Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Man Chapter

So much has been going on of late that the only way to get any of it into the blog is to break it down into smaller, more digestible portions. Otherwise, the prospect of sitting for hours at a stretch and pouring all of life's events into the keyboard looks a tad daunting -- and would probably result in none of it getting done. I have articles to write, and am trying to use the blog as a warmup so I'll get them done while I'm on vacation.

The Man has been so involved in a variety of projects that I'll probably miss one or two in the process of chronicling them. That just means that there'll be more fodder for the next Man Chapter.

I gave him the update to his Sibelius composition software for Christmas, and have hardly seen him since. He's been busy working on an interpretation of Dona nobis pacem that he decided to do as a lark. The first bars sound wonderful. This one is instrumental, not vocal -- but I'd have to listen again to give any idea of the orchestration. I know the piece so well as a canon (sung) that every time he plays a passage, I can't get it out of my head for hours.

Greg has also finished the piece he calls Symbolist Minimal. He never did come up with a name for it other than its working title, so Symbolist Minimal it remains. He's done extensive reviewing with flautists and harpists on the playability of the piece, and has implemented their suggestions. The result is slightly different in practice than the initial MIDI, but the spirit and feel of the piece are exactly the same. This also guarantees that the piece can be played by instrumentalists other than the MIDI Symphony Orchestra.

He likes to say of the piece that it brings together elements from both the 19th and the 20th centuries, since it possesses both wonderful, sweeping textures from the symbolist era and atonal passages inspired by the mid-20th century. You'd think that the result would be jumbled and confusing, but it's not -- he manages to marry the two together quite successfully. I'll nag him to put a passage up on his Web site, so your ears can be the judges.

He's also been talking to a couple of other record companies and has sent some of his instrumental pieces off to one of them. This company also works with eastern European orchestras and records in Prague, so Greg might get his trip to Prague after all. In the meantime, he needs to finish up the post-production work on the Sax Quartets so they can be released, and he needs to meet with the artist he commissioned to do the cover art.

I'm not sure where the ERM Media release (21st Century Masterworks) stands, the one that includes the Water Suite. They keep moving the release date around -- first they move it out till later, then they move it in and start publicizing its impending release, and then they move it out again. Everything I know about this is third-hand, but it will be 2009 within a week. It has to come out sometime.

Greg has also started writing a notebook of exercises for his piano students -- a sort of modern Anna Magdalena Notebook. He uses these exercises to warm up before he plays, and his students have been finding them helpful. One of these days, he'll get it ready for publishing, and might make it available for sale on the Web site to other piano students and their teachers.

I promise more updates later from the other corners of life, but it's time to go off and live more of it for a bit. We have a kennel club between-the-holidays party this afternoon, and I'm late getting ready. More anon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A doggy Christmas surprise

This video was made by a Hungarian dog training club. It's definitely cute, but I can't help but be impressed by how many hours of training went into this!

That's Snow Biz...

Geez! No sooner do we get done with that gawdforsaken ice storm than two successive snowstorms roar into town within the space of three days. Usually I can wait until February to say this, but enough is already enough!

The dogs don't exactly see it the same way. They love the snow. Seamus will sit out on the deck during a snowstorm and let himself be covered with the stuff until he almost looks like Frosty the Snowdog. Charlie likes to lie down in a snowdrift to survey his domain. Dinah can't decide what she likes better -- eating the snow or bouncing around in it -- but she insists that both boys join her outside when she wants to go, and she won't take no for an answer.

Seamus walks the circuit inside the dog yard...

Dinah challenges Seamus to a game of tag...

...and Charlie declined to be a part of the proceedings this time. We'll catch him in the next snowdrift.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Little House on the Glacier

Winter got an early start on us this year. Not content to wait until the actual solstice to start inflicting cold and misery on us, Mother Nature dropped a horrendous ice storm on our unsuspecting heads in the wee hours last Thursday night. We awoke to find the power out and everything coated in at least half an inch of ice. Since losing power is nothing out of the ordinary here in the hinterlands -- the power goes out here every time a cloud passes across the moon -- we simply waited for the lights and heat to come back on.

Only it didn't. We and about 220,000 of our neighbors in Maine alone got smacked by the storm, and the power company had all it could do to try and restore electricity by working around the clock and calling in the cavalry from places like Ohio, Maryland, and Quebec. In the meantime, we froze and our food thawed. At one point, it was warmer in our fridge than it was in our house.

At least the doggers enjoyed the weather...

...which is more than I can say for ourselves. We did explore the deeper meanings of what it's like to endure three-dog nights, since we happen to have exactly three dogs and they all insisted upon sleeping in the bed -- and on top of me. I can report that bedtime was about the only time I was warm -- well, then and dinnertime, when we made the pilgrimage to the Panera Bread in Biddeford for hot soup and Internet access. Some friends of ours in Scarborough invited us up on Saturday night for showers and a hot meal, in that order.

If we hadn't been freezing all the time and in the dark for half of it, it might almost have been a nice change. Greg got some reading done. I made significant progress on my dad's socks -- finished the first one and made some headway on the cuff for the second. The quiet was astonishing -- not just the lack of traffic noise, but also the lack of electrical and appliance hum inside the house. We could hear for long distances, and could tell which neighbor's generator was on by its distinct sound. Although our crank-powered lanterns could get AM radio, we abandoned all sound from it except for the weather report. It might have been restful at a warmer temperature, and with hot coffee.

We finally managed to buy one of the last available generators in all of southern Maine last Sunday, approximately 5 minutes before I started to crack. I'd called around to various hardware stores and big-box outlets and had located a source of generators in South Portland -- but by the time Greg got there, they had sold out. He decided to stop by the Biddeford Home Depot on the way home, even though I'd already called there and been told that the only generators in the area were in South Portland.

As he was leaving the store, a truck pulled up with a shipment of generators from the South Portland store. He managed to score one and called me to bring the larger car, since the box wouldn't fit in his hatchback. As he waited there for me, people offered him cash to give it to them so they could buy it. Everyone appeared to be reaching the frayed ends of patience and sanity by that time. That night, we enjoyed warmth from a space heater and light from a lamp in the bedroom for the first time since Thursday. Sweeeeeeet.

The next day, Greg experimented with the microwave and the electric teakettle while I drove to work. Since I couldn't work from home and I couldn't not work, I crammed as much productivity (plus a shower in the company gym) into that day as I possibly could. Saw my very first power company truck headed south on the Turnpike while driving south myself. Although the power company kept calling and leaving tantalizing "just checking to see if your power is on" messages on voicemail, we were still in the dark.

Our power finally returned on Tuesday night, just as I had resigned myself to another night of sleeping in four layers of clothing after watching a power truck drive slowly past the house and around the corner before it disappeared. Greg noticed my alarm clock flashing. "The power's back on!" It took me a few minutes to react. Did we dare to get our hopes up? It was with no small measure of gratitude that we turned off the generator and started turning on heat and lights in the house. The food in the fridge and freezer were losses, but we were back, baby!

This power outage is probably the most effective argument I know of against signing up for VOIP phone service -- it may be massively cheaper than maintaining an old-fashioned phone line, but when the power goes out -- and it does around here frequently -- then you don't have a phone. We at least had phone service while everything was out, and couldn't reach our friends with VOIP unless they also had cell phones.

The power crews worked almost around the clock to restore service, and some people in NH still don't have power. Let's hope they get it back soon!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful? We're Working On It.

Hey, I know Thanksgiving Day was a couple of days ago, and yesterday was Black Friday (signifying the color worn by the family of that poor guy at a Long Island Wally World who got trampled to death by rabid Christmas shoppers). Next Monday is Cyber Monday -- only for people who don't really understand that using "cyber" as a prefix for anything anymore just shows that one doesn't really know much about the Tubular Interwebs. "Dude, the '80s called and they, like, want their slang back."

Anyway, I suppose that this puts us right in the middle of the holiday season today, whether we like it or not. I hope it's not too late to still be thankful for a few things, however small.

