Saturday, December 31, 2011

SALLY - THE BORN-AGAIN DOG

Evidently the angels came and visited my dog last night while I slept.
She apparently repented of her past transgressions and was born again.

I say this because she was a nearly model puppy this morning at breakfast and on her walk.
Virtually no biting, no romping around the house, she ate her food, played with her toys in the back room, did her biological business in the yard every time I took her out, rode in the car with little distress, walked near me in the park (mostly) for half an hour.

This is in contrast to yesterday when she was a complete mess.
Although she did not transgress the Tradition of the Elders in the house, she did nearly everything else on the "disapproved" list.
Which includes - just so you will have an idea of what-all she does - chewing on the wooden rungs of my dining room chairs,
chewing on the leather cushions of my couch,
chewing on my oak coffee table,
chewing on the legs of my wooden TV tray,
chewing on the shoes on my feet,
chewing on my pants cuffs,
chewing on the loop-pile carpet,
and, chewing on my hands.

It seems that every other word out of my mouth with her is "no".
And, as I have noted before, she understands to some extent that she is not supposed to chew on this stuff.
She cannot help herself.
When I scold her, she gets frustrated and lays her chin on the floor and bites the air.

That was yesterday.
Today I had a new dog.
She was happy to see me this morning, as usual.
And she did some of her little jumping, spinning, happy dance that she usually does.
(thankfully, Sally does not jump up on me, she jumps straight up in the air)
Her nibbles on my hands were very gentle and she did a lot of sitting and watching me today during breakfast prep time.
When I sat down to eat my breakfast of oatmeal and eggs and milk (three of her favorite foods, it appears) she came over to my chair and nudged my leg with her nose one time to let me know she was there.
That was it.
Then she sat or laid down to wait for me to finish.
She knows what usually happens when I finish.
I let her lick my dishes.

I sent her to the back yard while I went grocery shopping.
In addition to the vittles that I wanted/needed, I picked out a few items for Sally the Dog.
These included some new rubber chew toys, some corn chips for treats (she loves them), and some stew meat.
She does not know it, she is going to be one of the best-fed pups on the planet.

Then, I took Sally to a small park about two miles from my house.
It has lots of grass and a paved walking/running path, but no trees.
The path is a loop that may be about 3/4 of a mile long.
It was a bright sunny morning, with a light breeze and about 50 degrees.
Perfect doggy walking weather, methinks.

Sally was a near-perfect angel on the 30 minute jaunt.
I let her stop and sniff when she wanted to, but she did a good job of staying with me for much of the walk.
There were a couple of other walkers/runners about, and Sally gave each of them a long look/sniff from a distance.
She tried to chase one runner who passed by us.
I had to discourage that with difficulty.
But that gave me the wonder if she might actually enjoy running with me someday.
We will investigate that in a year or so.

Sally is well coated.
So much so that 50 degrees in the sunshine had her panting just from walking with me at basically her pace.
So she was ready to go home when I suggested it.
I had to help her into the car because she is still not completely comfortable in the car yet.
And not sure how to get in or out.
On the way to the park I put her on the shotgun side floor, where she put herself on a previous ride, but she ended up on the seat by the time we got there.
On the way home, I again but her on the floor, and this time she laid down and seemed a bit more composed all the way home.
She will work out her issues with the hummy, bouncy, leany, stop-n-go car with time.
I intend to take her places when she gets older and stops her puppy/jumpy ways.

We shall see how long Sally's new manners last.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sally - Week Four

Sally the dog is learning her way around her new life.
I am not sure I can call any of this “progress” by my human measure.

First, it has become clear that Sally has ADD.
When she gets wound up, which seems to happen three times a day – early morning around seven to eight, late morning around 10-12, and mid afternoon around two to four, she scampers from one toy to another in frantic succession.
She seldom spends more than about 10 seconds on any single item.
Lately, our morning walk takes place about seven AM so that takes the place of the early session.
After her walk she takes a nap.
In spite of her morning walks that I am giving her to burn off some of her excess energy, she still goes nuts several times a day.

Yesterday, I observed her chewing on my rubber garden hose that hangs on the side of the house.
That did not last long since she moved on to something else after about 20 seconds.
In the house she has taken to chewing on one of my small rugs by the back door.
I have discouraged her from this practice but she has done it two days in a row.

Some might say that she needs more toys.
To this, I respond, she has many toys.
Some of them she has procured herself, so there is no doubt about whether they are appropriate for her.
And she plays with all of them at various times.
Yesterday I found that she had chewed the large rawhide bone I bought for her in half and undid the knot on one end.
She has an official chew shoe both in the house and in the yard (total=2).
She has large plastic lids inside and out.
She has smaller milk jug lids – which she loves to chew on – inside and out.
She has a plastic milk jug – inside and outside. (which she likes to play a game similar to soccer and rugby with).
She has some cloth bedding both inside and outside.
Various sticks – which she loves to gnaw on – inside and outside.
A ball inside and outside
Several small tree branches, which she keeps in a pile near her favorite spot in the yard next to the utility building.
So she is not without appliances to chew on/play with.

Which brings me to the next issue – biting.
Sally Brown the Dog LOVES to play bite.
She is not a licking dog, she loves to bite.
Mind you, she is not nipping in anger or fear, but trying to bite in play.
When she bites my hands, I can feel her trying to restrain her jaw pressure.
It is clear that she is not trying to hurt me.

But her teeth are like hypodermic needles.
And when she bites while jumping around, a quick nip turns into a raking cut.
I have plenty of bleeding cuts to validate this.

I have tried everything to dissuade her from this practice but nothing works.
When I give her a toy in place of my hand, she ignores the toy and goes for the hand that is holding the toy.
She is not dumb.
She knows what animates the toy.

She even gets what I am trying to get her to do (or not do).
When I tell her no, she stops momentarily but gets so frustrated she lays her chin on the floor and growls and whines. (she still does not bark)
Basically she is telling me that she does not know how to play without biting.
It this point I usually send her outside (if we are not already outside) and let her gnaw on one of her toys.
Otherwise, I leave her alone.
She also tries to bite my shoes and pants cuffs.
This has the feel of canine domination, which I will not tolerate.

Another option is to buy some leather gloves and allow her to play with my hands.
The reasoning for this is that the play biting is typical of puppies and will disappear over time on its own.
However, allowing her to bite/chew my protected hands does not teach her to not bite/chew the hands of visitors (mainly my grandchildren).
And there is the outside possibility that she will interpret my allowance of her biting/chewing play as acceptable forever, which will require me to un-train from the habit later.

We are still working on this problem.

Her leash walks have changed from a fearful event (her first reaction to being on a leash the first couple of weeks here), to a happy event.
When Sally gets excited, she jumps – not on me – straight up.
And this mornings walk preparations were typical.
She got excited when she saw/smelled her leash.
So much so that she would not stand still while I hooked her leash onto her collar.

Once attached, we were ready to rock – or walk.
My plan today was to walk a mile.
We almost made it.
Near the point of my planned turn-around, a yard dog came out of nowhere and scared the (beep) out of Sally the Dog.
Barking loudly and menacingly, the little dog was not much larger than Sally, and only about 12 inches from Sally, restrained by a chain-link fence.
Sally did not know what to make of the dog for a few seconds.
She just stood there and looked and sniffed at the wild defender of his plot of dirt.
Then she wanted to run away.

I tried to calm Sally by talking calmly to her, I pet her a bit and encouraged her to walk away with me.
She went with me for a few feet then stopped and turned to look/sniff the still-barking maniac.
She repeated this go-stop-look/sniff routine two more times.
Then another fenced-in dog joined in from a greater distance.

At this point Sally began hunting a place to crawl under and hide.
I encouraged her to stay with me and to retreat further away from the noise.
But she was clearly upset and so we ended the walk at that point.
We turned around and crossed the street to put some more distance between Sally and the yammering nabob on the west side of the street.
I encouraged Sally to stay next to me and keep moving – which she did quite well, considering the distress she was experiencing.

And then she wanted to run.
So we ran most of the way home.
When we got to our yard, I let her sniff around and when she was ready, she walked to the gate and into the back yard we went.
Safe and sound.

And finally, the house training.
A total failure so far.
This morning was a draw.
I let her out twice and she wet both times.
But while I was doing the dishes, she disappeared for a few seconds and when I went to investigate, there she was squatting on the carpet in the back room.
I told her no, and she immediately walked to the back door and waited for me to let her out.
Which I did.

From this, I see that she associates the transgression with going outside.
She just has them backwards.
We will keep working on this.
.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Milestone for Sally the Dog

This morning after breakfast, I took Sally on a walk, as has been my custom these days.
I intended to make this a longer walk than previous excursions and it was so.
We traveled almost a mile.
1/2 mile out and a 1/2 mile back.
We walked to the church in our neighborhood which is right at 1/2 mile from my house.

I could tell she was getting weary in last tenth of a mile or so.
She doing a lot of tugging toward the end, nearly running ahead of me.
What she does not know is that I am a runner (still, in spite of my advancing age...), so I ran with her for a few hundred feet.
When we got back to our yard, she plowed her nose into the leaf piles I have staged, ready for bagging (the last of the season).
Then it was into the back yard, and HOME.
She hit the water bowl first thing.

