Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weapons Grade Cute

We're suckers for cuteness in this house, always have been, always will be. Heck, the way I got my dog was because my husband, while allegedly searching for a picture of an English Bull Terrier managed to come up with three Scotties, a Blue Heeler and a nervous looking mixed-breed named Puddles. In the pictures the rescue society had posted on Petfinder, my dog looked decidedly apprehensive. A series of photos that eventually showed her trying to submissively show her belly. She was just so cute, I was a total goner.

As to how my husband managed to turn up all sorts of breeds other than an actual Bull Terrier, I mostly leave that to your imagination. He's a poor typist and all, but let's be real here; I was set up. He'll never cop to it, but even if he had a massive seizure mid-typing, I still can't see how English Bull Terriers somehow managed to produce three adoptable Scotties, the breed we'd always had in the past.

Somewhere in Puddles ancestry is an alleged Scottie but I'm positive that there's actually an Air Raid Siren somewhere in her lineage. She looks like a terrier, but that dog's bark would not be out of place in the midst of a hunt for some overly harassed fox.

Wooo! AWooooooo! ArWooWooWooWoo!, Puddles proclaimed the entire time the pool guy was fiddling with the gauges out back.

I ineffectually bayed in my own turn, "Puddles, shut up! Stop it! Cease! Cut it out!" and variations thereof for a half an hour. It was a landmark day.

I've had a rescue dog prior to this and at the time I remember reading that a rescue dog can take up to six months to adjust to their new environment. It took Angus, our other rescue dog, three days to figure out we were suckers. Throw a snuggle, a wag, a delighted dog-dance our way and we're putty in their paws. It took Puddles five months to ascertain that we might bluster, and yelp, but no one here believes in striking animals.

For the first few months I had an almost entirely silent dog but the Day of the Pool Gauge was the day that Puddles discovered that whereas we don't like her barking in the house, the worst that happens in retaliation is some frenzied shaking of a coke can, half full of pennies and taped shut. This gets her to stop giving cry for upwards of ten seconds, but thankfully this only applies to actual people, not any of the other things she wants to give a good talking-to.

Whoever had Puddles prior to us hit her. We knew that fairly quickly. We'd rap out a brisk, "No!" and she'd practically hit the deck, while scuttling sideways. The day she knocked over the garbage, I let out a house echoing, "No! Bad dog!" and then nearly perished in a cuteness assault as I wiped Puddles face, her tail thumped the floor desperately, and she cringed away from the towel in my hand.

"I'm not going to hit you, you daft dog," I said with affection, wiped her face clean, and tried to keep my voice disapproving. It's all supposed to be in the tone, you know.

Which makes it a pity that Puddles neither sees, nor hears well. She's all nose.

"GaWoooooo! BaaaaaWoooooo!" Puddles proclaimed when my husband lingered in a cracked door too long, trying to see if I was awake before busting through to the closet on his way to get ready for work.

Well, I was awake after that.

"Say something!" I barked, in my own turn, "She has no idea who you are!"

Puddles does better with sound than she does with sight, so we now enter rooms talking our heads off if we think we're about to take the dog unaware.

It's truly not all that bad, this barking in the house. It happens maybe once a week, but fall has brought blowing leaves and her poor vision has Puddles leaping to high alert whenever a particularly large one goes scurrying by outside. She must think it's the world's tiniest home invader. Only when there is an actual person attached to the movement is there absolutely no chance to get her to stop giving cry.


"Puddles, no!" Whatever biped happens to be at hand will add as a rejoinder.


"Oh for god's sakes."

It only takes a few strenuously bellowed reminders and peace is restored.

This morning there was a suspicious leaf spotted at ten minutes past six, when the sun had yet to actually shine much light on the proceedings.

"Gaaaaah!" Rob hollered, as the cat shot him a look that would have laid waste to entire villages, I'm positive the cat blames Rob for the dog's appearance in his life, "Stop it! No! No!"

Puddles stopped baying and looked at Rob questioningly. Someone had to protect us from the rustling things of the world, surely.

"I hope she doesn't decide to bark at every falling flake," I commented, clutching my only lifeline to lucidity, my coffee cup, "or else we're going to have a very loud winter."

