A Melange

Weird, wild day. Rain this morning-good strong rain. Then came the break in the clouds and then came the sunshine-then the wind and then the cold. Now, it’s really cold-wind is gone with just a few clouds.

Simon seemed to feel the change. As I mentioned, we’re on a current regime of some three walks a day because he can’t run on account of the stitches courtesy of Lucy dog. So, there was the walk in the rain this morning, the wind and sunshine this afternoon and the cold this evening. Leather coat cold. 40’s on the way down to 30’s cold, which for here is…well…..cold.

Simon isn’t equipped with a lustrous coat of fur. He is, after all, a short-haired pointer. That short hair doesn’t do him a lot of good in the cold. I can’t imagine what he’d do in Minnesota or Wisconsin. But those are the places where people hunt these dogs–or rather, these dogs go hunting, no? So, what gives. Google. Be right back.

Hmmm. Well, Dog Directory has this to say:

The German Shorthaired Pointer’s coat is short and flat with a dense undercoat protected by stiff guard hairs making the coat water resistant and allowing the dog to stay warm in cold weather.

Yeeeeahhhh…OK, I’m not seeing it. He shivers if out for too long and that coast of short hair doesn’t seem particularly protective. But, I’m not dog expert. I just like having them.

I picked up Scoop’s ashes from the veterinarian the other day. I didn’t expect to feel like I did and it was harder than I thought. What’s left of Scoop the wonderdog is now a small but heavy box. I haven’t told Peanut the box is here, I’m not sure how she’d handle. I have introduced to her the idea that we’ll have his ashes, what cremation is and all that. She seems to get it. Sort of.

But how do you get that the dog you grew up with is now coffee grounds-or dust? You don’t. Her little brain is processing it as best she can, I know. But-that’s about it.

Christmas break has been wonderful, if at times melancholy. We’ll head up to see my pal Keith and his wife Tina tomorrow in Santa Maria. Keith lived with me for a while when I was a teenager and my mom mothered him, too. Since she’s here visiting, we thought it would be fun to get together.

Saw Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels today. It was fun and even good, at times. But it wasn’t great. There were funny bits and Jack Black is a lot of fun to watch. He’s funny when he’s not trying to be funny. But, it didn’t compel me to write a review, so there’s that.

Well, gentles. Onward.

Working Dogs

My pal Jason and I were back and forth texting a bit today. Jason’s a smart punk kid, a former student of mine and he is now at Disney trying to rule the world–and coming close to succeeding. He works hard and he loves doing it. He has an end goal in mind and he sees the pathway through the mountains, as it were. Anyway, he texted me about the era of regional banks being largely over. He cited a story on WSJ that I cannot seem to find just now. I said that it was one more sign that we are doomed. But what do I know? I bank at a credit union-and it was robbed today.

Then, my friend Mark sent me this link. Border collies. So, one goes and gets a border collie, realizes that it’s a dog who needs to be kept seriously busy, and so one goes and buys a small farm in order to keep said dog busy.

As I wrote back to Mark, if indeed this is happening, the economy is far better off than I thought it was. Either that–or we really are doomed.

Simon is enjoying Christmas break with the family. It’s a good time for him, too. If he had to get attacked by Lucy-dog, which he did, then it’s good it’s now. Allow me to explain:

Like the border collies, Simon is a working dog. He’s at his best when he’s kept busy-or at least tired. For him, we’ve found that means a daily romp at the park with a lot of his other dog pals. He’s off the leash there and can run and run-which he does. Masterfully. If he is a hunting dog, then his secondary profession is running.

But when Lucy-dog attacked him, she tore his right leg up inside, near his armpit, pretty well. He has a number of stitches and skin staples to put it all back in place. His orders were not to run for at least a week or even more. He gets the staples out on January 4. That’s my second day back to school-and when he does get them out, we’ll go that day to the park and let him run. He needs it.

In lieu of running, however, we’re all home during the break, which as I said ends for  for Peanut on January 4 and me the day before.  So, we keep him busy. Simon had three walks today, for example. All relatively short and sweet–but three of them, so he never really got bored. We played together, he ate some treats as well as some new food and we continued to socialize him with Lucy-dog so we can avoid any violence in the future. In all–a full day for the lad.

I’m staying just busy enough. I’ve got a few assignments from the paper, some from a client and pitching for even more. I’m a working dog, too I guess. I don’t do well if I don’t have a job to do. Might tear up the furniture or pee on the carpeting. Sometimes I think I’ve tapped the inner spark that lights us all and we just don’t know it: We have to be kept busy or we’ll go mad. Then again, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s all this busy-ness that has us tied in knots, nuts.

I don’t know, though. As I get older, I’m convinced that sometimes, a little good hard work is the key to a healthy mind…

Onward.