I am about to challenge Cesar Milan on another dog training principle he espouses.
He, and his disciples, say that petting a dog when it is scared or disturbed by something - a car, another animal, the house heater fan, whatever - is interpreted by the animal as validating the fear they feel.
But my experience has been just the opposite.
If my dog is scared by something and I pick her up and hold her, she calms down.
If I touch/pet my dog when she is distressed by something, she usually relaxes.
Yes, Cesar has the "energy" concept correct, I believe.
Thus, one could interpret the calming effect of my actions as the dog "reading" my calming "energy" and relaxing.
That may be so, but that contradicts the first concept of petting while distressed encouraging the fear.

Sally did pretty good today.
There was a lot of stopping and sniffing that I would prefer not take place, but we were covering some new territory and I want her to get used to it and to feel comfortable in the environment.
We will work out the sniffing issues as we go along, I hope.

I was doing some calculations this morning regarding dog aging verses human aging.
The general rule of thumb is every year of dog age is equal to seven years of human age.
Thus, one year for a dog equals seven people years.
One month for a dog equals seven months of people age.
One week for a dog equals seven weeks of people time (almost two months)
And, one day for a dog equals a week of people time.
This is helping me keep Sally's learning and development in context.

As I write this, she is sleeping on the floor next to my chair.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day - Sally

To conform with something I read about training a dog, Sally and I went for a walk early this morning (about 7).
What I read was that since dogs are wanderers, it is more fitting to their natural instincts to take them for a walk before you feed them.
This simulates a "hunt" for the dog, according to this trainer.
It made sense to me, so I thought I would give it a try.

So, off we went.
Sally patiently allowed me to attach the leash to her collar and was ready to go through the gate to the outer realms.
While eager, she was generally restrained and did not pull too hard on her tether.
We are still working out who leads who on these walks but she did pretty good today.
Today's session lasted about 10-15 minutes.

Unfortunately, Sally's newly developing appetite causes her to be VERY hungry when feeding time comes around.
This morning was no exception.
Thus, every little discarded food wrapper (I had no idea there were so many laying around...) became an item of intense interest.
She even stopped to chew on a cigarette butt, which would have made for a great picture, had I been appropriately equipped.


I am not sure if Sally will ever be a dog that I can take on my three-mile personal exercise walks.
Great Pyrenees dogs are not long-distance runners.
Three miles may be too much even for an adult GP.
Thus, I am still trying to figure out the "proper" way to do a walk of my dog.

The purpose is to exercise the dog, tire her out a little, and burn off her natural energy so that she will be more relaxed at home.
I do not entirely buy into Cesar Millan's dog pack theory.
I understand and accept his underlying concept that the social structure of wild dogs it that of a pack (group).

But my dog is not in the wild.
She knows that I am not a dog, and understands that our social arrangement is not that of a pack of wild dogs.
(Since she left her litter-mates, she has not been around a "pack".)
There is a lot of structure in our living together now.
There are physical restraints, like fences, around her now, too.
She eats when I feed her.
Period.
There are no hunts to find food when the notion strikes her.
So I am not sure how much of the "pack mentality" is working in a domesticated dog.

So, is the goal of a walk for me and Sally to have her walk like a robot, like Cesar's dogs, or is it to allow her to have a good time, to sniff around and explore the neighborhood, more or less on her terms?
If her time outside the back yard was completely on her terms then we would not bother with a leash at all.
But that will not happen.
For one reason, it is against the law.
Another reason is she could run off and I would lose her.
So, there is some restraint in her walks, and will likely always be.
She has adapted remarkably well to the limits of the leash in just over a week.
The day may come when she and I can fiddle around in the front yard without any physical restraint on her.
We shall see about that in a year or two.

In the meantime, Sally will learn to live with a leash.
And, frankly, I am surprised how well she has accepted my little yard as her ranch/farm/home.
We shall see if that lasts.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Life with Sally

My family had a pre-Christmas gathering Friday evening.
In addition to seven adults/parents there were eleven children, of which seven were genetic grand-babies.
That is a lot of people in my widdle house.
In addition, Sally's sister and brother came along for a visit.
There was much friendly biting and rolling and tumbling.
And the dogs did some, too.

Friday was Sally's big socialization day, what with meeting a couple of the neighbor ladies, and sniffing several neighborhood dogs from a distance, plus all the residual sniffage in the leaves and yards, while on her morning leash walk.
And then a whole houseful of people that evening, and the kin-folks.
Sally had a day of it.

So today (Saturday) was sort of a day off.
We did not walk in the morning, as has been our practice.
We walked in the evening after I got home from my all day 400+ mile trip. (a WHOLE nother story...)

But Sally behaved herself nearly perfectly on the leash for our 10-15 minute walk.
She did have a blue bag event, which I was equipped to adjust (as best I could).
Then we had dinner.

Sally, in the last week has developed a ravenous appetite.
My previous 3/4 of a cup of food pellets are gone before I turn around and I am given a look that says, "Is that all?"
In response, I have increased her ration to a full cup each morning and evening meal.
This takes her a little longer to consume, but I still get that confused, deprived, questioning, look afterward.

I don't want to over-feed her and make her fat, but she is a growing dog.
And the 10-30 minute leash sessions leave her tired.
She comes home from them and, after she settles down, she sleeps for two or three hours.
And she is growing into a LARGE dog, who will have a big-dog appetite.
So I am working my way through this, another challenge.

On the house training front, more failures.
I cannot catch her at the correct moment.
Even though I took her out once each hour, this evening, she STILL managed to wet on a previously anointed spot.
Fortunately, this was on a plastic carpet runner rather than the carpet.
But I am frustrated.
Taking her out and having her squat out there does not teach her that doing the same thing in the house is unacceptable.
And she is sneaky.
If I do not follow her around the house as she sniffs and wanders, she will surprise me.
And sending her out after she has transgressed, may end up teaching her that the best way to make me open the door to let her out is to piddle on the floor.
That is exactly backwards.
So who is training who?
And to do what?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brief Update on Sally the Dog

Sally, the newly brilliant Dog has had only one transgression of the Tradition of the Elders since her epiphany last Monday.
It was a small wet spot in the storage room and, had I been just a bit quicker on the jump, I could have caught her in the act and, thus, provided her with stronger reinforcement of the no-piddle-or-pooping policy.
As it was, when I saw the spot, I picked her up, took her to the scene of the crime and let her smell the evidence, then took her out of the house and closed the door.
There was no yelling or shouting or any of that.
Only terminology like "no" and "bad girl" were expressed in emphatic tones.

Today, Sally spent most of the morning in the house because it was raining and the yard was soggy.
I made her piddle before she came in and took her out after a couple of hours to give her a chance to unload (which she did!).
For the most part she was a good girl.

She LOVES to chew and it is a task to keep her chewing on authorized things (branches, toys, a glove, etc) and not on unauthorized things (my hands, my blankets, the carpet, the furniture, my shoes, etc).
For the most part she is coming along.

We had another leash session in the neighborhood today.
It was difficult to get her out the door, but once out, it was sniff and go.
We prolly did 20 minutes up and down the street and we are working out how far she can go.

In a week I may try to actually go for a walk with her.
Right now I am just getting her used to the give and take of being on a leash.
For now, she is leading me about half the time, but that will have to change soon.
I will not tolerate a 90 pound dog dragging me around the neighborhood at her pace.
For now I am content to let her lead me some of the time so she can get used to the smells and cars she will encounter out there.
She did a pretty good job of complying with my tugs as we moved around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

BIG DAY FOR SALLY

On the day before her third week anniversary at this little place, Sally and her resident poop plucker had an eventful morning.
In a good way, this time.

First, there were no unplanned “events” in the house while breakfast was being prepared and eaten (yes, I allowed her to eat some of her food in the house.)
THEN, while pondering further training for the pooch, an aggressive plan was hatched.

Thus, Tall Biped armed himself with leash, doggy snacks and blue bags.
He attached the leash to smaller Furry Resident and carried her to the car, which had a seat prepared with towels to accommodate said Resident.
We drove about a half mile to the grounds of a local church that has a huge front yard (several acres)
There was some silent distress on the part of Furry Person, but she handled the trip generally well.
Once at the Large Yard, Tall Biped picked Smaller Furry Person from the seat and set her on the ground of New Large Yard.
It took about 30 seconds for Smaller Furry Person to warm to the new environment.
From then on is was a tight leash kind of morning.

With her nose suddenly on Maximum Reception, Sally had a wonderful time sniffing the many remembrances left by previous visitors.
I should have timed the party but I did not, so I can only guess that we spent about 20 minutes or so wandering around on the Large Grass.

Not surprisingly, a blue bag was needed.
Not surprisingly, there were two other dogs in the area enjoying a walk.
Sally was close enough to sniff their presence, and see them, but not close enough for any direct contact (about 50 feet).
Since this was her first time out of her yard, and her first car trip since her arrival, and her first time in this place, and her first close encounter with other dogs (other than the yappers behind the fence next door) in the open, I did not want to load her with too much stress/excitement in one trip.

