Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Grab Bag Day

SUMMARY: blog issues, sad week, funny list,  d*d rats.

* Blog: Just got notice from blogger that they are doing away with the mechanism by which I post and manage my blog. They have an alternative that they really like but doesn't fit my needs. I'm going to have to convert or think of something else by March. Sucks. I wasn't really planning on spending time figuring out new technology or finding a new blogging service that will support me. Sucks being a techie geek who wants to do things most people don't. I understand their reasons, but still--after 7 years... converting everything to another site will be impossible. Argh.

* Sadnesses: Can we erase the last week and start over? Wednesday, Jigs. Friday, Scully. Saturday, Shooter. Monday, Katie. (Suddenly discovered cancer; escalating kidney disease; age-related illness; unknown (just--found her lying there, she was 11).) Please let it stop for a while. Meanwhile--go do something special with your dog.

* Funniness: I really needed this--"You know you're an agility addict when...". It's a facebook group. I hope they'll post their list on a public site, too, because it's too good to hide just on FB. Meanwhile, if you're on FB, read the list.

* D[amne]d d[ea]d rats. Can't find. Place reeks. Too cold to have windows open. Argh.

* Have some nice photos of the Merle Girls from this weekend. Will post when I have time. They are SUCH GOOD-LOOKING DOGS! I am so lucky to have them.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How Do You Find Me? Let Me Count the Ways

SUMMARY: Search phrases that got people to click somewhere on my web site.

Finchester.org is my primary domain; it consists primarily of almost 7 years (!) of Taj MuttHall blogging (TajMutthall.org is a subdomain, in case you hadn't noticed), but its other main section is pages of information about my experience with hemangiosarcoma. There's also a little bit of other random stuff, but not much, really. So it's mostly Taj MuttHall.

My hosting company track searches that people do on the web, when they click on a result of the search that's one of my pages.

So, of the 500 or so search phrases in November, some make a lot of sense to come here:

  • various phrases with the word "hemangiosarcoma" (22) and other illness-related questions (30 or 40)
  • "taj mutthall" and "taj mutt hall" (5). But woe to those who came here while searching for "taj internet call" or "in what cartoon was a dog named taj".'
  • Searches for fellow bay teamer Rob Michalski and Wings the Tervuren, who won the Scottsdale Steeplechase (and whom I posted about briefly I'm sure), like "Robs Wings Steeplechase" or "Belgian Tervuren Wings Steeplechase" (15).
  • Searches for bellow Bay Teamer Ashley Deacon and Luka (won 2 Scottsdale finals and I've posted about somewhere) (2)--I'm guessing there were fewer searches landing on my site this year in part because I said less (maybe) and in part because they've won so much now, but Wings hasn't.
  • Assorted searches for agility course maps (14).
  • Requests for info about snooker (30), including "agility snooker for beginners", "border collie snooker rules", "how to play snooker in agility", and others.
  • "Crate games" in various forms (15); have mentioned these on multiple occasions.
  • Rachel Sanders running Aframe info in various forms (well over 10); did post a couple of times after doing her seminar.
  • "dam team names" and "dog team names", oh, cool, there's a potential fun web page to create!
  • "kate elliott wallpaper". OK I did one post that had her name and "wallpaper" in it. But why would someone be searching for Kate Elliott wallpaper?!
  • Geri Hernandez and Focus--I did post about that after her dog died suddenly. Many searches ended up here.
  • "coyote poop pictures". Yup, I really did post some.
  • "getting started photo chia pet sequence". Yup, I really did post some.
  • "alternate verses for there is nothing like a dame". Yup, I really did post some, but not sure they were looking for dog-agility-based lyrics.

Some things, however, amused or bemused me:

  • Why on earth was someone looking for the world's most expensive polo shirt? ("most expensive polo shirt", "expensive polo shirts",  "polo shirt most expensive", "why are polo shirts so expensive", and so on (20).  Because they probably ended up on my post about my USDAA semifinals shirt, The World's Most Expensive Polo Shirt.
  • "dog playground equipment", "dog play equipment", and similar (34). What did they find here that matched?
  • "what's going on with facebook" (3)
  • "mud mud glorious mud mp3" (3) (Yep, I posted a link to it at some point, but even I can't find it now.)
  • "candy" (2)
  • weaving flowers (2)
  • "there's a dog doing the limbo" (2)
  • "agua e vida or sierra club or amnesty international or greenpeace" (1) (yeah, they'll get a lot of that kind of info here. Not.)
  • "names of the dogs at Havasu Falls" (2). Well, isn't that interesting. I never thought to ask about any of their names, but I did post a bunch of their photos last year.
  • "free video sex", "self checkout should get a discount", "child exploitation at cirque du soleil", "purple christmas" (Hee hee hee), "unusual chairs", "poo diary", "squish the tunnel", "mongol horde costume", "how to play away in a manger in xylophone", "head for the hills paint color", "what are all the storms bad posture can cause", "scary things to do outside at night", "can a cat gnaw through wire mesh", "beth ann bonner nude photos"-- well, who knows what thoughts lurk in the hearts of web searchers!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So What's Going On on Facebook?

