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.