I was ready to be finished before she was.
It was a test of wills to try to get her back to the car.
I was patient but persistent.
At several points, my gentle tugs to change the direction of the exploration were met with resistance.
Sometimes she would face me and pull away.
Sometime she would just sit down and look at me.
And she tried a new one – turn around and face away from me and pull away from me, as if she was pulling a wagon.
All ultimately failed.
But I was patient with her.
I gave her time to come around to seeing things my way.
Sometimes she did, sometimes not.

This was her first BIG outing and she was doing generally fine.
I let her pull me around for the most part.
I wanted her to get used to the interaction of dog, leash, and human.
A tethered walk is supposed to be fun for everyone.
In fact, sometimes she went where I wanted her to go without any tugging, and sometimes I let her go where she wanted – up to a limit.
It was a negotiated event.

I am assuming that as she gets used to traveling with me on a leash, she will mellow out a bit and we can come to some sort of truce of direction of travel.
While I am impressed with the calm boredom of the Cesar Milan's dogs while they walk with their owners, they really do not seem to be enjoying themselves.
They look like robots.
As if the body snatchers have implanted their evil seed into them and the revised dogs just calmly tolerate the human activities.
I expect Sally to be more engaged in the transit.
We shall see.

Finally, I had to pick up Sally the Dog and deposit (sorry) her onto her designated seat in the car (shot gun) for the drive home.
This short trip seemed less distressing to her than the trip over.

When we got home, I lifted her from her seat and set her on the ground to see what she would do on more familiar ground.
She was ready for more.
So, for the next ten minutes, we explored my front yard, the edge of the neighbor's front yard, the edge of the yard across the street my gutter and back again.
Ultimately, she did not want to go back into her nice little fenced yard.
I had to pick her up and PLACE her in her yard.
When I removed the leash from her collar, she headed straight for her water bucket.
I was not surprised.

For the morning I give her a B+.

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE MIRACLE DOG

It has been an eventful (and unexpected) weekend.
I was in the Dismal Dowdy Doldrums over my lack of progress in potty training Sally the Dog on Saturday.
I had the Blue Bag Blues and was struggling with adopters remorse. (and the leftovers of a mild case of the flu)

I went to bed that evening wondering if I was going to have to giver her away.
I do not want a yard dog.
If our lives together are going to evolve into me in the house and her in the yard, then I do not want her.
I don't need a yard dog.
I need (or rather, want) a friend, companion, and good listener.
I don't need a yard trophy.
I already have a stuffed dog.
And it does not eat. (or poop)

Sunday, I let Sally in for a few minutes in the evening while I prepared her dinner, just to demonstrate that I hold no grudge for past transgressions.
Being ever watchful and suspicious of her every move and sniff, I soon caught her sniffing around the back door, so I opened the door and let her exit.
Lo and behold, she went out onto the grass and did her little squat with little fanfare.
I was pleased, to say the least.
So pleased, that I immediately opened the door and invited her into the house again with multiple praises.
This was a mistake – mostly in timing.
I returned to food prep while Fuzzy Nose scampered about and squeaked in anticipation of impending satiation.
But in just a minute or so, Sally had disappeared again.
It took me a few seconds to realize that she was gone and when I went to investigate, I found that she was at the back door again.
I let her out again and in another lo and behold, she sniffed around in the grass and then did her other business.
I was thrilled and chastened for my impetuousness.
When she was finished, I allowed her back inside for a few minutes while I finished her meal prep and while I ate mine.
Then I let her out for the evening – which she seems to like.

Which leads us to this morning.
I saw Sally soon after she emerged from her den under the utility building, still too groggy doggy to do much but sit and sniff.
It was about 7 AM.
Having finished my Monday morning workout, I was ready to eat and I was certain she was, too.
When I went outside to get her dish – which stays in her mostly unused dog house - she came over to me.
I told her to go pee.
She looked at me for a moment (her usual manner) then trotted off a few paces and squatted.
I was pleased, astounded, amazed and other such things at the over-night brilliance of my dog.
With that, I let her in the house.
While I began her food prep I kept an eye on her as she sniffed around the house to check if anything was new (I guess...).
After a few minutes she was at the back door, so I let her out.
She went into the grass and squatted again.

I refrained from opening the door again and watched as Sally the (now BRILLIANT) Dog sniffed around in another area of the grass and soon did her other business.
I could hear the trumpets playing a fanfare.
I opened the back door and invited my miraculously rehabilitated dog back into the house with many praises (most of which are likely unintelligible to her yet).

In summation, we had an “uneventful” morning visit before I let her out to play, while I cleaned up the house.
This relationship may work out after all....
.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fail

Sally the dog got an "F" on her house training lesson this morning.
She barely lasted 60 seconds.

As is my habit with her, I invited her into the house while I prepared her morning meal.
After some initial petting and scratching and rubbing of fur which elicited appropriate tail wagging and nuzzling, I began to prepare her food.
This is a simple process of pouring in some industrial processed grain pellets, which I add some milk (which she likes), I was adding some left over tuna when I noticed she had disappeared from the kitchen.
Being suspicious of her from past experience, I went to the door of the dining room and there she was - producing a pile of Tootsie Rolls on my carpet in the storage room.
How long did that take?
A minute?
Two minutes?
Not long, for sure.

She was told "NO", picked up, given a half-hearted swat on the behind, and deposited outside, with a complimentary salutation of "Bad girl".

more later....

Friday, December 16, 2011

A NEW CHAPTER IN LIFE

This past Wednesday was the one week anniversary of Sally the dog at my humble estate.
It seems like she has been here for a month.

For those of you not familiar of the beginnings of this tale (sorry) I shall recap.
My number one son and family announced a few months ago that they wanted to get a dog or two for their planned “farm”.
Soon after that they announced the breed of pooch they wanted – Great Pyrenees.
This peaked my interest and I began some online study of the breed (as well as others) just to see what might be greeting me when I come over for my occasional visits.

I read about the breed, and training, and training THIS breed, that the challenges that his breed presents verses other breeds.
I read about different methods of training and swung from one philosophy to another as I read the different practices for training dogs.




I am a dog lover.
I have had several throughout my lifetime.
Because of this, I was looking forward to my descendants getting their furry friends.
Having said that, I have refrained from having a dog at this house and time in my life because I did not feel that I was willing to devote the amount of time and effort to training and caring for an animal.
I have a rather small yard and that is constraining to an animal.
So not only was my reason for not having a pet because of my personal constraints, but also because it was not fair to the animal.

But, during a conversation with my son about the planned acquisition of said pooches, he indicated that I should also acquire a dog.
I explained my reasons for not wanting one, as outlined above.
He was not dissuaded but did not pursue the topic.

A week or so later the topic came up again and I again responded in the negative.
A few days later he again suggested that I should have a dog and I again declined the suggestion.

Then I had a dream.
In this dream, I had received a new GP pup and we grew together as friends and lived fuzzily ever after.
After the dream I began to waver on my negative opinion on having a dog.
I knew there would be issues with house-training and leash training and feeding and setting aside time for play and/or walks.
Somewhere in all of that I came to the point that I could/would modify my pattern of living to accommodate these changes.
The next time my son brought up the issue, I told him of my dream and that I was coming around to acceptance.
We made plans to go to the same farm where his puppies were to be procured, to pick up mine (since he had just brought his pair home the week before).

And so, on the evening of December 7, I received my new furry friend.
Per some of the reading that I had done over the past several weeks I left her mostly alone while she adjusted to her new place.
By the third day, Sally the dog was more ready to engage with her new associate.
I use the term “associate” because I am not sure she sees me as her “master” in the sense that old school training manuals used to present.

I tried to feed her and help her not potty and pee just anywhere.
I was more successful in the former than the latter.
On her fourth day, during a potty trip, Sally indicated that she wanted to stay in the back yard. When I invited her back inside, she just sat down in the grass and looked at me.
Okay.
I knew from my reading that GP's were outside dogs (as well as inside), so I let her stay.
I expected this at some point in her life, just not this soon.

Sunday morning I woke up worrying about my dog, outside all alone by herself in the dark cold world, with barking dogs all around her.
It was a waste of worry.
She was fine.
Without me, or my frettings.

I looked at all the spots on my carpet and the places where I had placed newspaper over previous points of deposit in the few days that Sally had been in my house.
The four rooms she had access to in my house were a mess.
As a house trainer, I was a total failure.
For every time I had carried her out of the house to do her biological business, she had beaten me to the puddle/plop by twice.
I was doing my best to instruct her in the ways of people houses – knowing that dogs respond to actions rather than words, because they do not speak English.
And the evidence was everywhere that I was a total failure.

She was the fastest eliminator I have ever seen.
If I was not immediately up and after her when she began to sniff around, she would beat me to the puddle/plop.
And she did not seem to care where she did her business.
Two feet away from where she was playing was fine with her.
I have never seen a dog with such indiscriminate practices.
Maybe she would see it as efficient.

And our leash training sessions were not going well, either.
She barely tolerated the nice, new blue collar I bought for her.
But the nice, red leash?
Not at all.
As soon as I attached it to her collar she went into reverse.
Strong reverse.
Life and death reverse.
Fighting and struggling from side to side, working every angle she could to break free.
Even though I offered her bits of dog biscuit, she let me know she would rather starve than be on a tether.

