Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten Thousand Reps

Thinking of the things I have done, repeated, ten thousand times. OK, "twelve-ounce curls," saying the wrong thing, getting into the longest line, maybe.

But this morning I concluded that I had walked the golden retriever, Baron, something like ten thousand times. He celebrated his tenth birthday a few days ago (with a can of tuna, of course) and it occurred to me that his life at that time was 3,650 days long...sort of a math wizard, eh?

Seems that dogs, like humans, have quirks and this dog has more than a few. One is that he is highly reluctant, almost totally unwilling, to poop in his own yard. Don't know how this got started or why. We are grateful that he is so highly house-trained, but it gives him a legitimate excuse to beg for a walk, which he does with convincing sincerity and quite a bit of success. And, as Jerry says, I always pick up after him when somebody is looking. There is the walk at 0600 which is understandable, there is the walk last thing in the evening which is a good precaution, and there is at least one, often more walks during the day. Add 'em up, that is probably more than ten thousand.

This dog has been with people nearly 24/7 since he was eight weeks old. We took him to work every day except for a period of about a year when we couldn't and he would have to settle for a neighbor taking him at noon. But then there was the "coming home walk" and the "evening walk" to go along with the "rise and shine walk." He traveled with us for 5,000 miles on a swing through the western half of the US, caught kennel cough in San Francisco which is about the only serious ailment he has had. Never neutered, so he doesn't have a weight problem and, in fact, is sort of skinny but well-muscled. We drove back and forth from Portland to KC because we were unwilling to dope him up and crate him for flight.

I should take the time to write some observations and stories about this dog because he chose us at a time when all the kids were either out of the house or about to leave. His pack mates are the two youngest boys, who he greets with absolute crazy exuberance when they visit even though he seems to pity their pinky skin without fur, their stunted nose skills and inability to run very fast.

A neighbor in Kansas City once mentioned that they often watched us walk and thought that the dog "read my thoughts." Although I use a leash, it really isn't needed; just the law, and if there are other dogs in the area, they often are not very well-trained. Rain or snow, the cold suits him best, he could do without the really hot days. We often marveled at his athleticism when he was in his prime, and everyone remarks about the size of his paws.

This seems to be one of his first lifetimes as a dog--he doesn't have some of the ordinary skills one would expect, like being able to remove a sandbur from his paw. At age ten, he is probably pretty similar in age to me at age 68, his face is getting really grey and it will only take three years for him to be in his "'90's." We make quite a pair these days as we walk, each of us limping a bit, a lot slower than the days when I would throw the baseball over and over on the playground.

We read a lot, but are reluctant to read books about dogs because we know how they will end. We know how this chapter of our lives will end, too, and it will be with gratitude for a life well-lived and service well-provided. Let's just keep him for a few more walks.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Got my social security statement today.

Seems that my social security was raised 1.5% due to inflation.

However, the Medicare and Part D premiums that are taken out increased 10.2%.

Wonder why inflation is so much lower? I haven't seen things decreasing in price when I buy stuff. Must be just me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Special Words

I just read this group of sentences:

"GRID enables the streaming of very "heavy" software programs to various machines. That means a design house can stream "SolidWorks" to all of the designers' computing devices, which can prevent the need for the company to purchase many expensive end devices. All of the heavy computations are done in the cloud and the image is streamed over the cloud to the device."

While I don't pretend to understand it very well today, had you shown this quotation to any of us a few years ago, it would have been gibberish. These sentences are made up of English words that have special meanings, special meanings that are beyond my ken. There are several of these special words in each sentence, and they make up the bulk of the meaning conveyed--what do I know about "GRID," "streaming," "heavy software," SolidWorks," and "done in the cloud?" How about "streamed over the cloud?"

The changes in the personal computing world go far beyond the decline in the PC market, the crash of Blackberry (five years ago, market cap of $83 billion, today--$3 billion), the migration of personal picture-taking from cameras to phones and a variety of other changes.

It is happening fast. The impact of social media on our lives, and particularly the lives of our youngsters, will be seen down the road...and it won't be that far.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Backyard

Very cool morning in Virginia Beach, about 26 degrees, absolutely no clouds nor wind. This is our first autumn in this location, so quite a treat to see the autumn/winter patterns.