Burger Wars

The day after Christmas and yet another one played close to home. Church this morning and then lunch at Five Guys Hamburgers in T.O. There has been a lot of media hype about Five Guys and I thought it might be worth it to see if the media hype was warranted. It isn’t.

That’s not to say that the place is bad-far from it. The hamburgers are fine-really they are. And the french fries, fabled in article after article, are darned good. But there is no real cause for french fry alarm. The burgers are good–not necessarily great. Allow me to define my terms.

A burger is a pretty easy meal. It’s a fine meal, too. It’s the ultimate combination of veg, carb, protein and dairy (if so desired) all in one place. It’s the first casserole, without all the annoying blending together and cooking in an oven. Tastes better, too. But its simplicity is the secret, if you will. There’s not much to it and very much like fine wine, the difference between a good glass and a bad glass is the ingredients-the fruit. So-the difference between a good burger and a great burger is-the ingredients.

So there it is–the ingredients. And to be sure, Five Guys use fairly good ingredients. Their “secret weapon” if you will is the “hand-formed patty.” Somehow, this is supposed to lure the eater into a kind of homemade ecstasy. “Say, it looks like the burgers I make at home. That’s great.” For my part, I never understood that line of marketing. If it’s just like what I can make at home, what am I doing buying it here? I can make my own.

But their beef is a bit gristly and the produce, while fresh, isn’t great produce. Heck, it wasn’t even good produce in some cases. Wilty lettuce and unripened and crunchy tomato. As the kids say, “I’m not down with that…”

The comparison I’ll make is twofold: Often, folks will say that Five Guys is the East Coast version of In-n-Out Burger. All very well. Five Guys wanted to come and bring the battle west. I’m all for that. Healthy competition is a good and wonderful thing. So good, in fact, that a comparison is warranted and while Five Guys certainly stands up to In-n-Out, it does not beat them. In-n-Out makes a great pan fried-or griddled-hamburger. It’s one of the best I’ve eaten. Five Guys runs a close third to In-n-Out’s second.

First place, in my humble opinion, belongs to The Habit. This is a Santa Barbara chain of burger joints that does everything right. There are not just a few differences-there are many. First-and foremost-they char-broil their burgers. This is the best way to make a burger, bar none. The beef is never gristly, never too fatty. Between the three burger joints, Five Guys easily had the greasiest burger. Because The Habit char-broils and because their beef is, as I can guess, better quality, the burger tastes better.

As for produce-it’s no contest. The produce at The Habit is superior-fresher, tastier, etc. I think they use local produce when they can, as well–and that adds to the allure-certainly here on the Central Coast. The Habit Burger is a superior product, far tastier than Five Guys and a tad better, in my humble opinion, than In-n-Out. Mind you, I like all three. I don’t dislike Five Guys and would easily eat there again, if they’ll let me.

But it’s the Habit burger that in my opinion makes a better burger.

Just sayin’.

Christmas Harmony. Sort of…

Yesterday started off so very grand. There was love and harmony. There was a two-mile walk with both dogs, Lucy and Simon during which they neither growled at nor bothered one another. They walked next to each other the whole time and they nosed one another when they were communicating, but no snapping, no biting, no growling. It was a wonderful day.

There was even a thaw in the canine diplomatic relations:

It was so wonderful, in fact, that we Storer adults, did what adult human beings do–and returned to the familiar, as my Sociology professor, Larry Horn of Pierce College, taught us. Scoop and Lucy used to play tug-o-war with a doggy rope in the backyard. We thought it was time Simon got in on it. Why? Because we’re stupid and we cannot leave well enough alone.

At first, Lucy would not engage and we should have taken that as a sign. When she finally did engage, it was rather a slow-motion effect. Sue was encouraging them to play. Instead, I saw the hackles go up on both dogs and I had a fleeting moment where I thought, “Uh oh. This isn’t going to turn out well…” And then Lucy dropped the rope and jumped for Simon, a smaller, lighter dog.

She had at him for at least 15 or 20 seconds before I could get hold of her collar. When I did, I bodily removed her, throwing her backward enough for her to yelp and shoved her in the house. But it was too late. Simon had suffered puncture wound after puncture wound on his legs and she had splayed open a segment of his inside right leg near his armpit. He was limping, whining and drooling.

My vet was closed–luckily, our old vet was open and rather than go to the emergency vet clinic, I went there. Dr. Garrolini had to sew up the under-arm wound and that included muscle tissue that needed stitching, ligaments and then skin. Lucy did a lot of damage in a short time….Simon submitted to her as well.

In dog-speak, this means that Lucy has won the “alpha position” as dogs go in the family. She still refers to both Laurie and I as her alpha, but she is the dominant dog, purchased with the blood of her lesser and sealed with the promise of more discipline in the future.

