Friday, December 19, 2014

The Visa fraud check criteria needs to be tweaked.

Honestly, I'm glad Visa keeps an eye on purchases in case of fraud.  I do watch my accounts very closely.  In fact, early last year I discovered that I had been hijacked before Visa even noticed.

But not everyone is vigilant.  And I imagine that the holidays are a busy time for fraud. 

Still, I think that the algorithms that are used to detect fraud need to be fine-tuned.  Isn't the process supposed to detect purchases that are out of the ordinary for the particular user? 

Did I get a call when I bought a $150 gift card for massages?  No. 

Did I get a call when I spent $900 on a new mattress? No. 

I got a call when I donated on-line to charity. 

Seriously.  How many people steal a credit card to make donations to pet charities?

Not only that, but these are the same charities I donated to last year, and throughout the year.   And the year before. 

I wouldn't be annoyed if the mattress had triggered the call.  How often do I buy mattresses?  

Calling me based on a purchase I make 2 or 3 times a year seems flawed. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bogie lit up Thanksgiving

I had a nice Thanksgiving.  Since there are only 4 of us - me, Mom, my sister and her boyfriend, we decided to take the lazy way out for Thanksgiving dinner.

Black Angus was open and had a wonderful smelling turkey dinner.  But I had steak.  A sublime filet mignon.  I mean, how can you go to a steak house and not have steak?   Besides, I have turkey often.  Steak, rarely.

Afterwards, Bogie and I went over to the hospital.  I figured anyone staying or working in the hospital on Thanksgiving could use a little cheering up.

Bogie wore a Christmas tie and was very popular.  Seven or eight people took pictures of him.  One nurse gave him a piece of turkey.

A nice day.  A day to be thankful for.  One of many days to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This was really weird

Bogie and I were out walking the other afternoon.  It was a lovely day and I decided to walk farther and in a different direction. 
We walked along the main street by our subdivision.  There is a landscaped community area along the sidewalk that varies in width from 3 to 10 feet, artfully planted with bushes and trees. 

As we turned the corner, clear down at the other end of the long block, I saw a blue shirt.  I try to be aware of other people walking so I can pull Bogie off to the side and let them pass.  
He's very friendly, but not everyone wants to meet a 125-pound Great Dane.  Doubly so if they are walking a dog of their own. 
Then the shirt disappeared.  I shrugged and figured it was a kid playing in the landscaping.  Either he was closer to the end of the block wall than I realized or he hopped the wall.  
As we get to the middle of the block, I hear barking from behind a big bush that is next to a large tree. 
I think, "Oh, dear. Loose dog."  
I am getting a better grip on Bogie's leash, when I look up.  
It wasn't a dog. 
A bandanna-wearing, stringy-gray-haired, sunglasses-wearing man was grinning at us from behind the bush. 
Bogie looked at him.  Bogie looked at me.  We turned away and resumed walking. 
Apparently, the man had skulked along the wall, hidden by he landscaping until he found a hiding place. He looked like a homeless person, except he wasn't carrying any belongings.  
I kept looking over my shoulder to see where he went, but I never saw him leave his hiding place.  
Still, when we came back, there was no one anywhere along the block. 
Very odd. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's hard to understand other people's relationships

I got a call recently from a friend who was totally ticked off.  She went out to dinner with her live-in boyfriend and friends of his from out of state.

During the entire meal, he kept tapping her with his foot under the table because he didn't like what she was talking about.

This is after he told her exactly what to wear and how to look for his friends.

She claims she will never go out in public with him again. And she still loves him.


How can you love someone that belittles who you are and thinks that you are not good enough for his friends?

Okay, maybe I understand loving him.  I don't understand staying with him.  She deserves better.

I have another, former, friend who quit her job for very justifiable reasons.  Her husband decided that if she could quit, so could he.  Um, he wasn't the one being tortured by a micro-manager.  She got another job within 5 months.

The last time I talked to her, he still wasn't working after 5 years.  This is why she's a former friend.  She was too embarrassed to talk to me any longer.

If she had been happy with the situation, I would have said, Whatever happens between you two is your business.  But she was miserable and talking about getting her reward in the afterlife.

She won't leave him because she loves him.

When did love become the excuse to accept whatever bad behavior people wanted to foist on us?

If our significant others actually loved us, wouldn't they treat us better?

Don't we all deserve to be treated better?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maybe I don't want to retire

I just turned 60.  Since I turned 55, internet ads, spam, and snail mail have been full of tips about how to retire.  And I had generally expected that one day I would be able to retire.  Not for a while, but eventually.

I didn't consider whether I actually wanted to retire.  When Joan Rivers died, lots of attention was given to the fact that at 81 she was as busy as ever.  She had no desire to retire when she was already doing what she loved.

Retirement started out as a way to get old employees who could no longer handle the physical labor to get out of the way of new and younger employees.

Well, I work with my mind.  As long as I can think and can type, I'm good.   And when I started with the company, they had a 78-year-old developer.  Obviously, the company isn't averse to older employees.

I sat down to consider what I would gain if I retired?  What do I want to do when I retire?

Read?  I do that now.  I could read more, but I already read a book a week.

Travel?  I could do that now.  I don't because I don't like to leave my fur babies behind.  So logically, travel isn't that important to me.

Sleep in?  I can set my own hours now.  I don't sleep in because I don't like the later morning traffic.

Volunteer?  Sure, I could do more, but Bogie and I volunteer now.

So far, there isn't an overriding reason to retire.

What would I lose if I retired?  Well, income, of course.  But more importantly, the interaction with people and the challenges that keep my mind sharp.  I look forward to my weekends because they are different than my weekdays.

