Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wow -- Didja See That Holiday Whiz By?

I can hardly believe it. Here I finally have some time to get ready to celebrate Christmas and it's December 26! The pups are outside enjoying the night air, Greg's napping, and I feel as though I've just been run over by the Christmas bus. Anybody get the license plate number?

Not that we didn't have a good time -- we made the usual pilgrimage to my brother's family's place for the usual feast -- but half the family had a bug that the kids brought home from school, and for the other half of us, the holiday came and went before we were really even ready for it. Because Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year, Greg had to play three services at church (I attended the evening service to hear him play). The two of us finally had a chance to have our own Christmas this afternoon. We exchanged a couple of small presents (we're saving our funds for a trip to Italy), sipped pumpkin egg nog laced with rum, and soaked in the hot tub. He toddled off a while back for a nap, and I caught up with a few mundane details.

At least having a little downtime means I have a chance to come back to my poor, lonely, neglected blog. I've been saving news and topics in draft posts, but I haven't turned anything into actual online prose since before Thanksgiving. At least some of the stories I had to tell managed to get told, no thanks to me.

related the story of the Christmas party, which has to be experienced to be believed. I am almost disappointed to report that there were far fewer really tacky gag gifts this year, but I ended up with a couple of them. I now possess a lovely figurine of a fire hydrant that I'll treasure for an entire year before wrapping it for next year's party, chuckling evilly all the while.

A Truly Vile Consort

Greg's Consort for Viols was "performed" a couple of weeks ago. I use the quotes because that day was just one of those where absolutely nothing went right. First off, one of the tenor viols showed up to the gig without his music, and Greg had to race all over the Fine Arts building to print another copy from his laptop. Greg's relationship to inanimate objects (especially computers) is tenuous on a good day, but things got really tense when his composition program insisted on printing the parts in landscape mode. About 5 minutes before the concert hall needed to close for the next performance, Greg rushed back in with music in hand.

I suppose you could call what happened next a "performance," but that would require a certain to-the-breaking-point stretch of the imagination and the solid placement of one's fingers in one's ears. The other three members of the consort were visibly rattled by the tenor's having forgotten his music, and nothing worked at all. They didn't play together, the intonation was horrendous, and you could just hear the silent moans of all of the composers in the hall collectively feeling Greg's pain. One of his friends whispered to me, "There isn't a composer in this hall who isn't just horrified for Greg. You can bet we've all made notes to bring extra parts to all our performances in the future. Talk about unprofessional --!"

At least the remaining three members of the consort offered to redo the performance at a later date and re-record it. It won't make up for the sheer freaking stupidity of the tenor viol, but at least there will be a good performance of the work at some point.

But There's More Good News

There really has been more good music news than bad of late, apart from that terrible concert. Greg's been working on his CD project with four other composers and the New Hudson Sax Quartet. At some point in the new year, everybody will be ready to sit down and record this thing, and then the CD will be available for purchase, press reviews, and broadcast. The exact dates have to be worked out, but we're really looking forward to it. This really will be an impressive commercial release -- sometime within the next year, you could search a site like Amazon and find this CD!

He has also been making some progress on his Brass Quintet bit by bit. A Beardie buddy of mine, who plays trumpet in a few different bands and ensembles around the Portland area, emailed me that one of her brass ensembles would just love to play a brass quintet if Greg had one available. This is actually the second such request he's had from a brass quintet for a piece, so he's been working out some variations on the brass chorale section in Ongiara.

America's Next Top Model is a Real Dog

Dinah Moe had her "Day at the Spa" a little while back, and we're eagerly awaiting the January issue of to see how things turned out. (She'd won a free bath and grooming when I sent in a copy of one of her "mud puppy" photos.) The editor pinged me a couple of days ago to say that he'd tried to send me some photos through email, but that his ISP had choked on the file sizes. I'm now awaiting the CD that he kindly burned for me and dropped into the snail mail.

The little princess (who currently appears on 's home page as their "Merry Christmas" photo) also appears on page 30 of the book (Oceanside Edition). The book is available at a couple of stores around the NH/southern ME seacoast area, but you can probably order it directly from the photographer as well.

And the Usual Knitstuff

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Fran and I took a class in Fair Isle knitting at in Cornish. Their resident instructor, Cheryl Hevey, is a designer for . She designed a knitted Fair Isle pillow top that I'm really looking forward to doing (I haven't quite managed to finish the sample piece yet).

It's nice to be able to approach a whole new class of projects without trepidation now. I really knew less than zip about colorwork, but now I'm looking forward to cramming more colorwork projects into my "someday" list. has a few Fair Isle projects -- including socks -- that I'd sure like to tackle.

My 6-year-old niece has asked me to teach her to knit. I brought a pair of scarves to her and her brother yesterday, and they were tickled. (Scarves make lame Christmas presents unless the recipient really wants them, so I was a little reluctant to bring the kids scarves until they asked.) Emmy is a kid after my own heart -- she wanted something in purple and left all the other details up to me. She ended up with a novelty-yarn spectacular that makes her look like a little purple movie star. Her brother Max said that he'd like something in green, but he flipped for the camouflage yarn I picked up and knitted in a masculine-enough-looking 1x1 rib. He's deeply into GI Joes, and now he can dress the part.

I'd brought a sock on #1 circulars with me yesterday, so I promised Em that I'd bring bigger needles and easier yarn the next time we see each other, and I'll teach her to knit then. Cripes, hanging on to cotton yarn on those teeny-tiny Addi Turbos is hard enough for me to do!

The Knitter From S.A.B.L.E.

We've had an empty video cabinet in the upstairs hall for the past couple of years now, ever since Greg brought it with him from his house. It actually held videos in its previous incarnation, but it hasn't really had much work to do since arriving here.

In a fit of organization, I appropriated the cabinet for my skeins of sock yarn. I've finally acquired enough different colors (and requests for socks!) that I really needed to take inventory, accumulate the colors I needed to accommodate my requests, and reduce the size of the yarn stash pile in the living room. Inspired by my purpose, I pulled yarn-shop bags of skeins from the pile and installed them in the cabinet until I'd filled the thing completely.

You'd think that doing this would have reduced the apparent size of the original stash pile -- but it hasn't. The stuff does multiply in captivity!

In case you were wondering, your standard video cabinet holds 78 skeins of sock yarn, plus about half a dozen paperbacks that I had no idea what else to do with before reading them. Here's the kicker, though: I still have about a dozen more skeins of sock yarn that just don't fit in a full cabinet, plus the 6-8 in my knitting bag waiting to be turned into socks.

Cross-stitchers use the acronym SABLE for "Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy." I'm still new enough to knitting that I haven't managed to acquire a SABLE-level yarn collection (don't ask about the embroidery/cross-stitch/quilting/rug-hooking stuff, though)... but I have been doing the math. It takes me a couple of weeks to knock off a pair of socks, between watching movies and TV shows, hair appointments, and suchlike. If I start now and knit nothing but socks, it'll take me roughly 2 1/2 years to empty out my current sock stash -- assuming I don't buy any more sock yarn in the meantime. (Yeah, right. My Christmas present to myself came from Need I say more?)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pachelbel Rant

This is just too freakin' funny for words, especially if you've ever been forced to play (or sing) the moldiest of oldies...

Monday, December 18, 2006

All Dinah Wants For Christmas...

...is to not have to pose with another frickin' Santa Claus. We did it to benefit the local animal shelter and another local rescue, so she can say she did her part for charity.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First Snow of the Season

As you can see, there's been much celebrating in the backyard this morning. Seamus, our little Canadian import, thinks this is the best weather of the year.

Charlie's always loved the snow. Here, he's contemplating chasing Dinah around for a wintry version of "Get the Puppy" -- their favorite game.

Dinah loves snow -- for play and for dessert!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Where'd Everything Go?

You might have noticed that this blog's sporting a somewhat leaner, less colorful look than before. All my links and buttons have temporarily disappeared, but they will be back soon.

Here's the thing. Our local cable company used to be Adelphia. As corrupt as the company and its management were, I never had more than a few minutes' worth of trouble in all of the almost-six years I've had the service. When the local service was sold to Time Warner Cable, I was actually pleased (more, relieved that it wasn't Cox).

Unfortunately, the switchover has been more than merely rocky. I've gone entire days without Internet access, which is a Very Bad Thing if you telecommute. Time Warner apparently told our town officials that the changeover could take up to six months, and that the customers would just have to be content with appallingly bad service until then. I didn't hear anything about their being willing to wait to be paid for six months, however.

