a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2021

Thursday, December 09, 2021

It Has Come To My Attention

SUMMARY: Some kind of festive holiday thing? "Krismass"?
Feeling: Inexplicably uneasy and, strangely, eager.

It has come to my attention that it is, once again, despite my best efforts, December. It is apparently, without my express written permission, in a brand new year, not repeating any of the perfectly fine Decembers that our holiday factory has worked hard to produce over the years. 

For example, 1987 involved pirates sneaking into our house while we were out doing something important --such as not decorating our tree--and leaving us with a garland skull and crossbones. Remind me to never again give relatives or pirates the keys to my house. At least not while boxes of pending tree decorations are sitting around unguarded. Why has no one submitted a re-use request for this perfectly good December, which required very few holiday decorations for a last-minute reconstitution?

This one was pretty good, too. I'd have signed off on a request for this one. The 2002 when Mr. Alien took over Disneyland. Remember that? It was in all the news. Anyone who neglected to wear their aluminum foil hat was instantly brainwashed into not seeing all the thousands of tiny Mr. Alien-kins swarming the place, aiming to abscond with the rumored "Magic." I don't know whether they succeeded. But then, I never actually saw any tiny Mr. Alien-kins, having left my aluminum foil at home.

1983 had its highlights as well, although no aliens were involved. The household beasts always received a giant rawhide bone each from Santa. Santa must be a dog person. Or maybe the elves are dog elves and Santa just rolls his eyes and goes along with it. Watching them unwrap their gifts gave warm fuzzies to the humans, too. Although why unwrap the whole thing when all you need to start is one end? In fact, why unwrap yours at all when you are a genius husky and are pretty sure that you can end up with two rawhide bones if you play your cards right. If someone had played their cards right and arranged ahead of time with my department, perhaps we could have resurrected this year from the archives.

I wouldn't mind dusting off 1990, either, when everyone in the family received matching "San Andreas--It's Our Fault" t-shirts, which were enchanted like some of those old fairy tales so that we had to keep dancing and laughing while wearing the shirts until we collapsed in the living room to eat cookies, roast beef, candy cigarettes, and matzoh ball soup. My family had an eclectic idea about Christmas buffets. I'd love to dust those off, too. Do you see what I am getting at here? Asking permission is key.

Also, I seem to recall that 1966 would be perfectly reusable, including all of our annual new Christmas nightclothes and not-annual Tressy dolls ("Her Hair Grows!"). Best thing is that they could fit all of Barbie's clothes. Worst thing was how expensive Barbie's clothes were. That Barbie sure could wow 'em at the Met, though. No, worst thing was that I couldn't fit Barbie's clothes. But I could fit my new Xmas nightgown, although I'm afraid that I outgrew it before the following Dec 24. The same thing I did every year, Pinky. But at least I had bright blue fluffy slippers at the time. Pretty sure Tressy is still around in some quiet repose in the playroom here at Taj MuttHall, so redoing that year would be a piece of cake. Or of cookies.

Even Christmas of 1956 holds promise for a revisit, because I still have Dad's hat. Pretty sure I'd look as charming as I did then. In particular, I notice no wrinkles. In me, I mean. Although, in real life, I grew, and the hat shrank.  

Or maybe I transposed the numbers and I mean 1965 instead of 1956. Why I opted to dress like a pirate at Christmas shall remain a mystery.  But, see, if we were reusing this year, perhaps I could solve the mystery. But nooooooo. Also, it is perhaps because I stereotyped pirates as having bad teeth, being visually impaired, and walking with a peg leg, that eventually what goes around comes around and I ended up with a garland skull and crossbones on my tree two decades later. Let that be a lesson: Don't stereotype pirates. Hear that, Disney? It would never sell.

(You can tell it's Christmas because you can see one of the wise men in mom's childhood creche wearing blue and kneeling just to the left of someone's horse that someone added in front. Not confessing who that might have been. Although it's possible that that horse is still in a toy box around here somewhere. Not that it has anything to do with me. But that family might have needed a better way than the back of a donkey to transport mother and child along with all that gold, frankincense, myrrh; hair combs and watch fobs; hippopotamuses; and silver, gold, and drumming drummer boys. Just saying.)

So, in the future, please ensure that you have properly submitted the requests for a December before I have to deny it because the whole corporation goes on vacation December 1, when it is too late to properly implement a new one or reassemble an old one from storage. Who knows what will happen in an unauthorized December. Just this year, I give you after-the-fact permission and will overlook your mistake this time. But don't let it happen again.