For now, I think my focus isn't going to be on retirement.  It's going to be on enjoying my job for as long as I can.

Update -
Apparently I'm not the only one not hurrying to retirement.  Washington Post

Saturday, September 13, 2014

inadequate career counseling.

I like my job.  I'm a software engineer.  I've been either in development or quality assurance for the past 15 years.  I keep going from one to the other.  Right now I'm in QA, but mostly writing code.

It's a good fit for me.  It's creative, challenging, educational, and satisfying.

I stumbled into this line of work.

Computer engineer was not a path suggested to me in high school career counseling.  The idea that computers would be a viable career hadn't been accepted yet. And would probably not have been recommended to a girl, anyway.

But there were a lot of other things that weren't offered to me in career counseling.

I didn't know that Linguistics was a profession.  That might have been cool. I did well in Spanish class.  But I didn't even know the job existed.

I didn't know that I could have become an archaeologist, a museum curator, a genealogist. Maybe I could have been a private investigator, or a spy for the CIA. (No, too nervous.) 

Writer was suggested, since my Dad was a writer.  But I knew I didn't want to be a free-lance writer.
The pay was sporadic at best.  I knew I couldn't live like that.

The only jobs my school counselor suggested were doctor, lawyer, or teacher.  Things might have been different if I had been aware of all the options there were.

I don't know if she saw no potential in me, or if she lacked imagination.  Did living in the middle of Iowa corn country seem to limit my options?  We're talking 1972, so maybe she thought my true calling was simply wife and mother?

That said, I haven't suffered from the oversight.  I've had an interesting life with a variety of jobs and it has brought me here to a happy place.

Still, there is a little bit of me that says, What if I had known about that?  Where would I be now?  Would I be just as happy?

Why didn't someone tell me?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don't play chicken with a Great Dane

This morning on our walk, when Bogie and I were passing under a street lamp, a large moth fluttered by and attracted his attention.

Rather than leave, or fly higher, the moth fluttered around, in front of Bogie, behind him, between his legs. Bogie kept twisting, whirling, turning and snapping until finally he caught the moth.

And ate it. 

They turn to dust if you squash them. I can’t imagine that it tasted very good.

But he was quite pleased with himself.

And I was very entertained for a few minutes. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why make hateful comments.

I've been surprisingly bummed about Robin Williams' death.  I didn't know him at all, but it felt like I lost a friend.  Everything I've read says that he was a thoughtful, kind person.  

If he had only realized how much he was loved, maybe he would still be with us.  

I don't understand how people can take a tragedy like this and make snide, hurtful comments.  To imply that suicide is cowardice only shows that the speaker has no knowledge of the depths that despair can reach.  

And for Robin's daughter to have to swear off social media because of hurtful remarks is just sad. Pathetic, even.  

Have people always been hurtful, just not as publicly?  Or has the internet unleashed some new level of incivility in parts of humankind.  

Do people forget, or ignore, the old lesson "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? 

Would these same people walk up and say hateful things to a person's face?  


If it can't be said to a person's face, it shouldn't be written on a person's account or about them.  


Robin was known for his kindness.  

Kindness should be his legacy.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Doggy cam overkill

I bought my first pair of doggy cams back in November, 2012.  I wanted to keep an eye on the dogs while I was at work.  I especially wanted to see who was making trouble.  

Well, really I knew it was Bogie.  I just wondered if Angel participated. (Usually not). 

I got two cameras because they were discounted as a pair.  And I couldn't decide where to put only one camera. So I got one for the kitchen and one for outside. 

I got some interesting footage out of the process.  And I liked seeing my dogs.  Well, sometimes they looked sad and lonely, but I still liked seeing they were okay. 

However, half of the destruction in my house was happening off camera.  Again, not sure enough who the culprit was to accuse either of the dogs. 

So I added two more cameras in January, 2013.  Downstairs and up.   

And that satisfied me for a long time.  Well, it helped that I got laid off and used my severance to take 5 months off last year.  And the first job I got after that, I was able to work from home half the time. 

In November, I went back to work at my original company.  And I took comfort in being able to check on the dogs via the doggy cams. 

Only ... half the time I couldn't see the dogs.  I knew they were okay.  I had dogs for decades before I had cameras to keep an eye on them.  

But what if they weren't?  I wouldn't know until I got home that one of them was hurt.  Or missing. 

So today I added two more doggy cams.  One to cover the room where they like to sleep the most.  (But has the least action.)  

And another for outside, so I can see how many times they go to bark at the neighbor's dog. 

Six cameras to keep track of two dogs that sleep most of the day might be excessive. 

I'm beginning to think I have a problem. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I built a new computer

My computer was eight years old, still using USB 1.0, slow processor, slow memory, and running out of ports.  I could have upgraded but I would still have an old computer.

So I built a new computer last month.

When I mentioned it on Facebook, a couple people thought I was so brave to tackle it.

But it's not a big deal anymore.  It's practically Plug n' Play.

I started with Life Hacker which led me to PC Part Picker.  They help make sure you don't buy incompatible parts. And they look for the best prices for the components.

Checked with the computer guru that every office has to make sure I didn't need anything else. He suggested a couple of alternatives.  Then I ordered all my parts.

The motherboard comes with a handy dandy book that shows you how to connect everything.  And there are several web sites that will explain the process step by step.

The two worst problems I had?  Well, the CPU doesn't come with heat sink putty, which is required.  So I had to run to Radio Shack to get a tiny tube.

And every connection was silk-screened with what it was, but some print was so tiny I needed TWO pairs of reading glasses to read what it was.

