Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Guiding Eyes

Miss Caitlyn visited us this past weekend. She is a doll baby! We loved having her, although she sure wore Ella out! Caitlyn has the basics down; she is fine with staying in her crate off and on during the day and all night; she knows the basic commands; she let us know when she wanted to go out. We worked on manners but clearly more work in indicated. Poor Ella got the brunt of it; she had her ears and tail pulled, her lips bitten, and she was rarely able to catch a nap. She was a trooper, though, and never fought back. She did hold Caitlyn down to the ground a couple of times. She actually laid her own head across Caitlyn's neck, forced her to the ground, and held her there. Caitlyn never complained or got upset; Ella would hold her until she calmed down.
This weekend, we will sit the older pup, Eric. Maybe he will pull Ella out of the funk she has been in since Caitlyn left!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Guiding Eyes for the Blind

We have just become involved in the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. It is an organization that raises puppies to become guide dogs. I was doing a routine Internet search and came across it by accident. Imagine my surprise/delight to find out they had a training center just across the river from me!
They have several levels of volunteers; you can start a puppy (6 weeks to 8 weeks), raise a puppy (8 weeks to 18 months), be a puppy sitter, or work with whelping mothers. Of course, I want to raise a puppy. Virginia and I attended a training class (more on that later) and will be puppy-sitting a little darlin' named Caitlyn. We will have a home visit and then we will get a puppy! I can't wait!
At the training class, three new volunteers brought their "babies" to class with them. Two were yellow labs like in the above picture. (In fact, Virginia, who does a lot better at human socializing than I ever will, found out that this particular branch uses 80% labs; the others are German Shepherds or GSDs to you dog people.) The third was a Golden-Lab cross. Her name is Blanche and she was solid black. That would have surprised me except for the fact that I have seen black Labradoodles. Trivia time: for those of you who do not know, a Labradoodle is a cross between a Lab and a Poodle. The thought was to get that sweet, accepting Lab behavior with the Poodle's non-shedding qualities. Sounds great, but sometimes the worst parts of both breeds comes out. Patti has told me that her Poodles can be very strong-willed, as many intelligent breeds are. So you can imagine what it might be like, trying to raise a very strong in body and strong in spirit dog that will eat anything (worst trait of a Lab). At any rate, this little Glab (as I was told it was called) was a cutie. All three puppies were fearless. The instructor told us that they are bred for confidence. Makes sense, if the dog is literally going to act as someone's eyes.
In the class, we went over a few hand commands. I thought, I've got these down. Turns out that the hand command for "sit" is very specifc. All commands are done with an open palm. In "sit," you begin with your open palm down then flip your hand over so that the palm is facing up while saying "Sit." She did some instructing for us new folks (there were four or five of us there who are in training for puppies) like how to crate train (got it down) and how long to train (short bursts; these little guys truly are like babies) and how to baby-proof your home. I have always had it easy with Saints. They may be food-motivated, but I have never had one that was a big chewer. Cheryl says that Denver, the first Saint I ever met, was a big chewer, but none of the ones I had ever did that. My outdoor Saints were bad about digging holes. Ella doesn't do that, but then she is never outside long enough to dig.
The instructor's name is Cheryl L. Since my sister's name is Cheryl I figure I better use the initial. Cheryl L. conducted class while the puppies played. Every now and then, the trainers were to call the puppies out of play and reward them. I can see how very important this must be for a guide dog: you get to play, but when it's time to work, it's time to work.
Gee loved the puppies and got right down on the ground with them. Ok, yes, I did too. Who can resist puppy breath?
At the end of the class, Cheryl L. brought out the two labs she has been training. One of them, named King, actually made it all the way through training and was placed with a blind person. He developed hip displaysia and was released. Those of you who have read The Giver: in the GEB program, "released" means "released from the program and put up for adoption." So King is 4, well-trained and very happy. He just wanted people to scratch his butt. Then she brought out her Wild Child, named Eric. Eric is a year old and full of PnV. GEB dogs are not altered. If they don't make it as a GEB (over 60% do make it) then they may become police dogs (drug dogs, bomb dogs, etc.) or they are adopted out within the network. So here is Eric, raring to go. He was a very happy boy, and seeing the puppies was almost too much for him. I know why she brought Eric out; you could see it on the newbies' faces that some of them didn't realize those sweet little balls of fur rolling around could grow so large and strong. I knew it; I have seen it happen to my sweet little Saints between the third and fourth months.
Another piece of trivia: the GEB puppies are named after a letter of the alphabet. The first litter is the A litter, and all the puppies are named beginning with the letter A. The two yellow labs were from the same litter and were C puppies, the second time around the alphabet. Carlton (like Fresh Prince, you know?) was the little boy. His trainers are on their 6th GEB puppy, and you could tell it. Caitlyn's trainers are both teachers and this is their first puppy. What really cracked me up was that when they found out Virginia was 14 (someone thought she was my sister; I did have my sunglasses on at the time so I guess that helped) they totally ignored me and talked to Virginia about school. She was wearing her Beauty & The Beast t-shirt and that got some attention as well. Another woman, also a teacher, talked to her about her shirt and acting. Gee was in Hog Heaven.
If all goes well, we will be babysitting Caitlyn at the end of the month. We may even have our own puppy before August is out. Look for more pictures soon!

