Monday, April 26, 2021
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Today, very, very suddenly, we lost Scout, our dog of about 11 years.
I am definitely still processing what happened, and I expect the waves of ugly crying will keep hitting me, but in some ways, right now, anyway, I'm taking enormous comfort in that she suffered so little.
Just last night, she was doing exactly her usual routine. She hung around while we were working in the kitchen and whenever we looked her way, she came in for a hug and then was looking for treats. The night before she was playing with me in the yard while I grilled dinner, doing her favorite thing - which is picking up a leaf and throwing it in the air so we would cheer for her.
This morning, she suddenly seemed not to be doing well after 9:45 or 10:00, and Jamie asked me to come down from my office and see. I've learned not to rush dogs to the vet for every cough or twitch, but after watching her for a bit, I joined Jamie in her concern - but believed the issue was pain related to her legs or hips. We had dropped her off at the vet by 10:50, and couldn't go in due to COVID restrictions. Shortly, they told us that Scout had several tumors on her spleen, and one had burst - leading to the pain and discomfort. At about 1:40, we spoke with the vet. She would require major surgery, which might not go well. And she was suffering kidney failure.
We've done the "heroic efforts" route before, but I now believe the best thing - and hardest thing to do emotionally - is to not let your pet spend their final days, weeks, months or years in bewilderment and discomfort. Had a few details been different today, we would have approved the surgery, we would be worrying about Scout recuperating at home. But the cascade of what was coming meant a life in which I knew Scout would need surgeries and other treatments, and we'd likely lose her at any point over the next months, during which she would be unhappy.
I knew she'd gone for a long walk yesterday, seen friends (socially distanced) over the weekend that she hadn't seen in a year, had seen our families in recent weeks... and we'd had so many adventures this year (I slept downstairs with her during the freeze), we wanted her final days to be her good days. Her last mealtimes included grilled chicken, hamburger, and whatever else were eating. She was living a good dog life. It was the life we wanted for her every day, not just when she was ill or we were worried about her.
It's hard to explain - because all dogs are motivated by love and food, but Scout's entire personality was built around love. She just wanted to be nearby, and available for hugs and not to cause a fuss. She hardly ever barked, and mostly regarded people with cautious curiosity, and eventually deciding "okay, we're friends". She flatly did not understand negative reinforcement - and I kicked myself every time I would get snippy at her for doing something that she shouldn't, because now there were bruised feelings and much apologizing that had to occur before she felt safe and secure again.
The thing she absolutely understood and gave was love and kindness.
|Scout and me among the firewheels|
Maybe ten or more times a day as I puttered around the house, she'd slide up to me and walk between my legs so I'd lean down and give her pets for a while. Sure, we went on lots and lots of walks, and she knew the neighborhood well, and would tell you which path she wanted to go on.
But she never figured out "fetch". In fact, some wire got crossed when Jamie tried to teach her how to play with Lucy, who was a retriever and never needed a lesson. Scout wasn't interested in chasing a ball so much as picking one up and tossing it around, or pointing out "yes, here is the ball, I have found it". Eventually, one of us saying "ball" became the only time she would bark. Happily and enthusiastically, because we cheered her for it. And she forgot the word was ever tied to her toy.*
We adopted Scout in the year after we lost Melbotis. Lucy needed a pal, I generally believe in a two-dog house, and so we went to the ASPCA and walked around for maybe ten minutes when I saw her sitting at the end of her kennel. I squatted down, and she popped up and came over to say hi. Cautious optimism in all things with this dog. In a room full of dogs banging off their cage doors, she was extremely gentle and sweet, and I figured: this dog will be good for Jamie.
But, really, she was good for me. Mel was brilliant by dog standards, and Lucy was full of personality and demanded attention. Scout just needed love. And treats. And to play. She learned our routines and insisted upon them - up to and including 10:00 PM walks in the summer, once the sun was down. Which kept me moving. But it's hard to say all the ways in which living with something that doesn't understand anger or raised voices makes you better, yourself.
When we lost Lucy about three years ago, we figured Scout would be lost without her. Lucy was the big sister and Scout followed her around. But we quickly found out Scout was okay - she just turned up the attention she'd always given us, and seemed pleased not to have to compete, kind of coming into her own. And, not knowing how long we had with her, that was okay.