I followed the directions, installed all the components, connected all the cables, plugged it in and installed the operating system.

Cost $1000.  It has a Gigabyte motherboard, 3.4 GHz Intel Quad-Core CPU, 8G RAM, and a solid state drive for the programs drive.

It's noticeably faster than the old computer.

Which croaked two weeks later.

Now that was perfect timing!

All the components, in my glass studio

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yes, I have a sweet tooth

I admit it.  I have a sweet tooth.  I try to be good about it.  Well, I sort of try.

But then Bob bought me a cupcake from The Sugared Cakery.  It's a food truck that visits our office complex once a week.

Bob likes to bring in treats.  Only I have migraine food triggers and can't have nuts or chocolate.

One day he felt sorry for me and brought me a Banana Foster cupcake.

It looked like a flower.  The cupcake wrapper even looked like petals.

And it was delicious.

So the next time the truck was at our location, I took two co-workers and went down and got another cupcake.  Strawberry Champagne.  Also, delicious.

Yesterday I tried the Key Lime.  Ahhh.  Sublime.

A nice young couple runs the truck.  Yesterday Joel asked them if they had any butterscotch cupcakes. They said no, but they could have one by next week.

That's why I like dealing with small business owners.   They listen.

And that's why Wednesday has become my favorite work day.

Salted caramel

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Phoenix in The Smithsonian - and in the summer

Not sure how gratifying it is to have Phoenix as a site to study the effects of heat on civilization.

The May issue of The Smithsonian magazine featured an article called "Hot Enough For You?".

One item mentioned a study to see how long it takes for the second driver at a light to honk when the light turns green and the first driver doesn't move.  The study showed that when the temperature was 108 drivers were more likely to honk or get angry than if it's 84 degrees.

Well, duh.

The air conditioner on my little four-cylinder engine doesn't cool if I'm not moving.  So yeah, people get more agitated.

Studies predict that summer temperatures in Phoenix in the second half of the century will regular hit 130 degrees.


Still, it generally makes it to 115 degrees at least a couple days in the summer.  Will 15 more degrees make that much difference?  You learn to adapt.  Just as people adapt to climates where the temperature plummets to -30 or -40.

And basically with the same adaptation.  Stay inside.

If you have to go outside, do it early in the morning before the sun has a chance to heat up the concrete, or late in the evening after the sun starts its descent.

Good parking spots are hard to come by.  I'm lucky to have underground parking at my office.  Shady and cooler.  The next step is covered parking, but that all depends on the time of day and the direction the parking spot faces.  After that people look for the meager shade from a tree planted in a parking lot.

The worst is a spot in the open.  If you have to park in the sun for even an hour, you dare not touch the seat belt buckle with your bare hands.  Seriously.  You can get burned.

Don't leave anything in the car that isn't heat tolerant.  I've known people who have had candles melt or soda pop explode because of the heat.  And if you are buying ice cream, either bring a cooler or hope that it isn't more than 10 minutes to home.

Mostly we think, it's 110 degrees out.  Do I really need to go shopping?  Do I really want to go out into this heat.

Generally the answer is No, no I don't.

Your perspective changes.  We applaud when it is "only" going to be 100 degrees for the day.   The weather reports a cooling trend from 108 to 103 degrees.  And we are grateful for the five degree decrease.

Will the future be people isolated in their homes, connecting only via social media?  Maybe.  But I'm hoping someone comes up with an underground infrastructure where people can work, live, and travel underground, away from the searing rays of the sun.

At least, that's the way I'd write it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Volunteering is a long process

When Bogie was taking obedience lessons, the trainer suggested that he would make a good Pet Therapy dog, visiting people in hospitals or nursing homes.

I didn't think much about it until my mom was in surgery in May.  As we waited for her to come out of surgery, a volunteer came around with a Golden Retriever.  It was impressive to see how much the people perked up when the dog came by.  Myself included.

So I decided that Bogie and I should do that together.

The first step was to get Bogie and I certified as pet and handler.  I thought the Canine Good Citizen made us a shoo-in.


Certification required three visits to the hospital visiting staff, patients and their family.  We walked 3 floors of one hospital, then 3 at the medical center next door.  We had to learn to pass in front of the nurse's station first, so they were aware we were on the floor.

We had to watch for patients that might be interested in a visit.  We had to watch out for room labeled with allergies or no contact warnings.  We had to keep mental track of how many people we visited, per building.

I kept track of people, as best I could, mentally.  There is a clicker counter that one can carry.  But the requirement that I keep two hands on Bogie's leash plus carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to offer people, left me no free hand for the clicker.

So Bogie was certified.  I got his official certificate and figured we were all set.

Not even close.

This week I attended a three hour orientation that was more intense than any job orientation I've had.  Of course, I'm a software engineer, not someone working in the medical field.  I've had the sexual harassment training, but this is the first time since the nuclear power station that I had to learn about emergency codes.

Codes for fire, cardiac arrest, missing child, chemical spill, etc.  Plus segments on hand washing and infection prevention, HIPAA regulations, and what can and cannot be done for patients.

Done, right?

No.  I had to have a TB test and I had to have my immunity to childhood diseases checked.

TB negative.  That's good.

Mumps titers negative.  That's NOT good.  That indicates a lack of immunity to mumps. When I had mumps as a kid, I was told I could get them again since I only had them on one side. I figured that was a myth.  

Apparently not. 

So I have to get immunized before I can get started.  

I'm anxious to get started.  I wonder what the next step is? 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More food allergies?