SUMMARY: A status cloud generated from (in theory) all of my status posts since I joined facebook.

This means (in theory) that it picked the most common words (other than "and" and like that) and represented by size the relative frequency. [And apparently it uses only words of more than 3 letters, and probably avoids common words like is, does, and can-- hence appearance of isn't, can't, doesn't but not the positive versions? I don't think I'm that negative--] So what does this tell us? Hmm, it says that I have enough time on my hands to squeeze in a use of http://statuscloud.icodeforlove.com/. And that I do a lot of thinking, pondering and wondering.

You can compare and contrast to my September 29, 2008 clouds (generated by "wordle") for August and also September 2008.

Or here's the wordle for some portion of my recent posts--the tool takes RSS feed info but I don't know how it collects it. It's interesting that "Boost" doesn't seem to show up here at all (you can click on this to see a larger readable version).

 Do you think that, in both cases, it shows a preoccupation with the USDAA nationals?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Blogging Comments Update

SUMMARY: Playing with the blog universe.

Blogger (Taj MuttHall's blogging software) is implementing a variety of what could be fun new features for their 10th birthday. We might not be able to use them all, because we host our blog on our very own site (Tajmutthall.org AKA finchester.org), but we'll try 'em all because we're geeks and it's easier than working on rear crosses!

Today--redoing how comments display. Let's see how this goes--


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Tuesday, July 07, 2009


SUMMARY: Random things, agility, blog, life, and a Boost shocker.

  • Still waiting for my final insurance check from the MUTT MVR break-in. I think they said that they have 60 days to "conclude their investigation" or something like that. THEN I can go camera shopping.
  • Boost just gave me quite a shock--because she gave herself one! She was lying there quietly next to my desk, chewing on a stick, when she suddenly yelped and leaped away, tail down, to hide under the desk. I looked--and she had given up on the stick and had switched to the end of my extension cord, for crying out loud! That thing has been there all winter for my heater to plug into. Why now? Isn't that supposed to be a puppy kind of thing, not a 4-year-old dog kind of thing? Jeez, Boost! Well, maybe that taught her--
  • I try to keep my "Complete Archive of Posts" (link under Archives on the right side) but sometimes forget. Just updated from May through today.
  • I also forget to update my "Complete list of labels" (link at bottom of each post). Just updated for the last year! Ooops!
  • Maybe I'll get around to updating the photo album sometime soon, too.
  • In this post, I uploaded actual digital versions of the photos rather than scanned from the prints. They look better; thanks again, Erika.
  • In this post, I added a couple of other clarifying comments in [square brackets].
  • Updated this post with the course map of the course in my yard that I was using last week (just now got my updated CourseDesigner activation code).
  • I just realized that Tika has now competed in 7 Performance tournament events (3 each Steeplechase and Grand Prix, 1 DAM Team) and has qualified in every single one of them--AND placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all except one (competing against 10-20 dogs usually)! How amazing is that? She really likes that 22" jump height!
  • My knee held up beautifully all weekend despite my pedometer showing about 8.5 miles covered each of the 3 days, 15 courses walked repeatedly (but not obsessively), and 28 runs with my dogs. So it's not just the activity that sometimes aggravates it; it's got to be how I'm moving it, and I'm suspecting more and more that it's certain kinds of twists, turns, torques, pushes, or pulls.
  • Tika looked fine all weekend, and I never even gave her any rimadyl! We middle-aged ladies are hanging in there.
  • On the other hand, Tika never gets up into the 6 yards per second range any more, even on jumpers courses, so I know that she's slowing down gradually. This weekend's smooth, lovely jumpers was at just 5.2 yps; winner's time (the amazing World Team tryouts winner Icon) came in at 6.12.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Facebook URLs

SUMMARY: It all gets more complicated and easier at the same time.

Now that facebook allows usernames (for use only in your facebook URL), I made my decision and people who are not on facebook can now find me easily at facebook.com/ellen.finch. I think. Let me know if you don't see my profile page come up. But there's an additional web site (fbook.me) that allows a facebook user to create an *additional* one that links to the same facebook page, and so I've used TajMutthall for this one. Huzzah.
www.fbook.me/tajmutthall. Should go to exactly the same profile page.

Let me know if you try 'em and they don't work.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

All the News That's Fit To Blog--Plus Clothing

SUMMARY: Boost jumps and dogwalk and weaves, Tika jumps, flying your dogs, Disneyland, Sylvia Trkman, facebook, insurance--whew! Anything else? Oh, yeah, it's all about the clothing!

