Monday, November 30, 2009

you don't drive Truck Norris, he drives you!

Just over a week ago, we brought a new vehicle into our lives, making us a two-car family again for the first time in two years. Meet Truck Norris:

Truck Norris is a 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel engine, an extended cab, the long bed, and the tow package. We've already had a Rhino Lining bedliner put in, and a canopy top for the bed is on order and should be here in about two weeks. The dogs ride in the backseat, which we've arranged nicely with a flat sheet ziptied to the folded seats to protect them, dog beds on the cargo shelf that folds out from the floor, and soon a net barrier to keep them from warming up the drivers' seat when we leave them in the truck. Phoebe is especially fond of sitting on the top of the seatback and vulturing at us with her beady little eyes.

We're pleased with our purchase, and looking forward to a long lifetime of use for both flyball and home needs. I already took a big load of tree branches to the dump over the weekend, and we've been using it to go to flyball practice and will be taking it to Canada this weekend for the tournament. That will be a bit interesting, as we don't have the canopy yet, so we will be putting our silver travel pod in the truck bed along with the cooler and bin wrapped in tarps to protect them! The new truck will give us a second snow-capable vehicle for the winter, as well as take the burden of long-range travel off of the Subaru (which is just about to turn 80,000 miles) which will help extend the life of that vehicle.

And of course, Truck Norris will achieve his calling next spring, when if all goes as planned we will be purchasing a travel trailer RV. Until then, however, he will have to be content with taking loads of stuff to the dump, bringing home our Christmas tree, and hauling around 110 lbs of dog in the backseat.

All hail Truck Norris!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Halloween celebrations!

I finally got the pictures off the camera, so here are some shots of our Halloween celebration this year!

First off, we have Phoebe dressed as a ladybug as part of the JCJ "Ladybug Flock" for the Cascade Comets costume parade during the tournament the weekend before Halloween. She was not as amused about it as I was, but she was a good sport nonetheless. It's hard to see in the picture, but she is also wearing a headband with antennae. I had tried to make costumes for all three girls, but my efforts were foiled when the tape didn't stick to their coats as planned, and only a teammate having an unneeded small costume meant I got to participate with one of the dogs after all. Lucky (or not) Phoebe!

We hosted our Halloween party on Halloween night this year, which is always nice and which involved lots of food and copious amounts of Rock Band. Surprisingly, everyone was happy to stay upstairs all evening, and we never even went down to play pool, pingpong, or darts. I was pretty happy with the food we had, even if it was too much - chili with cornbread; edamame dip, hummus, and salsa with corn chips, pita chips, carrots, and celery; sugar cookies; sprinkle cupcakes; crack bars; gluten-free cappucino chip brownies; hot spiced cider. I got a dessert tower to use this year, which turned out great, and friends brought a hysterical "dead cheese man" complete with raspberry sauce blood. Yay!

And of course, what would Halloween be without carved pumpkins? This year I picked out and bought some patterns online, and I carved a dragon and Chris carved a dingbat. I also picked up a ghost pumpkin (white-flesh pumpkin) and used a sharpie to put a witches' face on it, which looked nice under my sparkly spiderweb witch hat under the blacklight.

A good time was had by all, and I look forward to hosting again next year. Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, and it just keeps getting better each year with more friends and more fun games to play!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

sixteen thousand miles and counting

Last Friday I turned over 16,000 miles on my bike while going over 520 on my way to work. That makes a little over 13,000 miles I've put on the bike myself in about 19 months, or a little over 8000 miles per year. I'm pretty sure I put well over 7000 miles on the Vulcan before I got the BMW, so that means I've now ridden over 20,000 miles over the past two and a half years.

And sadly, probably at least 19,500 of those miles have been commuting to work and back. We haven't done much fun riding, unfortunately.

As far as I know, I'm the only woman who is still motorcycle-commuting full time now at my work, as the only bikes I'm seeing now all belong to men. Even those are starting to die down, with only 4-6 others showing up on a regular basis as opposed to the 20 or more that are around in the summertime. It's an interesting cohort to be in, the year-round motorcycle rider, and one that is probably comprised of stubbornness and partial insanity. There's probably a large component of testosterone in there as well, which is probably why I'm the only woman I know of who does it. Whether that makes me more or less crazy than the guys has yet to be seen, however.

I still love riding my bike every time I get on it, although I'm really starting to want bar risers more as time goes on, especially when I get stuck in traffic. Wearing the winter liner in my armored pants is quite annoying as well, as it reduces my movement ability and makes me feel quite stiff. My gloves, helmet, and boots are holding up beautifully, however, and my winter jacket is holding its own even though I'm getting the itch to get something different and more streamlined. Not anytime soon, however!
I have officially decided that I will be going with other members of our flyball club to Phoenix, AZ for a flyball tournament on January 1, 2, and 3. Chris can't take that much time off from work, as most of us are driving down and back, so he will stay home with Curzon and I will take the three girls. The tournament is part of Wags for Wishes, an enormous annual fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation, and the overall event includes agility, dock dogs, frisbee, herding, obedience, rally, barn-dog, flyball, CGC testing, and more. We'll be quite busy with just the tournament, unfortunately, although I am planning to take Phoebe for a session of barn-dog and am hoping to maybe enter a wave or two of dock dogs competition.

Of course, we'll have to get there first - and that will involve two and a half days of driving to do it! I'll be riding with my friends Ben & Deb in their truck, and we'll be caravaning with four other people in two other trucks in order to handle transporting all of our equipment in addition to ourselves and the dogs. It should be a fun trip, but it's going to be a LOT of sitting in the car!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

another weekend, another flyball tournament, another batch of injuries

Last weekend was our first tournament of the 2010 NAFA season, which runs from October 1 of the previous year through September 30. This one was the annual "South of the Boo!der" Halloween-themed tourney hosted by the Cascade Comets at Argus Ranch in Auburn, which is southeast of Seattle. This year turned out to be a little difficult for me, as Chris had to work all weekend due to staffing issues at his company, which meant I was on my own with the three girls. Luckily our friends Jeff and Julie were willing to let me stay with them on-site in their RV, so I didn't have to do an hour+ of driving twice each day.

Ezri did very well this weekend, and I am very proud of her. She handled her first dirt-surface tournament without blinking twice, and ran happily in both start and second position. On Saturday I started her in one race, where she ran 4.14 - 4.10 - 4.10 - 4.11 - 4.14 across the five heats, setting a new personal best of 4.10 and being VERY consistent with her run times. She also earned her Flyball Dog Champion Silver (1000 points) title on Saturday morning, and is well on her way to her Gold (2500 points) title. Sunday I started her in two of the three races she ran, and she pulled out a 4.06 second run in her first heat of the day! This makes her the third fastest dog in the club by personal best, with Indigo in first with a 3.76 and Curzon in second with a 3.92. Unfortunately, she strained her shoulder trying to avoid our anchor dog for a rerun in her third race, which ended her racing day - the silly little girl completed her race despite the pain, apparently crying with every step down and back until she returned to me. Our onsite vet checked her out and found the strain, and with some aspirin and icing she's already healed past the injury. Ah, to be so young and heal up so quickly!

Jadzia was on our Veterans team, which we ran with four older girls running savage since a veterans team only get 16 heats in a day. The girls did great, with only one missed pass on Saturday (my fault!) and no errors on Sunday, for a total of 780 points over the weekend. We've had "normal" racing teams not earn that many points in a weekend, so we were pretty thrilled to pull this off! Jadzia's racing was very smooth and she was very animated and happy to run, and broke 5.0 seconds three times during the weekend, with most of her runs in the 5.2-5.3 second range. I think now that I have Ezri to "stage-manage" and soak up my ambition, I'm no longer putting pressure on Jadzia that she cannot meet, and this is making flyball way more fun for her.

Phoebe also ran well all weekend, being our little height-dog tank and consistently pulling in 5.8-6.1 second times even with 40+ heats each day. She handled multiple sudden "grab and go" incidents where she was needed to replace our other height dog, and ran for me, Jeff, and Lindsey throughout the weekend without a single dropped ball or snarky comment. Unfortunately, it looks like she broke one of her back molars on Sunday, which I just discovered last night when I noticed she'd made another ball bloody while playing in the living room. Hopefully I can get her into the vet this week for a dental and a removal of the remainder of the tooth, as I don't want her to be in pain - or to bleed all over the toys!

Our next tournament will be the first of December, going up to Abbotsford for the annual Christmas-themed tourney put on by the Dogwood Pacesetters. I can't wait!

Monday, October 12, 2009

herding lesson one: sheep are toys!

On Sunday, I took Ezri and went along with Ben and Deb to join them for sheep herding lessons with Diane in Carnation. She's the one who bred Epic, and they've been taking Indigo there for quite a while now both before and after Deb's stint in Boston. I've done HIC tests with Jadzia and Curzon before, and they have both had a chunk of herding instruction with someone else, but this was to be Ezri's first time seeing sheep.

