Thursday, December 20, 2007

This is a Public Service Announcement

Okay, all of you. You need to cease and desist with all this "dreaming of a white Christmas" crap immediately. Due to current weather patterns, every time that song plays in an elevator somewhere, we get another inch of snow here. It's getting old, people. Can't you dream of Cheeseburgers in Paradise instead?

The dogs are tickled about having yet more new snow in the yard, especially the boys. When I let them out first thing this morning, both boys hurtled down the back steps and dove into the snow. Seamus had some for breakfast...

...and here inside, whenever I'm not coughing up a piece of lung here and there, I'm putting the finishing touches on my Christmas shopping. I haven't started the cards yet, but my friends and relatives have probably grown used to getting my Christmas cards for Valentine's Day.

Dale has a hot new Nikon camera, and is looking forward to shooting some fabulous new pictures for her blog. Go on over there and see what she's been up to!

Back here at home, Greg's been updating one of his older piano pieces and migrating it from Finale into Sibelius. It used to be called simply À for Piano, but he's refitted it with a new name that's an hommage to the way Ravel used to title some of his pieces. Ravel would name them À la manière de So-and-so. Greg has retitled this piece À la manière de..., and follows that with a list of the composers to whom he pays homage in the piece. Messaien is one of them, and Hall makes it into the list as well.

He has a reason to be doing all that work. He has been invited, as a member of the , to submit a piano piece for the next next May and June. Of course, composers from all over the world will be submitting to this thing... but the winner and runners-up are guaranteed to get some very fine performances of their works from some potential piano superstars of the future.

Oh Happy Day: Our doggie storm door gets installed tomorrow, and then I can quit my job as Canine Butler!

Knitting, Such As It Is

In spite of all the snow and the cold weather serving as inspiration for knitting, I haven't really felt up to doing very much of it of late. I've made some progress on the organic cotton cable scarf for Susannah, but I haven't had the brainpower to tackle anything else more demanding. Blame the cold medicine.

I've Created a Man-ster!

I try to keep up with news in my industry by reading some online tech journals. Some of it's interesting, some not so much, and some is Way Cool. Anyway, I got an article on one of my newsfeeds about how to get an online invitation to the . Well, no one loves old episodes of TV shows as much as Greg does, so I immediately hooked The Man Up with an invite.

He couldn't be more tickled. Now he can watch old episodes of Lost in Space all day long if he wants to. The video quality is really amazingly good for such old color film, and the playback is pretty zippy, even over wireless. Of course, the videos download with commercials, since nothing comes for free... but really, how much fun can you have?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Pups Photos

Charlie's thrilled to bits that we have more snow. Someone has to be!

When Dinah's not bugging Charlie to play with her in the snow, she's dragging all the toys in the toy box outside to bury in it. Just think of all the treasures we'll find in the yard come spring! Here is The Lovely One, just back from the groomer with a fetching leopard-print bow in her hair:

Seamus prefers to take it easy...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MacRanting and a Festivus Miracle

If Apple were really sincere about offering OS versions that were completely friendly and easy to install, they'd give them names like "Golden Retriever," "Collie," or even "Newfoundland." The fact that they name their OS X releases after cats should be the first tipoff.

Mind you, I love my Macbook Pro more than I love some of my relatives, and I completely expect upgrades to be relatively painless. I've owned Macs for roughly 22 years now, and have never had an upgrade problem. (Yeah, I know that dates me. Would you believe I was still in diapers when I got my first Mac?)

Then along comes Leopard. All the buzz I've read said, "Back up everything and it'll be easy as falling off a bar stool -- I mean log." Backups are Life Itself, and I maintain a small army of backup external drives just for such purposes, so this advice made perfect sense to me. Little did I know as I was backing up this time that for once, my anal-retentiveness might pay off.

I pulled the shrink-wrap off the Leopard box (wicked nifty packaging!), inserted the disc, booted, and prepared for a simple, un-Windows-like installation experience. The installation routine asked me all the usual questions, verified the install disk, and installed.

At the very end of the installation, it brought up a giant dialog box saying, "Sorry, but we couldn't install Leopard. Seeya." What it didn't say was that the upgrade process had also taken a bite out of the existing information on my boot partition. Not only did I not have Leopard installed, but my old Tiger disk wouldn't even boot! At least my Windows partition hadn't been corrupted, so I could run XP and be glad I had half a computer left. There are Mac users out there who probably have nightmares about only having Windows available, but any OS in a storm... My UNIX (Solaris) box was still running, too -- but I don't have to maintain it. Thanks to UNIX, I can bring this blog entry to you today. At least something in this office is running properly.

I'll say this for AppleCare: You may grow old and gray waiting for your call to be answered, but you always get a competent human being. The most exotic accent I heard on the other end of the phone was Canadian, eh? (Don't get me wrong. I have no beef with people in South Asia earning a living. When you're under a lot of stress, though, it's a blessing to be able to speak with someone who understands you without a struggle. South Asian callers probably hope they don't get someone from Boston on the other end of the line.)

During the first call, I waited on hold for 45 minutes before having to hang up and go attend a kennel club meeting. When I returned, it was too late to call AppleCare again, so I tried a few low-level UNIX tricks, got a few additional error messages, and made no further progress in repairing the damage.

This morning, I went through all of the usual automated quiz questions. If Apple had had an option where one could enter a case number instead of having to go through "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No" a gazillion times, this would have been a good place to add it.

I did finally reach a second-tier tech, who listened to my issues and admitted, "I'll have to escalate this one. I can't help you any further here." While I waited on hold for the third-tier tech, I was accidentally (?) disconnected. Back to "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No." a second time.

Reached another human, and got cut off again. "MacBook Pro. No. No. Yes. No."

Finally, the old cliche "Third time's the charm" proved to be just that. I reached the third-tier tech, told him my tale of woe, and was able to get the disk back to the point where I could erase and install Leopard onto it.

The first install failed, but the erase portion of the program had done its work. My disk had been wiped clean enough so that the installer could actually see it, and it appeared to have been repaired. (There was nothing left on it to corrupt!) Heartened slightly, I attempted a second installation, all the while attempting to breathe normally.

It was a Festivus miracle! The second time, the install actually took the expected hour instead of blowing up right away! I still held my breath, crossed my fingers, and knocked on wood at the restart... but there was the Apple logo, and the little spinning "daisy" thingie at the bottom, and...!

I saw a desktop! It even showed icons for all of my hard drives, including my boot drive! In the spirit of the impending holiday, all I had to say was Halle-frickin'-lujah! I was absolutely sure I'd have to mail my computer out to East Overshoe and wait until Groundhog Day to see it again.

Not that I'm back to normal just yet, but at least Normal is in sight. I still have to restore all of my preferences and get my files back to where I want them, reconfigure my wireless connection and my syncing setup, and reinstall anything I might have lost when I had to erase the disk. At least I was able to back up all of my data and at least most of my installed applications to my external disk, so things could be a helluva lot worse. In the meantime, I have a pretty new interface to explore.

Is there a moral to this story? If there is, it's that it pays to be anal, and spare hard drives are wicked cheap these days. Oh, and never trust any software that's named after a cat.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Man Paradise: the Return, Plus Snow and Stuff

Things have been flat-out crazy busy (again) of late, what with work deadlines, club stuff, class stuff, holiday stuff, and stuff stuff. Greg actually came home on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but it's taken me this long to carve out enough time to just sit down and write.

Bless him, he even brought me a present: a robin's-egg blue T-shirt from Crazy Woman Mountain that says (no surprise there) Crazy Woman. He was a bit hesitant to give it to me because he wasn't sure whether I'd laugh, but I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear it. If I have to go around advertising myself as a Crazy Woman, I want to do so in style.

Greg promises to go through his Wyoming photos and share a few with the blog. In the meantime, here are a few photos of the pups from the snowstorm we had last Monday. Here's Dinah enjoying the snow:

Charlie took the opportunity to survey his domain, as a good monarch should...

Taking My Act on the Road

If you've already read this in my , feel free to skip this section. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by the owner of the public relations firm that does publicity for the cluster down in Boston. Turns out she reads the blog, and was wondering if I'd go down to Boston and blog about the show for a day. The Boston shows attract quite a large number of visitors, so I composed a newbie's-eye view of the goings-on and posted it to . Eventually, I hope to supplement the first article with a first-person account of my dogless adventures at the show.

At the show, I had a chance to talk for a while with the judge who got to witness Seamus's famous premiere performance in Advanced Rally -- the one in which I sang coloratura. Bless her heart, she either has seen so many such performances she didn't remember ours as being different, or she was very gracious in saying she didn't remember. At least I'm glad (and grateful to her) that I don't have to be embarrassed to show my face around her ever again. Seamus is still mighty famous, but sometimes I get to travel incognito.