  • In class last night, Boost hit bars like a new 21-year-old on amphetamines. Argh. I was jumping her at 24", not the 22" that we usually do in class (although often use 24 or 26 at home). Will be doing a private with our instructor this weekend to work on bars.
  • Also: Contacts! Last week in class Boost left her dogwalk contact early once and I punished her severely ("Oh! My! What happened!" (lean over and grab her as if to pick her up, and in a low voice:) "You have to stick those contacts! Don't be leaving early!") and all of a sudden she wouldn't blast to the end into 2on/2off but instead stopped halfway into the yellow. I immediately put her back on 2 or 3 times until she got the 2o/2o and rewarded lavishly. This week, first dogwalk, stopped halfway into the yellow. OMG have I broken her perfect dogwalk at age 4 and a half?! Dang sensitive dogs! We repeated the down-ramp part 2 or 3 times until she got it, then rewarded lavishly.
  • On the other hand, Boost's weaves were perfect all evening! Even the hard ones!
  • Jumped Tika at 24". Have been jumping her at 22" lately, too. She knocked several bars. I have to remember before a USDAA trial where she'll be jumping 26" in a couple of runs to get her back up to 26" probably at least a couple of weeks before the trial with plenty of bar-knocking drills at that height. It's always something!
  • Southwest airlines is now accepting small pets in the cabin on a trial basis.
  • I'm going to Disneyland! Nov 7-8. Staying with my sister & husby at their favorite place, the Candy Cane Inn, which has a convenient shuttle that I almost never use. Which means I won't be doing my club's (Bay Team's) November CPE. Instead I'll do either the Turlock USDAA right before it or the Turlock CPE a couple of weeks later. Nice to have choices! Disneyland, yayyyyy!
  • Sylvia Trkman is coming to the Bay Area to do 4 days of seminars! I can't afford all of them, but signed up for a one-day Masters Handling with Boost and two evenings of tricks as an auditor.
  • I'm going to try to get onto the FaceBook brand-new choose-your-username-URL land grab at 9:01 this evening to get my choice! I think I'll go for Ellen.Finch if I can get it; if not, maybe TajMuttHall. What do you think? (You have until 8:30 PDT today to tell me what you think. ;-)) The thing is, I'm mostly taking as friends only people that I really already know in one way or another--e.g., local agility folks, relatives, people I've communicated with in blogland--not the world at large. So my own name might be more appropriate. We'll see...
  • Still waiting for the final insurance paperwork to arrive for me to sign and send back to finish the settlement on my auto break-in. They said it went into the mail "late last week or early this week." I haven't gotten it yet. Hm. Starting to look into what camera & lens I can really afford on that settlement. And haven't even started looking for a replacement for my Perfect-For-Everything Coat.

A Few Adventures of The Perfect-For-Everything-Coat

Finding the right replacement coat is crucial because--after all--agility [and everything else] is all about the clothing!

Photo junket at Almaden Quicksilver Park Winter 2009Touristing at Cannery Row Dec 2008Hiking at Big Basin Redwoods Park summer 2008Beterphoto.com seminar at Monterey Bay Aquarium Oct 2008
Flying home from Montreal Sept 2008 (reflected in seat-back TV)

Hiked up Black Mountain Spring 2008
Hunkering down at Grand Canyon May 2008

With Tika, hiking at Truckee March 2008
With Boost at Power Paws Camp 2007 (on back of chair)
With Jake and Top Turkey Team, Nov 2005
Tika's C-ATCH Nov 2005

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ex Pertinacia Victoria

SUMMARY: Agility and the classics.

There are many useful online tools for helping with one's agility. Like this Latin Motto Generator. You have to use their selection of words, but I was able to choose an apt combo for what I have learned about agility training through the years:

From determination comes victory.

Plus it must be significant that "Ex pertinacia victoria" starts with "EXPERT."

I also found this extremely useful site for generating your own Shield with motto and icon and everything, or soda cans or church signs or movie marquees or many valuable display media. So that you can proclaim your love of agility or promote your favorite agility dog. Unfortunately, most of the generators are broken at the moment and have been since late May, and I'm tired of waiting. I wanted to put the whole shield up along with the motto, but, dang, oh well, I might sometimes be determined but I am not always patient.

And that's one of my challenges, I guess. As long as I feel that I'm making progress, I may continue working on an issue. If, however, I'm not getting anywhere--or backsliding--and I've tried a few different things--as long as they're easy things to try--then, ah, crap, faggataboutit. Impatient for results.

Impatient for the shield generator to work. Because, after all, agility is all about the fun stuff you post on your blog.

And speaking of "to work"--off I go, to determinedly earn some $ for more agility.

From persistence comes agility entry fees.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Browser Life is Complete

SUMMARY: Gotta love my browser's auto-completion feature: Easy access to all things dog agility! And--ahem, yes--important things like work.

Maybe all your browsers have this feature--autocompletion of a URL based on the the first character(s) you type and the frequency of your past accesses. So I can type:

"b" to get Bay Team, my local agility club (where I'm also webmaster).

"e" to get the english-language version of Wikipedia, where I initially signed on so that I could create an article on dog agility, which at the time was sadly absent.

"f" to get facebook, to which I was lured by a bunch of agility friends and bloggers, and where 60% of my FB friends are agility friends.

"fi" to get my own personal calendar of all my weekend plans for the next year or so, primarily agility.

"m" to get mapquest, which tells me how long it will take me to drive to whatever agility event I'm off to this next weekend.