Feeling: Nostalgic. Curious. A little at sea. Transmogrifying. 

See? A perfect recreation is possible.
From a 2011 photo

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

SUMMARY: But What About Dogs?
Originally posted on Facebook: Nov 20, 2020 in response to the #originaldognamechallenge

I’m not going to repost my dog photos, but here’s what each of them came to me as:

“Chipper” = Chip (I stayed in touch with his previous family, and Chip seemed to work fine. But “Chipper” was a bit too chipper for me.)

“Greenelda” (or some such) = Boost (All the puppies had color puppy names to match their collar colors.)

“Jake” = Jake (he had a perfect name and he was already a perfect little agility dog and I saw no reason to change it at his age of sixish)

“Lone Star” = Sheba (I think Lonestar was a popular beer at the time. But, really, for a husky?!)

“Luke” = Zorro (Luke was actually a perfect name, but under a theory that he had already learned to blow me off under that name, I changed it. Made no difference. ๐Ÿ˜œ) (On the other hand, it did eventually stop me from calling him “Jake”.)

“One of the two yellow puppies” = Amber

“Remington” = Remington (I tried to come up with several other names, but Remington just seemed to stick.)

“Savanna” = Tika (She had been adopted out from the shelter twice and returned twice before she was picked up by the rescue group. I don’t know where the savanna name came from during that process. She did not seem like a Savanna to me.)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Winding Roads

SUMMARY: You think you know where you are going, and suddenly--
First posted in a Facebook Group Oct 23, 2021

In my area--southwest to west of San Jose, CA, if you start at the southern end of Highway 9 in Los Gatos, its name is Los Gatos-Saratoga Road. (Or "highway 9," depending on your inclination.)

As it continues northwesterly, when entering Saratoga at the intersection of Saratoga Ave. it becomes Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd AKA "Old Highway 9" (because the new one veers away and is a different road entirely). At this point, you are going north.

When you enter Cupertino, it becomes DeAnza Blvd (This was Cupertino's bright idea so that we didn't have TWO local names for the same road (Saratoga-Sunnyvale and Sunnyvale-Saratoga). Now we have THREE names for that section), also aka Old Highway 9.

When you enter Sunnyvale, it becomes Sunnyvale-Saratoga Rd. Still going north.

At some point, it splits; if you turn right onto its old path, it becomes N. Sunnyvale Ave and then peters out. But if you follow its main flow, it becomes S. Mathilda Ave. for a few blocks, then N. Mathilda Ave. for about 2 miles.

It curves right smoothly about 90 degrees east at that point and becomes Caribbean Dr for a few more blocks going more or less east, then curves gently until it becomes Lawrence Expressway, going due south. (Aka state (? or county) highway 82, but no one calls it that).

And if you follow that for 8 miles, it turns into Quito Road where it crosses Saratoga Ave. (see above).

If you keep going south on Quito, eventually it ends at Los Gatos-Saratoga road, less than a mile northwest of where you started your trip.

(If you want to go around the circle again, sorry, you have to make an obvious right turn at a stoplight, and where's the fun in that?)

(This map shows you the west side of the loop with scale of miles at the bottom; Lawrence Expressway/Quito Rd is fairly obvious for the east side. Also here: Google maps: all that route mostly)

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Country or Western?

SUMMARY: My latest musical effort. Without any actual music.
From a Facebook Group Oct 8, 2021

This morning, doing my usual preflight check before going downstairs, I said out loud:

My phone is in my pocket
My dog is in the yard--

I know a winner when I say it, just needed more lyrics. Let it percolate a bit, and new realization: Negative would be funnier than positive. Plus I could squeeze in a pun. 

The result: My first-ever country/western song. Top 10 hit for sure.

My phone is in the toilet,
My dog escaped the yard,
My truck is in the kitchen,
My life is dog gone hard.

Smugly self-satisfied, I posted that to a group that loves mostly sophisticated kinds of humor* (ah, hubris rears its head again). And within minutes, someone responded:

If the phone is in the toilet, what are you writing this on?? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Challenge accepted! I sat staring at my screen, working an answer. Took only a couple of minutes to respond:

Hmmm. Next verse?

My Mac is at the Genius Bar
My PC’s screen is blue
I stole my neighbor’s Android
So this message could get through.