I'll miss her gentle, polite spirit and earnest expressions. I'm going to miss her delight at seeing me, and running right into my shins whenever I opened the door as she sought pets. And how happy she would be when she'd slide between the coffee table and the love seat to get pets from Jamie while I rubbed her ears and face from the sofa. I'll miss her prancing in the yard when we'd go out to spend time with her, or playing tag with her. And, of course, the long neighborhood walks when she'd insist on one direction or another. And in the last year when her hearing started to go, burying my face in the fur at her shoulders and telling her she's a good dog, making sure she could hear.
It's not easy. It never is. I can't tell you how much I'll miss her.
*our first dog, Melbotis, however, thought "toy" meant anything he particularly liked, including Jamie, as it turned out when one day I said "go get a toy" and he wandered over to Jamie.
Friday, March 12, 2021
29.3 million cases of COVID. Now over 530,000 dead as of 11:37 PM on 03/11/2021.
Since I quit writing posts we had an election, and Trump was shown the door. But then we had an attempt at a violent overthrow of the US Congress as they moved to certify the electoral college on January 6th of this year. You can look it up - it was very bad. In the wake of the election loss, the GOP has more or less dropped the final bits of illusion suggesting they give a shit about democracy or decency. Meanwhile, the Democrats remain the same spineless twits they've always been.
Vaccines started appearing at the beginning of the year, and as of this writing, Jamie has her first shot, my parents and my brother have both of theirs, as well as my father-in-law and cousin. The way they've rolled it out is intended to first serve the most vulnerable as the disease tends to hit, so first take care of older people and people with medical conditions. But even as I write this, the picture is changing on a daily basis. The White House is working on its plan to get vaccines available, and it seems to be actually working. Meanwhile, the governor of Texas decided he's done with COVID and we're opening everything back up. So, look for our numbers to spike uncontrollably for a while.
Monday, February 22, 2021
Well, Texas being Texas, it's now a high of 70-something degrees. Skies are blue, and this is the weather people from out of state get duped into thinking we have all the time when they visit during the spring-times.
Today is the first day that hasn't felt like a total disaster. Yesterday I was still just sort of wandering around the house trying to figure out what to do and checking to make sure I wasn't spotting leaks or holes in the house that weren't there before. And, the inside of the house was and remains a bit of a mess. We've had a hard time keeping tidy during COVID to begin with, but add in our inability to just cook and clean with running, clean water, and it's all a bit of a mess.
Jamie's dialysis situation is pretty solid. She had treatment on Friday, and then again on Sunday. And, today, Monday, she's back on her regular schedule at her regular clinic. So, despite an ugly week of uncertainty, she's doing well, if a bit knackered. She did some chores for about two hours yesterday and then tapped out, for which I could not blame her.
I can't thank the nurses, technicians, social workers and others from Jamie's clinic enough. While it was clear this was an improvised effort, she had multiple people calling her, giving her information and driving in awful conditions (and with minimal experience) to make sure Jamie and tons of othersothers could get the care they needed. That's not nothing.
Austin Water has worked around the clock to restore water - and then drinking water - to the city. Austin Energy did what it could, kept people apprised and got power back when possible. Police, ambulances and firefighters stayed on duty. And I have to assume university staff stuck around to feed the kids on campus. I know there were also people on the UT campus keeping data centers going, keeping the heat on best they could - and power (UT has its own power plant. No fooling. It's at about 24th street).
In my own neighborhood, people offered food, water, and.. maybe most importantly information and tips. They helped each other out in countless ways that will be forgotten, but I was able to keep an eye on my own home and understand where we were at as the storm carried on as those in the know shared information about what to expect, what to do and not to do, how to deal with water heaters, how to care for pipes, etc...
Friday, February 19, 2021
|yesterday afternoon, the snow lost its charm|
Well, Jamie finally got to dialysis. You can read her account of the past week here.
With the water main breakages, etc... it's been all sorts of operations that have had to do without, and dialysis centers have been hit pretty hard. She went from last Friday til today (it is Friday) when - normally - she's in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week.
They were unable to run her for the full duration, as there are only a few clinics open, and this morning she was sent to the wrong clinic (at 6:00 AM no less) and then traversed the city on a path I would not have recommended with freezing temps and roads, but she made it, safe and sound. Of her usual 2.5 hour run she did get 2 hours, so she should be good for a bit.
Still, these are the 1,000,000 stories of "this went a bit beyond 'we shivered a bit'" that are going to be flooding out of this event.
