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30Jun/11Off

We Are Dog People Now

Yep, we are no longer among the canine challenged. Behold young Ezio:

(The name is Italian. Ask a gamer to explain it to you if you don't get the reference.)

We'd been talking about getting a dog since before our cat passed away, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. Then Geralyn found online photos of some dogs from a rescue shelter that were going to be at a Pets Mart up the road last Saturday and we decided that it was as good a time as any. They actually had several really great dogs there, though a litter of little shitzus (which is a phrase with just one too many "zus" to properly describe those things) was getting all the attention. Our decision came down between the beagle-something mix we eventually walked out with and a cute labrador-spaniel mix. Both were puppies, about 11 or 12 weeks old. The latter displayed a more friendly personality, but eventually we decided that at a projected 40-45 pounds he was going to grow too big. Ezio (the adoption folks had accidentally named him "Cody," but we're fixing that) was a bit more mellow, about the right size, and satisfied our "we want a beagle mix" criterion. So after long deliberation we went with him and it seems to have been a good choice so far.

The adoption process was more involved than I expected. I had thought that if these places could load up a vending machine full of cats and dogs, they'd be happy to let you walk up to it, purse your lips in thought for a second, then select a puppy and maybe a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to walk out with. Instead, we had no fewer than three interviews where they tried to ask us questions not much more sly than "So, how long do you think it will be before you abandon this cute little guy in a ditch?" I guess we came across as all-American enough to warrant rescuing a dog, though, and Geralyn's status as a stay-at-home mom probably helped a lot. So they had us fill out some paperwork, told us some cautionary and very disturbing stories about heart worms, and helped us pick out some squeaky toys.

As I said, Ezio is a pretty mellow fellow for a puppy. He doesn't bark much (except in one situation I'll get to in a sec), he hasn't shown much interest in chewing things with electricity flowing through them, and he has proven himself able to endure much hugging and involuntary relocation at the hands of Mandy. He's playful, friendly, and generally what you'd want out of a puppy.

The challenges, it seems, are going to be house breaking him and crate training him. The house breaking is to be expected, of course. He'll usually do his business outside if we take him, but he also seems content to just drop a load on the kitchen floor if we don't. But we're making progress. One of the tips we're trying to follow is to leave his scat out in the yard so that he can smell it there and associate that area with his bodily elimination. Geralyn thought this made sense in principle, but was worried about all the little brown land mines littering our yard and decided that we should wrap each piece of dog crap with a paper towel, then leave these sheets out in the yard. This is exactly as disgusting as it sounds, so I hope Ezio turns out to be a quick learner.

The other major challenge we're facing is with crate training. Since he's not housebroken yet, we want Ezio to stay in a crate during the night and when we have to leave him alone in the house. This is based on the principle of "don't defecate where you sleep" which most living creatures seem to think is a right and sensible policy. So we've been littering his crate with dog treats and praising him when he goes in to get them, thinking that this will build positive associations with the den-like environment and we'll be able to close the door and have him lie quietly. Ezio, on the other hand, believes that closing the door is his cue to begin howling, braying, and crying bloody murder. The first two nights we put him in our bedroom at night, thinking that our proximity would calm him. At one point he barked for two hours straight, so we relocated the crate to the basement. He still barks incessantly, but now it sounds like something in the ventilation ducts is very upset with us. Hopefully he'll get used to it and we can move him back up to a more trafficked area if not our bedroom again. But we went through this crying through the night thing with two human youngsters already. Not keen to do it again.

Anyway, on balance he's pretty great and makes a nice addition to the household. We're taking him through obedience training, so I'm sure I'll have some stories to share again in the near future. Now, here are pictures!

Filed under: General, Parenting 2 Comments
25Jun/11Off

June, 2011 — Pools and Such

Been a while since I posted any pics of the girls, and given that it's pool season this seems like a good time. Sam has gotten quite competent at swimming and no longer has to wear any kind of life saving apparatus. She even dives off the diving board, if by "dives" you mean "flops belly-button first." We had TWO pool parties this last Father's Day weekend, so the girls got their fill of pool. Like, literally. Mandy kept drinking the pool water.

Mandy also had her first dentist's appointment, which went, to use an awkward segue, swimingly. When I got home that night she showed me how she had to open wide, then held that pose at my request until she caught on. At any rate, both of them had good checkups and got bags of toothbrushes and floss, the latter of which was immediately used to garrote some unfortunate stuffed animals.