I had an endoscopy two weeks ago to try to determine why vitamins get caught in my throat.  I went back yesterday for the results.  

Contrary to what a previous doctor had said, the problem isn't acid reflux disease.  This specialist said acid reflux doesn't go up as high as where my inflammation and erosion is. 

I asked if aspirin and/or ibuprofen use would have caused the throat damage, since I take it daily.  No.  

Allergies?  Yes.  

Dogs?  (I tested positive for dogs 30 years ago.) No.  Not environmental. 

It's most likely a food allergy.  

She asked me if I wanted an allergy test.   I said not right now. 

I told her that at least 25 years ago. I had been diagnosed allergic to wheat.  But since avoiding it didn't help my headaches, I stopped avoiding it.  Besides, 25 years ago, in Iowa, it was really hard to find wheat alternatives.   

She said to try decreasing my intake of wheat. 

Yeah.  No bread, cake, cookies.  

I already have almost eliminated my intake of chocolate due to its potential as a migraine trigger, as well as avoiding nuts, beans, sour cream, onions, fresh yeast, dried fruit, sodium nitrates, aspartame, yogurt, yellow cheeses, pickles, and MSG.  All migraine triggers for me.

And now that I am typing this, I think I tried to avoid milk years ago as well.  Maybe I was diagnosed allergic to dairy?  That one I can’t remember.  I just remember trying to find goat’s milk 25 years ago. 

Yeah.  No cheese or ice cream. 

The real reason I don’t want the allergy tests?  I don’t want to find out what other foods I can’t eat.  It’s already hard enough to figure out what to eat.  

I've been prescribed acid reducers to take twice a day.  Not sure why the acid reducers are supposed to help, if the reflux isn't the issue.  Forgot to ask. 
I’m going to take them and hope things improve, or don’t get worse.  I don’t want to give up cookies.  Or cheese. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Clean and Shiny Post Apocalypse

Don’t take this as a slam against Falling Skies or Walking Dead or any of the post-apocalyptic shows I love. 

It’s just that I noticed how clean and tidy the women in these shows are. 

I just binged on Falling Skies and most of the men have stubble or beards.  This is to indicate that regular grooming isn't possible.

Nor should it be possible, based on references to a lack of hot or even running water.  And since they carry their belongings on their backs part of the time, I don’t think a razor and shaving cream would be high priority.

Yet the women have clean, bouncy hair and clear skin.

I wish.

An hour working out in my yard leaves me with flat, sweaty, lank hair.  And a red face full of freckles. 

Four days driving truck without a shower and I had to resort to pony tails and baseball caps. 

A month away from tweezers or razor and I would be able to compete with the guys for best mustache. 

Add to that, their clothes all fit.  Different sized women, scrounging for clothes, manage to find better fitting garments than I can when I go shopping.

Maybe I’m just jealous. 

I know I’ll never look that good after the apocalypse. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Motivation to exercise - no pain

I do a series of exercises and stretches almost every morning.  I never skip two days in a row.  Why not?

Because I learned I like being pain free.

Most of my pain derived from hunching over a computer keyboard all day.  After more than 15 years, I had a litany of aches and pains.

This is how I counteract it.

I do crunches because it strengthens my core and then my lower back doesn't ache.  Also, I want to be able to carry a 40 pound bag of bird seed from the garage to the seed bin.

Hip flexor stretches and hamstring stretches have eliminated the sciatica that made the outside of my thighs feel like they were on fire when touched. A paw on my bare thigh would make me want to scream.

Back extensions counteract the forward curving of my shoulders.  This relieves the pain I was having in the trapezius muscles.

Child pose stretches, with leans to the right and left, relax the deltoid muscles.

The next one I can't find the name of.  Kneel on the floor, flex the back slowly forward and back.  It relieves a lot of the stress in the back.

Neck rolls have decreased my neck pain by 80%.  Not perfect, but so much better than before.

I finish with a downward dog, forward roll, and mountain pose.

Is it a perfect routine?  Probably not.  But it works for me.  After a month of doing it, I suddenly realized that I didn't hurt all the time.

That's a big deal.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Phoenix Art Museum

Yesterday my friend, Sarah, and I went to the Hollywood Costume exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum.  

I've lived here 23 years and have never been to the museum.  I wasn't expecting much.  Somehow I forget that Phoenix is the 5th or 6th largest city in the country.  I was surprised to discover that it is a wonderful museum.  Much bigger than I realized.  

The Hollywood Costume travelling exhibit was interesting.  The focus was on the decisions that the fashion designers make when creating a costume for a character.  Tidbits like how many hats they made for Indiana Jones, and how they made them look worn, were fascinating. And since the costumes on display were on life-sized fixtures, you could see how tall or tiny the actors were.  

The other two wings were amazing as well with American, Contemporary, European, Western art, etc. Sometimes I don’t understand why something is considered art, rather than a child’s drawing.  But there were a lot of interesting and/or beautiful paintings. 

The giant lizards made out of junk caught my interest.  The chameleon was especially cool.  His spines were broken boards, his flanks were tree roots, and his feet were covered in bottle caps.  And there was a giant bird made out of wicker baskets. 

I also really liked a  sculpture of a life sized horse made of old wood plank and chicken wire fencing.  

Other than the Hollywood exhibit, we spent the longest time looking at the Thorne Miniature Rooms.  Phoenix has 20 of the rooms on exhibit.  Years and years ago, I saw the ones in Chicago.  Such amazing detail on a 1" to 1' scale.  

I have full intentions to keep track of when the exhibits change so I can go back.   

