28 October 2011

One day closer to retirement

I wish. 

Early on in my Army career, I an old E7 platoon sergeant who was pretty salty. He was a lifer and had been around a long time and taught me a lot of things you don’t learn in school. Whenever we wound up in some stupid situation or had some dumb requirements/tasks to accomplish, he would just shake his head and say “One day closer to retirement, Sir”. That’s become one of my mantras ever since.

Been busier than a one-armed paper hanger with an itch. Once again, I am up to my butt in work trying to get stuff done between now and the end of the year and still need vacation to burn. I picked up a lot of silly projects and tasks while keeping up with my real job. I got signed up for another road trip for a supplier audit, but this time it is back to Europe. I’m flying over to Belgium next month for an audit and business meeting. I know, I have absolutely no room to whine about this, but it is just screws up my plans/schedule. I should be grateful for the opportunity but I am still cranky about it for a variety of reasons: 1) I really don’t have time for it right now, 2) I’m not looking forward to another pair of 10-12 hour flights, 3) It’s the wrong time of the year to go to Belgium (cold and wet), and 4) I am scheduled to fly back on the Wednesday BEFORE Thanksgiving (supposed to be the busiest day of the year for flying).  I have made it a point to not travel during that time of the year and here I am right in the middle of it. Would sit home and watch the news reports on how busy the airports were and how full the parking lots were getting and think to “Glad that ain’t me.” This year I get to be a part of the circus.

Still, somebody has to do it. Just like my other trips, I plan to make the most of it. Got the weekend free in Brussels and intend to do as much exploration as possible. Anyone care to guess what Belgium is famous for?

Chocolate and Beer

I've been given instructions to come back with some...

22 October 2011

Water dogs

Ok. I am a bit better now. Computer is still messed up (I’ll spare you the colorful language I’ve been using), but I had an interesting/great outing yesterday so I am in a darn good mood.

Since a lot of people are doing doggy themes, I thought I’d add my two cents.  Get it?  Two Cents?  Hello?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Is this mike on?

Anyway, if you have paid any attention to this prattle, one might surmise I have a dog or two. Ok. I’ve tried not to make this an “all things canine” blog and have failed on some occasions. Not everyone appreciates the insight or humor of owning a pet (or being owned by a pet) sometimes brings. I have had dogs in the past. A few years back I did a brief tribute to each dog I’ve had in my life. Pebbles, Peanuts, Velvet, Shadow – all were unique dogs that contributed some part to my life. Along comes Grayson and, more recently, Claire. We have never had 2 dogs at the same time. Oh sure,  a dog and two cats, a goldfish, a canary, two turtles, and one snake (not for long), but never two dogs under one roof at the same time. We had briefly considered a second dog for Shadow to give him some company during the day, but never seriously. Some of our friends in GBGRR have 2-3 dogs.  Robin got us started with the club has 4 dogs, 1 one cat and a horse and is always fostering a new dog. Both Grayson and Claire came from her stable of critters. Honestly, I don’t know how she does it. We couldn’t foster two without falling for them. The interesting thing to note is the dynamics with two dogs. As RC noted, dogs will react to each other. We weren’t sure how Grayson would take to Claire at first, but those two became best buds. Whenever I take one out, the other wants to go as well.