So, pictures! I think you know what to do with them.

Filed under: Parenting No Comments
20Jun/11Off

Book Review: Cannery Row


Continuing to try and work my way through John Steinbeck's novels. This short work bears a lot of resemblance to Tortilla Flat in that it's largely devoid of plot and focuses on a group of loafers and bums, and it's kind of funny in places. Cannery Row has a bit wider scope, focusing as it does on the community near a fishing cannery in Monteray, California. I'm not sure of the timeframe, but I'd guess that like other Steinback books it's set in the early 20th century. The bums in question here are the residents of "The Palace Flophouse and Grill," a former fish meal storage hut. Like the paisanos in Tortilla Flat, the Palace's inhabitants are possessed of skills and philosophy but are lacking in ambition. Instead they just choose to take things as they come and enjoy life. Their outlook largely mirrors the first half of the novel.

This changes a bit when they decide that they should throw a party for one of Cannery Row's other residents, Doc, a kind of dour but helpful natural philosopher who collects and works with wildlife specimens. The book loosely follows the Flophouse crew and Doc as they screw up one party and try to make it right with another. Chapters are interspersed with little scenes and tales from around the community, giving us sometimes funny and sometimes grim views of everyone else in town. And for such a short book it has a wide cast. In addition to Doc and the Flophouse inhabitants there's Lee Chong, the owner of the local grocery store, Dora Flood, the madam of the local restaurant/brothel, and assorted other neighbors. Through them the book hits on its themes of happiness, community, charity, and ambition.

And, like Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck's appreciation for simple pleasures and the authentic, straight-forward people who love them shines straight through. You get the feeling that Mac and the others in he Palace Flophouse and Grill may not amount to much in life, but they're doing a better job of living it than any politician, businessman, or person of would-be significance ever could. To me, though, the bums in Cannery Row were much more likeable than those in Tortilla Flat --they're lazy and they may steal on occasion, but they're more honest about it and don't go through the (admittedly amusing) mental and philosophical acrobatics needed to justify their actions. They just do what they do, and they care about the other people in their community enough to put up some effort. They seem like nice fellas.

Filed under: Books No Comments
15Jun/11Off

Book Review: Bossypants

You know Tina Fey, right? Writer and host of Weekend update for Saturday Night Live, actress and producer on 30 Rock, and reluctant Sara Palin impersonator. Bossypants is the result of the "hey, I should write a book!" urge that people like her get, and lucky for us it's as funny and well written as we could want. The book is autobiographical in nature, and follows the typical template of starting with her childhood, moving through adolescence, then young adulthood, early career, then current day. For some reason I thought the book was going to deal more with motherhood, but while that particular topic is present, it's no more so than others.

As you might expect, those other, accompanying topics are slapshot and almost random, and the book reads more like an extended blog than any kind of memoir. You get stuff on her dad, the time she spent surrounded by gay teens in a summer theater camp, her early days at SNL, her time with an improv troop, her wry description of a magazine cover photo shoot (probably my favorite chapter), her honeymoon, and others. But that's cool; I certainly wasn't looking for or expecting any kind of coherent narrative or theme to tie everything together. I just wanted to be amused. And for those of us who are fans of 30 Rock, there's a delightfully meaty serving of inside baseball (is that a weird mixing of metaphors?) that describes getting that show off the air and the creators' pleased amazement over its eventual success.

And, as I said, it's all pretty amusing. Fey has a great, wry, and piercing sense of humor that couples well with the familiar staple of self deprecation. She makes fun of herself constantly, seizing on her shortcomings and using them to bludgeon the reader into amusement. It also works in that once she does turn her sights on other targets, like answering particularly insipid reader e-mails and messageboard posts, she doesn't come off as arrogant or superior. It's more like she and the reader are sharing a sidelong "Oh my god, can you believe this?" kind of understanding. It's also notable that this version of Fey is a lot more raunchy and lewd than you might be used to if you've only experienced her through the filters of network television. Not that it's all potty jokes, but there's a few pointed jokes about things like sex, religion, menstruation, and homosexuality. Oh, and there's also an extended bit about jars full of urine, so I guess there is some bathroom humor too. But it's all pretty funny.

Filed under: Books No Comments