"Oh what are we going to do with you?" Rob addressed the Wagging Leaf Siren.

"We could change her name to Free To a Good Home, I guess," I suggested, "but other than that, I'm out of ideas."

Puddles craned her neck over the back of the sofa and let out a miniature, "Woo?" as she mercilessly thumped the couch pillows with her tail.

Rob, stunned by a Jim Henson Creature Shop level of adorable, immediately hugged Puddles, and she stopped barking. We're strict disciplinarians around here, you know, get out of line and suffer the snuggles.

Rob left for work, and my dog put her head on my shoulder for a moment. I'm surprised I survived. It was a full blown cuteness assault.

"You're a good girl," I said, and the couch pillows took their seventeenth beating this morning alone.

A Blue Heeler. I pondered and sipped. Now when searching for an English Terrier, it is indeed possible that a Scottish Terrier would come up on the search. It even makes sense that Puddles, a dog listed as a Scottish Terrier mix might even get caught up in the displayed results. If you're searching only pets close to your geographical location, that is because we all know when only looking for information that its geographical location has an impact on its validity.

The funny thing about "I was just looking, you're the one that picked her out" search is the Blue Heeler. I don't know if Rob really believes that he was just looking, or not. I will say that looking for dog breeds on a site called PetFinder pretty much says all that needs to be said. Having that random Heeler in there might actually add credence to "I was just looking" claim.

At dogs within driving range, of course.

But I haven't ever really called Rob on it too much.

"She's your dog, you picked her out!" Rob will say as Puddles dances around with a pink Croc in her mouth. "How'd you pick out such a bad one?"

"I must just have a gift," I'll generally say, letting him get away with blaming me for an animal he clearly adores.

After all, I think he's cute.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


My hand had just come in contact with the glass when the phone rang. A Friday night, prime for kicking back and watching a movie with my husband, an adult beverage seemed like a good idea. Hearing my ringtone trill caused me to freeze before I'd even had a sip. I knew the chances were good that my son was calling for some form of rescue. My husband answered my cell phone.

Last July I wrote a post called Generation Phone Home and among my real life friends, and a couple of online friends that descriptor took hold. A couple of my friends with kids will refer to their own experiences with their children with things like, "Generation Phone Home struck again."

It's just something that modern-day parents can relate to, evidently.

My son had a flat tire last night, and needed to be talked through things like loosening the lug nuts. Then another call when he was done because, "Mom, now my keys won't turn in the ignition!" I rather reasonably asked if his steering wheel was locked in place, which it was. Jiggle the wheel back and forth, son. Jiggling proved key.

I hung up and my untouched drink sat beside me. I knew better than to think the matter was closed until my son walked through the door. Sure enough, five minutes later, my son phoned home again.

"The spare is flat," he said from the depths of his understandable despair.

"Okay, where are you?" I sighed, but my husband reached for the phone and informed my son that he would be coming to get him. He advised me to go ahead and drink my cocktail.

You see, it's been a month since my son hasn't needed some form of rescue at least once a week. He locked his keys in his car as the opening bid and I took a spare key to him. I made sure to hang around and get it back, so I could return it to the file I keep it in. He lost his wallet on campus, and the campus police called me. He needed to be driven to get that, as trust me on this, my son attempting to drive without his driver's license in his possession is just a recipe for disaster. There have been a couple of other things, too.

This morning, as my husband woke my son up in order to drag him off for tire repair, we sat together and discussed what we were both like at twenty, wondering if my son was more, or less of a disaster. By the time I was twenty I lived across the country from any of my family. If something went wrong, I had to fix it myself. That's all true, but something occurred to me as I told my husband about the flat tires I have known.

The first flat I had was at nineteen, and I quickly discovered that I didn't have a crowbar in my possession. Brainstorming I remembered I had passed a service station a mile or so back. I grabbed my purse, and began walking. I made it precisely a half a block before passing a road construction crew.

"You have a flat?" The crew boss called to me.

"I do, I don't have a crowbar though, so I'm going to the service station," I replied and thought I'd keep walking.

