Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sometimes the Smallest Things are Luxury Enough

I've been a total miscreant this past week. Except for my Saturday morning agility class with Seamus, I cut all my classes just to have more time to myself. Don't get me wrong -- I love my classes -- but the one thing I really wanted more than anything was just to sleep late, slowly reviving myself over a nice big steaming mug of coffee, and reveling in the relative quiet.

Greg's hiking Mt. Abbot in the snow and ice this afternoon. I have my giant mug of coffee, and all the pups are napping. Ahhhhhhh.

Wednesday was my 50th birthday, and I can't quite tell whether I'm more relieved or disappointed that it wasn't a very big deal. I got more mail from AARP than anybody else. When I turned 40, I was so horrified at the 40th-birthday parties some of my friends were throwing with Depends and Dentu-Creme as gifts that I couldn't wait to get out of Dodge. I spent that birthday on a business trip to Sarasota, driving around Longboat Key in a co-worker's rented Mustang convertible.

If I'd had the time and the available funds, I probably would have hied myself off to someplace warm, where I could sit on the beach with an umbrella drink in one hand and a book in the other, and with no interruptions. Greg says he has no interest in going to Hawaii or any other such place, but I remember his having said that about New Orleans once, too -- and now I think he wants to get back there worse than I do.

The Dogs of Winter

Now that we're experiencing actual winter in this latitude, it's mostly been too frickin' cold to snow. We did get about 5 inches earlier in the week, though, and the puppies couldn't wait to get out and play in it...

To Dinah, the world is her snow cone...

Charlie has always enjoyed romping in the snow...

And Seamus, our little Canadian guy, is pretty happy in this weather... eh?

Music News (Such As There Is)

Greg's been so busy coordinating the various people, pieces, and papers associated with the upcoming CD that he hasn't really had much time to do extensive work on his own pieces. Now that the initial work is done, he's been able to go back and do some work on his own compositions.

Following in Bach's tradition, he borrowed one of his own themes (the brass chorale from Niagara) and expanded it into a theme and variations for brass quintet. A friend of mine plays with a few different bands around the Portland area, and one of the groups was interested in playing it when Greg's ready for a performance. My friend listened to it and said that it was beyond the abilities of most of the folks she plays with, but that the first trumpet in the band that requested the piece could certainly find brass players who were up to the challenge.

It's a big, full, colorful piece with many shifting moods -- I'm really looking forward to hearing the finished piece.

I'm a sucker for big brass sounds, anyway. No matter how many times I hear it, Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man still gives me the chills. (I had it as a ringtone for my phone a while ago, but got tired of people saying, "Oh, the Olympics!" I now have the Blues Brothers' rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "I Can't Turn You Loose" -- come to think of it, that piece is another brass showcase. If you're a fan of the movie, this is the song they play during the big cop-car-chase scene.)

Who, Me?

I'm not usually the kind of person who gets singled out for recognition, which is why I've never been a big one for awards. It's nice to be able to do stuff with my dogs that earns them recognition, but their achievements are theirs. In general, when it's time for the glory to be given out, I'm not the one people generally see.

Imagine my complete surprise, then, when the rest of the BCCME Board presented me with a certificate naming me Member of the Year 2006, plus an accompanying gift certificate for one of the local restaurants. I was so surprised I almost looked behind me to see who else might be standing there. That was just so nice of them, and so unexpected -- plus it's a rare pleasure to be that surprised. All I can say is, "Wow!"

Falling in Love Again

Since my PC committed seppuku, I've been forced to spend more time getting re-acquainted with my Mac -- and I must tell you, this computer makes me wonder where I've been all these years. I seriously LOVE this machine. Every day I find another nifty built-in function of OS X that I hadn't taken the time to discover before, each one makes me want to create something. I'm happiest when I'm creating, so this little machine has just been a complete delight since I started really using it. It's so nicely integrated, and everything talks to everything else. It just makes me want to MAKE STUFF all day long.

Dedicated Windows types generally regard Macophiles as belonging to some sort of cult. How can anyone be THAT crazy about a frickin' computer? I used to take that kind of abuse from the bigger Windows types at my former job (though the UNIX folks were pretty cool) -- but I was the first one they came to see when their PCs couldn't read one another's file formats. I use Windows, UNIX, and MacOS every day -- and I just don't get that fired up about Windows. I don't hate it, I don't regard it as the enemy, but there's just nothing about it that I can find compelling. Not so the Mac. I could play with this thing all day -- and it even has UNIX, so I can play with that too if I really want to.