Thursday, June 5, 2014

THESE are the good old days - phones

Lately there seems to be nostalgia for the 50's and 60's, even the 70's.  Television shows and music portray those days as if they were some golden age of civilization.  Life was so much better back then.  So simple.  So pure.   

It's irritating as hell.  I've been there.  Done that.

THESE are the good old days.

Take cell phones, for example.  Completely disregarding the computing power you carry in your pocket, just think about how liberating it is to have a phone with you at all times.  

The first phone I remember was a party line.  Yep, one of those phones that are shared by several households.  You couldn't just pick up the phone to call out.  Think shared house phone with no way to tell if someone else was on the line.  And if another party was really quiet, they could eavesdrop on your phone conversation.  Nothing was particularly private.

And the dial!  You put your finger in the hole for the number and cycled it over to the stop. The 0 took the longest time to move.  You always hoped the phone number had low digits in it.  If your finger slipped, you had to hang up and start over. 

After we got our "private" line, there still wasn't anything private about it.  Most families had one phone.  With a cord connecting it to the wall.  With another cord connecting the receiver to the phone.  There was a limited range of movement dictated by those cords.  

Our phone was in the dining room.  So any phone call I made could be overheard or interrupted at any moment. There was a linen closet beside the phone stand.  If the television was too loud or my brothers were arguing, I could crouch in the closet with the sweaters and the ironing board.    

It was a huge deal when we got an extra long cord connecting the receiver to the phone.  My mom could now talk on the phone and wash dishes or cook.  

Want to go somewhere and your parents aren't around?  Too bad.  There was no way to contact your parents if they weren't home or at work.  Did the crappy car you bought at 16 break down?  Put on your walking shoes until you find a home or business that will let you borrow their phone. 

When my husband and I drove a truck cross-country, we had to rely on pay phones, or kindness, to call the company for our next load.  Pay phones only took coins.  They were frequently vandalized and inoperable.  Money for phone calls was saved for business calls.  We rarely spent our phone money calling family.  

Lost and need to call for directions?  Good luck.  Want to call to let the shipment receiver know you're stuck in traffic and will be late.  Too bad.  

These days, everyone I know carries a cell phone with them.  Sure that causes its own set of issues.  But it's a huge convenience to have a phone available whenever you need one. 

Seriously, THESE are the good old days.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

I've declared "war" on the pigeons

I like to feed the birds.  Well, mostly I like to feed the quail and hummingbirds.  But I have hanging bird feeders for the sparrows and finches as well.

As much as I try, I cannot like the pigeons.  There are too many.  They crowd out the other birds.  They chase the quail away from the bird block.

When I say too many, I mean that one day I counted 40 pigeons clustering in the shaded areas of my back yard.

Bogie catches the slow ones.  I haven't the heart to shoot the pigeons with a BB gun.  What if I hit one and wound it?  As much as I dislike them, I don't want them dead.

I just want them to go away.

My latest solution?  A Nerf gun.  I bought it for work.  One day I wondered if the noise and flying disks would intimidate the pigeons.

Yes.  Yes, it does.

So far I have cut my pigeon population down to 1/3.  I can live with that.

Not sure the effect will remain on the days I'm at work.  But if I am persistent, maybe I can convince the majority of pigeons to move elsewhere.

Non-violent pigeon displacement.

I like it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Never thought it would happen.

Bogie is a certified Good Boy. He passed his AKC Canine Good Citizen test yesterday.

If you had told me a year ago this was possible, I wouldn't have believed you.  

There are 10 tests that evaluate a dog's sociability, obedience, and acceptance of other people.  We had a practice session with 2 other dogs on Thursday evening.  Those same two dogs and Bogie were tested yesterday.  Bogie passed them easily.  

I'm so proud. 
The test:: CGC Test
The training facility: Top Dog Training

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The relationship I don't have with my mother

My mom has been in the hospital for the past two weeks.  The reasons involve obstinacy and a flagrant disregard for her health. She is one week shy of her 80th birthday.

I've visited her once or twice a day since she was put into the hospital.  It's the most time we've spent together in a two week span in as long as I can remember.  It has been a sad reminder of our lack of closeness.

I don't think it's me.  I have a couple of friends that I can spend 8 hour days with and never run out of things to talk about.  I regularly talk with my sister for 30 to 90 minutes at a time.  I get into long conversations with co-workers.

I don't think it's her.  From the number of people who have called in concern and who check on her status regularly, my mom is a popular person.  She can talk on the phone with my youngest brother for a long time.

Somehow it's us.  Together we run out of conversation in only a few minutes.  Oh, we've had the occasional dinner out together where we've talked for an hour or so.  About my siblings, my niece and nephew, about people we know in common.

But our normal is five minutes of conversation, then an attempt to find something to talk about.  That's why we play a lot of Scrabble when I visit.

I have closed off any inner part of my self that I could share with her.  I learned long ago, from two different instances, that what I tell her in private won't stay private.  She will share it with her friends.  And it will be brought up again at a most inconvenient time.

So I don't share anything really important to me.  We both read, but not the same kinds of book, so that doesn't take us long to exhaust.  She has no understanding of, or care to understand, my work.  Conversations about my dogs keep her interest a little now that she is confined to a bed.  But normally she changes the subject.

She does that often.  Change the subject.  If I do have something I feel I can share with her, she changes the subject.  Sometimes in mid-story.  I take that as a lack of interest in what I am talking about.


She's low maintenance.  At least for me.  She and my sister have a much different relationship.  But my mom only expects periodic visits or phone calls, and gifts for Christmas and her birthday.  She doesn't expect, or want, us to be by her bedside all the time she is in the hospital.