Friday, May 16, 2008


The graduates throw their mortarboards
Man, I am uber-emo about graduation. I had to sit in the nose-bleeds from being so late. Never drove before! Got to see all the guys as they walked, but only saw a few afterwards. It took me forever to get down to the ground, and by then, many had left. I saw quite a few, though, including Pounders (although not nearly as long as I would have liked) and Haynes and Sumler and KC and Hess and and Bo and RV and Kimmel and Jar and Myers...I also spent quite a bit of time unloading my emo-ness on Preston's family....but somehow I missed Maulden and Spradlin and Jor-Dog and Steve-o and Winkie and Gouch and Carlito and Roger and Slim Jim and even Bob for crying out loud...lots more I missed, and I may never see them again...MEZSH.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lake Moreau 2

We went back to Lake Moreau today. It's close to the house and I wanted to try to find the waterfall.
Never found "the" waterfall, it cost me six bucks to get in, and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes. All in all, a good hike.
Apparently, weekends late in the day are not a good time to go, since the guard shack is manned. The six bucks is per car, so really not that bad. I was just miffed that I had to pay to hike. But by the time I went home, mapped a route, etc., I would spend more than that in gas. So it was worth it to just do the hike.
Another 45 degree angle hike. Well maybe not 45 degrees, but it sure felt like it. I still can't believe how bad the mosquitoes were. My hands and arms were sticky with blood by the end of the hike. One of the pictures above has two markers on it. One is the typical disks used here. The other is a splash of red. I believe that isn't a trail marker at all; it's where someone wiped the blood off their hands after being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I used to brag that mosquitoes never bother me. I won't be saying that again any time soon.
The view, which was so not great I didn't even bother to post a picture here, was blocked by trees. You couldn't see the lake, but you could see some mountains in Vermont. I knew my house was out there somewhere; I could see the Northway and I recognized a field I pass every day. Ella was happy. She got her walk in; that's pretty much all she cares about. Today was the first time she actually ate some of the trail mix I offered her. The mosquitoes left her alone; she has been debugged and is on heartworm prevention, so no problems there.
The Dog Whisperer
I was embarrassed a few weeks ago in Baltimore when we were at one of those dinners where we have to socialize. I don't do that well. A few 7&7's help, but they also boost my confidence, something I really don't need. One guy asked what I thought of Cesar, since the talk always gets to dogs or Star Trek with me. Rather than just admit I had never watched him, I explained my views on dogs. "That's what Cesar says," the guest told me. Oh great. Mark one up for Beej. I was surfing channels the other day and it happened to be on. I now watch him every chance I get, not just because some of his cases are hysterical but also I agree with him on a lot of things. He also has that elusive quality of Charisma that can't be purchased anywhere, not even Wally World. I've seen four or five episodes so far. He works with every breed of dog imaginable (and I think he owns most, as well) and has handled every problem I have ever seen and some I never knew existed. In one ep, a woman had "gotten her son" (read "herself") a chihuahua. She treated it like a baby and the damn thing was savage. As savage as those can be, anyway. Her son could not touch it or her without being attacked. I loved it when Cesar said to her, "You take the dog's side over your son?" It was awesome. I know a lot of Dog People don't have kids, and I used to be one of those people that believed that if a kid got bit, he deserved it, but common sense (and having kids) have changed my viewpoint. I am the Captain of the ship called Ella, and as I learned in Star Trek (I had to work it in there somewhere) a captain is responsible for everything that happens on the ship. EVERYTHING. So if my dog bites someone, it is my fault. There are some instances where that is not always true, but I believe that it usually is. In this case, this kid was just trying to pet the little yappy mutt. He was not being aggressive at all. You could tell the kid was scared to death. (The kid in question was 14.) Cesar almost walked away because when he disciplined the dog, the woman started to cry and told him no. But he stuck it out and showed the woman that just like kids, undisciplined dogs are horrible to be around. My problem was the other way. I had no problem disciplining the dog, but had trouble saying No to the kids. I know dogs act on instincts, but kids have thought, feeling, emotion, memory, etc., and one wrong word can scar.
Star Wars
I see that Star Wars has a new movie coming out this summer. Well, not a real movie; a CGI thing. Of course I will see it. That's one of the conditions of lifetime membership. Besides, John Williams provides the music, so it will at least sound phenomenal. And maybe Yoda will be a more believable fighter instead of looking ridiculous as he did against Dooku. I remember sitting in a packed theater as we all laughed during this serious battle. It was too funny not to laugh.
As I hike, I sometimes do math. You know, like, what is my angle of elevation? Us geeks are like that. I could, of course, bring a pedometer and actually do the math, but when I am in the woods, I like to be as far from technology as I can. Someone told me there are a lot of osprey in Moreau park. What's an osprey? Some kind of bird, is all I know. I kept hearing birds, songs with which I am not familiar, and I wondered if that was them. I could Google it, but that cheapens it somehow. If someone tells me or shows me, that doesn't seem like cheating. I know, I know, I am psychotic. For some reason, the phrase "vacuously obvious" keeps coming to my mind. It was a favorite phrase of my gender bender professor from UCA. Shim said it all the time. (Shim is a pronoun that Gee and I made up to stand for gender benders. I won't share the one my dad uses...) I think that phrase is all I can remember of my college math. All the math I use now is related to high school. The most useful information I possess are the math standards; what they really mean, what each level is expected to know, what each level is capable of, that kind of thing. I'm going to a math conference in San Diego later this month. I am not thrilled at the thought of flying there from here, but I do enjoy a good math conference. I've been to a few.
Well, gotta get back to painting. Furniture arrives Tuesday. We might try Blue Mountain wait, I'll be in Arkansas attending graduation next weekend. Guess it will be the weekend after that.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lake Moreau