  • I suppose I'm thankful that the pre-treatment estimate for Charlie's upcoming surgery pretty much equals the last deposit I made to my checking account. Anyone who wants to complain about it being a fairly lean Christmas from these here parts is more than welcome to unwrap a lump of you-know-what for the holidays, and I'm not talking about coal. (Clue: You can come to our backyard and scoop your own piece from the available selection.)

  • I'm thankful to still have a job, but let's revisit that particular idea in a couple of months. It was nice of my employers to let us all sweat through the holidays before letting us know whether we'll ever be able to pay off the gifts we charged to our MasterCards. Priceless.

  • Okay, I am genuinely thankful that we finished Dinah's AKC championship this year, and are teetering on the brink of finishing her in Canada. Details are on my other blog. The Thanksgiving Cluster usually marks our last show appearance of the calendar year, so it was particularly nice to be able to finish our 2009 season at the last shows of our year. I'm also grateful to be able to pick and choose our shows now that she's a special, instead of sending out $30 and a whole lot of hope to every show within a few hundred miles that stands a chance of amassing a major's worth of competition. I can roll that savings right into my 401(k) and watch it disappear anyway.

  • I am grateful that my family seems to be hanging in there, despite some health scares that my father's had this year. One of my sisters recently got engaged, and I'm glad for her. I just pray every day that she and her intended run off to Las Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator so I don't have to deal with a 50-year-old Bridezilla. See "lean year for gifts" above.

Yeah, we still have our health, the roof is still over our heads, and our guy won in the last election. This is a season of hope, however guarded that hope might be. If I have a wish for this upcoming holiday season, it's that we will shortly be able to look back in it and say, "Remember how down and how scared we all were?" -- and be able to do so from a place that is genuinely happier and more hopeful. I wish everybody the best, and hope that there are better times to come.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Days Only Look Shorter!

Whew! Sorry to have been away from the blog for so long -- but I've spent much of the time right here in front of the computer. It's been a busy time for Web site updates. If you want to see what I've been up to, have a look:

That's been enough to keep me out of trouble for a while. As for keeping me off the streets... well, it's just a shame I'm not getting paid for most of this work. In the future, I might have to change the ratio of paid to unpaid...

Not that I'm at all surprised, but the company I work for has just announced that it plans to lay off between 5,000 and 6,000 people. My peers and I are waiting (with dread) for tomorrow's conference call, in which our managers share what they know about our chances of surviving the bloodbath. I give myself a 50-50 chance of seeing the New Year. On the good side, I've just been assigned to one of the hot new projects that the company is depending upon (no pressure there!). On the bad side, they could up and ship all of our jobs overseas.

Please think good thoughts for me. Quite frankly, I'm scared to death.

Anyway, I can recommend a good, cheap Web site designer...

One of President-Elect Obama's campaign promises was to impose a penalty on US companies who ship jobs overseas, and a break for those who keep their jobs here. The bad news about that is that the layoffs are scheduled to start about 3 weeks before he takes office, and Dreamerica wasn't built in a day.

I can't help but think about the Great Depression, and the mess that FDR took on when he succeeded Herbert Hoover as President. The parallels between now and then are just too scary. My parents grew up during that time. To hear them talk about it, you'd think that they had the time of their lives -- but all those songs about money and how to get along without it were their pop culture. I grew up learning all the words to those corny old ditties, and lately lines such as "the rich get rich and the poor get poorer" have been coming back to me.

A Small Piece of History

I might have mentioned that I spent occasional evenings this past year doing data entry for the local Democratic office. Truth be told, I've been a proud Independent voter for many years now, and registered as a Democrat this year so I could vote in the state caucus. I just felt that I couldn't sit idly by and watch everything go down the proverbial tubes, so I went out and offered a little help.

On Election Night, the local office was positively electric -- and not as overconfident as you might think. The crew captains had CNN running on one of the monitors. Canvassers came in, reporting when they had been threatened, discussing some pretty nasty robocalls going around and whether to notify the papers, and picking up flashlights before heading out again.

Many stayed at the office long enough to take pictures of themselves and one another there. They knew that win or lose, they had helped to make history -- and they planned to keep little pieces of it to show their grandkids someday.

News of The Man

Greg has been putting the last finishing touches on the piece he calls Symbolist Minimalist. I'm not sure the title will stick, but the piece itself -- no matter what he calls it -- is one of the prettiest he has ever written. The piece calls for only three instruments: harp, viola, and flute. Greg's been in touch with a couple of harpists who have been advising him on how to make the piece more playable for their instruments, so each revision has been most productive thus far.

If I had to characterize this piece, I'd call it "Debussy and Scriabin Have a Picnic." It combines lovely, dense melodic and harmonic textures with sections of atonality that not only fit the piece, but provide the connectivity between the lush melodic sections. Am I giving anything away by mentioning that there's just the merest quote of "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" in there someplace? If Greg puts up an excerpt on his Web site, I'll blog about it. You won't want to miss it.

Even Some Knitting News

My friend Fran and I have been taking part in the occasional Open Knit up at one of the local yarn shops, Rosemary's in Cornish. I've made it most of the way down the foot of one of Dad's gray Scheepjes socks. I cast on the cuff of the other sock when I was in a spot where the light wasn't good enough to work the heel gusset, but I could still cast on a sock cuff in the semi-dark. Anyway, I have a couple of inches' worth of cuff on the second sock, so I can just jump back to that after finishing up the toe of the first sock.

I'm still struggling my way through The Friday Night Knitting Club. I'm afraid I'm not enjoying it any more than I've enjoyed my samplings of the endless collections of knitting-related mysteries and giggly, self-referential books about knitting. I'm trying to finish it, really -- but mostly I'm hoping that a giant monster from outer space invades the city and eats all the main characters. There's always hope, right?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"...And summer's lease hath all too short a date..."

The signs have been everywhere for weeks now, and still I chose to ignore them. A splash of red leaves on a green tree here, apples ripening there, my neighbor backing his camper into the driveway in anticipation of a quick getaway... all the signs were there. Still, I've been trying to squeeze as much summer out of my current state of denial as I possibly can.

Now that we've had a couple of hard frosts and the potted flowers on neighbors' doorsteps have been exchanged for pumpkins, it's probably time to face the chilly reality. It rained all summer, so I can't help that we've been cheated out of the warmer, sunnier portion of the year.

Fall is actually my favorite season. It's just the part that comes after it that I could do quite well without. With the price of heating oil at an unconscionable level and everything else costing a heck of a lot more, I'm really not looking forward to having to endure winter this year. Couldn't we just fast-forward to spring?

Little Famous Seamus Brag

Here's the little bugger and all of his Q ribbons, plus his RL1X rosette.

I am proud to announce that Seamus is even more famous! After plugging along for almost three years to collect 10 qualifying scores, he has finally earned his APDT Rally Level 1 championship title (RL1X)! In regions where there are more trials, it doesn't take nearly so long to amass 10 Qs -- but here in New England, we've managed to have two APDT trials in a good year. (I am pleased to announce that Wag It in Lincolnville is now bringing APDT Rally to Maine, so there will be more trials in the future.)

Another quick and belated rally shout-out to Barb Rimoshytus and Tazzy, her Golden. Barb occasionally reports about the show adventures of her Papillon Rio on my Dog Show Newbie blog, but this brag is Tazzy's alone.

Tazzy earned his RN (AKC Rally Novice) title at the Golden Retriever Club of America's National Specialty in Rhode Island in September. He earned the title with three perfect scores, and Leg #3 also earned him a second-place finish. Barb mentioned that there were about 80 Goldens entered in that class, and about 65 of them showed up to compete. Woohoo and congratulations, guys!

Now I've Herd(ed) Everything!

BCCME held a herding clinic last weekend, and Charlie's breeder Terry Workman agreed to be our clinician. Everybody had a fantastic time, and quite a few people came up to me exclaiming, "Where did you get him?! He's wonderful!".

Here's a shot of Dinah working the goats.