I knew a woman, long before free long distance, who lived here in Arizona and called her mother in Massachusetts every single day.  I can't imagine what one would want to talk about every single day.

But sometimes, occasionally, I wish I knew what that felt like.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back yard lizard

It's been a good week for back yard visitors.  First the tanager, now this lizard.

I've seen 5 different kinds of lizards in my back yard in the past couple years.  It's probably why I don't have much of a cricket problem.

This guy was hanging out the other afternoon.  The blocks are 16" wide, so he must be 6 or 7" long.

I hope Bogie never sees him.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Western Tanager in the back yard

Saw this beauty in the back yard and managed to get a picture before he flew away.  Pretty sure I saw his mate the day before, but not quickly enough.

First time I've had a Tanager visit, even though the bird book says this is part of their summer range.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why it takes 2 1/2 hours to hang three glass panels.

Yesterday I started around 7 with the intention of installing the hooks for the stained glass.  

Out to the garage to get the 8 foot ladder.  See the newly purchased and delivered multi-ladder and wonder whether it will work just as well.  Unwrapped the ladder, removed the scaffold plates packed with it.  Went to attach the stabilizer bars and the rubber ends stunk. Badly.

Rubbed Dawn all over them which helped a little.  Then dripped some peppermint oil on them and rubbed that around.  Better, but still an obnoxious petroleum smell.  So I set them outside to see if the sun could bake the smell out.

So, 8 foot ladder.  Moved the bench out from under the living room window, and carefully brought the 8 foot ladder into the living room.  I didn't even hit the ceiling fan this time.

Back to the garage to get the measuring tape and a pencil.  Figured I had better put the drill battery on to charge.  I thought lithium batteries weren't supposed to lose charge from sitting?

Up the ladder to measure where the hooks should go.  Had trouble getting center aligned.  Half of 71 is 35.5.  So why doesn't a dot at 35.5 measure equally both ways?  Hmm.  Measure three times.  

See that the ledge of the window is dusty and has bird poop on it from when the sparrow got into the house.  Down the ladder to get a scrubber and sponge.  Up the ladder to clean.  Down the ladder to rinse.  Up the ladder for one last cleaning pass.

Down the ladder to rinse out the scrubber and sponge.  I look out the kitchen window and saw a brilliant yellow bird – Western Tanager – drinking at the bird bath.  Get my camera and take a picture.  Got his head, but the flowers were in the way.  Move to find a better angle, and he flies off. 

Out to the garage to get the drill and the correct size drill bit.  Up the ladder to drill the two central holes.  Drilled into the metal rim around the window.  Then the hooks wouldn't go into the holes.  And I figured a thin sheet of metal wouldn't provide much support.

Down the ladder, to the garage for spackle and a stud finder.  Up the ladder to find actual wood 3” above the window edge.   Drill new holes.  The hooks go in perfectly.  Spackle the previous holes. 

Down the ladder to move it so I can reach the west end of the window.  Move the end table so the ladder will reach.  Drill the hole and insert the hook.  Measure 33’ and it is almost to the center hook.  Maybe I can get by with 4 hooks instead of 6? 

Down the ladder to move it so I can reach the east end of the window.  Drill the hole, insert the hook.  See that the top of the hutch nearby is filthy, covered in a thick layer of dust and dog hair.

Down the ladder to move it closer to the hutch.  I get a sponge and clean ½ of the hutch top.  Down the ladder to move it, rinse out the sponge, then clean the other ½ of the hutch top. 

Upstairs to get the stained glass panels.  Realize I haven’t finished cleaning them. Start cleaning the excess wax and smudges off.  Realize that the configuration of the hooks will not work.

Back downstairs to move the ladder at least three more times, move the hooks, spackle the holes, see that the center hooks are lower than the outer hooks.  Move them again, spackle the previous holes.

Upstairs to cut the chain to size, attach the chain to the panels, examine each of the three panel in the shadow box light for smudges.  Once they are hung 8 foot up, I am not going to be cleaning them. 

One at a time, I take the three panels downstairs and up the ladder to hang the chain from the hooks.  Down the ladder to evaluate level.  Up the ladder to re-position chain.  Repeat for the next two panels.  

Stand on the stair landing to get a better view.  See that the west piece isn't level.  Up the ladder to re-position.  Twice.

Make two trips to the garage to put away the drill, ladder, spackle, measuring tape, pencil.  Done by 9:30. 

At least it looks beautiful. 

Ceiling fan blocks a bit of the view.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Projection Lamp replacement

My Sony Wega TV is about 5 years old.  The picture was getting bad. In fact sometimes it was so dark I could barely see what was going on.  

I assumed that a new lamp would require an expensive service call.  So I was considering getting a new TV.

Sure enough, the lamp replacement warning came up Tuesday.  I looked in the manual and the instructions seemed pretty straightforward.  I found a new lamp on Amazon was only $85.

Hmm.  $85 versus $500 to $750 for a new TV. 

I ordered the lamp from Amazon Tuesday evening around 7.  By the time I got home from work yesterday, it was waiting for me.

The step by step instructions were perfect. I had the lamp replaced within 15 minutes, and that included moving the entertainment center to get to the back of the TV. 

I turned the TV on, and the picture was beautiful.

The lamp replacement even came with a prepaid mailer to recycle the old bulb.  

Very pleased. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Exciting dog walk

Last evening was lovely. Even though my knee was bothering me and Angel's leg was stiff, I figured we could still go for a walk if we took it easy.  So at 6, I took Bogie and Angel for what was intended to be a leisurely walk.  And was. 

Until we rounded our home street.  