Wool Season

Now that winter has dropped out of the sky onto us and appears to have no intentions of leaving for a few months, it's definitely time to dust off the old needles and try to get some stuff done. I have long ago abandoned any pretense that I can reliably complete anything homemade in time for Christmas, but I can usually hit the same season if given a running head start.

I've been doing a lot of "idiot knitting" lately, just because I've been too burned out after chasing work deadlines to do anything that requires even the minutest shred of gray matter. I've completed a scarf for Susannah in black Berroco Bling Bling, and am about 2/3 of the way through another scarf in some lavender boucle something-or-other from my stash.

The front of my Seacolors tunic sweater also qualifies as "idiot knitting," and I've made a teensy bit of progress there, too. I brought it along with me to a couple of dog shows in November. Since this sweater is for myself, it doesn't really matter when I finish it -- though it would be nice if I did it sometime before next July.

Jody's Jawoll socks are still in process. I'm almost done with Sock #1. With a little more time and a little less stress, I should be able to dispatch the foot on that sock and get to the next one fairly quickly.

My company shuts down every year between Christmas and New Year's, so (almost) all of us get the week off whether we want it or not. Although I never would have chosen that week for vacation, I've found over the years that I really look forward to having a week off to recuperate from the stresses of the holiday season, plus whatever wacky stuff I was doing at work before the holiday shutdown came around. I'd sure like to make some progress knitting during that week. I have some Encore worsted that I'd like to turn into some hats and mittens for the twins, plus I'd like to open up the thrummed mittens kit I picked up from Amy at a while ago. A vacation week is a good time to pull apart some bits of roving for thrums and get organized.

At Least My Dogs Have Class

I make no secret of the fact that I despise winter -- the cold, the short days, the crappy weather. I'd be lying if I didn't confess that I've been looking forward to doing a little hibernating this season, though. Since Dinah and I are taking a break from dog showing between Thanksgiving and Easter, we now have a chance to go back to classes and learn some fun things.

I'm very proud of the progress Dinah is making in agility. She still is a little iffy on the weave poles, but she's been happily practicing the teeter and can bang it with the best of them. Cindy, her instructor, declared, "She OWNS that teeter!". Class is on hiatus until the new year, but I'm hoping she still owns the teeter when we get back. Seamus starts another agility class in January, too. It's been a long while for him, since we had to abandon weekend agility classes during the show season. He and I both could use the exercise.

I own a couple of jumps, some weave poles, and a brandy-new agility tunnel that I picked up at the Springfield dog shows. My friend Fran has offered me her old agility equipment, once she unearths it in her barn. Maybe in the spring, I can use some snow fencing to set up a training ring in the yard, and we can do some practicing.

Seamus has always been my "rally-roo" boy, and he's happy to be going back to our Sunday morning rally-roo class. To his credit, he hasn't forgotten much since our last class, and I haven't practiced with him very much at all. Dinah is starting in novice rally-roo. She hasn't had an obedience class in quite a while and has been hearing "Don't sit, stand" from me all show season -- so now she's learning some rally in spite of being a bit behind in the obedience department. The girlie is a pretty quick study, though, and she's beginning to understand that she needs to watch me -- if not always my eyes, then my left hand and knee. Smart girl!

Week of Parties

I have two Christmas parties this week: Thursday's Christmas party, and Saturday's . I've agreed to bring cookies to both -- partly because I'll remember what to bring if I bring the same thing to both parties, and because I can always cheat and buy some at the bakery if I run out of time to bake. Greg said that he wouldn't mind playing Santa at the BCCME party if I can find him a Santa suit, so all the Beardies at the party can get their pictures taken with Santa. I've missed just about every other available chance for photos with Santa this year, which probably comes as a relief to the dogs.

As far as I know, those are the only two parties on Greg's and my holiday schedule until just after Christmas. The local kennel club's holiday get-together is on the 29th. That's about as much festivity as I can handle. I love parties, but general holiday madness makes me want to go find a cave and hibernate until spring.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Photos from Man Paradise and Other Stuff

(photos in this post by Ann Northrup)

Greg's been having the time of his life in Wyoming this week. He gets to work when he wants to, run when he wants to, and his lunches get delivered to his cabin while he's working so he won't be disturbed. The Foundation employs a professional chef who makes some incredible meals. They treat him so well out there he might never come home!

He did ask the Foundation whether he could stay another week, but another composer is coming just after Greg leaves -- so there's no room for him. He has to come home. In the spirit of fairness, he's not allowed to apply for 2 1/2 years after he's done a residency there, but you can bet he'll have his application ready to go the minute those 2 1/2 years are up.

He also mentioned to me that the other artists he's met there are all folks who have been turned down multiple times by Yaddo and McDowell, so he no longer feels like he's the only one they've turned their noses up at repeatedly. That makes him feel better about being rejected.

He's promised me some photos of the outdoors today, if the wi-fi connection there cooperates. Here's one of the hills outside the Foundation:

Here are a couple of interior shots:

This one shows Greg playing the piano in his work cabin. There's one in the main building, too (a converted railroad depot that now contains the bedrooms for all of the artists and the communal space). It's a 7-foot Kawai, and he loves the heck out of it. He likes the piano in his cabin well enough, but he looooooves that Kawai.

The one photo I have of the living room is kind of dark and not really good enough to post, but there are quite a few pictures of the kitchen and dining area. I wish mine looked like this...

I promise some pictures of the Bighorn Mountains and the big sky when he sends them along.

Greg was feeling uncertain as to which of his works to concentrate on while he's out there. He had three pieces on his "to do" list: Ongiara, There and Back Again, and Les sept merveilles. He's finding in practice that he really only wants to concentrate on Les sept merveilles, and he was feeling a teeny bit bad about not wanting to make progress on the others. Les sept, or The Seven Wonders, is a piece for solo piano and very involved, so he's decided to take advantage of the time and the two pianos at his disposal to work on that one. He can pretty much work on the other two anywhere, since he already has the basic architecture of both pieces figured out, and all he has to do is write the music to fit the scheme. The Seven Wonders still needs to be constructed before it can be filled in. He describes it as "incredibly dense, denser than the usual Man harmony."

Here's a photo he took of The Seven Wonders on the piano in his cabin, facing out the window:

Quick musical aside: He says that The Waking will be premiered in NYC next June at the ACA concerts.

Meanwhile, Back at the Homestead...

It's been deadline time at work, so things have been just too wacky for me to get very much done anywhere else. I had grand visions of carting half the crap in the house to the Treasure Chest at the transfer station and cleaning the house so well that Greg wouldn't recognize the place. Neither thing has happened, though I'm making progress in reducing Mount Laundry and in replacing stuff that really needed to be replaced, including a dying lamp in the living room, a busted window blind in the bedroom, and my worn-out moccasins. I've also ordered the new storm door. I'd hoped to be able to just point at it and have it delivered, but our door frame is about 5" too short for the standard size. It has to be a special order... ka-ching!

I'm looking forward to finishing up the dog-show year next weekend. There weren't enough entries in Fitchburg to bother going down there (mainly because some genius decided to hold the Minuteman Club's 35th anniversary party that weekend, so no one from Massachusetts will be going to the show). I wish I'd known that before I paid the entry fees. There goes another $50+ that could have gone toward something worthwhile, like yarn.

While We're on That Subject...

Fran and I were able to get away from our respective packs long enough to attend an Open Knit Night up at Rosemary's in Cornish on Friday night. I've never minded knitting by myself, but it's nice to be able to get out and join a group every so often. The knitters up at Rosemary's are all congenial, and we had ourselves a fine time. I brought Jody's Jawoll socks to the party. Fran worked on a pair of mittens. There were a couple of people working on Cat Bordhi's Moebius cowl with help from Cheryl, the resident instructor, and a couple of other folks knitting the same sweater from Knitting Pure and Simple.

I was strong -- I didn't succumb to the lure of all those rooms of yarn singing "come hither." That's not only a good thing, but a necessary one. I've just had a good hard look at my own stash, and I could probably open my own store.

I just dragged the yarn stash out from the bedroom closet (where I hid it before Greg's cousins came to visit), and I was staggered yet again by the sheer amount of stuff I'd stuck in there. In the name of home improvement, I picked up three of the biggest translucent plastic tubs that Wally World has to offer and stuck most of the stash in those. My tastes have changed radically since I learned to knit a few years ago, and I'm no longer interested in most of the novelty yarns I've picked up. I'm still knitting scarves on request, but even Susannah (who loves scarves and novelty yarn) would admit that I've acquired too much of a good thing. Might be time to put some of this stuff up for adoption.