Doggerel is easy. Although I think it actually keeps its rhythm. I'm sure you'll let me know


* "Welcome to the Devotees of the Style Invitational, the long-running weekly humor/wordplay contest in The Washington Post. Our humor is usually sophisticated, sometimes crude -- from the haughty to the potty. The atmosphere in the group is irreverent, but there's no trash-talking." 

Friday, October 08, 2021

The Inconveniences of Fencing and of Vinegar

SUMMARY: Related to dogs.
Posted on FB 10/8/21. Edited to post here.

This story has two parts.

Part 1: Fencing

Someone has to stay inside until late this afternoon. This never happens. He has words to say about this.

The middle portion of my north-ish fence began leaning/bowing in towards my yard last winter, I believe. But it stopped when it encountered a tree to lean on, so... [shrug]

I'd been meaning to take a photo of its relaxed state for months.
Too late--the fenceman had already propped it up to work on it
before I realized something was happening.

While I think that it is super cool that apparently the neighbor has hired someone to replace the rotted posts in that section of fence between us at his own expense (since he has said nothing*), I think that it would have been wise--given that he knows that I have dogs, having lived next to me for 20 years--to give me advanced notice that the fence would be down for half a day.

I am sooooo thankful that I was home when they started sawing away at the posts.


 * Just saw him, I said let me know what I owe you. He grinned, waved it away, and said, "Don't worry about it." After he denied me a 2nd time, I'll take it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Part 2, later the same day: Vinegar

I sit in the green chair. Zorro is on a 15-foot lead. 
He'd rather be on his own.
That fence thing is still in progress across the yard and he must see!

Poor Zorro. Has an uneducated Human Mom.

I had potstickers for lunch. I love them with white vinegar, so I poured it onto the plate from the large bottle. When I finished, some vinegar remained on the plate along with Maybe half a dozen crumbs from the potstickers themselves. I put it on the floor to see whether he'd lick it (he hardly ever turns things down), thinking that he probably wouldn’t like the vinegar. He definitely tried to stay away from it while he tried to pick out the orts. I left him to it.

Now the gross part:

About 10 minutes later, he walked down into my office and threw up a good portion of his breakfast (of course onto the carpet, not three inches farther onto tile floor).

While I tried to keep him from re-eating it (a dog's first instinct, of course), his head made that little bobbing movement, and I pushed him over the tile floor where he threw up another large portion of breakfast. And after that, while I petted him and he eyed the two yummy piles of food, it started again, and I kept him on the tile for a third portion. Stomach pretty much emptied according to that third one.

OK, so at this point I didn’t even really have to look it up. But I wanted to know how much gastrointestinal distress or damage the vinegar might have done. Online vet sources say "some dogs can't tolerate it" and it could cause vomiting and diarrhea--for up to 48 hours afterwards!

OMG. OMG. And of course today is the only day in his Entire Life that he has been restricted to the house, without free access to the yard. (Maybe a few others here or there). 

Pretty sure he had been intending to go out to the yard to handle his upset because where he decorated the floor was only about 2 feet from the actual door he would normally go through.

So I’ve been outside with him for about 20 minutes. Shows no signs of wanting to throw up or poop. just hanging with me. 

Fingers crossed. I need to go back inside.

If I had a good place to hook his 15 foot lead without risk of it tangling up, I would do that. But I don’t.  And unwilling to try to set up a fence for just a couple more hours. I already went through that when I thought there was a skunk in the yard. And it was exhausting and painful.

So, here we are.

Oops. Now what?

An hour later, he still seems healthy. I just happen to have some leftover steamed white rice. 

That always perks him up.
Gave him the rice. He loved it. 

Sunday, October 03, 2021

A Place for Family Treasures

SUMMARY: Books. Dogs. Bookends. To start with, anyway.

6:00 PM October 2, 2021. How can it possibly be getting dark this early already?

I'm typing away at the computer on my desk, trying to concentrate. But there's a niggling something at the edge of my consciousness. And finally I look off to the right of my bright, large monitor into the gloaming, and...

… something is staring at me with horrific wide white eyes from the shadows in the bookcase across this darkening room.

See it there on the top shelf, leaning against the little dark blue books? (Below the boxes, to the right of the vacuum handle?)

Let’s take a closer look, since the phone zoom is worthless.

Holy wow! Those aren’t his big buggy eyes!

They are his mustaches! Old friend of a friend.

He is nestling up to a collection of poetry in a set of books belonging to my great grandmother originally (My dad’s mom’s mom). 

Who is Betty?  Might be my grandmother, but no one called her that in my lifetime.
My great-grandmother?
Who is Glossie (seems vaguely familiar?) ?
Time to call on my Sisterclan hivemind! 
So I don't have to actually do the research myself.

And apparently my grandmother and her sister Hap were more or less bitterly divided about the fact that grandma inherited the books and Hap didn’t. (I don’t know: when I knew them, they were good friends and bought houses in Arizona in the same retirement town even though they were both from back east.) 

I was not the only sister who wanted them, but whatever negotiations we did, I brought them home. And have I opened them since I brought them home? I have no idea, but I like having them where I can see them easily. I do think about their growing fragility. The pages still cling tightly, but the spines are sketchy. I handle them with loving care when I touch them. We can keep aging, together.

They always held a prominent place of honor in my parents' living room. Dad had a set of bookends, wood, one of which was a large R and one of which was a large L. Those always… yes, bookended… those books. 

See the "R" and "L" around these books, top shelf?

And I have no idea whence those bookends came. Were they originally dad's, or were they his father’s? A gift? (I'm guessing yes on that.) So many things that I never asked and that they never wrote down. Unless that’s in the anecdotal history that dad wrote.

And... which sister took the bookends home? They were always around these books (at least since the late '70s), so I should've spirited them away when no one was looking, heh heh heh.  Of course... I already have several warehouses full of bookends plus a plethora of items that make fine book-holder-uppers, such as this little guy.

But I do know whence came the dog: My best friend since junior high. It was her Dad's and it reminds her of him. They lived together in their spacious-enough home until he died around 90, so I also knew him for a long time; not well, because he wasn't usually around when we were hanging out, but still. He had a lovely sense of humor. He was a "collector" and she's a minimalist, so she has spent time over a few years purging things. She knows I love dogs and asked whether I could rehome him--and I certainly could. Who could turn down that face? Another permanent member of the household.

So many treasures and memories, none of which will likely matter in any way to the next generation. Unless I collect these stories into a book and deliver it to all. Another project for retirement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Why Even Pro Golfers Have Trouble Getting Their Last Agility Super-Q

SUMMARY: You got all the gambles you need for your agility championship except one, and now for reasons beyond sanity, demons prevent you from getting that last one!

Tika and one of her SuperQ ribbons. 
That 3rd one was our bugaboo.

I'm reading the book Why We Make Mistakes.

Gosh darned innate human response to stress when the outcome matters more than average, apparently. The book describes a study in which the PGA (Pro Golf Association) measured the success rates of only 6-foot putts in 15 pro golf tournaments one year without the golfers being aware of the study. 

One finding--and the most precious to our story, little darlings--was that golfers successfully made the putt if were only for a par score more often than if it were for making a birdie (one under par). Apparently because making par is just “average”, but making a birdie is a highly desirable outcome. And one stroke could make a huge difference in your final position among finishers and your take-home winnings. 

And yet--very shot you make is like that over the whole course, right? Where you might be earning a total score of 265-285 shots.  But somehow labeling the last shot on a hole as a “birdie” vs “par”decreased their ability to make the shot.

It’s like desperately trying to get hat last gamblers leg. That last super-Q in Snooker. That last anything to complete your agility championship. Or any other big title (more advanced championships, or lifetime achievement award, and so on), or cruising through the entire season being highly successful, cruising through the regionals and earning byes for the nationals, cruising through all the early rounds of the national or international championships and getting to the final round, And suddenly… 

BUT WAIT A MINUTE-- How many people get that last gamblers or that last superQ after struggling week after week or month after month (or year after year) and suddenly get the next four in a row?! What happened-- did the next ones just not matter any more?

Given my experience with four dogs, that doesn’t change even after getting those championships with multiple dogs. I’m sure that not everyone succumbs to this sort of self pressure. But it seems to be common, even among excellent teams. Ammiright?

The Jakemeister

So: Jake's ADCH, 2001

Super-Qs were no prob, but Gamblers?! I even started traveling up and down the state for hundreds of miles (which I didn't before and haven't since) trying to get that last confounded Gamblers Q. Then, one weekend in my own backyard (so to speak), my own club's USDAA event... Jake had been on enforced rest for a sore back for weeks and we had barely started trying to run full courses again. He was getting older. I really wanted that Q. I entered him in only that Gamblers class for the whole 4-day weekend... 