"g" for Google. For everything! For Taj MuttHall, when I talk about how hot or cold it is, for my non-American friends I like to give the C as well as the F. So I can go to google, type "95F in C" in the search bar, and it tells me. Is that so totally rad or what?

"o" for Onelook dictionary search, which peruses a bunch of different dictionaries to find possible meanings for a word.

"p" for Power Paws, where I take agility classes with my dogs.

"r" for Google Reader, where I've subscribed to all my favorite blogs and can see any updates in one page; very convenient! At the moment, includes 13 agility-related blogs and 3 others. (I don't put my favorite LiveJournal blogs in here, although I could, because those I can sign up for permanent email notification as soon as someone posts something.)

"s" for Snopes, the urban legends reference page, which I check *constantly* to verify those emails about 20 beagle puppies who are about to be put to sleep because they can't find homes, or the parody of My Favorite Things sung by Julie Andrews, or a photo of a tsunami frozen to ice in an instant, or SO many things that come through the mail-- (Have used them for years, and they do display some advertising to pay for their site, which is fine; lately they seem to have some ads that open windows that do crappy things to my browser. Not always, but sometimes. But I haven't found a better reference site for this material.)

I type "t" to get Team Small Dog, my daily dose of dog-and-agility-related laughter or sober thought or brain-twisting set of analogies.

"ta" to get Taj MuttHall (here--although I don't have to type it often because it is also my home page).

"w" for Weatherbug, which is cool because you can see exactly where the station is that's reporting your time and temperature, and (if one is available) choose one closer to you or to the site of your agility trial this coming weekend.

"x" for the company that employs me so that I can do dog agility.

"y" for youtube. (Surprised me when I just checked it--I'd have thought Yahoo, which it was for a long time, but I guess all those agility videos have skewed it a bit...

"z" for my photo site on Smugmug--and the only way I can explain the "z" is because all the galleries are coded with random character-string names, and "z" must be pretty common. Lots of photos from dog agility trials and the nationals there, among other things.

Probably more with 2-letter combos that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Do you detect certain themes? Perhaps themes starting with the letter "a" or "d"?

Perhaps it's time to get off the computer and go for a long hike with the dogs in Risk's memory.

Hug your dogs, your cats, your children, your siblings, your parents [parents--hope you're enjoying your 50th-anniversary oregon trip; here's your virtual hug: (( ))]. There might not be a tomorrow to do it in. And I don't have to browse the web to know that up close and personal.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Puppy Blog by Nancy Gyes

SUMMARY: Enjoy puppy-training thoughts with a real pro.

Our instructor, Nancy Gyes, has a brand-new Border Collie puppy and a brand-new blog about training a future agility champion to go along with it. (I helped with some of the technical set-up so I feel a tiny bit of ownership. ;-)).

Follow along and see how a new puppy's training is approached by someone who has been training other people and her own dogs (at least a couple dozen by now I'm guessing) in obedience, behavior, and particularly agility, for many years; who has been national agility champion in various venues with multiple dogs; who has been on the agility world team multiple times and won; who is now world-team coach; and who has many current and former students who are national and world champions and team members (at least three this year on world team).

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

She Swoons Because It's All About the Clothing

SUMMARY: Agility is coming and we're not prepared. A Facebook experience, confirming that agility is all about the clothing.

I have been intrigued to see that this single Facebook status message and the single follow-up photo have elicited more comments from more people than any other facebook or blog post to date. You guys all have strange appetites. You Facebook fanatics have undoubtedly seen this as it unfolded. But--in the interest of preserving it for posterity (I have only the best interest of history books in mind)--

It all started with my status note on Thursday (compare and contrast to more typical status messages like "Joe Smith...is heading for bed after a wonderful evening with friends," "Jane Doe...loves her new iphone," "Bo Hunk...is leaving for [fill in name of agility trial]" -- all of which are interesting but, like, normal):

Ellen Levy Finch stops suddenly, looks at her calendar aghast, and realizes that she'll be competing in agility in 8 days and neither dog has practiced in a month! She swooons.

The response trail looked more or less like this:

MB: Nice dramatic flair! [polite clapping] I can *almost* imagine you swooning.
TMH: On the divan, of course. In the parlour.
MB: I'll send for the smelling salts!
TMH: LOL! Perfect. I mean--fiddle-dee-dee!
MJ: So, with the whole parlour, smelling salts, etc, scene, I guess this means you'll be wearing a bare shoulder afternoon gown, in Spring shades, with long gloves, and a wide brim sun hat with matching ribbon tie. Oh, and being sensible, Doc Martins during competition. I'd *love* to see pics!
TMH: Sure, I'll send photos of such as soon as I have them.
MJ: Send whatever you end up with, I'll have to see what I can do. *digs through pile of old install disks* Where's that Photoshop?

So I had to dig through all my old agility photos to find one of me (lots with just the dogs, but "me" usually shows up as just a fat knee or blurred pointing finger) that I could post in response. Here's what I "found": "Dressed for swooning on the agility field. Prepare the smelling salts!"