My colleagues from work are trying to fix things for a bunch of ungrateful college applicants, and we're having trouble on the IT side as - hey, there's no water for cooling our data center (why we aren't in the cloud - do not get me started). There's *massive* spikes for electric consumers who were on flexed rate plans (I saw a story about someone who will pay $3800 for this week's bill alone), and the water damage to property is going to be flat out insane.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
|Scout ponders the inevitable slowing of all atomic motion|
If you're on the outside of the freeze occurring in our Southern States - and, in particular, in Texas, it's very hard to explain the insanity of the past week. And, I imagine, you have to do a lot of intentional empathizing to care. Texans have a semi-earned reputation for being natively hateable, and anything bad that befalls them is schadenfreude.
The truth is - we *are* in fact dealing with the results of bad policy, hubris and a lack of foresight. All the stuff you'd expect from the blowhards and braggarts who've run the state for decades.
And it's costing lives. The closest I can compare this to would be - a hurricane or similar event taking out Washington, Oregon and most of California, including LA, but leaving San Diego just fine.
Texas is huge. It takes 12 hours to cross from Texarkansas to El Paso and 13 hours from Texhoma to Brownsville. That's 29 million people. Houston is currently listed as the most diverse city in the country (don't believe it? Go hang around the Univ. of Houston campus), and while it's easy to think of morons like Rick Perry as the face of Texas, it's not the reality on the ground. Good people and many kinds of people live here.
We're in an unprecendented weather event - it's not just been record cold in intensity, it's also record cold in duration. I assume the precipitation is also record level. I've never seen more than a dusting of snow in my decades in this town. If we can't see the grass, we think it's a blizzard.
One common misconception I've seen is that we just need snow plows. Well, what that this were so.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
|the neighborhood pond is frozen over|
Since I was in college, way, way back in the 1990's, I've heard nothing but how the power grid in Texas was outdated and needed overhauls, improvements and extensions. Some of that has happened, but this being Texas, the loads has been focused on the load the state requires during the summer. Texas summers can see weeks on end with temperatures in the 100's, and if you don't provide AC, we'd all likely die of heat stroke. There's a reason Texas was sparsely inhabited by ingidgenous people and Mexican settlers when Anglos set their sites on Texas in the early 1800's.
Anyhoo... what we haven't worried about a whole lot has been extreme winter weather. Most of the time, we get into March and say "man, it never really got all that cold this winter." I mean, we've had cold winters, and icy spells that kept us off the roads, but it was never a question of "hey, why is almost half the state without power? And why is it different street by street?"
Because, yeah, two streets over in my same subdivision, people had power this whole time. Go figure. And I have no idea why we currently have power and others do not.
Anyway - hearing that Texas has an outdated grid isn't new. Now add in Texas' booming population and energy needs. We've added millions of people every decade for some time. I believe the last two decades saw about 4 million new Texans for a total of, like, 8 million new people. And not a whole lot of new sources of power.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
|Scout figures out snow|
We're in the middle of a rough winter storm. Polar vortex nonsense.
Honestly, it's been kind of rough. We lost power Monday at 2:00 AM, it came back on around 11:30 AM Tuesday - so 30-odd hours without heat while the temperatures never got above 25 and dropped to 7 over night. The house has done a better-than-expected job of retaining heat, but entropy is a sonuvabitch.
Mostly yesterday I ate dry and snack foods. I used the Moka Pot sent to me by Steven H for making coffee. We cooked up some chicken sausage for dinner and got in bed at 7:00 under 5 blankets, wearing 4 layers each. We finally decided to go to sleep at 10:00.
Our plan was to lock oursleves in the bedroom with Scout, but she became very scared in the dark so we let her sleep downstairs. I don't think she did sleep, because she's been sleeping today.
The power came back on at 11:30, so I immediately lit our gas fireplace, which wouldn't light before without electricity (lesson learned on that one - light that one if there's a threat of loss of power). One of our pipes had frozen, so I went to work with a hair dryer, and I think I fixed it.
Anyway - we're all right. But with two more storms coming, the roads are bad now and set to get worse. The biggest problem is Jamie's dialysis, but I have high hopes we'll get her there and get it sorted.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
For a long time I've been somewhat nervous about the hosting of the Signal Watch PodCast solely at SoundCloud. Look, SoundCloud is a good, easy-to-use service, but it's also a company, and those go under, get bought out, change strategies, etc...
