Wednesday, November 28, 2007

California vacation, Day 2: Monday November 19

As would prove to be a trend, I was the first one awake. So I took my DS to the recliner, and continued writing Sunday's blog. (In fact, as I write this, it is Tuesday morning and I am doing the same, writing Monday's blog.)

Once people started getting up, I found a coffee cup, and made me some hot cocoa. I'm talking Nestle cocoa, holiday-themed marshmallows, and a splash of milk for good measure. Too good. Then I got Jen up and made her some, too. She loved it, everyone who had some did. We left early in the morning yet on time with our plan, to drive near Sonora, CA (4 hours away) to pick up Dan's 5 year old son to spend a day together. It was a long drive, stopping only once to stretch and get coffee or other drinks. We passed the hotel we'd stay at, and about a half hour later we were up in the mountains, picked my nephew up at his other grandparents' place.

We went into town, and started at this lame park, but that wasn't working out, so we moved on to some antique stores. Antique stores used to bore me, but I mind less and less the older I get. I found some Star Trek trading cards; Jen got a sewing book for her mother and some postcards. In another store, I got some coffee.

We got a hotel room for the night, and went to the park. This was a real nice park, too. Palm trees (new to Jen), a memorial to the ends of four major wars, and a huge play area. A local girl of about 4 showed up with her dad, and my nephew about fell in love, wouldn't leave her alone for a minute, nor she him. As usual I got a bunch of pictures.

Dinner was Taco Bell. Out here on the west coast, the chili was discontinued in the 90s, so they didn't have the chili nachos they advertise at home, so I got the current special and a taco. We ate back at the room, and watched TV for a bit. Judge Judy, Law & Order CI, and Law & Order SVU. Lights went out at 9, just before RAW started. And as I said before, once again I was up before anyone, in a comfy chair, writing my vacation memoirs on a PDA modified Nintendo DS.

Monday, November 26, 2007

California vacation, Day 1: Sunday November 18

A quick foreword: I've been on vacation this past week, in Northern California, mostly in my hometown of Santa Rosa, CA but other places as well. This particular post was actually written on my Nintendo DS. If there are any typos, sorry. I'll try to catch some manually, but I don't mess with spellcheck. I started writing it on the plane, I think, but it got written over a 2-3 day period.

Unlike a lot of people, I love to fly. The takeoff which scares many, as well as the landing, I find exhilirating. The change in altitude and pressure does not bother me in the least. I don't even mind turbulence.

I used to associate air travel with sadness. In fact the last time I left Raleigh-Durham International, it was the first time I had to say goodbye to Jennifer; even though it was the first time we told one another out loud that we loved each other, it was also the end to perhaps the best week of my life.

So anyway, my story of the hectic day of the 18th of November 2007 started a few hours before the day itself, on Sarurday. I woke up around 10pm, having slept all day. I'd tried to stay up until 3:30, when Jen would get home from work, but by 2:15 I was pretty dizzy with exhaustion, having been up since Friday around 1pm. (Of course, at this point, times are all Eastern.)

As you might imagine, neither of us had packed. Oh, we had been planning. I made the checklist, got the USB flash drive set up, and was/had burning/ed a bunch of data discs with stuff like our digital photo collection. (3 DVD+R discs for 3.5 years of pictures and video - minus the naughty stuff of course.

So we packed. Boring stuff, you know. I found it interesting that we took an hour long break to watch Law & Order SVU. Mom even called near the end - I told her I'd call her right back... I never do that! Funny thing, these crime dramas. Even though it's about a guy with MPD who rapes 11-year old girls who remind him of his sister, who he watched get gangraped when she was that age. Stuff like that really pisses me off, but hell, I can't look away from a crime drama if I'm watching it.

Jen's sister and her boyfriend get there around 3am. We're both showered, cleaned up and fed, and we were... mostly packed. We got our asses in gear and got stuff done in about 15 minutes. We get about 4 miles away - almost to NC Hwy. 33 - when I realized I'd forgotten the itinirary, which has confirmation codes we later realized we needed as both the airline and the car rental place would have just needed our names and drivers' license. But we went back and got it.

Besides stopping for gas, coffee, and Benadryl (I could not stop sneezing), the trip to RDU was mostly uneventful. We arrived after only asking for directions once (and all three of us, including Jen's sister, went to the bathroom in the mens' room in less time than Jen spent in the ladies' room).