Even if I hadn't known him for years, I'd say that Terry was a trainer after my own heart. He's a motivational trainer, whose primary approach is to understand your dog and why he does what he does. He doesn't scream or throw things (which I've always found unsettling at best), look down on non-Border Collies, or use punishment or force to get where he wants to go. When he works your dog for you, you can watch and appreciate the dance between dog, stock, and handler, and understand how everything works toward achieving balance.

Both Dinah and Seamus came to the clinic and worked the stock. The nice, tame goats in the round pen didn't really excite them much (for good or ill), but the sheep in the larger field were much more to their liking.

Seamus turned out to be the surprise entry of the two of them. He did quite a good job of staying out from the sheep, and his interest was more sustained than Dinah's. Dinah likes to herd, but she also knew that she had friends and fans watching her. Terry observed that he needed to have his confidence built up, but that he really did have some talent for the game, With enough reinforcement, he could be a halfway decent stockdog.

News of the Man

Today is Greg's birthday, so it's a good time to catch everyone up on the Man News. I promise to get caught up with everything else, too, but things have been particularly chaotic lately. If it weren't for Twitter, no one would hear anything from me at all these days! (I'm @my3seadogs if you care to follow me.)

The Man is one birthday shy of a half-century today, which makes him my own personal San Francisco 49er. (He doesn't even follow football, but he was born in SF.) He shares his birthday with both John Lennon and his son Sean, Jackson Browne, Tony Shalhoub, Scott Bakula, Camille Saint-Saens, Miguel de Cervantes, and John Entwistle.

There's actually a lot of Man News to tell. He spent last Sunday and Monday in NYC at the recording session for the last movement of the Sax Quartet. Everyone was psyched -- the guys in the quartet were having great fun with the piece. Now that the whole CD is in the proverbial can, it's time for the final editing and production. It's supposed to be available around the first of the year -- look for it on iTunes!

Not that Greg sits still for very long. He's been working on a gorgeous piece for (I think) flute, viola, and harp. Its working title is Symbolist Minimalist, but that's likely to change. The parts I've heard are blow-you-out-of-your-seat lovely.

He spoke to the folks at ERM Media recently, too. The compilation recording with his Water Suite -- the one that was recorded in Prague -- is also supposed to be released Any Time Now. He didn't receive a preview for a very long time, and by the time he was able to hear it and give his inputs, it was almost too late. The company had to remake the master, but at least his inputs are in it this time.

He's also making a name for himself in a bunch of other places, including the 2009 Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World, and as a critic for CRS. He received a brief but complimentary mention in the New Music Connoisseur's review of the June ACA concerts, too.

Next Monday (October 13), he's going to be interviewed in Second Life as part of the Music Academy Online's ongoing series. I don't know the time yet, but will post a playback link if I can find one.

Anyway, happy birthday, Mister Man. Hope next year will be even more successful and inspiring than this one!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Days You Have to Take a Rain Check

Much as I hate to admit it, I was relieved to see and hear the rain this morning. If today had been sunny, I would have roused the canine portion of the household early for the first rally-roo class of the season, and thence headed off to a picnic with some Old English Sheepdog buddies. Even though I was really looking forward to both, I'm even more relieved that the rain has postponed both events. Some weekends you just need to recharge the old batteries, and I am burnt to a crackly crunch.

Meet the Breeds

I can't believe that I'm getting to blog about this before Dale does, but you'll want to see what she says about it -- especially if she got pictures. Yesterday was soooo busy over at my booth that my camera never even saw the outside of its case.

Every year, four local dog clubs combine forces to hold a Meet the Breeds event. It usually takes place indoors in March, but when AKC declared September to be Responsible Dog Ownership Month, changing the date to September was a no-brainer. Three of "my" clubs took part: YCKC, BCCME, and POC. Dinah and I were there to offer CGC tests.

I honestly though I'd have maybe three or four dogs all day. As I set up my EZ-Up and Dinah's crate, I thought that maybe I should call Greg and have him bring up my knitting on his way to Portland. The event ran from 10 AM to 4 PM. No way was I going to see enough action to justify sitting around there all day.

Was I wrong! The event was mobbed. Not only had the pre-event publicity machine done a terrific job, but people passing by on Route 1 saw the line of EZ-Ups and came in to investigate. We attracted our expected audience of families interested in meeting different breeds of dogs and asking about them, looking into the various rescues, and asking about training classes with the obedience clubs. Everyone wanted to pet the puppies.

I just never expected that so many people would show up wanting the CGC test! 16 -- yeah, sixteen -- dog/owner teams in all took the test, and 15 of those teams passed. I never had time to take any photos, or even to call Greg. Dinah and I worked almost non-stop all day long. We tested, delivered good news, discussed training classes and therapy dog work, posed for newspaper photos with happy recipients, and in general had ourselves a grand time. Dale and Jasmine got to participate in the "crowd scenes" for the test, and I directed everyone who asked me about therapy dog testing to the very busy POC booth.

Anyway, I was on my feet almost the entire time yesterday, and woke up this morning grateful for the chance to sleep in. We're all glad that the event was such a success, but I think we're even gladder that the rain cancelled many of today's outdoor events. I didn't have the strength in me to do very much this morning.

And There was Knitting

Jody sent me a delighted email after she received her lovely striped Jawoll socks. Not only was she just as tickled with the autumnal color scheme as I'd expected, but the socks fit her perfectly. Jody's one of those folks who will wear her favorite Birkenstocks until the snow is a foot deep outside, so these socks will keep her toes warm until it's time to pull on boots -- and afterward, too.

My sister asked me if I could knit a couple of pairs for my 82-year-old dad, who is always cold. Although most of the yarns in my stash are more what you'd call "girly" -- or maybe just "bright" -- I managed to dig up a couple of balls of a nice charcoal gray tweed Scheepjes and cast that on for him. I'm happy to be taking requests -- usually I just grab something and start working on it, and then find the socks an adoptive home after the fact.

In the meantime, all of my non-sock projects have been sitting around looking dusty and neglected. As far as I remember, I only have to frog a couple of real oldies -- but in the little time I have available to knit, I just always want to pick up the socks. At least my socks are making progress.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Random Dog Photos

Charlie was uninterested in joining today's photo session. Anyway, Dinah and Seamus are enjoying the sunshine. Dinah is headed for a show this weekend, so she's sparkly clean from a bath and grooming... which is why she headed directly for the Big Dig to get dirty all over again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Minnesota Nice, Home Nicer

Well, actually, this photo was taken in Wisconsin...

Sue, Dale, and the rest of my blog buddies have probably despaired long ago of regular updates from me. I know, guys, I know. The thing is, you have to sit in one place long enough to be able to write anything. That hasn't exactly described my summer to date.

Today is Labor Day, and I've already done my labor for the day. BCCME held a Board meeting over at the Panera Bread in Biddeford. I swilled coffee and scribbled notes. That's the extent of today's effort, thankyouverymuch. The weather is lovely, Greg's practicing piano, I'm drinking wine, and the pups are eagerly awaiting the time when we fire up the grill. Business as usual tomorrow, but today is ours.

So Whatcha Been Up To?

My other blog details Dinah's and my adventures in Canada with our partners-in-crime Val and Traveler. Quick summary: We went, we saw, we kicked butt, we drove a long way, and we replaced the radiator in my car.

Although I hadn't planned it to happen that way, I spent about 12 hours at home between the last trip and the next one. This gave me just barely enough time to drop the bag with the dirty laundry, pick up the one with the clean laundry, and boogie to the airport to catch the plane to Minneapolis. I was still fairly pie-eyed from the long drive back from Gananoque by the time I left again.

I'm not the superstitious type, but if I had been thinking clearly, I might have realized that the bag I'd packed for Minneapolis was none other than the Notorious Lose-Me Bag. This freakin' bag has been cursed since the day I bought it in the Target in Omaha, Nebraska to carry home a bunch of stuff I'd accumulated while at the 2005 BCCA National. It got lost on that flight home, and has managed -- I kid you not -- to get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle on every single flight it's taken since. This is the bag that took the vacation to London while I went to Vancouver Island last year. It hasn't been lost in about a year, but that correlates directly with the number of times I've taken it on a plane in the past twelve months (zero).

