Thursday, October 31, 2013

Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes bombardment

I started playing the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes when I was laid off from work.  A potential prize of $5000 a week for life was just too tempting to pass up.

I didn't realize that I would get "opportunities" to enter almost every day.

They say you don't have to buy anything to play, or win.  But I wanted to see if buying something would slow down the emails.

It doesn't.

I can see where the constant bombardment would convince people to buy something.  I myself was tempted by a fake candle because I thought I needed one.  But then couldn't remember why.  Fortunately for me, my sister liked it.

It's not that they are trying to influence you to buy expensive things.  We're talking salt and pepper shakers in various shapes, kitchen gadgets. genuine leather purses, jewelry, inspirational tchotchkes, books, CDs, and of course, magazines.

I think it's the frequency of the emails, and the pleas to reconsider not buying, that guilt people into buying something.

Oddly, if you see something you like and want to get it later, I've not found a way to purchase it.

Still, I'm willing to invest the minute or two it takes to enter on the off-chance I can win thousands of dollars a week. For Life.  And I can resist the laying on of the guilt.

You can't win if you don't play.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Agreement unfulfilled - tear strips, zip strips, etc.

There have been so many advances in consumer technology that it can be hard to fathom for those of us over 50.  In  particular, I am talking about tear strips, easy-close zip strips, pop-tops, and foil tops.

So I feel a little ungrateful when I get irritated or annoyed when the improvements fail.

For example - easy tear strips on food or dog treat bags.  Nice, right?  No need for scissors like back in the "good old days".

But I get annoyed when I have to resort to those same scissors because the tear strip didn't work.  I will tear from the opposite side and struggle to pull the two edges apart before I walk the 2 feet to get the scissors.

I've had an entire batch of dog treat bags fail to tear open.  I seriously considered changing brands.  But the dogs love these treats.

Ditto, the easy-close zip strips on bags.  It's nice to not have to put the lunch meat or the cheese slices in a separate package after opening.  But sometimes the act of opening the bag destroys the zip strip.  Or the zip strip is so cheaply made that it takes a magician to get it closed correctly.

Then the damaged package has to be taped, or clipped, or the contents have to be moved to a separate package.  Just like before the inclusion of the sip strip.  So why is it more irritating?

Because it's an agreement unfulfilled, a contract broken.

Pop-tops where the ring breaks before the lid is removed.  Foil tops that are sealed so tightly that I have to open the container with a knife.  Some of these products are much more difficult to open when the easy open method fails.

I buy your product and you promise an easy open or easy close method - or both.  When these don't work, I feel dissed.  I feel like a whiny kid,  "But you prroommmisssed".  I stop short of stamping my feet, but just barely.

I tell myself that I should be grateful for the times these technologies make my life easier.

But I am still annoyed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maybe I don't understand DNA?

I should stop paying for DNA tests.

Back in 2008, I wanted to know what kind of dog my beautiful Peanut was.

I forked over $188 to Wisdom Panel because they claimed they could identify 157 breeds of dogs. That was about the number of breeds the AKC recognized so it seemed all my bases would be covered.


I got back a report that stated Peanut had a trace of Chow and a trace of Giant Schnauzer.  Um, okay.  I had already guessed the Chow from the black spot on her tongue and her thick fur.  What about the other 90% of her?

No clue.

I should have been wary when pitched a DNA test.  But technology has progressed the past 5 years.  And their commercials showed someone getting back results for specific countries.  I particularly remember Ireland and Scotland being shown.

So I bought a kit, drooled saliva into a tube, and sent it off to the lab.  I will say, I was impressed with the kit.  Very easy to understand and kind of geeky cool.

But the results that came back were disappointing - 61% British Isles, 37% Central European, 2% unknown.

Regions, not countries.

Central Europe doesn't include Italy on their map, so that was kind of useful.  My Dad always claimed we were part Sicilian.   And no one ever mentioned Central Europe in our mongrel pedigree.

Ancestry suggested a third cousin based on some shared ancestors. That one panned out.  However, I checked a few of the 4th cousin suggestions and the only commonality was the surname Smith.  Not a particularly good criteria for matching when Smith is the most common surname in the US.

I checked back today on and saw there are little pins where a handful of my ancestors were born in the British Isles. A couple pins are in Ireland.  That's news to me.  Every St. Patrick's Day, both parents insisted we were not Irish.

So there are some specifics on countries in the British Isles - England, Scotland, Ireland.  Most of that seemed to be based on the birthplaces from my tree though.  A geographical representation of my tree would have saved me the $99 I spent on the DNA test.

Ancestry says they will continue to update my results as they get more data in from other people.  Not sure how that works, but I guess it's a good thing.