They dropped us off at the Delta terminal and took off. We got our tickets printed there (yay for Yahoo! Travel) and were on our way. Airport security was tighter than ever. We had to take off our shoes in addition to thee usual stuff, and on top of that had to dig tthrough our suitcase and check for explosives (drugs too?) because the X-ray detected ceramics (gifts we had, like a coffee cup). But I don't complain. I arrive 90 minutes to 2 hours early when I fly.

Before we boarded the first flight, to Salt Lake City (SLC), I called my brother-in-law to see how things were going. They were lost! Raleigh is infamous for bad signage and getting folks lost. If RDU weren't the closest international airport by far... but it is. Anyway, they were just getting right when I called.

The long flight was just that. But it was OK. Jen watched the in-flight movie, Transformers (2007). Well, slept through most of it. I just played a whole lotta Castlevania on my DS (Portrait of Ruin and Dawn of Sorrow are two of the DS's best games and I brought both). They served two snacks, the first being a snack pack including raisins, rosemary crackers, a kinnd of garlic cream cheese spread, and a shortbread cookie. We both chose water to drink with both snacks, a cute little Daisani bottle, all of 8.5 ounces. The second snack was these ginger/maple cookies that were just awesome.

The shorter flight however, SLC to SFO, got delayed; apparently they had a faulty generator. So we had to taxi back to the gate while they put another one in. An hour or so later, we took off. I remember a woman behind us hadd this to say about the plane: "First there was the Wright brothers, then there's this plane." At least it was a jet. I've flown in a propeller-driven plane, if you want to talk about "roughing it".

We arrived at SFO late, good thing nobody was waiting for us. We took a few turns,, went up an elevator, across a bridge over the road and up another elevator to a train station, which we took to the car rental place. Long story short we drove off in a fully insured 2008 Nissan Versa hatchback. It's a gutless 4-banger, but it drives nice and I bet it gets good gas mileage.

So we're out, in a new car, in South San Francisco, which is NOT San Francisco, as I found out when 19th Street wasn't the one CA 280 from San Jose becomes - and we were lost. But hey, I was back in California and loving it. I found the Golden Gate Bridge and we were good to go.

In Petaluma (about halfway home), we stopped so I could show Jen where I worked when we first started talking on the phone. I knew they had changed their name, but the building wasn't even theirs now! The shipping company DHL is there now. Well, we continued north.

I cannot put into words what I felt driving through my old hometown. I was only gone 26 months but so much had changed. And yet a lot was the same. It was good to be back but still no longer my home. Mom had gotten two pizzas, and we visited for a couple hours when we decided to go see Dan, my youngest brother. He works as a bouncer at a club downtown. Talked to him for a few, then left for a drive around town.

We got back, blew up the inflatable mattress, and went to sleep.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The latest and last update on the puppies

Well, the last of the puppies - the last of the dogs, as a matter of fact - has just left with her new owner. A brief history:

Jen had a dog before, Mojo, who had contracted mange, possibly from a snake bite, and had to be put to sleep shortly after I moved out here. Then Mojo's mother had another litter, and Jen and I picked out Sammy. A few days later, her mom brought Sammy out, and the stuff to build a pen. We put the pen up, and Sammy had a home outside.

A year or so later, we felt Sammy had outgrown the pen. We bought a chain so she could run around, but still reach her doghouse, though she never used it, even in the rain. (Please don't misunderstand, for some reason she loved the rain.)

In mid-August 2007, our friends, online and off, convinced us that it was wrong to keep Sammy on the chain. We decided that it would be in her best interest to find her a better home, but nobody would take her. We put an ad on Craigslist, a free personals/classifieds site, but nobody there was interested, either.

On September 14, I was crippled by a plantar wart and in bed under doctor's orders, when Jen reported that Sammy was pregnant. That night, we heard howling, and Sammy had given birth to eight puppies. Four of each gender.

We lost one puppy in the first week. All we know is that one got stuck in the fence and might have been hurt. We broke our shovel trying to bury him, so we put him far out in the field.

A friend from work got the first puppy, but had to bring him back the next day, unable to keep him.

We put ads on the Craigslist and Freecycle sites for the puppies, and for one week in the Carolina Bargain Trader. We got a few calls, but once they learned the puppies weren't pure Rottweiler, they lost interest (even though we said in the ads that they were mixed). One guy even came out, drove an hour, saw them, and decided he didn't want any. We updated the Craigslist posting with the urgency that the dogs had to go by mid-November, or we would have to take the remaining dogs to a shelter (we had looked up no-kill shelters on the ASPCA website and said as much).