Anyway, it was only while I stood in line at the bag check counter in Portland that I realized that I'd packed The Notorious Lose-Me Bag and was about to send it on another glorious round-the-world vacation. I mentally budgeted funds for the extra clothing and supplies I'd need while it visited Shanghai, or Auckland, or someplace I wasn't going.

To my shock, the bag actually followed me to Minneapolis, through a stop in Baltimore and a plane change in Atlanta. If I were a betting person, I would have put money on it going AWOL in Atlanta.

I visited Minnesota to help out with some 2009 BCCA National business. The show chair and a couple of the other chairs would be visiting the club president during that week, so I planned to be there at the same time (I'm the official Web monkey for the show). It only occurred to me later that I'd really have to beat it home from Canada in order to get out there in time.

We had a blast in Minnesota. We visited the host hotel, herding venue, auction/40th-anniversary banquet venue, and agility venue for the show. We pored over the various suggested fundraisers and the show trophies, designed the souvenir logo coffee mug, and had ourselves a fun and creative time. We even found time to hang out at a local brewpub downtown and enjoy the evening. We dropped by a dog show just in time to see Best of Breed in Beardies and browsed all the vendors there. We even had a fabulous chicken dinner with Jane and Sandy, who own Dinah's handsome blue half-brother Widget (Breaksea Boddy's Brew).

Cindy, the show chair, and I had planned things so we'd leave for home on the same day. Her plane left in the morning and mine in the afternoon, so I figured I could amuse myself in the airport for a few hours in the usual fashion: drinking coffee, knitting socks, and buying tacky tourist postcards to send to everybody. Sadly, MSP Airport is deeply lacking in tacky tourist stuff, and I was forced to buy actual nice postcards. They didn't even have a single crummy postcard of the statue of Mary Tyler Moore. Really, where's the fun in that?!

While I was browsing the sparse offerings in the postcard department, Murphy's Law was busy working its usual airline magic. On the day I planned to fly home, Hurricane Fay faded to a tropical storm and poured rain on the whole Southeast. Hurricane Gustav became a hurricane and bore down on Cuba. The FAA suffered a massive system failure that had the greatest effect on the two airports I'd be traveling through: Atlanta and then Baltimore. Oh, and did I mention I'd already checked the Notorious Lose-Me Bag?

The scheduled departure time for our flight was delayed, and delayed again. I did the math and realized that even if we settled on an actual departure time, there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I would make the only evening flight from Baltimore to Portland that day. I took my place in line to discuss my options with the airline staff at the gate.

The airline rep explained to me that I had two options at that point: stay another night in Minneapolis, or get as far as Baltimore and stay there. Either way, I'd be a guest of the airline and could set things up for the very first flights out the next morning. Even if the weather and system issues forced me to miss the first flight out, at least I'd have a couple more schedules to choose from before having to miss the last flight home. I decided to opt for Minneapolis, and called my friends to let them know. The airline rep called baggage and asked them to locate my bag and bring it out to the carousel, and then she promised to meet me at the ticket counter with a hotel voucher after I retrieved my bag.

Obediently, I toddled off to the baggage carousel. I waited, and waited, and waited. No bag. No people with bags. Nobody with my bag.

After some time had passed, I met the airline rep at the ticket counter. She handed me the voucher for the hotel and the hotel's phone number. She also looked up my baggage claim check, and verified that since I'd checked my bag in early, it had been shipped off home on an earlier flight. It didn't occur to me then to ask why I couldn't have been shipped off on the same flight. At least she was readily able to verify that it was indeed in Portland, Maine -- not Portland, Oregon or Oporto, Portugal. I could pick it up when I deplaned the next day.

So there I was, with only the very casual clothes on my sweaty carcass and my single carry-on bag (containing my laptop and my knitting), headed for the Park Plaza Hotel. I didn't exactly feel appropriate for the occasion. The hotel staff, used to taking in airline orphans, provided me with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a miniature Lady Speed Stick in addition to the usual hotel-room toiletries. I showered, took dinner to my room, and managed to feel as normal as one can without clean clothes. I knitted a sock and watched the tube, and enjoyed the high-speed broadband. Life was almost good.

The next day, I made it home without incident. I knew I'd touched down on my own Mainiac soil again the moment I heard someone else greet a relative with "Welcome to Pawtland, deah!". My bag was waiting for me exactly where it was supposed to be. If it visited any other cities on its trip home, it wasn't saying.

It's a Sock! No, It's a Milestone!

Hard to believe, but I actually finished the second of Jody's Yankee Knitter socks on this trip! They're lovely -- Jawoll yarn in autumnal-colored stripes which she'll just love -- and of course, I only remembered to take a photo of them after they'd already been shipped off in the mail.

I thought I'd never finish that pair of socks. I tore out and re-knitted the heel twice on Sock #2, and then I messed up once more and ripped it all the way back to the initial slipknot. I was positive I'd have to send one sock and one ball of yarn with a little note attached saying, "Sorry. Just wind this around your other foot."

Those suckers are done and now living the good life in their new home, and I've even made a couple of inches' worth of progress on their successors: another Yankee Knitter pair in red Happy Feet yarn with terrific, subtle color variations in the red. At least for now, Happy Feet is my current favorite sock yarn. (That's because I can't quite bring myself to buy some of the Opal Harry Potter yarn while I still own 60-odd balls and skeins of various brands of sock yarn. I want it badly, though. Badly.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Return of the Man

Greg came home from NYC last night after four days of rehearsals and the recording session for the Sax Quartet. I was mistaken in reporting that the recording session was taking place in a studio; instead, they set up the session in a room halfway up the tower in Riverside Church in NYC, and enjoyed the acoustics in that space. Greg said that the room reminded him of a mediaeval banquet hall.

Recording for the first three movements went so well that everyone was thrilled to bits. They had almost decided to cancel the fourth movement, but after some discussion, the quartet still wanted to record it. They've made some suggestions to Greg for emendations that would make the work more possible for humans to play (as in more places to breathe, for example). Greg will get those done and they'll set up at the church again for the fourth movement after that. In the meantime, the recording engineer will get to work on production editing.

Greg will also do some of the editing on his three movements and on Lukas Foss's piece, just to help spread the work around and get everything done more quickly. The New Hudsons actually recorded Lukas's piece in his New York apartment.

This probably means another delay in the actual issuing of the CD and iTunes tracks and such, but the end result will be much better and will make everyone involved much happier. Richard (who owns Capstone Records) thinks that maybe he and Greg can sell the ACA on maybe helping with the costs, publicity, or other aspects of the recording because four out of the five composers are ACA members.

We shall see. In the meantime, everyone feels great about this recording. Who knows whether the works on it will find their way into standard repertoire for sax quartet someday?

Knitting For Its Own Sake

Okay, I admit it. I've flunked Fangrrl 101. I am just not destined to be a member of the "fan culture" surrounding knitting.

Not that I didn't try. I've read the knitblogs, commented on a few, and even went so far as to set up an account on Ravelry. (Most of my friends on Ravelry, as it turns out, are fellow dog people whom I discovered are also knitters because they ended up on Ravelry, too.) I just never quite got to the point of squealing with delight every time any popular knitblogger sneezed -- or worse, blogged about one of their kids sneezing. I don't read crappy, formulaic knitting-oriented mysteries or giggly, self-referential stories and essays about knitting. Unless there's an actual pattern or technique or something I myself can produce from a book about knitting, that book is well-nigh useless to me. I prefer dogs to cats, coffee to tea, and just about anything else to folk music (except country and rap).

Probably most of the people I know who knit don't fit the expected demographic, either. If you like all that stuff, then go and enjoy with my blessing. Really. I just don't think I'm going to be able to join you. I did try, though.

