Monday, December 28, 2009

Bander's Christmas Present

Meet Sandy.

Although we might change her name, because it's too close to Bander and they don't know which one we're calling. She's a half-lab, half-St. Bernard girl, about 2 years old. She's a good 30 pounds smaller than Bander-boo, which puts her at about 60 pounds.

Of course, just because we got him a girlfriend doesn't mean that Bander is entirely on board with the idea.

They're learning, and having the usual jostling for position. Well, actually, Bander is quite clearly the alpha, which doesn't surprise me a bit; but she's young, and has to learn not to be in his face all the time. It's only been 24 hours, and she's here on a one week trial, so we have time to see whether they work it out.

They do well chasing squirrels together. Bander spots them and barks, and Sandy runs over to see what all the fuss is about.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jackie is prepping the Thanksgiving feast as we speak.

She had a dream that she left the giblets in the plastic bag and in the bird. Whilst I'm s'pos'd to be peeling apples and potatoes I have craftily, shrewdly, deftly, furtively, and almost succinctly, managed to be thrown out of the kitchen.

So, I would love to take a pilgrimage into the past, and discuss Jackie's Calvinist and Hobbes post from last Día de la Gracias.

You see, it's a true story, and it happened like this:

A long time ago, on a continent, far, far, far away (by yesterdays standards, for in those days, they measured distances by having someone run as fast as they can and yelling, "Faaaaaar!" and when you could still barely hear him, that was considered far; which is why mother's always told their children not to run off to far) a ship set sail for the Americas. It was a long and boring journey, and not really important to the rest of the story. But they got there and set up a colony.

There was this guy named John Smith, who met an emo tween named Pocahontas (which was not her real name, by the way). You might say they hit it off right away, he liked her 'cause she was young and exotic, and she liked him for all the bling he wore.

Her family did not approve, and decided to have him whacked.

Miss P. stepped in and saved him, of course. Her father, Wahunsunacawah (which means Capulet), forbade her from ever seeing him again, and that would have been the end of that, if not for John Rolfe.

True story.

Oh yeah. We're having turkey for lupper today because we were packing on the real Thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Aaaaaand we're BACK!

A big shout out to The Geek Squad and our new router, and once again we join the computer age. Just in time for another rainstorm with dog antics, and just in time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

I might have more to say later, but right now I have to go deal with giblets. And probably the rest of the turkey while I'm at it.

(I may live in the South now, but I refuse to deep fry the damn thing. I will, however, serve biscuits. Mmmmmmm.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pluses and minuses

Plus: The pod arrived, three days early. Excellent!

Minus: Crap, it's raining. Gotta run through the rain with my belongings on my back like a crazed carpenter ant.

Plus: Got about half of it unpacked, and tomorrow will be the major furniture (such as it is).

Minus: Deepest puddle in the panhandle? My front driveway. Have to stand in it to close the gate after I pull the car in.

Plus: Hey! A Starbucks drive-through, with holiday latte flavors in season! Today we'll go with Eggnog. Gingerbread tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dog Heaven

Well, we picked up the keys to the new place this morning. The rooms in the house itself are smaller than we thought, but the floorplan is great and the garage/laundry room is ideal for my soaping needs.

The best part of the whole thing, though, is the yard. The wonderful yard. The front yard has this huge amazing beautiful tree:

Best part?

Dozens of squirrels live in the trees. As far as the Bander-Boo is concerned, this is winning the canine lottery. He was the happiest he's been since we loaded up the car a week ago.

I love the climate here, even rainy and foggy like it's been. We'll see how the summer goes, of course, but so far I'm really feeling good about things. This has been a long roll of the dice, but I think we did well. Change was upon us no matter what we did, so there was nothing to do but embrace it.

We'll see how we feel once hurricane season arrives.....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Well, it's raining on everybody right now, except the people who are being snowed on, so I guess it's too much to ask for the rain to stop just for us.

We're in the home stretch of our trip now.

A couple of notes about today's drive: one, the South is all really, really pretty. I've spent my whole life in either Nevada or Southern California, so deserts are what I find normal.