And here's the brouhaha (emphasis on haha) it engendered:

KM: Where's the parasol to shade your delicate lap dogs from the sun?
MB: ROFL! How long did that take you to do?
GD: wow...in the agility competitions I have attended, the people are dressed like regular schlubs - polar fleece and/or shorts depending on the time of year...are there different types of competitions with different dress codes?
KM: Victorian agility is big in the Bay Area. If you think Ellen's costume looks good, you should see the dogs!
MB: Those hoop skirts are a b*&^ to run in tho!
AS: Beats wearing an Elizabethan Collar wouldn't you say?
TMH: Yep, we always dress in period costume, a different period for each season. I understand that this summer will be Mongol Horde. We'll have to bring yurts instead of our regular canopies.
TMH: P.S. This is for you, Mike!
TMH: P.P.S. Taken at SP's Workin' Paws!
CS: makes me think of Phil in his pirate costume...or as the Power Flaws girl (?) Kinda miss that guy
TMH: I was trying to find a photo of him to prove the theory that agility is done in costume. Thought I had some, but noooo--
TMH: P.P.P.S. OK, in the REAL reality, it took about 20 minutes in photoshop, I think, including finding a dress photo that's compatible with a photo of me with dog.
GD: Now I'm disappointed. It certainly would add a little flair to the whole thing...imagine some long ribbons in the doggies fur, flapping as they run the course!
SP: Why yes...it is a requirement to dress in period costume if you run a dog at Workin' Paws. Otherwise you can't attend. Thank you Ellen for giving me heads up on the Mongol Horde. I will get that ready!
LR: Love how the dress is the proper TMH colour.
MB: Garth, you have that confused with our rhythmic gymnastics courses, where the dogs and handlers must twirl a ribbon while running. Totally different from our period-costume-of-the-season courses....Now where did I store that yurt and fur g-string from last season's Mongol festivities?
MJ: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You know, TMH, maybe we'd attend more events if they WERE costumed! (The audience could vote on best costume, keep themselves amused while judges were doing judgy things.)
TMH: How about if the *audience* comes in costume? Hmm. OK, free admission to all spectators who come in costume from now on!
SY: Yes, very nice dress. I hope you can run in that.
AS: Occasionally, agility people have been known to show up in hippie attire.... and then there was that guy who used to run in a kilt... What ever happened to him?
TMH: He moved back east.
AS: Like Eastern Scotland?
TMH: LOL. Not that far.
TC: And, that wasn't dress-up...it was everyday attire.
Remember the trial (WVDS) when Bill N. and Terry S. dressed in top hat and tails and ran their dog in pairs?
TMH: Wasn't there! Sounds lovely.
TMH: Yeah, EB has several kilts.
EC: So how are the photoshop lessons going?
TMH: [some noncommittal reply]
MJ: Several kilts make sense if:
(1) you've got a pile of money - they're $500+;
(2) you need the "dress" tartan for evening, in-town occasions;
(3) you need a "hunting" version for country, day wear, or a trip to the pub;
(4) you need your old one as a loaner for all your friends who don't have one and might, I repeat *might,* be persuaded to try ... Read Moreone, if it were free, arm twisting were employed by their significant whatevers, and everyone in earshot promised to surrender their cameras. (Pics will be taken, of course, and posted immediately!)
Dave: Woah...I have the exact same agility outfit. Good thing we didn't wear them at the same time...THAT would have been embarrassing.
TMH: Dave, The *first* thing that popped into my head when I saw that dress was, "Whoa, that is like so TOTALLY Dave's style!" but I just crossed my fingers and hoped that you hadn't already found it.
TMH: Mike, Of course we're talking modern-man kilts: all-black, all-tan, nice washable materials for mucking around with dogs or attending dinner parties. I know I have a photo around here somewhere...grumble grumble... OK, I'll look for it more some other time.

So that's how it stands as of 11:00 this morning. I am now desperately in search of:
* Photo of EB in his agility or evening kilt (I do have the latter--must be in my archives somewhere).
* Photo of Phil in any of his--uh--unusual agility outfits (I've seen photos but don't remember whether they're mine--more searching necessary).
* Photo of Bill N & Terry S in tops & tails doing agility.
* Like that.

Remember: Agility is all about the clothing. Really.

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Monday, March 30, 2009


SUMMARY: Taxes, earthquake, agility dangers, necks, bugs, computers...

