months for the misspelled one.

Technorati tags for this post:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We woke up yesterday morning to see this floating over the neighbors' yard... Posted by Picasa

Seamus adds his celebrity image to the sweater... Posted by Picasa

Here's the back of the sweater. I'm still pleased with the symmetry of the colors on the hood, even though they're supposed to look that way. Posted by Picasa

The front of the Fletcher sweater, showing the nice antler buttons from The Button Shoppe. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tails of Adventure and Other Shaggy Dog Stories

Tucker's mom Dale and I spent our Saturday on the roads of Vermont for a good cause yesterday. We delivered a needy dog named Max (who would soon have been the product of a broken home, as his owners are splitting up) and delivered him to a wonderful rescue. Fueled by Green Mountain coffee and Val's fabulous homemade chocolate chip cookies, we had plenty of chance to knit, laugh, gossip, and admire the scenery on the way.

Poor Max just hasn't had the good life he deserves. He's had two homes in his short time on this earth (he's about 3-4 years old), and he was rescued from a life of being tied to a chicken coop so he could spend his life tied to a basement bulkhead instead. He was never allowed inside the house or trained to much of an extent, so we weren't sure what to expect. Would he be a wild thing? Would he ask us to pull over if he needed a biology break, or would the upholstery suffer?

Max turned out to be a fabulous, sweet, mellow, loving dog who couldn't get enough of being touched and petted and cooed at. He spent much of the trip to Williston on his back in the back seat of Dale's car, luxuriating in belly rubs and sweet talk for perhaps the first time in his life. He was an astonishingly calm dog who rested his big blocky head on my shoulder as I drove.

We first delivered Max to a vet's office in Williston, where we would meet the director of the rescue who took him in. The vet examined him, gave him the necessary shots and took blood samples for heartworm and Lyme, and pronounced him basically healthy, if a bit dirty and stinky from a recent encounter with a skunk. Max hadn't seen the vet too often in his life, but he behaved himself wonderfully, gently kissing the vet tech as she held him and patiently enduring all the probing and pinpricks and nail clipping.

Next, we brought Max over to the rescue director's business (a pet supply store and grooming shop). The groomer at the shop gave him what might have been the first real bath he's ever had. As the brown water ran off his back, I saw him half-close his eyes and smile. If he could have, he'd have said, "Aaaahhhhh." The groomer planned to keep Max overnight at her place before delivering him to the kennel where he would wait for his foster home, and we suspect that she and Max spent the evening watching movies on the couch and sharing a bowl of popcorn with extra butter.

After Dale filled out Max's paperwork for the rescue and I gathered the dog bed, toys, and treats that Val had bought for him, we said our goodbyes and headed southward. We stopped for lunch on the way, and toasted Max and his new life. Things are finally looking up for that poor dog, and he deserves it.

Dogs are basically optimists by nature; no matter what's happening to them at the moment, they always hope for something better. Max had every reason to give up on humanity, and it never once entered his mind. Throughout our trip, Max just kept looking forward to the next adventure, and the next. We think that he'll make someone a fabulous best buddy, and we hope that he and his new family will have wonderful adventures together for the rest of his days.

We're Baaa-aaack!

Because Novice classes won't start until September sometime, Seamus and I have decided to repeat Advanced Basic obedience class in the same place at the same time. Tucker's in the class, and the other four students are also "repeaters" from previous classes. It will be nice for us to get in some extra structured practice while we wait for September.

Just When You Thought It Was Time to Give Up...

After my friend Gill had emailed me to let me know that there would be no litter of puppies this June, I filed the idea of a puppy into the "Maybe Next Year" folder in my mind, and stopped thinking about puppies for this year. In a way, it was a good thing that the idea hadn't come to pass: I could focus more time on working with Seamus, and on enjoying a household with two healthy, young, already-trained adult dogs for a while.

This past week, Gill emailed me to tell me that her brown girl Willow might possibly be in whelp, and that the puppies would make their entrance into this world around the 27th of the month. This completely bowled me over with surprise and delight, since Willow is possibly my favorite of all of Gill's beautiful, sweet-natured Beardies. This is a repeat breeding; Willow and her handsome blue dream date Badger had a litter a year and a half ago, and all of the puppies were stunning. If this comes to pass, I might end up spending Hallowe'en in Wales this year.

All This and Knitting Too

I've managed to get quite a bit of knitting done of late (for me), between listening to the audio version of the latest Harry Potter book and road-tripping through Vermont. With that much knitting time, I've managed to complete one tote bag in Lamb's Pride Bulky (color Blue Magic) for felting, and the second one is about three rows shy of the final castoff. My ultimate plan is to get a small bunch of them done for the Rescue Parade at the National Specialty, but I'll have to change my plans if there are gazillions of last-minute entries.

The lovely antler toggles for the Fletcher sweater arrived a while ago, and with any luck, I'll get those attached today. Photos to follow!

Technorati tags for this post:

Monday, August 08, 2005

The graduate, receiving his mortarboard and ceremonial bag of goodies. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Pup and Circumstance

Last week Seamus graduated from obedience class. Tucker's mom Dale captured the class festivities in the picture gallery on her blog, where she also notes that Seamus was the best and most famous Beardie in the class. Indeed he was! Being the only Beardie is but a minor detail.

Every time you introduce something into a training situation, there's always the possibility that the dog will forget what he's already learned, and you need to do a little reviewing before you can go on to work with the new thing or situation. Seamus has never been great with the long stays; we're working through the fact that he's expected to sit there without even a magazine to read while he waits. Down-stays are better than sit-stays, but both went pretty far out the window when Greg came to class to shoot pictures for graduation. Seamus would wait a few seconds after the down, and then go rush over to Greg. I had to intercept him in the middle of his rush and put him back several times. This gives us something to work on, though.

