Sunday, January 20, 2008

Finally, a Post That's Mostly About Knitting

Seems like everybody has a Super Bowl Sunday tradition, whether football fan or not. Some folks I know watch the game religiously with a small crowd of like-minded fans, along with with vats of chili and acres of nachos close by. Some watch only the commercials and skip the game itself.

My very favorite Super Bowl Sunday tradition involves cruising the sales at the local yarn and needlework shops. Back when kickoff took place in mid-afternoon, the shops would be full of football widows looking for a little fellow-feeling and 25% off all regularly priced yarns.

Fran and I decided to cruise the discounts at Rosemary's this afternoon and made out pretty well for ourselves. She picked up yarn for a vest she wanted to make, plus some more for hats and a few other articles. I grabbed a few different kinds of abuse-resistant cotton blends to make hats for Greg and some more sock yarn. Rosemary herself is headed for the Stitch & Beach cruise with Debbie Stoller and some other folks this month. Sounds like a grand time to me!

Hat Factory

Greg has been asking for more hats lately, so I've been churning them out asquickly as I possibly can. He mostly wears the original blue Wool-Ease watch cap and loves the green Encore twisted rib watch cap. I have another twisted rib cap on the needles in gray Jeannee, since he requested a cotton hat for warmer weather. In the basket are another ball of Encore (gray) and some Sirdar Denim Aran in a nice brown-and-white tweedy colorway. By the time I'm finished with all of these, The Man's going to have a complete wardrobe of knitted hats in all colors, and for all seasons.

I have to admit that I'm also knitting hats because I've been too out of it to think about challenging knitting, even socks. I messed up something in Jody's second Jawoll sock and ended up frogging the thing back to the start. Somebody breathed on me at a doggie meet-and-greet last weekend, and I've been battling a virus since. I don't really want to touch any of my other UFOs for fear I'll mess them up, too. I've started the gray Jeannee hat, and it's simple enough that even I can't mess it up.

Yeah, Me Too

If you're on , you can find me there now. I'm my3seadogs... no surprise there...

It's not like I really needed another social network presence -- Facebook takes up enough of my time already -- but my invitation came, and how could I say no?

Handsome Guy!

Charlie has been very happy about the snow we've been having lately...

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's Baaaaa-ack!

...and Seamus celebrated.

Ayuh, the January thaw is now history. (Actually, I think it made history with a record warm temperature one day this past week.) Now it's back to Winter Classic and more of the white stuff.

I did manage to rescue most of the toys and bones from the yard as they emerged from the snow, but Dinah is busy dragging them back out of the toy box into the yard to be reburied. She does love a good surprise, and now she can get surprised all over again the next time a thaw takes place.

ScribeFire is Fired

Ah, sad thing it is, too. I really enjoy the convenience of having a screen pop up from Firefox whenever the inspiration strikes. Because I do what I do for a living and understand the complex and sometimes fragile nature of the client-server connection, I've never been wild about composing directly on the Web, either -- and there are certain things you can't do offline in a regular text editor. ScribeFire seemed like the ideal solution.

Anyway, I like everything about the ScribeFire plugin except the fact that it's turned all the text in my blog page to italic. Even if it's fixable, it's not acceptable. Buh-bye.

Taking the "Free" Out of "Freelance"

I just received my first check from this weekend. I honestly never much thought about the fact that I could actually get money for doing articles -- I've just been writing for the fun of it, and to take a break from writing about computer stuff for work. I'm also pleased that I have another publication to list for my application to the . A friend of mine who writes for encouraged me to join, so I can add the membership to my "journalist" credentials. DDN was just nominated for the DWAA's Best Canine Newspaper or Newsletter award.

Might As Well Take the Plunge

I've signed Seamus and me up for the next APDT rally trial, which will take place in Swanzey, NH at the end of March. Since we're working on a "money title" that requires 10 qualifying scores (RL1X), we won't finish any new titles at the trial even if we Q in everything -- but we could come home 7/10 of the way toward the next one -- and thus, we'd be only one more trial away from finishing the title. The joy of APDT rally is that there's still plenty to do on-lead, so we can continue to trial even though he might never be reliable enough off-lead to continue in AKC. I'll continue to train him, but I'm not sure I can ever trust him.