  • There was a 4.3 earthquake not far from here this morning. Wasn't home so don't know whether dogs noticed. But my guess is not. One quick shake and then a little rolling; nothing too disturbing.
  • I finally spent the time to get my papers together for the tax guy. I noticed once again that no agility-related or dog-related expenses seem to be tax deductible. Maybe if I were an agility instructor? Or an agility lecturer?
  • An agility friend and her dog collided this weekend at an agility trial, she fell and hit her head and was knocked unconscious. Scary. Spent the night in the hospital; she doesn't remember a thing about the incident.
  • What are those horrid sort of round bugs that are smaller than the head of a pin that have been infesting my kitchen cupboards now for probably a year? I think they came in in a batch of dog biscuits that weren't sealed up. Maybe 6 months ago, I emptied all the cupboards, threw out several things that had been infested, and put everything else in ziplock bags. But they've beeen increasing with a vengeance. Yesterday I went through the process again. Found 6 things in plastic bags that were infested; two I couldn't tell whether there was an opening in the bags--maybe they were infested when I put them in the bags. The others--they had eaten right through the bags! Another scary thing. Had to toss two supposedly sealed new dog treat things again that they somehow got through the bags.
  • Yet another agility friend apparently has a little cattledog with the same neck issues that Tika has. Apparently vet said it's from all the shaking of toys. Boost still shakes things like a 7.6 earthquake when we're tugging, but Tika doesn't much shake things any more (just pulls). Maybe that's because of her neck? The friend says no more shaking toys for her dog. How do you stop it? Argh.
  • I still haven't blogged my info from last weekend's trial. Tika did pretty good. But I took a few photos and I've been busy and now my computer's down, so I can't do anything with them. SOMEday I'll talk about last weekend. I took good notes!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

So Much To Do--You Know the Routine--

SUMMARY: Dogs got a little walk, a little play.

I'm more tired than I should be. My throat is sore a little bit. Neeeeed sleeeep. Am adding a little link in the lower right column to tie into a network of blogs, including access on Facebook. That's it for now--


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Experiment from Slide.Com

SUMMARY: Turned my Lexington Reservoir photos into a slide show to see what it looks like.

If you hover your cursor over a photo, it displays a caption. I think this is how it's supposed to work... Hmm, OK, if you click on it, it takes you to a separate page with full-sized views of photos and fairly easy browsing or automatic slideshow. Cute tool if you don't have another photo sharing site, I guess. This is from slide.com. You can pick a bunch of different ways for it to display here; I picked the newspaper version.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Agility on Facebook

SUMMARY: Another addictive online time-wasting thing.

Thanks to several agility so-called friends who invited me to join Facebook, I did. Now I must spend at least half an hour a day checking what everyone's up to, because after I plugged in my email address book, I discovered that about 90 people I know are already facebook members.

The main interface is kind of cool, in an insidious addictive way. On your main page, it just has a little box where you type a sentence about what you're doing right now (or thinking or feeling or planning or resenting or hating or loving or...). Then it shows up in a list on all your friends' pages. So my page shows what all my facebook friends are active in, what they're doing, what their lives are like, and so on.

51 of the friends are agility friends (including 6 of you agility blogging pals), so my experience on facebook is primarily agility and dog oriented. (Of the others, 4 are relatives, 10 are sci fi/fantasy writer friends, half a dozen are work friends, and the rest are just random people I've met through the years, most of whom don't know each other.)

The worst part of facebook is all the cool applications that you can sign up for and participate in and engage with your friends in (or compete against them in). My particular bane is Word Challenge. A bunch of my agility friends now seem to be heavily into "Mob Wars" - "Join the Mafia, and start your own mob. Band together with your friends to become the most powerful force in the elite criminal underworld of Facebook." They have invited me to be members of their mobs, but so far I have resisted, although the automated status postings indicate that they're having a good time smuggling liquor, robbing banks, and so on.

You can see that this is all enhancing my agility knowledge and expertise.

Oh--although I have also signed up for Facebook groups including "Blue Merle Border Collies," "Running Contacts," "Agility Vision - Agility Video Service," "USDAA Agility," "NorCal Agility Addicts," "dog agility lovers group," and "Doghouse Arts," (oh and also "No on Prop 8," "SFFWA," "Clarion writers Workshop," "Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor," "International Talk Like a Pirate Day," and other critical social groups like that), there is a whole lot more activity going on in Mob Wars and Word Challenge than in any of those other groups.

Anyway, not that I'm encouraging you to join. It really is a time sink, and so far hasn't really given my any useful agility info. But it has been interesting.

Here are some of the "what Ellen is doing right now" posts I've made recently:

Today: Ellen cries Why why WHY would anyone make a washable dog bed cover out of red fabric that bleeds? Why?! (Poor previously tan dog bed cover...)

Yesterday: Ellen has too much to do and is hoping the dogs might take up a quiet hobby like stamp collecting.

Yesterday: Ellen is taking an Xmas package to the PO for her niece & nephew in Baton Rouge.

Yesterday (OK, maybe i'm posting too often...): Ellen is thinking about turning up the thermostat.

Saturday: Ellen is sorting photos from hiking at Big Basin.

Friday: Ellen is going to take a NAP because she took her nieces to the midnight "Twilight" show.

Thurs: Ellen is going to take a nap so she can take her nieces to the midnight "Twilight" show.

Thurs: Ellen is catching up on facebook. Why did I start this?

Tues (some days are more profound than others): Ellen is vacuuming.

Mon: Ellen ponders Tika's speed, titles, and Performance vs Championship options. (With a link back to my post here at Taj MuttHall. See, you're not missing anything that's really important!)