Greg bought me a copy of for my birthday. I know the real gearheads out there are all talking about VMWare, but Parallels is pretty damn cool. It allows me to bring up a Windows XP window using my XP Boot Camp partition while running Mac OS. Like most virtual machines, it's not exactly high-performance. If I want to run Photoshop or another resource hog, I still need to boot into Windows for real -- but now I can easily find stuff on my other partition without having to drop everything I'm doing on this one.

My latest find is MacGourmet. How much freakin' fun can you have?! It not only functions as a recipe database that helps you figure out what you can cook with what you have, but it converts from metric to US and back, clips recipes from Web sites and emails, and even enables you to publish your recipe collection on iWeb so you can share it with other MacGourmet users and access it yourself. (Anyone who has ever saved piles of stuff cut out from the daily newspaper will appreciate this feature. Web pages never get yellow and brittle with age.)

Best of all, the company is located in Lewiston, Maine. Maybe it's because I've had to spend my entire career working out of state, but it never fails to delight me to hear that other folks are actually doing high tech in Maine. You go, guys!

Just a Little Knitting

I haven't really had much time to take up the needles of late, but I'm working on a few things. Susannah bought a couple of skeins of Manos cotton yarn in a sweet shade of lavender, and I'm knitting a simple-but-satisfying 1x1 rib scarf for her. This yarn is so soft and so nice to handle that I might just be sad to be finished with it.

The Seacolors sweater has progressed to the point where the back is done, and I've started a few rows of the front. This is my current favorite "dumb knitting" project, since I have to put out about 29" of simple stockinette before I really have to pay attention to what I'm supposed to be doing. Works for me. I have a lot of TiVo to catch up on.

This coming Friday, Fran and I are taking a mitten class at . I can probably figure out how to make them on my own, but it's good for the soul to spend an afternoon over there with Fran and some other folks, working with our local and having a good old time. It's just plain nice to get out of the routine sometimes. Even if it's not a real trip to someplace warm, it's a mini-vacation where I get to go someplace and make something warm. Close enough.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lamb Agility

Thanks to Pam for this link. Cracked me right up!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snow Dogs

Dinah Moe enjoying the winter weather

Seamus relaxing in his "thinking spot" in the corner of the dog yard.

When Bad Things Happen for Good Reasons

Don't be alarmed -- we're all okay. My car didn't crash this past weekend, but my formerly-trusty Toshiba laptop did. There I was, innocently reading my Yahoo email, when all of a sudden the poor thing went into a sort of infinite loop. It shut down, then booted as far as the initial Windows screen, then shut down again, then started over.

The restore disc that came with the laptop seems to have disappeared into a black hole, so I'm awaiting a new one from Toshiba. I did try to do a clean install of XP from my other full copy, but it didn't work.

What's the worst that could happen? I don't think my hard drive is shot -- the boot sectors have been corrupted somehow, and I'll lose my installed programs and settings when I do a restore operation. Most of my data is on the external drive, and the rest is online and recoverable (such as the files for my Web site). Sucks, though. It will takes ages to reinstall all those applications.

What's the good news in all of this? Well, I've been forced by circumstance to make better friends with my lovely new MacBook Pro. I never quite "moved in" to the new machine after I bought it last summer -- I had planned to move all of the stuff from my Toshiba onto its Windows partition eventually -- but now I'm living on the MacBook and discovering all of the Massively Cool things OS X has to offer. I've been a Mac fan since the mid-'80s, but four years of PC and UNIX only caused me to forget how much fun the Mac really is.

I've been playing with iWeb, created , and in general having a pretty rockin' time of it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The View from the Mountain

Greg and I took all three puppers up Mt. Abbot yesterday. Greg and Charlie have done that hike together a few times before, but it was a first for Dinah, Seamus, and me. Here are a few shots...

Charlie had a great time.

Charlie and the White Mountains

Dinah and Seamus take a break at the summit

I call this shot "A Brown with a View".

Dinah and Seamus sport that windblown look

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I Couldn't Go to the Tropics, So...

...the tropics came to me!

Anybody who believes that our climate isn't changing should come to Maine right about now. Here it is the freakin' 12th day of Christmas, and it's sunny and 66 degrees out! Not that I'm complaining -- I loathe winter -- but it just isn't right for this time of year. By rights, I should be taking turns shivering and shoveling -- but I spent much of this afternoon driving around with the windows down and Charlie grinning out the window. I had been feeling a little bummed out because I haven't the time or money to take myself off to someplace warm for a vacation. If this keeps up, I won't have to go anyplace.

Isn't She Lovely?

Dinah after her makeover from . Photo by Mike Wiggin. Thanks to Mike and to Helen at the Dog Wash in York Beach for offering the contest!