Bogie was leading, as he usually does.  At the second house from the corner, hidden from view by the car in the driveway, the owner had his two bulldogs leashed out in the yard.  Close to the sidewalk.  

The bulldogs started lunging at the end of their leashes, barking and growling.  Bogie, of course, was interested.  I don’t think he would have hurt them, but I don’t like to take the chance.  One bite and most other dogs would be dead.  I didn't want Bogie to think he had to defend himself, or me.  

The leash gave Bogie too much leeway so I grabbed his collar and yanked.  I was glad he was wearing his prong collar instead of the regular choke chain.  It gave me better control.

Somehow I ended up straddling him and couldn't get off without loosening my grip.  In the meantime, Angel is milling around and getting tangled around Bogie.  Bogie either wanted to play or fight and started baying and pawing the ground. 

It was chaos. 

The owner offered to take his dogs inside, but I just about had mine under control.  It took a couple minutes to get things back in order.  

We went on our way.  I felt badly that I didn't have as much control as I should have.  But I had no advance warning where I could have shortened the leash or crossed the street. 

I was the only one injured in the melee.  My right wrist ached, probably from jerking on the collar.  And my left knee hurt.  Probably got twisted.  

We made it home with no more incidents.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I used to be a clean freak

In my younger years, I was a fervid cleaner, setting aside Saturdays to clean my house from top to bottom.   Cleaning is not longer a huge priority.  I'm big on controlling clutter.  Not so big on dusting, vacuuming, etc.

A major reason for this change?  Arizona dust.

Arizona dust is fine, light, and ubiquitous.  I lived in Iowa and Illinois prior to moving to Arizona.  In those states, you bought hutches to store china or knickknacks so they wouldn't get dusty.

In Arizona, the dust gets inside the hutches, the cupboards, the closets, the medicine cabinets.  Everywhere.

I have a two story house.  I can dust the downstairs, go upstairs and dust, come downstairs and already see the beginnings of a new layer of dust.

If you dust and no one sees, you can't prove you dusted.

Well okay, you can tell by the depth of the dust whether it has been a long while between dustings.

But the thin layer of dust that was a sign of poor housekeeping in Iowa doesn't count here.

During monsoon season, the dust comes in huge, moving waves that obscure the sun and blind motorists. But Arizona dust is always around.  I sometimes wonder if the inside of my lungs looks like the top of my refrigerator.

It's no wonder everyone I know suffers from allergies.

Why don't I leave?  Well, every state has issues.  Iowa and Illinois had humidity, mud, and mosquitoes.  Arizona weather and a job I like outweigh the hassles of the dust.

Besides, if I ignore it, it isn't there.  Right?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why are reruns so comforting?

When I come home from work, I turn on the TV and hope that NCIS is showing on USA or Castle is showing on TNT.

Yesterday I was home sick from work and was thrilled to discover a Castle marathon, with a side of NCIS when I didn't like a particular Castle episode.  (There are very few of those, by the way.)

Why are reruns so comforting?

It's not just Castle or NCIS.  I will watch Jeff Dunham on Comedy Central almost every time he is on.  And laugh every time I do.  Or The Incredibles, or The Princess Diaries, or Doctor Who.  I've watched RED, Knight and Day, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith more times than I can count.

There is a comfort in advance knowledge that the show will, or won't, have a happy ending.

There is a release from the responsibility of paying close attention so you won't miss any plot points, and of knowing when your favorite parts will air.

There is pleasure in listening to the favorite conversations of your favorite characters.

It's the same reason I will reread some books over and over.  It's the people in them, their thoughts, hopes, dreams, conversations, and adventures.

I don't know the psychology behind it.  I just know that reruns are welcoming, comforting, and friendly.

I'm grateful to cable television for extending the lives of so many of my favorite programs.

What are your "comfort foods" shows?

Friday, April 11, 2014

What happened to my time management skills?

Something happened to me when I was laid off last year. I had 4+ months of severance and I enjoyed every minute of it.

But I lost my ability to manage my time effectively.

When I worked before, I made it to the gym 4 times a week.  I wrote blog posts 2 or 3 times a week.  I got projects started - and finished.

I can't seem to accomplish any of that now.

Somehow, I've gained an appreciation of doing nothing.

I'll drop everything to play fetch with the dogs or go for a walk.

I'll start a project I know I won't finish until later.  Sometimes much later.

And I've become okay with that.

I don't get nearly as much done as I did.

But I'm enjoying it much, much more.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Don't offer me a better rate when I call to cancel.

I recently discovered that the car insurance I can get through my credit union is half what I was paying to another well-known insurance company.

My former insurance company kept raising the premiums slightly for collision-only insurance on my 15 year old car.

So I was thrilled to get the same coverage for a year from the new insurer.

After the new policy was in place, I called to cancel my former insurance.

"May I ask why you are cancelling?"

"Well, I've found other insurance that is half what I was paying you."

"Let me see if I can get you a better deal with us."

I politely said No, thank you.  But what I was thinking was, Really?

So you are telling me that the price you have been billing me, the price I have been paying, was negotiable?

That if I had complained and threatened to cancel before this, you would have given me a better price?

I had been happy with my former insurer, but now I feel like I was being scammed.

Thanks a lot.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Why should I?

While I am making progress with resisting “should” by ignoring my crazy aunt, I've realized I need more help. 

I've decided I could take it one step farther just by asking Why?

I should take Bogie for a walk.  Why?  Because the exercise is healthy for both of us.  Okay, that’s legitimate. 