Anyway, none of the fangrrl culture (or my failing at it) has anything to do with the simple, tactile pleasure of just sitting down and knitting something. I've been enjoying the heck out of the last few inches of Jody's second sock, and might even (the gods willing) have the entire pair ready for Terry to take home with him after the herding clinic in October. I just Like to Knit Socks. Fan culture has nothing to do with it. I have a sweater that's been about 3/4 done for a year at least, but I just really like socks. Sweaters are work. Socks are pleasure. I like to buy sweaters. I love to knit socks.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Little O'This, A Little O'That

Another shot of Dinah Moe on the agility course at York Days.

Ahhhh, Sunday mornings. I've always enjoyed being able to kick back on Sunday mornings and just take my own sweet time. Back in the olden days, I'd spend my time over the Sunday paper and a pot of coffee, either here or out at some little breakfast place in the area. These days, we no longer get a Sunday paper and I have rally-roo classes on Sundays during the season while Greg works at church... but on Sundays like these when absolutely nothing else is going on, it's just nice to stretch, pour another hot cuppa, and soak in the quiet.

In a little while, I'll need to dive into the small but important pile of Corresponding Secretary tasks on my desk: sending out welcome letters and packets to the new BCCA members and shipping off brochures and applications to people who have requested them.

Although I've only held the office for a short while now, I can already understand the idea that the Corresponding Secretary's work is never done. Around the first of the month, reports are due to the Board and the newsletter editor, and invariably there's a trickle of last-minute requests on the last day of the preceding month and on the first day. Since deadlines are my life, this makes me a little crazy -- but it happens with every professional deadline I've ever faced, too. Just a fact of life...

For the First Time in Ages....

Knitting news! I never did find another ball of that Gigli ribbon yarn, but I have some in another color. I'll probably have to cheat and add some of the new color on each end, then make it look as though I planned it.

Maybe I just needed a little vacation from knitting... I don't know. Anyway, the desire to knit socks has suddenly returned. Before my hair appointment yesterday, I popped into the Yarn Sellar just to say hello and have a look around. The friendly knitter who works there on weekends (and whose name I've spaced completely!) knits sock models for the shop and is as much of a sock-o-maniac as I am. She helped me adopt a pair of skeins of red Happy Feet yarn and some more Brittany Birch shorties (which now come 6 to a pack instead of 5 -- woohoo!).

I'm trying to finish up Jody's second Trekking sock before her husband comes out here for a sheep-herding clinic in October. Considering I've had these on the needles for over a year and it really only takes me a couple of weeks to make a pair of socks, what are the chances I'll be done by the time he's ready to fly home??

Of course, something has to give in one place for there to be time in another. I've spent minimal time in Second Life this week, which might explain why I've been able to get so many other things done.

Work That's Actually Play

I finished one Web site last week, for the Vacationland Dog Club. Eventually a club member will take this over, but I'm making the updates at the moment. FYI, for my POC friends and other local dog-club readers: the 2008 edition of Meet the Breeds is taking place in Scarborough in September, as part of Responsible Dog Ownership Day festivities happening around Maine. Here's the announcement. I'll be doing the CGC testing there.

I have three other sites in the works, one of which is a paying gig. One's a barter gig for a friend, and the other one's the site for the 2009 BCCA National Specialty. I've had that site in the work pipeline for a while now. The joy of working with CSS and XHTML is that you can code up the content even when you still can't visualize how you want the final result to look. That helps me feel productive even though I'm having trouble making up my mind.

Because I'm a visual thinker, I still have a little bit of a mental disconnect between the CSS coding and what I want the finished site to look like. It helps to have Dreamweaver so I can continually check my progress, but I'd be blind and lost without it. I understand the code well enough. I just haven't reached the stage where I can see the code's results in my mind.

Could use some more paying gigs these days. I'll just have to make time to go looking for them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Look! Up in the Sky!

Dinah Moe did a nice job at the POC agility demo at York Days. Greg reported that when Dinah stepped into the ring, all of the kids at once whispered, "Ooooh, there's Shaggy."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Same Boulder, Different Mountain

Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but half the Twitter entries I've submitted lately have had something to do with making progress. Not that I haven't made any, but the list ahead is still so long, and the available time and energy to get stuff done seem to shrink more all the time. I'll get to it all when I get to it, but I sure wish I had a little more downtime coming to me first.

Seamus got his summer haircut...

...and he's loving it. He didn't wiggle all over the house with joy the way Charlie does when he comes home from his summer "shearing," but he seems happy and comfortable. I didn't want to clip his lovely coat, but there's no need to keep him in show coat. He'll be appropriately shaggy again by the time we start having cold weather again. In the meantime, Dinah has nothing left to pull, so she's not ripping his hair out by the mouthful at mealtime.

I feel guilty that I haven't done as much with the dogs this summer as I'd hoped. I had high hopes of working with Seamus and Dinah every day. Seamus's next rally trial isn't until the end of September, but we haven't been to a class in ages and we're probably both rusty. Dinah would be farther along with agility and obedience if I'd just take more time with her, too. It just seems that by the time I've finished with everything else, it's already dark outside and I've already blown my last wavering unit of energy.

Ta-Daaa! (Sort Of)

I actually do have some knitting news to report, but nothing one would call a huge triumph. I finished the Gigli scarf for my friend Susannah after months of just staring at the yarn and willing myself to knit. The bad news is that the scarf is barely more than an ascot, and I need to find more of that particular ribbon yarn. I'm hoping there's some left in the bargain bin at Marden's where the other two balls came from. Otherwise, I'm going to need to get imaginative with what I have.

I'm off to do a little data entry for the Seacoast Democrats this afternoon. They turned out to be better at not taking no for an answer than I was at saying no, so now I volunteer for them a couple of times a week. The work itself is easy and doesn't last long, plus I don't have to call people or knock on doors. It's not that I couldn't find more uses for the couple of hours I spend with them, but it helps everyone a little -- and a change of scenery is often helpful, too. It's not exactly a week in the mud bath at a mountaintop spa, but it'll just have to do for now.

The Long Wait: Almost Over

If you go back through my posts about Greg's Sax Quartet, you'll probably come up with a long string of dates and delays and changes and things. The recording session for his piece was first scheduled to happen over a year ago. First, the recording engineer at Town Hall came down with Lyme Disease and was too ill to do the session. Then, tragically, he was killed in a traffic accident while riding his bicycle. Richard and the folks at Capstone Records had to find a different venue, and finally settled on a recording studio in the city.

Anyway, the expected dates are now August 4-6. Greg's is the last piece on the CD to be recorded, so everything after this is production. The New Hudsons recorded Lukas Foss's piece at his home in NYC, and they had completed everybody else's pieces before then.

Still no word as to the actual release date, but I'll keep everyone posted.

More Music News

Greg just saw an announcement yesterday for 21st Century Masterworks, Volume 15. I forget whether this was the volume his Water Suite -- the one recorded in Prague last year -- was supposed to appear on, or whether he's been placed on an earlier volume -- but no matter. It's due out shortly, and I can't wait to hear it.

The CDs from the June ACA concerts have arrived, but I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet and Greg himself has probably only had time to listen once. The New York Virtuoso Singers did a brilliant job with both pieces at the performances, and Greg mentioned that the recordings are so well miked and so well balanced that you can hear the colors of the music even better than you could sitting in the hall that night.

Thouros and Phosphoros, his cantata based on a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, is true to its source and undergoing some metamorphosis of its own. Greg said yesterday that the more he works on the piece, the less he wants there to be solos in it. I suggested that he try soli -- having a group of voices sing the various parts of the dialogue -- and he thought he'd try that. The instrumentals are compelling, at least in the fragments of the opening parts that I've heard.

Greg's been so busy with music in Second Life that I don't really hear much about what he's been doing in First Life. The first virtual concert went off wonderfully, and I was relieved that my avatar (the emergency backup soprano) didn't have to get up and sing. Not that virtual people have stage fright, but I'd only had five minutes' worth of practice with the singing animations used to make my avatar look alive on stage.

Anyway, he was pleased with the reactions from that concert. Someone had mentioned to him that he'd had no idea that classical music in SL had attained that degree of professionalism. Greg means to get together with Joe and Tony (two of the other composers on that concert program) and put together another concert soon. He has also been considering doing a few piano concerts as soon as he can work out the logistics of playing from the Yamaha in the living room.