...and I was so busy in doing my jobs for the trial that I missed the obscene-colorful-adjective walkthrough and people were already running.  A friend told me from the sidelines what his plan was. The gamble looked nearly impossible to me. I was so sure, given those two handicaps, that I wouldn't get it that I didn't even ask anyone to videotape it. Annnnnnnnnd...

...of course we got the Q and the championship.  I had taken away my own stress level and relaxed because now it was clearly just going to have to be for fun, not for an actual Q.

Jake's ADCH gamblers course

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Dogs Just Want To Have Fruit ... Tomatoes or Pears or...

SUMMARY: Tomatoes, or plums or pears or apples or whatever.

Yes, these days tomatoes are referred to as vegetables. But, technically, they're a fruit.

Dawn and Katie posted about tomato-eating dogs this morning, and I of course had a response.

I’ve grown tomatoes only once, and only inadvertently: A tomato bush volunteered in one of my planters. Fifteen to twenty years ago. That might go back to Remington and Jake, but answer is hazy; try again later.

It grew and grew and covered itself with little green cherry tomatoes that then started turning red and I checked eagerly daily for ripe ones. Got a couple–really good–and then, shortly thereafter, I looked out my kitchen window and espied one of the dogs plucking the ripe-ish ones off the bush. Grrr!

I didn’t try setting up a fence and I never got more tomatoes for myself. 

Other fruit--

If pears really looked like this, maybe the dogs 
wouldn't eat so many

Tika used to stand on her hind legs and even jump from that position to get low-hanging pears or plums or apples off the trees. Jake loved oranges. All of my dogs would get fat on plums that drop constantly during their ripe season, and now I know that that happens for pears, too--Zorro has added 4 pounds in the last month or so, which a 31-lb dog should never do if he wants to keep his boyish figure (and do agility and jump on and off beds safely).

Zorro chewing a bit of pear while protecting the rest.

Zorro doesn't eat the stems from pears; they now litter the back yard and deck and the house (although I pick those up as soon as I see them.  

Boost also didn't eat the stems--but made sure that every speck of pear belonged to her.

Tika enjoyed pears, too--nibbling off a bit, licking her lips, and continuing.

But I get all of that, because pears and plums and apples are sweet. I wouldn’t necessarily guess that dogs would like the slight tartness of tomatoes. Shrug. What do I  really know about dogs, anyway?

Do your pups steal your tomatoes?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Downsizing: Two Stories

SUMMARY: It's hard. But not as hard as it could be.

I've known about Manzanar for decades. Still haven't been (twice due to weather issues on my route--once, snow; once, heat--to give you a rough idea about the weather extremes residents there would've experienced).

Currently I'm trying to downsize my possessions before moving, hopefully to a smaller house. My stated goal is to get rid of half of everything. I struggle daily with which books to keep, which to give away. Or clothing. Or kitchen, cooking, baking items. Or furniture. Or personal mementos of family or trips or experiences. Or photo albums (I have dozens--mine and my parents').  Mentioned to a friend a couple of hours ago how stressful it is, making so many decisions day after day.

And now I just watched this. 

If you have the time, it's beautifully produced, sensitive,
upbeat in a way, understanding of how they lived
and made lives as best they could and  respectful of the challenges. 
While being reminded of what they--and we as a country--lost.
If you can't see the video here, then: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=araQR50tVjI

The comparison to my downsize challenges is agonizing. Two suitcases.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Snippet: On Visiting

SUMMARY: How much time do you have?

My brain automatically plays this recording through my mouth to anyone who's considering going somewhere to visit or coming here to visit. Particularly if the destination du jour is where one used to live, or where you know multiple households, or where One Has Always Wanted To Go Because Reasons.  

I know what it’s like, visiting someplace in which dozens of family and friends might be interested in getting together. The first decade or so of my marriage, we’d go to Los Angeles at least a couple times yearly to visit...

Visiting L.A. in-law relatives, 1985.
Required By Law™ when visiting: Photos.
Guess which one I am.
...His mom. His stepfather. His great aunt and uncle. His cousins. His best man and wife, his 2nd groomsman and his wife, and 3rd groomsman and his wife. A few other high school friends of his. If I were lucky, a couple friends of mine.