Dinah, on the other hand, is terrific off-lead, but needs time and work to acquire some precision. She's not working at the prodigy level that her sister Buffy is at this point, but that's because I'm a much lazier trainer than Jana is. I expect that eventually, with some time and some training, that Dinah will be able to do pretty much anything. If we didn't still have to chase those stupid majors to finish her conformation championship, we could plan to enter more trials this year and work on some other titles.

In the spirit of learning -- and not because I think we're ready for prime time -- we're going to our first agility trial next month. is a great place for an agility dog to start. Level 1 courses contain no teeters (which Dinah likes) or weaves (which she doesn't care for), and the courses are simple. I've chosen to enter her in the Enthisiast level, so the jump heights are even 4" below what she'll be expected to jump in the Regular classes when we get there. It's about the best way we can find of easing into agility trialing. It's more important to me that she get used to the sights, sounds, and routines of agility trials at the moment. We probably won't Q -- especially if there are chutes on the course -- but we'll have acquired some experience. (Plus, we'll have friends there. A classmate from Auntie Cindy's agility class will be there with her Rottie boy.)

Seamus is back in Uncle Jim's agility class for this session, too. Because he's not an off-lead kind of guy, I'm not sure he'll ever run agility outside of the classroom, but we have a great time. We know most of the dogs and people there, and we still learn stuff. It's also a good way for me to sharpen my clumsy handling skills in a second class.

A Good Time for Wool

Greg's second hat is growing slowly. I've been able to make tiny amounts of progress each day. On snowy, crappy days like these, it just feels right to play with yarn. While we were in Portland over the weekend doing an art gallery crawl, I managed to sneak into Central Yarn for another ball of Encore (charcoal gray) for him, plus a skein of purple hand-dyed Seacoast Handpaints sock yarn for myself. No, I didn't need more sock yarn -- but I made the mistake of picking it up out of a conveniently placed basket on the floor, and the yarn refused to leave my hand. I had to buy it and bring it home -- I had no choice! I also saw a pattern for a gansey with a lobster design that I just have to make (maybe several times), so that leaflet also followed me home.

I've been so busy cranking out hats for The Man that I haven't started Jody's second Jawoll sock yet. The first one is beautiful, though. If we have a few more days like this one, I should be able to keep The Man in hats and still get some warm socks out to Nebraska for Jody pretty quickly. Lambing season's coming up, and she'll appreciate being able to wear something warm on those midnight slogs to the barn.


Speaking of The Man, Greg's started a new piece for trumpet, piano, double bass, and drums. Its title is Comp'ing, and it's going to be a Very, Very Cool piece when it grows up. Greg's using it to take a bit of a break from The Seven Wonders. It's as spontaneous and playful a piece as The Seven Wonders is studious and involved, so the two make great foils for each other.

Greg received a Christmas card from ERM Media, but hasn't heard anything about the Masterworks series since. As far as he knows, the CD with the orchestral version of Water will still be released at the end of March, and people should still be able to download the piece from iTunes at that point.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Thaw

(FYI, Firefox-ophiles, this is the first post I've written using the ScribeFire plug-in for Firefox. Guess you and I will find out at the same time how well it works, but I like having the little clickable icon on the bottom of my browser window. Comes in handy for those last-minute inspirations.)

Anyway... we have been going through a thaw for the past couple of days. Winter is a cruel season here in Maine -- as soon as you're caught enjoying a patch of relatively warm weather, Mother Nature comes along and smacks you back into the usual cold, dark stuff you're used to. People talk about the warm weather in hushed tones, pretending not to enjoy it that much, in order to soften the inevitable disappointment when winter returns.

Maybe it's due to the subtle mental lift that comes with 60-degree weather and occasional glimpses of actual sunshine, but lately it's been a good time to get some stuff done, and to change some things. I have been dying to learn more about CSS/XHTML and PHP programming, but didn't have the time to do a good job teaching myself. Come to find out, our local school district's continuing ed. program includes some online courses in just those subjects! I signed up for the CSS/XHTML course faster than you can say "nerd" -- and classes start on the 16th. I can't wait! Most of my CSS hacking to date has consisted of taking a design and messing with it until I liked what I saw, but now I can understand what actually goes on under the proverbial hood.