"We've got a crowbar!" The man, clearly he was quite amused as I was dressed for work in a Chi-Chi's waitress outfit. Hey, it was my summer job but if you'd seen that uniform, you'd have a good idea what was cracking up the road crew. I looked like an extra escaped from a John Ford film in which I should soon declare something about not needing, "no stinkin' badges". "C'mon guys, let's go change a tire!"

And with that, four public works employees downed tools with a clatter, and trouped as one over to my Mercury Lynx. That's right, my car had about as much dignity as my outfit. I followed meekly and watched.

The next time I was driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, heading back to Colorado after a visit back East in my late twenties, when my tire blew. I had literally not finished pulling over before a pickup truck was pulling in behind me, and a large man leaped from the interior.

"I saw your tire blow, figured I'd lend a hand," He proclaimed and over my protests about how I appreciated the help, but I had what I needed said, "Honey, I've got a daughter your age. I'd want someone to help her."

He wouldn't take any money from me, just directed me to the next exit's Firestone to get the flattened tire repaired. By the way, that man was secretly a member of the Tire Changing gods because I've never seen anyone so efficiently do something, while fielding an attempt at polite protest the entire time.

By the time I had my next, I was thirty. I'd had a business meeting in an office park that ran late, and when I came out to my car, found that my tire was busy settling into permanent disuse. Flat is too mild a term for how thoroughly that tire had given up on life. I must have run over a school of glass-shard-coated piranhas in a spike-lined puddle to bring about that level of flat.

Well, dammit, I wanted to change that tire. I was in a parking lot, there was no danger under the street lights, and the time had come for me to prove to myself that I, an empowered woman with a fully working knowledge of how to change a tire, could do so. I'd jumped a huge variety of cars, taken care of a host of other maintenance issues, but I had yet to successfully change my own tire. Come hell, high water; damnation or flood, I was going to do this for myself. Only I couldn't get the hubcap off.

Never fear, I walked into a nearby office building, interrupted some sort of meeting in progress and asked the assembled group of men if anyone had a screwdriver, as I wasn't able to pry my hubcap off. Outside it began to bucket down rain.

Do I even need to add that instead of handing me a screwdriver from his truck, the man who came outside with me insisted on changing my tire, as I made small sounds of protest, and held an umbrella over his head? Or that when he was done, he handed me the flat-blade screwdriver I have to this day and said, "You should keep this, just in case."

I like to tell myself I am part of what I referred to as Generation Save Your Own Butt, but the truth of the matter is a little closer to being that I evidently can barely hit a public street without someone attempting to rescue me instead.

There are a lot more stories like that. Just earlier this year I was at the Home Depot, buying a ladder that was quite lightweight but ungainly at an almost epic level, and I ran a near gauntlet of offers of help trying to get it to my car. I'd wheel my cart four feet, balancing that bad boy, and every single person I passed offered to help me. Young men, older men, a particularly muscular woman. I must have a homing beacon implanted in my spine that sends off waves of perceived helplessness. That or there are a lot of good, helpful people in this world, and I don't discount that possibility.

So was I really any better at working a problem, or was I set down on this earth with a particularly delicate-looking countenance that makes other people practically stampede to my rescue? Truthfully, it's a bit of both. After my encounter in the rain, I spent the next Saturday practicing changing my own tire, just to prove to myself I could if the need arose.

Rob told me his stories, all of which involved simply muscling off a tire, replacing it with a spare, and heading back down the road. I shared my theory that perhaps I was fooling myself that I was any good at riding to my own rescue. Many a protest issued forth from my tall husband, why I was the most capable woman he knows, he'd seen me put out a literal fire with his own eyes. Watched as I'd ducked passed him to get to the main water shut off when a plumbing problem occurred, and he didn't even know where it had been. My husband defended my independence so much, but it did seem a rather charming example of protesting too much.

Sure, I could do things for myself, when I had to.

"Yeah, thanks, but there's just one thing..." I began and faltered.

"What's that?"

"When you offered to go and get him for me, I let you." It was true, I hadn't protested much at all, just asked if Rob was sure, and then gratefully picked up my drink when he told me he was.