Within an hour of updating the Craigslist ad, I was contacted by a woman in Raleigh, 2 hours away. She wanted two males - one for her and one for a co-worker. We agreed to meet her halfway, in the town of Wilson. She told us if we had problems getting rid of any of the puppies, to let her know.

We were contacted via email by a lady from the Outer Banks (a few hours away, right on the coast) who wanted one, said she was going to a wedding on Saturday and would be passing through on Sunday, and would like the last male. We said we couldn't promise anything, so she said she has a brother-in-law in Blackjack (about 10 minutes away) who could take one and hold it for her. I told her I'd meet him at the Blackjack Store (where I occasionally shoot pool) any time and give him the puppy.

A few days later, we were contacted by a couple in Kinston, 45 minutes away, who wanted the last remaining male. I gave them directions and they said they'd be on their way and would call us when they got close. A few minutes later I got another call, this time from a couple on the road, who happened to be real close by, wanting the last male. I told them he was being picked up, so they said they'd look at the females.

While waiting for these two couples to come, I heard someone at the front door. I was still getting dressed, so I didn't make it there right away, but got there perhaps a minute or two later. Someone from Animal Control had stuck a note on the door, saying Sammy had bitten a neighbor's dog. I tried to call, but of course they were already closed.

The "closer" couple got here first. I put the male in the pen and let them choose from the four females. They fell in love with one almost immediately and took her. As they were leaving, the Kinston couple called, and couldn't find our driveway! I directed them to where a minivan (the other couple) was leaving. They took the male, and seemed happy with him. That brought us to three females.

On Monday, I called Animal Control right when I got up (early afternoon - hey, I work nights). They said that our neighbor was coming home, had her dog on a leash, and Sammy ran up and bit her dog, and then ran off. I knew the story was fishy and told the guy so. He said regardless we'd have to get a rabies shot for Sammy, and the neighbor wanted $45 for her vet bill, but AC wasn't going to enforce it, simply suggesting if it happened the way she said, we ought to pay it. When I talked to Jen, the truth came out. Sure enough, Sammy had been on her chain the whole time. If there was a bite, it actually happened on our property. What probably happened is her dog got away from her, came back to see the puppies, and got bit. Being a "responsible pet owner", she didn't let the vet know the whole story, who probably suggested we contact Animal Control and try to stick us with the bill. The lady's been avoiding us, even avoiding looking at us, ever since - either she had a conscience attack or realized we weren't fooled.

We contacted the Outer Banks lady to inform her the last male had been adopted, but we had the females. She consulted a vet, and her family, and said that would be acceptable - but still no concrete time to meet her or her brother-in-law.

Monday night, a lady from Jacksonville (about an hour and a half away) called and said she wanted one of the girls. Normally I would go watch Monday Night RAW, but this was more important. She actually didn't get here until about 11:30pm (so I didn't have to miss it, really), fell in love with one, but needed a can of dog food, not being able to go shopping until the morning. We gladly gave her one (being as that we wouldn't need it before long).

The next day, Jen transferred one of her contacts to me, being as he sounded serious. (A few people had contacted her, via Freecycle, but weren't really serious.) I had him meet me Wednesday. He wanted both of the last puppies, but I told him about the Outer Banks lady. She sounded flaky, but something told me she was more serious. I offered him Sammy, since we'd need to find a home for her, too. He warmed right up to Sammy, and left with Sammy and one of the girls.

Yesterday (Thursday) we got an email from the lady in Jacksonville. Her puppy had gotten worms. It was pretty sad, since we had heard great things from most of the other adopters. She wasn't real clear, whether the puppy would live or die. I wish we would have known, but there wouldn't be anything we could do here. We certainly wouldn't be able to afford to take it to the vet for that - she said treating it was/would be costly. But, y'know, a free puppy... You can't expect someone to have fixed it, given it all its shots - else it wouldn't be free. We didn't charge for the extra dog food we were out. You get a free puppy, it gets sick and needs special care, well, you have a choice. You spend the money and get it well, or you don't, and get another free puppy the next week, they're always available. Sad, but that's the world. If more dogs were fixed, there'd be fewer unwanted puppies, and the ones there were would be valued higher... But then the same could be said about humans, though nobody would like to.

Today, the Outer Banks lady hadn't written back (I gave her until today, since the last puppy was real lonely) and she hasn't written back. I can only assume she found a puppy closer, or has lost interest (or might be having computer problems, I guess that's possible). Either way, we couldn't keep the last puppy any longer, so we called the guy who'd taken Sammy and the other puppy, and he just left with her an hour or so ago.

