Longtime readers from our German days may recall us mentioning how we were possibly the only dog owners in Hamburg to ever pick up after our dog (occasionally earning us either approving nods or stares of stunned disbelief from passers-by).
In Dresden, suffering from a similar problem (is there any German city that isn't?), local politicans have proposed an, um, inventive solution.
Shelby already wrote about her visit to the dentist this past Friday, but I've been hiding my dentist's results like a secret shame.
For years, I had a near-perfect string of cavity-free "Crest checkups". My first cavity came when I was fourteen or so, way back in my rearmost molar; the dentist gave me a pass on any guilt, saying it wasn't my fault because it was hidden beneath a flap of skin, impervious to brushing. After that, it was back to event-free checkups.
Then I became an adult, with my own dental plan. Then I skipped out on the dentist for about five years.
And now, the dentist says that I need five cavities filled, plus a root canal and crown -- or maybe four cavities and two root canals; he won't be completely sure until he's actually gotten in there and opened things up. Both Shelby and I head in tomorrow for the 'ol-drill-and-fill -- I get things taken care of in one sitting, but unfortunately Shelby has to go back for multiple visits.
I'm a little concerned over how much this is all going to cost; our dental plan pays 90% (except for crowns, which are 60%), but only up to $2,000 per person. Between this and Scout's mysterious illness, March is shaping up to be a pretty expensive month. We've got the money, but we'd certainly rather be spending it on, say, a new dishwasher, or an exciting trip, or a lighting fixture for the dining room.
And why did this happen now, in the midst of my responsible regularly-flossing adulthood, rather than back when I was eleven, after the summer where I went to camp for a week, ate tons of candy every day, and didn't brush my teeth at all until after I got home and my mom was watching me again?
Scout has been getting us up (or, at least, me -- Shelby is usually lucky enough to be able to sleep through it all) mighty early in the mornings. A few weeks ago, we were complaining that Scout started barking around 7; today, the barking-fest started at 5:15.
It starts tentatively: bark ... bark ...... bark ...... bark. Then, once nobody comes to immediately give in to her demands, it gets constant: barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark -- she can keep going at that pace for what seems like forever. Eventually, it's enough to get Digory to join in: woooooooo-rark-rark-rark-rark-wooooooooooo. (This is bad news for Scout; if Digory is wound up enough to start barking, it means that he's ready to playplayplayplayplay, and that she'll get the chasing of her life once they're both set free.)
She doesn't seem to be barking for anything: once I finally let her out, she's not in a big hurry to go outside, or to curl up on the couch or some other comfortable space.
Unfortunately, like her earlier brat dog episodes while we were living at Shelby's parents' house, I think that the only thing we can really do is wait until she decides that it's not working. My punishment-for-the-moment has been to get up and let Digory out as soon as Scout starts barking -- while leaving Scout to stew in her crate for another hour or so. I sit in the next room, delivering admonishments at the slightest hint of barking or whining.
For a while, it seemed to be working -- the noise was pushed back to a decent hour. But now, we're back to attention-seeking at 5 AM. I just hope that we can get rid of this before the weather warms up, and everybody in the neighborhood starts sleeping with their windows open ...
If you live in Orange County and your house has sprinklers automatically controlled by a timer, your local water agency could be willing to pay for an upgrade to a more intelligent controller.
Our house has a timer-controlled sprinkler system, but it's not turned on very often, because it's been raining a lot lately. (This is something that doesn't bother the neighbors, whose sprinkers have come on more than once in the middle of the night during a driving rainstorm.) Even when it hasn't been raining, I think that the system's current settings are pretty wasteful -- too much water at the wrong time of the day (afternoonish). I've made a stab at changing things, but the system's purported E-Z Programming is anything but, and the manual vanished with the original homeowner.
So, the idea of getting a new controller that actually takes the weather into account -- that knows when it's raining! -- is pretty attractive, particularly if we can do it at a cut-rate price. Assuming that our rebate request goes through, I think that we'll get the WeatherSet WS8R; not only is it the cheapest out of all of the eligible systems, it's one of the only ones with an on-site weather sensor (measuring solar radiation and rainfall) built into the system!
Some of the other (much more expensive) systems base their watering patterns on historical data 'for your local area' or download weather data via satellite. If you're historically-based, what happens when you enter into an ahistorical year -- like this one, where we've had more than a year of rain in three months? Downloading your data seems equally bad; not only is it a pay service, but it's not clear how close to our area they consider 'your local area' to be. Would we be watering our lawn based on whether or not it's sunny in Burbank or Gardena? (And what happens if your data provider goes foom? Or if your check gets lost in the mail? You didn't pay -- WE KILL YOUR GRASS ... or flood your basement!)
Even though our house may be 100 years old next month, it's a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, moved to its current location just ten years ago. While browsing around in the Anaheim Public Library's online archive of historical Anaheim photographs, I found one picture that underscores that fact: an aerial view of our street from the 1940s.
Our street, Atchison Street, is the second street up from the bottom. Railroad tracks used to run through what's now our front yard! You can place our house just to the right of where the spur to the turntable breaks off the main line. The next railroad track up, holding the line of boxcars, is now a Metrolink main line, connecting Los Angeles and Orange County. The Sunkist packing house, right behind the boxcars, has now given way to a condo complex. The lines and lines of fruit trees in the distance have been replaced with tract houses and strip malls, Orange County's current cash crop.
|Falling behind on blogging means falling behind on cute Beagle pictures! Hopefully these'll be enough to make up for our deficit ...|
|(Click on any of the pictures for a larger version of that image.)|
|Digory keeps leaving us constant reminders that yes, while he may be big, he is still just a puppy -- at least he chose to chew up the low-voltage end of the cellphone charger.|
|Digory is a real cuddlepuppy; stop moving for long enough in our house, and you will be cuddled with.|
|. . . even if you're a guest . . .|
|. . . even if you're Scout . . .||. . . who isn't always grateful to receive this kind of attention.|
I think that the fight over the Valle brings out an interesting conflict that's only going to get worse over the next four years -- people who engage in traditionally 'red state' activities (hunting, ranching, ATVing), or who belong to 'red state' organizations (the Boy Scouts) turning around to find their lifestyle and interests betrayed as 'their' guy in the White House continues to prostitute his administration to extractive industries at the expense of everyone else. I don't think it's a coincidence that northern New Mexico has a strong Democratic streak ...
(For an extra diddled-both-ways bonus for Californians who care about New Mexico, the article claims that the El Paso Corporation's primary driver in new exploration is to raise enough cash to pay back the $1.6 billion that they stole from us back during the 'energy crisis' of 2001.)
[Also see: Coalition for the Valle Vidal]
And what would a return to blogging be without a nice, healthy rant? Today: Chase/Bank One and the Amazon.COM Visa card.
Around the middle of last month, I was checking my credit card statement online and found three charges that were definitely not mine -- one from "JUNO ONLINE * SVCS", and two from "BILLINGAGENT COM". Having all the online services I need, and not being sure what BILLINGAGENT was at all (it appears to be a Netherlands-based credit-card agent for porn sites), I called the credit card company and reported the fraud. They closed my account, and told me they'd send me a new card within ten days.
[Side note: Bank One's 'fraud' department has blocked my card countless times for 'suspected fraud' -- leading to mumbled excuses and embarassment all around as everything's all queued up for that big-ticket purchase, only to find that my card is denied. Deadbeat! Bad-credit person! Yet the two times that there's been actual fraud on my card, I've had to call them and tell them what's happened.]
The card came in the expected amount of time, and everything was great ... except now I wasn't able to log into cardmemberservices.com, the card's online-banking Web site. I call up their customer-service line, and was told that I had to wait ten days before I was granted online access for the new card -- that's just the way things are, there's nothing that can be done about it. So I dutifully wait my ten days, and then try to log in -- nothing! Oh, there was some kind of glitch, but they'll escalate my case to priority status; everything should be absolutely all ready in three to five days. Our apologies! Well, guess what? Since my three to five days ran out, I've had my case 'escalated' twice more, and I've been told to wait a week, another 3-5 days, or that "everything's fixed -- just try again in five minutes" (twice -- optimistic fellows!)
A few days ago, after trying the Web site again and still finding myself denied, I called the 'service' line yet another time, where I was told that, well, they were having systems problems, and that it would take 'about' two weeks before I'd have access. Having had enough, I reached out for the classic last refuge of an American in a snit: asking to speak to a supervisor.
The supervisor was, if anything, even less helpful than her underlings -- admitting no guilt, expressing no sympathy, inexpertly using the "well, I'm sorry if you feel like you have a problem, sir" deflection. I had to wait two weeks, and that was it -- there was a 'systems glitch' and it was just out of their hands. You might have already been told to wait two weeks, and I'm sorry if you feel like you were lied by the people who claimed to fix your problem, sir -- they might have thought they fixed things, but there was this systems problem, and how were they to know?
Anyway, I was told, you don't really need online access -- you can take care of all of your banking needs by mail or telephone!
Besides the fact that these people pimp the incredible convenience of their online banking all over the place, or the irony of someone representing the Amazon.COM credit card telling me I didn't need to use the Internet, has this woman used telephone banking in the last ten years? Instead of being able to easily see all of my monthly charges at a glance, I get to maneuver through the maze of press-this-for-that and listen to the schizophrenic robot voices recite line after line of charges until I (maybe) get to an ambiguous description of the one I want: "On ... MARCH ... FIFTEENTH! there was a ... CHARGE ... of EIGHTY ... SIX dollars AND FIFTEEN! ... cents ... described AS ... pet supplies and pet services!"
Well, we really (really, really) like the Amazon rebate certificates we get as an enticement for using the Amazon card -- but if they don't care about me, I don't care about them. It's off to the other credit card, which has a perfectly functional online presence, and which has never had any problems with fraud, either real or imaginary. We'll see if the cardmemberservices.com folks have fixed their problems in two weeks -- or if I'm supposed to just wait two weeks/ten days/3-5 days/five minutes more.
I'm back! I return from my inexplicable hiatus with a report on some of the things I've been doing besides blogging -- as work has slowed down, I've finally been able to read again:
I'd always wondered exactly what happened to Hamburg during the war -- I knew about the firestorm, and many buildings in our neighborhood carried "Destroyed 194_ / Rebuilt 195_" plaques -- but it's not something that either side mentioned much, for obvious reasons. So, Middlebrook's book was useful for filling in a lot of the holes in my knowledge. Still, it's got an unmistakable fusty-old-military-historian tone for much of its length (I could easily imagine Alistair Cooke, or some similar Elderly Cultured British Person, reading passages out loud), with far too much concentration on the movements of various battle groups and how of things -- the 914th Lancaster Squadron, mostly composed of Canadians and Australians, suffered badly in comparision because their aviation fuel had a higher sulfur content than that of the 915th or the 532nd, blahblahblah -- at the expense of describing the effects that the battle in the air had on the people on the ground.
Hans Erich Nossack's The End: Hamburg 1943 is sitting on my pile of to-be-read books for a Hamburger's perspective.
I enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell immensely; however, at 800+ pages (with footnotes!), written in a 'period' style, I can see why other readers might have found it tiresome.
And while Clarke loads up Norrell with a host of unlikeable qualities, there's one of his fussy traits that I found endearing -- his extreme reluctance to loan out a single book to anyone (even Strange, his trusted pupil). What biblophile hasn't thought, upon loaning out a book to someone for the first time, can I trust this person? will I ever get this book back? and if I do, what shape will it be in?