And although I enjoyed visiting these folks, honestly, what I really wanted to do was keep going and hit up allllll the things to see in the L.A. area (never did) or  Disneyland (did once, for one day). Ha!  We most certainly did not see everyone every trip, but it was crazy anyway. 

If Disneyland were our higher priority, we'd carefully sneak past the L.A. area, covering our faces so no one could recognize us.

What I’m saying is, would be fun to see you, but I totally get it if you’re swamped when you get here.


Once again I failed at "snippet". I started with one large paragraph, so I figured: Snippet of text! Then added three sentences and a squillion paragraph breaks and, voila, result =  > snippet

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Snippet: Burying the Chew

SUMMARY: Human Mom does not approve.

Usually when I give my dogs a chew of some sort (e.g., a bully stick or Greenie), they carry it somewhere comfy and make short work of it with their scary pointy teeth--probably their scary hard molars really. For Tika, the back lawn suited her preferences. For Zorro, it's usually the comfy couch in the living room (it is covered) or somewhere in my office, depending on where I've plonked myself.

A couple of weeks ago, Zorro tried to hide his chew treat in a hole under a tunnel. I stood there, right next to him, watching, issuing polemics. I said accusingly, "I'm not going to leave it there," and "I'll pull it out as soon as you're done," and "Please don't bury that. I hate when you do that." 

But he did it anyway.*

He used to be more concerned about me watching.
From 2017: He trotted out to the yard with this king of all rawhides and started poking around in various places (under shrubs, behind trees,had to be just the right place).
I watched through the kitchen window. As he trotted across the back Back 40, suddenly he noticed me and froze.
Then hurriedly vanished into a part of the yard where I couldn't see him.  Fortunately ginormous treats are easily found, even in a hole cleverly covered with leaves.

Dug a fairly substantial hole, then used his nose to push the dirt back in on top of it. When done, he stood up with his snout covered with dirt and trotted toward the house as if expecting me to follow. Stopped and looked over his shoulder. Came rushing back, greatly concerned, because I had already bent over and started pulling it out.  

Went back into the house, gave it back to him, and this time he chewed it up.

The main issue with dogs hiding them is that I attach a vise grip to the treats so they won't choke on the large final piece. Vise grips aren't always cheap, and I have a terrible time finding really small ones.  I hate losing them. Tika would just leave it on the lawn when she was done...

...and since they usually got the chews in the evening, I'd tell myself confidently that I'd find it in the morning. Then, either I'd forget or it would hide. Once they've been in the ground for a while, especially during rainy season or when I'm irrigating, they cleverly turn themselves into metal to be recycled. As these two Vanna photos demonstrate.


* didn't have my camera. Dang. 

P.S. This started as a snippet. But I just can't stop! Ever!

P.P.S. to self: Do I seriously have no photos of Zorro burying something? No photos of him with treats with vise grips? Time to get busy with the camera.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Getting Ready to Write -- Fiction

SUMMARY: Beforehand it's research but, like,  fun!
(Started in a comment on an artist's post about an image he created.)

1860s cowboys or cavalry?
More photos of dress from that era
In a private group, an artist posted a style sheet for a character in his [wild-west-magical-realism] graphic novel--the man's appearance, every angle, every expression in which he had drawn him. He adds another sketch to it every time he draws some other angle or expression or clothing view.

I liked seeing that. 

It startlingly echoed the for-fun fan fiction (FFFF?) project I'm working on that takes place in the 1860s-'80s "wild west" using characters, names, and tropes from the original author of a trilogy (which I talked about a little here), intermingled with true history and familiar tropes of wild-west time and place.  In other words, fan fiction/historical fiction that gives verisimilitude to both universes that readers of either might recognize and yet is different from both. 

I'm a writer, not an artist particularly but, like [the artist], I need to decide--before plunging into writing--who and what will be in the story, what they look like and their backstory, whether a  person or a town.

So I'm up to my eyeballs in [internet] research on what real cowboys really wore during that time and gold- and silver-rush mining Colorado (and other areas up and down the Rockies) mining towns when they start up and then after a few years, and from among the images, descriptions, and explanations, I need to pick what style goes with each character or location.  I can also invent anything about anyone or anyplace, but this is supposed to be a "short" for-fun fiction so I don't want to have to invent very much but I also don't want it to take place in the author's original time and place nor in the actual wild west (if there ever was such a thing).

What the previously nonexistent Virginia City looked like
in 1867, seven years after the discovery there of the Comstock Lode.