DSL has finally reached our little corner of the sticks, so I'm switching to DSL for a year or so while Time Warner irons out its many issues. Unfortunately, I hosted all of my links and buttons on my Adelphia account, so I'll have to remove them from the blog page until I can copy them to another Web account. They'll be back soon, though -- and maybe I'll have the time to create one of my own as well.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Busier 'n a One-Armed Paper Hanger (again)

Dinah graduated from Basic Obedience this past week. She was just beginning to get the difference between walking with me (if not in a perfect heel) versus gaiting around the show ring. She's also not inclined to remain with four on the floor during the "polite greeting" exercise. Although we did in fact graduate, I'll probably repeat Basic or move to Advanced Basic. Something tells me she's not quite ready for the CGC test just yet.

We have more Dinah news from the shows over in . She now has 3 points toward her championship.

I've entered Seamus in a couple of AKC rally trials in March and April, so our mission there is clear: Practice, practice, practice. We have to do the Advanced courses off-lead, and we have to be prepared to navigate the evil Offset Figure 8 with the two food bowls and to perform an honor exercise in the ring while the next dog in the order does the course. Seamus has never been one to stick with a down after his mind starts to wander, so we have work to do there as well.

These are the visitors from next door who had Charlie in such a state a while back...

Knitting Stuff

Yes, at last there's been some. Here's the long-ago-promised photo of the Oakley shawl in Berroco Suede:

My current "idiot knitting" project is a scarf for my nephew in camouflage yarn. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'm voluntarily knitting with Red Heart yarn, but my 6-year-old nephew is deeply into G.I. Joes, and all he cares about is that it's camo. His parents will be thrilled that it can be thrown into the washer. All the same, if I ever run across a "nice" yarn in camo, I'll give the kid an upgrade.

I've finished the red scarf in Debbie Bliss SoHo that was my last "idiot" project, and have made a few rows' worth of progress on the Seacolors sweater. I also took a sock cuff along to the dog shows in Springfield a couple of weeks ago, and added a round or two there.

In general, I'm not a big fan of winter. I don't like the cold, the weather, or the fact that I'm stuck inside against my will, burning $10 bills to keep warm because it's cheaper than refilling the frickin' oil tank. After spending so many weekends at dog shows this year, though, I'm really looking forward to having to stay home and knit some more.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dinah, Media Darling

Dinah's going to be all over the January issue of . Dog In Sight is a little local publication for dog lovers based in NH, and they've just started publishing within the past few months. They might be small, but their production is pretty high-quality. Anyway, they had a contest where you could win a "day at the spa" for your dog if you sent in a photo and explained why your dog needed it. I sent over this photo...

Yathink she might need a bath?!

I also explained that Dinah needed the "total makeover" because she's a show dog, and she needs to be cleaned up quick before the paparazzi catch her looking so dirty. The editors sent back a nice email thanking me for my entry (and concealing howls of mirth, I'm sure). They have a Lab. They know mud.

Anyway, we won. I believe the "makeover" is taking place at the grooming shop of an old friend who has done my Beardies in the past, and to whom a lot of people in York (where I used to live) still take their Beardies. I don't use her any more because I live just too far away now, but she knows and understands Beardies. The paparazzi will be on hand to photograph the Lovely One as she emerges from the bath, clean and sweet-smelling. Her "after" picture will be used to grace the breed profile page as well -- now that January will be the Bearded Collie issue.

If you live within the distribution area for the magazine, be sure to get yourself a copy of that issue -- it's liable to be a classic! The photos might also be online, so even if you don't live in the NH/southern ME distribution area, remember to visit in January.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another Week in the Zoo

The Birthday Kids!

It's been a real Animal Week around here, for sure. Seamus had his 4th birthday on 11/2, and Dinah's very first birthday was 11/3. Amazing -- seems like only yesterday, I was looking through newborn puppy photos emailed from Wales and wondering which one of those puppies would be mine.

A flock of chickens dropped by on Friday afternoon to help celebrate. Dinah didn't much care -- they didn't appear to need herding -- but Charlie just about turned himself inside out trying to order them off HIS property. Seamus, who rarely barks outside, sang backup. The chickens were well aware of the fact that the boys were inside the dog-yard fence, and ignored them. Eventually, the neighbors who owned the chickens came to collect them, so the boys' brief career as would-be chicken herders came to an end.

Dinah Does Ducks!

On Saturday, Dinah and I took part in a herding clinic up at , put on by the Collie Club of Maine. We had the option to herd sheep, but Dinah was so fascinated by the ducks at the National Specialty that I signed her up for ducks just to see what she'd do.

She did a beautiful job! Not only did she herd them without eating any of them for lunch, but she also stopped and changed direction when told to. This was my first experience with ducks too, and I was so psyched I'm considering keeping a little flock myself just for practice. You can really see what you're doing with ducks (it's much harder when you're moving sheep).

Sorry that there aren't any photos to show Dinah at work. Some of the kindly Collie folks were taking pictures, so I know there are images of her out there. We just weren't able to take any.

New Blogs!

Sue has a blog! It's about time, really. She's been writing articles for the front page of the POC newsletter for ages now, and now her observations on life with animals can reach a wider audience. Welcome to Blog-land, Sue!

More Music News

Last Thursday, Greg and I made the trek into Medford to hear his Consort for Viols rehearsed by the quartet from Longy. Turns out their name, not the name of the piece, is Long and Away. Anyway, they were nice, knowledgeable folks who will really do the piece credit by the time they have it all worked out. They had to wrestle a bit with new instruments and maintaining tune, but when they hit some of those harmonies, they were dead-on. Greg's thrilled to bits. I mostly stayed in the kitchen and worked on a sock cuff, but I absolutely love Renaissance music. Even though the viols were playing a 21st-century piece, they still had that lovely sonority of the Elizabethan era.

The next day, Greg made yet another journey back to Boston to hear the first reading of his arrangement of Arkadia for full orchestra. I've always felt that Arkadia as arranged for chamber orchestra was one of his best pieces, and it generated a lot of excitement among the people involved. Even some of the more avant-garde composers on the composition faculty raved about the piece. I hope there will be another performance, since I couldn't get away to attend this one. Greg says that he does have a good enough quality recording of the reading that he should be able to stitch together a creditable version from all the various "takes."

Knitting News

Two words: Not Much. The Oakley wrap left for LA last week, and I haven't had much time to make progress on anything else. The time I spent on the sock cuff during the rehearsal was about the only knitting I got done all week.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Last Good Day of the Year

At this time of the year, the one song that keeps running through my mind is "Last Good Day of the Year," by a British one-hit-wonder band named Cousteau. (Great song -- they sound even more like Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach than Elvis and Burt did.) With the screaming winds driving the rain sideways and the shift to Standard Time happening this weekend, Friday might actually have been the last good day of the year.

Mother Says: Keep Your Blog Clean 'Cause You Never Know Who Might Visit

As a rule, I don't get a whole lot of comments or links on my blogs -- so it's always an occasion when I hear from people who have been reading these posts. Yesterday I heard from a friend I haven't seen since her wedding back in the '80s. (Hey Rachel -- drop me a line. Susannah will want to say hi too.)

Susannah came out to visit a couple of summers ago. Here she is with Charlie, who has a mutual admiration society thing going with her.

A belated shout out goes to Dave, aka citizentwain, keeper of the Too Stupid to be President Web site. He recently ran across this reference to his site from back in February, and sounded pleased that I named TSTBP among my favorite sites to visit. (It is! Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from screaming -- which explains why we watch almost all the time.)

Also from the Whodathunkit files: Back in this post I made a passing reference to our Mosquito Magnet. Next thing I knew, a nice man named Andrew from the marketing department at American Biophysics gave me a call to ask me what I thought of the Magnet, since I'd mentioned it on my blog. We happen to love the thing, since it keeps the Maine State Birds (mosquitoes) from carrying us off in mid-barbecue. Anyway, one discussion led to another, and just the other day I received a big package from Andrew with a free package of octenol attractant, a propane tank cover, a couple of Mosquito Magnet baseball caps, a matching tote bag, and a couple of marker pens. Hey, Andrew, if you're out there... Thanks!!