Still, despite some new information, I'm leaning heavily on the disappointed side.

Peanut - my late chow - schnauzer - unknown sweetheart

Updated -
I just got one of the promised updates from  And I'm pretty impressed.  This time they did have some actual countries.  It showed 28% of my ethnicity is Irish.  59% Great Britain, and 8% Scandinavian.  The latter is new to me.  And pretty darn cool.

Maybe DNA tests aren't so bad after all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bogie's Fourth Training Session

I probably won't bore you with every training session (probably).  But last night's session was so encouraging that I had to share.

Shawn had me demonstrate what Bogie had learned.  Bogie made me so proud and did the Down move without any coercion, 4 or 5 times.  Shawn was impressed.

I was thrilled that Shawn complimented me on my ability to focus on my dog.  Apparently, that is not something everyone gets right away.

However, he did point out that I need to say Break, and then move.  What I have been doing, and what most people do at first, is say Break as I move.  Then the marker to end the behavior becomes the movement and not the word.  Not good if you want your dog to maintain position while you are doing something else.

It's surprisingly difficult for me to not move and say Break.  I've even caught myself doing the "fireworks" hand gesture as I say Break.

We discussed the fact that I continue to train with Angel nearby.  I explained that Bogie was even more distracted when I separated them.  Since Bogie is picking up the behaviors, Shawn agreed this was okay.

Now I don't have to feel guilty about not following directions.

Shawn went over Heel again.  Or as we are going to call it Fuß (foos).   The first step is for the dog to Sit at your left side.  Shawn did the first step with Bogie, who got the behavior right away.

I'm a little overwhelmed at the volume of homework - separate sessions on Down, Sit, and the first stage of Heel. Finding separate blocks of time where Bogie hasn't just eaten, isn't too tired, and wants to pay attention can be a challenge.

But we are making so much progress that I am determined to find the time.

Top Dog Training

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Allergy meds are messing with my dreams

My allergies have been quite bad the past couple days.  I've upped my dosages of allergy medications.  

Which seems to have turned my dreams into a surrealistic movie.

World War II, but with modern technology.  Military captain rescues Shirley Temple, blond curls, perky smile, and all.  Takes her on a jet that is flying a mission over the US.  The jet gets shot down. 

We cut to a scene in a control center where there is a infrared-like display. It shows pieces of the jet falling towards buildings in a big city. It also shows Shirley and someone else falling from the plane.  Shirley is holding a saxophone.  (?!)  

Shirley lands face down in the grassy front yard of a home.  (No saxophone.) Mother and grandmother are watching 4 kids, with 1940s clothes and haircuts, play in the front yard.  (Wasn’t there just an aerial dogfight overhead?) 

The mother goes inside to call authorities.  Grandmother says “Don’t touch it!”.  Kids sidle past to get on porch with Grandmother. 

Shirley comes to, completely unharmed.  Gets up, sits on the porch steps and talks about “Have you been to the zoo?  I’ve been to the zoo.  We should go to the zoo.” 

Meanwhile, the kids are edging away from her trying to get to the door to the house. Grandmother keeps saying “Don’t touch it!”. 

I've read that dreams are the brains attempt to process new information.  I have no idea where any of this came from.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bogie's third training session

There is a stage when you are creating a stained glass project where it looks horrible, and you think it will always look horrible.

Bogie's training was at that stage before our third session.

This third session was closer to what I expected when I enrolled.  Shawn trained Bogie and I observed so we could practice at home.  

At first Bogie was confused.  The hand gesture for Down is similar to the one I had used for Shake.  But with some pressure on his collar - and Shawn's weight on his back, Shawn got Bogie to do his first Down.  Enthusiastic praise marked the accomplishment.

Shawn worked with him probably 3 sessions in total.  Not only did Bogie Down, but he had fun doing it. Shawn's assistant, Corey, did a handful of Downs with Bogie as well.  Apparently, when more people participate in the training, the behavior is more strongly reinforced . 

I'm still unsure why we don't use the verbal command until the behavior sticks.  I have to resist saying Down.  I'm just thrilled we got the behavior.  Shawn believes the training will be easier from this point forward. 

Bogie was exhausted and slept most of the way home.  Once there I made myself a sandwich and split a slice of turkey between the two dogs, as I always do.  

Without thinking, I did Sit, then Shake.  As I said, the hand motion for Shake is similar to Down.  Bogie looked at me.  I could see the confusion.  Then he offered his paw.

I was devastated, furious with myself that I could ruin a successful training session by being so careless. 

In fact, I lay awake part of the night worrying about it.  

