a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2021

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. 😉 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.