At the GBGRR picnic, I won two of the raffle prizes (past few picnics I’ve never won anything). A home dog grooming (they come to your house) and an hour of swim time at Rummy’s Beach Club. One thing I have been meaning to do for a while is take these dogs to the pool. Oh, sure there is a pond in the dog park, but neither of these two seems to have any interest in swimming. Go figure:  2 Golden Retrievers who a) don’t retrieve and b) don’t swim. The pond at the dog park isn’t the best place to have them swim, the water's too nasty and too many other distractions.  So I figured I would have to take them to the lake or river and get in with them to see if I could coax them into the water. The certificate to Rummy’s was just the excuse I was looking for. The founder (Lisa) had built a pool specifically for training dogs to swim and she did it for her Blind Siberian Husky, Rummy. Lisa insists she is not a therapist, but more of a person to help dogs learn to swim, or at least get over their fear of water. I have been looking for a way to take my dogs to some watering hole and this was just what the doctor ordered. Since I had the day off and was paying bills and reading work e-mails, I called her on the fly and got a slot (she is booked solid) for a 2pm opening so I jumped in my suit, loaded up the land barge, and tossed the dogs in (like I could hold them back). They are always looking for a ride and adventure, so this was exciting to them. Took an hour to get across town but we finally made our way over to Lisa’s place. A very dog friendly site, with lots of room to run and explore and sniff and pee. After they got settled in, it was time to hit the pool. Small pool with a gradual entrance and sloped bottom for dogs to get used to. Both of my mutts were excited to be there but didn’t know what to make of the whole deal. Lisa started with Claire since she was the calmer of the two and strapped on a doggie life vest to help her float. Grayson was all high energy and kept circling the pool. I wound up sitting in the middle of the pool and coaxed Claire into the water to where she was eventually floating and swimming on her own. Hesitant at first, but eventually, she would swim out to me, make the loop around me and swim back to the landing. She wound up doing a few laps around me and she really was a trooper. Grayson, being the big macho dog, wasn’t having anything to do with that. We did get a vest on him and eventually got him into the water, but you could tell he wasn’t all sold on the idea. What really floored me was, while Grayson was struggling with learning to swim, Claire would doggie paddle out to him and swim alongside him until he reached the landing area. Several times she would swim out to him to show him how to do it. He got the hang of it but it took a while.  Claire, on the other hand, took to the water like a water bug. Given her weight and age, I had figured it was going to be harder for her, but she really surprised us. That’s what makes life interesting with these dogs - just when you think you’ve got them pegged, they show you something completely different. Sorry, no pictures this time. I was in the pool with them trying to encourage them.

21 October 2011

Full plate

I should be happy, but I’m not.

I have the day off again. It is that time of year when I have vacation built up that I have to take. The company has a policy that you could only carry over a certain amount of hours/days at the end of the year. Since I have been here for 10+ years, I accrue a boatload of vacation each year and can only carry over 60 hours (7.5 days) by the end of December. They used to have a policy that, if you didn’t use the vacation, they would pay it out to you. That changed a few years back and now the policy is “use it or lose it”. I think it is a bit counterproductive. I am one of those who doesn’t take much vacation during the year. We used to take a lot of trips and with my Boy Scout involvement, I would normally burn up most of my days throughout the year. When junior was doing intern work out west, we took off a week or two to go out and visit/bug him. Since junior has graduated and lives only 3 hours away, we are not taking as much time off. Momma is spending a lot of time taking care of her parents and we cannot get away for long trips. This all leaves me with a plethora of vacation time to burn at the end of the year. I’ve taken off Fridays to go to college football games, I’ve done a bit of hunting, momma’s got me doing a whole bunch of “honey dos” (aka chores). I am pretty much taking off every Friday between now and the end of the year. Got a lot of work to do at the office and every time I take off, I seem to get further behind. On top of that, I just got signed up yesterday for a road trip to Belgium the week before Thanksgiving for another audit and to work with our European office. I know, I know - I really shouldn’t be whining and should be grateful for the time and opportunity, but this just messes with my plans. I always thought that, when junior was out of the house and it was just momma and I and the dogs, life would be calmer and less hectic. Silly rabbit.

In spite of my complaining, we have been busy. A couple of trips up to College Station for games. Helped my dad celebrate his 88th birthday last week. He and mom are still pretty darn spry for a bunch of octogenarians. You think, at that age, they’d be hanging out at home or in nursing home. Nah, they just left town on a short 4 day cruise to Cozumel with my brother. I can only hope I am that active/mobile when I get their age.

And the real reason I am not happy is that my PC picked up some virus last week and pretty much cratered the system. I was able to restore it to an older version, but all my settings are screwed up. None of my favorites are set up any more, most of my files and pictures are missing. I have a back up drive, but a lot of the information is not there as it should be. I have copies of the important stuff and a lot of my files are recoverable and I made a secondary back up of my pictures (being paranoid is sometimes a good thing), but this just pisses me off. I am not ignoring everyone, I am just trying to get back to where I was two weeks ago.

10 October 2011

I see Goldens

Pop quiz. What’s the best way to make it rain?
  • Plan a major event outdoors (wedding, birthday party, graduation)
  • Ride your bike to work
  • Plan a campout
  • County Fair
  • Leave the top down on the car
  • Turn on your sprinklers
  • Wash & wax your car
  • Plan a picnic
I may have bemoaned earlier about our current drought. We haven’t had any decent rain since last January and everything is either dying or burning up. I read the other day that we were 30 inches behind on rainfall for the year and it may take years to recover. We have lakes that are 10 feet below their normal levels and creeks have dried up. It’s gotten so dry that the trees have taken to whistling for dogs (old joke).