Lots of Rally News

It's been so long since I was able to sit down and write a post that I have even more news to catch up on. Back at the beginning of October, held a Rally Fun Day in Saco. Judy, our wonderful instructor, gave a brief explanation of the novice exercises, and then let everybody try.

Seamus got to be a demo dog when he wasn't sitting on Uncle Pat's lap. (Uncle Pat is our friend Traveler's dad.)

I have to brag on my little guy. Last weekend we headed to Littleton, MA to the at . Seamus broke his down in the morning trial, so we NQ-ed for the very first time in our lives. However, in the afternoon, we were able to restore the family honor with a second-place finish and a score of 206 out of a possible 210. This finishes Seamus's RL1 (Rally level 1) title, making him Sheiling Angelic Ties, HIC, RN, RL1.

There are many, many, many nice things about APDT rally. We like AKC rally and do well in it, but APDT trials are so relaxed, and everybody's so friendly. We fell in with a really nice couple from New Jersey and Millie, their Portuguese Water Dog. Another friend of theirs from NJ came up with a Field Spaniel and a Standard Poodle (what a pair!).

Other Dog-Type News

Dinah got her very first point at the Bangor shows a couple of weeks ago! One down, fourteen to go. Photos and details are on , as always. This show was the last one she could enter in the 9-12-month Puppy Class, and we made a nice finish. On to 12-18-month class!

The little princess celebrates her first birthday next week (November 3), the day after Seamus turns 4 (November 2, which was also Duncan's birthday). Somehow, she's started going through an energy spurt instead of just a growth spurt, and she just plain requires more exercise now than she has before. She's just not happy unless someone is throwing the ball for her (me) or chasing her at top flat-out speed (Charlie). She can jump five feet straight up, from a standstill. The boys are energetic enough, but if I could hook Dinah up to a generator, I could kiss Central Maine Power goodbye.

Charlie had minor surgery a couple of weeks ago to remove some fibroid growths from the skin on his back. He was already knocked out for a dental cleaning, so the vet removed the lumps and stitched him up. He had his sutures removed, so he no longer gets to be Frankenbeardie for Hallowe'en. At least the rest of his coat mostly covers the shaved spots. When he first came home, he looked as though he'd lost a fight with a weed wacker.

One more Whodathunkit: You can't swing last month's copy of Wired magazine without hitting some mention of MySpace and/or social networking sites on the Internet. It amazes me that so few articles mention social networking for dogs -- but the phenomenon is out there. Now, I'm not one of those people who dresses my dogs up like Disney characters and carries them around in a purse (66-pound Charlie would require the biggest American Tourister out there), but I'm not above sending the occasional goofy email from my dogs to their dog friends. I draw the line at baby talk, however.

Anyway, I've just ended up on Dogster. In one day, my dogs have amassed more friendly emails, virtual gifts and goodies, and shout-outs from fellow online canines than I ever did after a couple of years on AOL. I will never see another of those awful eHarmony or match.com commercials on TV without wishing they would do one for Dogster instead. "We discovered we have lots in common, like rolling in dead stuff on the beach and sniffing every single tree on the street before we pee."

We ended up there thanks to a question on the registration form. The dog's biography portion asked what our Dogster ID was. I answered that we already had two blogs and a Web site, and then went off with Dinah for our photo session for the book. While we were waiting for our turn in front of the camera, we ended up visiting with quite a few other local dogs and their owners who were active on Dogster. Intrigued, I signed us up as soon as we came back home. It's only been a day, and already my two neutered males get more email from the girls than a lot of high school kids!

More Music News Than You Can Shake a Baton At

Greg's had a busy season of it, and it only looks to get busier. He's been writing CD reviews for a classmate at Curtis who runs a CD label, and he's been having a good time of it. They make him return the CDs when he's done reviewing, though -- so I haven't heard more than a minute or two's worth of music from any of them. One composer whose CD he really liked is Myron Fink. Greg raved about his music to me, and presumably he did so in the CD review as well.

This season, Greg has so many performances lined up that it's a wonder if I can remember them all. This coming week we're going to listen to the viol consort (Long and Away -- at least I think that's the title) played in Medford by the string quartet from the Longy School. The next day, Greg goes to BU to hear the orchestral version of Arkadia read for the first time. (Arkadia has been played before in a chamber-orchestra arrangement, but Greg recently expanded it for full orchestra.) If I haven't misremembered, I think his four-part choral piece April will also be performed at BU this semester.

He'll have another performance at the ACA Festival of American Music, and he just had to go through the submission process for next June's concerts. If the New Hudson guys are available and if there are other pieces for sax quartet on the program, they'll perform his Sax Quartet. If not, he'd like to have Clayton Runaround, the Cape Breton-esque piece for solo violin, performed.

The ACA concerts have turned out to be much more than just great places to have New York City premieres of new compositions. At least year's concert, Greg not only met the New Hudson guys, but he also got to meet Richard Brooks (a fellow composer and president of Capstone Records). Greg and Richard are currently working out plans to record their sax quartets, plus one by Lukas Foss and maybe another composer or two, on a Capstone CD with the New Hudson guys as performers. Everyone's schedules are fairly packed at the moment, so it might take a while to get this effort coordinated -- but it will make for a terrific recording when it comes together. It'll even be available at amazon.com someday!

Knitting Progress

One thing I'll say for this crummy weather is that it provides a great incentive to stay inside and knit, instead of grabbing the closest available dog and going for a romp in the leaves. I finally finished the Oakley wrap for Susannah. The picture's still on my camera; I'll upload it soon. It took me a while to make my peace with Berroco Suede, but with patience and the right needles, it actually turned out to be pretty fun to knit with.

Because the UFO pile abhors a vacuum, I've picked up a couple of balls of red Debbie Bliss SoHo, and am whipping up a simple 1x1 rib scarf for my friend Caryll in London. I promised her last January that I'd knit her something, so I'm long overdue to make good on that particular promise.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Last Knit

The moral of the story is: Make sure you have plenty of stash, or this could happen to you!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Almost Famous Seamus and Other Stories

I just found out today that Dinah and I got into the Collie Club of Maine's herding clinic in Appleton on November 4th. I'm taking Dinah Moe to have a first look at ducks, just to see what she'll do. (Her first birthday is November 3, and I thought she deserved a nice present.)

Seamus is almost famous -- almost. We went to the York Days obedience demo back in August along with the rest of our obedience club. We heeled around the ring, did some simple Novice exercises, let some spectators pet him, and that was that.

Well, come to find out that Dog In Sight magazine was there. They interviewed other members and took pictures of the freestyle and flyball demos and stuff, so I didn't think anything of it. In their recent issue, they mention a Bearded Collie among the breeds that were there. It's only a quick breed spotting, but Seamus was the only Beardie there.

Wish us luck tomorrow -- Seamus is hoping to be famous at the APDT rally trial this weekend. If we qualify, we'll finish his RL1 title.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Well, Whaddaya Know?

I was just uploading the photos from the Beardie Club's rally-o fun day and I found this on the card...

Not to mention this...

Pretty neat, huh?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Well, That's Irony for You

Charlie peeks over the deck, watching me fiddle with the camera

Cripes, wouldn't you just know it? Just when Blogger finally gets its collective act semi-together and fixes its furshlugginer picture loader, I miss out on the most amazing photo of the season. Sorry that I have to make you all settle for a mental image, but here goes...

The monarch butterflies are getting ready for their winter vacation in Mexico. They don't tend to congregate in huge bunches here as they do when readying themselves for the northward migration, but they will take over a flowering shrub, a dozen or two at a time. From a short distance away, you'd never even know they were there until a "leaf" or a "blossom" on the bush suddenly flutters to a new location. At that point, you notice that there seem to be quite a few monarchs flitting into and around all the bushes on the fence line.

I tried my best to get a decent photo of this phenomenon, but things just didn't go as planned. I hope your mental images were lovely, though. As soon as we get enough colored leaves on the ground, I'll gather some into a pile and see if I can persuade Dinah or Seamus to roll in them for the camera.

Dog News This Week

If you could ask Charlie which dog sport he preferred, he would probably answer, "Hiking." Chuckles never really did see the point of all the silly dog sports we used to try together. We tried obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and just about anything else we could find. Tracking came closest to Charlie's idea of fun, but he really just wants to race on the beach with me or up the hill trails with Greg. He's picked his sport.