I have additional reasons to be feeling a little bit chuffed these days -- at least, while the sun still shines and the snow still melts. My very first article for Downeast Dog News, a Q&A-style piece about the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, was just published in the January issue. As a bonus, the editor included a photo of a Jack Russell Terrier pointing out that taking the CGC test would make a very good New Year's resolution. I loved it! Anyway, time to get serious about my next obedience-related article.

Not Just a Pretty Face

Even after working with the lovely Dinah Moe for the past couple of years, it still amazes me what the girlie knows when I give her a chance to show me.

Last night at agility class, we were working on some of the other obstacles while our classmates took turns at the portion of the course that corresponded with the evening's lesson. We worked on a start to a tire jump to the A-frame.

I'm used to a sit-stay at the start. When I'm working Seamus, I have to get him to sit, or he'll get some other idea into his head instead -- so for him, a sit-stay gives him something to focus on while I'm leading out. Dinah was reluctant to sit and stay at the start, and I'd have to explain it to her every time.

At one point, I decided to see what would happen if I just told her to stand-stay. She responded perfectly, and didn't move at all until given the "go." Since she's a show dog, she's had to learn how to stand still in the ring. She gets it!

Of course, she's going to need to differentiate between a sit-stay, a down-stay, and a stand-stay for all the other dog sports out there, but for herding and agility, it works. What a smart girlie!

Likewise, I've noticed that she tries to get back into heel position after I send her over a jump. I'll have to figure out ways to exploit that idea. This is the girl who insisted on heeling on the right all through puppy class (I explained that it was because she's British, and so she drives on the wrong side of the road). She's comfortable enough with working on the right side in agility, but she needs to be in heel position in rally-roo -- so she was just showing me what she knows. What a smart girl! Now all I have to do is train her to distinguish when I want her to be on the right versus the left, and when it's okay not to heel.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

More Winter Photos 'n' Stuff

Woke up this morning to see this freaky-looking ice hand reaching down off the roof... (took the photo from the outside)

There's still more than enough winter to go around. Dinah had a nice bounce with her sweetheart Traveler this afternoon...

Meanwhile, at home, Charlie is still the King of All He Surveys...

...and Seamus still keeps trying to shovel the steps with his face.

Yup, just another weekend here in Frozen Frickin' Paradise.

Minor Successes Are Still Successes

I've always been a bit leery of knitting anything for Greg that he doesn't want. When I was learning to knit, I made him a scarf just because it was the only thing I knew how to make at that point. He's not really a scarf kind of guy, so he thanked me profusely for it... but I haven't seen it since. The nice gray Jawoll socks have likewise never seen the light of day, though he assures me that they are not lost, just waiting in the sock drawer for his next winter hike.

Well, I've finally struck knitted-gift pay dirt with The Man. I made him a watch cap out of Lion's Brand Wool-ease Chunky, and handed it to him while we were watching a movie. He removed the hat he was wearing, placed the watch cap on his head, and said that if I ever felt like knitting him more hats, he would absolutely love to have them. I'm taking him at his word, so the next project will be a regular toque out of a pine-green heathered Encore Worsted.

We're Number 4! We're Number 4!

The 2007 rankings for APDT Rally are out. Whereas Seamus was #2 in the country (out of 2 Beardies) in the rankings, this year he's #4 out of 4. That's actually okay, considering that we made it to only one weekend of APDT trials all year. This year, we need to practice, practice, practice and finish up that RL1X title. We've entered the Monadnock APDT trial at the end of March. If we qualify all four times that weekend, we'll be up to 7 Qs, and will need to qualify only three more times to finish the title!

I'm still not completely sure we'll ever go on to APDT RL2 or AKC Advanced with Seamus. Seamus is still not reliable off-lead, though little Dinah Moe is better off-lead than she is on-lead. She's coming along in rally-roo, though it'll be a while before we reach anything like military precision. We start up agility classes this week for both pups, which should make them both very happy (and tired). We all could use a chance to run around and have some fun, now that we don't have to go to shows every frickin' weekend.