So now all we have left is the pen. Which I plan to take down in the next couple days. And I guess that's that.

We've learned a fair bit from all this. First of all, we learned that we really aren't the best people to have a dog, certainly not one Sammy's size. She wasn't big, but on the bigger side of medium. We didn't have the room for her. We're not allowed to have dogs inside, and we don't have a fenced-in yard. The animal rights people got on us for having her on a chain, but unless you got some good money, you gotta face reality. A dog's got to be on a chain or in a pen, or you can't really have one. So we made the hard choice to not have one.

We also learned it's important to get an animal fixed. Our cat came fixed, that's great. If we'd have gotten Sammy fixed, sure six puppies wouldn't have made people happy - but they could have found other puppies, easily. One wouldn't have made my wife cry (the first one) and one wouldn't cause such heartache for a couple we don't even otherwise know.

We'll get another dog, down the road. We'll buy a home, either a double-wide trailer or a modular home, with some land. We'll have a fence, and then we'll get a dog. We won't take the first one that comes our way, either. We'll think about it, we'll talk it over, we'll shop around. We won't limit ourselves to the freebies, either. We'll probably pay for a dog. We'll probably take it to the vet within a couple days, make sure it has its shots, make sure it's fixed, make sure it's healthy. We'll definitely keep it inside and housebreak it, so it goes out (or gets us to let it out) when it's got to "go". We'll learn from this, and next time we'll do things right.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why do people hold pro wrestling being fake against it?

I don't get it. I'm only a WWE fan as of around this time in 2005, and I love it - for what it is. My favorite shows are the 1990s Star Trek - Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager - and I know Star Trek isn't real. There's no question that the popular TV shows - Seinfeld, Friends, Full House, whatever - aren't real. They're scripted serial stories that their fans watch faithfully every week.

RAW - the one I watch the most and can speak the most about - isn't like most TV shows. Like others, the characters act their roles fairly convincingly, and entertain the audience. While Vince McMahon really is the chairman of WWE, the company, the company exists in the fiction, or kayfabe as it's called in the pro wrestling industry, and Mr. McMahon, the character, doesn't reflect the real Vince McMahon, but is based on him. (A couple wrestlers' books paint the real Vince McMahon as serious, businesslike, professional, and a little quiet.)

And then WWE itself, in real life, is merely an entertainment company. They make money providing entertainment. On the show, though, they're a bona fide wrestling federation with real championships. None of the belts hold any merit whatsoever, but does it matter? I mean, how much would it have mattered if Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ended with the Dominion winning? Not at all, because it's a fictional world.

There's nothing at all real about the outcome of the matches. The polls (Cyber Sunday, the Diva Search, et al) are rigged. However the action is real. It's practised, it's rehearsed, but special effects are very minimal, limited to pyrotechnics, and what you see them doing is mostly authentic. Sure, punches are pulled, and some objects they use as weapons don't hurt as much as they let on (they "sell" the moves, as it were), but the acrobatic stuff (e.g. Jeff Hardy's Swanton Bomb) isn't done with bungee cords, it's real enough.

I think they were really fooling people in the 70s and 80s, but now I think most people who sit down and watch Monday Night RAW pretty much know what's going on. The kayfabe may not be as transparent to them as it is to me, but I'm sure it's not as opaque as the performers pretend it is. They may not know that, after a bloody match, Triple H and Randy Orton share a drink and some laughs by the refreshment table backstage, but they know the outcome is predetermined and the match, rehearsed. Or at least most of them do.

So why do people like me like wrestling? Same reason I like Star Trek. It's not real, but it's sure as hell entertaining.

For more information, click the word Kayfabe above to learn about it, it's a little different than fiction, but the differences are hard to explain.

Monday, November 5, 2007

We almost got scammed in relation to a "dog bite" incident

As you may have read, we have to be rid of our dog and her puppies by the middle of this month for reasons I can't fully go into. Suffice it to say, we are trying to have them adopted by "real people" but if that is not possible, we have someone (who adopted the first two) who said she would take the rest of the puppies if it came to taking them to a shelter. We did look into no-kill shelters run/financed/approved by the ASPCA, so we're not talking about putting them to sleep, we're talking about shelters which will try harder than we know how, to find homes for them.