Sunday morning I was depressed.
I was ready to give her back.
After three days, I was beaten.
The amount of effort this was taking was consuming virtually all of my time and energy.
And I was making no progress.

So instead of having a nice furry friend flopped around the house to listen to me mutter to myself as I did my chores, I had a walking sewer outlet.
I fed – she pooped.
Or peed.
Instead of a nice symbiotic relationship, I was doomed to a life of following this animal around with a blue bag in my hand (and more in my pocket).

And my visions of us taking nice controlled walks around the neighborhood to burn off her doggy energy while I exercised were not to be.
I had the canine equivalent of a rodeo bull.
She is a 10 pound puppy now.
Imagine what that will be like when she weights 90 pounds?

To compound my depression, when I came home from church Sunday night, Sally had pooped in three different places and peed in at least two.
That comes out (sorry) to almost once per hour. (NOT the two-hour interval the training article stated)
I knew that there would be some cleaning up to be done but I was not prepared for this.
I opened the door and took her outside to let her unload any more processed dog food.
Which she did.
I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning my storage room carpet.

On Monday morning, when she acted like she wanted to stay outside, I gladly let her go.
She has not been inside the house for any length of time since.
And she seems to like it this way.
I go out and play with her in HER yard.
I cannot trust her inside the house any longer.

But that cures the symptom but not the disease.
This keeps her from soiling my house, but does not teach her not to potty in the house.
I do not know how to go about this now.

My work starts in January.
That means that I will have even less time each day to train this dog.
Leash training is vital to me being able to walk off her energy each morning or evening.
If I cannot she will become a problem and I will not have the time to resume training until mid April.
That is four months from now.
By then Sally will be much bigger and more difficult to handle.
.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Longer Run

The idea of doing a longer run on Saturday mornings has been simmering in my head since I stopped running six miles a few months ago.
As hard as it was on me to admit that I am no longer strong enough to run six miles without stopping at least once to walk for a minute or two, I submitted to the realities of life.
But the fallback distance of 3+ miles – even with a significant 3/4+ mile hill consistently left me wanting more.
So the question that wanted an answer was, if six miles is too much, what is the baby bear distance (“just right”)?
Five miles?
Four miles?

These questions never got answered before I had to stop running altogether for three months while I expended my energy six days each week fixing up my flip house.
That effort ended two weeks ago and I went promptly back to my weight lifting walking running program.
But because last weekend had a special church function going on Saturday morning, I shifted my Saturday morning run to Sunday morning before church.
I had intended to add some extra distance to my hilly course to test my abilities that weekend, but thought better of it because I did not know how much time it would add to my running session.
I did not want to scramble my get-ready-for-church activities and end up late for the pre-Sunday school responsibilities that I must attend.
So I passed on the extra distance experiment last week.
Which takes us to this morning.

The night-time temperature remained surprisingly mild – mid 50's with a light breeze.
But I had had a busy night in the bed, with many foggy confrontations that partially woke me up several times.
So when the alarm spoke quietly to me a 4:58, I was not really ready to respond with a leap out from between the memory foam and the flannel sheet/comforter.
So I pressed the off button and rolled over in the warm cocoon.
But I was playing my margin.
I knew that it takes only about 15 minutes to shave and get dressed (the shower is saved until after the run....), and about 10 minutes to drive to the running course.
This would theoretically, allow me 30 extra minutes of snoozing, should I choose to indulge.

I dozed for a few minutes longer than the ten minutes that I intended.
So when I popped one eye open to check the time, I knew I needed to get at it.
It was 5:15.
Getting out of the snuggly warmness is the hardest part.
I turn my heat down to 65 at night in the fall/winter so the first sensation if feel when I get out of the warm bed is COLDNESS.
A few button pushes on the electronic heating machine controller begins the process of warming the air temperature to a more comfortable.

For some reason, I overdressed this morning.
50 degrees and above is warm enough to allow bare legs when running.
But today I pulled on my wind pants for just a bit more protection.
I also wore my light, long-sleeved zip top – my usual covering for this temperature.
In addition I worn my light knit gloves and my ear warmer.
All of this is one of the reasons I despise winter.
Trying to keep my body temperature comfortable when running.

My circulation is very uneven, and running seems to only amplify some of these discrepancies.
I can be sweating at my armpits and have cold ears, hands and feet.
And this temperature variation can be moderated by a surprisingly lightweight layer on these parts.

When I started out on the course, my left hip, knee and ankle all took turns complaining about their lot in life.
None of this was strong enough to seriously consider canceling the party, but it put me on notice that the potential was there.
I do not do any warm up exercises, so my first quarter mile of running is very tentative and cautious.
I felt other nudges of distress from my upper and lower back, probably from my weight workout yesterday.
Gradually, everything gets with the program and I am fine for the duration.
It was so today.

Going up the big hill was a bit of a challenge today.
By the time I got to the top, where I turn south, I was into level three breathing.
That is not my preferred rate, but I knew that I was finished with the most difficult portion of my course, so I did not fret too much about this.
Ego would have preferred that I not be breathing faster at all.
Silly boy.

The more level plane of Tollgate Road got the breathing rate back into preferred cadance and the walk down Mountainwood was uneventful.
It was at this point that the zipper on my long-sleeved top was taken all the way down.
I was warm.
Then came the change.
Instead of turning left at the bottom of Mountainwood and going to the 1/10th mile out and back on Owens Drive, I turned right on Owens and started down the gentle grade.
I ran sightly more than a half mile, looped around and started back.
I felt good at this point.
The question at this point was, is this too much?

It on the return trip that I wished I had left the wind pants in the car.
I was just a bit warmer than I wanted to be.
But I was quickly lost is the nostalgia of running my favorite course again, in the direction that I prefer.
From this turn-around point, I would be following almost two full miles of the six-mile course.
I plodded along, daydreaming – the sure sign for me that I am as comfortable and free as I can possibility be.

The last quarter mile was not as easy as it has been in times past.
Nothing was wrong, I just knew that I had expended some extra effort.
When I got to my car I was ready to stop.
I could have run further, if necessary.
But it was not necessary.
I had completed my planned distance.
I felt properly challenged.
After a short cool-down walk, I slid into my car drove home.
Certain that I will do this distance again next week.
I love running.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Running Date of Up

Since the first week in August, yers troolee has been busy fixing up a house to resell or rent (wee will let the market decide which it is to be...).
Given that this house project required a lot (LOT!) of bending, standing, stooping, wiping, scrubbing, kneeling, etc, six days a week, I decided to forgo all weight workouts, morning walks and weekend runs until the project was finished.
I knew that my elderly body was only capable of doing so much effort in a given time period and I needed to get the house fixed up ASAP.
That is one reason why there have been so few posts on this here blog.

As of this past weekend, virtually all tasks at the Flip House have been completed.
The few that remain are of the optional nature and will not affect the value of the house in any meaningful way.
Thus, this past Monday I started my previously usual morning weight workouts, walks, and - TA DA - my Saturday morning runs.

It is not a welcome sign when the local weather person predicts that the morning temperature will be 37 degrees. (I HATE winter)
But that is what he promised for this morning.
So when the gentle radio alarm came on at 4:58 this morning, I knew what I was in for.
Based on previous adventures of this sort, I dressed in two layers on legs and top, mittens and ear cover band.

The day was dawning clear with an ever-so-gentle breeze of 1 or 2 mph.
Having been out of training (of this sort) for three months, I was prepared for a bad run.
"Bad" meaning having to stop and walk and/or some muscle/tendon/ligament/joint breaking, etc.

I started out on my hill course with a "let's see what we can do" attitude.
To my surprise, I warmed up quickly.
So quickly in fact, that I was pulling neck zippers down at the end of the first half mile.
As I putted along I felt nearly every body part from my hips on down announce its displeasure with the festivities.
Hamstrings were complaining - mildly - about how hard life was, and left hip chimed in.
My chest and triceps were chirping as well, from my first chest workout in three months yesterday morning.
None of this was even close to painful and the unanimous response to all of this from Runner, Coach, and Running Central was "get over it".
Which they all did, more or less.

As I started up the steeper incline in mile one, I wondered if I would be able to go the distance.
Assuming that I would have a difficult time of it today, I did not push my pace.
I just wanted to finish without any unplanned stops. (there was a planned walk down and then back up The Hill at mid-point)
I was pleasantly surprised.
I was able to run all the way up the 3/4 mile hill without a stop.
In fact, my breathing or effort never came close to the point where I wondered if I should stop.
The Bankhead hill is a substantial challenge on a good day.
That is one reason why I run it.

Frankly, I was surprised how "easy" this session turned out to be, considering my past runlessness.
I knew I was taking a chance by not, first, running a level course of the same distance to build up to this level of effort.
But I was feeling frisky after a week of my usual exercise routine and no serious negative reactions.

When I got to the end of my planned circuit (my car) I did not want to stop (a VERY good sign).
I ran a half a block past my car for the shear joy of it.
Could I have done 6 miles today?
No.
Could I have done four?
Prolly.
But I would have produced many lingering physical memories by doing so.
We will see who/where reminds me of the cost of my excess faux youthfulness tomorrow.
In the meantime, I look forward to next weekend.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Movie Review - There Will Be Blood

While the rest of the state of Alabama was watching a football game, I spent part of the evening watching a movie that was regarded by the movie making community as an excellent film.
I did not get to see the first 30 minutes or so of the film, but that seemed not to matter.
I was only mildly impressed in a positive way.

It reminded me of a remake of the oil-tycoon-related movie "Giant", which my natural father worked on.
The "Blood" movie was stereotypically Hollywood, to wit:
There was a "fundamentalist" preacher who was proved to be a hypocrite.
There was an oil tycoon who was a drunkard and ruthless and hateful and mean and nasty.
These two major themes were so hackneyed that I almost changed the channel.
The ending was awkward and unfulfilling.
This is not because the bad guy did not get his due, it just seemed that a more conclusive ending could have been created.

And Hollywood got to drop its collective pants at us conservatives again and present two of its favorite topics - evil rich businessmen and the Christian religion, of the more conservative persuasion.
Never mind that many of them are "rich".
THEY are Arteests and earn their millions playing people that are not.
Or at least, they want us to think they are not like the people portrayed in their productions.
But my perception of the moral behavior of most Hollywood types leads me to the conclusion that many of them are virtually identical to some of their evil characters, just with a different costume.

So, some questions arise....
1 Does EVERY wealthy businessperson have to be evil?
2 Does EVERY Christian minister HAVE to be so fundamentally flawed that we can have no faith in what they say or do?
The easy answer is, no.
But the exceptions to the more common Hollywood characterizations are all too rare to suit me.
Which is why I so rarely watch their so-predictable presentations.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

TAXES AND THE "RICH"

It is interesting to me that the First Idiot is trotting around whining that the "rich" need to pay their "fair share" of taxes, when they already pay 50-75+ percent of all income taxes (depending on where one draws the line for "rich").
Per the IRS, the top 1 percent of income earners pay 39 percent of all income taxes.
The top 10 percent of income earners pay 70 percent.

In his latest tax increase proposal, he wants the income tax rate on "rich" folks to go from 35 percent to 39 percent.
So, these wealthy, unpatriotic slackers are a full four percent away from paying their "fair share".
Four percent?
But this four more percent represents a tax increase of over 10 percent.

What does not penetrate the cranial processing organ of this, and most other liberal policy lemmings is that increasing tax rates ALWAYS results in LESS tax revenue.
When GWB convinced the Congress to reduce the highest tax rate from 39 to 35 percent in 2001, actual tax revenues went UP.
This happens every time tax rates are cut.

Why?
Because "the government" has no money of its own.
It can only take money from individual productive citizens.
What about the "big corporations", you say?
Where do you think a company - any company, large or small - gets its money?
If you owned a company - any kind of company - where would you get the money to pay your taxes?
You would get it from your customers.
It would be hidden in the prices you charge your customers.
SO - a tax on a business is ultimately paid by individual citizens who do business with that company.
Thus, ALL taxes levied by the government are ultimately paid by individual citizens.

What most people do not understand that that "the government" is not a stand-alone entity with a source of income separate from the general economy at large.
The money pie of any nation is only so large at any given time.
The more of this pie "the government" takes, the less that is left for all the rest of us.
And when "the government" takes your money, IT gets to make the decisions about where and how much is spent.
You don't.
You might agree with some of the spending decisions by "the government" but you likely will not agree with all of them.
Tough noogees.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

THE NEW TOOL QUEST

One manifestation of my multiple personality defects is that I like tools.
I have totally bought into the adage from old mechanics (older than me...) that says, more or less, “To do the job right, you need the right tools.”
That said, I have wanted a more complete set of sockets for decades.

For you girls out there, allow me to describe the basic attributes of socket sets.
Socket tools were invented to install and remove nuts and bolts.
They are especially useful for this where working space is limited.
There are two parts to a socket set – the sockets, that fit on the nut or bolt, and the ratchet, that turns the socket/bolt/nut.

Sockets come in various sizes to match the different bolt/nut sizes.
These sizes can be “standard” (or “fractional”) or metric.
Sockets also come in “standard” length (or, depth) or “deep-well” (longer length/depth).

For sockets to work to their full potential you need a ratchet.
A ratchet is basically a handle with a rotary gear on the end.
This allows you to rotate the socket (and thus the nut/bolt) in various steps up to and including 360 degrees, if space allows.
Ratchets and sockets come in various drive sizes – 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch, and 3/4 inch. (and there may be a 1 inch drive for REALLY BIG jobs.)
Thus, certain size sockets work with certain size ratchets, others do not.
When you buy a socket set, all the sockets are matched to the ratchet(s) that is (usually) included. (you can buy the sockets and ratchets separately.)

40 years ago or so, I purchased a socket set from K-Mart.
It included a 3/8 inch ratchet and several standard depth sockets.
It also included several 1/4 inch sockets and an adapter that allowed the 3/8 inch ratchet to fit the 1/4 inch sockets.
The set has been adequate for 90 percent of my jobs.
But the lack of deep-well sockets was a problem.
And this was made more apparent because, as part of the tools supplied by my last employer, was a socket set which included deep-well sockets. (which came in handy many times in my work.)

A task in my Flip House has required a deep-well sock.
Thus, I find myself lusting after a new socket set which includes deep-well sockets.
So, I set out to find a “good” quality set of sockets (with ratchet(s)) that had the following attributes:

3/8 inch drive ratchet
1/4 inch drive ratchet
Standard (fractional) sockets only (no metric) in standard depth AND deep-well depth for BOTH 3/8 AND 1/4 inch drives.
And I want all of this in a nice single plastic or metal case/box.
And I do not want them made in China. (I prefer the USA but Taiwan is okay)
And, while price is not my first consideration (I do not need the cheapest set available) I am not willing to pay $500.00 for these tools (yes, there are sets out there that cost this much and more)
Simple, right?
Not.

I went shopping on the internet.
Guess what – almost nobody sells a set like this any more.
I can find sets with standard-depth and deep-well 3/8 inch drive sockets but without any 1/4 inch sockets.
I can find sets with standard-depth and deep-well 1/4 inch drive sockets but without any 3/8 inch sockets.
I can find sets with standard depth 3/8 inch drive and 1/4 inch drive sockets but without any deep-well sockets.
I can find sets with 3/8 inch deep-well sockets but they include metric sockets (which I do not need or want).
I can find sets with standard depth and deep-well 3/8 inch sockets and standard depth 1/4 inch sockets, but no deep-well 1/4 inch sockets.
I can find sets that include everything I want, but are made in China.
I found a set that includes everything I want but cost $150.00.
I found a set that includes everything I want but cost $500.00.
I found one set that included everything I wanted that cost over $2000.00.

In the end, I found what I wanted in two sets at Granger, a 3/8 inch drive set and a 1/4 inch drive set, both with deep-well sockets, no metric stuff included, made in Taiwan.
Now I am happy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Economics 202 - Stock Market Price Changes

Economics is a murky topic for many people, but it is really a very simple subject.
Nearly every economic situation can be distilled down to one simple concept – supply and demand.
Or, offer and bid
Or, perceived value verses actual value.

Related to this general template are the price movements of our stock market.
Or any stock market.

You may have heard the the goal in making investments is to buy low and sell high.
Another simple maxim of economics.
But to many (most?) the rise and fall of stock prices is without logic.
Even to many who have some understanding of economics.
I am here to help.

Rather than think of the entire stock market and the millions of transactions that take place every minute or hour of each business day, imagine the behavior of just one share of stock of just one company.

A company has issued this one share of stock in the hope that someone will buy it.
When someone buys this share of stock they, in essence, loan to the company the price of that share of stock for some period of time.
The period of time is determined by the buyer.
It may be a short time – sometimes as short as a few hours, or a long time – years, or decades.
The company, for its part, will use the money received by the sale of this share of stock to invest in the operation of the company.
The hope is that, when invested wisely, this money will help the company grow and become more profitable.
When the company becomes more profitable the value of that share of stock will increase.
When the value of that share of stock increases, the owner may be enticed to sell his share of stock and make a profit from the sale (vs the amount he paid for it).
If the owner of this share of stock DOES sell it, the company can sell it again to someone else.
But since this share of stock is now worth more, the next person who buys it will pay a higher price than the first person who bought it.
Thus, the person who buys this share of stock, will, in effect, be loaning more money to the company than the previous purchaser.

Now, back away from this simple example and take a larger view of the stock market.
Think of it just like a supermarket.
A supermarket sells many kinds of food, fruit, vegetables, soup, meat, milk, etc.
In the same way, the stock market sells stock of many kinds of companies.

The shoppers in the stock market are called investors.
There are two types of investors – long-term and short-term.
Long-term investors buy stocks and hold them for months or years.
Short-term investors buy stocks and only hold them for a few hours or days or weeks.


So why does the average price of stocks go up or down?
Two reasons – investors believe that the price of stocks will go up in the future (near or far term), or they will go down (near or far term)
Remember buy low sell high.

Lets assume you have some money and you want to invest it somewhere where it will grow at a faster rate than a regular savings account in a bank.
You look at the general market situation and decide that stocks will likely increase in value in the next year.
You do not know how much but you think they will go up.
So you buy as many stocks as you can afford.