I should clean the house.  Why?  It’s dirty.  Really dirty?  Well, it's dusty and there is dog hair on the floor.  So?  So someone will see it and think I am a slob. Am I a slob?  No.  Is anyone going to see the house?  No.  Not legitimate.

I should go to the gym.  Why?  I paid for the membership.  Have I gotten value out of my membership?  Yes.  Do I have other things I’ve paid for and not used.  Yes.  But people will think I am lazy.  Am I lazy?  No.  Do I exercise at home?  Yes.  Not legitimate.

This supplements the crazy aunt theory by helping to pinpoint where the "should" came from.  

Is it logical, like I should get the oil changed in my car.  

Or is it the crazy aunt spouting off saying I should have rock hard abs and be able to dance like the pros on Dancing with the Stars. 

I think this may work for me. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I want to be more like my dogs.

There are some personality traits that my dogs have that I would like to have.

Angel is sweet and loving and never holds a grudge.  If she wakes me too early in the morning and I growl at her, "Go away!", she does.

She doesn't sulk.  She doesn't analyze what she might have done to deserve being yelled at.  She just goes and lies down.

When I am ready to wake up, she comes over to be petted, thrilled that I am awake, with no resentment from earlier.

She doesn't let my mood affect her mood.

Bogie is laid-back, accepting of whatever happens.  If I take him for a walk in the morning, he's happy and excited to go.  If instead of the walk, we go for a ride, that's cool.

If we do neither?  Well, that's okay, too.  His day isn't ruined because his routine has been changed.

He rolls with what happens and finds the good in every situation.

My dogs.  My role models.

Just chillin'

Saturday, March 8, 2014

So well-behaved!

It appears that all of the training and all of the work I have put in with Bogie has paid off.

We were all all the vet the other day.  We sat in the lobby waiting for our turn.

Bogie sat close by me.  Well, actually he sat right on my foot.

Angel laid on the tile floor next to him.

There was no barking.  No pulling on leashes.  No whining.

From the exam room, each dog had to be taken to the back to have blood drawn and toenails trimmed.  The tech said they had behaved very well.

When our visit was over and we cashed out, the clerk said to me. "Your dogs are always so well-behaved."

What pet parent doesn't like to hear that!

Bogie at the vet

Friday, March 7, 2014

I would rather not move again.

My friend just left Arizona to move to Florida.  I helped her pack.  I gave her a hug.  And I sent her on her way, happy that it wasn't me.

I'm not sure I would willingly move again.

I know some people think of it as an adventure.  I have a friend who travels from furnished room to furnished room from city to city with only a back pack containing his belongings.

Me, I like my stuff.  I like my dogs and my books and my comfy bed and my desk.  My glass studio.  My sewing machine.  My tools and work bench.  My stuff.  

I like knowing where to shop and having a doctor I trust.  I like knowing how to get where I am going without getting lost.

I don't want to have to worry about which of my belongings will fit in a van, truck, or pod destined for another location.  I try to keep the accumulation down, but closets and cupboards seem to spontaneously create more things to fill them.

I wasn't born in this house.  I wasn't even born in this state.  I've moved 11 times in my adult life.

But I have been in this house for 16 years.

Eventually, I'll have to move again. I suspect that at some point I will be unable to navigate the stairs.

But until then, I am staying put.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dogs and free catch urine samples

I've had dogs all my adult life.  So yes, I've had dogs that have had to donate a urine sample.  But every time the urine was extracted in the back of the clinic, with a catheter.

Yesterday was my first experience with a "free catch" urine sample.

This was apparently not the first “free catch” urine sample the vet tech had tried to get today.  While I paid my bill, the tech and the cashier were talking about how they hoped this sample was successful.  None of the others yesterday morning had been. 

When I left, she had me walk Bogie over in the bare area where he would be inclined to mark.  She had an open sample bottle and was wearing a rubber glove.  

She asked me to keep him close by me so she wouldn't have to run to him if he marked.  

Being the macho boy that he is, Bogie found a bush that needed his personal touch.  While he marked, the tech quickly squatted down by him, thrust her arm under him, and caught the urine.  

She was actually pleased that it worked. 

Me, too.  If it hadn't worked for her, I would have had to try at home. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An AWESOME day for a car ride

Out running errands today.  It was 65 degrees and sunny.  

On the way home, my Great Dane, Bogie, was hanging his head out the back window on the driver’s side.  A pickup on our left had a medium-sized white dog hanging out its passenger window.  

He looked at Bogie.  Bogie looked at him.  

Neither barked or growled.  

The white dog had a grin on his face as if to say, “It’s an AWESOME day for a car ride!”

I need to remember to appreciate the important things – like car rides and beautiful days.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love/hate relationship with technology advances.

Recently, I replaced my 2 year old cellphone with a Nexus 5.  This comes with a Google Now feature not available on my previous Android.

For anyone who doesn't have one, Google Now will tell you the path and time it takes to get to a planned destination, give you weather information, nearby entertainment events, evening television, etc.

The "normal" route to work is not the one I regularly take.  I cannot stomach the intersection of highways 101 and 202.  I always take an alternate route to the office.

I realized yesterday that Google Now noticed this and uses this route to plan the driving time.

This is incredibly cool.

And kind of creepy.

Do I want my phone to know me this well?

Is there any harm in having the ads on websites tailored to my previous searches?  It's not necessarily accurate since I often look up stuff for my sister who is technologically challenged.

But is it harmful?

Are these the first steps in the eventual domination of the human race by our mechanical overlords?

Or just a way to make life a little more efficient?

Does life even need to be efficient?

These are the quandaries that keep me awake at night.

Cool?  Or creepy?