Seamus, if asked the same question, just might pick agility. Due to the fact that there are only so many days in the week, I couldn't sign him up for two sessions of rally and regular obedience and agility, and still have an evening or two left over for attending meetings, training Dinah, or just catching up at home.

When Dinah and I went to the Canadian Specialty in August, a dog trainer there asked me about how Seamus was doing, and expressed genuine surprise when I didn't include agility in the list of activities we do together. Anyway, I took her advice and enrolled the little guy in beginning agility just to see what he can do.

Agility is Seamus's sport. He smiled from the first time he entered a tunnel all the way through the drive home. He knows way too much to be stuck in the poky little beginner class I signed him up for, but I needed to know what he knew. Poky little classes aren't all bad; we can use the time to learn to work together as a team. Just for chuckles, we'll try entering an agility show-and-go at the end of the month. That could be fun, and it could show me a lot of things I never even knew about my quirky little dog.

The other thing that pleases me about doing agility is that we have to work off-leash. This should help us "cross-train" for off-lead work in Advanced Rally. We can't progress any farther in rally without working off-lead, and we need to be able to build on our teamwork before we dare enter any more rally trials.

Knitting Progress

...can be summed up in three little words: Next to None. I've had only a few minutes here and there to pick up the needles, and haven't much to show for it.

I picked up a couple of balls of Nashua Painted Forest out of the bargain bin at the Yarn Basket last time I was down there. The colorway I picked reminds me enough of fall foliage that I thought it would make a nice little scarf in a simple, TV-friendly 1x1 rib. I whipped that thing off in record time, but am busy searching the stash for something appropriately funky and color-coordinated for fringe.

As for the Oakley wrap, I've made one ball's worth of progress already -- which translates to about 15% progress if you count the fringe. It's basically "idiot knitting" at its finest, which is why it appeals to me. I can pick it up, add a couple of rows to it here or there, and then put it down to wait for the next time I can give it some attention.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Welcome to the bittersweet experience that is fall in New England. You can smell the fall leaves, even on a fairly warm day such as this one. The bugs, while not entirely vanished, have diminished enough in numbers that Greg trundled the Mosquito Magnet back into the garage for the year. It's easier to drive around closer to the coast, now that many of the tourists have gone home (or have gone somewhere other than to the beach). You can wear clothing with sleeves and trouser legs without risking heat stroke. The only complaint I have about fall is that winter comes after it.

(If frickin' Blogger Beta were working at all, I would publish a couple of nice photos of fall colors right here. Maybe is is time to see what Typepad has to offer. Blogging on .Mac is dirt-simple, but not flexible enough for us techie types who like to mess with stuff.)

Greg's birthday is in October, and he always gets special pleasure out of being born at this time of year. He would rather have pumpkin pie on his birthday than birthday cake. He's been spending much of his free time planning his final White Mountain hike of the season. Now that fall is here, he's studying maps of more local hiking trails and trying to figure out which hikes would be dog-friendly enough for Charlie. (read: hikes where people won't be out hunting in the same area, and who won't mistake a shaggy brown dog for Bambi)

The latter half of my summer just sped past -- especially since I've just spent two of the past three weeks on the road -- and the advent of fall spells the end of my summer vacation season as well. Yes, I'm a little disappointed to see it go, but I'm mostly relieved. Vacations spent at dog shows aren't really vacations, even when you're having the time of your life. Now it's fall, and I'm staying closer to home. Work deadlines are creeping up on me again. Seamus and Dinah both have classes to attend. The local dog shows have moved indoors now for the season, since we're coming up on one of the unpredictable phases in our year of weather.

Catching Up on the News

Seems I've been away for a long while (plus Blogger Beta hasn't made posting any easier). Most of my dog-show exploits with Dinah will eventually show up on my other blog, .

Seamus and I have been taking rally classes with Judy on Sunday and Thursday mornings (when I've been home), plus we've signed up for a Tuesday night rally class and an agility class on Thursday. While I was at the 's specialty, I had occasion to chat with a dog trainer who knew Seamus from his previous life. When I mentioned that we were doing well in rally and regular obedience, she asked, "No agility?" Apparently Seamus was quite the little agility dog, and Sharon recommended that I get him back into it sometime. When the opportunity presented itself this month, I signed him up. Our first class doesn't take place until this Thursday, so I have nothing to report just yet.

Dinah Moe, aside from being Best Puppy in Show at the Canadian specialty and getting 4th place in the American specialty, earned her herding instinct certificate, so she now has her very first title. You may now address her as Breaksea November Storm, HIC. We haven't been able to get a handling lesson in months -- 8 AM on a Monday is not my preferred class time during a busy work week -- so I'll probably drop in at the show handling classes on Monday nights at It's a Dog's World. I can use all the help I can get, and hope that I can still make some progress in my handling skills. Before the whole flurry of Specialties, I was just barely beginning to be able to put all the steps together.

In other dog news, our local Beardie club, the , received approval from our parent club to become the newest regional club under the 's umbrella. Val (club president) and I attended the Board meeting at the specialty, handed out fridge magnets with the club logo on them, and even accepted a membership from the BCCA President right on the spot. We're putting on our next local event on October 7; this will be our first as a real, sanctioned club.

I hope our rally fun day goes well. We've had very few responses from the membership as to whether they can attend. We know a few who can't due to work or other commitments, plus a few who are definitely coming. We also have a large population of "lurkers" on our email list who don't say anything at all, ever. I'm not sure how to reach those people. If they would express opinions about which activities they'd like to see, we could plan to do them. If they'd complain that we offer too many show/performance activities and too few activities of general interest, we could do something about that, too. However, these folks just drift along, saying nothing, venturing nothing, doing nothing. I'm not sure that we even have a way to reach them or bring them into the club. Maybe if we just keep trying, something will click with them sometime.

Music News

Greg has started his fall semester at BU with multiple musical goings-on. The New Hudson Sax Quartet is eagerly rehearsing his Sax Quartet down in New York, and we're awaiting word of the premiere. His Viol Consort will probably be performed in Boston in late November or early December sometime. He located a viol consort at the Longy School of Music, and they're planning to perform the piece at BU for him, plus at some other concert(s) for themselves. They work for barter, so I may end up designing their Web site for them as part of their fee. (The things we do for our loved ones, eh?)

In addition, Greg hopes to get his four-part choral piece April performed at BU, if the school is planning to do another special concert featuring choral works. If they have orchestral readings available, he might even get a performance of the orchestral version of Water.

Knitting Stuff

Just because the days are getting cooler is no guarantee that I'll have more time to spend with yarn and needles, but I sure hope to be able to spend more time knitting. In a fit of enthusiasm for the new season, I've started a pile of projects from the to-do list, thus promoting them to UFO (Unfinished Object, for the curious) status.

The Seacolors yarn I bought at last year's craft fair is about a quarter of the way toward growing up to be a tunic sweater with a roll neck. All of the yarns in that line have meltingly lovely, heathery colors. I opted for a thistle-ish shade for the main body, plus a trim shade of heathered blue-green somewhere between pine and teal.

My friend Susannah in LA fell in love with the Oakley wrap done in Berroco Suede, so I've been working on one of those for her. The wrap is basically a triangle with an increase at the end of each row, so it fully qualifies as "idiot knitting." This is a good thing, since I can work on "idiot projects" just about anytime without worrying about muffing the pattern with the slightest diversion in attention. (I don't do many Berroco patterns, but the new Soleil wrap in the new Suede colors is pretty hot. In spite of the fact that I rarely wear wraps, I covet that one and might have to make it anyway.)

Socks? Oh, there are always socks. I've been working on a cotton-blend pair in Sockotta in black, blue, and purple stripes. These are my first cotton socks. They're coming along well enough and I can't wait to have a pair of hand-knit cotton socks (Because I prefer to wear cotton), but I do miss the nice springy nature of wool-blend and pure merino yarns.

I also started a cuff for a pair in Lang Jawoll (which always makes me want to shout, "Jawohl!") in black, white, wine, and fuchsia stripes. The combination really is prettier than my description of it. Anyway, I started the socks on my plastic #3s as plane knitting, and will probably frog them to re-knit on something smaller. They looked fine on needles that size, but the fabric was a little bit "holey" for my tastes. The socks will last longer in a denser fabric, too. I'm not a major fan of the little plastic Balene circulars, but maybe it's time to start the search for something plane-friendly in a size #2, or even a #1.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Blogger Beta and Other Adventures

This is one of my current favorite photos of Dinah. Greg took this during the Mid-Coast Kennel Club show yesterday. Gory details, for those who are interested, will shortly appear on Dog Show Newbie.