So, what do you do when you have a serious dry spell? You plan your annual picnic. Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue (GBGRR) group held its 12th annual picnic to celebrate all the dogs that have found homes and raise money for the cause. Rough estimate is that, in the short 12 years since the group started, they have helped over 2400 Golden Retrievers find their forever homes (~200 per year). Some were pups, some slightly older, some were in their prime and some were seniors. No matter where the dog came from or what happened to it, the group worked to find it a home, even if it was for a short time.

The picnic has become a regular deal for us. They don’t charge a fee, but sell raffle tickets and shirts and various stuff and ask for donations. We even get a local bar-be-que place to provide the grub and even had someone bring shrimp and gumbo. Of course, the main reason we go is for all the dogs. Everyone tries to bring their old dogs who have been adopted over the years. Kind of a Golden reunion. Last year the dogs had a blast playing with each other and chasing balls in the pond and running wild. This year, of course, the skies opened up and dumped about 5 inches of rain on the park. Fortunately, we had reserved the large pavilion and could hang out semi dry underneath. Dogs were not as thrilled at all the rain and thunder, but they did have a good time. Grayson was excited to be with the other dogs, but somewhat skittish with all the thunder and rain. Claire was the proper lady and would have nothing to do with all that wetness, but preferred to hang out under the table.

Grayson & Glaire
People will do strange things with their "children"
Drought?  What drought?

Of course, there are always one or two “water” dogs in every group who enjoy the rain….

Throw the ball!

Wet and loving it

09 October 2011

5 seconds of fame

Looks like this week is turning into an all dog theme.  I took the dogs up to college for the last two football games. No, not to the games, but to our camping spots on campus. My brother and I have reserved spots on one of the parking lots where we camp out in our trailers. Football at A&M is serious business. Our little stadium can hold a few fans (stated capacity is 83,002) but we’ve been known to exceed that number by a few bodies. Football weekends are a massive phenomenon starting with various events on Friday nights and culminating in the game on Saturday afternoon/evening. We’ve been doing it for years since my brother’s oldest son went to school (long since graduated). It’s become our weekend tradition during the fall. The RV slots on campus are hard to come by and have sold out for years, so we tend to make full use of the sites every home game.  
Water dogs
Anyway, the dogs like going out camping in the trailer. To them, it is another adventure. I’ve been taking my dogs up to the games since we had Shadow and they have a blast. Two weeks ago, I took them up for the weekend and there was a charity walk being held at the Veterinary Center (A&M has one of the best Vet schools in the nation). The Vet school was opening a new Cancer Center for animals and to commemorate the event, they held a 3/5k Walk to collect money for cancer research BTHO (Beat The Hell Outta) Cancer Pet Walk or Paws to the Pavement walk. I have always been a sucker for 5ks and figured the dogs like to walk so, I signed us up. Was kind of weird – I’m used to participating in these kinds of runs with lots of runners and warming up before the start, but not when you have the same number of dogs as people. Big dogs, small dogs, skinny dogs, fat dogs, tall dogs, short dogs, shaggy dogs, hairless dogs, purebreds, mutts. Not sure who had more fun - the 2 legged or 4 legged participants. When the starting cannon sounded (note to organizers: you might want to rethink the idea of having a cannon signal the start of a DOG event), everyone hit the trail. Good walk. Some ran, some walked, and some peed. I wasn’t sure how Claire would handle the walk since she is a wee bit old and heavy, but Grayson wanted to run the course. Was a bit hot at the time so at the 1.5 km mark they had water bowls and a kiddie pool for the dogs to drink out of.  Of course, guess which dog had to lie in the pool?   Both dogs made the course fine, if not a bit hot. We got to see both Reveille VII & VIII (A&M Mascot) and there were lots of pictures taken. That’s where the story should end, but there’s an interesting addendum.