Well…

Today, Simon is a bit better. Young dog, lots of meds. He’ll heal. Sue slept downstairs with him last night to make sure he was OK. He was. He whimpered a bit, but that’s who he is.

Still-it’s Christmas eve and it’s time to reflect and Celebrate, yes? To that end, my favorite English author of all time said it best:

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, — apart from the veneration due to its sacred origin, if anything belonging to it could be apart from that, — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-travelers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The day is coming and anticipation is high here at the Storer manse. Peanut is chomping at the bit, as Dickens might say, for Christmas to get here. The fun in that, of course, is letting her learn what it took me years to learn as well…the best part is the waiting. The Advent.

Speaking of that-I have just been given perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all this year. I’m a lay reader at the 5:30 service at our church and I get to read a selection from Garrison Keillor’s News from Lake Wobegone. I simply can’t wait. What a treat.

Sun came out today after taking a 6 day break and it was beautiful. We have had wonderful, blessed and needed rain-and then, a double-rainbow appeared over Camarillo and lingered for quite some time. It was one of those perfect moments, a sign of hope–an Ark making landfall after months of rain. OK, 6 days-but this is Southern California.

Peanut and I and a friend of hers went and saw Yogi Bear. I confess that I fell into the pattern I’ve been in with her for a long time in which we go to movies and unless it grabs my attention quicky, I’m snoring. Today was such a day. She didn’t elbow me though.

I did see most of it, of course. Dan Aykroyd, who I have always thought was the funniest comedian and actor I’ve ever seen, did Yogi’s voice. I was a big fan of Yogi when I was a youngster and Aykroyd did justice to the voice. He was great. But the movie didn’t really make me laugh all that hard. The acting was stilted and amateurish, other than Yogi and Boo-Boo (played by Justin Timberlake-which is kind of weird) and the story tried to sort of suspend disbelief like the cartoon used to do, but it didn’t work well.

That’s OK. The girls loved it. Nothing better than hearing your 9-year old in 2010 talking like Yogi Bear.

Simon and I have been taking afternoons and heading to the park where he is allowed off-leash. He’s a good boy and returns when you tell him to. Mostly. He’s still a hound-dog, like Scoop, and the nose knows. It’s a precise instrument, the pointer-dog nose. Its sensitivity controls the dog’s mind and heart and there is little you can do to get in the way of it. Except tempt him with treats-which I did.

So, grammatical iniquities aside, Simon is adapting well to life as a Storer. He still has some tummy-issues, but we’re working on those. We’re also attempting to work with the rescue place who have been swamped and busy and are attempting to get us Simon’s vaccination records. We need to send one last check to them in order to do this, of course. Ah well. Simon’s worth the money. How do you put a price on a pet who becomes part of the family?

As my wife says…Simon fits here.

Well, gentles. Plenty of work to do and a long evening ahead. But it’s the best time of year and that’s all that matters.

Pre-Christmas Politics

I remember when President Bush was in office, his most vehement critics, including some friends of mine, would berate the man constantly. One of my favorites was when they said, “there is no terror threat! Bush is just using the threat to keep us in a police state!”

Never mind that the police state never materialized–until Barack Obama became President. Never mind that Bush wasn’t the one to regulate the Internet–as is happening today, to the discredit of the entire Democratic party. What do liberals think now when Eric Holder, who is left, even, of Barack Obama, says that the terror threat is “constant and real,” that it is no longer just foreign born jihadists, but American born ones.

I’m just sayin’…

I’ve also had enough of the nonsense about Obama being challenged from the left. Jay Cost puts the kaibash on that fantasy, too. If liberals think they can actually get a more lefty President, let them try. Good luck to you all.

Remember all those bumper stickers that attacked President Bush? “W stands for worst ever!” and “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot” (I still chuckle at that one, though. I just insert Illinois for Texas) and all the others?

Well-here we are more than two years into Barack Obama’s Presidency and I think we can make a fair judgment. The Republicans didn’t have to work very hard to destroy Democrats in the House and gain 6 Senate seats. Imagine what would have happened if people had actually voted for them instead of just against President Obama.

He may get the message eventually. But…I rather doubt it.

More Christmas cheer tomorrow.

What ifs?

Steady and constant rainfall since Friday night. It’s so needed and we are happy to have it. All except Peanut. Her worried little brain conceives of a great flood. “What happens if it rains too much?”

My only reply is, “go ask someone who lives where it rains too much…” She doesn’t get the answer. It’s the irrational 9 year old thing that gets difficult. I have no answers. That is, I have them–but nothing she wants to hear. “Well,” I say, “floods do happen, but the chances of a flood affecting us very much are pretty slim.”

“But it could happen?” says she.