Pirate reports that she's had trouble logging into my blog to comment, even though she herself has a Blogger account. This is probably a Blogger issue, since I switched to Blogger Beta a while back in order to take advantage of the nifty new features. Just for chuckles, I disabled the comment moderation features to see if the problem's there someplace. Pirate, if you'd be so kind, please give it a try now. I sure hope I don't get bombed with blog-spam again.

I am considering moving at least one blog to my .Mac account, but I haven't had a lot of time to play with it just yet. If that happens, I'll post links here and let everyone know.

So Where the Heck Have I Been (Again)?

Seems as though dog shows have been my life lately -- either I'm driving to one, or have just come back from one and am too tired to squeeze out even a few sentences. I really do have an actual life between shows, but it's just been a lively time of year.

A couple of weeks ago, Dinah and I took off to Gananoque, Ontario for the Bearded Collie Club of Canada National Specialty. I saw friends there whom I haven't seen in many years, though we've swapped emails. I drank beer, laughed, learned the proper pronunciation of Gah-nah-NO-kway, had some fantastic meals (if you're ever in the 1000 Islands area, definitely have dinner at the Athlone Inn in Gananoque), and stole kisses from every puppy in the place. Dinah had a fine time for herself, bouncing with her fellow pupsters and flirting with all the handsome boy-doggies. If you're not inclined to follow our dog show adventures on my other blog, let me give away the happy ending here: Dinah won Best Puppy in Show, and we brought home a huge rosette, a lovely handmade stained glass mini-window of a black Beardie puppy, and a big honkin' trophy that Greg and I refer to as the "Stanley Pup."

We've Got $#%@in' Socks on a Plane, Part Too

Maybe Blogger just doesn't like sock photos. I've just tried to upload the shots of the two pairs I recently finished, and it gagged yet again. I'll use Hello and see if that works. Sorry... again.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

One More Post for the Road

The lovely and talented Dinah Moe Burfitt and I depart tomorrow for Gananoque, Ontario, and the Bearded Collie Club of Canada National Specialty show. Wish us luck! I'll post any news on Dog Show Newbie.

In other dog news, Seamus and I got to practice rally obedience twice this week and did really well both days. The place where we train had a special session of run-throughs, and we were able to do the Novice course once and the Advanced course twice before Seamus started asking to go home. Seamus seems to be going through a stage now where he's especially trainable, if that makes any sense. If we continue to do good work, we might progress to the next level.

Our fledgling Beardie club plans to hold a Rally Fun Day sometime this fall. Judy Kay, our fantastic instructor, has agreed to take on the task of introducing rally to our club members and their Beardies. Since she's had Seamus and my friend Maryann's Brechin in her classes, Judy has acquired a great fondness and respect for the breed, and she was tickled as anything to be asked to introduce more Beardies to the sport.

Musical Interlude

Greg heard back from the New Hudson Sax Quartet. They love the piece and have started working it up to include in one of their concert programs in the fairly-near future. It's a long piece; Greg offered them the choice of breaking it up and just playing a movement or two, but it sounds as though they want to perform it in its entirety when they can program it.

We've Got #@$%&ing Socks on a Plane!

(with a bow toward the most hotly-anticipated bad movie of all time -- the Rocky Horror Picture Show of this decade)

I never forget a promise. It just takes me a while to catch up to it to fulfill it sometimes. At some point between the time I started this post and this sentence, Blogger has stopped uploading photos (again). I'll post the pictures of the socks made from Lisa's yarn and the other socks in separate posts.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pssst... I know something you don't know... Posted by Picasa

Spam, Spam, Spam. I Don't Like Spam!

Well, folks, I'm sorry -- but I finally had to enable comment moderation on my blogs. You would think that comment verification (as in typing those nonsense words in by hand) would have discouraged all of the bots and most of the lazier spammers, but I ended up getting spammed by someone bearing the moniker of Deep Thapa who actually went to the trouble to post long lines of comment spam for some crummy online Bingo gambling site.

Anywho, I hated to do it, but comments are now moderated. Forgive me if yours don't show up as quickly as they used to, but I still appreciate your inputs as much as I always have. I just have to play Comment Police now, and it bugs me.

Be on the lookout for Deep Thapa, which is code for "I'm a scumbag."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Charlie in his element Posted by Picasa

Seamus and Dinah mug for the camera Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kick Brass!

Last night Greg and I saw in concert at the Lowell Folk Festival. Next to Seamus, screech, maple leaf cookies, and Kroy sock yarn, they could be about my favorite thing ever to come out of Canada. Imagine what would happen if Beausoleil got themselves a Quebecois fiddler and Joe Jackson on piano along with the Memphis Horns for backup. That's just a rough approximation of the La Bottine sound. They're just amazing! We couldn't stop dancing. We also picked up their new CD for the drive home.

We had reason to celebrate, for sure. Greg received an enthused email on Thursday from the alto saxophonist of the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet, saying that the guys really liked the score for the Sax Quartet and were wondering if they could get parts in time for Monday's rehearsal. Greg has essentially done nothing else but print and bind parts since then, and the whole lot went into an Express Mail package to NYC yesterday morning. It will be a while before Greg hears about the premiere, but it's a shame he won't be there to see and hear them play the piece at tomorrow's rehearsal. No matter how good the MIDI approximation might be, it never comes close to the experience of hearing your composition played live for the first time. Of course we'll be there for the premiere performance, whenever that might be.

I really hope this piece might be Greg's big break. There really aren't very many pieces scored for sax quartet and there are actually quite a few such ensembles around (including one at BU), so the piece might get some notice in those circles. The New Hudson people record on a number of labels from the boutique (Capstone) to the reasonably well-known (Koch Classical), and maybe they'll like the piece enough to put it out on CD! You never know, and Greg deserves the chance.

More Doggie Stuff

Seamus and I have started rally obedience classes with Judy again, which really pleases me. They're not strictly classes per se -- we get together with a couple of friends and practice with her one morning a week -- but we have a great time. We've also signed up for the rally run-throughs at It's a Dog's World this week. It will be a while before we're ready to enter the Advanced level trials, but we have one remaining leg to our RL1 title in APDT rally. We're entered in a trial in October, and hope to earn that there.

I'm also thinking of entering him in Pre-Novice at the trial at the end of September. There is no real Pre-Novice title in AKC, but trial experience is always valuable. We're not ready for the off-lead portion of a real Novice-level trial just yet.

We did have one breakthrough that makes me very proud of the little guy, though. He has never been able to resist the food bowls in the offset figure 8, even though he understands the "leave it" command and follows it in every other application in life. I'm trying hard to make myself a more attractive handler for Seamus so we can work effectively off-lead -- this involves moving fast enough to keep his mind from wandering and some other ways of keeping his attention focused -- and the attention is critical if we ever hope to advance in either Rally or regular obedience.

Anyway, Judy laid out the dreaded offset figure 8 and placed dog treats in each bowl. I was sure Seamus would make a dive for the bowls, but I lured him with a handful of Ritz bits, and he paid no attention at all to the figure 8. Good Leave-It!!! Of course, we'll have to practice this again and again until we can navigate the bowls without the use of treats, but the fact that he actually did pay attention to me this time is a breakthrough in our training. He received the Ritz bits and a whole pile of praise for negotiating that obstacle.

Dinah has another herding lesson this week. We're going to work on circling/wearing and when to keep back from the sheep. It will be her last chance to have fun in the dirt before she has to get prettied up for the BCCC Specialty in Canada.

Oh, and Knitting Stuff

I haven't had much time to work on the India socks, but hope to get the second sock done this week and to get some pictures taken for Lisa. I took along a couple of skeins of one of the Knit Picks Sock Garden yarns to the La Bottine concert and wound them into balls, though I haven't set needles to them yet.