The first thing that happened when we got there is that Indigo and Ezri were tied up while Ben and Epic worked sheep in a big field, and Diane introduced me to herding in a small pen using her oldest bitch Tessa (who is Epic's dam). Ezri was not so pleased about this, especially with the size of the chain as compared to her! After all, princesses do not get chained to a fence in cold weather with frost on the ground, the very idea is abhorrent!

Shortly after she was tied up, however, she was provided with a new distraction as the large male turkey living in the pen behind the fence was very interested in her. Ezri was really unsure what to make of this particular creature, especially with his strange noises and being about three times her size!! She soon decided that he wasn't a threat, and commenced ignoring him and whining at Deb and I for not playing with her or otherwise paying attention to her. My time in the pen with Tessa was instructive and quite helpful, as the concept of a space bubble as well as the positioning needed for "come bye" and "away" are much better experienced than simply explained. And as with flyball, it seems that having an inexperienced handler work with an experienced dog to start can be quite helpful!

Ezri's first session in the pen started off quietly, as she was more interested in the sheep droppings than in the sheep themselves. The sheep, however, knew that she was a Sheep Dog even if she didn't realize it yet, and were avoiding her with the same alacrity that they had evaded Tessa earlier. Diane encouraged me to grab a sheep's back leg and play tug with it to get Ezri to realize that she could interact with them - and I saw the light bulb go off in her head when she realized that sheep were toys! Ezri then got to spend another few moments getting excited, barking at the sheep, and chasing them a bit before her first session was over, and she was back to being tied up while Indigo and Epic took turns again. As this photos shows, she was not happy to be pulled out of the pen and away from her newly-discovered interactive toys!

Our second session was spent with Ezri on a long line, learning to walk quietly near the sheep and go into a down when she got close to them. As she was still very excited - and still quite young, at not quite fifteen months - Ezri tried to lunge for the sheep almost every time. Diane had me be more forceful in my commands, and use a flag as a correction, which Ezri responded to very well, and by the end of this session we had one walk-down sequence that did not involve a lunge and quick correction. The first photo, however, is definitely from one of her lunges!

Second photo: learning to listen, and respecting the flag.

And final photo: a hint of the sheepdog that Ezri may become one day!

I really enjoyed our lesson time, and Diane is exactly the sort of knowledgeable, no-nonsense instructor that I prefer to learn from. With a lot of training and practice, Ezri will probably be a good sheep herding dog, should I wish to take her that far. I definitely enjoyed exploring a different aspect of border collie handling, and I want to continue that to some extent with Ezri, as well as Jadzia and Curzon. However, while I might trial in Novice once or twice for fun, I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in going to high levels of competition, and at least for now I'm definitely not interested in herding in the cold, wet, and messy Northwest winter months. Assuming there is space available, I'd like to take Ezri (and possibly the other two) herding once or twice more this fall, then pick it up again for fun next spring.

But for now, Ezri passed her herding instinct test with flying colors, and has justifiably earned her new title of HIC. Congratulations, Ignited's Ezri Dax FDCh HIC.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

pack resettling progress

So as I posted a while back, our dog pack has been reorganizing itself with the advent of Ezri's adulthood. Phoebe decided to take the opportunity to attempt to move up in the pack order, or at least to force the border collies to acknowledge her. This led to multiple spats where Phoebe would attack Jadzia, Jadzia would defend herself, and sometimes Ezri would also jump in to defend Jadzia. What a mess!

Curzon is a smart boy and has been staying out of the girl fights raging around him.

Originally we were separating the dogs and punishing Phoebe, but that was not solving the problem on a long-term basis. So about two weeks ago, I decided to take the "supervise and wait" approach where I would simply watch the fight occur, keep Ezri out of the fray, and not interfere unless someone was seriously injured. In one day Phoebe initiated two fights and Jadzia decisively won them, bringing a measure of peace to the house with only two injuries to Phoebe and none to Jadzia. Since then we have only had one fight in the house, which was shorter than the previous ones and which Jadzia also decisively won. Phoebe has been much better behaved as a result, typically hanging out quietly on a dog bed or playing when we're active and able to play with the dogs.

Unfortunately, we are still having problems when we are at flyball. At the Gig Harbor demo two weeks ago, I was running Jadzia while a friend was running Phoebe, and Phoebe got pissy over this and decided to attack Jadzia in the ring. I couldn't let them fight it out in public, so Phoebe was removed from the situation and I alternated who ran for the rest of the day. This past weekend at practice, Phoebe would not run if Jadzia was nearby - not in the same lane, and not in the lane next to her. Jadzia will run but will blow jumps to give Phoebe a wide berth when she returns, probably afraid of another attack. So for the moment at least, Jadzia won't run around Phoebe for fear that she'll attack her, and Phoebe won't run around Jadzia for fear that she'll finish the fight.

Again, what a mess!

This will hopefully be resolved soon, as they both ran perfectly when not around the other dog. I'm hoping to run them in a full group this weekend to see if they are OK running on the same team as long as they're not passing each other. They're not only on different teams for the Auburn tourney, but in different divisions, so they should not be running against each other at all. Our next tournament is in December, however, and chances are good that they will wind up on the same team, so we're going to have to settle the problem sooner or later.

Friday, October 2, 2009

(belated) a day to remember, part II

You know, sometimes life keeps getting in the way of things. Like weeding the garden, or updating my blog. Between a very busy stint at work, keeping the dogs occupied, playing warcraft with our wonderful friends, and trying to not let the house fall down, I've not spent much time composing much of anything! With the advent of fall our schedule has slowed down somewhat, and I have time to write the second half of this post, at not quite a month later.
The second reason that September 11 is a day to remember, is that one year ago it was the day I flew to Chicago to pick up my new puppy. When I planned for bringing Ezri into our home, not only did I include vet visits and the new kennel in my plans, I also made sure to plan for picking her up in person. Our breeder, like most, was happy to ship Ezri to me via air freight, but I didn't want her first experience away from her family to be alone like that, so I chose to pick her up.

I left Seattle on a 6:30am flight out to O'Hare in Chicago, arrived around lunchtime, and picked up my rental car for the day to head out. I was able to spend a few hours (and a pizza lunch!) with Mike and Sharon, including playing with Ezri's entire litter as well as several of her siblings from the litter two weeks older. I met Prancer and Dazzle, who are Ezri and Indigo's mothers, as well as Brita (their grandmother) and several other relatives. It was a lot of fun to talk to Mike and Sharon, as well as to just enjoy a whole house full of border collie craziness. As the afternoon wore on it was time for me to leave, and I packed up a confused Ezri into a small soft carrier and left to return to the airport.

Ezri was not at all pleased to be leaving her family with a stranger, let alone in a small container and in something large that moved unpredictably, and was quite sure to let me know. She soon settled down and went to sleep, however, until we arrived at the airport. The biggest hurdle that I had worried about was going through security - not only did I need to do the normal human security tasks of removing my shoes, pulling out my zipbag of liquids, and removing my DVD player - but I also had to deal with taking a wriggly naked puppy through with me while her carrier, collar, and leash went through the scanner. It went well enough, thankfully, and I was quickly able to deposit her back in her carrier so I could put my shoes back on.

The plane flight home began uneventfully, but soon my little princess decided she was hot and scared and planned to let everyone know of her distress. Rescue Remedy, treats, chew sticks, toys, petting, and talking all did nothing to soothe her, making me feel like quite a bad "parent" for imposing this noisy creature on the people seated around me. Soon after we achieved crusing altitude, the flight attendant came to talk to me and my seatmate and at his okay she told me to pull Ezri out and keep her in a blanket on my lap. As soon as she was out of the crate, Ezri quieted down and after eating an ice chip, she passed out flat on her back with her belly aimed directly towards the airjet. And so passed her first, and probably only, plane flight.

We finally arrived at home around 11:00pm, just in time for Chris to meet her before he headed out to work for the night. With dinner in her belly and a warm crate to sleep in, Ezri soon fell asleep in her home for the first time.

And so our journey began.

Friday, September 11, 2009

a day to remember, part I

Today is September 11, and it is the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took down the two World Trade Center towers in New York City.

At the time I was working at the Bothell location of my company, and so my alarm didn't go off until around 6am. Instead of the music that normally accompanied my alarm, I heard the morning show hosts talking seriously talking about planes and buildings. Figuring it was a joke, I got up and turned off the radio to get ready for work. Once out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to make my lunch, I turned on the TV out of curiosity and found the news showing the towers burning. As I stood there and watched in shock, the first tower fell. I went to wake up Chris to tell him that the WTC had been attacked and one of the towers had collapsed, then I went to work. By the time I got to work and turned on my computer, the second tower had fallen.

Soon after the towers fell, it occurred to me that my father-in-law took the train to the WTC station every morning to go to work. I called my mother-in-law and she had heard from him - he had missed his train and been on the one after it, which stopped well before the WTC due to the attacks. As I understand it, missing that train probably saved his life as he would have been stuck under the WTC when the planes hit the buildings.

We were lucky to have not been personally affected by the death and destruction that the attacks created, but we like all citizens are still dealing with the aftereffects in the financial and military sectors to this day. I hope as the years pass and the scars begin to fade, that we will all be able to put this event behind us and move forward into a brighter future where we can use education and goodwill to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

summer vacation, part one - Seattle

For the first part of our summer vacation, our friends Greg and Kristen came out to Seattle for a week along with their two young children Aidan (almost 4) and Averie (2.5). We did the tourist thing together, doing many activities that Chris and I have never done despite living here for eight years, such as the Duck Tour, going whale-watching, and visiting Leavenworth.

First off, you can tell how excited both Chris and Averie were to be exploring the Pacific Science Center's Grossology exhibit and butterfly house - don't they look thrilled?

On Saturday we took a ride on the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, which unfortunately was neither anywhere near Mt. Rainier nor scenic, and was running -extremely- late to boot (it took 3.5 hours for a scheduled 2-hour trip). With the only entertainment the forest outside the windows and a distinct lack of narration (only one guy "available for questions"), we were pretty disappointed in the experience, but the kids definitely enjoyed themselves so all was not lost.

Every morning Chris made coffee for himself and for Greg, and Aidan quickly learned to help him out.

Monday was our trip to Leavenworth, where we took the walking tour of the downtown area which was really fantastic. We were the only ones on the tour that morning, so we got to ask our guide lots of questions and pause to take photos. My favorite bit was the wrought-iron apothecary's sign, showing the mortar-and-pestle to indicate the business inside. Many of the murals are done in the trompe'l'oleil style, and were absolutely incredible in their details.

Whale-watching pictures in the next post. For now, off to finish preparing to drop the dogs off so we can go to LA tomorrow for Blizzcon!

Monday, August 10, 2009

quick vet visit that was unnecessary

Last month we went to Lake Tahoe for a flyball tournament, and since California does have heartworm endemic to the state, I investigated to find out what I needed to do to protect my dogs. I was told at the time to get their blood tested three weeks after we returned to see if they had been infected, and so today I dutifully took the girls to work (daycare for them) and then left early to take them to the vet. After the blood draw was taken, Dr. Nobrega called the lab and it turns out that you cannot test for heartworm until six months. So she wrote me a scrip for a six-pack of Sentinel to treat all three of the girls with, and did not charge me for the visit - but I'm still irritated that I made a completely unnecessary trip. Oh well, better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Ezri - 35.6 lbs (she can stop growing now!)
Jadzia - 33.3 lbs (finally losing weight, yeah!)
Phoebe - 9.6 lbs (lean and trim)

In other health news, little miss Ezri developed a hotspot on her behind that I caught her chewing on Saturday. Quite a bit of fur trimmed off later (a splotch about the size of my spread hand), and everything has dried out, scabbed up, and is healing nicely. Good thing she's a merle, it makes the weird cut pattern look less obvious!

Thursday I will take all four of them to the nearby doggy daycare which has a pool, which is ours for one hour in the morning. I figure an hour of swimming, followed by a rinse-off with fresh water, will be enough of a bath and activity to mellow them out for the impending arrival of our friends and their two young children. We'll see!

Friday, July 31, 2009

happy belated birthday, Ezri!

OK, so this is directly copied from the birthday email I just sent Ezri's breeder. At least on the blog I can put the pictures directly into the text instead of just attaching them!

At long last on July 15th, Ezri turned one year old and became eligible to compete in flyball. She debuted at the Patriot Games tournament in Truckee CA, running fun runs (singles and pairs) on Friday night and competing in NAFA competition on Saturday and Sunday. She won Singles on Friday night with a 4.195 (a 4.145 with a 0.05 start), and she and her big sister Indigo took second place in Pairs with an 8.24 to the winner's 8.22. Her debut weekend went splendidly, with only a few heat/excitement related issues, and she earned both her FD and FDX on Saturday. She was part of a new club record-setting lineup that ran a 19.46, running with Taz (black lab), Phoebe (my JRT), and Skye (a red border) - and that's not even our fastest set of dogs! On Sunday Ezri started the second race of the day, and ran a clean run of 4.16 seconds to set her first personal best. After a long trip home in the car and a few days of rest, we headed up to Maple Ridge BC for another flyball tournament, where Ezri earned her FDCh and got to within just 30 points of her FDCh-S by the end of the day on Sunday. During her second weekend of competition, her only reruns were due to false passes by my handling, and she got pretty good at spitting the ball to turn around and rerun as fast as possible. Despite the heat, Ezri ran a 4.135 in last position on Sunday, meaning her clean time was likely lower than that, but still dropping her personal best to that time. We'll be heading up to Cloverdale BC during the last weekend of August for a UFLI tournament, where she'll run pairs with Indigo (team name Ignition Sequence), and where we will run our theoretical fastest lineup including both Indigo and Ezri.

While being a perfect flyball dog on the course (complete with pulling and whining her head off), Ezri is generally a good girl at home although she definitely shows her "I'm a 15-year-old PRINCESS" moments. We're still working on improving her attention to us, as she is still often highly focused on her brother Curzon, and will ignore commands, treats, and even shake off a bop on the nose and go back to staring at her brother. Luckily Curzon remains focused on us, and so since Ezri will follow him then there is little danger of having any issues with her outside with him. If he's not around, Ezri is a perfect lady both on and off leash - now we just have to translate that to working with him around! She is rather protective of me and our property, and has been going through a stage of huffing or barking at anyone outside the car when she's in it, and she'll huff when someone she doesn't know gets too close to us when on a walk or at a hotel. However, she is very friendly and excited towards people who want to pay attention to her, and in a way it's a shame she hasn't met anyone who doesn't think she's lovely as now she expects everyone to adore her! Her favorite person to maul is Ben, who has encouraged this since she was a puppy and is now reaping the benefits of his continued ruffling of her, as she will climb and jump and paw at him when she first sees him. Ezri has taken to swimming with abandon, leaping into the river at the offleash park, although she is -not- fond of the "public pools" at the flyball tournaments and won't get in them, thus making me hose her down instead. The schedule isn't going to line up to try her out in dock dogs this year, but I am hopeful for next year to work out as I'd love to see her leap. We've started working with various frisbee tricks with her, and her beautiful natural flip looks gorgeous when going after a disc tossed behind her. Her catching still needs work, but at only one year she has time to learn that sort of thing!

Ezri is a fast learner, and is highly treat motivated and focused on her person. She does need to be worked with someone for a bit in order to listen to them, which is a bit frustrating for my husband! We will be going to a convention next month and she and Curzon will stay with a friend (the other two are being split amongst two other teammates), and I think the experience will be quite good for her as she hasn't been separated from me since the day I brought her home. We will be gone for almost a week in September, and she'll be staying with Ben and Deb with the other two BC's (and of course Indigo and Epic). And of course we'll have Indigo and Epic while they are gone at the end of August, so there will be plenty of time for the blood-related sisters to get used to each other! Right now our pack is still in the reorganizing phase to accommodate Ezri's new adulthood, and it won't surprise me if she winds up as alpha female in the dog group despite Jadzia's seniority and Phoebe's continued attempts to make a coup (Curzon is wisely staying out of the way). She's done quite well with Phoebe's attempts on her (the terrier just will NOT learn!) and treats them as play invitations, which I think drives Phoebe entirely batty but is a perfectly reasonable response.

We've worked hard to make Ezri resilient to new situations, having various trigger issues for the two older BC's that we wanted to avoid, and I think we've been rather successful. She's been around our friend's 3yo with no problems, and while curious at another friend's 1-month-old infant, after she sniffed his feet she was done with him and ready to move on to more interesting activities. Her abilities will be tested in just two weeks as our friends from NJ arrive with their 2.5yo and 4yo children to stay with us for a week - it should be quite entertaining! Even the Fourth of July fireworks didn't faze her, with nary a startle, a bark, or any other fear/startle response in sight. She could probably use another structured training class, which I may try to set up in the fall, but has done quite well with clicker training here at home. She also did beautifully with speedboat rides when I spent a couple days on the lake at my best friend's inlaw's cabin. The cats don't bother her, although admittedly they rarely interact due to Phoebe's issues with them, and she is also little interested in the outdoor wildlife of squirrels and such that Phoebe finds so attractive. She is good in the kennel at home, and spends most of her time lying on the second story of the plastic play structure we bought them (playskool thing off Craigslist), chewing on the various edges. Chewing is indeed her one bad habit - she absolutely RIPS through toys, to the point where we can only have out "tough chewer" toys such as the Tuffy rings and silicone-rubber toys. Luckily she has not tried to chew anything belonging to us since she was about three months old, and never went after her bedding, so we can deal with the toy issue. She's a good traveler in the car, careful to sleep most of the time and not pick fights, and also hangs out in the hotel well especially if she has a toy to chew.

Happy birthday, merlebutt. May there be many more!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

motorcycle accidents are no fun

Monday morning at about 6:00am I was in a motorcycle accident for the first and hopefully last time.

It rained Sunday and overnight for the first time in weeks, leaving the roads wet and slippery as I well knew. I decided to take Lake City Way in to work, in order to avoid the visibility issues caused by fast vehicles and water spray on the highways. I rode down Meridian and turned right onto Lake City Way, and just past the bowling alley is where construction is still going on. Due to the conditions, I was in the right lane doing about 40 in a 45 and watching my following distance in order to maximize my safety cushion.

Just before 68th Avenue, there were plates in the road - several hundred feet of them, many more than were there last Friday, and they were not even. I was on them and holding steady until I hit a slick spot or a seam or something, at which point the bike went down - it was less than a second from upright doing 40 to on my back sliding down the road. I have one flash in my memory of the control panel going down and to my left, but didn't recognize what had happened until I realized I was sliding. The bike went down on its left side and I landed on my butt, and the bike and I both slid on a slight angle away from each other through the intersection at 68th and to a stop about 50 feet later. The bike stopped perpendicular to traffic in the left lane, and I stopped on the right side of the right lane next to the construction barrels on yet another steel plate.

After ensuring I was indeed stopped, I got up and went over to the bike which was still running and hit the kill switch. A couple guys pulled over and helped me get it into the Jiffy Lube parking lot just to the side, then left me there with it. I found the footpeg which snapped off and the laminar windshield lip which came off as well, but the turn signal was in the intersection and already in dust by the time I realized it was gone. My helmet doesn't show any marks (don't know how) but the entire back of my gear is covered in grit and scrapes, including inside the jacket and on my liner and fleece where it rode up a bit.

I am uninjured, but have a good bruise on my butt (I think I hit part of a plate when I went down). My neck is a little sore/stiff but it always is after a tournament (and was the morning before I left for work) so I don't think that was caused by the wreck. The bike has lost the left footpeg and left turn signal, the clutch assembly snapped off, and the shifter is wedged up against the body of the engine. The lower left faring is damaged and there is skid damage on the upper left faring and on my left saddlebag.

The tow guy helped me force it back into neutral (it was stuck in 3rd) so we can move it without damaging the drivetrain, so I am hopeful that the bike is fixable without too much expense. The bike is back in my garage and will be taken to Ride West this morning when they open. I got a police report and the insurance claim has already been started as well. It could have been so much worse, but I wish it hadn't happened at all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

time flies when you're having fun

It's already July, and it's now less than a week until Ezri's first birthday marks her eligibility to compete in flyball tournaments. The past month of practice has been spent refining and solidifying her flyball talents and abilities, and I'm pretty confident that she's going to be debuting with flying colors on the 17th. I'm able to cross-pass her with most dogs in the club, I can swap lanes without doing a new holdback, she will run in any position, and she's not mouthy at the rest of the team but is instead deadly serious like Jadzia. She's no longer having issues with dropping her ball, and comes flying back to her tug like it's the best thing in the world.

And last Sunday we timed her at 4.36.

This weekend will be the last tournament Ezri does not compete in, (Muddy Paws are hosting in Salem, OR) and she will debut in competition pairs and singles on Friday, July 17th and in NAFA team competition on Saturday, July 18th (RF Revolution hosting in Truckee, CA). Ezri will run with her big sister Indigo in pairs competition under the team name "Ignition Sequence," both at the fun runs in Truckee and in UFLI competition at the end of August. For Truckee, I seeded them at a time of 8.4, but that may be too slow - if Indigo runs a 3.8 and Ezri runs a 4.3, that's an 8.1, and if Ezri speeds up in competition they are easily capable of breaking 8.0 together. It will be quite exciting to see how it goes!

Last week was my company's summer shutdown, and I spent two days at Lake Whatcom with Christy and Jason in the house that his parents use as a rental most of the year. I had dogs in the lake within 3 minutes of arrival - Curzon and Jadzia remembered it from our 2007 visit, and Ezri needed only one push to commence with flinging herself off the dock in pursuit of a ball. Phoebe of course is not fond of swimming and really not fond of jumping off of a dock, so we played "Terrier Bowling: Dock Dogs Edition" where she was gently pitched off the dock after a ball was thrown for her to go get. Ezri got to go on her first hike as well, as we did a short trail at the foot of Mt. Baker, and learned the "rules" of hiking from Curzon quite well along the way. Finally, we had a speedboat ride with Jason's dad, and Ezri thought that was incredibly awesome to the point of simply pointing her nose forward into the wind as far as I would let her lean. There are indeed pictures and video, but I don't have them accessible right now for posting, so hopefully I will get those up soon.

Work, flyball, and Warcraft keeps us busy in a smoothly rotating schedule. Our 25-man raiding team in WoW is working on the final boss in Ulduar (Yogg-Saron) and beginning to try the hard-modes on other bosses. Work is going pretty smoothly, with my new project behaving well so far, and Chris' job is busy and stable as well. We are looking forward to the remainder of our summer, with three tournaments straight to finish off July, a visit from friends in August, a trip to Blizzcon in Anaheim, and a UFLI tournament to round off August. PAX is the first weekend in September, and my brother-in-law's wedding is the third weekend in Ohio. It will be busy, but I am looking forward to all of it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

the pack is reorganizing

Over the past few weeks, Phoebe has been increasingly pissy, and has been specifically picking fights with Jadzia. That combined with my annoyance over her issues with the cats impelled me to find a trainer who specializes in terriers, to hopefully get some insight into her behavior and some tools to work with her. I intrinsically get border collies, at least the ones that I have spend signficant time with, but this little terrier is much more difficult for me to understand.

Jennifer Schneider of Pick of the Litter Training is a terrier specialist, with several of her own, and so I had her come up to our house on Wednesday to assess what's going on with my pack. Her observations were quite illuminating, and helped point out some things that were not obvious to Chris and I as we are part of the family and not easily able to see everything objectively. There are a few things going on, which will all need some work to improve.

1. Phoebe is not part of the pack - the three borders are their own pack, but Phoebe just sort of orbits around it without actually being part of it. This could be due to any number of reasons, including that she's the only non-border and that she had a rough few years of being moved around with a lot of instability in her life. Now that Ezri is approaching eleven months and is becoming a young adult, the dynamics of the border collie pack are shifting and Phoebe is seeing this as an opportunity to find a place for herself, by force if need be.

2. My attention is the most important resource for the pack right now, even above food and toys. Most negative interactions between Jadzia and Phoebe come from Phoebe being annoyed that I am giving Jadzia attention, when it is attention she wants for herself. This is visible to a lesser extent when I give attention to Ezri or Curzon, and when Chris gives attention to Jadzia. The solution here will be to simply ignore them all when there is a disagreement over who I am paying attention to, i.e. removing the resource that they are fighting over and leaving them to deal with each other.

3. Phoebe is generally unsure of her status, and gives off lots of calming signals because she knows that Chris and I are usually annoyed at her. Interestingly, Jadzia gives off withdrawal signals to Phoebe, not calming ones, which is another facet of the issues between them. The best way to deal with this would be to do an activity with just Phoebe, such as rally-o or even just an obedience class.

4. As far as Phoebe is concerned, the cats live in "CatLand" that may or may not be attached to her house, and they are sometimes there but not always. This is why we could make progress for a while with getting her to leave them alone, but then have a spectacular backslide where she would try to go after them. Desensitization will be key here, so that Phoebe learns that the cats live in the house, they are always here, and they don't do anything that terribly interesting. We will do this by putting up stacked baby gates in the basement doorway, so that Phoebe and the cats can see each other without danger of getting to each other physically. This will also allow Phoebe to observe them without being restrained, which is not something that terriers like or handle particularly well.

I'm going to look into rally-o classes in Woodinville, and also to buy a second baby gate so we can implement the cat plan as well. Hopefully this will assist Phoebe into integrating better into our house and becoming a calmer member of the family...or, at least as well-adjusted and calm as a terrier can be!

Monday, June 1, 2009

getting closer to the debut...47 days and counting!

I am filling out the entry forms for the tournament we will be attending in Truckee, CA on the weekend of July 18-19. This is Ezri's first tournament, and she will be running on our Regular class team, Cleared for Takeoff. In addition to the weekend tournament, this host club offers Friday night pairs and singles racing, which we will be taking full advantage of...

Ignition Sequence - Ignited's Indigofera & Ignited's Ezri Dax - Seed 8.5

Filling out THAT form just gave me happy excited chills...not long to wait until these two red sisters tear up the course together!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

border collies do not do "rest" well...

It's been a week since Ezri was spayed, and her recovery has gone well for her, although not so well by the vet's standards. We started off with her wearing just the softcone that Ben lent us, but unfortunately on Thursday evening she got around it and pulled out one of her stitches. This meant a quick trip to the vet on Friday to check on it, and that she then got to wear the big plastic cone around the softcone. The vet was very impressed with her healing so far, and saw no problems with the incision or remaining external stitch, so she was let be without any additional modifications.

Then the vet noticed how active Ezri was, and how excitable she was, and finally agreed to give me tranquilizers for her to keep her calm/quiet for a few more days. She had been pretty zonked on Wednesday, and sort-of calm on Thursday, but by Friday she was happily trying to leap up stairs and goad Curzon into playfighting with her. The tranqs worked to contain that, neatly taking the edge off her with a half-tablet and sending her to snoozetime with a full tablet, and so she made it through the rest of the weekend without much more activity.

Yesterday Chris came home from work to find Ezri had some diarrhea in her crate, poor thing, likely due to a combination of the tranqs and two meals of sheep organs on Monday. He cleaned her up and put her bedding in the wash, but didn't put the plastic cone back on her as he figured since she'd be sleeping in the bedroom with him, he'd hear her tags rattle if she went after the incision. This did not work out as intended, as puppies who are itchy are very sneaky, and when I got home her second stitch was long gone. I was already planning to stop by the vet today with her, as I'm going to Bellevue to pick up this quarter's order of dog food, but now it will be an incision check instead of a stitch removal. The incision looks pretty good, it's neatly healed up on the lower part where the first stitch was pulled out, and mostly healed at the top except for a small knot where the second stitch was. It's no longer open at all, and is no worse than a scratch on the arm as far as I can tell.

Ezri will be on half-tranqs today as she is in the car here at work and through her check at the vet this afternoon. Assuming no issues at the vet, I'm planning to return her to normal activites tomorrow (i.e. going out in the kennel) and back to running and racing this weekend.

Oh, and the tech at the vet said that they've only given out tranqs for one other spay recipient in the past...and that was apparently Ezri's sister Indigo.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

ten months, and a door closes

Ezri turned ten months old last Friday, and yesterday she had her spay surgery (i.e. a hysterectomy). She is officially out of the gene pool, and will not be having any puppies. It was a hard decision, as I think I've written on here before, but it is done now.

When we walked into the vet yesterday, Ezri weighed 33.8lbs, which is an increase of 1.8lbs in seven weeks. I think she's very close to her adult size, and will probably not go above 35lbs as a healthy running weight. Her surgery went very well according to Dr. Obando, and she recovered nicely at the vet during the day. When I picked her up she was definitely stoned and instantly clingy, not wanting to be away from me by even a few feet. She will stay where I put her right now, which is a new experience, and is minimizing the movement she has to do at all times. She's had no problem with her soft cone collar, and slept quietly through the night. The incision is much smaller than I expected, only about 2.5" long with two stitches, and is looking just fine so far. We are carrying her up/down stairs and putting her on the couch with us, as she is not supposed to do stairs or jumping for a few days.

Ezri ate a few cookies around 7pm last night, and happily ate 1/2 of a normal meal at about 9pm with no problems. I put her back on her full meal size this morning, and she was rather thrilled about that. The only problem right now is that she needs to poop, but apparently this hurts and so she tries and then gives up and just looks at me pathetically. Poor baby! She is in her crate today and tomorrow, with Chris letting her out when he gets home. I gave her a chewy stick this morning and left the radio on, so hopefully she will just chew and snooze the day away.

This weekend will probably prove to be challenging, as she feels better but still needs to be restricted. We'll see how it goes!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

first swim of the spring

Yesterday was a beautiful day (as is today), with bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60s, so I took the three border collies to the nearby park to play. They all heat up pretty quickly, and since it was warm enough I walked them over to the swimming hole on the other side of the park to cool off and get a different form of exercise. Curzon and Jadzia are well used to this routine, with me usually having to pull Curzon back multiple times from simply sprinting off to the water without me - all it takes is looking at him and saying "Do you want to go swimming?" and he's off like a shot. I wasn't sure what Ezri would do, as she liked playing fetch in the pool well enough at her first swim back in January, but this was natural water and she had hated climbing in and out via the ramp.

I shouldn't have worried.

As we got to the swimming hole, both the adults ran right by me and flung themselves into the water, trusting a ball would appear in front of them to fetch. After the first two were thrown, I turned to Ezri to watch her follow her older sibs right into the water with only a little hesitation. It took a few tries to get her to be OK with getting the ball (the technique does take practice), but she was enjoying herself greatly by the time we were done. I managed to take two videos of her with the camera (you can see Curzon swimming around in both of them as well).

Video one - learning to pick up the ball in the water

Video two - showing a nascent dock dogs jump

After playing in the water, I returned to the meadow to run them some more to dry them off a bit, and took a couple pictures of them as they ran. The one of Jadzia did not come out well, but the ones of Ezri and Curzon that did and are posted here and above. I'm glad that Ezri is willing to swim without the intensive bribing that it took to get Curzon to swim for the first time.

In other news, I have scheduled Ezri's spay appointment for Wednesday, May 20th. I spent a lot of time thinking about this decision, as while I do not intend to become a BC breeder at this time, she is such a sterling young dog that the thought of having a pup of hers was awfully tempting. Realistically, however, we would not be ready for another puppy for at least 5 years (whenever Curzon is ready to retire), and it's not fair to Ezri or to ourselves to keep her intact and going through heat cycles for 5 years in case we wanted puppies from her. I also don't think I would have the time to ensure the puppies got the best start they can, nor do I want to ship Ezri off for her pregnancy and whelping, so that was another mark against keeping her intact. Her full brother Remy and her 3/4 sisters Sprint and Hex are all definitely being kept intact for breeding, and I'm sure at least another few puppies from Race and Dazzle/Prancer are also being kept intact, so I'll be able to get a neice or nephew when the time comes.

But being logical doesn't mean I can't wish that I could do something. It would be a joy to have Ezri's puppies...just not practical. Le sigh.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ezri's flyball career is official

CRN 090660 assigned to Ignited's Ezri Dax
RUN 5093 assigned to Ignited's Ezri Dax

Just over two months until she can race!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

what nightmares are made of

The "War on Drugs" ruins another family...and kills their dogs

The five-page Washington Post article linked above ran on February 1, 2009, and I saw a link to it today. In summary, the cops in Prince George County were tracking some drug trafficking that was being run as blind shipments to innocent people, with the drug runners watching the houses and grabbing the package before the people got home. The cops intercepted a package at the delivery depot, and delivered it themselves as part of a sting operation. They decided the best method of dealing with the situation they created was to send in a 20+ person SWAT team, terrorizing the man living there, his mother-in-law, and killing his two black labs, all before the man's wife got home from work. Needless to say, there was no warrant issued (let alone a surprise warrant), nothing was found in the home except the box delivered by the cops themselves, and they are of course not apologizing or even offering to exonerate Cheye and Trinity Calvo in the media.

And people wonder why I am terrified of the police. The fact that this sort of event can happen with no repercussions at all to the cops involved is a heinous crime, far higher than just about anything the cops could possibly have been investigating. This man's dogs were shot multiple times, one four times in the face and the other twice in the behind as it tried to run away up the stairs. They never had a chance, and they never showed threat - except in the minds of the adrenaline-addled SWAT team members who were super excited that they got to hold people down at gunpoint to look for drugs they themselves had delivered earlier in the day. Their blood was all over the house, as they both bled to death in different locations. The cops' response after killing the dogs? To call Animal Control for the disposal of "two canine corpses."

My biggest fears at this time in my life are for something to happen to my dogs that I cannot protect them from, and this is a prime example of that sort of nightmare. I worry about Chris as well sometimes, but he is a human who can understand situations and handle himself should such a crazy event happen - but my dogs are not. I really don't know what I would do in the position of Cheye and Trinity, but it would not be pretty. Every member of that SWAT team should be pulled from active duty for at least a year, and the leaders who decided on the drug delivery followed by the raid should be ejected from the police force and brought up on charges of entrapment and slaughter. Somehow, I don't think it will ever happen, and this scenario will continue to repeat itself until one day this ridiculous "War on Drugs" finds a rationality that is sadly lacking today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

to be healthy...maybe?

A few weeks ago I learned that nearly everyone in the Pacific Northwest is probably Vitamin D deficient, especially in the wintertime. We're so far north that our sunlight is weak, and that combined with the cloudy weather for most of the year means that most people don't get enough sunlight to make the Vitamin D that their body needs.

Somehow I still get sunburn in August, though.

You can get more Vitamin D from food, especially dairy, but it is not always enough. I recently visited a naturopathic doctor (who is also a registered nurse), and one of the tests she ran was for Vitamin D. Turns out my level was near the limit of quantitation at about 12, when the acceptable range is about 35-100 and she prefers people to be up to at least 60. So I am now taking 5000 ID of Vitamin D every day to get my levels up, in addition to a few other supplements that she suggested based on other lab results. My magnesium is a bit low, as is my DHA, so I'm taking supplements for both of those, as well as an Omega 3-6-9 fish oil pill that she likes to see everyone on, and a regular multivitamin.

Vitamins and supplements are such tricky things, with bioavailability being difficult to quantify, little regulation on quality, and constant arguing by doctors and councils about what people really need. So many products are not usable by the body, basically resulting in expensive urine, so I've never really seriously looked into taking anything more than the occasional multivitamin or some Vitamin C when starting to get sick. I'm glad that this doctor had a range of tests she could run to find out what my body needed, and I'm hoping that this will improve my health and alertness. I'm so annoyed with being naturally cold and tired all of the time! I will go back to visit her in a month to see what effects, if any, are seen and to possibly retest a few levels to see how I am improving.