We do hope to start in a Novice class in the fall, if the club is offering one or if we can find one nearby. We can do Novice Rally with some practice, and Dale and Tuck want to practice with us sometime. (Well, Dale does. We didn't really ask Tuck, but he enjoys a day out.) Our instructor is hoping to put together a group to take the AKC CGC test, and I put our names in.

"My name is Karen and I'm a stress junkie." "Hi, Karen."

Actually, that's not even faintly true. I don't thrive on stress, but it's such a continuous presence in my job that once I reach my deadline, it's actually difficult to adjust to a lower stress level. In a way, it's not all that different from detox, only my drug is adrenaline. I don't know how journalists do it; they have much more immediate deadlines and shorter delivery cycles, even if the works they deliver are about 699 pages shorter than mine.

Because our schedules have gone in two wildly different directions this year, Greg and I won't get an extended vacation together this year. He used up most of his vacation time attending the Bach Festival, and he has quite a lot of work to do before the next semester of grad school starts. He wants to get the Water suite orchestrated and into the conductor's hands as soon as possible, and he'd like to get the Sax Quartet performed at BU at the end of the semester, if he can get at least two movements ready by then.

I've been making plans to go to the Bearded Collie National Specialty show in Omaha this year. This will probably be the only real break I get this year, and I've really missed my Beardie buddies.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Demo Doggies

Yesterday, three of us from Seamus's obedience class took part in the Piscataqua Obedience Club's obedience demo at York Days in York. The demo drew quite a crowd, and included a bagpiper to lead all the dogs and their handlers in a parade around the ring.

Once inside, we participated in a number of different exercises, including sit-stays, down-stays, figure eights, and greetings. Club members also performed some more advanced exercises and ran a sample rally obedience course for the crowd.

Greg took some pictures of us while we were performing our part of the exercises...

Seamus and I assume the [heel] position

Dale and the blog-world famous Tucker the Chow demonstrate the "good boy" exercise. Yes, that's Seamus at the far left, getting his eye-boogers removed. That's an obedience exercise, too.

Technorati tags for this post:

Gained in Translation

Someone at work sent me a link to this blog today. I am still laughing so hard I can't breathe!

"Backstroke of the West" is the literal English translation of "Revenge of the Sith" as translated into Chinese and then back into English. It gets better from there.

Backstroke of the West

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Good Week for Song

Ever since he came back from the Oregon Bach Festival, Greg has been working as quickly as he can to keep up with all of the different projects he's had in play. The nice conductor who wants to record his Water suite with an orchestra got back in touch and encouraged Greg to get the orchestration done as soon as he can. Since then, Greg has been juggling composition time between orchestrating Water and working on the Sax Quartet. He might be too busy orchestrating to go back to grad school this semester, but if he does go, he'd like to get the Quartet performed and recorded.

Greg also heard from the Argentine choral conductor (whom he also met at the festival), asking him to send the scores for some of his choral works. He sent off a few, including the song April, and a CD. I have occasionally nagged Greg abut producing more SATB choral works so we might be able to sing them. Maybe this interest from Argentina will provide the impetus he needs to write more choral music.

Same Rock, Different Mountain

It seems as though it's been years since the last time I just sat down and wrote something for this blog. Thanks to my work deadlines, I've had to spend 12- and 13-hour days trying to make it through to the end. Yesterday was Deadline Day, and there's a reason the buzzword lovers call it a "drop-dead date." If I'd had to work these hours for much longer, I probably would just fall out of my office chair one day.

I knew I was working too late yesterday when I received a cheery email from my translation manager in Japan. He had just shown up to start his Tuesday morning work, and there I was still trying to finish Monday!

No matter. It's done, and I'm taking a "comp day." The next huge push won't happen until next February, and hopefully I can arrange with my boss for some competent help next time around.

Taking Our Act on the Road

Tomorrow is Seamus's graduation from obedience class! He's still terrible at long sit-stays and down-stays, but that's what continuing training is all about. He'll get to wear a little paper mortarboard and munch on his graduation-gift biscuit, and hopefully Greg will get some suitably silly photos for his Web page. All of my Beardies (except Cadence and Briscoe) have been POC graduates. The club is sponsoring a rally-o seminar in October, and we've signed up for it.

This evening, our obedience class gets to take part in the club's annual obedience demo in York as part of the York Days celebration. Sue, our instructor, invited us to take part. It should be fun, and it will give us a chance to proof our exercises outside of the usual locations where we practice (the classroom, the yard, the side of the road).

Singing Around the Campfire, and Other Shaggy Dog Stories

While I was buried up to my scalp in work last week and convinced I'd never get to have another vacation ever again, I let one of my Beardie buddies from Iowa talk me into going to the Bearded Collie National Specialty show this year in Omaha during the last week of September. Okay, don't laugh. Omaha might not be the excitement capital of the known universe, but a whole bunch of my friends are showing up there with their Beardies. Quite a few of them have acquired new puppies since the last time we saw one another, so it will be nice to meet the new kids and get caught up. Thanks to work, I haven't been able to get to a Specialty since 2001, and that one doesn't count. I was show secretary that year. It was a fine job -- I even liked it -- but I was so busy with paperwork that I didn't get much chance to socialize.

The whole show revolves around the pioneer theme, so we really will have a campfire sing-along after one of the get-togethers. It sounds corny as hell, but I know this crowd. I'm relying on one of my clever songwriter friends to show up with her guitar and a pile of her songbooks, to lead us in some of her songs and song parodies. Some of those are so funny people can't even sing along from laughing too hard.

I'm going! After keeping this work schedule, I could use some belly laughs.

Technorati tags for this post: