Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pet Daddy

There was a running joke around my house that Zoey considered me her pet. But now that I'm out in the world alone with 4 Chihuahuas, it's not so funny when she doesn't listen to me. She is so smart and stubborn, I figured for sure that she would be hard to train.

She's been a trouper, though. Just like her brother, Tidbit, I was able to see all those milestones of understanding: when she learned that "come here" meant come here, and when she learned that listening to me on the leash when we are out on walk is for her own safety.

Once it dawned on her that I was her guardian and benefactor and not her pet, our relationship changed. I hated to burst her bubble but I have to keep her safe, and she has to listen to me for that to happen.

There must have been hail or something. I had a weird dream of a storm but woke up and it was sunny for the first time in about a month. But Zoey has been at my feet all day, and that only happens when she's pretty sure that we're under attack.

And just like usual, she woke me up, I scolded her, and Ty got upset and left to sleep in the crate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Playful Spot

Spot is normally a more serious Chihuahua. She's whelped puppies and it's given her a stern demeanor ever since. But she's been on doggy Prozac for a couple months, and we've all been couped up through a month of rain here in Oregon, so even Spot is having playful moments.

It's very rare that I can get a camera without interrupting her. Hopefully Google won't take it down because it's got the radio playing in the background.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Good Pain Or Bad

Good pain or bad. It's been one of the mantras of my new "life 2.0" adventure. The aerobics and weight lifting have been amazing, but I needed to add a few things to my routine, like good cardio and stomach crunches. I figured I would have to buy some tummy cruncher device on Amazon or from Target or something, but after a little research I figured out that I can do them while I'm on the stationary bike: two birds with one stone.

But oh boy, an hour on the stationary bike every day feels the same the next morning at my age as I remember fighting full contact martial arts when I was a teenager. I also was on the track and cross country team, and the last week feels like waking up every day after a track meet or losing a fight.

It's something I forgot as an adult, with the responsibilities of having a family and a job. But the bad pain from neglecting my health to meet deadlines and be in 7 different places at once was much worse than the pain from two half hour sessions a day on the bike or crunches or weights.

Just 6 months ago I couldn't hold a 5 pound weight over my head with my left arm for more than a couple seconds. The messed up thing is that with the nerve impingement, the left arm starts shedding muscle mass pretty much the second I stop using it, so it doubles the effort that I already had to double just for being my age. I have to work 4 times as hard to get the same results as my brother the body builder.

My genius scientist sister was telling me about some "abundant universe theory" that says the people who want something bad enough will always have it as long as they put in the work. Basically the universe rewards hard work, even if the reward isn't always in the form you expected it.

The second mantra "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" is the one I'm having the hard time with, especially being a decent cook. I spent Christmas with my middle sister who seemed fixated on ordering a pizza on a day they don't deliver. So, I made us baked 3 cheese penne. And today she was off work, and we pigged out on a couple pizzas. I definitely need to work on living up to that saying, but it's a good start, and an hour a day on the stationary bike erases more than a few sins.

Good pain or bad is in my mind when I try to have that sprint at the end like we did in cross country-- having a "kick" it was called. I wake up every day feeling like the day after Master Lee said "Mark, you students are undisciplined, come forward and grab my belt, please." But it's the same good pain of a job well done, and it's building a momentum where I can be president of a company.

My brother said that if I'm not walking my 4 dogs in the freezing rain every day, which I'm not, then I should be doing 90 minutes a day total on the bike. Easy for someone 17 years younger than me to say!

Zoey decided she didn't like the stationary bike, but she's changed her mind and now she's focused on figuring out what I'm actually doing and if it's somehow a convoluted test for more treats. Ty just peeks out, sees the bike says "nope" to himself and burrows under the blanket until I'm done.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my readers and everyone out there on the vast Interwebs! Regardless of what you believe or celebrate, I hope this has been a good time for you. It's been a great time for me and the four doggies.

The holidays have always been the times where the dogs see the least amount of attention, so it was very gratifying to have a quiet Christmas with just me and my Chihuahuas.

I've decided that this is the perfect point in my life to go all-in on self-employment and if possible, to focus on local and remote work clients and stay here in Hillsboro near my family. I'm just going to keep my head down, keep with my health and fitness, save for a little piece of land, and enjoy my doggies.

Being able to build end-to-end web sites and large systems, the only weak link in the chain for me has been the graphic art. But at some point it dawned on my that three of my siblings have degrees in graphic design and my sister the mathematician does more graphic art than the rest of us, so gee, maybe it's a talent that runs in our talented family.

The new logo came out good, but then my friend took it and added the drop shadows, and booyaa, I have a decent logo. Now there's no part of a web site, back end system, or generic app that I can't build, even if I do still fumble through Adobe Illustrator sometimes.

NorthWeb Technologies!

It even kind of looks like a Christmas ornament. Fitting since that's the day it was designed on.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Where The Warm Things Are

My Chihuahuas have been sleeping on the heater vents for years. We had a big house, and Spokane is cold, so any dog that wanted one could claim its own heater vent. But of course there were squabbles.

Now, in this smaller space, the powerful heater makes the whole place warm instantly. One thing they don't tell you about a big house is that it can take a couple minutes for the hot water to reach the faucet, and you'll have lots of cold spots even with so many vents.

So, none of the dogs have an interest in the vents except Zoey. She picked one out and she keeps looking over at me to get my attention. Every time I look at er, it's like she's trying to tell me

"Here, Pet, here's where the warm comes out. We need to both sit over here, Pet."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ty Sniffs Eyes

I've never seen another dog go straight to sniffing someone's eyes before. Whenever he jumps on my lap, he has to sniff both my eyes. He does the same to the other dogs. I just watched Smokey wince a little when Ty sniffed his eyes. They all pretty much stand still when he sniffs their eyeballs. We've all found that it's better just to go with it.

Still more unrelenting rain except with 70 MPH wind gusts to go with it. Zoey still thinks we're under attack and has taken to never being more than a few inches away from my feet at all times. When her pet's feet takes him to a safe area that's not under attack, she plans on being with them. I took her to the laundromat yesterday, but it rained and the wind gusts actually made the truck move. She kept standing on the center console, looking out the window, waiting for the monsters to come finish us off.

It's probably time to measure her and Spot for a thunder coat.

What looked like a quiet Christmas might turn into some steady work. I knew that health and fitness would have a huge impact on my career at my age, and I still underestimated it. I'm months ahead of where I thought I would be, and I don't just feel good enough to go earn my keep, I feel good enough to go rule the world. But I'm still not quite where I want to be, so I'm also content to let my new body stabilize so I know what size clothes to wear.

The new stationary bicycle is either perfect or the instrument of our future doom depending on whether you ask me or Zoey.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Junk In Her Trunk

My honey bunny is losing her girlish figure. She's starting to get junk in her trunk from all those late night pancakes. There's no easy way for a man to tell his girlfriend that she needs to eat less pancakes, but my girlfriend is a dog, so I can just start giving her less. It's actually a good sign, because it's been a struggle to keep all their weights up.

Today was a good birthday, and also the first sunny day of December. I think it's rained every day of December here, so it least it waited until I got home to rain today. Normally I take this time of  year off, but normally that's when all the stress starts. The lights, exterior decorations, decorating the inside, wrapping presents, the tree.

This year I can soak in all the holiday spirit without any of the work or expense. It felt a little strange at first, like I was being a slacker, but now it feels great just focusing on the people and little doggies I love, and not worrying about a strand of lights that stopped working or that Christmas day plumbing disaster.

In fact, I think we'll wait until after the holidays to tell my girlfriend that she needs to go easy on the pancakes, just like I would for a human girlfriend ;-)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pancake Princess

Whenever I spoke to them, my Corgis would always strain to listen. I used to say "Dancer, little Timmy is trapped in the well" and she would lean in, trying to comprehend what I was saying. I used to joke that the Corgis were smarter than the kids, and listened better.

But the Chihuhuas are even smarter than that. It's still amusing when I think of Ty's previous owner telling me that he wasn't that smart because he wasn't listening to her. He wasn't listening to her because she wasn't the boss--he had her trained. No, the problem was that he was too smart.

I remember the time I told his brother "squeak! squeak! you gotta make the toy squeak!" and Tidbit looked at me, looked at the toy, and I could see the understanding come over him as he ran around the room making the toy squeak.

Zoey looks at me with the same intensity as Dancer, but she's even smarter. And when the Chihuahuas strain to understand me, their little heads turn back and forth like they were little toys themselves, which is much cuter than the solemn look the Corgis gave me, though Zoey does remind me of Dancer.

And unlike my elderly mother, who will sit in her chair yelling at her cats and dogs, who completely disregard her, my dogs know that I mean what I say, even if I sometimes joke around. My serious voice means stop and listen, and my pancake voice means pancakes are coming.

Sometimes there's a game involved, or a hidden meaning or trick. And it's funny to see them strain to listen, especially when they all do it at once. It's rare that I can catch it on video because they don't like non-food objects pointed at them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hot Water

My hot water heater had sprang a leak. I put of fixing it, and paid for it by having it fail completely. So, no matter what solution I came up with, I was going to be without hot water while I waited a week for the parts I ordered on eBay. The photos showed that it looked like it was cracked around the drain plug. This was either going to cost $5 to fix, or $600 and another week.

It didn't help that we had been getting cold temperatures and a biblical level of rain. I had to boil water for some of the dirtier dishes and wear lots of deodorant. But with temps dropping below freezing at night, the hassle of not having hot water was compounded. Not to mention this rig uses massive quantities of propane for the central heating.

So, cold and wet, I made quick work of it, and my mission was a success! It's a neat trick to go by photos. That way you can take your time looking at something and studying it in detail without standing outside in the rain. But what looked like cracked metal in the original photos turned out to be the cracked plastic from the faulty drain plug. For once, the "let's just see if this 5 dollar part fixes it" turned out beautifully.

And last night, I found the perfect recumbent stationary bike for my cardio. It folds up, which is important, and got good reviews. I had assumed that somewhere like Target or Walmart would be the best place to get one. I found mine at Walmart and checked Amazon just for giggles, and they had it at the same price with Prime shipping. Way easier returns if I don't like it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Relationship Status: Chihuahua

The nurse was standing in front of a terminal screen, going through my medical history. "No alcohol or drug use: check. No depression: check. Are you sexually active?" and I said "No, but I have a serious girlfriend."

I could almost see the little gears above the nurse's head as she was trying to understand my answer. I finally said "My girlfriend is a Chihuahua" and she said "Ahhh, my sister's boyfriend is also a Chihuahua."

My girlfriend misses me terribly even when I'm only out running errands. She usually gives me a scolding when I come back, but she doesn't stay upset very long. She goes from scolding to sweet.

"No, you can't go out with your friends"

Life just keeps getting better for me and the pack. I have most of a comprehensive life plan which involves being self employed and working mostly from home with my girlfriend on my lap. We all answer to someone, but I think having several smaller clients would give me the most freedom and flexibility by not putting all my eggs in one basket.

And rather than enjoying some of the benefits of being a bachelor again, like night clubs and/or a human girlfriend, I think I'm just going to keep my head down and stay focused on my own health and fitness. I'll put that energy into the business and my doggies. It's all clicking into place. Now I need a stationary bicycle, about 5 less pounds, and then I'll go buy a couple sharp suits! I was fortunate in my early career to have good mentors, who taught me to dress for the corporate world, among a million other things.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chihuahua Blanket Fort

It had been almost 20 years since I bought any kind of linens or blankets or any of that sort of thing. I knew that I liked the smaller throws as dog blankets. I just wasn't finding what I was looking for online or inside stores, until Target put some of these plush fleece throws out. They have the full size blanket versions for only double the price, but I'm already set for human blankets, and the larger ones aren't as good for Chihuahuas.

And boy, these new ones sure are popular. Last week I realized that folding down the dog couch into a full size bed didn't really take up any more floor space, and I added a couple extra new blankets, and booyaa, instant Chihuahua blanket fort!

Above, Ty has claimed the junction where the blankets meet

Of course, because they are just like children, even with enough blankets and bed space for a dozen Chihuahuas, there's still some growling and bickering from time to time. That and Spot has another version of her "Spotblock" where she decides to plop on top of a dog that's under the blankets. At this point whatever dog she's Spotblocked can't leave, or even move for fear of being nipped at through the blanket.

So other than Spot randomly deciding she's a mommy again and none of the puppies can leave the nest, the blanket fort is a big success. Zoey usually sleeps on her own throw inside the crate, but she's been Spotblocked the last couple times. I will hear her whining, at which point there's not much I can do other than calling an impromptu pancake time, at which point Spot forgets that she's a foul tempered monster and lets poor Zoey out. Reaching my hand inside the crate isn't wise.

Smokey is usually at the bottom of one of the blankets and only growls if Ty steps on him. He would never admit it, but I think he likes the extra warmth when Spot picks him to lay on top of. Sometimes they're like an old married couple. He will stretch, and she will growl and nip and him through the blankets, and he'll stretch some more...

Above from a couple weeks ago: Zoey being Spotblocked

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Early Gifts

Yesterday my little sister set off an early gift giving chain reaction that's still going today.

My brother Matt gave me this awesome coffee cup. He said "the two things you love the most: coffee and Chihuahuas" haha.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Floating Away

Here in Oregon, we've been getting biblical rain, booming thunder, and even a short power outage. One of the things about living in a large RV is that they are meant to function without external power. All that happens is that my fridge and water heater switch over to propane, and they switch back when power comes back. My UPS can run my desktop computer for about an hour before it gives it a command to gracefully shut down.

This is the craziest rain I've seen in my life, and I've lived in the northwest the last 10 years. My trailer has a couple small leaks, but I must be doing well because almost every one I drive past is covered with giant blue tarps. I have the engineer mentality. I would rather see the leaks, know where they are, and fix them ... if it ever stops raining.

Zoey still thinks we're being attacked, and seems to think that the attack is stronger in the bedroom, but she's getting better about overcoming her fears and sleeping with me. She didn't leave the bed last night, and there were a few instances where I thought we were being attacked, just because it was like being in a hurricane or something.

And Zoey isn't as bossy about waking me up. This morning she just nuzzled me until I woke up. I read somewhere that you don't try to soothe an animal that's scared of thunder or loud noise, because that just reinforces that something is wrong and gives them more anxiety. So, we've been having better luck with me saying "Zo Zo go night night" until she lets out a heavy sigh and goes back to sleep.

There's another interesting dynamic at play, too. Ty's papa, Lenny, used to get upset if I was giving a command to one of his offspring that wasn't listening. So, if I called a dog or told it to bring me a toy, and that dog didn't follow orders, Lenny would come to me, or bring me the toy.

So, it bothers Ty when Zoey doesn't listen, so usually as I'm saying "go night night" for about the third time, he jumps of the bed and goes somewhere else. It was that loyalty that made Lenny such a special dog, and it's gratifying to see that in Ty.

Smokey doesn't care about any of that. When Ty leaves, Smokey takes his warm spot.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Chihuahua Hunger Games

It started with Zoey trying to play with Ty, which made Ty afraid. He went and hid. Then Spot got playful, which made Zoey afraid. So, Spot ran back and forth squeaking the monkey. She just kept spinning and squeaking and throwing the toy monkey in the air, and the mood became contagious.

Soon all three were playing with each other, and running around, with the two girls spinning around. There was running, and squeaking, and jumping, and more squeaking. All but Smokey, who was growing at anyone who came too close. He's a grumpy old man.

If these were four Labradors, the plan to get a large travel trailer would have been an awful plan. But something the size of a studio apartment is perfect with four Chihuahuas. They didn't like the big house anyway, because it was dark and scary. Even the kids thought it was scary at first. So even with a big house, the seven (!) Chihuahuas mostly stayed in the gated off area of the kitchen and family room. We experimented with giving them access to the whole house, and that always turned out badly. Except for little Tidbit who was small enough to squeeze through the bars and roamed the house.

So, a cozy space is the perfect size to hold the Chihuahua version of The Hunger Games. Whatever we're playing, Spot always wins. Somewhere I have an older video of Zoey and Tidbit playing with each other, both spinning around at the same time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Un-Lady-Like Behavior

I dated a girl in high school who used to chew her toenails, and I used to tell her the same thing I tell Zoey now: That's not very lady like behavior. But unlike my girlfriend, Zoey sharpens hers to be razor sharp like a cat's claws.

Yesterday I clippy'd her claws, and today she's sharpening them. If they get too sharp between clippings, then I can just take the points off them with the clippers. In many ways, Chihuahuas are more like cats than they are dogs. Highly intelligent, scheming and manipulative team player cats.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

White Dogs Can't Jump

Ty was the pick of the litter. Within a few days of being put up for adoption, an elderly woman stepped forward, admitting that every minute was the agony of thinking someone else would have him. I knew she was elderly, but I honestly thought they would have much more time together.

When he came back to us, it was clear that his owner didn't allow him up on the furniture. It was funny watching him try to jump up on a couch or bed, and over two years later, it's still funny. Sometimes he forgets how to jump, and it will take him 3 or more tries. Sometimes he'll even stop, turn around, and whine at me like it's my fault.

Usually I won't help him, and all he gets are words of encouragement. He's a great jumper when he doesn't overthink it, though.

He had another owner briefly, before he came back to me again. But I think he still sometimes hears the voice of his first owner, telling him not to jump on anything. They had a special bond, which is why I kept calling him Ty when everyone else reverted back to calling him Scout. Ty is who he is.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sleeping Bear

Whatever Zoey did to me in my sleep, it got her a loud "bad girl!" and tossed onto the floor. This has been a good technique in my life, having siblings and roommates. You poke the sleeping grisly bear, it lets out a booming, angry growl, and you have immediate second thoughts about poking it more.

Not Zoey. She must've heard something or had a nightmare, because the millisecond she hit the floor, she jumped right back on the bed and curled up to me. I was awake by this time and realized what was going on: she was scared and probably caught my eyeball or something pawing at me to wake me up, invoking the angry bear response.

She's been trying to paw at my face since a few weeks after she was born. Shortly after that, someone remarked that she thought I was her pet. Ever since then, I've been trying to translate what she's trying to tell me, like "Pet, gimme some pancakes" or "Pet, open your jacket so I can crawl in."

Last night was "Pet, wake up! The end is nigh, pet! Use your thumbs and get us out of here!"
She's not scared of the sleeping bear.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blanket Boy

Every time I look over, I see Ty nestled into his new favorite blanket with a dog smile. It's extremely soft, and instead of burrowing in it like every other blanket, he likes sitting on top, nestled into it. Chihuahuas are primadonna dogs normally, but he's taken a liking to this blanket like I've never seen. Ok, he liked the duck that much. When he came back from his first home, he came with about a car full of stuff, and among all that stuff was his favorite possession: A full size stuffed duck meant for practice with large retrievers. Him and his papa Lenny vied for that duck for about a year when it just kind of dissolved under the stress of a year's worth of tug-o-war.

Tomorrow I'm going to drop by Target to see if they have any more of these soft fleece throws. I might get 2 or 3 more if they have them out.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

King Of The Mountain

We've been trying out different fleece throws. It's good to have a couple of the thinner ones for the tiny Zoey-sized crates, but I like the more plush ones for the larger crates. I got this gray one the other day, and now Ty loves it. He will actually come tell me when he wants it. He was going to jump the baby gate to get to it earlier today, and I'd rather he not know that he could probably easy clear that gate. It took a while to realize he was whining about the blanket. He normally only does that if he thinks that I forgot dinner time.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Doctor Dad

Being married and raising children to adulthood gave me all the skills of a chef, maid, psychologist and combat medic, among other things. Just like my sister the paramedic, I can provide medical assistance with kids screaming, dogs barking, etc.

I didn't know what it was that was coming out the tail end of Zoey, so I probably pulled it too hard. It turned out to be about 8 inches of string! I have this plain, white cotton blanket that's starting to get a little ratty and should probably definitely be retired. And since in the winter they all burrow, I didn't see her trying to eat part of the blanket because she was sneaky.

A few times I've seen animals do this, so it's not my first rodeo pulling something out of a cat or dog. I also had a cat years ago that swallowed about of a quarter of a spool of thread, which I spent several hours pulling out the front end.

What's funny is that I was already out today buying a replacement blanket. We used to have all these plain cotton blankets for when guests came over, but they don't work so well as dog blankets. The throw I bought from Amazon was way too thin, so I started going to stores and holding them in my hand first. 15 bucks seems to be about what I'm looking for costs; a good quality fleece throw without some obnoxious pattern or Spiderman or some other deal breaker, though maybe Ty would like the Spiderman throw. I got a plain grey one and a red one with white snow flakes--the best I could find.

Zoey so far looks good. No red flags like swelling or bleeding, and she was running around wagging her tail and ate her dinner just fine.

It's a game every parent is used to playing, called "guess when my child is sick enough to rush to the ER and pay the $1,000 bill that you know is coming right behind." So far there's no signs that we need to hop in the truck, but doctor dad has the patient under observation.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Missy Miss

Who would have guessed that my little princess, my honey bunny, my tiny jealous girlfriend would get away with far too many shenanigans and have a snitty attitude about it with the others.

I can almost hear Zoey telling the other dogs: "This is my pet, and I have him trained, so back off!"

So, we've been working on that a little. We've started having timeouts and getting tossed onto the floor if she gets growley, bitey or bossy. Since Zoey is possessive and her mommy is crazy (though the Prozac is helping) the poor boys have to walk on eggshells.

Sometimes Ty will jump on my lap and let out a little whine, like he's saying "Uh, sir, sorry to disturb you, sir, but I was wondering if you could use your great power to move my mommy and sister a food to the left in the blanket fort, so there's enough space for me. It's cold, sir, I implore you. Winter is coming, sir."

We're trying now to take the princess down a couple notches.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dinner Champ

Spot has been a thorn in my side at dinner time for years. The ex used to just pour kibble on the floor in a fenced off area, since she's food aggressive, scared of dishes and bowls, and is a very picky eater. All attempts to get her to eat from a bowl, plate, paper plate, paper towel, paper bowl--anything, always failed. People would say "if she's hungry enough, she'll eat" but she's too fearful to overcome her fear most of the time, no matter how hungry she is.

Now, she powers it down like a normal dog, licks the bowl. She still has to be fed in a fenced off area, and I still need to mix in something like cottage cheese into her dinner, otherwise she will just pick out the stuff she likes and leave a pile. If I slather her dinner in something with dairy, she will eat it all.

So, with the doggy Prozac, a low profile, beige tone bowl, and mixing a little dairy in, I finally can get her to eat chicken and rice like a normal dog would, which is fast. Tonight was the first time in her life that she finished eating first. She's a dinner time champ!

Now I finally have a complete and comprehensive answer to "If you don't like her being fed on the bare floor, then come up with something better."

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cold Snap

This trailer is so spacious and comfortable, that I sometimes forget that I'm not living in a regular house. It's been getting down into the low 20s at night, and at that temperature, I have to drag my propane tanks to U-Haul about once a week.

There's a hose that feeds my trailer its water, and for the first time so far, it froze solid last night. That's when I notice that this isn't a typical studio apartment, when the toilet won't flush and no water comes out to make coffee with.

I could fill the fresh water tanks and turn on the tank heaters since this is the cold weather version of this Fleetwood model. But having spent the last decade in Spokane, I'm not sure I consider anywhere in Oregon a proper cold place, so I think I'll ride it out. I could use an electric heater, but the central heating in this thing is fantastic. The blower motor runs off 12 volts, so this thing could run off the grid in the arctic with enough propane.

But even with the heater cranked up, Ty still thinks it's too cold for his liking.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Long Term Relationship

I saw a comedian talking about how his wife mentioned that should he choose to be in a relationship with his dog instead of his wife, the dog could have all his babies at once. I'm nowhere near the only dude with a canine girlfriend he would put ahead of most humans.

I'm a never say never kind of guy, so I wouldn't rule out a quality girlfriend landing in my lap, just like I probably wouldn't turn down the perfect 9-to-5 desk job. Not something I'm working towards but not ruling out, just because most people who say "I will never ______ again" are usually proven wrong over time. No need to paint myself into a corner on anything.

Whatever tomorrow holds, today I am a blogger in a long term relationship with my highly jealous girlfriend. Many years ago a girl was asking me about qualities I look for in a girlfriend. I told her that I was looking for someone who would be by my side in the hard times as well as the easy times. She told me I should probably be dating a dog. Zoey agrees.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lazy Weekend

It's easy to have big dreams and big plans, because dreams are effortless. Even getting what you want isn't necessarily the hard part. It's not that hard to land a job, or make a baby, or even buy a house and cars and a bunch of stuff. It's not hard to take on responsibility and debt. No, the hard part is the day to day juggling all of it.

Not that I would change a single thing, but it's sure nice to have what's probably the first genuinely lazy weekend in more than 20 years. Nothing is broken, and nobody is sick, injured, or grumpy.

The only things vying for my time this weekend are a few little dogs and some leftover baked macaroni I'm trying to finish. An hour of good time management got the house clean, dishes done, banking / bills done.

This is pretty close to the exact spot in life I was aiming for to begin my "empty nest syndrome. " It's not quite how I pictured, but like the old TV episode, every wish from the magic lamp comes with a hidden price. You ask for a million bucks, the Genie gives you a million ducks, and after much reflection, you realize that each duck sells for a dollar, and it's the same thing you asked for, minus all the quacking and PayPal fees. Life is exactly like that.

And so, it's the first really quiet day in the new life that's fairly close to what I wished for. All my ducks are in a row, so to speak, to pick a new path. The only hard part now is deciding what I want. I figure with 4 blogs, several random business ventures, a few small clients, and spamming the whole world with my resume, the right opportunity will present itself, and I will hopefully know it when I see it.

In the meantime, it's nice to have a weekend off.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


I've never been especially religious, but it's hard not to look at some of what I've went through in the last year or so in anything other than spiritual terms. If a cat has nine lives, then I must be a cat. There's nothing in my rational computer science vocabulary to express the feeling of good fortune beyond measure that I probably haven't deserved. It's really as simple as that.

So, on a day that Americans are supposed to reflect on their good fortune, it's hard not to feel blessed to have genius-rock-star siblings like I have, and four little healthy Chihuahuas to keep me from getting bored. My own little studio apartment with wheels. A few bucks in the bank. The other day I saw something out of the corner of my eye stuck to my left arm. It turned out to be muscles. Apparently I don't look at myself in the mirror. Three months of lifting weights, and I not only made up for the lost muscle mass on my left side because of the neck injury, but I have more muscle mass on my upper body at 48 than I did at 28.

If I were a cat, I'd be on about my fifth life, and I have a new mantra for my latest incarnation:

We must all choose good pain or bad, and I'm choosing good pain. Zoey chooses pancakes.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ripple Effect

Dancer was an amazing dog. I could walk with her on the side of a freeway or through a crowded area with screaming kids, and she would stay focused and listen to my commands. The Corgi is a very intelligent breed in general, but Dancer seemed as smart as a human sometimes.

But she had some not-so-great habits, which she passed on to the Chihuahuas. She taught Smokey to hate cats, and she taught Spot to be food aggressive. Smokey has passed the hatred of cats onto the puppies, but luckily the food aggression stopped with Spot.

I still remember my neighbor the doctor knocking on my door and saying "Your dogs got out. I managed to get them back into your back yard, once I realized the little red one was in charge." That would be Dancer. She was also a referee of all play time. The Chihuahuas were allowed to play, but she set a time limit.

It's funny how she's been gone for more than four years and I still see a little of her presence in the Chihuahuas' bad habits.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Play Time With Zoey

Most dogs are either play-motivated or food-motivated, and Zoey definitely falls under the later category. Sometimes, though, I can entice her into playing. She normally only plays to take the "prize" away from her brother, Ty, and then she does a victory lap, and she's done.

So, it's rare that I can get her to play, and even rarer to grab a camera in time to see it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Three Squares A Day

Cooking a batch of chicken and long grain rice with vegetables for the dogs, it dawned on me that I didn't eat this well myself as a bachelor. Sure, I often ordered takeout from some really nice restaurants, but it wasn't the same as having home cooked meals. In my young bachelorhood, my attitude was: why do I need home cooked meals when I go to a restaurant where I can have food prepared by someone who's been to culinary school?

It looks good on paper, but in reality, home cooked meals are way better than restaurant food--at least to me. The woman who taught me to cook was a pretty darn good cook herself, and she taught me the value of making your own high quality food.

I could say something corny, like "the secret ingredient is love." But really, the secret ingredient is not cutting any corners or being in a hurry. There's lots of ways a professional chef has to cut corners to get you your food in 20 minutes. The restaurant is under constant pressure to cut costs and use lesser ingredients. I'm under no such constraints.

Also, cooking from scratch is much, much cheaper than eating at restaurants and buying good dog food. The crappy (but tasty to them) Pupparoni was almost as much per pound as bone-in rib eye! For less money, they get pancakes, cottage cheese and boiled eggs as snacks. Certainly I feed the and have money to spare just from the savings of cooking for myself and not eating takeout food.

Their dinner time food is only slightly less than the expensive, grain-free food they were getting before. But it's still the difference between dog food and home cooked meals every night. I personally thought that it was a huge jump from takeout food to home cooked meals, so imagine how happy they are to be getting real food!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tiny Camels

I've determined that each dog averages about an ounce of water a day. Which means combined, my four dogs drink only four ounces of water a day! It was disconcerting at first, but they are plenty hydrated. My guess is that the dinner I am feeding them has a lot of moisture, plus it's winter, and we've been couped up with no walks. So, they aren't burning many calories, and their food has a high moisture content. It's like having a pack of tiny camels!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Safe And Warm

He's getting gray around his eyes and starting to look like a Raccoon
Winter was my favorite time of the year when I worked from home and had a huge house in Spokane. The snow would accumulate on the rooftops and everything just looked like ... Christmas. Most of the neighbors paid crews to put up lights and decorate their houses, but we did all that ourselves. We normally went all out, every year.

But the last few years were a struggle to keep that all up: me not in great health, the kids grown and not having the time to help. The expense was ridiculous. Lots of arguments. And nobody tells you this about a fancy house: it comes with huge expectations from the community and other neighbors.

So, it was grand having all that, but being single with no large empire to run isn't so bad either. I'm all done with my shopping, and I don't own any decorations. I'm starting to remember what it feels like to have a stress free holiday.

The doggies don't know any different. In fact, they seem a little happier. This big RV has a fantastic heater. It operates on propane and 12V, so we could park anywhere and be this warm. I used to keep my house as cold as people could stand since my utility bills were ridiculous.

But now here we are in a cozy living space with an overpowered heater that I've calculated takes about $10 a month to run. I still keep it a little cooler than most people would prefer since I like the cold, and to make up for it, we are going to upgrade our doggy blankets.

I think the little fleece throws we had a million of came from Walmart. I don't remember, so I figured we would try this one from Amazon and see how it stacks up. I basically left everything I owned behind. But in hindsight, yeah, maybe I should have grabbed a few dog blankets. As I upgrade from the random assortment we have now, I figure the old ones will go to the local Goodwill.

So far it's a little different than what I'm used to, but we are cozy, snug and content. Even Smokey seems content, and he's a grumpy old man. It's awesome that I can focus on my dogs. My Zo-Zo is under a blanket right next to me as I type this. Every once in a while she pokes her snout out to detect the temperature, and it's almost like she's saying "Pet, use your tallness and thumbs to turn on that heat thingy."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Scary Machine

Ty buries his head in the blankets as the steam cleaner goes by. He's a team player. If The Man must bring weapons of motorized mahem into the house, he must know what he's doing. Best just not to look at it until it's done in the area and moves on. If you can't see it, then it can't see you.

As the steam cleaner is being used, Zoey constantly calculates the farthest spot from it to hide, lest it see us and murder us all. As far as she is concerned, her Pet meddles with forces beyond his comprehension. Whatever is spinning inside that monster is going to come flying out and get us all. She is 99% percent sure of this.

And Pet choosing that moment to take photos just shows the folly of his actions.

"This isn't funny, Pet. Your reckless tomfoolery will be your undoing."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Golden Boy

It's almost easier for me taking a rescue dog, than a well-adjusted dog used to a certain routine. Ty took a lot of time to fit back into the pack he was away from for more than two years. And then the humans had all these life changes, and the poor guy didn't seem to know his place in the world. It didn't help that he had a failed home for a couple months, where he didn't click with his new family. It was a four day drive both times, which made it doubly disappointing.

Then he came back and Smokey pushed him around, Spot didn't want anything to do with him, and Zoey wanted to play with him, but she puts off this crazy energy, and he was scared to play with her. Right before that his papa (who did like him) passed away, and his brother Bear, who he had really bonded with, went with the missus when her and I parted ways. Not easy on the humans, but really not easy on the dogs.

So, it took a while for Ty to find his place. But now he's the Golden Boy. He's healthy like his mommy, energetic like his daddy, and as even tempered as a Labrador, unlike either of his parents. He's happy, confident and loves to play with his sister.

I wish his first human owner had more time with Ty, and I'm obviously sad that he outlived his owner, but I'm happy that the chain of events in this crazy world put him and I back together. I think he was meant to be my dog. And I know millionaires whose dogs don't get well balanced, home cooked meals like mine do, so I'm not sad that he doesn't have another rich owner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hunger Games

Lenny spent every day of his life beating other dogs to the treats. Even a week before his passing, with a bad heart, back and knees, he would race across the room if I dropped a piece of food on accident. We could throw a treat to a different dog, and he would still race across the room and somehow beat out one of his offspring to their own treat. We had to give him treats last just to see which treats he ended up with from the others.

Out of his six offspring, Zoey is the only "food beast" of the bunch. We should have named her Katniss. Her papa taught her well, and I've seen some tremendous gymnastic treat grabs from her over the years, What's funny is that Smokey likes food more than her, much more.

But like so many human competitors, Zoey, is more in it for the competition than the pancakes. She will beat the other dogs to a treat even when she doesn't want a treat, in which case she usually gives it to Spot, who guards it for her. Any treats near Spot are out of play, because she's crazy and she bites.

Just like her papa, I have to give her treat last because there's a good chance she will beat Ty or Smokey to theirs. All Smokey does is look at me like "uh, problem here, boss" and wait for a new treat, but if Ty could talk, he would be using terms like "WTF."

And Zoey is totally remorseless. Any animal that's not her mommy is her pet.

A Girl And Her Mommy

I was flipping through some pictures, and it was only two frames, but it looked like it would make a nice animation.

"Who wants pancakes?"

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Good Influence

One of the best influences in my life came on accident, in the form of a public broadcasting TV show. I worked graveyard shift at a gas station as a teenager and it was boring. I went through all my books and everything I could get my hands on to read. This was the 80's. I didn't have the Internet, just outdated furniture and an oily smell. So, I brought an old TV in. But it only picket up PBS, and in the middle of the night, there was only one show on, and it was paid-for advertising.

This wasn't your average paid for program, though. I first tuned in and saw the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi giving this long winded speech. He was holding a flower, and I thought, "This guy is stoned out of his mind" but some of the words he was saying were sinking in. I still thought "man, this guy is out there."

But then, there was a resounding applause, and when the camera panned out, I could see that he was speaking to the United Nations, and they were giving him a standing ovation! And still to this day I think about that speech and his analogy to life being like a flower, and how a person grows. But that's another story.

I watched him speak every night for probably about a year before I took a different job. It was all powerful stuff he talked about. There was never any fluff. I have never practiced TM or had any exposure to him since, but many of the Mararishi's words are still rolling around in my brain 30 years later.

Lately I've been thinking about one of his key concepts: what he called "spontaneous right action." Basically, he says that if your mind and body are right, then your instincts will always be correct. The last year of my recuperation from a neck injury has been working towards that end.

There are Yogis who can do incredible feats, like stopping their heart for 10 minutes without any ill effect. Driven over by trucks--incredible stuff. Not many of us will ever have that mastery of mind and body, but I can say from experience that there are varying degrees--it's not all or nothing.

Just being anywhere in the same ballpark is transformative, and I'm finally feeling it, and getting the boost from positive momentum I knew would come. A flower can't not grow, and neither can a person.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Sweet Spot

Spot definitely seems less anxious and even sweet much of the time. As long as her liver results come back normal in week or so when I take her back in, I think I'm going to keep her on the doggy Prozac regardless of whatever improvements we do or don't see with her. Once the weather gets better, I'm going to try her in a semi-empty park on a week day to start out slowly.

It's hard making the right choices. Putting the health and well being of myself and animals as priority number one isn't as simple as I thought it would be. I could sustain this lifestyle for pretty much my whole life while I grow my business, and put Spot first and not really answer to anyone. But then I take the chance that I'm not yet prepared for many big medical emergencies for my animals.

But if I take a high paying job, yes, I could wave plastic and make any medical bill go away, but I would have much less time with my doggies. It's the same dilemma every parent faces. At least when I raised children, I worked at home most of that time and I could at least be unavailable to them in person. It's also actually a plus being eccentric as a computer genius, so it's not out of the question that a company could let me bring in Ty and/or Smokey into an office setting. I'm open to new avenues of thinking.

My mentor "The Colonel" taught me that you don't get what you deserve in life; you only get what you negotiate for. But sometimes getting everything you want gets you nothing you want, and no amount of shiny replaces the love of a good woman and/or a little dog in your lap. It's great being my age: I know the secrets of life. But right now it's like being the captain of the ship and giving orders to go this way. No, sorry, that way. No, full stop. No, reverse course. I'm the caption of a vessel who has no idea where to sail to. All my familiar landmarks are gone, and I'm in new territory. There's 1,000 ports on my GPS and they all look interesting.

When people ask me for my best career/life advice, I say "Leave your comfort zone behind you and never look back." So, I'm fine "eating my own dog food" as they say, and in some sense I've never really had a comfort zone anyway. I've never defined myself by a relationship, or job, or anything external. But back to being single, debt free, and not tied down to anything, all within about a year, is just a little disorienting I guess. I need to pick a course, and I think I'm close to deciding.

At least I've decided that if I do say "Mongo like shiny object" and take a job slinging code for the man, my dogs would have a full time personal assistant and a trainer. Eventually, I want to buy land in Oregon. But either way, my dogs are my children now, and I don't intend to be an absentee father to them.

So, that's really been on my mind: Finding the sweet spot that keeps Spot sweet.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Honey Bunny

Zoey was my last choice of puppies to keep. We had already found homes for Ty and Bear, as well as Zoey's two sisters, Jewel and Nala. Jewel was born with a little white diamond on her back. It was her that I wanted to keep, but she was the first pick of a wealthy woman who I could tell was never going to give her up. It was an awkward moment where I even asked to say goodbye. Jewel used to come to the edge of the pen every time she saw me, and we had a bond almost from the day they were born.

Tidbit had a slightly deformed paw, and he was tiny, so it was a no-brainer to keep him, since he was special needs. He lived inside the missus' jacket pocket from about 8 weeks on. He was clearly her dog.

"Pet, stop telling stories about me"

That left one lone puppy who had just been weaned. Spot didn't want anything to do with her during the weaning process. The missus said "Why don't you lay down with Zoey and comfort her" so I took her for a nap. It was awful. She would paw my face every time I fell asleep. Then I would wake up, and she would roll over on her back for a belly rub. This dog was only 8 weeks old and she was already treating me like her pet!