Classical music is still pretty much a wide-open frontier in SL. There are a few classical performers playing in-world, and a very few professional classical composers presenting their original works. The opportunities for growth and exposure in SL are still practically limitless -- and the startup costs to become an impresario in SL are infinitely lower than they are in RL. Someone had pointed out that unlike the real world, they are still making more land in SL -- so it's still possible to build your own concert venue and sponsor performances there.

Greg has had a MySpace page for ages, but is just now starting to get into using Facebook, Twitter, and other modern ways of keeping in touch. Drop by and visit his pages sometime! The MySpace page has music samples.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hitting the Pause Button

Some one of these fine days, I'm going to take a vacation that's really a vacation. It'll be one of those trips where everything is strictly voluntary: no deadlines, no place to drive to, and nothing else to do at sunset but open the chardonnay. Sounds sweet, doesn't it? Pardon me a second while I note that in my calendar so I'll be reminded to relax sometime in the near future.

Not that Dinah and I didn't have a good time on our last dog-show trip, but we didn't really have time to do a lot of sight-seeing, or even relaxing. I can't believe I even went past both of Mary Maxim's locations (Canadian and US) and didn't stop by to look for bargain prices on sock yarn.

Anyway, you can read about our road trip on my other blog. Let's catch up on everything else here.

Still, No Knitting

The knitting trough continues. It's hard to get up the desire to pick up needles and wool when the temperature is 87 degrees out with 97% humidity. Maybe things are looking up, though. I've started lusting after sock yarns in catalogs again.

From World's Fair to Mid-Air

The Second Life 5th Birthday (SL5B) celebration went very well for Greg, who was able to chat with musicians, music lovers, and anyone else who stopped by to visit his exhibit. When Dinah and I left for Canada, he was still running 4-5 simultaneous chat windows and muttering about streaming.

After the exhibit concluded and he left his thank-you graphic on the communal plot, he couldn't help but feel a little sad. He'd been wildly busy, sure, but he already missed the chance to hang out and talk music all day with people. He wasn't sure what to do with the exhibit building, or with any of the media he'd set up.

Marie, whom we met in real life in Portland a while back, recently gave Greg a plot of virtual land the exact size of the exhibit. (Actually, she sold it to me for $0, since I have a premium account and can own land.) The land is not situated in the right orientation for the building, so Greg made it into a skybox and stuck it 350 meters above ground. There's a teleport at ground level to take visitors up into the sky. The view of the mountaintop is lovely, as long as you shorten your draw distance to block out the ad farms and space junk. Hey, we can't gripe about the price, and the neighbors we've met are very nice people who also lament the ad farms. Giving us a plot of land was an easy way to preserve a little green space.

Frankendoggie Begone

No one is happier than Charlie that he's healed up from his last surgery. The sutures are out, he's growing some hair over the shaved parts, and now he's back in the dirt and having himself a good time. The vet reported that all but one of his lumps were cysts. The last one was what he referred to as a "spindle cell tumor," but he thinks he removed it with good enough margins so the chances of its growing back are low. Those tumors tend to be slow-growing and pretty much encapsulated, which is good news.

Now it's time to clip Seamus down. The poor little guy has a beautiful, long, thick coat, but the little princess has been systematically ripping out all the hair on the right side of his face so that he's become a semi-Beardless Collie. Maybe after a summer of having nothing to pull, she'll learn to leave him alone.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Look What I Found!

Blooming in the yard, after a couple of years of hardly a leaf...

Monday, June 23, 2008

And Again, Nobody Knitted Anything

I'm having a hard time explaining my long time away from knitting. For the most part, the spring and summer weather has remained cool and rainy. I'm not even out showing most weekends this season, as I used to be. Why, then, am I going through such a trough? I don't feel the need to pick up the needles, have pretty much given up on Ravelry and the blogs, and even delete sale notices on sock yarn unread. Knowing that the amount of money I have to pay for what passes as a heating oil "monthly budget plan" is roughly equivalent to what I paid each month for my car when it was new, you'd think I'd be doubly motivated to make warm things for the cold times ahead. But nooooooo.

With everything else that's been going on these days, maybe apathy is a form of rest. I've had so much going on during the daytimes between juggling three projects simultaneously at work, helping out with Second Life, Web stuff, stuff from various clubs, and trying to keep up with dog events that something had to break somewhere. I haven't been to a training class -- agility or rally -- in a couple of months. I don't knit. I'd still read more, but I fall asleep. Cripes!

The SL in SL5B Stands for Server Lag

Greg's been busy exhibiting his music at the SL5B celebration in Second Life this past week. He was selected to participate from among some gazillion people, since being one of the few classical composers in SL makes him fairly remarkable. He put together a short video about his music and its historical context, got some support from one of the classical music communities, and set up shop at the equivalent of the SL World's Fair. If you're in SL, stop by the Via Media exhibit and have a listen. When Greg's online, he's usually "playing" the piano at the exhibit, and is always happy to chat.

Funny thing happened: Greg struck up a conversation with the artist whose exhibit was directly across the street from his. It turns out that she lives in NJ, and was planning to visit Maine this weekend. We met up with her in Portland last night and had a delightful time. This is the first time that either of us has met someone we know in SL whom we haven't met in RL first.

This is just sooo SL: The server lag was so wretched on the first day of this much-ballyhooed, much-advertised celebration that the keynote speaker by the now-former CEO was about 15 minutes along before anyone could hear so much as "Can you hear me now?". Perhaps in his first act as former CEO, Philip should look into upgrading the parallel computing capacity to "adequate."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sumer is icumen in (Already...!)

Seems funny to contemplate on this rainy, dark, and dopey Sunday, but summer really is only a week away. We had a bout of actual summer-like weather a little while ago, but it descended with such suddenness that no one was prepared for it. It's been a cool spring, so normal summer weather feels like a heat wave in comparison.

Dinah and I spent yesterday in western MA, doing CGC tests for NEOESR. We tested 13 dogs -- 12 Old English Sheepdogs and a German Shorthaired Pointer -- and 12 passed. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe all of them were former rescue dogs. A couple of them were deaf and responded to their owners' hand signals. Little Denver, a rescued Sheepie puppy whom I got to see (and smooch) at the Boston shows last December while blogging on my other blog, has grown into a handsome young lad. I was particularly happy to be able to award him a CGC. Collecting Sheepie kisses was a particularly nice benefit, too.

I don't think she reads my blog, but I'd like to thank Debe, husband Jim, and rescued Sheepie Princess for spending their day helping us with the tests. The NEOESR picnic is always a wonderful time, full of giggles, reunions, and lumps in the throat -- and Debe gave up a lot of her own socializing time to help me with paperwork and collecting funds for the club.

Music News From Two Worlds

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the annual ACA concerts in NYC to hear two of Greg's pieces performed. The first of the two, April for SATB chorus and piano, got a brief-but-positive mention in the next day's New York Times review of the concert. I don't know if the second concert, on which The Waking (for soprano and piano) appeared, but New York Magazine and some other traditional media types were present -- with cameras. Greg was favorably impressed with the performances of his pieces, and we're awaiting the CDs from the concert. He wasn't as impressed with the performance of Tony Lanman's piece -- he's heard a better performance before. I am happy to report that there weren't too many "squeeeee" pieces or tape-recorder games on the two programs this year.

All in all, the trip wasn't too bad. Our bare-bones, overpriced closet of a hotel room had a fridge and a great view of the river. We had some terrific meals, though I'm really sorry we never got to try the Japanese-tapas fusion restaurant in between SymphonySpace and our hotel. We also visited the Roerich Museum and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Cooling my heels for a couple of hours in an under-construction wing of JFK Airport and another frickin' hour on the tarmac in the plane didn't exactly make my day, though.

Apparently the recording session for the Sax Quartet is happening Any Time Now, so Greg will shortly have to beat it back to NYC for that event. The New Hudsons only have to do Greg's piece, and the CD is done!