Not that the wheels of the dog-show machinery haven't been turning. I spent most of yesterday afternoon with the show chair and the specialty clubs chair for my local kennel club's dog shows in May. We work well together and got quite a bit done, but the process was L-O-N-G. BCCME will have a supported entry both days of the show, and as Trophy Chair, it's my happy task to compile exhaustive lists of all of the rosettes and trophies being offered by everybody for all of the breed rings, obedience, and rally-roo (especially those prizes being offered for Bearded Collies at the show).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy ROO Year!

Seamus wants to wish everyone a Happy ROO Year!

He says ROO when he's happy or excited about something, and that includes fresh snow. Sure, he likes to romp in it as much as the next Beardie, but he also maintains that it's not just for breakfast any more.

Enough Already!

Yeah, we got our White Christmas, and our White Boxing Day, and our White Every Other Freakin' Day This Season. I think it probably snowed more days this week than not -- or maybe it just seems that way. Seamus and Dinah have three or four storms' worth of buried toys out there in the snow now -- those suckers aren't going to see the daylight again for a long while!

Heard on the radio that this past snow (the one two days ago, not the one today) set a new record in Boston for snowiest December. Ha! You call this snowy? We eat snow like this for breakfast every morning! Apparently it's only the third snowiest December in the Portland area.

I do feel bad for my across-the-street neighbor, though. The poor man came back from a winter in Florida this past spring just in time to get bombarded with snow. Now, although he really did plan to stick around this latitude until after the holidays, he'll be lucky if he can dig out the camper and get south before the next storm gets in the way.

I have only this to say about all the frickin' snow: At least it's not ice.

The Fudge is Strong in This One

Ever since he was just a little brown puppy, I've referred to Charlie as my "little piece of fudge", especially when admiring his handsome brown fudgy nose and his fudgy brown feet. He is handsome, and he does know it.

Charlie has always kept to his own schedule for things and made his own choices. He didn't care for doggie performance sports, even though he humored me by trying all of them with me when he was younger. We went only because I liked sports, though, and he made that clear by showing the most enthusiasm when he knew class was just about over. Over the years, he has continued to learn things on his own time, and in his own way.

When we had the doggie door installed, Dinah was letting herself in and out within ten minutes. Seamus needed a little more coaching, but soon picked up on the concept. He'll still stick his nose in or out a few times before deciding which side of the door he wants to be on, but eventually, he does decide.

As for Charlie, he was sensitive to the idea of having the rubber flap swinging in his face, especially if he tried to follow one of the other dogs out through the dog door. He'd stand or sit in front of the door, and I swear he wrinkled his forehead in concentration as he figured out how to use the door. He wouldn't go out or come in without me holding the door open a crack, so he could see it was open.

Jokingly, I kept pointing to the door and using Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice on Charlie. "Use the Fudge, Charlie. Uuuuuuse the fuuuudge." What I meant was for him to employ that fudgy nose to nudge the door flap open, and then he could let himself in or out.

For whatever reason, he got it. Now "Use the Fudge" has become an actual command to him, and he will nudge the door on command! Seamus and Dinah, who don't have fudgy noses, still just let themselves in and out at will.

Turbo Holidays

The holidays whooshed past before we had a chance to blink, but I think they were pretty good. Usually I pay at least lip service to the holidays by getting wreaths up on the front door and on the barn, but I didn't even manage that this year.

On Christmas Eve, I made my annual appearance in church (in a skirt, no less!) to hear Greg play and conduct the choir. The service was packed -- standing room only -- and I heard from more than one parishioner that if only the same number of people came on Sunday, then the church's money worries would probably be a thing of the past.

We had been hoping to grab a quick dinner at the Kennebunk Inn again this year, but the kitchen had closed at 8 PM and we arrived at 8:15. We'll go back again sometime, though. We ended up at the one restaurant on Route 1 that was open after 8 on Christmas Eve: a combination Chinese/Japanese restaurant. I'm usually leery of combo-Asian restaurants... but Greg's sesame chicken and my unagi-don were both pretty danged good. I'd go back.