Strong willed. Intelligent. Sassy. The missus pointed out that this is how I preferred my human women and said that I was protesting too much. But something clicked that day, and she was right. Zoey looks at me with the same intelligence her sister Jewel did.

Of course, Ty came back. And Bear came back abused, malnourished and permanently traumatized. By that point, we were too scared to find homes for any of them with our previous luck.

The puppy who wouldn't let me sleep, still won't let me sleep 4 1/2 years later. And she still thinks I am her pet. She's playing peek-a-boo with me as I type this.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Passing Of Salem

I've never blogged much about my cats. We rescued them for quite a while until dogs kind of took over our lives. By the time we split up and downsized our empire, we were down to just 2 cats: Johnny and Salem. They were mostly outdoor cats for the last 12 years, though they also had a cat door to the garage. Our little dogs freaked out when they saw cats, so the two keeping their distances from each other was mutual. He got along fine individually with them, though. The photo below is him with Lenny, when Lenny was just a puppy himself.

It's a funny story how I met Salem. I could see the outdoor patio from my office when I worked in Compton, CA for a few years. One day I looked out the window and saw a semi-circle of girls from the office around a bush on the patio. I walked outside to see what it was, and it was this little black kitten that looked like he was barely old enough to be away from its mother. I took this kitten into the company library with a little water and a blanket, where I was going to wait until the end of the day.

The ex-Marine Colonel I worked for came to my desk and said "Someone complained to the president. The kitten can't be in the building." I said "Way to show compassion, Colonel." and he said "I am showing compassion. Jim said take the rest of the day off with your kitten." and I drove him home to our house in Anaheim, where he was our kitty until about a year ago.

4 dogs and 2 cats wasn't an ideal situation for having no house. My sister, who I pretty much owe everything to, claimed the cats and wouldn't hear anything of it. Johnny and Salem were a bonded pair, which made the situation more complicated. But she took them both in, the saint that she is.

It turns out it was a virus that he could have been vaccinated against. No excuses there. My life at the time we got him was so crazy hectic with kids and cats, dogs, hamsters. I was working full time and consulting part time. It was a crazy time, and it doesn't surprised me that we both missed something like that.

Johnny gets vaccinated tomorrow just in case he needs it. He was another rescue, the last surviving member of the litter himself. My step daughter's friend's mom said "we heard you take cats so take these kittens or we are going to have them euthanized." We couldn't take any more, but after watching this person have one killed every day like some sick movie plot, we took the surviving three.

More sad stories, but at some point there's a certain defiance that says I'm going to live my life like a half-way caring human being and life can throw whatever the fuck it wants at me. So, I could have done better, but I did my best, and Salem lived to be like 85 in cat years.

He was a good cat, and we were good friends. Johnny will miss him, and so will a few humans.

RIP Salem.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Face Time

Everyone says you should never put your face anywhere near a dog's mouth. That's probably sage advice for most people. But as a dog lover, I know that dogs are honest. A dog normally isn't going to pretend to like you and then bite you. 99.9% of the time, humans have all the warning they need.

Ty doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He would sooner bite his own face than bite mine. He would be more likely to take a bite protecting me than to bite the hand that feeds. He is a typical, well-adjusted male dog. Now, Ty has bitten human strangers before, but only people who mistreated him, and unsupervised children who didn't know any better. Some people shouldn't own dogs, and they shouldn't have even briefly owned Ty. At any rate, he's back with me now, and his loyalty is totally unconditional to anyone who earns his trust. He's the perfect dog.

Zoey is like a daughter to me. Our life is about snuggles and kisses, some of which happen when I'm asleep. I almost have been nipped a couple times in my sleep because when Zoey and I are cuddling, if Ty wants to come join us, he has to go past Zoey under the blankets, and when I am asleep, she will nip at him. He obviously doesn't want to be nipped by honey bunny, so he will move out of the way with his young dog reflexes, causing her to miss. Zoey does have a few mean bones in her body, but just like Ty, she would never intentionally hurt me.

Spot has bitten me, but I still let her give me kisses. When she's being sweet, she's just as lovey as her daughter. But she's been a mommy, and sometimes she doesn't want anything to do with people or dogs, which she is very clear about. And that's the thing: anyone paying attention can easily read what a dog is telling them. Clipping her nails is the hardest, because she will go from barely tolerant to trying to bite my hands with no warning. Which is why I paid the vet to do that last time, and they were very careful. But again, she can be as sweet as Zoey, and it's always clear what her thoughts are.

Smokey is my grumpy old man. He is more like Ty but for different reasons. If I wasn't bigger, stronger and with all the food, he wouldn't respect me. If he bit me, then he would get less food. I'm the boss: the "pack leader" the dog whisperer talks about. Smokey loves jumping on people's laps and giving them kisses before they can react to stop him. They say "ooooh cute, he's giving me a kiss" and I say "well, it's more like he's a) smelling your breath to see what you've eaten and b) sucking up to you for more food." But it's the same effect as Ty: Smokey would never purposely hurt a non-aggressive human.

I will let a new dog sniff my face as a sign of friendship if it is being friendly. It's all about the dog's body language, and like I said, dogs are honest. It's cats that lie.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Too Quiet

My new video card finally got here. It's more powerful, and quieter, because it uses a passive heat sink, and there's no fan to wear out. Of course, the heat sink will still get clogged with dust eventually. Since having my computer so loud before I fixed it with a quiet new case fan, I could barely hear it. Now, with the new video card, I can't hear it at all.

Of course, because it's a little quieter, the doggies hear more things on this busy street and bark more, so it's probably a net loss of quiet. At least now my computer won't melt. Which is good, because it's also my TV and entertainment system. I love my little 20 dollar simple amplifier. With that and some decent bookshelf speakers, I get the sound of a thousand dollar sound system for about a hundred bucks and some change, if we count the spool of speaker wire. Someone offered me a nice receiver, but it's one more big heavy thing to carry around. My computer's amp is about the size of a paper back book, if anyone these days remembers what that is...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Smokey Is Acting Out

The best I can tell, Smokey is upset at something, and he's still having a pissing contest with his enemy that he outlived. He was neutered at 6 months just like he should've been, and no other males are vying for competition. Ty would probably be dominant in the pack if it wasn't for Smokey being mean, and his mommy and sister being batshit crazy.

Smokey and Lenny started as best friends when they were puppies. But Smokey is a bully. Lenny put up with him for a long time, but he couldn't be neutered because he was already having health issues. Plus, we wanted to breed this special beast, and we didn't want to risk losing him trying to get him neutered, so his balls got to stay on.

One day Smokey was trying to hump Lenny, who was still uncut, and Lenny snapped. From that moment forward, Lenny considered it a fight to the death every single time they met, and we had to keep them separated for what turned out to be almost 3 years. At least they had that much time as friends. Smokey never held a grudge--he's just a bully. But it was personal to Lenny. None of us blamed him with the way Smokey treated him.

Smokey only ever wanted to be an only dog. I think that's what he's still mad about. I don't think it's all the moving around--he never minded that. The others have had issues going from being so sheltered to all the changes, but I think that Smokey's problem is that 4 years later, there's still another dog who wants to share his blanket. The puppies that used to just be annoying to him, are now his competition for pancake time.

From 2011 when they could still be on the same couch

Sunday, November 8, 2015

More Cravings

Just a quiet weekend here in the rain. It's been a peaceful weekend other than Zoey pawing my face to wake me up to tell me it's raining. I scolded her and tossed her off the bed, and Ty jumped off, too, and went to snuggle with Smokey. Ty is really sensitive. It makes him the best behaved of the bunch, but he gets upset if another one gets scolded. Where for Zoey, being scolded is the only indication she has that I am not her pet.

Spaghetti and other pasta is good on the stove top, but baked penne is one of my signature dishes, and I can't get it anywhere near as good without being baked. Same with macaroni and cheese; great on the stove top (with the same cheese sauce as the au gratin potatoes) but there's just something about baking it.