“Well, I suppose so, honey, anything can happen. But that doesn’t mean it will. Either way it’s nothing to worry about. If it floods, we’ll go somewhere where it’s not flooding.”

“But what if we…?”

“Stop the what ifs. We can’t control those. I have to confess-you get this worry streak from me. That’s my side coming through. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a bit better at handling it and I’ve learned a few things. One thing I learned is that you shouldn’t worry about stuff over which you have no control.”

“Why?”

And so it went. Still, I made sure that on several occasions she heard me saying to her mom or to someone at church how wonderful it is to be getting all this great rain–we’ve been in drought conditions for so long. What a blessing!

Getting ready for a week of reporting. At least I hope it’s a week. Tomorrow, I have four interviews to do and two stories to write from them. I’ll be all over Ventura County from Ventura to Simi Valley out to Port Hueneme. I don’t get paid for gas use, either–but one of the stories pays an extra 25 bucks, so it’s all good.

The annual Christmas dinner at church tonight. Always a lot of fun to go and spend time with the folks and celebrate our life together. I read an article tonight by Ross Douthat at the NY Times. He reviews a couple of books and in process, postulates the thesis that Christianity in America is becoming marginalized and irrelevant. I don’t think I agree, but perhaps I am wrong?

Or could it be that Mr. Douthat, himself certainly no left-winger, is out of touch with mainstream America and has a NY Times view of the world? I’m inclined to think the latter, but I base that on my own faith which has actually become stronger in recent months. I find it hard to say with any degree of clarity that Christianity is becoming marginalized in a country whose core principles are founded on Christian principles.

Well, gentles–falling asleep over the keyboard and I do believe it is time to call it a night.

Onward. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Break, 2010

December 17 and school lets out for two glorious weeks. I’ve been in need of this particular break for some time now and glad to have it upon me as I stated in last night’s post. I think there is no denying it-the solutions required to fix education are simple and plain and right in front of us. But there are so many fingers in the pie, no one can conceive of simply saying, “hey-you don’t have the right to high school education. We’ll give you the opportunity, but a right? No. If you don’t want to be there-don’t be. There will, of course, be consequences for whatever other actions you choose,” and leave it at that.

Ah, well.

Rain today and plenty of it, though never heavy. I love when the weather and time of year do this together. I like cold and rain and December. Simon wasn’t fond of the rain today for walking and I grew restless wondering what to do about–for–him. He’s a two year old hound and he’s full of energy. If he doesn’t get his exercise, he’s simply miserable to deal with. He needs to be tired.

So, I followed Caesar’s lead and I put him on the treadmill. I did a workout there myself and then, got Simon and taught him how to walk a treadmill.

A few missteps, a couple of trip ups-nothing serious, and off he went. He did a total of three different routines because while Sue was still here she stopped me at about 18 minutes. “He’s tired.” I replied, “he doesn’t get tired. He’s a machine…” I was more right than I knew.

At that point, we went about 3.2 mph at the fastest. Simon wasn’t even panting. We kept it up for nearly 20 minutes as  I said, but then stopped. Then, Sue and Peanut went shopping. I did my workout and put him back on when I was done. Another 16 minutes, this time at 4 mph at his highest. When I finished that, and did a few other things, I put Simon back on for another 18 minutes. This time, I increased the incline from 4, where I’d had it, to 7 and after 12 minutes or so at between 3 and 4 mph, I cranked him up to 4.6 mph. It was only then that he started to pant. I left him at it for about another 10 minutes and that was the ticket. The dog got his workout and, I think, may actually be tired.

He’s still suffering from giardia, but I spoke to Dr. Perkins and she thinks it may be on the run-no pun intended. Simon’s on a bland diet, chicken and rice, and even gets a pepcid ac every day, poor guy. If he makes it through this treatment, he’ll gain weight quickly and should fill out into a nice, medium sized, 50-60 pound G.S.P.

That said, I still miss Scoop. And today was a tough day for that. He’s on my mind and I think it is because of Simon. I’m not bonding as quickly to him as Sue is. Then again, I didn’t bond quickly to Scoop, either. It took some time. A couple of years from now, I expect he and I will be great friends. I do enjoy petting him and I think he’s a handsome fellow with a good deal of personality.

Lucy dog is not trying to kill him, but she’s also not happy about his presence. She tries to ignore him for the most part and is confused and, I think, grieving Scoop. We work with her every day and try not to coddle her too much.

Lots of writing to do. Monday will be a full day of work, though I’m not teaching. I can live with that. In fact, I’m excited about it.

Tonight: Almond wood burning in the fireplace and a collection of appetizers for dinner. A glass of ol’ Fess Parker’s Pinot Noir and some quiet time with the family. Perfect.

Onward.