Anyhow, last Thursday, two other puppies got adopted, taking us from 5 to 3. It was great, because someone had called us from about 2 hours away and were coming up, and while they were on their way, another couple called and said they wanted one as well. So I hear someone on the doorstep, and I'm thinking they're here already, but I didn't hear a vehicle. I'm doing something else, but nobody knocked. When I get to the door, only a minute or so later, there's a piece of paper stuck to the door, from Animal Control. The note says that our dog bit a neighbor's dog, and we need to get a rabies vaccination in 72 hours or they'll issue a warrant. I call, and of course they're closed. I guess they've been shot at or something, so they had to put the notice up real incognito. I guess, anyway.

Next day, Friday of last week. I call and set up our dog to get rabies shots - $12 - at a local veterinary office. I then ask what happened. Wednesday, according to the neighbor, the animal control officer tells me, our neighbor out front was coming home (he didn't say what time, or from what she was coming home from), had her dog on a leash, and our dog came running up, bit her dog in the face, and ran off. And that she isn't pressing charges, but wants us to pay her $45 vet bill to fix her dog up. I ask if that's through them or what, and he says no, animal control just requires the rabies vaccination, the rest is between us.

I talk to Jen about it, and my suspicions are confirmed. Sammy was on the chain when Jen left for work Wednesday. I was home all day (well, I left for work at 9:30pm). When Jen got home (12:30AM Thursday morning), Sammy was still chained. Remember, that on Wednesday we had five puppies in the pen back there.

Here's what happened, from a more logical point of view. The neighbor lady got home, got out of her vehicle, and her dog got away from her. Her dog smelled something new in the air (the puppies). Her dog came around back to take a look. Her dog got close enough and Sammy bit her. This fits because, 1) Sammy was chained the whole time, and 2) you know what happens when a dog gets between another dog and her puppies. People can mess with the puppies all they want, but other animals, it's a different story. And 3) this lady has like 5 dogs, who's to say she has full control over all of them all the time? We have one dog that isn't in a pen, and she was chained all that day. Ergo, she did not leave our backyard.

Here's what's interesting, though. The neighbor says she tried to talk to us. Not so - she's seen my wife come and go a few times. She doesn't see me - I leave late at night and come back early in the morning. Jen says today, on the way to work, her dogs were barking and she came outside, and actually avoided looking at my wife.

What I think happened, is the lady watched her dog get away, maybe approached our place, heard the scuffle, her dog came running back, face bloody, so she took it to the vet. The vet advised her to call animal control, and either the vet or animal control gave her the idea that if her dog had been bitten on her property while her dog was leashed, we would be liable for the vet bill, so that's the story she gave animal control. She must have assumed animal control would convince us to just up and pay her the $45, and when we didn't walk over there, check in hand, she realized they hadn't. Or maybe she came back and looked at Sammy, and saw Sammy was chained, and realized we'd know that the bite took place on our property, with our dog chained, and her dog running free - in which case the liability is hers alone.

It's just messed up, because there's no fence between our properties, and Jen used to cut part of her grass. She would only cut what was just in front of her trailer, where her car parks and dogs run. She wouldn't cut all the way to the electrical box, which is the pre-established "line". She'd leave about 10-15 feet of grass, times the width of the yard (maybe 3-4 times that). Not much, but on top of our own yard it's a lot. And my wife loves to cut our grass - so I let her. And she's cut the neighbor's grass as well. But not anymore. We don't really know this lady. We don't know her name. We aren't social. But Jen figured on doing that small favor, just because. Well, no more. This lady doesn't know us and thought she'd get us to pay $45 that we really don't have because of her own negligence. Hey, accidents happen, and I sympathize with her dog, but it shouldn't have gotten between Sammy and her puppies. And this lady should have controlled her dog better.

Besides, we're not even 100% sure it was Sammy to begin with. Not only was Sammy on her chain the whole time, but assuming the lady was telling the truth about the way things happened, it had to have been another dog. So it's another dog. She takes her dog to the vet, the vet tells her if she knew what dog, she might get the bill reimbursed by the owner. Sammy HAS gotten out before. The neighbor lady knows this. So maybe she just blamed Sammy because she wanted someone else to pay the bill.

Either way, it's not on us, and it'll be a non-issue in a couple weeks when we haven't got Sammy anymore. And no, I'm not really saddened by that... Sure I am, a little, but the fact is we really haven't got the facilities to care for a dog of her size and temperament. We can leave her outside, but that's only OK in the summer. In the winter, she should perhaps be indoors, but we can't keep a dog inside. It's a bad mix anyway, us having a dog in these conditions. If we were allowed to have a dog, we should have a real small one. We have a cat now, we're happy with the cat, she's potty trained, and generally OK. A cat's fine. A Rhodesian Ridgeback/Rottweiler, not so much so.