The Man has been busy in Second Life, too, putting together a presentation booth for SL5B, the Second Life Fifth Birthday celebration. It's going to be a sort of World's Fair SL artists and contributors, and Greg might be one of a very small number of classical musicians featured in the show. He's been working with the talented staff and builders of the Music Academy -- they're helping him build his "set" and promote the exhibit. It could be a fruitful collaboration for everyone involved.

New Media Douchebags Explained

Hilarious! The next time I hear the phrase "blogging superstar" I'll just replay this video.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Photos From the Homestead

Charlie enjoying his new summer buzz cut and the fresh-cut grass

Seamus with a little grass to decorate his coat

Dinah wants some company -- now get down here and throw that dumbbell!

The Lovely One Herself

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rough Masters and Masterpieces

Exciting Man News: After a wait of roughly 6 months, a copy of the rough master for the Water Suite (the one that was recorded in Prague last summer) has finally hit the doorstep.

We've been awaiting this recording with quite a lot of anticipation. Greg couldn't go to Prague to hear the recording session, so this disc was his first chance to hear the orchestral version of the suite. He ripped open the Airborne package, put it into the PC, and we sat... chills running up our spines. It's GOOD.

Of course, the final mix will sound a teensy bit different -- things will be balanced a little more, and there are a couple of extra sound effects (a clunk here, a knock there) that will be edited out. This isn't intended to be a live recording, after all. When it's done, I hope it blows people's socks off as it did ours. We know the piece well, and we still were amazed.

Speaking of recording sessions... looks like the one for the Sax Quartet is coming together for June in NYC. Greg doesn't have the exact dates yet -- or maybe he does and I just haven't heard them yet. The New Hudson Sax Quartet recorded Lukas Foss's quartet for the CD at his place in New York, and they've also done Mike Veloso's quartet. Now that those two are done, Greg's is the last to be recorded before production starts.

We have our tickets and our arrangements for the two ACA concerts on the first week in June. All I need to do now is make hotel arrangements for the pups. To be honest, there are a gazillion things I would rather do with my hard-earned vacation days than spend them in New York, but the concerts should make the rest of the experience worthwhile. I only hope I can find free wi-fi.

Greg's computer bit the Big Kahuna last week. One morning, it just refused to boot. We thought that it might be the battery or the power cord -- with laptops, you never know whether your problem might not just be a lack of charge. Anyway, Greg packed it down to MacEdge to have them look at it. They reported that it had pretty much fried -- the system board, the power supply -- well, it might be easier to list the components that didn't fry. They couldn't say exactly what caused the problem -- only that there wasn't a lot left to salvage outside of the hard disk and the extra RAM chips. The laptop was way out of warranty, so there wasn't much else left to do except take it out behind the barn and bury it. Fortunately, Greg has backups -- so he's up and running again on one of my old spare PCs. Now he can gripe about a different operating system.

Canine News (Ours and Others)

Charlie Brown turned 11 last week. It seems as though it wasn't so long ago that I flew out to Jody's house to pick him up. We went downstairs to the puppy pen, and I spied a little brown Superball of a puppy, bouncing up and down and up and down while his brothers and sisters milled around in greeting. "Guess which one is yours," Jody said.

It's still hard to believe that that little puppy is now a senior dog. Charlie's in great shape for 11, aside from a touch of arthritis in his left shoulder that is probably an artifact of his having had Lyme Disease some years ago. Half a Deramaxx usually takes care of things nicely, and he only gets that when he appears to need it. Otherwise, he's hale and handsome, and still can see, hear, dig, and eat dirt. (If anyone asked him what his secret for longevity was, he probably would answer, "Plenty of dirt.")

I did my second CGC tests this past week for my friend Mary's POC class. All of the dogs were adorable -- I particularly wanted to spend the rest of the evening smooching on Dewey the Boxer. Six out of our seven passed. Emma, the Springer Spaniel, was about as unhappy with the Supervised Separation exercise as Seamus had been, and squeaked continuously for her dad until we called him back to her. Dinah was the most distracted distraction dog in history -- not only did she not interact with any of the test dogs, but she kept her eyes focused on me no matter who was walking her.

My next CGC test would have taken place in June, but the date was moved to September to coincide with Responsible Dog Ownership Day/Month/Whatever. That works out nicely for Dinah and me, since it frees us up to attend a herding clinic on that weekend instead.

...And Still No Knitting Got Done

Geez, even my Second Life avatar gets more knitting done than I do! A friend of mine discovered a virtual knitting shop that sells animated knitting needles and tintable lace knitting projects. Of course, I had to have one -- if only so I can look like I'm doing some knitting.

In spite of the time I've been sinking into SL of late, I have been trying hard to get things accomplished, and am making a teeny bit of headway. I revamped Greg's Web site, keeping all the things he liked about the original while making the new one faster and more standards-compliant. Whatever he's been using to update the site re-declared the same font family statements every 4 words of every sentence on every page. That's a lot of Delete-key action!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Hurrieder I Go, the Behinder I Get

"Don't look so happy, Seamus. You're the next one headed for the bathtub."

Sorry, gang. I didn't mean to be away from the blog for so long, but things have just gone from wacky busy to completely freakin' nonstop insane. Some days it's about all I can do to choke out a weak Twitter post (I cannot call them "tweets"; I don't care) or two before sprinting crazily to the next destination and the next task.

Not that it hasn't been more fun than a barrel of Beardies. We survived the local kennel club shows and the associated weather. My camera battery died about halfway during Beardie bitch judging on Saturday, so you'll just have to visit Sue's blog to see photos of the delightful Maine weather (and to congratulate her and Camille on earning two Rally Novice legs there).

I'm also deep-purple-envious of Sue for getting to the NH Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday. I had entertained notions of going over there today and dragging Dale with me, but I was just so fried after showing on Saturday and driving back late from my friend Daryl's house that I just couldn't move this morning. I never made to the festival or to rally class.

Not that I've been able to knit a single stitch in weeks -- maybe months. Between spending so much time in Second Life and rushing around in First Life, there hasn't been much time left over for just relaxing in front of a movie with the needles. SL has even managed to keep me from buying more yarn, which is probably another reason why Greg likes SL so much!

Guess who else showed up in SL last week: Dale! She's been wandering around with another friend of hers, seeing what she could see. It's nice to run into people you actually know in SL.

Meanwhile, back in RL (Real Life), Daryl had a surprise for me while I visited her down in CT. Her brother-in-law Keith and his wife Mary, both of whom I've known since just about forever, were up visiting from Virginia. They moved down there from the Boston area when the elder of Mary's two sons entered college down that way. I haven't seen them since sometime in the 1990s, so we had a huge amount of catching up to do and rehashing of old war stories. We're all a little grayer and a little heavier, but those two haven't changed a bit. Both of them are now online, so we'll be able to keep in better touch.

Now that the latest work deadline is past and the YCKC show is over, I hope to have a little bit more time to relax and make stuff. I've received my stewarding assignment (my first solo flight) for the Vacationland shows, and the chief steward was kind enough to put me next to the experienced steward who trained me. The Meet the Breeds event has been rescheduled for September in order to coincide with Responsible Dog Ownership Month, so another thing on my to-do list has slipped to a less stressful part of the year.

Fooled Around and Didn't Fall in Love

The company I work for has been redefining which devices are secure enough to work with our email service. Unfortunately, my beloved Blackberry turned out to not be one of them. We Crackberry-addicted employees may still use the devices of our choosing, but we need to pay for a third-party software program-cum-delivery service in order to maintain the requisite degree of security.

With all this in mind, I decided to upgrade to a device on the "approved devices" list when my contract with T-Mobile came up for renewal. I requested a T-Mobile Wing and was assured that I'd have two weeks to experience buyer's remorse.

The Wing was gorgeous -- even more compact than I thought it would be, with a slide-out keyboard, a beauteous display, and Windows Mobile OS. I played around with it, set it up to send and receive corporate email, and even enjoyed Twittering from it.