If you see a bucket of water in the desert, two people are about to have a two-year lawsuit over water rights to the bucket, during which the water will evaporate and one will sue the other for emotional distress due to the lost water. Also, trees are all managed carefully with a sprinkler system, and are spaced in a very careful grid, like the fake pores on band-aids.

So my first view of a Louisiana swamp had me gawping like I just saw Bigfoot riding a unicorn. Water and trees and green stuff for miles and miles. Gorgeous to look at, even if they are most likely full of bugs and squishy stuff.

I liked the greenery of Mississippi and Alabama, too, and downtown Mobile has a stunning skyline. Plus you get to drive over a finger of the Gulf, which is freaking awesome.

The only downside is that it was grey and rainy. But it didn't rain too hard, the dog once again behaved like a champ (thank god), and we made it safe into Florida.

Tomorrow we get to drive around and look at our new home.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Texas In My Rearview Mirror

Alarm clocks are for people who don't have dogs.

We enjoyed our day off in San Antonio. We looked at the Riverwalk, took a short sight-seeing drive, ate a ton of barbeque, and went to bed at a reasonable hour.*

At about five in the morning, Bander let us know that it was time to get up. Since there's no point in arguing, we got up, packed the cars, and took off. Part of our strategy was to miss any sort of rush hour traveling through Houston.

That turned out to be a good thing, because whoever handles road maintenance in Texas is on a wild tear-ass spending spree. More of the I-10 was chewed up and in the process of revamping in Texas than I could believe. I wanted to explain to the chowderhead in charge that instead of ripping everything out and then starting repairs, you do one freaking section at a time.

The crown jewel in the asphalt crown of freeway fuckery is the center of downtown Houston, where the I-10 - a major cross country artery that carries scads of long-haul trucks and a big chunk of travelers - is squeezed into a single ultra-narrow strip that clearly used to be the bike lane. It took quite some time to get through, and I can't imagine how long it would have taken during normal traffic hours.

We did indeed like San Antonio, but the traffic alone put Houston on the list next to El Paso of places that we don't need to visit again.

What seems endless hours later, and we've finally finished crossing Texas. We're in Lafayette, LA, and we found a restaurant that will deliver deep-fried alligator nuggets for dinner. Louisiana is pretty country, and they have fried gator.

I'm happier already.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Maybe we can sleep tonight.

The long and winding road

So, you know that we hated our time in El Paso.

Two things you need to know about what happened next:

First, El Paso is barely over the edge of the Texas state line. It’s damn near New Mexico, at least as far as geography goes.

Second, Texas is big.



A complete pain in the ass to drive across.

However, since we had accidentally holed up in El Paso like bats in a cave, we were behind schedule.

We made good time today – 550 miles of it. From El Paso, we’re now in San Antonio, and in a MUCH nicer hotel.

The storm is over, the dog has relaxed, and all is well. Of course, we have thunderstorms waiting for us during the rest of the week, but we’ll cross that horrifying panicked dog bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, we’re taking an extra day here to rest after the long day’s drive. We went through a part of the state called Hill Country – a much greener and prettier terrain than we’ve seen so far. If you’ve never traveled across the American Southwest, you may not realize how much desert there is – but trust me, there is an endless expanse of cactus and dust storms and sad dried up lizards. It’s nice to finally see the landscape changing.

Jessie and I are driving in separate cars, which is a pain in the ass because there are a lot of things to talk about and we’re too brain damaged to remember what we wanted to say long enough to get to the next rest stop. Among other things, we’ve seen a lot of cars with California plates, loaded up with the family belongings. Apparently we’re not the only rats leaving the ship.

I also saw a pickup truck loaded down with the back end of a pickup truck, towing a trailer made from the back end of a pickup truck which was holding a couple more back ends of pickup trucks. I guess there’s a thriving market for pickup butts out there.

And just in case anybody is wondering about yesterday’s dog panic – he’s better today. And yes, he’s on anti-anxiety meds. He’s seen a trainer (clicker method). We’ve consulted a veterinary behaviorist. I have indeed heard about Bach Remedies, DAP collars, and I’ve tried a vet recommendation of using Benadryl to sedate him.

As far as I can tell, he’s impervious to everything with the possible exception of a big rubber mallet, and I’m going to try that next.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We're Still on the Road to Morocco.