And then 10 years later at its peak of estimated 25,000 residents.
Fifteen years after that, the population had dropped to 6,000. 
40 years later, about 600. About there it has been ever since.

In other words, this is an Alternate Universe of the American west and ditto of the original books.

And of course I track what people and towns and buildings and landscapes look like; I don't want Billy to accidentally have green eyes somewhere where they've been blue all along (not that kind of story: no magic). 

I'm sharing this info with an artist who came up with a single idea and location and set of characters (same wild west/original fiction) and is creating a painting of it.  I'm building the story around that, but we are currently going back and forth on what the artist's vision is and how I want to work with it, so it's important to record and share details. He's even given me a floorplan layout of the building in which his particular scene in the story takes place--which is extremely cool, because then I don't have to invent a layout myself and try to remember it.

I've shared wayyyyyy more details than he probably wants, although he says it's fascinating and he never expected he'd learn so much from doing a one-off image for fun.

My point was: I have a lot of text notes about clothing choices--style and color and how they wear them--hair styles, attitudes towards others and each other,  where they're from originally so how they talk--likely mostly the same sort of thing that [an artist goes] through. 

I won't have actual sketches, but I do track how I expect they'll react in certain situations and how that would be expressed in body, face, and gestures. It's fun.  BUT it's also fun because I'm reusing the original author's fully realized characters, so I don't have to invent most of this.

And I think I'm within a day or two of starting to spew story onto the [digital] page. I already know more or less where I want it to go, but I can't keep saying, "he made his way through waist-high shrubbery"--I want to know what kind of vegetation is actually out there where he'll be riding. Oh, I know, sage brush and all that, but of course that's not true everywhere. So much easier to know these things before I start putting sentences and scenes in writing than to go back later and fill in a lot of [insert here some appropriate river name between uh... [sometown1] and [sometown2]].

Our deadline is October. I've barely ever done any collaborating historically, and this *is* for fun, so I'm trying to remain relaxed about it.

Hey, [in my online post to the original artist] I think I just wrote myself a rough draft of a blog post. 

Instead of actually writing on the story...?!?!


Town images: See them on Wikipedia at Virginia City, Nevada and Deadwood, South Dakota. Click each image for source details.
Cowboy image: Is currently on a Pinterest board, so I hope it doesn't go away...  I have saved an actual copy just in case.

Deadwood, S.D.,  the year someone discovered gold there.
These towns were not like we see them in Westerns. Muddy, grubby, horse manure everywhere...

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Work Vs. Puppy

SUMMARY: My puppies vs my career

August 18: A friend, who retired 2 years ago and just got a new puppy, posted on Facebook, "How did we ever get out of the house when we worked and had puppies?"

My first puppy, Amber, I spent the Winter holidays (yes that includes Christmas Day) paper-training her. When I returned to work, I left her confined in the kitchen with a bunch of newspaper in one end of the room. I worked in a secure location managing and running computers and clients (imagine the combinations in that phrase) and I couldn't leave long enough to check on her during my shift.

Amber at 6-8 weeks outside my apartment.

She was mostly good about using the newspapers for the intended purpose. Whew! But I was mistaken to think that a 7-week old puppy couldn't reach anything in the room. Tsk, Amber. And I didn't know nuthin' 'bout cratin' no puppies. 

And even worse at 10 weeks. ๐Ÿ˜‰ After receiving notice at my apartment that pets were not allowed (I did know that, but...), we stayed with my parents and sisters for another couple of months or so while I looked for a place to live, and they'd let her out as needed.

Amber, maybe 4 months, at my parents'. 
Note the newspapers on the floor by the sliding door.
She was pretty good about using them if no one let her out.
But I didn't know enough to put plastic underneath,
and it ruined the color of their sheet flooring.

When I got Boost at three months, I had worked at home almost exclusively for the previous dozen years. Perfect for starting a new puppy, right? A week after I got her, of course I was assigned a contract in Foster City, a commute of somewhere between half an hour and an hour, where the client required that I work on site. Of course. Because that's how the universe works.  

Working full time, and even assuming I ate lunch at my desk instead of taking an official break, that still meant I'd be away from home for nine or ten hours straight.

It was one of those times when good contracts were hard to find, and it really was a good assignment. Other than that.

[TO DO: Do I have photos of her in that small crate?!]