Just because it's late enough in the summer that one can't help but notice that fall isn't too far off, I gave in to temptation and cast on some yarn for the first sweater of the season. Last year, I bought some Seacolors yarn at the big craft fair in Wells, and I've been longing to spend some time with it since. The yarn is lovely -- I bought a sort of raspberry heather worsted and some more in a muted shade of teal -- enough between the two shades for a tunic sweater. This week, I needed some "idiot knitting" to do, something even easier than decreases for sock toes. I cast on the back of the sweater in the teal Seacolors yarn, and will be playing with that for a while in between finishing off socks. It's very nice yarn -- a bit like Shetland wool in texture, and the lanolin's been nice to my hands. I don't crochet much at all, but will have to learn the crab stitch in order to finish off the neckline (and maybe the cuffs).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Just As Nature Intended

Dinah had her first-ever sheep herding lesson today. This is a big moment in a herding-breed puppy's life; it's the day when a pup gets in touch with the instincts that drive its breed. When that instinctive connection takes place, you can almost literally see the light bulb turn on over the puppy's head. "So this is what I'm supposed to do with my life!"

My friend Fran, whom I met at a sock knitting class last winter, lives in the next town and trains and trials with Border Collies. She offered to get Dinah started on sheep this year, and today was the big day. Greg and I piled into my friend Maryann's car with her Beardie Camille and headed for our date with the sheep.

Fran took Dinah into the pen on a long lead and spoke encouragingly to her. The sheep moved. Dinah moved toward them. The sheep moved some more. Dinah moved some more.

As the sheep moved away from her, the light came on. Ding!

Nature took over, Dinah connected with her instincts, and she started to pursue the sheep on her own.

By the time we had finished our two sessions, Dinah was confidently going after the sheep without splitting the flock too badly. She hasn't tried to circle them yet, but she does head for their butts rather than for their heads. There's no doubt that she'll ace the herding instinct test at the Specialty in September.

It's Done!

Greg had something to celebrate this week, too. He finished the Sax Quartet. After he printed and comb-bound the score, he showed it to me in the same manner as parents show off their newborn children. He then shipped it off to the New Hudson guys, whom I hope will fall all over the piece and rush to get it recorded to CD as soon as possible. You never know. Think good thoughts for Greg. The guy could use a break!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hi, Shaggy!

(This photo comes from last year's demo -- we forgot the camera this time.)

Last night, my local obedience club put on its annual obedience/flyball demo as part of the York Days festival on York Beach. The folks in my club have all sorts of breeds from Skye Terriers to Newfies, so we made for a pretty varied crew. Seamus was (as usual) the only Beardie there.

After an introduction from our president and some "team sit-stays" by her four Cockers, a bagpiper piped us all into the ring. We did a little drill-team heeling to "Scotland the Brave," and I could hear a few kids in the crowd calling, "Hi, Shaggy!" or "Look -- the Shaggy Dog!". We performed a few of the Novice exercises (sit-stay, down-stay, and figure 8s) and left the ring. People ooohed at the puppies, applauded wildly at the flyball demo and the Jack Russells doing freestyle, and cheered as the Open and Utility dogs did retrieves.

When the demo was over, most of us stayed around so people could pet the dogs and talk to us. Seamus loves kids, so he was more than happy to sit and lie down for the smaller ones, and to offer slurpy kisses to any and all interested parties.

Although lots of people of all sizes wanted to pet Seamus, our token Shaggy Dog didn't draw nearly the attention that the Golden Retriever puppies or the Jack Russells did -- so I think it's safe to say that Beardies weren't the Flavor of the Month breed here, even if the movie did just release on DVD. We had a good time anyway.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Swedish Chef - Hot Spicy Pepper Sauce

Speecy Spicy Chilli Juice-a! Bork Bork Bork!

The Swedish Chef is my favorite Muppet, since we're a Scandinavian household here. A long time ago, a colleague of one of my college classmates billed himself as the Swedish Tech Writer. Bork bork bork!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Peekaboo! Posted by Picasa

Sneak Previews

I don't usually shoot pictures of half-done pairs of socks, but wanted to show how her India sock yarn looks in the different stages. This yarn looks different each time I do something to it -- unwind the skein, wind into a ball, knit into a sock. Isn't it lovely? The colors are actually a tiny bit brighter in real life -- there are tiny flashes of orange in the mix, and the purple is more muted in the photo than it is in the actual yarn. (I couldn't find a clean, solid-colored towel to use as an impromptu background, so I swiped one of our beach towels and used the wrong side. Funky.)

The heat has transformed us into a family of slugs. When we're not taking siestas in an effort to fast-forward to the cooler times of the day, we're all holed up in the bedroom or the office, huddled around the air conditioner. I've made much more progress in knitting than I usually do on a given weekend, since we've mostly just watched the marathon of Adam Sandler movies (and not even the good ones) all weekend. (We saw "Click" in the theater. It was a hoot -- maybe not a candidate for next year's Oscars, but fun enough -- and the theater had its AC cranked to the max. That made the trip worthwhile on its own.)

I feel halfway guilty for wasting all that time when I could be doing something more productive, like cleaning or obedience training, but the dogs feel pretty much the same way I do. When I leave the nice air-conditioned room, they all follow me, but they immediately do a 180 and head back to the bedroom door, scratching and whining to be let back in where it's cool.

Not that all that time has been wasted. In addition to cranking out the socks at record speed (for me), I've also managed to make multiple updates to the , set up a Cafepress store for our logowear, ship off loads of club and dog-show paperwork, and get caught up on stuff I wouldn't otherwise find the time to do if I weren't trapped in the only cool room in the house with my knitting and my laptop.

Here's the club logo in all its glory, designed by my friend Maryann:

And in Music News...

Greg has been making little refinements to the Sax Quartet all week. Once he's finished with the actual composition of the piece, he goes back and places all of the dynamic markings, tempo markings, and any articulations he feels are important for proper phrasing. Since I played sax in a previous life, he's been asking me a number of questions about how one would play a certain phrase for best effect. I haven't picked up a sax in more than 20 years and don't currently own one, so I try to visualize what I'd have done (What would Charles Mingus Do??). Maybe generations of sax players will look on those articulations and curse, but I hope not.

After he's happy with the finishing touches and sends the Sax Quartet off to the New Hudson guys, Greg plans to turn his attention back to Niagara -- or more accurately, Ongiara. We saw a documentary on PBS about Niagara Falls, and one of the people they interviewed was Michael Daugherty, another composer who wrote a piece called Niagara. Like the documentary itself, his piece has more to do with how people have affected the Falls over the past couple of centuries. It's nice enough, but a bit hokey in spots (just like the attractions at Niagara Falls). Greg's piece focuses more on the Falls itself, the unrelenting power and texture of the water, and its place in Nature.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Party Animals, Puppy Puberty, and Profuse Prose

Whew! I can barely believe how much of July has whizzed by since my last post! There's good news, though: Pirate, one of my very first blog friends, is back with a new blog, and Pam has revived hers as well. Welcome back, folks!

Look at what passed over our heads this afternoon. Nothing else, aside from maybe a real fire-breathing dragon, can make that whooshing sound.

Party Animals!

Greg, Charlie, and I attended the first annual Beardie Bash and BBQ of our fledgling today. Seamus stayed home to babysit Dinah, who is in the middle of her first season. We decided that it would not be a good time to bring the lovely and talented Miss Burfitt to a dog picnic with intact males about. Since she's only a puppy herself, it just wouldn't do to have a bunch of little Travelers (Trav is her sweetie, and he's very much intact) bouncing around 63 days from now.

Here's a picture of the Lovely One herself:

Despite the rain yesterday and this morning, the heavens managed to smile on us just long enough so we could hold a meeting, grill some burgers, and visit with some people and pups. Charlie had a fine time for himself, and slept all the way home.

I'm really happy about how things turned out for our first meeting. 17 people came, another one or two sent regrets, and we're sure we can find even more members. I didn't even count the number of Beardies who came, but we had a goodly number, and they all had a lovely time romping together in our hosts' yard and nudging the assembled humans for petting and biscuits.

Another Musical Milestone (Almost)

Greg has essentially finished the Sax Quartet this week. He needs to add finishing touches such as dynamic markings and other performance directions, but the composition itself is pretty much done. He's hoping to get the score into the hands of the soon. They were so enthused when they met him in June at the concert. We both hope they like the piece when they receive it -- maybe they'd premiere it, or even consider recording it.


While Dinah has been out of commission as far as her show career is concerned, I've been busy filling out forms and making arrangements for both the Canadian and American Beardie Specialties. Dinah makes her Canadian show debut at the end of August, and we fly to Seattle in mid-September to do some sheep herding, show in the regional specialty, and see her breeders again. They haven't seen Dinah since she left Wales at the age of 10 weeks, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they think of her now. Wonder if she'll remember them.

