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!