Oh dear Zod.
Passover El Paso...
...Passing El Paso...
...Pass the El Paso sauce...
...El Paso de la gone.

Any of these would have been better titles than:
Eleven minutes into yesterday, the Dog, the occasional center of our tiny universe, began to pace. Not surprising, as there was a storm a-brewing outside. We were at four thousand feet above sea level, or so, the winds were fierce and the walls were thin.

Pacing begat huffing, which begat panting, that begat twitching. This in it’s turn began a chain of dog bedroom olympic events:

1. Jump onto the bed. Points for distance, height and accuracy. If you can land on someone’s privates or sore spots, gain additional points.

2. Breathe Fire. Marks for huffing directly into the face and/or drool hitting between the eyes.

3. Sitting, timed event. Cumulative, bonus points for sitting on someone’s head.

4. Freestyle dance. Artistic expression, avoid the Russian judge.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

We tried everything we could think of to get and keep the dog calm. Jackie even tried going to the truck to see if that would convince him. Some time around three, we taped our eyes open and tried to make for better ground.

Which brought us to El Paso.

We were originally planning to have lunch and continue to Fort Stockton, I think it was, but ended up in a Motel, hoping to catch a few hours and press on. Another windy room, and Jackie was way too exhausted to continue.

So we stayed for the day.

It may be a lovely town, but what I saw off the I-10 did the city no justice. Abandoned buildings, the smell of industry, incessant trains, a giant sign pronouncing that Jesus Lives. It reminded me a lot of downtown L.A. or the back side of the San Pedro docks, sans the water.

Then I turned on the t.v. to hear that dry cleaning chemicals, rocket fuel and other crap was found in the local water. Not a pretty snap shot, sadly.

With winds gusting to 100 mph, w decided to stay the night, and let everything subside. We tackled the dog in shifts, alternating walking, and resting and sleeping and whining and bemoaning our lot, for something like 24 hours, without the cool ticking clock thing from that show.

The motel had cable, and HBO, even, so we watched ‘Taken’. A fun once movie, in my opinion, although it was on two or three times. Then we watched something with Brad Pitt that was absolutely fascination and engaging.

The winds died, and all of us passed out. At 5:30 this morning, we showered and escaped El Paso.

Did you know the speed limit during the day is 80 MPH in Texas?

Yeah, not fast enough.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We're on the Road to Morocco, Fer Shur

Captain's log, Stardate, somewhere in Arizona.

The dog is lost. No, he didn't jump out of the truck, he just can't find a proper piece of grass in all the rock gardens. He's apparently gonna hold it until we cross the mighty Mississip for some true personal time. That, and nothing smells right, I'm sure. I could have sworn the whole back end of California smelled like propane and propane accessories.

Thus our dog has this sad expression as we set down for the evening:

Were in the local motel; they advertised it as being in a town, but it really is a glorified truck stop with room service. I always thought that it was an elitist's exaggeration when all the tough guys, the wise guys, the paisans, et al, made fun of the local talent's marinara sauce turns out they were actually right.

Not that I'm an expert, but I ordered fettuccine alfredo and I got spaghetti noodles with (breakfast biscuit) gravy, and a few chicken fingers tossed in. Jackie says chickens don't have fingers, so Gods only know what they're really made out of, but my bet is either chicken butts or that little rubbery flappy thingy on chicken legs.

We're tired, there's some Carrie Underwood thing on the t.v. (the other choices being Telemundo recaps), the dog has claimed the bed and Jackie is soaking in the tub.

Did I ever tell you that wherever we went, we got the special extra tall toilet seats? The kind that make you think you're a little kid again? Yeah, the tradition continues.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

We're on the Road to Morocco, D - 1

24 hours and counting...
There are a few things still left to load. The washer and dryer, the couch and one dresser. If there's room after that, we'll squeeze in the microwave table and the computer desk 'n' chair. If there's still room, maybe we can load some of the spare lumber.

So, is it red sky in the morning, or is it just all the clouds?

Whilst taking the dog for his morning constitutional, I noticed that it's getting a little cloudy outside. A quick check at weather underground tells us that it's not gonna rain until tomorrow, but I better get my butt moving.

