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.