My current "Idiot Knitting" project is a little skinny scarf for Susannah in black Berroco Bling Bling. The name of the yarn really turns me off, but the yarn is pleasant enough to work with and knits up nicely. I've hit the gusset decrease on the first of the Jawoll socks, so I have to pay a little bit of attention there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dispatches from Man Paradise

I razz Greg all the time about "Man Paradise," which is our nickname for the downstairs family room. Because I rarely go down there, Greg has decorated the place in all his typical manly squalor -- I mean splendor. He has the downstairs TiVo filled to overflowing with reruns of dusty old "Star Trek" episodes (I am the only person in the computer industry who's sick to death of "Star Trek"). The treadmill and exercise bike are set up to accommodate him. Because he'll happily eat the same things every day and likes to water down everything he drinks, I kid him that he takes his gummy microwaved spaghetti and his watered-down water down to Man Paradise every night for his workout.

This explains why I had to squelch a chuckle or two when Greg called from Wyoming yesterday to proclaim that "It's Paradise!" Not that I'm surprised. If you could put together a collection of Greg's favorite things, including mountains and grand pianos, you'd probably get Ucross. This residency is probably going to be the quickest two weeks in his entire life -- but he should be coming home with inspiration enough to last him for at least another year.

He says he took about 100 photos yesterday, and will send me some of the best ones when the network comes back up out there. Apparently the winds knocked something around last night, with the result that Internet access went down. At least the cell phone signal is strong enough to keep in touch.


As for the rest of us, we're muddling along. After I dropped Greg off at the airport on Sunday, I did what any red-blooded American woman would do when the Man goes out of town: I went shoe- and yarn-shopping. (Honest, the yarn-shopping part was an accident. I took Route 1 toward Freeport to buy a new pair of moccasin slippers, and the yarn store pulled my car off the road and sucked me in through the door, no matter how hard I struggled to resist. I was forced to buy some of the new Regia sock yarn by Kaffe Fassett, plus some black Berroco Bling Bling for a scarf for Susannah. It was an accident, I tell you!)

My mercantile-therapy excursions haven't stopped there; I stopped over at Lowes to take an in-person look at a storm door I found on their Web site. It's a Larson brand metal storm door that has a large-sized doggie door built right in! That's my idea of Paradise -- no one barking at me to open the door while I'm trying to think (this means you, Charlie Brown). This could mean a whole new level of productivity for me! Isn't technology wonderful? (Hey, Reading Public: I'm eager to hear reviews. If you have one of these doors, could you please leave a comment about it?)

A long time ago, I remember reading an Erma Bombeck column about how much she enjoyed book tours and hotel rooms, because she had the time and the quiet to do things she normally didn't get to do at home, such as paint her toenails in bed. I keep telling myself that these two weeks on my own will be filled with pedicures and bonbons, but really -- who's kidding whom here? I don't even wear toenail polish. I'm thinking I might just take half the junk in the house to the Treasure Chest at the local transfer station before Greg gets back, though.

I took The Lovely One to the beach on Saturday...

Productive People

mentions on her blog that she's learning to spin! Woo hoo! She's been wanting to try it out for a long time, and she was welcomed with open arms at a local spinners' gathering a few months ago.

A bunch of my friends have taken up spinning, including and . I'm not yet sure whether spinning is for me, even after Pam patiently taught me the basics while she was visiting. I just didn't take to it the way I'd hoped I would. Maybe that's just as well. If I'm having trouble finding room in a 9-room house (with a garage and a barn) to fit a yarn stash, just imagine what the space issues would be like with a roving stash to squeeze in someplace!

I finished the Sockotta socks a little while ago. They please me because I can reliably match up the stripes on the two socks with this yarn, instead of knitting along on faith (as I have with the Trekking and Tofutsies yarns) and come out with two socks that at least show some family resemblance. I'm a bit on the anal side when it comes to making stuff match.

Next on the sock needles: the Jawoll socks in autumnal colors for Jody. The Trekking socks were originally intended for her, but I was so put off by the mismatch in the two socks that I kept this pair and am knitting her another from yarn that won't let me down in the perfection department.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Go West, Mr. Man!

Here's a shot of Greg dancing with the lovely and talented Miss Dinah Moe. Pop Quiz: Which one has two left feet?

(Actually, they're both pretty good dancers, though Dinah's talents lie more in the realm of aerial ballet.)

The Man is headed west on Sunday for his two-week residency at Ucross. He's been packing for a couple of days now -- hiking stuff here, computer monitor there. I take him to the airport on Sunday after he's done with church, and then he's off to live inside his head full-time until just before Thanksgiving. They'll even bring him his lunch so he can work all day without interruptions, and his cabin doesn't have a TV. (Heck, where do I sign up??)

He thinks he'll be spending much of his Ucross time working on Les sept merveilles (The Seven Wonders). He says of that piece that it's possibly the most intense piece he's ever written, and that he had to finish working through The Waking before he could figure out how to approach it. He has been working with headphones on, so I literally haven't heard more than two notes of the piece. He expects to spend a goodly amount of his composing time at Ucross giving it life and form. I wouldn't be surprised if he came home with a new idea or two, either.

The Waking is essentially done, except for some minor cleanup. On occasion, I've also heard phrases from There and Back Again, which is also somewhere close to being finished -- I think. Until Greg declares a piece to be done and stamps the place and date of completion on it, it's still open for changes.

The Man has actually had quite a lot of news of late. Who's Who in America has now officially left the presses and has started arriving at every public library in the country -- and Greg's in it! He ordered a copy for himself, and it came in two ginormous volumes. Volume 1 bears his name on the front cover and contains his biography (as well as those of everyone else who is Who for 2008). I'm in it too -- listed under Life Partner. I always did love libraries, and now I'm in every one in the country, too.

Greg was so tickled when his copies arrived that he opened up the index of names in Volume 2 and pointed to all of the ones where no address was listed (he did so for privacy reasons). "Look! There's Jon Stewart! Look! There's Zach Braff!" You get the idea. At least in the second volume, the talented and adorable Mr. Hall (Greg, not Monty) rubs shoulders with column upon column of noteworthy persons.

The local papers run columns of community news for the various towns that constitute their readership, and each community has a local reporter. Greg called the Biddeford Journal-Tribune, figuring that he'd get a nice little one-liner in the column for our town, right next to the school cafeteria menu and the Cub Scouts' meeting notes. Was he surprised when the paper sent a reporter and a photographer for an interview and several photos! He ended up in the top right corner of page 1 in last Friday's edition, and the article with a huge second photo ran on page 2.

Of course, we needed to buy several copies for friends, relatives, our bulletin board, and posterity. I stopped into the Irving station and picked up four copies after pumping gas. The cashier looked at the papers, looked at me, and shyly asked, "Do you mind if I ask you something?"

"Sure," I replied, uncertain whether I'd have to give a long spiel about the state of modern classical composition.

"Did someone die? Another lady just left here with another stack of those papers."

2008 might well be the Year of the Man. The 21st Century Masterworks anthology, featuring the orchestral version of his Water suite (the one that was recorded in Prague this summer), will be available in March 2008 in every outlet from Borders Books to ITunes. We never did see a master CD from that session. It might still be in production at this point.

The Sax Quartets CD might be released sometime next year, too. It should have been recorded at Town Hall in NYC a couple of months ago, but the recording engineer has contracted Lyme disease and wasn't feeling well enough to do the sessions. He hopes to get back into the booth and get the sessions going soon. Two of the pieces have already been recorded, and the New Hudson Sax Quartet will get extra time to learn the other three works in the meantime.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Dinah Moe turned 2 years old this past Saturday. This video is actually of litter sister Buffy, but I couldn't say it any better myself. Happy Birthday, Puppy Princesses!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Rare Day in October one where I'm actually home on a Sunday morning so I can dust the cobwebs off my poor old blog.

If I were a responsible adult, I probably wouldn't be here now, either. Sunday morning is rally-roo day for Seamus and me, and we haven't been to a rally class in months due to . Don't get me wrong. I love dog shows. I love rally class. It's just that sometimes, I love taking a little break even more.

Greg's cousin Dan (actually, his mother's first cousin) and his wife Nancy came to visit from BC for the weekend, and the pups and I just bade them farewell at the door with go-cups of coffee. They're headed over to the church to hear Greg play the organ at the second service, and then they're off to visit Nancy's relatives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. They're the first of Greg's relatives whom I've met, and they're delightful people -- plus they're Golden Retriever folks, so we had plenty in common. We took them out walking on Wells Beach and to the Weathervane for a Maine clambake (using the gift certificate I won a little while back). They and Greg shared stories about the family and old photos, and Greg played piano for them. In addition to the go-cups of coffee, we sent them off with copies of the old photos (courtesy of my scanner and Photoshop) and a CD of some of Greg's more recent pieces. I meant to cook them a proper Danish breakfast, but we ended up at the Maine Diner instead.