Dog Show Newbie will have updates on Dinah's shows as soon as we get out there and start showing again. The Canadian Specialty will be her next show.

Socks and More Socks

Dangit, I forgot to take pictures of the nifty pair of socks I knitted for my sister. I think they were from Socka yarn, and they knitted up into sharp-looking stripes of hot pink, turquoise, and yellow, along with a little black and white.

I pulled out part of the second sock I was working in Trekking yarn, and the yarn tangled up to such a degree that I just balled the whole thing up in despair and stuffed it into the bottom of the yarn stash. Trekking is one of the prettiest yarns out there for socks, but mess with it and it'll make you pay Big Time.

Lisa will be tickled to hear that I've cast on the hand-dyed yarn I picked up from her a little while back. The yarn is in her India colorway, which includes regal purple and gold as well as some other shades. They'll make amazing socks, and photos are forthcoming! If you love hand-dyed yarns, want to support the dyeing and spinning habits of a couple of fellow Beardie-loving yarn fanatics, and want to knit something that no one else in the universe will ever have, go on over to Lisa and Kathy's Etsy shop and feast on the colors.

Just before we left for Greg's NYC concert last month, I picked up some cheap-but-cheerful Moda Dea Sassy Stripes yarn to play with on the plane. I'm about 1 3/4 of the way through that pair at the moment. I finished the first sock in Jody's size, and will send that pair to her while I'm untangling that godforsaken Trekking yarn to finish her second "nice" sock.

When I can't really concentrate on what I'm doing or when I'm watching something like a movie with subtitles, I'll cast on sock cuffs. Oddly enough, I don't really suffer from Second Sock syndrome -- I really love to finish up pairs -- but I like to have various stages of socks in the pipeline.

I think that I've completed five pairs of socks now, not counting the ones I balled up and stuffed into the frog pond. They've all been knitted from the same pattern I learned at sock-knitting class. It's time to explore other patterns and possibilities. Maybe the next pair (or five) will come from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet.

Also back in the Frog Pond: the Black Sheep Kristina bag. Things were going so well, and then I misread the graph and accidentally skipped some rows in the repeat pattern. I just haven't had the intestinal fortitude to rip them out and try again.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dinah and Seamus take a break in the middle of their most recent landscaping project. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 03, 2006

Howdy from Vacationland

Pardon me while I sweep the cobwebs and dust off this blog. At least I'm always telling the truth when I say ,"A lot has happened since the last time I posted."

Brags from Team Shameless and Other Beardie Stuff

A couple of weekends ago, Seamus and I attended our very first APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) rally trial at down in Massachusetts. Although Seamus's and my training has been almost exclusively AKC-oriented, APDT rally is about 95% the same. The signs look different, and APDT has some exercises that AKC doesn't, such as the Front and Forward. In addition, mixed breeds may compete, and you can reward your dog with pats and treats in between exercises. It's a great way to get started in rally.

Another thing I really like about APDT rally is that trials are generally set up so you can (in theory) bring home a new title at the end of a trial weekend. Seamus and I are used to the one-shot AKC competition, so we put our all into the morning trial, and barely had enough left over between us to qualify in the afternoon trial. We did manage to bring home two Qs, and would have done a third on Sunday if we'd entered. We're already signed up to finish off this title at Gemini's October trial. When Seamus gets this one, he will be Sheiling Angelic Ties, HIC, RN, RL1 (though AKC will only recognize the RN).

We already miss our regular rally class, though. Judy had planned to teach through the summer, but her husband's hip replacement surgery was moved up, so she decided to cancel classes so she could stay home with Bob while he recovers. I had hoped to attend classes with Seamus all summer and try for the AKC Advanced in the fall. We can still train, but it looks like we'll be doing more on our own, as well as searching out as many matches as we can find.

Dinah has been a busy little grrrrl, too. Her exploits appear on my other blog, . We've been bringing home lots of pretty ribbons from the dog shows lately -- no points, but we do get bragging rights.

Charlie's had his summer buzz cut, and is feeling very cool (in both senses of the word). He looked so handsome in his long brown coat that I hated to clip him. He's just so happy with the crew cut that any lingering regrets I've had have fallen into one of the canyons he's dug in the backyard. He's also pleased to be able to go hiking with Greg and not bring home half the vegetation on the mountain in his coat. I'll try to get some decent pictures to post.

The pups and I spent Saturday visiting my friend Linda. Her latest litter of baby Beardies is in the process of leaving for new homes, and I was invited to come down and smooch them all before they left. (There's a possibility that one of the brown girls might have to wait a couple of weeks for her new mom to come home from a trip. Since Linda has to depart for the UK in mid-July for a family wedding, Bubbles might be coming to Summer Camp at our house for a little while.)

The puppies are all gorgeous, and many are destined for show homes. The brown puppies all gravitated toward Charlie, who gave them lessons in Dirt Appreciation. I wish I'd had a camera to capture the scene of all of them napping happily in the dirt together, after digging their very own holes to China. It must be a tradition among brown Beardies, handed down from brown to brown. Seamus and Dinah like dirt, and Dinah likes to get muddy, but with Charlie, dirt is sacred. (It's a brown thing. We wouldn't understand.)

Dinah Moe has grown a bit since I brought her home in January, but I hadn't quite grasped how much until I saw her with the other dogs. She's nearly as big as Seamus's half-sister Qi, who turned a year old in May. She's huge compared to the little puppies.

Musical Stuff

Greg's been working away madly on his Sax Quartet, and just about has the thing finished. He's received some very positive responses from the New Hudson Sax Quartet guys, and he wants to get at least a movement or two off to them as soon as possible. Who knows what might happen if they like it and want to perform it, or even record it?

Hot Weather Knitting

Even though the weather has almost been summer-like in between rainstorms, I've been able to do some knitting even in the heat. I had to frog back my second Trekking sock because I wasn't paying attention when I did the decreases after the heel. Getting that restarted was less than zero fun. I still haven't spent much time with it.

When I need something to do with my hands and don't need to pay strict attention, I start sock cuffs. For that reason, I have yet another first sock in progress. This one's from some cheap-and-cheerful yarn that I liked the look of -- I think it's Moda Dea Sassy Stripes. Maybe I started that because I felt guilty at how much I'd messed up the sock out of the expensive yarn. (Actually, I grabbed it to take along on the plane on the plastic needles when Greg and I went to NYC.)

I finished the Sockotta socks for my sister, and will post a picture of those shortly. (Add this to the list of promised pictures.) They look pretty cool, and I didn't screw anything up. 'Nuff said.

Since I'm on vacation this week, I hope to get in some leisure-time knitting (though I have to get away from the computers to do it). I'd even like to get another sweater started and catch up on the backlog of scarves from yarn my friend Susannah bought for me. (I tried the one in Berroco Suede a couple of times, but ripped it out. I'm working from a pattern, albeit a simple one, and will need to pay some attention to what I'm doing.)

Born on the Fourth -- and Fifth -- of July

Greg and I will probably spend much of the Fourth in the car, on the long trek between here and my brother's house in my home town in Massachusetts. I've just come off a long few weeks of commuting and dog shows, and frankly, I'd skip the drive if I could. However, my twin niece and nephew are having birthdays, and it wouldn't do to just stay home when I haven't seen them since Christmas. I generally loathe all small children except these two and my best girlfriend's daughter. (Sorry. Baby pictures just don't do a thing for me -- they all look more or less like E.T. -- but show me a little puppy and I'll just melt.)

Emmy is the older of the two, having been born just before midnight on the Fourth of July -- so tomorrow really is her birthday. Max was born about half an hour later, on the fifth of July. The two of them share everything, even birthdays, so they've consolidated the whole birthday thing into about a week. The family party is tomorrow. Thanks to the gods, the kid party is some other day.

Happiness Is a Warm Puppy and Hot Hardware

Today's post comes to you from my hot new computer. After months of near-terminal gadget lust from installing and setting up my friend Susannah's MacBook, plus shameless urging from Greg and a bunch of my fellow Mac-head girlfriends, I finally broke down and invested in one of those 17-inch stainless-steel beauties for myself.