Sun: Ellen is not sure how we managed it, but Tika Qed 8 of 9 at the NAF USDAA this weekend. (See, you guys already got that from reading Taj MuttHall!)

Fri: Ellen is packed and ready to go do some USDAA.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nationals Online

SUMMARY: Where you can find info next week.

USDAA has just announced that they're hoping to be streaming live video from Scottsdale. More info here. This should be very cool for folks who can't be there!

I'm taking my computer and hope to be posting here daily or nearly so.

And I'll also try to post updates on Bay Teamers at Scottsdale at http://www.bayteam.org/wiki/Bay_Team_reports_from_Scottsdale_2008.

We'll see how the computer and the wifi and everything works!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dog Photos

SUMMARY: Updated blog photos

I changed the dogs' portraits on the right--all except Remington's. They just didn't look like my dogs! I was trying for more formal pictures but those were the wrong ones to choose. I so much regret not having some really great photos of Jake--so many photos, and so many were SO CLOSE-- guess it's time to go out and make a real effort at getting some really good photos of my dogs' faces, because these are all 2 years old or more.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Subscribe to Taj MuttHall by email

SUMMARY: For your visiting convenience.

I've set up an automated email delivery for posts to Taj MuttHall, so that every post automatically goes in an email to you if you want it, so you don't have to remember to come here and look.

(If you already come here and look, that's fine--I don't want to start adding huge gobs of text and photos to the Internet Superhighway if it's not necessary. But if you prefer the automated thing and don't mind weirdly formatted email versions of my posts--well, at least you'll know that I've posted something and you can come here and look!)

(Or if you use RSS feeds, I've had that set up for a while. I think. I don't do RSS, so who knows.)

To subscribe, do ONE of the following:
  • If you have a yahoo user ID or don't mind signing up for one (it's free and you don't get any weird emails from them), go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tajmutthall/ and ask to Join the Group. I'll have to approve you but will probably do so.
  • Send me email (at webmaster (at) finchester (dot) org) telling me what email address to use, and I'll add you directly.

A couple of people I already signed up without them asking. You'd have received an email by now telling you so.


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Monday, September 29, 2008

Random Things

SUMMARY: Assorted photos and images with no cohesive reason for being in the same post.

Look what I found for lunch at the Denver airport! In the same booth, no less, so there was no way that I could buy one and not buy the other. At least I avoided the fresh-baked waffle cone with ice cream.

Me and my mom and dad. I love them very much. Even if I don't do a good job of showing it all the time. They have always been good parents. Except for some time during the years when I was, oh, 13 to 18, when they were always unreasonable about everything. You know.

It was my niece's fourth birthday party yesterday. Just think, only 9 more years and she'll be 13, too. Ha.

OMG, just what I don't need, another fun tool that allows you to spend endless time tweaking things to make it just the way you want it: Wordle.net. It takes a web site (with some limitations) or any large chunk of text and creates a word cloud image out of it. (More-common words are larger.) Here's the representation of all my August posts (what a strange coincidence that the most common words were things like Tika, Boost, dogs, Steeplechase, agility, and weekend):

And here it is for my last 10 days of posts:

(And you all know that, if you hover your mouse pointer over a picture and get the little pointy finger, you can click to see a bigger version, right?) (Oh, yeah, and this seems to be a good tool for finding some weird spelling and punctuation errors, too. :-) )

Furthermore, since I know that you all want more dog-related photos from Montréal, here's another one. Next to the fireplace is a dog wheel-cage for a spit over a fire; like a hamster in a hamster-wheel, the dog runs, and a series of chains and pulleys turns the spit with the meat as it cooks. Every home should have one.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

What It's All About

SUMMARY: Blogging, of course.

(Visit Pearls Before Swine web site.)

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Complete List of Labels

SUMMARY: Now you can see my complete list of Blogger labels.

Blogger doesn't support displaying a complete list of all the labels that I've used on all my posts unless I publish my blog under their URL (blogspot.com etc.), and since I use tajmutthall.org (subset of finchester.org), I'm screwed. So I'm going to do it manually.

I'll try to update it at least once a month or if I do some major labeling work.

Just click the "Complete list of labels" link below the list of labels! Let me know how this works for you. And if anyone has any better ideas, I'd love to know about that, too.


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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hiking Photo Links

SUMMARY: Hiking links in one place

I've just created this page to keep an organized collection of links of my photos from hiking, which appear in various random sorts of places. Also put a link to it in my sidebar, next to my photo album link.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Naming Names--Or Not

SUMMARY: Trying to decide on a Taj MuttHall policy.

For most of the life of Taj MuttHall, it has been TMH's general policy to use names only of dogs and not of actual humans. For example, for the whole year and a half that Casey the little black dog lived here with my Housemate, I always called her Housemate and not by her actual human name. I'll often use something witty and unique for each person, such as "Bump's mom" or "Steamer's mom" or "Sparkle's mom"--although now upon close examination it appears that perhaps they've not been quite as witty and unique as one might have hoped.