For now, I'm taking seven pills with my dinner. I feel a bit like an old fart with my packed-full pillcase. I've seen one improvement already, though - at my blood donation at work on Wednesday, my hematocrit was 46, which is a record high for me. Usually I'm flirting with anemia at their lowest acceptable level of 36. So if this is not a fluke, at least one thing is improving with the use of the supplements!

In addition to taking the vitamins, I am paying more attention to what and how much I am eating. I've been doing pretty well with meat portions for quite some time, as I tend to buy things like chicken when they're buy-one-get-one-free and then portion out 8oz servings into zippy bags to freeze. Pasta and potato portions are trickier, as somehow what the correct portion is doesn't actually seem that way. I've gone from using three potatoes to just two, and making sure that my serving of spaghetti is 1/3 of what I cook (3 servings in a half-package) rather than 1/2. Even the rice cooker usage has gotten slimmed down from 1 cup at a time to just 1/2 cup, meaning a perfect serving for both of us when cooked without any leftovers. I got into the habit of using 1 full cup with my first rice cooker, in order to account for the burned crusty stuff at the bottom, but with the Zojirushi there is never a problem like that, so everything cooked can be eaten.

Watching portions has the additional beneficial effect of reducing our grocery bill, or at least the amount of food we buy. I still wish I could buy a small stasis chamber for fruits and vegetables, however. But for now, I'll take what I can get, and any reduction in a recurrent bill is a good thing these days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

nine months and ready to rumble

Well, Ezri isn't technically nine months old until Wednesday, but she's close enough that I'm not going bother counting the days. Last night at flyball practice I started her off easy with some on-off exercises on the box, in order to get her head back in the game from her brain farts at the tournament last weekend. Once we had those back down, we progressed back to loading the ball, then finally up to full runs. She ran in start or solo for her runs last night, due to what we were working on with other dogs, and next week I'll be sure to put her in 2nd or 3rd to give her more practice with passing.

Everything looks really good right now, and she's channeling her older sister Indigo with her current pushing of the limits of when she can drop her ball. She's holding it until right at the line when running with a group, but solo she was trying to drop it as early as jump six. While running solo I made her go back and get it every time before she got her tug reward, and I think I'll add some more retrieval-to-tug work at home to help reinforce that. Indy grew out of it with some work by Deb, and I'm sure Ezri will do the same.

Now, for videos! First up is a full scan of her running in the close lane, with her brother Curzon running against her in the far lane. Her stride is looking pretty good and heaven knows she's got truckloads of drive for both the ball and her tug!

The second video is of her boxturn taken from the side where she turns, and it looks really nice. The camera isn't good enough to truly capture all of the detail, but in the frame-by-frame I can verify that her right front foot does not move until she leaps off the box, and those back feet look pretty planted until she leaps off as well. This is excellent, as foot-moving is difficult to fix.

We timed her last heat of the night, which was the sixth heat straight and at the end of practice, and she still ran a 4.58. I'm guessing she's running in the 4.4-4.5 range when fresh now, as she did beat Curzon on one head-to-head race earlier in the evening. Pretty good for nine months of age! Now to just refine her technique and keep her motivated until she can race for real in late July.

And to close, here is a disgustingly cute picture of Curzon and Ezri being tired and snuggly Saturday night at the hotel in Cloverdale a week ago.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

crock pot macaroni and cheese

When we go to flyball tournaments, we have a big potluck for lunch and snacks during the day. This ensures we have a hot meal during cold months, and makes it easier on everyone since you're only responsible for one or two portions of the meal and not all of it. Since we have both vegetarians and meat-eaters on the team, we usually have two hot meals to suit both preferences. At our first tournament this year, Lindsey made macaroni and cheese in her crock-pot, and it turned out so smashingly well that I tried it with gluten-free pasta last weekend. It worked out just as well, and so I made it again today for us to have while raiding tonight.

The original recipe that Lindsey used came from this blog. The comments show that replicating the recipe can be hit or miss, which I suspect comes from different heating levels in different crock pots, amount of stirring used while cooking, and amount and type of cheese used.

Flyball Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese (serves 8-10)
2 12oz packages of Bionaturae Gluten-Free elbow pasta
3 8oz packages of shredded cheese (I used Tillamook cheese, one sharp cheddar, one medium cheddar, and one cheddar-jack)
6 cups of 2% milk
3 eggs
Salt, pepper, ground mustard, paprika to taste

1. Prepare crock-pot with a crock-pot liner
2. Whisk eggs together in a small container
3. Add a small amount of the milk (about 1/2 cup or so) and mix in with eggs
4. Add dry spices (I used about 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground mustard, and 1/2 tsp paprika with a few grinds of pepper) and mix
5. Dump egg-milk-spice mix into crock pot
6. Add rest of milk to crock pot, you can "rinse" the small container with milk if spices or egg are stuck inside
7. Mix everything in the crock pot thoroughly
8. Add macaroni
9. Add cheese, one package at a time, and mix between additions
10. Cook on low setting for about 75-90 minutes, stirring occasionally
11. Cook on high setting until macaroni and cheese is done (another 45-60 minutes)

When you first start cooking, the macaroni will still be at the top of the liquid, but this will change as the cheese melts a bit and the macaroni starts to absorb the liquid. About halfway through the macaroni was all completely submerged and cooking nicely. Occasional stirring is important to ensure you don't get crusty weirdness along the edges of the food while it is cooking, although once it's mostly done then you can let it crust up if you want. The pasta comes out well, perhaps slightly past al dente, but definitely has a good texture and is quite edible.

Crock Pot Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese (serves 4-5)
1 12oz package of Bionaturae Gluten-Free elbow pasta
1.5 8oz packages of shredded cheese (Tillamook medium cheddar)
3 cups of 2% milk
1 egg
3 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
Sprinkle of ground pepper

1. Whisk egg in small container, then pour into crock pot (no liner)
2. Add milk to crock pot, whisking to mix evenly with the egg
3. Mix spices together in small bowl, then dump into crock pot and mix evenly with the rest of the liquid
4. Add shredded cheese, mixing with liquid (switch to a spoon at this point)
5. Add macaroni, mixing with liquid and cheese to form as even a mix as possible
6. Cook on low setting for 2 hours, stirring often

Using a whisk was much easier than a fork, as was working directly in the crock pot stoneware itself rather than using a plastic liner. I definitely liked adding the macaroni last, it made the mixing of the cheese much easier. Mixing is also definitely required, this isn't going to be a set-it-and-forget-it recipe, but I had no problems running back to the kitchen every 15 minutes or so to give it a quick stir. The result was even better than the big batch I made last weekend, primarily due to the increase in the salt and spices - we both like slightly salty food, however, so if you are not a fan of salty things then keep to the original salt levels. Additional mustard and paprika were definitely good, however, and I could easily see adding chili peppers if really spicy things are up your alley. You could probably add bits of meat or veggies to it as well, although if/when I try this I plan to be sure they are as "dry" as possible and precooked, so as not to disturb the liquid-pasta balance that is working out so well. Plus the macaroni is definitely not up to meat-safe temperatures, so any meat added would likely be best if something like precooked ham cubes was used.

The macaroni and cheese happily sat on "warm" after it was done cooking for about a half-hour until we ate, and cooled nicely on "off" until after the raid was done and I could portion the remainder out for later. I got four generous portions from this recipe, and probably could easily feed 5 or 6 if there was a side dish to go along with it. As it was, Ezri got to have a bit of leftover mac and cheese.

Yay for laziness!

Friday, April 10, 2009

farewell, and thank you...

Last night, Ezri's father passed away. Quicksilver's Record Time, aka Race, was from all accounts a sterling flyball dog and a loving and truly wonderful pet. He has certainly bequeathed those talents to his daughters Indigo and Ezri, as well as many more of his children that I do not know personally. He fathered four litters with Ignited, three with Dazzle and one with Prancer, with the last litter just about seven weeks old as I write this. I was hoping to meet him when I went to the east coast in either July or December this year, and I am truly sad that I now will not be able to do so.

950108 - Sprint - raced for 13 years and earned over 38,000 points

980859 - Race - raced for 8 years and earned over 15,000 points

080559 - Indigo - debuted on April 26, 2008 and already has over 6,000 points
09xxxx - Ezri - will debut on July 25, 2009

I will do my best to help Race's daughters Indigo and Ezri live up to the flyball legacy that he and his mother Sprint have left for them. I am grateful to Race and his human for giving me the gift of my little red merle girl, and I hope that he has found peace over the rainbow bridge. Rest well and run your heart out in "record time," Race.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

four dogs, two cats, one vet, and me

Today I took all of the critters in to see the vet. Curzon, Onyx, and Obsidian were due for their annual checkups, I wanted to get weights on Jadzia and Ezri, and at that point I figured I might as well take Phoebe too. The trip went well, after a few sharp comments at Phoebe to stop whining about the cats, and everybody is completely healthy.