As a total side note, it's 50 degrees outside and 71% humidity, here in Oceanside. Right now in Florida, it's 45 & 70%. Just sayin'.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We're on the Road to Morocco, D - 2

Less then 48 hours.

A third of the pod is loaded; all the non-furniture pre-boxed stuff that was ready when it arrived yesterday. We also got all of the workroom torn down and boxed, the half the bedroom and some of the garage.

We've been testy, argumentative, conciliatory, happy, grumpy, testy and occasionally at odds with each other. Mostly, its the bottleneck of this-or-that bric-a-brac that cries out to be done first, and foremost. You know, chicken or egg arguments in this true life scale Tetris game.

Today we tackle the big furniture, and all the cubby-hole items. I hope that one of us is still alive to pick up the dog tonight.

Yes, we sent him to daycare, because he lost his shit with all the ins and out and 'what? No walks this time?' that happened yesterday.

I mean, he has a nervous breakdown anytime we rearrange the furniture, so can only imagine the horrors that are racing through his mind as everything inside gets crammed into an even smaller house that is the pod.


I'd post pics, but I don't think 'Picture of Disarray' is all that interesting.

Friday, December 4, 2009

We're on the Road to Morocco, Part Zero

Well, soon enough.

But first, last night, we got an Omen:

Jackie had been trying to make as much as possible before we move, and that glop above was supposed to be 'Dead Sea Mud Salt Bars'. We definitely got mud and dead, but no bars. It was time for her to close up shop.

This morning, the buzzards began circling:

But before you get too excited:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Down With The Ship

Things with the day job are winding down, it seems. Well, to be quite frank, they've been in a long slow decline for months and months now - but the downhill slide has gotten a lot more downhill and a lot slipperier. I keep looking at our course, and I know for a fact that there's an iceberg, dead ahead.

I think I've mentioned that I work for a real estate developer - I'm the person who handles escrow and loan closings on very large-scale deals. Of which there are NONE at the moment. And nothing on the horizon, not for long time to come.

I've been in and out of real estate for quite a long time now. I actually went through this sort of thing once before, in the very early 1990's. I worked in the savings and loan industry, which led to me working for government regulators. This included a huge flood of foreclosures, so I got to manage a pretty big portfolio of properties that had been taken back. It wasn't pretty. I'll spare you the details, but I got to deal with toxic waste, mismanaged nursing homes, and crack houses. Eventually the properties were cleaned up and sold, and that was the end of my career, until the industry recovered.

That crash was limited somewhat, because it was really S&Ls and the drop in value was pretty well centered in California. This time, of course, the problem is a hell of a lot bigger. Given that the last little hiatus made my line of work pretty well non-existent for five years, and that I'm getting older... my tenure in real estate is very likely over. By the time the jobs come back, I'll be too old, and frankly too tired, to start over.

I'm okay with that, really I am. It was fine while I did it, but it's never never been anything that lit me up inside. It's time to move on and move forward.

But like any other change, it's a little sad. And more than a little nerve-wracking. It'll take a couple of months, maybe less, but here we go....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parting Shot

Just a short update, because I have a ton of stuff going on – but remember Sally, my dearly departed Mustang? We got a receipt in the mail saying that she fetched $1100 at the charity auction, money that’s helping to send needy kids to day care. That’s at least $500 more than I was expecting, so good for her.

And kudos to Father Joe’s Villages for doing so much good with something that was of no more value to me.

Thanks, Sally – you were a good girl, right to the end.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Watch Out for Warts.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

We’ve all heard that.

Usually after you get back from a date with a creep, one of your friends will trot this out to make you feel better. It’s supposed to evoke the story of the Frog Prince, where the princess kisses a frog to transform him to a handsome prince. Of course, like nearly all modern stories, it’s a big fat candy coated lie.

The Grimm story, Iron Henry, does indeed include a princess and a frog. The princess loses her golden ball, and the frog returns it to her. (I will gloss over all the bad jokes and Freudian implications here.) She has promised him the reward of sharing her supper and her bed in return for this service. Of course, once she has the ball in her hands she breaks all her promises and runs away because it’s just a nasty frog.