Anyway... sloth, glorious sloth. I have to be by myself in some distant locale in order to be able to sleep later than 9 AM any more, but it's still luxurious just to be able to greet the morning at my own pace, armed with a cup of caffeine and a complete lack of an agenda. Oh sure, I have a BCCME Board meeting this afternoon, but the afternoon is still a long ways away.

My busted finger is just about healed, enough so that I've stopped wearing the irritating "buddy tape" on my right ring and pinky fingers. Both fingers are a bit creaky from lack of use, so I have to keep practicing making a fist. At least I can close my right hand now -- a while back, I couldn't even hold on to any coins I received as change unless I did so left-handed.

If You're Ever Hungry in Portland...

Greg's birthday was October 9, already ancient history by this end of the month. His birthday-dinner instructions to me were, "Pick someplace in Portland where we don't usually go." That could be most of the city; I guess we're just creatures of habit. (I should have chosen hot dogs and beer at Hadlock Field, but that would have suited me better than him.)

It's said that Portland has more restaurants per capita now than just about any other city besides San Francisco. I'm not sure whether it's true, or whether they were counting the Mickey Ds along with the fine chef-owned establishments... but no matter. It's easy to be spoiled for choice when looking for a really good restaurant in Portland these days.

We ended up at 288 Fore Street, which (surprise, surprise!) is located at exactly that address, just one block up from the ferry terminal and just outside of the Old Port. The building was a ship's chandlery back in the day, and the interior still features the beams and brick from those days. The kitchen area is situated in the main dining area, and you can enjoy the fires from the brick roasting oven and the roasting spit while you await your meal.

And what a meal it was! Greg opted for a selection of different seafood mini-entrees featuring local crab. (The restaurant makes use of as much locally-grown and raised food as possible.) I opted for the dry-rubbed, spit-roasted pork with locally-made sauerkraut. Veggies and other side dishes are a la carte, so we ordered and split a side of fresh local beets.

What a complete pleasure everything was! The place was a little on the noisy side with a capacity crowd, but it was easy just to lose yourself in the food. Greg and I stole morsels from each other's plates. I'm shocked that we even had room for dessert, but Greg's came dressed with a birthday candle -- and no one was forced to sing.

Reservations are a pretty good idea -- even on a Tuesday, the place was humming -- but the staff does set aside a certain number of tables for last-minute diners. Whether you plan ahead of time or not, just go there sometime.

Dog Stuff

I'll get to when I'm done here. Let's just say there's a lot of it to catch up on.

Last Saturday BCCME held a fun match here in my yard. I like to think a good time was had by all, but I'm afraid that probably includes the yellowjackets (like the Bush family, yet another species with no real purpose on earth). Folks inundated us with all manner of treats, from cider and donuts to fresh-picked local apples to birthday cake to cookies to... you get the idea. Greg bundled up a lot of the leftovers and brought them to church the next morning. Everyone had fun at our "practice dog show," and I think we might even have inspired one of the new members to consider showing her new puppy when she gets one.

While all that was going on, Dinah was at the Beardie beauty parlor, getting ready for a show on Sunday. I had to be insane to let myself get talked into driving to New Jersey just for a one-day show, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That's a story for , though.

Sad to say, Seamus's and my next APDT rally trial, scheduled for next weekend, was cancelled. There were some problems getting the judging panel in order, apparently -- but there will be more trials next year. We might even practice for them ahead of time!

Greg Stuff

I can't believe it's almost November! Greg will be leaving for his residency at in a couple of weeks. He'll be home just in time for Thanksgiving, hopefully with some good work and some inspiration. By that time, he'll need to start making plans to head to New York for the recording session for the Sax Quartet.

We're still awaiting the master copy of the CD from Prague with the Water Suite on it. Not that Greg's been idle in the meantime. He's finished The Waking (song for voice and piano), and has been messing around with There and Back Again (instrumental for winds and percussion). He also burned a CD of the premiere performance of Clayton's Runaround and sent it, along with a printed and bound copy of the manuscript, to the owner of Clayton Farm in Mabou, NS, where the piece was inspired. (You can see a photo of Greg playing the antique pump organ at the farm .

Knitting Stuff

There hasn't been a heckuva lot of progress to report. Since I shipped off the Tofutsies socks to my sister, I've been putting in occasional moments on the second of the Sockotta socks. I've just about finished the heel turn.

Now that it's fall and my thoughts turn to wool, I hope to get back to the old sticks and string pretty soon. I've meant well -- I've carried my knitting with me everywhere I've gone this season -- but it hasn't really seen the outside of the knitting bag for more than a minute here and a minute there.

Most of the time, my stash lives in the living room on my overstuffed easy chair. Back in the olden days, only a couple of projects lived there and the rest lived downstairs in my work room. Now that the work room is in a complete shambles, all of the knitting projects are crammed into the easy chair, and no one can sit in or anywhere near it. I had to shove everything but the "sock bucket" into the bedroom closet just so our company could sit down someplace in the house. Now that our company has departed, the migration from closet to easy chair will begin again shortly.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Football Season!

Our household is a loyal member of Red Sox Nation, and none of us have a lot of interest in professional (or even college) football... but Dinah Moe is always interested in a little pickup game in the backyard.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Still Busted

Cute photo of Seamus and Dinah...

The finger is healing nicely, thankyouverymuch. I'm still stuck in this ridiculous splint and still trying to go through life pretending I'm left-handed. In another couple of weeks, though, this splint will be history! By then, my eyes will have stopped stinging from the last time I tried to spray a can of Lysol left-handed. Pow! Right in the kisser!

If I had known what a conversation-starter a crummy old splint in an Ace bandage would be, I would have bound my hand up years ago and used it to pick up guys while I was in college. It's just amazing -- no matter where I go, I end up striking up a conversation with someone about my busted finger. The splint attracts everyone from toddlers fascinated by an adult with a "boo-boo" to outdoorsy-type guys in flannels eager to relate their own misadventures and share the pain. People still seem vaguely disappointed by my story, though, so I have resolved to not tell the truth any longer. This week I think I'll say I rescued a kitten from a fire escape on the 40th story of a burning building. Hey, do we even have any 40-story buildings north of Boston?

You Like Me! You Really, Really Like Me!

Actually, I owe it all to Dale. Back in March when we brought our respective clubs to Meet the Breeds in Saco (Dale as POC, myself as BCCME), she got to talking with the editor of Downeast Dog News. DDN, for those of you who don't live in Maine, is a monthly newspaper-format publication dedicated to all things doggy going on in the State of Maine.

Dale has a particular talent for drawing people out. After schmoozing with Holly (the editor of DDN), she determined that what Holly really needed was more writers to help with articles -- and so she recommended me. After some months of off-and-on conversations and emails and sending of links to samples and suchlike, Holly and I have finally been able to meet, talk about some topics, and get things started.

I'm pleased to say that I now am a member of the dreaded media elite, since I am a freelance writer for DDN. I now have to get some articles together and my first two are obedience-related, so Dale and Sue might be asked to grant interviews one of these days. If I bring a camera, can I be referred to as "paparazzi" too??

And This Day in Yarn...

I finally finished Joyce's Tofutsies socks and shipped them off to her. She loves them, and doesn't care that they're fraternal twins instead of identical ones. That will still bother me until approximately forever, though. Joyce, however, loves the heck out of them. That makes the effort worthwhile.

As for the Sockotta socks, Sock #2 is still a cuff, but I'm about an inch away from the heel turn. I can't knit too quickly, but I can still knit -- so I'm making progress.

Since I've been lusting after some sweater patterns I've been seeing in the catalogs of late, I thought it would be a mighty good idea to at least finish the one I have in progress. I picked it up and tried to knit, but quit after about a row and a half. Since my hand is still in a splint, I can't hold heavy needles properly, and the three working fingers all feel strained from trying to adapt. This might not spell good news for sweater production, but I've been working on socks like crazy. They're light, and I can hold them without too much stress on the fingers.

Maybe it's seasonal and maybe it's not, but with the coming of fall, I find myself even more consumed by yarn lust and the desire for some new knitting projects. I've had to go on a yarn diet simply because I have no place to fit any more yarn -- so in order to acquire anything new, I need to keep on knitting until there's a visible hole in the current stash pile. I half-satisfied my need for Something by pulling out a skein of Mountain Colors Soxie (in the Caribbean colorway, which more reminds me of the colors on a peacock) and winding that into a ball. I placed it on the top of the yarns in my sock queue, partly for inspiration and partly because I really, really want to work on something I haven't been looking at for months on end. Maybe I'll fool myself by pulling out all of the other yarns in queue and replacing them with different sock yarns from the stash. Then, everything will look all shiny and new, and I'll be inspired to knit a wide swath through the collection. Sounds good, huh?