Onyx - 9.05 lbs
Obsidian - 11.01 lbs
Jadzia - 35.8 lbs
Curzon - 42.2 lbs
Ezri - 32.0 lbs
Phoebe - 9.8 lbs

I'm pleased with everyone's weight except Jadzia, who is still tubby when she should be 30-32 lbs at the most. Maybe I need to cut her food down to 5 oz per meal instead of her current 6 oz, as her weight is not good and she was running 5.5 - 5.7 at the tournament last weekend. I know she needs more exercise, but the food may need to be chopped as well. I'll need to think that over a little more before I decide for sure, however.

Both cats need to get their teeth cleaned, which Dr. Obando thinks she can do with just the ten-minute knockout shot, which will save me a lot of money over longer anesthesia. I also had her price out the spay operation for Ezri, which will cost considerably more (of course) and require a full days' stay. I keep vacillating slightly, as I love her so much I almost do want the possibility of a puppy from her, but I would have little chance of spending the time with a litter of puppies that I would want to. Plus I'd want a "new Ezri" in about ten years, well after her reproductive prime, so that still isn't the answer. I should just be happy that there are plenty of Race/Dazzle girls available to carry on the line, although I think I'll inquire if any of Ezri's full siblings are going to be kept intact for breeding.

Now just to figure out when to spay her that won't conflict with a tournament or hold too long and chance her going into heat...

Friday, April 3, 2009

vehicular milestones

Last week Chris hit 18,000 miles on his motorcycle, the 2006 Honda ST1300. On Tuesday, I turned over 12,000 miles on my motorcycle, the 2007 BMW F800ST. And last night on his way to work, Chris took the 2004 Subaru Outback over 70,000 miles.

That's a lot of miles.

When I add everything up, at this point I estimate that I've driven about 135,000 miles in cars (70,000 in the Impala and 65,000 in the Subaru) and about 18,000 miles on motorcycles (8,000 on the Vulcan and 10,000 on the BMW). So in just over 13 years since getting my license, I've driven well over 150,000 miles. The actual number driven is probably higher than that, what with driving my mother's cars, Chris' car before we sold it, and so on, but I can definitely quantify the ones I've listed here.

So we've had the Subaru for five years this month (possibly even this week), and put 70,000 miles on it for an average of 14,000 miles per year. Most of this is for flyball tournaments, with only a few non-dogsport-related trips. We intend to keep the car for another 5 years or more, although Chris asked me the other day whether I'd get another Subaru again. My answer is an unequivocal yes, and I'd like to stay with the Outback series as long as the fit/finish on the current version works out when we are ready to buy again. Like right now I couldn't buy a new Outback - the armrests are completely retarded and the seatbelt ding is not able to be shut off, both of which would be huge issues for me. I've been really happy with the Subaru, it handles everything we throw at it without complaint, we haven't had any major issues with it, and other than the "time of life" it's at right now requiring the 60k service, a belt service, new brakes, and new tires all at one shot, we haven't had to spend much money on it at all. If I could just tow a small RV with it, I'd be perfectly set.

With nearly 10,000 miles of my own and just over a year of riding the BMW, I'm very happy that I bought it. It was a bit of a rush job last winter, as I needed something to commute on ASAP as driving for a daily commute is much more expensive (1 gallon of gas vs 2 gallons of gas plus $4 for parking). However, at this point I think I would buy the same bike again, as it has met my needs perfectly and I like it a lot. It could use a few more adjustments, with handlebar risers and a mud flap top of the list, but that's going to happen with just about any motorcycle so it's not something I fuss over. The bike always starts, always runs, and has never let me down when I needed it to do something. It's got its quirks, like that "extra neutral" between 5th and 6th gears that I sometimes hit, and it's really pissy doing 25 mph around Mercer right after getting off the highway, but nothing serious. I think I've definitely grown as a rider by having the bike, and now its size and displacement doesn't faze me at all. At this point I think a Hayabusa would be disturbing amounts of fun, whereas last year I couldn't even conceive of wanting such a powerful bike. However, stupid amounts of fun also involve stupid amounts of tickets, so I'm not planning to actually get a 'Busa any time soon.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'tis only a flesh wound

Well, apparently the wind and the rain were more vicious than we realized, as this is what greeted me when I got home today:

This is the view from the top of the front yard, looking backwards through the side yard towards the back yard. One of the 150+ foot fir trees went down today, probably about 10:00am or so, as Chris vaguely remembers hearing some noise shortly after he went to bed this morning. The tree extends from its rootball up on the road at the main entrance to Maderas, down the hill, over part of the yard, and into the blackberries and almost into the driveway of the people who live behind us.

As near as I can tell, the fir tree fell south down the hill and landed on the major branch of the maple tree. The trunk of the fir rolled down the edge of the maple trunk, finally taking out the major branch which fell out and to the side. This caused the fir tree to finish rolling a bit more to the same side, pulling the remaining rootball out of the ground, as it crashed all of the way down. Four feet more to the right and it would've crushed my pink dogwood, as it is the little tree lost one of its major branches. Four feet to the left and it would have probably stayed caught in the maple tree, being supported by the three major trunks.

And of course, if the angle of fall had been 30 degrees to the right, our deck would be splinters.

Here is a video I took of the entire trunk, it shows the size of the tree much more clearly than a few pictures can manage.

I'm now going to be looking up tree companies, as this is far too large to take care of by ourselves like we had planned with a smaller one that went down in November. I'm also now worried about the dead tree about twenty feet away from the one that went down, and want it gone as well. Finally, I need someone to tell me if that maple has any chance of living through its injury, and if not then it will have to be taken down as well.

Like I didn't have enough expensive things in my life right now with car maintenance and the new furnace last January. Bah. I will be thankful that my house was not harmed, but I think I am going to grumble about this just a bit. Plus we now have a giant hole in our "tree wall" blocking us from that new development, which is pretty annoying. Oh well - perhaps time to invest in some fast-growing shrubbery.

...the wonders I've seen.

My name is John Crichton... an astronaut. Three years ago I got shot through a wormhole. I'm in a distant part of the universe aboard this living ship of escaped prisoners, my friends. I've made enemies. Powerful. Dangerous. Now all I want is to find a way home, to warn Earth. Look upward, and share... the wonders I have seen.

On March 19, 1999, the pilot episode for Farscape aired. Originally planned for five seasons, the last season was canceled and the story arc compressed to close out in four seasons, later followed by a four-hour miniseries to fully end the storyline. Chris first started watching the show around 2003 with a friend who loved it, and I watched the series around 2005. Along with Firefly, I think it's one of the best science fiction shows in recent years, and it's really too bad that it got canceled. Where else would you find a Jim Henson muppet as a main character, complete with a flatulence problem? At any rate, on the tenth anniversary earlier this month there were limited edition shirts available on Zazzle, so I picked up one for each of us. The front simply states "...share the wonders I've seen." while the back outlines the "Farscape 10th Anniversary Uncharted Territories Tour." I'm wearing mine today.

Yes, I'm a nerd. If you read this blog, you should know this by now.

It's been a little over a month since I got my Kindle, and I love it more than I had originally thought I would. I knew it would be a bit of a gamble, no matter how much I liked it in the short time I had played with those owned by friends, but I'm certain now that it is a gamble that has paid off big time. I've bought 17 Kindle books so far, although two of those were free purchases and one was an oops, and have read most of them already. Books I've read on my Kindle so far include
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
World Without End
The Shadow Queen
Renegade's Magic
Dragon Harper
Wishful Drinking
Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn)

I am currently reading The Buried Pyramid, Coraline, Anathem, and Red Mars. Ten books in one month isn't unheard of for me to do, but having the Kindle with me makes reading more much easier, especially with the large books. I'm also reading multiple books simultaneously, which I've never done before, and am actually rather enjoying. I only have one physical book on my reading list (and I'm about halfway done), and that is the copy of Ender in Exile that I received for my birthday. I've also bought and downloaded Wil Wheaton's 2008 chapbook Sunken Treasure, as well as copied over the NAFA and UFLI flyball rulebooks. Finally, there are plenty of free Kindle books available, including this page of converted Gutenburg Project books. All in all, I'm completely thrilled with my new Kindle and I happily use it every day - probably only second in usage to my iPhone.

I love technology.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

a flyball anniversary

Five years ago this weekend, on March 13-14 2004, Jadzia and I had our debut weekend of flyball competition. We had adopted her almost a year previously, and discovered flyball six months before her first tournament. On top of that, we had brought a crazy little purebred border collie puppy boy into her life just three months before this tournament. We loaded up the Impala (this was just before we got the Subaru), and headed up to Cloverdale to attend the Kings "March Madness" tournament.