And was it just me, or did Doc Ock have the lamest origin story ever? "I need to attach these menacing robot arms directly to my central nervous system, despite the fact that they may well take over my body and use me as a puppet to achieve their own nefarious ends, because I'm the only one brilliant enough to poke at my fusion experiment for fifteen seconds before it goes horribly awry!" Dr. Octavius should have looked into purchasing some laboratory process-control machinery -- and then invested the time and money he'd have saved by not building evil robot arms into getting his fusion reaction to work right. Worst justification for a movie's existence since the whole "they're keeping humans as batteries!" revelation from The Matrix.
Our house has a lot of very prolific rosebushes -- the whole front of the house is lined with them (see this picture, taken when we were moving in). Some of them are seven feet high in places! We've learned that to achieve maximal rose quantity and quality, ensure well-formed rosebushes, and so forth, we're supposed to prune them back pretty severely around January/February of each year (around here, at least; different parts of the country have different times, depending on climate). We only fully cottoned on to this fact in, oh, late February.
However, the same Web pages telling us to prune our roses by the end of February also assured us that there's no such thing as a bad prune (unless, presumably, you saw the plant off at its base) -- late pruning is still beneficial, and you aren't going to kill your plants by doing it at the wrong time. So, on Wednesday, I dove in. After a bout of focused labor, I could see why the roses looked like they hadn't been pruned for a couple of seasons -- I'd been at it for a couple of hours, I'd created about three yard-waste cans of rose clippings, and I wasn't even halfway done yet!
Yesterday I was fidgeting inside the house, waiting for the vet to call, but today I'll go back and finish the other half (unless it starts raining -- it's been sprinkling off and on). Check back with me in a few months to see whether our roses turn out lush and beautiful, or stunted and grotesque. Nothing that I've pruned so far has died yet; I suppose that's got to be a good sign ...
The vet just called us back with the biopsy results -- they're negative!
Whatever Scout has going on, it's not cancer; the vet theorized that her swollen lymph nodes might be a result of her bladder infection, or might be swollen due to pressure from neighboring and also-swollen salivary glands (not a conjecture that's come up before, but it seems that those can swell up thanks to local irritation or infection).
So now we just follow out the course of antibiotics she's been prescribed, and come back in 10-14 days for a recheck (or immediately, if her weight seems to be dropping again).
Thanks to all of you who've let us know that you've been thinking of us and our Scouter. We're so glad that things have turned out for the better, and that all of our frantic imaginings turned out to be for naught.
Well, we got some good news from Scout's first round of tests -- her kidney, liver, and thyroid are all normal, so her problems aren't coming from any of those. The vet couldn't find anything unusual in her x-rays. He did find that she was dehydrated and had some blood in her urine, so all of this could be something as simple as a bladder infection (which would also explain her swollen lymph nodes).
So, our poor Beagle was left behind at the vet for yet another day, this time so that they could rehydrate her with IV fluids and give her antibiotics for the bladder infection that she may or may not have.
Unfortunately, they still can't rule out lymphoma (lymph node cancer) -- so the vet will also be inserting a needle into her lymph nodes and drawing out cells so that they can be sent off for a biopsy. Hopefully the biopsy will come back as a straight 'no', rather than a 'yes' or 'inconclusive', so that Scouter won't have to be subjected to more vet tortures -- if the hydration doesn't do anything, and the biopsy comes back as wishy-washy, it seems her next step is an ultrasound.
After we came back, Digory spent about an hour roaming the house, visibly disturbed that Scout hadn't returned with us. After he calmed down, I went outside to get the trash cans, and he walked around the house whining until I came back inside. Obviously nobody else is allowed to leave until Scout comes back! He's only been our dog for a month, but he's clearly already strongly imprinted on us and Scout being his pack.
Scout has lost a noticeable amount of weight over the past month or so; only a couple of pounds, but that's almost ten percent of her body weight!