But you are not the only person who views the general economy this way and you are not the only person buying stock for this reason.
As you and others buy up shares of stock, fewer shares of stock remain for purchase.
The fewer shares left to buy the more valuable they become.
So the price for each share goes up.
Supply vs demand.

Lets say you want one share of stock of company A.
And lets say a guy next to you wants that same share of stock of company A.
You offer one dollar to the agent selling the share of stock.
You offer this much because you believe that this share of stock will be worth more than this in a year or so (your investment time window).
The guy next to you offers a dollar and ten cents for this share of stock.
Now you have to decide if you believe that that share of stock will be worth more than a dollar and ten cents in a year or so, or not.
If you believe that it will, then you offer a dollar and twenty cents for the share of stock.
If you do not believe that the value of this share of stock will be worth more than a dollar and twenty cents in a year or so, then you let the other guy have the share of stock.
This is how the price of shares of stock go up.
They are bid up by buyers (investors) competing with each other in the market.

The reverse is also true.
Lets say you already own a share of stock of company A.
But you believe that the future market conditions are such that company A will not be able to sell as many of its products next year as it did last year.
This will cause the value of your share of stock in company A to go down.
Rather than hang on to your share of stock in company A until the market improves, you decide to sell it.

But there are other people who hold a share of stock from company A and they want to sell their shares also.
They are standing in line behind you.
You offer to sell your share of stock in company A to the agent in the stock market for a dollar.
But the agent has already bought back other shares of stock in company A and finds that he cannot re-sell them for a dollar.
So he offers to buy your share of stock in company A for 90 cents.
The offer is good for only one minute.

You see the value of your share of stock in company A dropping as you stand there thinking about his offer.
You decide it is better to sell now at this price than to wait longer and have to sell your share in company A for even less.
You make the sale and as you are walking away you overhear the agent offer 80 cents to the guy who was in line behind you.

There are two reasons why you would want to buy or sell stocks at any given time – you believe the price will go up or it will go down in the future, or other buyers and sellers believe so.
There are two reasons why the price of a stock will go up or down.
Either market conditions are such that the business of a company will do better or worse, or, OTHER STOCK BUYERS believe that the value of a share of stock will go up or down.
Even if YOU do not believe that the value of the stock shares of a particular company will go up or down, if other buyers and sellers think so, the price of shares of stock will move according to what they do.
So if other buyers bid up the price of a share of stock, your share of that same stock will increase in value, too.
If they sell their shares of stock, bidding the price of the stock down, your shares of that stock will go down with them.
Thus, sometimes you buy simply because others are buying and sell only because others are selling.

Many short-term investors like to buy and sell shares of stock “on the margin”.
Basically, they study the price movements of the shares of stock of certain companies or industries.
They know from experience that certain shares increase or decrease in value by a certain percentage then they stop moving that direction and reverse.
So, for example, the price of a share of stock in company X tends to go up 15 percent over three months, then it stops and starts to go down.
So you buy a share of stock in company X when it is low and hold it until it gains about 14 percent, then you sell it and take your profit.
I does not matter if the stock goes up a couple more percentage points after that, you have made your “safe” money on this cycle.
You may invest your money in another stock that is in an increasing cycle while you wait for the value of the stock of company X to drop back to its expected low point.
When the value of the stock of company X hits its expected low point you buy some more shares and ride its value back up to its expected high point again.
Then you sell it again.
And so on.

Remember – supply and demand.
Price always follows demand.
When there is less demand than supply, the price drops.
When there is more demand than supply, the price rises.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE BRITISH RIOTERS


In the last few days there have been riots, looting and serious property destruction in several cities in Great Britan.
A radio reporter interviewed two female participants and asked them why they were involved in the destruction.
The girls said, “To show the rich people that we can do what we want.”

This answer seems to have no relationship with the reality of the situation, and it prompted some questions in my mind.
To wit:

1 Who are the “rich people”?
2 Have rich people restricted the activities of the young people?
3 In what way have rich people restricted the activities of the young people?
4 How does destruction of cars and buildings demonstrate freedom from rich people?
5 Will the freedom of the young people be improved by destroying local stores and property?
6 Do the young people believe that the local store owners are “rich people”?
7 If the local store owners are considered “rich people”, is it the goal of the young rioters to cause them to abandon their stores that have been damaged?
8 If the local store owners abandon their damaged stores, will that have a positive or negative effect on the neighborhood?
9 If the rioters cause the “rich” local store owners to leave the area, where will the young rioters shop for the things they need/want?
10 How wealthy does a person have to be to be considered “rich”?
11 Is being “rich” a bad thing?
12 What elements of life are the rioters missing in their current situation?
13 How will this expression of anger improve the lives of the rioters?
14 Do the young rioters believe that the “rich people” are paying attention to them and will take note that they can do what they want?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Car Update

No, I haven't bought one.
Just still lusting.
And have eliminated a few models.


I love this little car.
It is at the top of my list.
The Ford Focus is second. (I can't believe I just wrote that...)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Room of Old Men

The chairs that ringed the big room were half filled with old men.
Some had canes, some had roller-walkers, a couple were in wheelchairs.
A couple of them carried an oxygen bottle with clear plastic tubes running from the bottle to around their head and under their nose.
Most of them just walked with a limp.
A few were like me, walking normally (if I do anything normally).
Many of them had the deep, rasping cough of a life-long smoker.

As I sat and observed those around me, I thought, these guys took the bullets and the shrapnel for me.
These are the ones who came back.
Some paid in the jungle or the desert.
Others, like these, came back, but they still paid.
On the installment plan.
Some of them would say that the ones who came back in a box are the ones who got off easy.
And I would agree with them.

I have skated through life because of the lifetime of discomfort and pain they paid for me.
I owe them.
Big time.
I owe each one of them.
There is no way that I can repay or compensate them for the life of suffering (some of them more than others) they have endured so that I could raise my children free from fear and harm, go where I want, when I want, say what I want.
All of this is written on those pieces of paper we call our Constitution.
But the words on the paper aren't worth anything unless some of us defend them against those who want things another way.

I went to the doctor today for my annual checkup.
Because of my short service in the US Army, I am entitled to free medical care from the US Veterans Administration. (thanks to all of you who pay your taxes.)
He said my prostate was down from 2X to 1X. (don't ask me how the doctor was able to make this determination.....)
This is good news.
We are not sure why the change has taken place.
I am taking Saw Palmetto pills but they are not supposed to affect organ size.
But something did.
Not complaining, just sayin.

My blood pressure was good.
They took some of my blood to do a workup including HIV (just to settle the possible question).
Just like last year (except for the HIV test).

I am disgustingly healthy.
Even though I grunt and moan about my little aches and pains, in reality, they are so minor that I do not need to take any chemical substances to diminish their intensity.
The day may (will!) come when this will no longer be true, but for now it is so.
I am blessed.
I can still run three-plus miles each week, and walk three miles twice a week.
Many of those men in the big room can barely walk to their cars.

And while I am most grateful to Yahweh for his illogical kindness and love to me, I also feel a strong sense of gratitude to the old men sitting around the big room today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Life As Plan B

As planned, I ran my 3.5 mile hilly course this past Saturday morning.
It was "planned" because my preferred plan has seemingly become un-achievable.
Running six miles without stopping.
Never mind that the preferred six-mile course is one of the most challenging in the area.

After acknowledging my diminishing strength to complete the 6 mile course without stopping, I have dropped back to my next most challenging path.
Bankhead Parkway is a relatively steep road that gains about 200 feet in less than a mile.
I ran up the hill, bopped along the relatively flat Tollgate Road for a quarter mile then down the heart poundingly steep Mountainwood drive (walking).
Mountainwood drops (or gains, depending which way you are going) about 90 feet in about 1300 feet.
It is so steep that one can easily slip and fall if it is wet. (BTDT)
Anyway, did the whole circuit without a mishap.
The party was physically challenging and I can still feel a few pokes of pain around hips and hammys.

But the psychological sense that this is but a sad substitute for the distance my heart desires to run is buried somewhere near the surface of my conscious mind.
It is time to stop whining and suck up whatever endorphin-induced ego expansion I derived from going the longer distance.
Those days are over.
It is time to stop whimpering and learn to love what is left of life.

But the sad fact is, this is not the end of seeing physical and mental abilities diminish.
This is just another brick falling out of the wall of my life.
More are sure to come.
In fact, hardly a week goes by without some additional reminder injecting itself into my perception that I cannot do some small task as well/long as I used to.
I honestly get tired of seeing this.

From this, I can see why old people become depressed.
And it gives me a better insight into the value of visiting rest homes.
But I have never been good at relating to people.
Especially old people.
And increasingly, that is me.
.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

End of an Era

Sigh....
The Saturday morning plod along the Cotton Row course did not go very well.
Again.
My breathing was more-or-less okay (better than last go-round... but that is not saying much), and my strength was somewhat better.
But I had to stop and walk in both mile five and six.
Not good.
And not according to plan.
At least, not per Plan A.

As if to punctuate the situation, my left knee developed a nice jabbing pain in the ligament just below the kneecap early in mile five.
This was just after my second walk.
It was not the sharp ice pick kind of pain, it was more like someone whacking me with a tire iron just below the kneecap.
It got my attention.
And it forced Runner, Coach and Running Central to have a meeting to decide what to do and when.