She does eventually keep her promises, because her father forces her to make good. At the end of the night, she throws the frog against the wall, hoping for a good splat and a quiet night’s sleep, but he then transforms into a prince who wants to marry her. The original story is European, mostly appearing in English and Germanic sources, but it shows up around the world with variants in Sri Lanka, Korea, and China.

I’ve always found this story a bit odd.

For one thing, the princess is beautiful but clearly a spoiled self-centered brat. And for another, she doesn’t show any kindness at all toward the frog, but rather a deliberate cruel streak. What exactly does the prince see in her again? I’m pretty sure that there are going to be some domestic violence charges somewhere down the road for this family.

The kiss got added later, when we modern humans tried to make the whole thing about love and romance. Romance itself is a concept that wasn’t around when the story first appeared, back in the thirteenth century or so. That may be why it makes no freaking sense.

Animal bridegrooms are a big, big section of mythology. Far too much to cover in one post, in fact, so I’m going to just stick to magical frogs.

You can understand, I’m sure, why the frog seemed so magical to the earliest storytellers. They do, in fact, transform. If they can change from tadpoles to hopping bullfrogs, maybe they can change even further and we just haven’t caught them at it. If you’re in Asia, frogs are good luck and probably bring wealth. If you’re in South America, they’re a vital ingredient in blowdart poison. If you’re a Pacific Northwest hippie, you’re licking toads for the hallucinogens.

See? Magic.

And if you were a toad – or a lowly peasant, or a deformed leper, man, don’t you wish you could change, too? So it’s easy to see where the idea of transformation, particularly a transformation from ugly slimy warty toad to handsome rich prince, is an attractive thing. The stories very rarely address the front end of the transaction where the prince gets cursed and becomes the frog, because that is neither hopeful nor fascinating.

Everyone who reads this story understands right away what’s in it for the princess. She acts like Paris Hilton, gets yelled at by her dad, throws a tantrum, and gets the reward of her ideal husband. Wait, WTF? She doesn’t have to be good, or kind, or virtuous in any way whatsoever. Just gets rewarded for being a princess.

The appeal of this is so widespread that getting some illustrations together for this post is requiring me to wade through page after page of tasteless commercial variations of a little plastic frog with a little plastic crown glued to it’s little plastic head.

What nobody has been able to tell me is what’s in it for the prince. What does HE get out of the deal? The nicest thing you can say about the princess is that she looks okay as long as she doesn’t talk. I guess he gets to not be a frog, and maybe flies taste bad enough that not being a frog is its own reward.

Or maybe he did something terrible that led to the curse in the first place, and his sentence isn’t lifted, just transformed. Maybe she’s the next punishment. Maybe their kids will have warts.

Or take out the pasted-on romantic crap, and perhaps he inherits the kingdom by marriage, and his reward is not the girl at all, but the money attached to her. So the frog is a money grubbing gigolo, and he and the princess deserve each other.

And they lived happily ever after.

Or, you know, not.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Somehow, at some point in the last five years, we got on somebody’s group mailing list. This is one of those big gangs of people with a common interest who stay in touch by emailing each other constantly with all kinds of random bullshit. They’re all on the other side of the country, but somehow we’re included to every Taco Tuesday to discuss fundraising and t-shirt sales, or whatever stupid event they’re having lately.

We didn’t complain for quite a while, because there was a couple who were having quite the drama-filled long-drawn-out breakup. It was like watching Cops via e-mail. Joe would say “Just so everybody knows, Linda is not comin to the piknik becuz she thinks I’m sleepin with Susan and shes mad”. And then Linda would e-mail everybody and say “Joe is a basterd and I put his stuff out on the lawn so if anybody wants a guitar for free come get it right now”. And then the next week or so they’d announce their engagement.

Anyway, as long as this was going on it was hilarious and we were glad to be included. However, they finally broke up or one of them got a restraining order or something, and they stopped posting to the group. We still get the emails, but the joy is gone. And over the past couple of years both the e-mailers and I have gotten older and crankier. The emails got dumber and more political, a bad combo.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more. I sent a response to the primary offender, saying “I don’t know you. Take me off your list.”

I got the luxury of a personal response.

And since it included an agreement to take me off his mailing list, I just responded with “thanks”. But since I had more to say, and I didn’t want to start a fight, I’ll respond here.

(Click the pic for a better view)


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