Tails of Good Karma

Between Meet the Breeds in Saco back in March and yesterday's event in Portland, BCCME has done its share of community service/education for the year 2007.

For those of you not familiar with Portland, Paws is one of the main fundraisers for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. They hold their "walkathon" event in Deering Oaks Park in downtown Portland, and they invite dog rescues and dog-related businesses from all over the state to set up meet-and-greet tables.

Pat (the VP for BCCME) and I and our designated BCCME "show and tell" dog, Dinah, set up in the park yesterday morning. We came armed with the Beardie Rescue banner, information about Beardie Rescue and about BCCME, a DVD of Beardie photos, and Pat's portable DVD player. We set the EZ-Up up, parked the table and chairs, got Dinah settled in a crate, and prepared to schmooze our crowd.

We actually met some Beardie people -- one woman with a Beardie mix whose front half was Beardie and whose back half was Collie (I'm not kidding!), another couple who lost a Beardie and were interested in getting to know some Beardie people (maybe)... and even the daughter-in-law of Dinah's uncle Badger Burfitt's owner in Virginia! We shook hands, kissed babies, and visited with members of other rescues. Dinah enjoyed being the subject of much admiration, though I had to tell a few people that she was for "show and tell" only, and not up for adoption. The Eastern Maine Agility Club set up next to us, and Dinah was eyeing the A-frame for a long while -- but by the time we were free to run their course, she was just too tired from entertaining all day.

It was a lovely day for a dog walk in the park -- especially one that came with free Starbucks coffee. We were all pretty much worn out from entertaining by the time things ended, though. Back at Val and Pat's house, Dinah got to see Her Trav and bounce around with him. Trav did his pirate impression for me ("arrrrrrr") and nibbled my nose. Of course, their other Beardies, Maddie and Mac, thought I came to see them. Don't tell them that I went to see Val!

Monday, September 10, 2007

South Park Mac vs. PC

Bwa ha ha ha! The only thing that could have been better is if the PC were played by Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo!

Monday, September 03, 2007


Considering all of the stuff I used to do as a kid, it's probably a miracle that I didn't sustain at least one broken bone. I'd climb trees, jump off of large rocks, dive, play contact sports, took horseback riding lessons... and the worst injury I sustained was a sprained wrist when I slipped on the ice while skating. I split my head and other appendages open on rocks, sustained multiple wasp and hornet stings, and probably spent the first several years of life with perpetual scabbed knees -- with nary a trip to the emergency room.

Maybe that makes it even sillier to admit that I broke my right pinky finger just falling off the street a couple of days ago. Yes, that's right -- I fell off the street. I wasn't even drinking at the time! The town has been repaving some of the crummiest sections of plowed-up pavement around town, a fact I was well aware of when I decided to take The Lovely One for a little walk down the street to the river. The newly-paved road rises quite a ways above the shoulder in some places now, as much as 6-9 inches.

I wasn't watching where I was going, quite frankly. Like Wile E. Coyote going off a cliff, I stepped off the pavement into thin air, realized my mistake a half-second too late, and then succumbed to the pull of gravity. Unlike Wile E., however, I plopped face-first into a stretch of newly-laid pavement -- rummy, rummy. The leash flew out of my hands, and Dinah skittered down a nearby driveway. Thank heavens there were no cars and no witnesses. The judges would have given me a 9.5 for the dive.

When I picked myself up, Dinah was my first concern. She came right back after I called her, and I caught her leash. In spite of being covered neck-to-knees with fresh tar, I briefly considered continuing the walk -- but my hands and knees were scraped, one hand was bruised and hurt like hell, and my dignity was wounded beyond repair. We turned around and headed for home.

I changed my tarry clothes and scrubbed the tar off those parts of me that didn't hurt too much to scrub. My right pinkie was purple, but I chalked that up to a bad sprain. Greg and I dropped over to visit and Val for burgers, veggies, and beer, and to smooch on their puppies for a while. My finger hurt badly and looked worse, but I was fine as long as I didn 't bump it on anything (dog heads, corn on the cob, beer bottles...).

The next morning, it was no better. I decided to spend the morning at the local urgent care center instead of at rally-roo -- for which I owe Seamus yet another apology. The nice nurses and techs took me in, looked me over, took some X-rays, and introduced me to the doctor. He showed me the break in my pinky on the films and splinted the thing for me. Armed with instructions on how to take care of my finger and whom to call once the country opens up for business again on Tuesday, I climbed into the car and faced my first challenge: How to get my car keys into the ignition while encased in a splint that extended beyond the length of my fingers. (Stick them in left-handed and try awkwardly to start the car with your left hand while leaning over. Fun, fun, fun -- and so graceful-looking, too.)

Greg called as I was attempting to start the car, which made stopping to answer the phone an adventure in itself. When I explained where I was and why, he mentioned that two of his favorite church choir members had invited us to their place on Moody Beach for lunch. Since I was just around the corner from the church, I agreed to meet him -- but only if he'd drive us to the beach. He agreed.

We had a delightful time visiting on the beach -- took a walk, enjoyed a nice grilled lunch, smooched on their little Yorkie, and stayed around just chatting and laughing for much of a perfect sunny afternoon. They've sold their house on the beach and will be moving to a newer house in town in November, so this is one of the few remaining summer days they have left before they go. They say that after 15 years in the old house, they won't miss the view -- but I know I would.

Anyway, I get to visit the orthopedist tomorrow and come home wearing something -- whether it's a splint, a cast, or "buddy tape" -- but all I hope for is that whatever contraption I get to wear will allow me to take showers, start my car, and fasten my bra (which I had to ask Greg to do for me). Being able to hold a fork or a pen would be a nice bonus.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tails of Adventure

Geez, I didn't mean to let this much time go by between blog postings. I can write them and post from anywhere, but I haven't had sufficient mental quiet and enough time in one spot to do much writing since the last time. I'll try and make it up to you here.

The Glory That Was Grease

Greg and I visit the at this time every year to get our fair share of saturated fats and to check out the antique tractor pull, the livestock, and the craft and produce exhibits. Compared to the Nebraska State Fair, the Acton Fair is microscopic -- but it's always fun for an afternoon. I love agricultural fairs -- I love the livestock, the jam jars, and the smell of wood smoke from the wood-burning stoves on sale.

The Man lives for the one time a year he can get fried chicken livers and onions from the Rotary Club grill at the fair. I tend to regard liver as dog show bait, not intended for voluntary human consumption; I can tolerate the smell, but I refuse to eat any. My arteries scream for mercy as I grow torn between the onion blossoms and the funnel cakes. At least the fresh-squeezed lemonade and the Hawaiian shaved ice make up for these dietary indiscretions by not throwing too many more calories after the first lot.

has been known to exhibit her quilts and other handcrafted works at the Fair from time to time, though I didn't see anything with her name on it there this year. There were some lovely quilts this year, though fewer knitted items and not a lot of fine crochet. Maybe people just had less time this past year.

The Return of Rally-roo

Seamus and I haven't done a rally course together since June sometime. Our instructor's husband had a hip replacement this season and one of her Labs had a litter of puppies, so classes were suspended for a while. Between that and the fact that I've spent nearly every weekend at some dog show or other with Dinah, I haven't spent much time keeping our rally skills polished.

Since I'd already decided to eat the entries for this weekend's dog shows due to a lack of class bitches entered, Seamus and I were able to show up for class this morning. It was like Old Home Week -- all of the usual suspects were there with their dogs, and Judy was ecstatic to see us. It was hot in the sun and there were people practicing target shooting at the rod and gun club down the street, but Seamus and I managed to get through the course twice without looking too rusty. Seamus did decide to lie down and roll over in the middle of one exercise, but rally wouldn't be rally-roo without some antics from Seamus. People have come to count on him adding some comedy to the proceedings.

I've entered us in an APDT trial at the end of October at . There's nothing lie an upcoming trial to give us a little focus. We need 7 more Level 1 legs to get Seamus's Level 1 championship (RL1X), and we might even try Level 2 for the first time. Heaven help us.

The Royal Treatment

Greg and I eat at fairly often. The seafood's fresh and very reasonably priced, plus I'm a major-league sucker for their highly addictive onion rings. I'm on their email list, and I hardly remember entering the sweepstakes to win a clambake for 4 people... but I won! I received an email from their corporate office announcing that fact. When I called to give them the mailing information for the certificate, one of the executives offered to meet us at the Sanford office at dinnertime to award me the certificate in person and to take my picture for the Web site.

Would you believe it -- when Greg and I pulled up there, the huge sign in the front was emblazoned with "WELCOME, WINNER CLAMBAKE FOR 4" and my name all over the place. Or something like that. I was just amazed that they'd made such a big deal of it.