I looked out of the big windows this morning and there were the usual occupants on the lake, a few mallards, several cormorants, a few sea gulls trying to steal the fish caught by the cormorants, a snowy egret, a great blue heron that seems to be here in all seasons and something new in the last few days--hooded merganser ducks.

There were 6 males and 2 female hooded mergansers, and although their range is pretty broad, it is my first sighting of these magnificent little ducks.

The bluebirds appear to be gone for the season, but they were such a treat during the warmer months. There seems to be quite a varied bird population in this area, having seen a great horned owl, ospreys and others.

There is apparently quite a bit going on in and under the water, too, as we have seen the common water snake (not my favorite) and the big snapping turtle that I flushed while mowing up to the shore. Certainly not expecting something that big to move that fast...and that close to me.

Although Friday the 13th, let's all have a terrific day.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Doug and the repo

I was amused the first time I heard this, and over the many intervening years, the thought of it has given me further chuckles.

Doug came to the bank as a college guy, long hair, somewhat "hippie," but after all, it was the time. Soon he took on the look of the rest of the folks at the workplace, moved up the corporate ladder and did very well. In the middle, though, he took on one of the jobs that was not sought after--repo man. Subsequently, the bank quit making loans that required this kind of activity.

As the low man on the totem pole whose job it was to contact customers who were delinquent in their car payments, he had an unpleasant job (all of the time) and dangerous (some of the time). Guns were drawn, and those times were not amusing at all. But the late winter episode in rural South Dakota is the one that sticks in my mind.

This was one that was very delinquent. They had been unable to ascertain the location of the customer or the car, and winter had delayed a lot of leg work. Finally, they had a location in rural South Dakota which was not far from the city in those days, and still is not far even today. A pair of repo men drove out there only to find that the long driveway was still drifted shut despite the more mild weather of on-coming spring. Doug thought it was probably fruitless, but necessary to do the job right, so he shrugged on his long London Fog, decided the wingtips could suffer, determined that a path through the adjacent pasture would be better than slogging through the deep snow in the driveway and away he went. The barbed wire fence is familiar to all of us in that part of the world, and easily negotiated, so he trudged away across the pasture and left his partner smoking and relaxing in the snug confines of the car.

Nearly to the trailer house, about to climb through the next fence, he discovered that he had neglected to identify the occupant of the pasture--a bull. With horns. And it appeared to be distraught over his violation of his territory. You are not supposed to run, but the fence was close, so he ran and rather than offering a target for the bull by climbing through, he climbed on top of the fence, about to jump over when out from under the trailer emerged two big dogs.

And they seemed to be upset, too. Perched on top of the fence with threats ahead and behind, the "lady" of the home emerged with a child on her hip and another clenched to her leg. "What do you want," she said, but not as politely.

He glanced at the shed where a shell of a car with chickens inside looked like the one they were supposed to repo. "Ma'am, you're not going to believe this, but I want your car." She said, "Take it, and if you find my husband, take him too," again, not said quite so politely.

From his position of power and authority, Doug offered an "executive decision,"-- "If you call your dogs off, I'll leave you alone." Seemed as though the snow-covered driveway offered the best path back to the car, his partner and a good warm office.

I have never been to that exact location, but I see it clearly in my mind's eye. The late-winter snow, the whole vision of Doug perched on the fence, the weary mom and the dilapidated trailer are vivid in my imagination as are the words, "Ma'am, you're not going to believe this, I want your car."

My guess is that Doug finds his job a bit better than those days in rural South Dakota.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Matt and Jenny are traveling today, back from what Jenny called a "baby-moon," the last trip before baby comes in March. Yep, Jenny, life changes after little ones, but you guys, given your age and ability to generate income, may not be in the same boat as a lot of us old-timers when we had kids...and no money.

Matt used the term "savages" to describe his fellow travelers. That is really an apt expression for some of the nasty people who use the air transportation system. It used to be that people dressed up for air travel, and it was an event to be savored and cherished with a bit of class. Now, I have met a good number of "upper class" people who behaved poorly, so I'm sure there was some of that, but the level of behavior has declined all around to something surly.

For many years, as the scene changed, I expected someone to get on the plane with a crate of chickens and a goat. Instead, they get on with dour (at best) or violent (at worst) dispositions--savages says it best.

Because it is such an uncomfortable few hours, I tend to dress in a way that I can survive in waiting areas and small seats, but from now on, I vow to try to behave in a manner that is considerate and as pleasant as I can muster.