BTHO Cancer Walk
Reveille VII & VIII
I left the dogs with my parents (they don’t make it into the games anymore) and went up to the stadium. Scored a really good seat on the 20 yard line in the 2nd deck. Typical A&M game – lots of noise, big crowd, mucho excitement. Throughout the game, they post pictures on the giant video scoreboard (12Man TV) – a monstrous 75 ft x 55 ft TV screen on the south end of the field. The kind of screen you could sit back in our trailer (1/4 mile away) and watch the game. In between broadcasting the plays, they normally post up various factoids and activities and the occasional sponsor (hey, somebody’s got to pay for that screen). In the middle of the 3rd quarter, they start showing things around campus like – student activities, sports, different schools, current events. One of the events shown on the big screen was the BTHO Cancer walk held that morning. Among all of the shots taken of Reveilles, runners/walkers/dogs, up pops this shot of a golden dog with the bright yellow bandanna around his neck walking. Took me a few moments to recognize that it was a good 5 second close up of Grayson on a 50 foot screen. No sign of Claire or me. Everyone else saw him told me about if after the game. He’s famous now. Great. One more thing to give him a big head.

Today we are headed out to the Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue annual picnic. This is the 12th picnic and a chance to see all the old GBGRR alumns. We are expecting 250-300 Goldens plus a few people. Pretty impressive display of fur. Pictures to follow.

GBGRR Picnic 2010

03 October 2011

Dog tails

Was a beautiful weekend.  A front pushed through the area, the 99+ degree temps finally broke last week and we actually had two days of rain.  This is the first measureable rain we have had since January.  Of course, it came as a torrential downpour with lots of lightening and thunder, but we desparately needed the rain.  My yard has taken on the vacant sandlot baseball field kind of look and it is one of the better ones in the neighborhood.  The drought down here has killed off a lot of trees and bushes and we are not sure when it will recover.  

Took the opportunity to enjoy the cooler weather (60s) and take the dogs to the local dog park.  Over the summer that became our routine on Saturday morning, but since it got hot early, we would go at 0630 to avoid the heat.  Both dogs love the park, but each in their own way.  Grayson is the kid on the playground - running all over the park, chasing other dogs, laying in the pond, running around some more.  We can be there 2 hours and he never tires out.  Claire is still the social butterfly - less interested in playing with the other dogs and more interested in greeting every person in the park.  She has that charming personality that earns her a lot of scratches and attention. 

Of course, much to amusement of everyone in the park, Grayson found his favorite spot to "hang out"... 

Mud dog

02 October 2011

Dang, I'm good.

You tell me.  Is it wrong to feel some sense of manliness/accomplishment?

Friday night, I was home from a very long week of work kicked back trying to unwind and starting to enjoy the weekend.  Dogs have been walked and fed, garbage is posted to the curb, dishwasher emptied.  I'm sitting down and enjoying a single malt and Pulp Fiction when my cell phone chirps in from the son.  Junior's calling me on a Friday night at 1930.  That normally does not bode well.  He talked with me earlier in the day, but it was about insurance coverage with his new company.  This call sets off my internal alarm.  He is calling me from the garage at work and informs me that his car won't start (one of my  parental angst - child is stranded somewhere and I am unable to help).  This is my old '93 Camry that he inherited going to college.  163k miles, in excellent shape for an 18 year old car (I'd drive it to work if it was still at home).  I've worked on this car many times so I know it's quirks/issues, but, since it has been parked in Austin for most of the last 5 years, I am not as in tune with any problems.  Anyway, he is trying to seek my advice on how to get it started so he can make it home.  Immediately, dad mode kicks in.  I try to diagnose the symptoms and give him some pointers that I would do if I were there (hard to do via cell phone).  A couple of tricks/tests are of no help.  It's hard to diagnose a problem from 165 miles away, but I try.  Make sure it is fully engaged in park - nope, that doesn't work.  Battery ok - check.  Turn off the transaxle (neutral) safety switch - nope, no help.  All the little tricks I've learned over the years did not seem to help him.  At this point I was resigned to have the car towed in to check it out but told him to check the fuses to see if there were any that might have blown or gotten old/brittle.  This is hard to do via phone and having no visual reference, but he insisted to try it out.  He located the fuse box, scoped out one of the possible circuits and pulled the fuse and checked it out (looked ok).  He reset the fuse and tried to start the car and, shazam, it worked!   He was happy and grateful to have it running and able to drive home.  I was overwhelmed/amazed that this simple "swag" method even worked!   

I felt like I've definitely earned a few extra cool dad points this weekend. 

So, was it wrong to do the happy dance?  The dogs seemed to enjoy. 

And just for those curious minds out there, here's a close up of Blaze....

Always a lady