I've used RSS to push the content to other podcasting platforms, and that's been nice - but I genuinely don't know what happens if the SoundCloud goes away. Will those go away? What if Stitcher dries up?
Right now those kids at "Google" seems like they know what they're doing. But, YouTube wants to be about video, and so moving the podcast there had challenges. When I looked a while back, all the recommendations were about manually transforming each episode into a video - which, individually, not a huge deal. But multiply that by 135 episodes and a handful of extras, and I'd be hand-converting episodes til next Christmas.
I changed how I phrased my search parameters for how to get the podcast to YouTube, and up came a service called "Repurpose.io". They seem legit. The service is super, super simple to use, and while it costs money, it also works really well. As of this posting I believe all episodes have made their way to the YouTubes.
Check out our YouTube here. It's also where we've posted some sketches, taste tests, etc... So, all your Signal Watch needs.
Look, I used to work in digital audio and video preservation, and it's a bear of a field. And I don't have any memory institutions like a museum, archive or library clamoring for episodes of The Signal Watch. But right now, I expect that YouTube, which lets me host there for free, will outlast either me or my ability to care about whether these episodes continue to exist. I mean, maybe when I'm 90 I'll be like "what DID I have to say about Streets of Fire?" But probably not. I'll be too busy seeking out water in the wasteland deserts of Trumpland Sector 35 (brought to you by: Confederate Burger).
It's the same reason I'm like, sure, Blogger. They're still here. And owned by spooky ol' Google that's using this blog to mine data and sell ads, but, look. You people didn't want to join my Patreon, so here we are.
Anyway - I need to do some curation inside of YouTube, so bear with me as I get all that straightened out. But I do plan to do some curation there and not just dump episodes.
Oh, and, hey, Repurpose.io lets me use the images I already had tagged to the episode, so it's surprisingly easy to navigate on the YouTube menu.
So - YouTube also does this amazing thing where - when you upload audio at least - it checks for copyright claims. About 85-90% of the videos have some copyright claim due to my use of the music involved. So, even if the videos went wildly viral, I won't make a red cent. And, hey, the song owners might! Good for them.
The only claim that totally blocked the video from release was "Hungry Like the Wolf" from Duran Duran, which is hilarious. Fortunately, YouTube just lets me cut out the song. So - easy, squeezy. No more Duran Duran. I can deal with that minor hiccup.
We'll see what other pitfalls await me, but so far, so good.
Monday, January 11, 2021
|the logical conclusion to a snow day in the ATX|
|Scout ponders why ground is soft-crunchy-cold|
Friday, November 27, 2020
Well, yeah. This Thanksgiving was weird, but good.
First - I am thankful for Jamie and how much she looks after me and Scout and everyone else in general, but in COVID times, she's been extra great. We're now however many months into this mess and she's been both dealing well with having to live with me and has been entirely key to me keeping an even keel throughout.
I'm thankful for a solid job that is unlike to see much damage as the situation around us remains fluid. It can be crazy, but it's a challenge I am growing to appreciate more all the time.
We live in town with much of our small family, and I'm thankful we're doing well, and I can see people (socially distanced) even if high-fives and hugs are harder to come by. We've got a solid support system here locally and in California, and that doesn't hurt.
And, of course, I'm grateful for all you knuckleheads who have made COVID-times bearable by staying in touch, co-producing podcasts, reading the blog, and doing Tuesday and Friday movie nights. It's a heck of a thing that there's a network from New York to San Francisco and Seattle and back again through the midwest, Kansas City and onward to North Carolina and Tennessee. Y'all are everywhere, and it's alarming.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Friday, October 30, 2020
|and, yes, Scout wandered into the picture there at the bottom|
It's Spooky Season at League HQ. We did do some indoor decorating this year. However, some of this stuff is up all year long. For example: My Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein posters are always a feature in The Hall of Gentlepersons.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
That's the same flag people say they would "die" for (I am aware that's a symbolic statement, as much as the flag is a symbol). But it's also the same piece of cloth that I recall people having serious discussions about creating prison time for anyone burning or desecrating (missing that whole First Amendment business, but, then, when haven't we?).
The United States is on fire enough that as other countries have flattened the curve, they've watched the US's nightmare of a response and put us on lists that suggest it may be years before Americans go abroad. And I'm not sure that decision is just about COVID.