The decision was quickly arrived at as left knee continued to squeak loudly – keep going and see if the problem fixes itself.
So I did.
And it did.
But it took a while.

I tried modifying my gait this way and that to take some of the pressure off the complaining ligament, but nothing seemed to help.
But as I kept going, I noticed that the pain seemed to diminish.
After a couple of minutes or three, the pain was down to a nuisance level and I knew I was going to be able to finish.
Or, at least, my left knee was not going to be the reason that I did not finish.
My overall strength was another matter, as I was forced to stop and walk again near Courthouse Square.
But I knew what this meant.

After my poor performance last week I made a promise to myself that if this session did not go well, I would stop running the six-mile distance.
“Well” means, run the whole distance without stopping.
As much as I love it, I have to face reality (I hate that....).
I cannot run this distance any more.
So, life is what it is.

Thus, next week I will return to my 3.5 mile course on the back side of the CR course.
Sigh.....
.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Economics 201

Lets get something straight – governments have no money.
I do not mean that they are broke – insolvent – I mean they have no internal means to finance themselves.
You and me, we can go to work for someone who is willing to pay us for our labors and we earn money, with which we buy food to feed ourselves and pay our bills, etc.
The government – be it on the local level, the county level, the state level, or the federal level – must take money from someone else in order to finance its operations.

The government is basically a service organization, invented to handle tasks that we as individuals cannot, or choose not, to do.
Services such as provide protection from criminals, or put out fires at our homes while we are away working, of control traffic on the roads so everything runs in a safe and orderly manner.

To do all these things for us, government collects money from the people it serves by collecting taxes.
Since some taxes are more burdensome on some people than other people, there are many different kinds of taxes.
All of these taxes are of two basic types – taxes on income received, or taxes on things purchased or owned.


The government is not us and they.
The government IS US.
WE ARE the government.
This is true even of totalitarian governments.
This may not seem true but think about this for a moment.

“Government” was the creation of people to supply a needed service – protection.
You may have heard the phrase “might makes right” and to some extent it is true.
It is often the case that the stronger of two people will prevail in a conflict.
It is also true that the stronger of two groups will prevail in a conflict.
Thus, if one group is threatened by another group, it will seek to become as strong as possible to defend itself against the group that is challenging it.

Think about the organization of a basic group of people.
Start with a primitive community – just three or four families living near each other.
Each family might be mostly self-sufficient and go days or weeks or months without contact with the other members of the community.
But at some point, for some tasks, someone will seek or need help from one or more of the other families.

It could be that the men decide to go hunting for a big animal for food, and one of them knows where some are or have been.
The others may not know this information.
So the others will follow his lead in the hunt.
Another man may be better at making arrowheads or stone knives than the others, so soon, the others either learn from him how to make better tools, or they just trade for new tools from him.

Over time, a single person or family will rise to become the “leader” of the group/clan/tribe.
Other members will look to the Leader to organize them in a way that will best protect them from outside threats - whether from wild animals or other groups of people.
They did not know it, but they just invented “government”.

As time passes, the leader would require some form of commitment from the subjects/followers to allow him/her to perform the leadership functions without having to spend as much of his/her time doing the everyday things that the other families do.
This may be a commitment of time for service – tending the leader's crops a few hours each week, for example, or each family bringing some of their crops/meat to the family of the leader to compensate for the fact that he/she does not have time to tend to such tasks – or both.
They did not know it, but they just invented taxes.

As the community grows protection of the group will become important.
Any community – even primitive ones – need real estate – territory – to hunt animals for food and/or grow crops.

Even in totalitarian governments, both elements need each other.
It may be that the common people are not treated fairly and suffer hardship under the policies of the government, but they need some of the services the government provides.
And the government needs the people.
It needs some of them to staff the army and police – the very organizations that may be mistreating the people.
It needs the food the people produce.
It needs the products the people build in the factories.
If the practices of the government become so harsh that the people begin to die or revolt, then the government will have to adjust its policies or be overthrown.
It has happened before, it will happen again.

It this point you may be asking, “what is the point of this?”.
Fair question.
The point is (ta da) government has no money of its own.
It must fund its operations from money it collects from the working people.
But consider this – there is only so much money in a country at any given time.
It ALL belongs to the people – not the government.
So the more money the government takes from the people, the less money there is left over for the people to spend on the things they want.

Yes, new wealth CAN be created, but it takes time.
So the total pie can and does get larger, but at any given moment, that pie is only so large.
Government does not create new wealth.
Government does not make the pie grow larger.
Only private companies make the pie grow larger.
The more money the government takes from that pie, the less there is left in that pie for everyone else to spend.
Government can only take money from one person and give it to someone else.
Government only moves money around in the current-sized pie, it does not and cannot make the pie larger.
Why?
Because government does not invest the money it takes into enterprises that will grow and create new jobs or new wealth.

Thus, any dollar that the government spends or gives to someone, came from someone else.
So the unemployment payment the government gave to John Jones this week, came from all of Mr. Jones' neighbors who are still earning a living by working.
The salary that the government pays to Suzi Smith who works in the unemployment office, which pays Mr. Jones his weekly check, came from Ms. Smith's neighbors who are still earning a living by working

Every dollar that the government takes from its working citizens is a dollar that those citizens cannot spend themselves.
Those dollars taken by the government are not as useful – or “valuable” - as dollars paid to people who earn them by working.
Why?
Because the persons who earn the dollars do not get to make the decisions on how or where (or whether) to spend their dollars.
Which is more useful to you, you spending your money on things you want/need, or your neighbor spend his money on things he wants/needs?
It is the same with the government.

The government MAY spend that dollar in a way that is acceptable and useful to the person that the tax dollar was taken from, or the government may spend that dollar on a study of the mating habits of fruit flies.
(by the way, someone ASKED the government to pay for that study of mating habits of fruit flies)
If we, as citizens, do not pay attention to what our elected representatives do with our money, and call them to task on spending that we disagree with, we will have out of control spending by our government.
Oh, wait.....
.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Confession Time

Okay, it's time to fess up.
My six-mile run this past Saturday was a disaster.
Well maybe not a disaster.
It just did not go as planned.
Given that I had such a good run the week before, I was expecting an equally good session this time, as well.
Not.

The goal is simple – to run the six mile course without stopping.
Never mind that my time to accomplish this task is longer than in my younger days.
I can live with that.
I just want to run the course without stopping and with nothing broken.
In that respect, this last session achieved half of my goal.

As I have said in past blogs, because of the hilly terrain of the first three miles of the course, I can tell in the first half mile how I am going to do in any particular attempt.
And it was so this past Saturday as well.
I did not feel “strong” early on.
I did not feel weak exactly, just not at my best.
So that set me to wondering if I would have to cut the session short or what.

In times past I have found myself with diminished breathing capacity that reduced my running ability, but that has not happened in several weeks – and may be fixed for good.
This past session, I just felt less strong, and to my surprise, my breathing was never a problem.

But by the time I got to the first serious little hill early in mile three, I knew I was in for a difficult journey.
I pondered whether to turn around and limit the party to four miles, but ego got the best of me.
I wanted to go the whole way, thinking that early in mile four the course is virtually all down hill.
So I kept going.
But I stopped and walked that first hill.
When things leveled out a bit, I started running again.
Then I walked The Hill at the end of mile three, as planned.
But I had to walk a few hundred feet in mile four, and another few hundred feet in mile five, and a hill in mile six, just over a half mile from the finish line.

I finished discouraged and perplexed (and running).
Why was I so “weak”?
I could think of no reason.
I had gotten a nominal amount of sleep the day/night before.
I had done a normal chest workout Friday morning with no signs of weakness.
I did not “feel” tired or sick.
So, why did I bomb so badly on my favorite course?
Surely, I am not too old to run this distance any more.
Or am I?
I am 66.
Is it time to face the reality of my age?

In the last six or eight weeks I have run this course only twice without stopping to walk at least once.
Some of the walking can be attributed to building up my running strength to handle the course distance from the three-and-a half mile distance I was running previously.
But which is the exception and which is the rule, running the six miles without stopping, or running the six miles with a walk or two mixed in?
Part of me does not want to know the answer.

We will try it again next week and see how we do.
I fear I may have to kiss my favorite running course goodbye.

I can remember my great grandmother, her long white hair pulled back in a neat bun, sitting in her old wooden rocking chair in her big, nearly empty living room, looking out the tall front windows of her old house (which was long ago demolished in downtown Sacramento).
Just sitting silently and looking out, watching the cars and occasional pedestrian go by.

It did not register at that time how lonely and empty her life must have been then.
I was just a kid about 8, maybe, self-centered and focused on playing with things, too shy to want to interact with people I did not know very well.
I remember us talking - she asking me questions, me answering, me asking questions, she answering.
I fear I was a bit terse in my comments.
But I did not know what to say to her.
I remember feeling very disconnected with my great-grandmother.
I did not know much about her, her childhood, where she was born, where she had lived, if she worked, where she had worked, etc.
And, frankly, I did not care then.
I was too young to appreciate the value of wisdom and perspective of older people then.