Feeding her one-and-a-half times her usual amount of food each day for a couple of weeks didn't seem to be fixing the problem, so I took her to the vet this afternoon. To us, except for the weight thing, she's seemed completely normal -- showing her usual little-lover-girl personality, full of energy (with Digory around, you have to be), holding her normal obsessive interest in food, and with no strange bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. The vet found that her vital signs were normal, but that the lymph nodes in her neck were swollen, and that she showed a little discomfort when he palpitated her belly. This could mean any number of things -- so Scout stayed at the vet for a couple of hours longer while he took X-rays and collected her bodily fluids for a blood panel and urinalysis.
We come back at 9:30 AM tomorrow to find out whether there's anything to be learned from her tests. The range of possible afflictions runs anywhere from the minor -- some not-very-detectable low-level infection -- all the way to really fucking bad stuff, like possible liver or kidney disease, or cancer. We've been worrying ourselves sick over here, stuffing ourselves full of an entire Internet worth of canine-health paranoia. I don't think that there'll be much sound sleeping in our household tonight. Anyone who's visited this site for more than ten minutes knows that we both think the absolute world of our Scouter, and we'd envisioned her living out another nine or ten years, capped off by her peacefully dozing off in a sunbeam one day, never to wake up. The thought of things ending otherwise -- and the decisions that we'll have to make if they do -- is just too much to contemplate right now.
So please, think your best and warmest and most positive thoughts right now for a small dog and the rest of her pack ...
Sunday was a big day. We came home that night to discover that Scout had had an, um, mishap in her crate that required her to be washed immediately. No problem; I just hefted her up into the kitchen sink -- she's small -- and scrubbed away. She stood there doing her look-at-sad-me poor-shivering-match-dog impression throughout, until I towelled her off and put her down on the ground, whereupon she switched into crazy dog mode, sprinting around the house, rubbing herself in a frenzy against every available surface in an effort to -- what? Dry herself off? Reacquire her stolen-away 'dog' scent? It's a mystery.
I figured that since I was already wet and smelling of dirty dog, I might as well wash Digory, too. Digory, who has revealed himself to be unflappable under most circumstances (I was able to vacuum the couch with him still on it, people -- if you know dogs and vacuum cleaners, you know that means quite a lot), turned out to be a giant bathtime wimp. He was frantically squirming and clawing as I carried him over to the tub; once in the tub, he started howling piteously, scrabbling against the traction-unfriendly porcelain in an effort to escape! It took both Shelby and I and all of our attention to do the deed -- but now both dogs smell happy-fresh and Digory's soft fur -- which people were complementing even when it was completely filthy -- has become even softer.
We had been out of the house to watch Edward Albee's play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown L.A. We have excellent front-row seats (a gift from Shelby's parents) -- or, at least, we're supposed to. We miscalculated horribly -- for our first Mark Taper play, we left the house an hour and a half beforehand, which put us downtown twiddling our thumbs forty-five minutes early. This time, we figured that we'd leave the house an hour before and get there right on time, whisking in with a comfortable-not-tedious margin of time before the play began. Well, thanks to traffic, we got there about five minutes after the play started, and ended up watching the beginning of the play from monitors in the lobby until the ushers called seating time for latecomers. The late-seating buzzer buzzed, the doors opened, and we commando-crawled down to the front row to find that some bastards had stolen our seats! We couldn't exactly start a knock-down drag-out fight during the performance to get them back, so we had to settle for the best seats we could find while trying to cause minimal disruption, about five rows up.
The play itself managed to be a equal mixture of the totally hilarious and the totally shocking. Martin, an architect who's on top of the world -- just turned fifty, at the heights of his profession with a commission to design a multi-billion-dollar "world city", the perfect marriage -- reveals to his best friend that he's having an affair ... with a goat. Most of the rest of the play after that point is a protracted dialogue with his wife, Stevie, after he's found out. The play was extremely well-acted; it's a credit to the actors -- and to Albee -- that we were all so raptly following something that sounds on its face to be a completely ridiculous premise. Not surprisingly, the reader feedback that the Taper has chosen to post so far consists of mostly kudos with a few vehement cancel-my-subscription-immediatelys mixed in for good measure.