We entered the restaurant, and I mentioned to the hostess that Jeremy (the executive) was waiting to meet us. Her face lit up and she said, "He's in the kitchen, and he's waiting for you." Jeremy emerged a minute later and cheerily escorted us to our table. He brought the certificate to our table, and he, the hostess, and our waitress made sure that we had a great dinner and everything we needed.

When it came time to pay, our waitress departed the table with the check and my MasterCard, and returned a moment later saying, "Jeremy picked up the check. You don't owe anything." This was above and beyond -- we'd just been treated to two dinners instead of just one. The manager snapped pictures of Jeremy and me at two of the signs -- including the big one with my name all over it. I wish I'd worn something nicer, but it was 93 degrees out, and I wasn't feeling terribly fashionable.

Anyway, Greg and I decided to use the gift certificate when his cousin from BC and his wife come out to visit in the fall. We can show them a good time and some good seafood then.

Juggling Music News

Greg has been working on three different pieces simultaneously. I don't know how he does it. Most of the time, he focuses on one at a time and develops it until it's either finished or until another piece takes higher priority. These days, he's been juggling not only compositions, but music reviews. He's been writing those by the bucketload, both for CDs and for sheet music.

One of his curently-forming compositions is an art song for voice (soprano or tenor) and piano called The Waking. I've mentioned this one before -- it's based on a poem of the same name by Theodore Roethke. Greg did a semi-draft version of the song one semester while he was at BU, as part of a class assignment from Lukas Foss. He has decided to flesh the song out more fully, so it's back in the compositional queue.

He was also inspired to start another piano piece called Les Sept Merveilles (The Seven Wonders). He had been watching a special on TV about the Seven Wonders of the World -- this happened while I was in BC and my clothes were in London -- and he decided to start a piano suite using the idea. It's going to be a big, big piece, and he'll be at it a while. He's also eager to explore some compositional ideas that mark his return to the French models (Ravel and Debussy). He's been immersed in Beethoven (and before him, Bach) for a while, but he finds that it's time for a change.

He's also still banging on the Brass Quintet some. He's asked a couple of brass players he knows from Curtis to look over the piece, since Pine Tree Brass won't be able to play it. He wants to make sure that it actually is playable by sufficiently experienced brass players before he dismantles it for parts. One horn player replied that he thought it was very difficult, but certainly playable. The other one is still thinking on it.

Sheep Thrills

Dinah Moe and I have been practicing herding, as much as we can in the heat. Since she's still wearing a full show coat, she doesn't feel like doing much when the sun is pounding down. I'm hoping for cooler weather when we go to our very first herding trial on Labor Day weekend. Otherwise, she's liable to just seek the shade and let me herd the damn sheep myself. I only hope we don't stink out there. We really aren't prepared for this.

All This and Knitting Too

It's been too hot to read yarn catalogs, let alone pick up the actual physical stuff and knit. I have been making progress in baby steps on two different socks, though. I've reached the gusset decrease on the second of Joyce's Tofutsies socks. I still don't understand how two socks from the same ball can look so drastically different, but I'll try to pass it off as a by-product of that old handmade charm. At least the colors haven't pooled - they just present two completely different patterns under the exact same conditions.

For "idiot knitting," I've also cast on the cuff for the second Sockotta sock, from a pair I started ages ago. I love this yarn, even if cotton isn't as forgiving to knit as wool. At least it gives you predictable results, anyway -- the second sock in this pair is going to look just like the first sock. Quiz time: guess which brand of yarn I'll buy again...

Bogus Journey, Eh?

A couple of weeks ago, I took a week of vacation time and headed off to the out in Victoria, BC. I'd been promising my friend Ann that I'd come to see her new house on Vancouver Island anyway, so the Specialty seemed like just the right time to pay a visit. In addition, this was the show where Dinah won Best Puppy in Show last year, so I felt the need to come back and support this year's entries. (I supported them in a monetary sense, too -- I underwrote the cost of the trophies for Best Puppy and Senior Puppy Bitch.)

Greg likes to play word games, and will do so at any opportunity. He adores puns, spoonerisms, twisting letters around, and any other play on words (or parts thereof). That's probably what makes him such a crack Scrabble player, but some days it's also like friggin' Final Jeopardy just trying to decipher what he's saying when he's being clever. Anyway, it came as no surprise when he referred to the airline I'd be taking to Vancouver as "Untied Airlines." Maybe he's not so much a punster as a prophet.

Even though I showed up an hour and a half before my flight, the automated check-in kiosk at Manchester Airport informed me that I was too late to check in my bag, and that I would have to do so at the gate. After the usual security checks and other stuff, I arrived at the gate and offered my bag to be checked. The gate agent was none too pleased, but she understood the situation and tagged my bag for me. Perhaps she was the one who scribbled in the secret airline code meaning "Lose this one." I'll never know for sure.

Due to the usual bad weather in Chicago, our plane sat on the runway for 45 minutes or an hour after its scheduled takeoff time -- just long enough so that most of the people on my flight missed their connections, and I just barely made mine. The plane from Chicago to Vancouver was stuffed full of humanity, just as most flights are these days. I got to share the back end of the cabin with about a million crying babies, including a pair of twins right behind me who kept kicking my seat back, and who smelled pretty friggin' ripe after 4 hours in the air between diaper changes. I listened to my iPod, tried to hold my breath, and made significant progress on the second of Joyce's Tofutsies socks.

When I arrived at Vancouver, I discovered that my bag had been lost (big surprise there), and that I would have to fly my final leg on the seaplane to the island without it. This wasn't the first, or the fifth, or the 25th time that my luggage has been lost, so I filled out the usual forms, left the usual instructions, and proceeded to the seaplane terminal. In times past, my bag has usually caught up with me that same night or the next day. I wasn't terribly worried.

The seaplane was an E-ticket ride if there ever was one -- smooth, beautiful, and the Absolute Best Way Ever to see the area between Vancouver City and Vancouver Island. If I'd packed my camera, it would have been lost anyway -- but I still regret not being able to get any decent pictures from the air. The tiny camera on my cell phone just wouldn't have done the view justice.

Ann and Ray met me at the seaplane terminal on the island -- and they brought Penny, the world's silliest Old English Sheepdog, to greet me. Penny and I have had a long-standing mutual admiration society going. Even though we hadn't seen each other for a couple of years, Penny was still so excited to see me that she whimpered as she slimed me all over. That dog has always given a mean free facial, however slimy.

Vancouver Island is gorgeous, and my gracious hosts took me around to show me the sights, including in Coombs, BC, where they have goats grazing on the sod roof. I searched for some tacky postcards and couldn't find any, sad to say. They had some Wicked Good "Goats on the Roof" T-shirts, and I should have bought one -- but little did I know that my clothing situation was about to turn desperate.

In between jaunts out to see the island, I spent time on the phone to United -- er, Untied -- Airlines, trying to determine the whereabouts of my bag. My cell phone and Blackberry had already started showing the red logos meaning "Charge us now or you'll be sorry." Did I mention that my chargers were in the bag?

Every time I called the airline, I would be put on hold for a minimum of 20 minutes, waiting for some support rep in India to pick up the phone. (I have come to the conclusion that companies who outsource their customer support in India basically don't want their customers to bother them -- or they don't want customers at all, for that matter.) In typical fashion, the people I did speak to were unfailingly polite and unfailingly unable to help. In the meantime, my bag hadn't shown up for 3 days, and we weren't going to be home to sign for the bag if it were to arrive. We were headed to the dog show, and I had nothing but some very old and smelly clothes on my back.

Ann took me to the local Wal-Mart to buy enough shirts, socks, underwear, and toiletries to get by. I was also able to find chargers for my phone and Blackberry, so I was at least able to shed my stinky traveling clothes and get back in touch with the outside world. I have never in my life bought clothes at Wal-Mart -- for which I should sue the airline for pain and suffering -- but I'm glad they were there when I needed them. I found some that weren't too horrible, plus an emergency backup pair of black jeans (since my nice trousers were on tour, and we had a banquet to attend).

We attended a bag-stuffing party on the island the night before we left for the show. Ray and another generous Beardie person had put up the funds for the show's souvenir gift bags, and we would all be recruited to come to the show chair's house, enjoy a fabulous buffet, and help to fill the bags with all of the goodies collected from various sources and donors. We drank, we ate, we shared laughs with the Australian visitors, and had a great time smooching all the Beardies. Some hosts have the ability to treat an entire household of guests like one large extended family. Our hosts that night certainly did -- I feel as though we were all kinfolks by evening's end.

I called the airline yet again, sat drumming my fingers on hold for the obligatory 20 minutes, and was relieved beyond measure when a woman with an identifiably Southern accent finally picked up the phone. At last -- I'd found a support rep who was not only polite, but who understood my situation. I explained to her that we were leaving town, so no one would be home to sign for my bag. "First, let me find out where your bag actually is," she told me. This, after three days where no one knew where it was. She punched a few keys on a computer keyboard. "Apparently your bag is in London." She paused for a minute, expecting me to start shouting and spouting obscenities.