In the morning, I had barely gotten out of bed, when I tested Bogie on Down  - even without treats.  I tried to make it seem like play and got him to do the Down.  Hurray!  I made a big deal out of it and petted him a bunch.  Then Angel, because she deserves attention, too.

We did several, very short sessions that day.  And Bogie easily did the Down when I put pressure on his collar.  In his mind, that seems to be the key difference between the Down and Shake.  But I have resolved to do no more Shake until Bogie is thoroughly trained.

Last night I dreamt that Bogie escaped.  When I called Here, he came right back to me.

I plan to make that a reality.

Top Dog Boarding and Training.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bogie's second training session

Bogie's first training session went pretty well.  First

Our second session was mostly verbal.  A critique of my command technique as we demonstrated our progress on Sit.  Shawn did a little work with Bogie to reinforce the command.

Then Shawn explained the 5 stages of Heel.  That was a problem.

I had already taught Bogie my concept of Heel.  And even I am aware that it isn't the right kind of Heel.  It's mostly "walk slower because I am going to keep you on a tight leash".

Shawn's suggestion was to use a different language for the commands.  I picked German because I suspect the Rottweiler up the street was trained in German and I want to be able to talk to him if he gets loose again.  Fortunately, he responded well to hand gestures last time.

So Sit becomes Sitz (seats) and Heel becomes Fuß (foos).  I tried to look up Klingon commands but even when I found words that came close, they didn't have a pronunciation guide.

The first priority was to get Bogie to Sitz every time he is asked.  And that is what we practiced after our second session.

I was having a hard time not moving my hand, or my body, when I said Break.  The dog needs to respond to the words not the hand gesture.

I also couldn't find a decent place away from Angel to do the training.  Shawn recommended that Angel not be present so Bogie would stay focused.

Bogie is the only one that follows me into the garage, so I tried that.  Worked at first.  In fact, that Saturday we did two short sessions of Sitz very successfully.  But on Sunday, he just stood there and looked at me.  When he finally did Sit, he did a Sit and Slide.  That's my term for a Sit that fluidly degenerates into a lay, one vertebrae at a time.

After a couple days, I realized that Bogie's biggest love is playing fetch with his Tribble toy.  He captured it fair and square off the shelf and it has become his favorite possession.

With it as motivation, I was able to get Bogie to Sitz before I would throw the Tribble for him.  However, we didn't come close to the ten times in a row Shawn requested.  We made no progress on Fuß. And we were training with Angel in the room. 

I went to the third session convinced I had flunked every test as a pet trainer.

Top Dog Boarding and Training.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Angel and the upstairs window

Sounds like the title of a Nancy Drew novel.

I have a two story house of the style often called a snout house.  As in, the garage is forward of the rest of the house like the snout of a pig laying down.  

The second story, front bedroom window - better known as the dog's lookout - is where the dogs go to keep an eye on the street. This bedroom is over part of the garage.  The garage roof extends a few feet past the exterior bedroom wall.  

Angel likes to paw at the windows when a dog passes by.  When I am home, I like to have the glass window open to let the breeze through.  Angel clawed the delicate sun screen and tore it.  So I put an inside layer of heavy duty screen in it.  This was meant to discourage clawing as well as protect the exterior screen. 

When I am not home, the glass windows is kept closed.  


I got home from work earlier this week, pulled into the driveway, and saw the bedroom screen was partially popped out of its frame. 

I had forgotten to close the window. 

Angel either clawed at it or leaned on it while barking and growling at a passing dog.  I'm extremely lucky she didn't go tumbling down the garage roof onto the driveway pavement.

When I got into the house, Angel acted guilty as hell, but she was unharmed.  

Not even a broken toenail. 

This video is from a different day when the window was closed. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lee and Morty Kaufmann for Swiffer

I love those Swiffer commercials with Lee and Morty Kaufman.  I was even more thrilled to discover they are a real, married couple. Huffington Post

What makes them so appealing?  For me, it's the fact that they love each other and genuinely enjoy each other's company.

My parents had a volatile relationship involving a lot of anger and yelling.  Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and the like, made me think my family was abnormal, shameful.

Maybe it was.  I would like to think so.

But I grew up with friends whose families were just as dysfunctional.  I truly don't know which kind of family is more prevalent.  Maybe there really are lots more families who don't scream hateful words at each other.

I had a glorious view of one such family when I married my second husband.  I adored his father and mother and the way they treated each other with respect.  Their very large, very frequent family gatherings generated less drama than a single gathering of my immediate family.

So I feel good - and a little envious- when I see a couple like Lee and Morty who have been together for decades and still love and respect each other.

It's like a fairy tale.  And they lived happily ever after.