What I've done for the last few years is make a batch of ragu sauce (which is just Italian for meat sauce,) make a batch of baked pasta one night, and use the little bit of leftover sauce for a home made pizza the next day. I make a pizza from a half-batch of this recipe dough, which I documented on my outdoor blog.

Italian sausage, but only 3 cheese

Saturday, November 7, 2015

It's Good To Have An Oven

My oven probably needs a full day of my attention, if I count finding an air compressor on Craigslist or on sale somewhere. Since I have other higher priority stuff, it could be another few weeks before I even get to it.

But ... I like to cook, and I've been craving ... things. Like au gratin potatoes, and pizza from scratch. I almost ordered a pizza yesterday, but they taste like cardboard compared to one from scratch, with high quality ingredients. As a decent cook, there are plenty of things I can make without an oven, and it's something I could work around as long as I needed to.

A few years ago, my sister and mom both asked for new toaster ovens that were on the larger side. But it's hard to get a feel for the size of something over the Internet. And in my Black Friday omg-ovens-are-half-price fervor, I didn't even notice that they didn't make toast, and were pretty big. I bought them mini-ovens, which they both kept and was in their way.

My sister's oven made it to the cabin which I used to make pizza in the woods. It's her cabin, her oven, so it worked out perfectly. The cabin is a whole different place with kitchen appliances, a wi-fi router and cellular signal booster.

My mom has been pushing me to take hers, but I kept saying "I'm fixing my oven tomorrow." After a bunch of tomorrows, I decided to use it until I fix mine (which uses propane) and use this one as a backup. Once this RV goes on the road, it'll have a generator, and it's nice having electric appliances as a backup. I even swiped the electric hot plate at the cabin that melted the romex and put the cabin without electricity for a week. So, I have a backup mini fridge, oven and hot plate.

Yesterday I made au gratin potatoes, and tonight it's baked Penne for dinner. I told my mom that I hoped I honored my Auntie's memory by making her au gratin potatoes as good as hers, and my mom said "Oh, honey, Auntie used canned potatoes and a canned white sauce as the base for her cheese sauce." Heh, all these years trying to master the cheese sauce.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

If It Moves, Clean It

When I chose to get a small, portable steam cleaner for my new, downsized empire, I chose ... poorly. The little Rug Doctor I had wasn't up to the task even when it worked. Even for a small living space, it meant crawling around on the floor on my knees. Crawling around on the dirty carpet that I'm trying to clean. It still needs to be completely stripped down to figure out why it's not working. It'll be a good project for my fix-it blog someday.

The second I powered the new Bissell on, I knew that I had chosen ... wisely. The people who owned this big travel were total pigs. I've been scrubbing and cleaning this thing since the day I got it a few months ago. I could see that this thing hadn't been properly steam cleaned in years, if ever.

We had a couple Hoover SteamVacs that cost 300 bucks each that I kept alive for 10 years by rebuilding them. I've never owned a Bissell before, and I'm already a fan. It was a sad panda moment spending the 124 bucks for this thing, but it's a happy chappy moment knowing that it's already paid for itself.

This place didn't smell great before I moved the dogs in with an under-powered steam cleaner. I figured that if I kept cleaning, I would someday reach the magical point where it actually smelled good. That moment was about 10 minutes after I finished steam cleaning with the new one.

"Pet, keep that thing away from me!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Busy Busy

It's been a hectic week so far. A phone interview every day so far, Lots of errands and chores. My place smells like Smokey's pee, but my new fancy schmansy steam cleaner will be here today, along with some other stuff like my new video card and even a little something for myself from eBay. The UPS guy and mail carriers already know me.

Spot is doing good on her anxiety meds. I've woke up a couple times to find her on my bed, trying to steal the blankets. And she doesn't seem as fearful. I was thinking of taking her for a walk in the local park just to start.

I'm starting to think Smokey might be incontinent. He is 11 years old. Right when Spot stops having accidents, Smokey starts. His right eye is also getting worse, so he's next to the doggy doctor. I do know that he's had injuries to both eyes fighting with his mortal enemy, Lenny, several years ago. So, they had told me to expect something like this.

All things considered, life is good. It's still hard to decide between taking a full time job or just getting more clients and staying self employed, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so I've been putting some resumes out there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Broken Stuff

There's a reason I can pretty much fix anything: necessity. I seem to have been born cursed when it comes to vehicles, appliances, electronics, and pretty much anything that can stop working at a bad time. Learning to be handy with a wrench, multimeter or keyboard was the only way to turn my curse into a net positive. Because I can fix everyone's stuff, too.

No sooner did my computer start having problems, then everything else stopped working. The battery in my only 1 year old tablet crapped out. Then Smokey had a couple really bad days and acted out by peeing on the carpet, which my Rug Doctor picked that moment to stop working. So that I would have no doubt the curse still exists, the hot water heater started leaking from a place that makes me think that I might need a new one very soon.

Being a very clean person who has always had a steam cleaner, pee on my carpet is bugging the snot out of me. This isn't the first time I've had to disassemble this stupid Rug Doctor. Last time it took me two days of fussing with the head, making sure I documented it with a post to my fixit blog. This time I took half the main unit apart before I changed my mind an put it back together. Having to disassemble the entire unit just to see if the hose is clogged, is not acceptable in the long term. My big steam cleaners have always been able to handle lots of dog hair and such with little maintenance.

So, I ordered a larger Bissell Steam cleaner from Walmart. I didn't originally want a bulky full size one, but yeah...

Next, I turned my attention to the tablet, and promptly wasted the old battery trying to pry it out with "brute finesse." No problem, I was replacing it. Then, I promptly wasted the new battery with a very stupid mistake. I could probably return it the eBay seller and make a big stink, but it sucks having a conscience since this time it was 100% my fault. I tried to re-solder the wire to the battery, but my soldering iron broke. It went promptly into the trash. It needed to be replaced anyway.

So, I shopped for tablets and didn't find one I liked. I like my Asus. I'll probably order another battery from the same seller. The last one fell apart too easily, but it shouldn't be an issue if I'm not clumsy. The electronics in devices like phones and tablets are so small, it almost takes the steady hands of a surgeon.

I'm scared to look at the hot water heater. It's leaking out the drain plug, and where the plug screws in looks cracked in the photos. It looks like a large crack in the unit they tried to fix.

One good thing about having an awesome camera is that I can crawl under something and a take a photo, then take my time looking at the photo on a big screen instead of upside down with a flashlight. This RV hot water heater can run on propane or 100V, which is cool, but it cost $600 to replace which is ... not cool.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Make The Rain Stop

Zoey doesn't like the rain. She woke me up several times last night to let me know this, in case I didn't already know. She paws my face in my sleep, until I wake up. I'm a heavy sleeper, so it usually takes her scratching my eye or something before I startle awake. At this point I'm normally a little grumpy, so I say something like "WHAT," at which point she just flops over on her back, like "You can't be mad at me because I'm so cute." And she's right, so I lay there half asleep rubbing her belly until I fall asleep, and she wakes me up again.

"You can't be mad at me because I'm adorable."

She's very insistent, almost frantic, like she's saying "Pet! Wake up, Pet, and stop the rain before it murders us! Hurry, Pet, we don't have much time!" and then she calms down once I'm awake. Unlike Spot, my (awake) presence is reassuring to her.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Little Halloween Sadness

It dawned on me that this was the first Halloween in almost 20 years that I didn't pass out candy. It's been about that long since I wasn't a homeowner, too. So, it made me a little sad when my brother left and turned off all of his lights. I hadn't really thought about it until I wondered why it was so dark and had that DOH moment.

But as great as it was being in a nice neighborhood and having a whole night full of little kids in their adorable custumes ringing our doorbell, it was also a lot of work and a bit of stress, not to mention expense. Sometimes arguments or drama. The mortgage that comes with the nice house is just the beginning of the expectations society has of homeowners. They don't call it a money pit for nothing. It's more of a contract with society than with the bank.