Twitter and social media have changed the world. The carefully polished image of America that the post WWII planet received in exports of movies and television has been stripped away to show cops murdering and beating our citizens. Lipitor customers stalk their front stoops with guns and their faces full of an insane combination of utterly unwarranted fear and rage as Black people walk by. Our President gives increasingly unhinged interviews and speeches, and refuses to do a single goddamn thing to slow the course of a pandemic that is going to bury this country for years, or longer if he wins the November election. And all of that flows outward to nations who had their own dalliances with similar maniacs who seemed like a good idea at the time.
Friday, July 3, 2020
I made the second one first. I dunno. I love doing terrible photoshop work.
Day 16: A film that is personal to you
Day 17: Favourite film sequel
Day 18: a film that stars your favourite actor/ actress
Monday, June 29, 2020
Today marks the 52nd anniversary of my parents, The Admiral and KareBear.
These two have made it through all sorts of nonsense over the years, not the least of which was weathering raising me, which was no picnic. Anyway, they're still the dream team of parenting and now grandparenting, and their own partnership gave me a pretty good model for how to make one of these marriage things work.
Of course Jamie and I can't be with them on their Anniversary, but as they live in town, we've been meeting up on weekend mornings in my backyard, socially distant and all that. It's been really great, honestly. (On opposite weekends we've been trying to drive to San Marcos as Jamie's dad has a *great* back porch that gets a breeze in the evening).
The picture above is from last summer when Jamie and I visited my mom's original stomping grounds in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She's the child of Finnish immigrants, and they still very much celebrate Finnish heritage in the U.P. * She met my dad when he was stationed near her hometown working on B-52's during the Doctor Strangelove days.
Anyway - congrats to these two. 52 years is nothing to sneeze at.
*My dad is an American Mutt. Name a Western European nation, and he's got a bit of it. And probably a lot of things we don't know about. We were all very disappointed to learn our last name is actually English and not a mangled European name spelled out phonetically at Ellis Island.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
It started with protests in several cities in the wake of the George Floyd murder. George Floyd was a Black man apprehended by police under suspicion he'd floated a bogus $20 bill. For this, he was pinned to the ground by his throat beneath the knee of a man with a gun, who was supported by three of his fellow officers, as the suspect begged for air. This went on for almost 9 minutes.
The murder, and it was murder, occurred in broad daylight and on camera, carried out by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A lot of people will try to call what occurred as a police officer pinned a man's neck to the ground with his knee for 9 minutes something else. Maybe they'll say it was unintentional (the video suggests otherwise), or just breaking some eggs to make an omelet. But in the era of cameras everywhere, the past fifteen years taught us how to pay attention to how people are policed and how police do their work. And how police officers do not police each other.
Monday, May 18, 2020
I don't really know how else to interpret the furious wrath of church ladies in JC Penny tops screaming about wearing life-saving facemasks. People told their lives depend on distance and patience rushed to state capitols with rifles to stand elbow to elbow with strangers, their faces bared to cameras and virus particles, screaming hysterically about their right to... expose themselves and others to illness and death, I guess.
It's now been going on long enough that we're getting reports of these people catching COVID-19, the occasional ironic/ cautionary tale of people's last facebook posts rants about the "hoax" of the virus before the person winds up dead. 70-odd people who went to an "open" rally in Wisconsin are believed to have contracted the virus at the event. And today I saw something about a church in California that held Mother's Day services exposed over 180 people.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
On this day, twenty solar cycles ago, I got up to a semi-empty apartment. It was just me and the cat, who I did not get along with at this point, so we didn't interact much.
Jamie had spent the evening with her parents at a hotel in South Austin that no longer exists. She would spend the day doing all the things I guess brides do on their special day.
Plus dialysis. You know, we gotta stay on-brand.
Monday, April 27, 2020
On Thursday (04/23/20) the President of the United States, who has taken to a podium on a near daily basis for weeks - blathering at length/ incoherently, and showing genuine signs of mental decline (pick your poison as to why) - stood in front of a room of journalists and said scientists should look into shining UV lights or very bright lights on or into people to combat COVID-19. He also said we should be looking at injecting people with disinfectants containing bleach, I believe. That bleach clears the lungs right out. Which, in a way, is true. You'll certainly be beyond caring about your COVID-cough when you are dead because you've got 20 oz of Clorox filling your lungs.