Wish I had my camera, but no, I left it at the office so I "borrowed" this picture from another website. I was utterly stunned at how much landscapes can change in two weeks. Apparently, it rained a lot here in Moreau while I was off in Rochester. Everything is green. Bright green. You know how the cars get covered with a yellow film in the spring? Well, here it is so thick you could make a, pollenball out of it. It's funny how sometimes what surprises me most are the similarities.

Had a little trouble finding the trail, because it is in the middle of this tourist trap. It's not in my guidebook; I just saw the sign and said to Ella, "Wanna go for a hike?" She always says yes. The park has a big sandy beach with life guard towers and tons of camping spots. Full service bathrooms, too, although everything is buttoned up due to the fact that it is still "off season." It was a little early for a Sunday when we got there, around 9, and no one was around. So, I broke my rule of never letting Ella off her leash. Signs everywhere, I had just read Katz book about how he threw a ball for one of his labs onto a frozen pond and almost lost both his life and the dog's, but I still make a stupid mistake. I hadn't planned to (Oh that's great. Like anyone ever says, "Hey, I think I will make a stupid mistake today.") but there was no one around and this great big squirrel was teasing her, and well, you know. She was also wearing her prong collar and 6-foot leash, which I hate having on her in the woods, but I had forgotten the flexi. Add to that the fact that she has been in prison, er, I mean, a boarding kennel for two weeks and you get a measure of my state of mind. (Which reminds me, I knew nothing of the tornadoes until I got an e-mail from my dad stating, 'Don't worry; we're fine." I showed my colleagues the e-mail and one said, 'Great. Guilt and relief all in one e-mail.')
So after all this lead up, it's rather anti-climatic because nothing bad happened. Ella just went cracker dog. She ran and ran and ran, around this tree with the squirrel, in huge loops, her ears flopping in the breeze. I clucked to her once and she ignored me. I knew better than to make matters worse by yelling at her (thank you, Jon Katz) so I just hunkered down on the trail and waited for the storm to subside. After a few minutes, I decided the storm wasn't going to subside so I began to backtrack slowly, nonchalantly. I heard her before I saw her; running as hard as she could straight at me. She would have hit me in the middle if I hadn't seen her in time and ducked down. She still knocked me on my ass, but I got lots of cushion so that was no big deal. It was literally the first time she actually showed me she'd missed me. She'd been ignoring me since I picked her up and quite frankly, I was worried. So maybe cracker dog (aka The Zoomies in agility and obedience circles) is what she needed.
We'd already gone about a mile so I decided it was time to head back. As we joined the main trail, I saw a man with bright green pants on heading down the main trail away from us. Phew, I thought, got her leashed just in time. Then we met a couple with dogs. One was an Australian Cattle Dog and the other was a PRT. The dogs, not the people. A PRT is Parson Russell terrier, the "new" name of JRT which I think was changed years ago but still hasn't caught on yet with the general public.
Just about the time we made it to the parking area, we met up with Mr. Green Jeans again. I said, "Hey, is this thing a loop?" (I know; here's your sign.) He said it was, and asked if this was my first visit. We got to talking and he told me quite a bit about the trails of Lake Moreau (sorry; I keep thinking of the Island of Dr. Moreau, the one from the 70s with Burt Lancaster, Michael York, and Richard Basehart as the Sayer of the Law) and told me there is actually a very nice waterfall and how to get there. Gotta try that one soon before "season" opens and the beach makes it an undesirable place to be.