Christmas Day was blessedly clear, so the annual pilgrimage to the hometown wasn't bad -- just long. The twins received lots of musical instruments this year, so they and Uncle Greg had a wonderfully raucous time playing all of them. I almost had to forcibly separate him from the electronic guitar that played all manner of wicked riffs when you pushed each button or combination of buttons. We ate, we laughed, we all played the electronic guitar... all in all, it was a good time.

I'm glad I've had the week off between Christmas and New Year's, though. I needed a couple of days just to recuperate!

We also hit my local kennel club's holiday party on Saturday evening and had a great (and highly caloric) time. Everyone dispersed in time to get home and watch the kickoff for the Patriots game -- well, except us. We're loyal members of Red Sox Nation, and we're happy when any Boston team rocks the house, but we don't generally make a habit of watching football games on TV. Maybe I should have, since this was a historic occasion, but I did sneak off to the team's Web site to check the score.

If Only Life Were This Easy

By far, the world's Most Rockingest Christmas Gift Ever is the TomTom GPS my brother and sister-in-law gave us. I'd been lusting for a GPS for ages, and just couldn't part with the bucks to buy one -- so imagine how tickled I was to pull one out of a gift bag on Christmas Day! For me, this is almost the equivalent of the legendary Red Ryder BB Gun, without the possibility of shooting your eye out.

I've since discovered that you can even download custom voices for your TomTom, in case you get bored with the preinstalled ones. For $10 or so, you can even get John Cleese to tell you where to go. I downloaded a couple of free voices, including Sean Connery ("You have now reached your destination. Shaken, not stirred.") and Homer Simpson ("You have now reached your destination. If only life were this easy.").

Most of the time, the direction commands given by the voices are pretty straightforward: "Turn left." "After 400 yards, turn right, and then get onto the motorway." Greg and I just about howled when the route planning software asked whether we wanted to avoid toll roads where we were driving. The query is, "Do you want to avoid congestion charges?". Homer, however, said, "Congestion charge? Congestion charge, my ass!" We laughed so hard we almost choked. Beats shooting your eye out.

I also downloaded a couple of software updates that locate Dunkin' Donuts and Tim Horton's throughout the US and Canada. I'm waiting for Homer to come out with, "Mmmmmmm, donuts."

My Own Personal Media Blitz

A few days ago, the publisher from called me to let me know that my Q&A-style article on the AKC Canine Good Citizen test will be printed in the January issue. I'm working on another article on a favorite subject: obedience clubs. and will probably be able to offer me some insights into that particular subject, methinks. If I can get the whole piece together in time, it'll probably appear in the March edition.

Even though I haven't had much of a chance to update my in a while, I've had the pleasure of hearing from some of the nice folks I met while I was doing my newbie tour of the . The owner of the PR firm says she loved the article, and she's more than welcome to repurpose it for this year's shows if she wants to. She was also kind enough to introduce me online to Monica, the Dog Lady of fame. Monica and her Web site are both a hoot and a half. (That adds up to three hoots altogether.) Lisa Peterson, Director of Club Communications for the emailed me to say she enjoyed the blog posting, and to say that she used to show against my cousin Marie in the Norwegian Elkhound ring. Small world, isn't it?

Finally, Some Knitting Progress

Maybe I should thank the weather gods for making it impossible to do a heck of a lot outdoors this month aside from shoveling. It does mean that I've made quite a bit of progress on various of my knitting projects. I finished Susannah's organic cotton scarf, have almost closed the toe of the first of Jody's Jawoll socks, and have even started a couple of knitted hats for Greg. (Hey, he asked -- and that's cool enough for me.)

Susannah gave me knitting books from my Amazon wish list for Christmas (Thanks, Susannah!)! She gave me Jackie Fee's Sweater Workshop, which I'm hoping to get inscribed at the SPA Knit & Spin in Portland this year. Even cooler than a blue moose, she gave me the Vogue Ultimate Sock Book. I must knit all of the sock patterns from the magazine that appear in the book, except maybe the "sockies" (ugh). I know better than to make that a New Year's resolution, but it would be nice to come back to this blog in December 2008 and say, "There. I did all that."