But Karen, you ask, don't you already have multiple computers? Yes, I do. Current operating population (not counting Greg's laptop or any of the hardware not currently in use) includes my Toshiba laptop, a work-issued Gateway workstation that dual-boots XP and Linux, and a SunBlade 100 that runs Solaris. Somewhere on an Airborne truck is a new machine issued from work, a SunRay 170 (the iMac of Sun hardware, with an all-in-one design). If you saw my desk, you'd either burst out laughing or flee in terror. I'd advise both.

All those machines are okay, and I like them well enough -- but they aren't Macs. Greg is a confirmed Mac user who kept wishing he had a PC until he bought a new Mac laptop with OS X. I was a long-time Macomaniac who had to abandon the platform because the tools I needed for work ran only on Windows, Linux, and Solaris. All but two of the old computers around this house are Macs, and I'd always wanted another one.

After spending the better part of a week at a conference for work where all of the academics worked on hot new MacBook Pros, I couldn't take the pressure any longer. I broke down, availed myself of the employee discount, and sat whining by the front door until the nice FedEx guy delivered my new baby.

Ah, but it's good to be back home again. This is the first OS X machine I've ever had, and I'm overjoyed to see that it, like its predecessors, Just Works. If I'm feeling frisky, I can even open up a UNIX shell and play command-line pilot to my shrunken little heart's content. The truly sweet thing about the new Intel-based Macs is that they can run Windows XP as well. I downloaded the BootCamp utility, set up my Windows partition, and can dual-boot into XP if I should ever feel the need.

I'm still working out a few logistical problems with my byzantine network setup and I haven't yet figured out whether I can successfully migrate my files and settings from a PC to the Windows partition on a Mac, but I'm working on it. It's just plain great to be back using a machine that's more than just okay.

Freakin' sweeeeeet.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

We're BeardieMainiacs!

(This motley crew appeared at the York County show at the beginning of May. That's me with Dinah on the far right.)

A bunch of us have been talking about forming a Bearded Collie club here in Maine for ages now, and finally we're doing something about it. The fledgling has a placeholder Web site, an , a slate of officers to help build it, and a to-do list twenty miles long.

We have a ways to go before we can be called an official anything, though. AKC and the parent club have to approve of our existence, plus we have to draw up some by-laws and a constitution, collect some dues, stage some fund-raisers, and throw some fun activities to attract Beardie buddies from all over.

Journeys: Musical, Culinary, and Otherwise

Now that people often travel with their laptops and can write to their blogs with their cell phones, some meme someplace must be going around that asks the questions: "What's the weirdest place where you ever blogged?" Not that it's all that exotic, but I started this entry on my Blackberry while riding on the New York City subway.

Yesterday Greg and I day-tripped to NYC to attend this year's . The festival itself stretches over a period of 4-5 days, and attracts some name composers and some not-so-famous types. One thing you can absolutely predict from year to year is that you never know just what you're going to hear on the program.

A NYC-based clarinetist named Meghian Stoops performed Greg's solo clarinet piece, Polyline, and played the living heck out of it. In rehearsal, Greg had encouraged her to be as dramatic as she wished, and to keep the audience on the edge of its collective seat during each pause. Meghian took that advice and ran with it, and the reception was really enthusiastic. She rocked, she rolled, she swayed, and she molded every single sound that escaped her clarinet. After the piece was over and Meghian had taken her bows, Richard Brooks (who sat in front of us) turned to Greg and asked (my paraphrase), "Where did you GET her?!" If Meghian wants to play the Festival again and there are pieces that call for clarinet, I'm sure that the composers would just about fight to have her.

Not all of the works on the program met with such enthusiasm, however. I'm happy to report that this year the audience was not forced to sit through pieces that featured a woman moaning into a microphone in counterpoint with a tape recorder (yes, I've had to sit through that stuff in years past). However, the second piece on this program sounded like nothing so much as Seamus whining to be fed, only the whining went on for something like 20 minutes. If that piece wasn't entitled "Squeeeeeee," then it should have been.

And then there's the piece that should have been called "What the **** Was That?". It featured a husband-and-wife duo (piano and violin), and they actually did play piano and violin during the piece. However, the piece also called for them to cough, bark, shuffle and stomp their feet, clap their hands, and drum on the piano. I'm shocked that the composer didn't also expect them to sneeze and belch. (Almost every piano piece featured on the program required the pianist to pluck the piano strings and/or drum on the piano. Was that some sort of requirement?)

Not that the day was entirely unproductive, mind you. Greg met up with the sax quartet who played Richard Brooks's piece "Four-Play" and a sax quartet by Greg's old teacher Lukas Foss. The sax players were pleased to hear that Greg has a sax quartet in progress. They might even play some of it at next year's concert, if all works out well.

As for me, I got most of a sock cuff done while listening to the rehearsals and then the concerts. More on knitting stuff a little later, though.

Greg and I had planned to visit Christer's, a Scandinavian restaurant in NYC, but we hiked all the way over there after the concert to find the building in the process of being renovated for a new tenant. Greg had actually called the phone number listed for Christer's, got the answering machine, and made a reservation for us. Go figure.

Fortunately, (the famous Scandinavian restaurant) wasn't terribly far away from where we were, so we hoofed it down there and asked if they could seat us. Bless their hearts, even without a reservation on a Saturday evening, they had room for a couple of early diners in the cafe portion of the restaurant. We ordered the smorgasbord and some homemade flavored aquavit (mine: raspberry and ginger. Greg's: grapefruit and lemongrass), and had ourselves a fine Viking feast. Since we were running short of time and had a plane to catch, we had our entrees boxed up and brought them with us.

Leave it to the NYC subway folks to announce a sudden change in subway route due to construction -- on a Saturday night. While we were counting the minutes and hoping we'd make it to JFK on time, the conductor announced, "Due to construction, the last stop on this route is Grand Central Station." Because we needed to catch the train headed our to JFK, we hopped off the subway at another stop and waited for a connecting train to get us closer to the one we really wanted.

At that point, we were sure we'd be doomed to spend the night in the airport if we didn't get the correct connection. Due to construction routing and some quirk of fate, the next train to arrive was the train we originally needed to catch in order to reach the airport. We made it to JFK in just enough time to be able to sit for a minute or two before boarding was announced for our flight to Portland. What are the odds?!

Before I Forget...

One of the truly nifty things about our visiting Aquavit was that the night before, we were enjoying Eritrean food in Portland. Who'd have thought it?

We'd discovered Asmara (the Eritrean restaurant) during a visit to the art museum. Unfortunately, we found it only after having eaten lunch at what used to be the Free Street Taverna (and which is now an upscale pub). The seductive cloud of spice escaping through the front door practically dragged us inside the place by our nostrils. We were already desperately full from our pub lunch, but swore we'd return.

After putting the puppies in the doggie hotel for the night (since we'd be in NYC too long for them to wait at home), we headed to Asmara for dinner on Friday night. That same cloud of spice was waiting for us at the corner of the street.

Eritrean food is eaten with the hands, much like Moroccan food, and it's served on a flatbread "plate." Although the spicing is different, the basic composition of the food reminded me a little of Indian food: beef and spinach, lamb and potatoes, and mixture of vegetables in a mild yellow sauce. We devoured the stuff, along with mango juice and coriander-laced African coffee (boiled like Turkish coffee, served black with sugar in a demitasse cup).

That cloud of spice lived up to its promise. We'll definitely go back there.

All This and Knitting Too

Even though I've spent more time away from home than here lately, I haven't entirely abandoned the knitting. I have a collection of pairs of socks in progress. Two pairs have one sock done and the other halfway there; had to rip one second sock back and then toss it into the frog pond because I wasn't paying attention and messed up on the decreases after turning the heel. Yes, eventually I'll get back to that sock, but restarting on a sock after you've ripped out stitches is a bear and a half. I just haven't had the intestinal fortitude to pick it back up yet.

I started the cuff of the first sock in a third pair yesterday. Since I wasn't sure whether I could bring my lovely metal Addi Turbos on the plane, I cast on another sock using the plastic Balene 11" circulars and used those to keep busy while in NYC.

I whipped off a few more scarves for my scarf-loving friend in LA (she's pleased with the last box I shipped to her) and am still working on a .

After the last flurry of yarn-sale acquisitions, I've had to put myself on another yarn diet for a while. This comes from sheer necessity: I honestly have no place else to put any more yarn. If I don't knit some stuff from my current stash, I'll be forced to move all of us into the hayloft and leave the house to be taken over by the yarn.

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