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.