However, I made it about 48 hours before buyer's remorse set in. The Wing only allows you to set up six email addresses. Six are probably three or four more than most people need, but I have more of them. I was forced to decide which accounts I should check and which I should leave.

Also, I couldn't make that sucker synch with my Mac no matter how hard I tried. Yes, the Mac does boot into XP when necessary, but I am absolutely not going to drop everything in Mac OS and boot into XP just to synch my silly phone. Even ponying up the money for the Windows Mobile Edition of Missing Sync did nothing except cost me the price of the software.

Ah, the Wing was beautiful and I really wanted to love it, but it's headed back to T-Mobile as we speak. All I really wanted was another Crackberry, anyway.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today is the Day

Every year at roughly this time, the farm store here in town runs its equivalent of an office pool. Staff and customers place bets as to the exact date and time when the mountain of plowed snow in their parking lot melts completely into a puddle.

The farm store snow still has a long way to go before it hits the dirt, but today -- after four successive days of warm and sunny weather -- the last filthy remnants of snow in our yard finally disappeared. I've been so deathly freakin' sick of winter that I feel as though I've won the office pool myself.

The dogs have been celebrating the advent of spring in their own fashion. They've started new holes in the mud in the dog yard, for which I'll have to buy more rocks and topsoil. They have also been more vocal about getting me to join in the fun outside, too. I throw the ball for Dinah several times a day, and that always precipitates a game of chase between Herself and one of the boys. This morning, Dinah and Seamus had such a great time playing chase and wrestling in the mud that I entirely forgot to rush back into the house for the camera. They were just too much fun to watch.

This is the time when installing a doggie door proves to be a smart move. The pups are in and out and in and out and in and out all day long. I want to say that I love the new metal storm doggie door, but it hasn't weathered the season as well as one would hope, given the outrageous price I paid for a custom-sized, custom-installed specimen.

Lowe's is like some of the guys I've dated in the distant past. They'll charm the pants off you, vowing that their customer service people will never sleep again until you can honestly say that everything is just plain frickin' wonderful with the product.

Once you say yes, and they have you where they want you, they'll install the thing, call once to see if you're happy, and grin while cashing your check. However, if anything goes wrong after that -- warranty or no warranty -- they dematerialize. I can't believe that the customer service people are on lunch break 24x7, but it sure seems that way.

Our door is beautiful, and the installation seemed to go pretty well. However, neither the doggie door nor the storm door close properly any more. They clicked into place perfectly for the first month or so, but now I can push or pull with all my might on the door and it just won't close. Calls to Lowe's return the equivalent of, "Of course I still love you, baby, but can't you see I'm busy right now? We'll get together soon, I promise." I've heard that before. The least they could have done was kiss me first.

Lots of Music News

Greg, who is sitting in the office as I write, reports that the new NYC venue for the recording of the Sax Quartet looks good, and the recording engineer is a good one. The producer didn't give a date yet, but it looks as though it will happen within the next couple of months.

One of the members of the New Hudson Sax Quartet just emailed him that he's coming to Bowdoin next week with another new music ensemble. Greg plans to go up there with the score of Louis, Louis and go over it with the group.

The Man has been busy with a new piece that has captured his attention and energies of late. Its working title is Thouros and Phosphoros, and it's based on the story of the same name from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Before he mentioned the project to me, Greg had had no idea how much I love Ovid's poetry in general and the Metamorphoses in particular. One of my "someday" projects is a collaboration with an artist friend of mine to produce a story based on the tale of Philemon and Baucis from the same work.

Busier Than a One-Legged Man in a Butt-Kicking Contest

I used to have a boss at Digital (in one of my many incarnations there) who used that phrase every time things got a little hectic around the office, and it never failed to crack me up. I still can't borrow it myself without giggling just a little.

Anyway, it sure describes things around the homestead right about now. Work's pretty steady and gaining in momentum, plus the Web site stuff is beginning to take off. I still maintain all of the sites I ever did, plus I've taken on two new sites and a redesign for one friend of mine, and a brandy-new site for a mutual friend of ours. Not to mention the fact that both Greg's and my sites are in dire need of a redesign that brings them out of the 1990s. My site, while still a useful resource that gets a lot of hits from information seekers, isn't exactly the type of site that cries out, "Look at me -- I'm a Web design expert!".

I've also picked up yet another CGC testing gig since my last post. I knew that I would be testing for another POC graduating class in Kittery next month and for NEOESR in June. Since then, I've also been asked to test at the Meet the Breeds event in Scarborough on June 8. It's all good; we can never have too many Canine Good Citizens out there.

Hey, Get a First Life!

Yeah, that was my first reaction too when hearing about Second Life® for the first time. The tech press ragged on SLTM mercilessly for attracting more fringe-y, parents'-basement-dwelling gamer types who like to dress up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Kittycats and fewer legitimate businesses into its virtual world. CSI and The Office featured it in episodes, and of course the Office character who was into SL was Dwight K. Schrute.

None of that made the concept all that attractive for me. After having spent many years as a historical re-enactor with some of the biggest, whiniest get-a-lifers on the planet, entering a virtual world for more of the same just sounded to me like another online dungeon game without even the fun of whacking the heads off some monsters (or get-a-lifers) and pillaging their lairs.

I even scoffed when the company I work for started investing time, people, and resources into SL. "Nice work if you can get it," I snickered. "We oughta make a mint offa that."

And then one day a few weeks ago, something just came over me. The company was offering a virtual meeting and presentation by an author whose latest book happened to be about a topic I need to understand. Maybe it was the chance to learn something, a lure that works on me much in the same way a piece of leftover steak works on Seamus. Maybe it was the chance to look at scenery that didn't have friggin' dirty snow all over it.

Anyway, next thing you know, this happened...

Greg came upstairs into the office, saw what I was up to, and confessed that he'd been into SL for a few months already. He'd wanted me to join him there, but didn't quite know how I'd take the concept. Actually, he did -- and he didn't want to hear all the delightfully witty things I'd have had to say on the subject.

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da. In a couple of days, they have built (well, rented) a Home Sweet Home, with a couple of dogs running in the yard...

...of Tip Corbett and Kate Welsh... (Because we couldn't get the names Desmond and Molly Jones from the registration server)

Happy ever after in the marketplace, I've just been bowled completely over by the amount of time, effort, enthusiasm, and just plain creativity have been poured into my company's "islands" in the virtual world. So much so, in fact, that I've taken the basic classes offered by my company with an aim of becoming a trainer myself. I've been able to get to know some fellow employees whom I wouldn't have met otherwise, and I've discovered what a great virtual community my company has. Folks like me who work from home without any real company interaction will be able to feel a part of the community again.

IBM likes the idea so much that it has just inked a deal with Linden Labs to run the SL software on its own private grid to create its own separate interactive employee community. IBM just might be the kind of "legitimate business" that the tech press hasn't managed to rag on. I've also had occasion to meet a number of small online business owners and some mighty talented artists and musicians who might not be making enough money in SL to retire, but who have found another creative outlet in which to shine.

Greg, who had one of his BU professors recommend SL to him, is a member of a bunch of classical music groups and is learning scripting and animation. He's happily picking up virtual Rothko paintings for the walls. At least we can afford one there!

Turns out my sister-in-law joined SL before either of us did, and we're trying to get my sister involved, too. I'm not denying that it isn't a huge time-sink to keep up on things in two worlds, and heaven knows I didn't need another excuse to spend time on the computer -- but we spend our downtime interacting in ways we don't do when we're watching TV. (Oh, and my virtual self has three dogs -- one of which is a rehome -- and Greg's has a cat.)

If you're ever in the virtual neighborhood, drop one of us a note. It would be a hoot to hang out with people whom we know in RL. Okay, so we won't be able to whack the heads off any get-a-lifers and take their bags of stale Cheetos, but just being in the world can work its own strong magic on us -- and that's more attractive than Cheetos anytime.

Trademark Stuff: Second Life is a registered trademark of Linden Lab. SL is a trademark of Linden Lab. This is how my editors always have me use trademarks in my day job, so I hope Linden's copyright folks are okay with it.