Some days I feel very close to that scene.
But the person in the rocking chair is me.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Ticked Off By Judicial Stupidity - Again

Re the following tidbit....

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/02/prayer-prohibited-at-graduation-ceremony/?test=latestnews

To which I respond-

Welcome to Canada.
Or China.
Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in Texas has ordered Medina Valley Independent School District to not do or say certain things during its graduation ceremony.

One of the things prohibited is prayer.
Imagine that.
Some of the words that are prohibited are, “in [diety]'s name”, “bow their heads”, “amen”, and “prayer”.
So much for free speech.

As you can guess, this suit was brought against the school district by a single atheist family, with the help of the ACLU.
So, just as in the Ten Commandments case in Alabama a few years ago, a single person or family can stand the entire nation or community on its head with the help of a sympathetic federal judge.

So, what would be some possible reactions to this judicial absurdity?
Here are a few:
1 Comply with the order.
Pretend God does not exist and that the entire community has no interest in acknowledging Him in any way in public/civic events.

2 Kill the judge.
This is the Taliban method of handling local civic disagreements. It works but there are some risks and consequences.

3 Kill the atheist family.
The Taliban method again. Since they are the cause of the problem; eliminate the problem and go back to praying at graduation ceremonies. Again, there are some risks and consequences to this response.

4 Hold prayer meetings in the street in front of the homes of the judge and/or the atheist family. Say the prohibited words just loud enough to be heard by the target individuals.

5 Have the Valedictorian READ the judges order at the graduation ceremony, thus, saying all the words the judge has prohibited to be said at the ceremony.

6 Pray, and/or say all the words the judge has prohibited.
Pretend this order was never made. Just do what you planned on doing. This response will likely result in jail time for those involved, including the school administrators. I say, tough noogees. Send them to jail. Send everybody to jail.
Let the judge and the judicial system deal with a massive civil disobedience movement.

7 Have the crowd chant the prohibited words during the graduation ceremony.
Of course this would just be a spontaneous gesture of protest/free expression, which is "protected" free speech.

8 Boycott the graduation ceremony.
Just don't go there. Find someone who has a large enough field or pasture and hold the graduation ceremony on private property. Charge a one penny admission as a token to make it a private event.
.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Good News - Bad News Run

Saturday morning was cool and wanting to rain.
I wore my rain cap for the first half mile of the six-mile ho-down but it proved to be too hot.
And it was not raining.
But the clouds looked like they wanted to. (in fact, it did rain in other parts of town)

Usually, by the first half mile I can tell how I am going to do on these longer runs, and it was true this day.
I did not feel as weak as I have in the past, but I did not feel "strong" (a very relative term for me).
So I prepared myself mentally to have to walk sometime in the last half of the party.
And it was so.

Early into mile six, I felt I needed to stop for a minute or two and walk.
There was not a lot of argument between Coach, Runner and Running Central.
Runner did not want to, but mostly for self-esteem reasons.
Coach knew how hard Runner was working.
Running Central was monitoring the situation silently.
This was a close call.
If this had been a race, I would not have stopped.
But it wasn't, so I did.

The walk worked as planned.
I finished the last mile or so with nothing out of the ordinary.
But I was glad to be finished with this one.
That is the bad news. (not so bad, really.)

There were a lot of runners out that morning.
I thought it might be because of some organized practice for the Cotton Row race coming in two weeks.
Not.
At least, not entirely.
It turns out there was a race that morning.
The I Love Music race, or some such.
That is a new one here.
And as I finished my six-mile jaunt, I saw a hundred runners passing one block away.

The good news?
Nothing broke.
Again.
No hip, knee, ankle joint issues.
No connective tissue issues - tendons, ligaments, muscles, etc.
There was some vague whinings around mile four from left knee and right hip support tissues about how hard life is, but these mumblings were drowned out by the chirping of the birds and my accelerated breathing.
Amazing.

Life is good.
Very good.
.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Another Nice Run

Ho hum.
Another Saturday - another nice six-mile run.
Not really.
Running six miles is a pretty big deal for me in my advancing age.

I am now 66 years old.
This is hard to believe sometimes.
If anyone had told me in high school that at age 66 I would be running 6 miles even once a week (as currently is the case), I would have told them that they were nuts.
But here I am, doing it.

I have retired from running about three times.
Each time thinking that I was too old to keep running.
And each time I have started a walking program, considered more "appropriate" for old geezers such as I by "health professionals", I have found that it feels like a waste of time.
I do not feel challenged physically, and I finish each session feeling like I could do more.
This latest resurrection of the activity began innocently enough, trying to find a more challenging walking course, soon progressed to running up the one mile hill, and finally, about a month ago, just getting crazy and going for the whole enchalada of the six-mile Cotton Row race course (which, for some reason, I dearly love).
(see the full story in my blog of May 8, 2010)

So, today, after an amazing session last week (six miles - no stops), I did not feel quite as strong as last week, so my breathing was more labored than I would have preferred.
But I did not have to stop to walk, even though Runner and Running Central were having a discussion in mile 5 about just a short walk to allow my breathing to settle down a bit.
But by then, I was almost finished (within 20 minutes or less), and it was mostly down-hill.
So no stops were sanctioned.

And .... no body parts broke.
No ankle attachments or connections were unhappy.
Same for knees.
My hips like to whine a bit beginning about mile three, but this is usually such low-level mumbling that I cannot even discern what exactly is the problem.

I am wonderfully blessed.
For all my ratty, less-than-ideal genetic construction (I plan to talk to God about this in heaven), I have managed to run virtually uninjured for the last six years.
The same cannot be said for many runners who are much stronger than I.
So, I am again happy and enjoying another endorphin high.
.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

THE 2011 TORNADO DIARIES

DAY 1
Thursday April 28, 2011
7:12 PM

The power to Huntsville was taken down at about 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon as a giant (what we know now) F5 tornado ran north of town.
It missed my son's house by about a half mile.
It was a slab-scraper.

A state of emergency is boring.
Those of us who have been spared the tragedy that hit many others have little to do.
There are plus points as well as minus points to my plight.
Pluses
1 I am alive
2 all of my worldly goods are intact (if inoperable)
3 all of my family are alive and free of any damage
4 I have running water – hot and cold
5 I have gas to cook and to warm water
6 the weather after the storms is warm, so I am not cold.
7 I have food to last a week or so.
Minuses
1 I have no electricity – so no toys, music, etc
2 I am alone, lonely, bored.

Things could be worse – way worse.

So we/you learn to live like they did in the wild west - do what you can in the daylight, stay still and sleep when it is dark.
Seven days – that is how long “they” are saying it will be before we have electricity again.
If that is so-this year will end up with 51 weeks in it instead of 52.
There is not much to do without electricity.
I cannot work kuz I work on a computer.
No electricity – no computers
No computers – no work
No work – no business for me = boring

It could be worse – much worse – just sayin....

DAY 2
Friday April 29, 2011
12:43

Emptying out the refrigerator.
Throwing away food – this feels strange.
Drank the last of my milk.
I have about a quart more, but I do not trust its safety.
I started to read “History of the Christian Church”
8 volumes, first printed in 1858.

DAY 3
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Woo Hoo.
Today is running day.
Even though there are no stoplights and a dusk to dawn curfew – I ran.
6 miles.
No walking (except the lower half of Mountainwood Drive, as planned)
No signals.
No lights.
All the drivers were behaving themselves – stopping at every intersection with a dark stoplight , then proceeding.
I love it when we all play by the rools.

I cleaned my refrigerator today.
Cleaned all the little smudges and small accumulations of crumbs.
My refrigerator looks strange with its doors standing open, shelves empty.

Today would be food shopping day, but....
About half the food I would buy would go into my refrigerator – which is not working because we have no electricity – yet.
So, there is no point in going food shopping.
I still have some food to survive a few more days.
I ate my last two eggs this morning, so I will begin my new oatmeal and water diet for a few days.
“They” now estimate that the power will be back on Monday afternoon.

DAY 4
Sunday May 1, 2011

Breakfast = hot oatmeal + water + honey + cinnamon.
It was yummy.
It is cloudy today.
There is a chance of rain.

Driving to church today I saw many trees blown over (20+?)
Limited damage to buildings on the route that I took (I know it is MUCH worse in other areas just a mile or so from where I was)
I saw a few signs bent over, etc.

“Church” was strange today.
There was no preaching (there was no electricity at the church buildings), just testimonies.
Brother John read only one scripture – Ecclesiastes 3:1-9.
One family in the congregation lost their house in the storms.
They gave a good testimony.

After church, we had a “cook out” -type lunch (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc) for the community.
Two couples came (that I know of).
The rest of us ate well (as usual).
There was no evening service because of the county-wide dusk-to-dawn curfew.

At 11:08 PM the power came on at my house.

DAY 5
Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Good.
I am not comfortable feeling good that someone is dead, but I am very comfortable knowing that justice has been administered to someone with such evil intentions.

A half mile from my house, they still do not have power.
Some traffic signals work, some are still dark.
I went to a Walmart today which had power.
All of their refrigerated cases were empty (ALL + EMPTY).
ALL of the food had been sold or thrown away.
I bought milk (just being loaded into the bare refrigerated case as I arrived) and bread.
There were no eggs. :(

I am blessed.