Jadzia was utterly terrified, but really wanted to make me happy as her owner, so she did her best. Even with six months of practice, we still couldn't put a harness on her due to her history of abuse, so I ran her with just a regular collar for this first weekend. Jadzia was worried by all the dogs, all the noises, and my own nervousness at running her in competition for the first time. Despite having a crate to herself (this was before we got an e-pen), she was so high-strung that she could only relax if she was curled up in my lap. Finally, to add even more stress to the mix, she was debuting as a savage height dog to bring the jump height down from 16" to 14" - not your typical debut plan. We had not practiced the concept of a rerun, so the first time she had to rerun due to a missed jump she was so scared she just flattened and peed on the mats from fright. I was so embarassed about that, as I knew that meant a forfeit, but Randy (the judge) came up to me and said "I can tell she's terrified and that was not a failure to potty your dog, so that will be a "no time" and not a "foul" on the race record." We cleaned up the mess and moved on with the day.

Jadzia ran with Scooter, Bear, Rudy, and Rainey, all running on 14" jumps in Division 2 on both days. We placed 6th on Saturday with a best time of 20.20, and 6th on Sunday with a best time of 20.38.

Jadzia earned her FD title in her first heat, her FDX title in her first race, her FDCh title in her first day, and her FDCh-S title in her first weekend. I know no other dog in JCJ has done that, I'm not aware of any dog in Region 7 that has managed it, and probably few dogs anywhere have that sort of debut weekend to their credit. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, Jadzia rose to the occasion and was truly a rising star that began her ascension into flyball that day.

As of today, Jadzia has earned 34,247 points in NAFA competition and 3110 points in U-FLI competition. She was the first dog in JCJ history to earn the FMCh, ONYX, and FGDCh titles, with the last one earned at 30,000 points at our tournament last June. She has run in 47 total tournaments (44 NAFA and 3 UFLI) across Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Jadzia's personal best time is a 4.51 on 8" jumps, and she was part of the club record-setting team that ran a 19.54 on 14" jumps on May 31, 2008 - the lineup was Curzon, Jadzia, Zoey, and Skye.

More important than the ribbons on the wall and the letters after her name, however, is the confidence and accomplishment that Jadzia has earned for herself. Gone is the terrified little border collie who cowered at a discouraged word, gone is the dog who could not handle the level of crazy at a flyball tournament, gone is the dog who was too afraid to make a noise. Jadzia gleefully barks out her impatience in the flyball ring, sings in the morning when she wakes up, and growls to put the puppy or the terrier in line at home. She still skitters in fright upon occasion, and she'll never have the happy-go-lucky attitude of Curzon and Ezri - but the strides she has made are amazing nonetheless. We are blessed to have this little bordergirl in our lives, and I look forward to continuing to race with her for another five years or more.

Photo 1 is Jadzia running on March 13, 2004.
Photo 2 is Jadzia sitting with Joy, with Bill in the background, on March 14, 2004.

Friday, March 13, 2009

a week of changes

The past ten days or so have been full of changes in my work life and in my flyball life. The end results are still settling out, but it seems that both sets of changes are for the better at least as far as I am concerned.

Last Thursday at work two people were fired from my department, due to "inappropriate use of work resources" as the official reason. One of them was someone I've worked with since I began at Immunex in 2001, and I'm rather sad that he is not around anymore. It's a very weird situation, in a way, as he left before the announcement and I'm pretty sure I won't see him again any time soon. It's very odd to just have someone essentially up and disappear, and leaves a vague sense of disquiet even though I know why and how it happened. I sent him a short email wishing him the best to his personal account, but I'm sure talking to anyone outside of his family is very far down on the list right now. His departure left a void in our group, as he was heading up a couple of projects, and so those had to be reassigned. On Tuesday the decision was finalized and announced - I will be the purification lead for the next FIH (first-in-human) molecule that will be coming to us in early April. This is a great opportunity for me, although it is sudden, and I intend to prepare and make the most of it.

In my personal and flyball life, change has come as well although not nearly as neatly. The tension and disagreements between two people and the rest of the club finally came to a head last Sunday, and ended up with the two people being voted out of the club. This was not a good situation, there were plenty of mistakes on both sides, but it is now over and done with and we can move on with our lives. I've been learning even more interesting information about interactions between other club members and these two people since Sunday, and every word I hear just confirms that we made the right decision. I ended a friendship over this situation, and perhaps it is one that I should have ended earlier, but it was only in the past two weeks that I was truly sure of what that person was doing behind my back. I don't need that kind of stress in my life, and the old saw "with friends like these, who needs enemies?" has never held more true for me.

It will be interesting to see how the changes to both my personal and professional lives settle out over the next few weeks. I firmly believe they will all be for the better and that I will benefit over time from both of them, even if they don't seem that way right now. There is plenty of work to be done, and I'm moving forward to meet the challenges ahead.

(Yes, I am being deliberately generic in my comments to avoid names. If you know who I am talking about, please do not post it publicly)

Monday, March 9, 2009

I love technology

Through the power of the internet, I have just purchased a PDF copy of Wil Wheaton's new book Sunken Treasure and sent it to my Kindle.

The future is now and it is awesome.

Monday, March 2, 2009

so, where are the books?

I named this blog "Bikes, Books, and Border Collies," but until today I haven't made a single post about books. This has been slightly on purpose, as while I enjoy writing and talking about books, I didn't want to lock myself in to writing reviews of all the books that I read. I did that for a time on livejournal, and my own psyche made me feel guilty when I fell behind, so that I finally stopped posting entirely with this as one of the reasons.

With that said, I love reading and I love books, as anyone who has spent any time with me will know. My total time reading fluctuates from month to month, depending on travel, free time at work, and time spent in Warcraft, but I typically read 80-100 new books in a year, with a few rereads of old favorites mixed in. I belong to a book club with several women from work, where we have read everything from nonfiction (The Female Brain) to juvenile fiction (Harry Potter books 6 & 7) to serious historical fiction (Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles) to trashy fiction (The Bergdorf Blondes) over the past three years or so. I spend a lot of my own allowance money on books, and usually have a stack of " books-to-read" sitting in my office to work through as time allows. I also receive books as gifts, and have several from Christmas and my birthday waiting in the current stack. However, since I ride a motorcycle to work, my cargo capacity is limited, meaning that it is difficult to take Anathem or Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles or World Without End with me to work, where I tend to have a free block of time available to read while I eat lunch. So these books have sat in The Pile, wistfully waiting for a flyball tournament, free time at home, or a trip away to be read and loved.

Now, enter the Kindle, the e-book reader that Amazon debuted a while ago. Two of my friends have the original version of the Kindle, and absolutely adore it to any who will listen. I started considering one in late January, and my interest was definitely piqued by the announcement of Kindle2 in early February. With my annual review last week including information on my bonus, I went ahead and bought one on Thursday with next-day delivery for Friday, so it was waiting for me on my doorstep when I returned home from work on Friday. Over the weekend I have played with it a good bit, and completely read our next book club book (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), and am firmly entranced by it and thrilled to have it. My only issue now is wishing I could "trade-in" some of the hardbacks in The Pile for Kindle versions! I may just take a few of them to Half-Price Books in order to do so...

From the first opening of the box, I was impressed with the presentation of the Kindle. Amazon has definitely taken a lesson from Apple in the importance of having good packaging, and just opening the layers with pull tabs printed "Once Upon A Time..." made me smile. The e-ink display was set to a diagram asking me to plug in the Kindle, then turn it on via the power switch, making it the easiest gadget start-up I've ever seen. Within five minutes I was reading my book club book comfortably from my couch, having bought it via the built-in connection to the Kindle store. Over the weekend I read quite a bit, obviously, and I never had any eyestrain or issues with the text - in fact the adjustable text size came in handy when I took out my contacts before bed on Friday evening. Many people whine about there not being a backlight in the Kindle, but I find this to be a bonus rather than a problem, as backlit screens are more difficult to read and draining on the battery. The Kindle is reputed to last 4+ days with the wireless signal turned on and 14+ days with it turned off, and I'd much rather have that and deal with my own lighting than to have to plug it in every day. After all, it is a book replacement, and complaining that you need the same conditions to read the Kindle as you would to read a book seems a little prissy to me.

I've used the file conversion offered by Amazon to convert and send two PDF files (the two flyball rulebooks) wirelessly to my Kindle, which worked beautifully and inexpensively at just $0.10 apiece. I also downloaded quite a few books from The Gutenburg Project, which provides various digital copies of copyright-free and copyright-expired works. Of the books I downloaded, namely a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales and nearly all of the Frank L. Baum Oz books, I was able to directly drag two to Kindle (.txt files) and have about 75% of the others converted by Amazon to Kindle format and sent back to my email account for free. There are a few books that could not be converted, for some reason, but I have not had time to fiddle with it to find out why. All of the converted files look just fine on Kindle, and although the first disclaimer bit is often oddly formatted the actual book text has been perfectly fine. Finally, I can browse the Kindle store from Firefox and buy things for download, to have them already there and waiting for me the next time I turn my Kindle on. How cool is that! And as a last interesting touch, when you put Kindle to sleep it displays a random picture that so far includes author portraits, manuscript pages, and the Kindle logo.

So far I am quite happy with my purchase. Yay for technology meeting reading!