I explained carefully to the client's manager that I had just gotten a new puppy and why I would need access to her. And said I'd be grateful if would it be OK if I brought in her crate and put it under my desk, and that she would stay there except when I took her out for walks. He said he would check with HR, because HR had always said no to that sort of thing, and later, yep, HR said no way. 

So I took her to Foster City in MUTT MVR in her crate, and every morning upon arrival I'd drive around the busy high-rise office park and streets in an area without much extra parking or shade until I found a legal shady spot, leave the car there, and walk into the office as much as 15 minutes away. Then every two or three hours I'd go out to check the shade and usually to walk her around and play with her a bunch. That means: I was essentially taking a half hour to 45 minute break every two or three hours. 

Within three weeks, they gave me permission to work from home.

Working at home, I kept her sometimes in her crate but most often penned up in my office in her x-pen.  Plastic underneath newspapers (I'm capable of learning), although the newspapers didn't stay put with her ministrations. Mostly I was able to get her outside frequently enough for pottying.
Don't ask whether she ever decided to pull the plastic all into a heap inside the x-pen.

Geez she was gorgeous.

I tried leaving her in the kitchen (from where, by the way, she could see me perfectly well) because: No carpets. But she wasn't thrilled about that.

And those are the only puppies I've really had.  Except ... Remington... oh, well, he was about 6 months, so I guess that counts. That's another story.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Happy Tug-Playing Wanderer - Val-deri!

SUMMARY: There are consequences --Only the best misheard lyrics from K_Taj MuttHall.
I posted on FB this morning, slightly different lyrics.

True story.

Zorro loves to play some tug;
He really has the knack.
And then I sit inside and sing,
An ice pack on my back.

An ice pack on my back.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Last Time I Moved

SUMMARY: Reminding myself why I don't want to do that again
Backfill: Photos from 20 years ago.

This is *after* I have already started unpacking and putting things in better places. Then I realized that I'd regret not taking photos. So here's some.

Back porch/deck/whatev

The back porch was a good place to put everything that needed to go into the kitchen (so I could walk around in the kitchen) and anything else I didn't have a good place for. It was summer; it was covered and enclosed.  

Wide view:

Then, camera in hand, look left:

Standing at one end and photo left...

Jake is stunned.
...rotate a bit to the right...

...rotate a bit right more...

...rotate a bit more...

...rotate a bit and aim downward...

...and end rotation.

Living room


My original comment on this photo
from back then:
"The movers have just departed after their 2nd day of unloading trucks. I wander around the house, in dull shock, thinking "Whose is all this stuff anyway?"
Remington's thought balloon: "If only I could find a clear spot of carpeting to lie down on..."

Dining Room

Picture, if you will: Dining/Living area is L-shaped, so living room would be base of the L and dining would be the upright.

Looking along the back wall of the living room

Rotate slightly right

[[[I f***ing hate blogger and its supposed photo inclusion capability. I don't know how people do this if they don't know f**** HTML. I mean, *I* know it and I can't make things work correctly!
I have got to find a way to transfer it all somewhere else. ]]]
Step into the living room and look back into the dining room.
Many of the boxes (maybe all) are books.


Office corner next to iron railing of breakfast nook/kitchen.
You can see that I've already done tons of unpacking at this point. 
So you don't get the full impact. Bummer.

Opposite corner of the office. 
All the electronics are already unpacked and mostly set up so I can function.

I had so much material in the desk drawers that it was imperative that I photograph them *before* unloading them so that I could easily fit them back in.  Is this a lot????
A few years ago, I went through and pulled out more than half, maybe 2/3 of everything and gave it away. 

Shelves on desk, left to right:

All those CD and other removable media storage things became obsolete in a few years
and are now almost all gone.

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook

Actual kitchen is to the right.  
Office is half a level down, behind the black iron railing--
you can see the tops of piles and the ceiling fan.


Many things have already been removed from this area;
movers just put almost everything for the yard here.
They also moved a few larger items out farther into the yard.

Master bedroom

Apparently I took no photos of the closet and all of its boxes and clothing.

Bedroom #1

Stuff to go into the attic room up the pull-down ladder. Later. Mostly.

Bedroom #2

Hmm, no photos. Nothing really to go there.

Bedroom #3

Did I seriously not take photos of the guest room with all of its furniture and boxes?!


I *know* that I took photos of the garage even though it was difficult. It was literally up to the level of the garage door opener, and packed nearly wall to wall, just barely space for me to get by on two sides. Terrifying.  Welllll I'll have to find that later.