I really thought I was going to start shouting too, but I opened my mouth to reply -- and started to laugh instead. It was all I could do. I didn't have an obscenity left in me.

Finally, when I could stop hooting and the nice Southern lady realized I wasn't capable of killing her, I gasped, "My bag got a better vacation than I did!". She joined in the giggles, and then arranged with me to just have my bag sent back to Manchester. I could pick it up on my way home. (I had to take it on faith that the bag would not then be routed to Manchester, England. At least I could have had someone there retrieve it for me.)

A load of laundry and a borrowed duffel bag later, and we (and Molly and Summer, Ann and Ray's two Beardie girls) were off to Victoria for the dog show. Although I'd left my camera at home because I worried that my (lost) bag would already exceed the seaplane's 25-poun weight limit, I did try to snap some pictures with my cell phone. Here's a shot of the harbor where we waited for the ferry.

Pretty, isn't it? What you can't see is that there are not one -- not two -- but three bald eagles in that picture. Two are in the trees, and one is perched on a tree stump down near the water. (Ray couldn't capture them with his ultra-mega-zoom lens at this distance, either.)

We had a great time at the show. Ann and Summer received High in Trial in obedience and also qualified in CKC rally. Little Bess Burfitt (Breaksea Another Song), Dinah and Buffy's half-sister, was at the show with all of her co-owners -- plus Travis, another relative whose dad was Breaksea Gone West (Dylan). Bess is a carbon copy of Dinah and Buffy, and I was compelled to smooch her the entire weekend. She took first in her class at the specialty. There were all-breed shows going on at the fairgrounds at the same time, but I don't know how she fared in those. She might have taken at least one first place there as well. She didn't get to Winners Bitch, though. Bess is right at the stage where Dinah was this spring: obviously adolescent, and not likely to attract notice from judges looking for more mature specimens. I reassured her mom that Dinah had gone through the exact same thing, and Dinah was now starting to win shows again. Travis took Winners Dog at the Specialty from a very competitive field, and Laura (his mom) was so hapy she stood in the first-place slot, wiping her eyes. Travis also won a few times at the all-breed shows, but I'm not sure whether he advanced far enough to finish his Canadian championship while he was there.

One evening we were invited to dinner at the home of a friend who lives nearby. Diane is the local rescue coordinator for Beardies in that part of the world, and she was the one who got the call when Molly (Ann and Ray's three-legged Beardie rescue) was in need of help. Diane introduced us to Blue, a 12-year-old Beardie boy who had been neglected in his previous home. His people didn't take very good care of him, and they'd let him wander. The poor boy was bony and had some sort of problem with infected nails and feet, but he was sweet as anything and leaned on anyone who would scratch his ears. He looked exactly like my Duncan. I would have taken him home in an instant, only the airline probably would have lost him on me. Ann and Ray said they'd "think about it," but by the next morning, it was obvious that Blue was coming home to their house.

We also had the great pleasure of running into some friends of ours from Washington State and their handsome brown Beardie boy, Beo (short for Beowulf). Dinah met Beo at last year's US Specialty and thought he was mighty handsome. She even gave him the little ear-sniff she reserves for only her very favorite Beardie boys. His people, Pam and Geoff, are two of the nicest folks you'd ever want to meet. I only see them every year or every other year, but it's as though we just saw one another the week before.

Here's Beo (who has a CDX and at least one rally title, by the way):

After the show was over and we said our goodbyes to everyone, Pam and Geoff and Beo caravanned with us back to Ann and Ray's house. (We drove back instead of taking the ferry -- and it was scenic!) This photo is supposed to show the end of the bay where the ferry docks:

So much for the power of a VGA cell phone camera. Trust me, it was gorgeous. You could even see Mount Baker in the distance, and just the teeniest glimpse of the city of Vancouver.

Pam and Geoff own a VW camper van, and they camped out in Ann and Ray's yard for the night before heading out to see the sights of the island. We shared a couple of meals and a few beers at a pub the night before they departed.

The answering machine light was blinking when Ann and Ray and I got back to the house. Ray started listening to the messages. One began with, "This is Air Canada at Nanaimo Airport. We have a bag here...". Apparently my long-lost bag had finally made it to the island after all.

When I called Air Canada, the man in Baggage explained that he'd sent my bag back to Manchester when no one answered, and that the bag would be there waiting for me when I arrived home. I never did hear whether it had a nice time in London. As I packed my borrowed duffel bag for the trip home, I swore to myself that it would fit in the overhead compartment in the cabin. I even mailed some things home to ensure that the bag would remain unstuffed enough to maintain carry-on status.

My flight home on Air Canada was fairly uneventful, though I grew a bit tense in Toronto when it looked as though the long line at Customs might prevent me from making my connecting flight to Manchester in time. As it turned out, all of the other passengers on my flight were in the same line (and the same situation) as I was.

When I arrived in Manchester, the baggage office was (of course) closed. I peered in through the glass and found -- wonder of wonders! -- my long-lost bag standing with a flock of other bags. I returned to the check-in counter and stood in a mob, awaiting a chance to ask a clerk to send someone to open the baggage counter.

A surly woman arrived, displeased at the prospect of having to help people, and stomped off to the baggage counter, with those of us who'd lost bags flocking behind like ducklings. When we got there, another man had opened the counter and was reuniting bags with owners. The woman stomped off again, muttering. He brought my world-traveling bag out to me and mentioned that the airline was fairly good about honoring reimbursement requests. He reminded me to save all my receipts, and I mentioned that I had.

Finally, I dragged both bags out to the car and drove home, pulled into the garage, and yanked out my bags. I swore a solemn oath that this bag would never fly the friendly skies again. I'm not entirely sure I'm willing to give Untied Airlines another go, myself.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Puppy Love

Dinah had a play date with Angus this morning. We went over to Maryann's to herd some sheep, but the highlight of the day for the two pupsters was that they got to romp together. Angus has a major crush on Dinah -- his owner Elizabeth says that his whole demeanor changes when she shows up someplace. She kind of likes him too.

Here's Dinah waiting her turn at the sheep:

Don't these two make a cute pair?

Harry Potter and the Air-Conditioned Chamber

Not a lot has been going on in the household of late. It's been insanely sticky out, and we've been taking refuge in one or the other of our two air-conditioned rooms. Every evening, we've been ordering take-out subs from the general store, and then holing up in front of the AC with my trusty old boom box and the CD audio edition of the seventh Harry Potter book. The dogs curl up around us, gnawing on bones or snoozing. Charlie, as alpha dog, claims the spot right in front of the fan.

It's been a good time for sock production, anyway. I finished Greg's gray Jawoll socks and one of Joyce's Tofutsies socks. It's hard to get excited about a nice pair of woolen socks during the hottest week of the year, but Greg tried his best. He tried them on, proclaimed them a perfect fit, and pulled them off as soon as he could. Come wintertime, he'll be tickled to bits to have those puppies -- and he knows it. I can live with delayed appreciation.

I snapped my very first knitting needle on Greg's socks Friday night. I was using short size #1 Brittany birch dpns, which are the approximate size and thickness of the toothpick I received in Friday night's sandwich (only without the little cellophane frou-frou on one end). I'm not an especially tight or tense knitter, but I struggled a little with one of those infernal k2tbls and snapped my needle. Grrrrrr. There's another reason why nickel-plated steel circulars rule for knitting socks. I haven't snapped an Addi yet.

The proverbial jury-of-one is still proverbially out on the Tofutsies yarn. I love the colors and the softness of the knitted product, but the yarn isn't as tightly twisted as the propaganda would have you believe -- which means that I have to knit more slowly because the stitches will split if you're not staring right at them. I'm using size 1s, and the results are lovely, but still loose enough that I'm wondering what the socks would look like if knitted on size zeroes. Heaven help me. Zeroes!

Rambo With a Spray Can

I've never been a big fan of stinging insects (although I make an exception for honeybees, which have a purpose in life -- and bumblebees because they're cute and non-aggressive). Wasps, hornets, yellowjackets... these have no reason whatsoever to live, and certainly not within my property lines. I ran afoul of these little horrors fairly often as a tree-climbing kid, and now that I'm much bigger, I try to give back a little of what I received. I'm still afraid of the little suckers, but I'm much braver when brandishing a shoe or a spray can.

A couple of days ago, I saw Dinah curiously sniffing the back of a wooden bench on our deck. I went out to see what she was up to, and she was sniffing an enormous, Boeing-757 hornet in the process of building a nest on the back of the bench, not 6 inches from the back door. I shooed the dogs away, sprinted for my industrial-sized spray can of Raid, and let 'em have it with both barrels -- actually, with just the one can. I feel a little dirty every time I spray insecticide, but covering a hornet's proto-nest with white foam gives me just a teeny bit more satisfaction than I probably deserve.