Another great hike for the record book, and one we will go to over and over again. I guess it will become my new Petit Jean.

I'd love to ramble on about work but a) I probably shouldn't and b) We go to publish in less than two weeks and I really want to keep my job. Suffice it to say that things are going well. I had to give a talk on gender equity both weekends (we saw two different groups of teachers) and I began each with my Arkansas Computer Literacy Exam, always a big hit. (See last blog if you aren't familiar with it.)

Hope you folks in AR survived the storm; I've heard nothing to the contrary so I will assume the best. Dad did send me a picture of Toad Suck Daze (can't wait to pass THAT around the office tomorrow) so looks like things are ok in the central region. My best to everyone; until next week!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Arkansas Computer Literacy Exam


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Peer Pressure, the DMV, and Motorcycle Maintenance

Peer Pressure. It isn't just for secondary students any more.

We were on our way to Rochester for some meetings. I got to drive (yes, that is got to drive; I cannot stand to be in a vehicle that I am not driving...control freak, anyone?) and was driving at my typical speed limit - 5 mph (that's five miles an hour under the speed limit for you non math people) and my passengers were less than thrilled. "C'mon, BJ. Can't you at least go 61?" they whined. After half an hour, I relented: "Ok, guys, but if I get a speeding ticket, you're paying it."


Of course I got a ticket. It's my first ticket in 20 years. Did the gang jump to my rescue? Sort of. One passenger yelled at the cop as he was turning to leave: "C'mon, no warning?"

At this point, I was convinced I was going to jail. Luckily, he had gotten his quota and he kept walking.

So, kids, don't give in to peer pressure. You are the one who has to pay the fiddler.


I really wanted to get that last name problem cleared up. The best way to do that was to get my new driver's license. I think the way they interview people for DMV jobs is they treat them as badly as possible. Anyone who sticks around gets the job. All I know is, they are in a very bad mood. I am not sure, but I suspect they don't like anyone with an accent.

They wouldn't let me get my license. Not with my real name, anyway. I was told I didn't have permission on the divorce decree. PERMISSION?!? WTF?!? It is the first time in my memory that I have yelled at a CSR in public. I yelled at her. No satisfaction, though. I called Arkansas, thinking that I would just get my name changed down there then transfer it. No dice. Looks like a lawyer is about to make some money. So a warning, ladies. Consider getting that hypenated name, or at least remember this should you ever get divorced. I assume the lawyer could have written that in.

Motorcycle Maintenance

When I was a student at AGS (yes, they actually had AGS way back then) we were required to read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I only remember one point from the book. The guy was talking about being out in the world, and how people in cars are watching the world go by, as if watching a television set. Your window, he said, is the screen. If you are on a motorcycle, though, you are no longer merely watching; you are a part of it. That is how I feel about hiking. When you're hiking, you're a part of it. You're touching the world.