It was rewarding, and I have no regrets of living that life and having that level of responsibility for so long, but I'm enjoying a little well deserved freedom. My new, single, debt-free life is turning out to be everything I hoped it would be, but sometimes I get a little nostalgic: The fuss over holidays, the decorations, special foods, etc.

But the flip side is nice, too. Just another day on the calendar, and I can watch season 15 of South Park without any fuss. No candy to tempt my diabetes, and no stress on the dogs of having the doorbell rang 100 times in one night. Yeah, I think I've earned a little South Park.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Computer Problems

Zoey helped me fix my computer today. This big desktop that I normally sit in front of was randomly powering off. It's actually more like 3 or 4 desktops because I run virtual machines, which means that I usually have several desktop computers in front of my face even though I only have the hardware for one big one. In the old days, I literally had a whole room full of computers. Aint progress grand.

I had waited until the problem got to the point of where the computer wouldn't even power on. I woke up this morning, turned on the computer and thought "oh yeah, it doesn't work, and I didn't feel like fixing it last night."

Someone once ignorantly told me "I'm buying this mechanic's car, so you know everything is perfect!" and I said "No, a mechanic's car means he did the absolute minimum work to it to keep it running."

Being a computer engineer is no different. I had the new case fan sitting on the counter for the last month, knowing my desktop was probably overheating. And I chose to be in denial over the fact that the video card fan wasn't spinning right, either, and overheating the whole machine meant I was probably damaging the video card as well.

So, today Zoey and I put in the new case fan and blew the dust out of the innards with a can of "dust off," which had to be done inside next to the screen door because it was raining. Sure enough, the video card fan started "chattering" when I put it back together, so I ordered a new one from What's funny is the new video card will probably sit there on the counter until the old one fails.

Rainy weather, and I felt yucky last week, so we're all antsy here all couped up. Not much walking or activity outside. Speaking of antsy, the box of ant bait has been waiting on the counter as well...

Dances With Pancakes: The Video

Zoey had already done two full performances of the pancake dance when I thought to grab the camera, so her heart wasn't quite in the video, but it was a good enough start that I think I can eventually get a good video. We might even use a real camera and a tripod next time.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Still Cooking Like A Boss

First I boil or bake the potatoes. They usually sit in the fridge all night. Then, I saute the potatoes in olive oil with a little Montreal steak seasoning, diced onion and bell pepper. For the chicken taco meat, I marinade the chicken breast in lime juice, tequila and taco seasoning. Then, the next day I saute it with diced onion and jalepeno pepper. The taco seasoning from the bulk foods isle at my local Winco is first rate.

These are two of what I would consider my signature dishes. Sometimes the leftovers are compatible with each other, like the chicken and potato burritos with fresh grated pepper jack and medium cheddar, with a little salsa on top for good measure. I used to use mostly sharp cheddar, but for certain dishes like this it's too rich and complete overkill.

Hard to see, but there's a big mound of chicken under everything else!
Cooking for one is about the same amount of work as cooking for 6, but I don't want to eat like most single people eat, and doing something half-assed isn't my style, so I might as well enjoy a burrito that was probably cheaper to make than eating Taco Bell. I spent the last 10 years doing all the dishes, too, and I was a dishwasher a million years ago, so whipping up a burrito or two and making the kitchen spotless right afterwards "aint no thing."

Eventually my schedule will get busier and cooking like this may be hard to justify. I still did all the cooking and cleaning even working full time, but it was pushing the bounds of what a human can do, and didn't do wonders for my health. It was unsustainable as they say.

My brother makes all his chicken salads a week in advance every week. It sounds really boring to me, but every inch of him is rippling with muscles, and he even does modeling on the side, so it's hard to justify that kind of logic other than to say "but I don't want to eat a slab of chicken on a slab of greens every night."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pancake Dance

After the last debacle with pancakes, I was wary of making them again. I didn't know certain types of mix could go bad, even unopened. But I have a brand new big bag of our normal brand, and over the years the ex proved that pancakes make a decent carb snack for little dogs. I realized a couple weeks or so ago that I had the doggies on what was mostly an Atkins diet, which I've never been a huge proponent of.

Our new pancake treat time has been a smashing success. Zoey in particular does her special "pancake dance" which I am trying to be quick enough to get a video of soon.

"Someone said 'pancakes' ?"

Just like the doggies' homemade chicken and rice I make for them, I make a bunch in advance. Then I just take a pancake out of the fridge and divide it up when it's treat time.

But I have run into a couple feeding snags. Even as an overachiever show-off, there's been a couple times when it's slipped my mind that I'm out of my home cooked dog food, and it's close to an hour by the time it's done and cooled off enough for them to eat, and I don't like feeding them an hour or two late.

I only make a couple days' worth at a time to give them the freshest dinner, just like I would do for people, but that might be overly ambitious even for someone without a lot of time constraints.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Video Of Tidbit

Me and Tidbit were bros before we parted ways about a year ago. He's so tiny in size but so large in stature. He's a beast like his papa was, but he's also highly intelligent like his mommy, with plenty of his own quirks thrown into the mix.

But 4 is plenty to take care of, and even though Ty and Bear were bonded and best friends, Tidbit has bonded to Bear now, and everything is swell for all the puppies.

In the video you can see that he has some of "his mommy's crazy" as he barks at the water dish that he doesn't like. Apparently the water dish had to be replaced and he's barked at the new one every day. I just know he's cute and was happy to unexpectedly get the dropbox notification of the video.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pill Time Is Treat Time

The slow decline of their papa, Lenny, a couple years ago caused a weird dynamic in the pack. Lenny was probably on 4 or 5 medications, which all had to be given with treats. But anyone who has ever had more than one dog knows that you can't give treats just to one dog, not even it's a dying dog. Lenny was a pure beast, so pill time was even exciting to him.

So, to this day when one of the pooches, like Spot, is on medication, the entire pack goes into a frenzy when they hear the pill bottles, just like Pavlov's dogs in the famous experiment. I couldn't create more excitement if I tried on purpose. Pill time is treat time!

A year ago, there were some big arguments because I was giving more extravagant treats. I still make no apologies: if you have less than a month to live, you can stay up late and have whatever you want to eat. To me, life is about quality, not quantity, and one of the keys to life is to balance the two.

Treat time now is not stressful time like it was just a year ago. All the doggies are happy and the treats are healthy. I wish that I could disassociate them from pills = treats. Today I tried, but the frenzy was too much, and I caved. They could worse than healthy protein snacks. I guess I should just factor that into our feeding paradigm.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Perky Spot

Years ago when I took Prozac to quit smoking, it made me depressed when I wasn't to begin with. It was awful and I had to stop taking it. I hear that if you don't have depression, the medication has the opposite effect, but if you do have depression, then it perks you up.

It almost has to be the meds, because the last time she burrowed under the blankets to sleep with me and jumped in my lap the same day was at least 2 years ago. She's been so clingy today that Zoey is getting jealous. She doesn't seem to be afraid of anything today.

Right now Spot is pacing like a caged tiger. I know she needs a walk, but the vet said 10 days on the Prozac and I want to give it the full 10 days before I start saying officially that it's helping. I opened the cupboard this morning to get a coffee cup and she would normally hide at anything being opened like that, and this morning she watched me, and came up and sniffed my coffee cup. Sure seems like progress.

It was such an emotional moment that I cleared my schedule just so I could spend the day with her. I can do my errands tomorrow. A headhunter I had emailed my resume to replied with "The client is Microsoft, what is your best and most competitive rate?" and I replied with a number they probably won't like. With no overhead and a meager but steadily growing income from my blogs and a couple small clients, it better be a fantastic offer to take me away from my pooches for any length of time.

I'm having a hard time making up my mind, but the plan is still to get Oregon residency, form my LLC and go out into the Portland metro area, shake some hands and land a couple larger clients. At this point anything resembling full time has to be enticing, which doesn't necessarily mean money for the right job. But I still like the idea of self employment where all my eggs aren't in one basket as the old saying goes.