"Oh you can't count that!" My husband leaped to my defense, "Four times in four weeks you've had to go and take care of things for Flint, and it was dark outside and..."

He went on as I listened with growing skepticism about my own independence, remembering how I'd gladly allowed him to ride off to my son's rescue. Sure, the ready cell phone may have arrested self-sufficient development to some degree in my son's generation.

But maybe a fraction of it was learned behavior, after all.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The iFolly

Before descending to wreak havoc upon the enemy the Barbarian Hordes were said to let loose with a chilling array of vocal sounds meant to terrify the enemy and Confederate soldiers whooped out the Rebel Yell during the American Civil War as their battle cry. Neither group has anything on the average Apple store in terms of an unholy din.

It started last February, my trusty Sony Vaio felt decidedly unwell. It wasn't actually belching out clouds of smoke and requesting the last rites, but to say it was sluggish would be to imply that it still moved and that's not accurate either. It was six-years-old but that turned out to be the extent of its lifetime. Even launching Firefox caused it to crash, and lie motionless in a fit of machine malaise the likes of which I had never seen.

So I decide to buy a Mac, my first mistake, really. It's just that everyone who has one of those things swears up and down, and down up that they are the answer to prayers. I don't think any item has quite the brand loyalty that Apple does but I'm here to tell you I'm in the dark as to why.

I decided not to take the offered tutoring classes, which was a mistake, in retrospect. It's just that since dinosaurs roamed the earth with 14400 baud modems strapped to their backs I've been using PCs and I get by just fine.

"We'll teach you how to do anything you like!" The young man said with a smile.

That should have been my first indication that I was iScrewed. . Three times I'd been shooed off of a stool since entering the store, "I'm sorry, but those are for a class that's about to start." I'm actually not blaming Apple for that. They must get a lot of looky-loos and their classes are for customers that have already purchased their products.

I heard the offer of classes, looked around at the babbling insanity that was the Park Meadows Mall Apple store and thought that only if attending classes there was a condition of the ransom for my favorite nephew (it would have to be my favorite) would I ever volunteer to hang out in the joint, trying to learn.

"You tutor people here?" I asked, and the young man cheerfully assured me they did. I couldn't figure out a polite way to say I'd rather transport directly to a Medieval Rendering of the Bowels of Hell than try to do anything there, so instead I said, "I'll be fine. If I get stumped, I'll get a book."


That was nine months ago. Nine months of searching for drop down menus that don't exist. Doing the old trial and error, but having it only end in error. I'm pretty tenacious so I kept at it, consulting the web for answers and finding helpful passages that began with things like, "Macs are very intuitive..." which I can only assume means "keep guessing" because good lord, I couldn't even save and use an image on this computer. Right clicking? There is no right click menu. Or options to delete, or really anything other than fevered prayer, as far as I can tell.

So I bought a book for Dummies, because it was clear that I qualified when it came to Macs. The first thing I did was to look up "Save Image" and that went nowhere fast. I'm an iIdiot. Do they make books for me?

For nine months whenever I wanted to use an image, or really, a computer I scurried to my trusty HP laptop. Vista, the most dreaded operating system in the world, was still the preferable option for me. Finally I decided I'd had enough and this entire week I've been beating my brains out on my Mac. One of us is going down, and I fear it is going to be me. Half the time when I touch this mouse, it immediately goes flipping back. I've lost enough text in these past nine months to crush a small nation with the sheer volume of words.

iTried. iFailed. iSwore. iTried again, and again. Finally I had some marginal success.

After a week of trying I have three things to show for my efforts. Are you ready? Here is the picture I wanted to share with you. The one that started my week long battle. I need a member of the Barbarian Hordes to scare the wits out of my Mac long enough for me to accomplish anything, but we're going to try.

If that didn't work there's going to be some iDrinking in my future.

Then I wanted to change my profile picture so I used Photo Booth to take some picture, straight from my home office to you, and I settle on this one because I look appropriately baffled in it:

However, I took photos like this:

Which was clearly a mistake. And this:

As I tried to figure out the timing on the iCamera. I think I look best in over-exposed light, by the way. That can't be a good sign.

That's when I realized something. I can't even figure out how to delete the blasted things!



At least for now.