Lately it's been a blast to bring in the mail, because almost every day's delivery has contained something nice from one or another of our adventures. Of course, you've heard all about Dinah winning the free "day at the spa" from Dog In Sight. The January issue has just been published, so locals can start looking for it at grooming and pet supply shops around NH and southern ME.

Not only that, but the book has been published. Dinah's on page 30. Various of our friends and acquaintances appear in the book, too.

Doesn't Nick do a terrific job?

There's The Lovely One, as she appears in the book. Photo by Nick Diana of City Puppies. I wish I'd taken a little more time with Dinah's hairstyling, but so it goes.

The Lovely One is entered in the Fitchburg shows on the 13th and 14th. There's a good-sized entry in bitches, though not enough for a major. I hope Dinah does well -- it sure would be nice to pick up some more points. This will probably be our last show till April -- although if this weather keeps up, I'll probably wish there were more shows and trials we could do in the wintertime.

He's #2, and He Sure Does Try Harder

The national rankings are out for for 2006. Imagine my surprise to see Seamus's name in the listings! Mind you, we only finished an RL1 title this past year, so we didn't come anywhere near the Top 20... but there we are, planted solidly in the middle of the pack. Turns out that Seamus is also the #2 Beardie in the country. Disclaimer: the #1 Beardie has about 10 times as many ranking points as we do, not to mention an ARCHX -- but we're still #2 out of 6. How about that?!

Not that we have the time to lie around basking in our own collective glow. Classes have started again, and Seamus is taking two sessions of agility in addition to our Sunday rally class. We were lucky enough to secure a spot in Anne Andrle's intermediate agility class at , but we're also doing a Saturday morning class. We love, love, love working with Jim (our Saturday instructor). He's helpful and perceptive, and gives excellent advice to each handler about how to improve each performance. I've known a bunch of people who have taken (or are taking) classes with Jim, and they all adore him. The best part about this class is that I know nearly everybody in the class already, including a friend I haven't seen since her Lab Chester and our Charlie were puppies (9 years ago!). I'm also really looking forward to Anne's class, which starts next week. More on that after we get there.

I'm hoping that taking the two classes will help us solidify our teamwork and get us into synch as an agility team. I'm not in a huge rush to get us into trials, but it's definitely in the plan for someday. Let's conquer AKC Rally Advanced first.

Hey, Look What I Made!

I've been helping my friend and her business partner Betsy with the Web site for their new business, . Go on over and have a look! Even though the templates I've been working with don't offer me as much freedom to tweak the design as I'd like, I think it came out pretty decently.

And On the Needles...

It's probably a good thing that I was just too beat on New Year's Day (plus the weather was horrible) to head up to annual New Year's Day blowout. I honestly don't have room for any more yarn, but when has that ever stopped me before? Dale and I went last year, and we had too good a time.

Fran and I managed to get into enough trouble just cruising up to last week. Rosemary keeps a whole big "bargain room" of yarn, and I managed to scarf up enough balls of Brown Sheep Naturespun (at Wicked Bargain prices) to knit my next couple of sweaters. (Both are Yankee Knitter patterns. One is a sheep cardigan, and the other is a simple guernsey.) There's a whole shelf of Big Kureyon at the shop that keeps giving me come-hither looks whenever I'm left alone in the bargain room with it. My resolve is weakening... and the hayloft in the barn is still empty... so there's room for yarn after all!

I'm almost finished with the back of the Seacolors tunic sweater. The sweater itself is dirt-simple -- roll hem, roll neck, set-in sleeves -- and the hand-dyed heather colors (thistle and teal) are so gorgeous you just want to put whipped cream and a cherry on top and eat them for dessert. I really should be farther along with it, but those pesky Fortissima socks keep calling to me to work on them instead. I have the first one almost done, and I need to decide soon whose feet these should fit. I have a waiting list for socks (which actually makes me happy), and this color scheme would please my sister almost as much as it pleases me.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Our Cat Needs Vocational Counseling

Persephone napping on the job

We currently have a repairman here working on our treadmill. The incline function stopped functioning a few weeks ago. The treadmill still works fine if you just want to trek on a flat distance, but going uphill just wasn't happening.

The treadmill is under warranty, so Greg called the repair number, and a technician determined that the motor had failed. He had a new motor shipped to us, and scheduled the repair date for today.

Come to find out that a mouse had crawled into the downstairs family room (almost literally under the cat's nose, since she lives down there and sleeps a few feet from where we keep the gym equipment) and decided to take up residence in the treadmill motor.

Unfortunately, since we're still using the treadmill, the story doesn't end happily for the mouse. The technician just pulled it out of the motor with barbecue tongs, and it just received a less-than-proper Christian burial in our garage trash receptacle.

The cat has thus far refused to comment.