Dog Stuff

Well, I've gone and done it. I've entered The Lovely One in her very first herding events over Labor Day weekend. Wish us luck! We haven't had much chance to practice, but if the sheep are sufficiently tame, I just might be able to get us through the HT without too much problem. We've had such wild and unresponsive sheep the last times we've tried to go herding -- and if they won't come to the handler, the sheep certainly won't be much help to an inexperienced dog. We shall see. At worst, I've just paid for three very expensive lessons and a chance to look really silly in front of three judges I deeply respect.

Rally class has started up again, so Seamus and I will be resuming our Sunday morning "rally-roo" times at Judy's house. We would have gone today, but I overslept. Dinah has a play date with Angus later this morning, so I decided to stay home and get ready for that, rather than speed down to class, stay a short while, then speed back and try to get up the street with Dinah by 11:30. Sundays are not supposed to be stressful. They're supposed to involve coffee, breakfast, and newspapers.

The town's water department installed a fire hydrant on our front yard this week. I let Charlie out to have a look. He sniffed the hydrant curiously, then walked over to the closest tree and peed on that instead. Once a country boy, always a country boy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Good Intentions are Overrated

"I musta woke up this morning with a bug up my ass.
I think I'll just haul off and belt the next jerk that I pass."

--Todd Rundgren

Geez, it's no coincidence that I've just received information in the mail about my upcoming colonoscopy appointment (talk about a "rite of passage"!). Thanks to good intentions gone terribly awry, I've been feeling lately like I'm already undergoing the procedure -- only without anesthesia. Now hear this: the Favors Office is closed until further notice.

First, the chair of the judges' selection committee from my local kennel club sends me the email equivalent of a flaming bag of dog poo left on the doorstep (a practice generally referred to in the Dilbert business world as "seagull management"). It basically stated, "I'm too busy to select judges for obedience and rally, so you do it." No "please". No "Would you mind helping?". Just "Hey, you. Your time's worth less than mine." I try to be a good sport, so I made an effort to swallow the first two-word response (hint: not "Merry Christmas") that rose to my lips, and attempted to finish the job that had just been arrogantly and unceremoniously dumped on me. FYI, I'm not even the rally chair.

I called some judges, finally got one on the phone who wasn't already snapped up by another club for that weekend, and reported back to the chair -- who then called me up and proceeded to ream me out for picking someone she didn't like. Sorry I left my crystal ball at the office, or I would have known whom not to call. "Merry Christmas."

Next... it seems to be raining rescues lately, after a long period of time when there were none in our region. Our local regional rep is a saint and a half, and she has helped hundreds of dogs in bad situations. She emailed about a dog wasting away in a shelter on Nantucket. Mind you, Nantucket is (per Mapquest) 194.24 miles from here. I tried to reach someone I knew on Martha's Vineyard, but apparently she's moved and left no way to get in touch. So... I called the one person I know who lives on Nantucket, and reported back that I'd made contact. What do I get but an email saying, "You should have contacted somebody else."?! Excuse me, but where's that crystal ball again?

Just be warned, innocent bystanders, that I've just plumb run out of Nice for the time being. If you want something done, better find another psychic -- or at least someone who's better able to guess What Not To Do. "Merry Christmas."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Have You Hugged Your Editor Today?

I live for this, and I know you do too: The 2007 winners of the are out! Read 'em and howl!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Like I Needed Another Time-Sink

Honestly, I don't know what possessed me. I could have gone for the rest of my entire life without creating a ... but I did it just for chuckles, and now I'm finding out what a great time-sucker it can be. Don't even ask me what it's like to be a middle-aged denizen of a social network. I don't often feel old, but on Facebook, I might as well paste an AARP membership card to my forehead and bleach my hair white.

Just because I can't stand to waste time all on my own, I suckered poor in, too.

Greg has had a for a while, but he doesn't use it very often. (Go there to hear his music tracks!)

Speaking of Greg, the recording session for his Water suite went smoothly. He spoke with the conductor a couple of times and they swapped emails -- and all of a sudden, he received a flurry of very complimentary notes from the conductor and from ERM saying that the session was done and went smoothly, and that the orchestra really enjoyed doing the suite. Those folks waste very little time! If I heard Greg correctly, the email from ERM said that he could have a "proof" copy in his hands within the next couple of weeks!

The Czech Philharmonic isn't the only one making good use of time. Greg's been working on a song (for voice and chamber ensemble?) that began life as a class assignment from his time studying composition at BU with . This one is entitled Waking, and I believe the words come from a poem by .

Oh, and back to the subject of time sinks... The audio version of the seventh Harry Potter book landed on our doorstep this morning, courtesy of Amazon -- whom I thought was shipping pre-ordered books out last Saturday! Silly me. Anywho, absolutely nothing is going to get done in this household for the next several evenings. We have 17 hours' worth of Harry Potter to get through. Let the unwatched programs pile up in the TiVo and the dishes in the sink -- we've been waiting ages for this! We went to see the movie a couple of weeks ago, and that just whetted our appetites for the latest story.

(Our neighbor just called to let us know that the town's water district will be working on the mains on our street starting tomorrow, and that we probably won't have water for a couple of days. Looks like the dishes aren't getting done anyway, so it's paper-plate time.)

Dog Stuff

Last weekend had its second annual Beardie Bounce and BBQ at the club president's house. Greg and I usually bring Charlie to dog parties because he plays well with others and hangs out by the kiddie pool most of the time (instead of, say, the food tables). This time, we brought Dinah, and she had a fine time for her little pretty self.

She romped, she flirted with her best buddy Traveler (and all the boys), she hung out by the pool with all the cool grrrrls, and she slept very, very well on the way home. She'll make a fine party animal.

Now that the Great Hunt for Majors is on, Dinah and I haven't been entering as many shows as we have in the past. Unfortunately, sometimes we take a gamble and enter a show in the hopes that there will be enough dogs for a major, and we still lose. We're eating the entry for the August 4 show in Greenfield, MA because Dinah ended up being the only class bitch entered. Even if she went BOB over the four specials, she still wouldn't be able to get a major -- so we're saving gas and hotel money and simply eating the $25 or $27 or so it cost to enter. BAH. (The good news is that I now don't have to leave town while Dale and Val are at the lake. They're going to be seeing a lot more of me that week!)

That doesn't mean that The Lovely One hasn't had anything else to do all summer. She's been doing Beginning Agility at on Wednesday nights, and she should be getting some herding lessons as soon as we, Fran, and good weather are all in the same place at the same time. I'd love to enter her for HT in the Labor Day trials in CT, but we haven't been practicing very much.

Summertime Knitting

It's been so sticky out of late that about the only thing I can stand to knit is socks -- mainly because they're too small to stick to my sweaty epidermis while I'm working on them. If this weather trend continues, I might be able to keep up with all of the promises I've made to various people to knit them some socks.

Greg's gray Jawoll socks are proceeding nicely. Working on the second sock feels much better, and is going more smoothly, than work on the first sock. I'm getting more used to the feel of working socks on dpns (though I'm still a circular-needle kind of gal). I'm about a third of the way down the leg of the second sock, so The Man might have a new pair of socks relatively soon.

Because I've been steaming along on Greg's socks, I haven't been working as much on Joyce's Tofutsies socks -- but they're the easy ones, since I'm doing them on a circular. I've turned the heel and am proceeding down the foot on the first sock. Since Joyce has tiny feet (at least compared to my size-niners), it shouldn't take me too long to reach the toe.

Also in the knitting bag: one completed Sockotta sock for myself and half a skein left to knit, and two skeins of Wildfoote in colors Jody would like.

It Figures

My friend Susannah always says "There's never a 2 without a 3." Usually she's referring to the deaths of celebrities, or any other event that happens in threes. If I've counted correctly, though, things have been happening in fours around here.

First, the bottom dropped out of our rear storm door. We've been meaning to replace it with a wooden storm door and an installed doggie door, but the metal door was good enough until now.

Next, our coffee maker started acting as though it were possessed by a decaf demon. It would shut itself off at random intervals during the brewing process, and I'd have to go back into the kitchen to turn it back on. Yesterday, it kept shutting off within seconds of being restarted, and the timer/clock started to flash insanely.

The lack of coffee in this household could rightly be construed as an emergency. Fortunately, we had an emergency backup coffee maker in the garage. I set it up and turned it on, only to discover that the built-in grinder didn't work. I had to pour the beans back into my small Krups grinder, and then place the ground coffee into the filter.

Oh, and then I went out the front door this morning to put the mail out in the box, and the front screen door started dragging suspiciously over the doormat. Don't tell me... let me guess...