However, there have been exceptions. Sometimes when the person is well known and the mention is about them in their well-known capacity (e.g., a Rachel Sanders seminar, or Ashley and Luka winning yet another national competition). This will probably continue. But sometimes just in passing, for whatever reason, I mention the actual real name. Some people have told me that they've done a search for their name (or a friend's or relative's name) and dog's name and ended up at Taj MuttHall and enjoyed the results. This might be an argument for using actual given names. Although this was intended to be a diary for my own use and not specifically with any other audience in mind. (Yeah, right. Like that happens any more. Take this post, for example.)

On the other hand, the blog is SUPPOSED to be about life with agility dogs, not life with agility people (although they do for some reason play a large part there), so just like the Peanuts cartoon that never ever showed an adult, my theory was that I would never ever mention actual people's names.

So, if you've ever wondered why I maybe said something like "I finally met a fellow blogger from _______" or "a friend and I went...." and didn't say whom, that's why--it's not because I was avoiding going on record as having such-and-so as a friend, it's that I was dancing the line between not admitting that humans exist in my agility-dog world and yet acknowledging what actually goes on in my life.

So here's what I've--I mean TMH's--been thinking. If you want to know. Which you apparently do, since you've read this far. TMH is thinking that people will exist but they'll now have their own special Taj MuttHall names (which they already kind of do in the back of TMH's brain). And maybe TMH will eventually get around to creating a key for who is whom in case someone wants to do a search on hers or whoms name and end up here. Or maybe not.

Can you tell that I'm good at goal-setting?

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Photos Than You Can Shake A Rope Toy At

SUMMARY: Finally.

I've been wanting to do this for a lonnnng time. Herewith:

Taj MuttHall photo album, all the photos ever uploaded to this blog or used in any of my finchester.org dog pages anywhere.

(Disclaimers: Very basic HTML pages, nothing fancy. Lots of photos per page, so I hope they don't croak your browser. No captions, and occasional random text comments that might look to you as if they don't line up with anything.)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Updated Links

SUMMARY: Getting other places from here.

It's the beginning of the year, hence I'm trying to catch up on a 20-year backlog of Things To Do. Ha! Like the list will EVER get shorter instead of longer!

I added some Agility Blogs links for more that I visit regularly--Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction, Lucy and Walter, and Johann the Dog.

For my own use, I organized the list in roughly the order of frequency in which they typically post. Mind you, that is NOT a criticism. My day goes much more smoothly when there are only one or two short posts out there to read. I hate people like me, who post long and post often.

None-the-less, I learn oodles from reading others' posts, and not always what one might expect. Here's what I like about the blogs in my list.

Team Small Dog...Small Fast Kick Yer Ass

Added: Feb 28, 2008A local competitor whose dogs I actually know. This is a very different kind of blog. Stylish, funny, with a quirky mix of satire, agility, fashion, agility, TV, small black mixed-breed dogs, random train of thought, celebrities, politics, all tied in somehow, usually, to dogs and, yes, agility.

Elite Forces...

Blogs more regularly than even I do. Often makes me laugh. Covers lots of relevant topics, not just "I woke up with a hangnail today." In addition to the ubiquitous BCs, runs Staffies. Plus is a photography buff in an advanced amateur sort of way, as am I. Lots of people visit and comment, which broadens and enhances the scope of each post.

Johann the Dog

I've commented before that this is a money-making site. Johann is apparently becoming famous. But what I like about it is that it's also an honest diary of a real working agility dog and his family. In particular, good features are: Posts are always short (see above). Posts are cleverly slanted (always from Johann's point of view without being overly cutesy). Contains lots of info about events, issues, items, and activities that I truly might have an interest in, even if some of them are sponsored posts (which are clearly labeled as such), or simply click-through-to-earn-johann-some-pocket-change (not labeled as such, I just assume...but lots of sites do that--I would if I could get off my lazy butt to finish implementing it, because I actually signed up to be able to do it in a couple of places years ago).

And there ya go, now I've given Johann a bunch more free publicity.

Days of Speed...

I laugh out loud at Elayne's clever posts more often than at any other agility site. She's also a triathlete, which makes for some interesting posts outside my usual knowledge base. Unlike some of us, doesn't post daily just because she has a blog--has an eye for things that are particularly interesting or funny or noteworthy, so I know I'll always get a good read. Occasionally posts beautiful scenic photos from her Colorado location.

Yoshi and Trek

A friend with agility corgis. More like personal training notes than a blog intended for general public consumption (which, incidentally, is what Taj MuttHall was INTENDED to be). Still, sometimes there are tips and hints related to her specific issues. But Ellen's a friend, I'm interested in her dogs and how they're doing, so I peruse. If you want some really thought-provoking posts on a random assortment of topics, read her Non-Dog Blog (link at the top of her page). She's also very much into mountain climbing and general physical health.

Flirt and Bodhi's Blog

This was the first agility blog that I found and started reading regularly. Amy often ponders the deep meanings of life, agility, and everything, eliciting plenty of "ah-ha!" moments from my own psyche, ego, superego, or id. Plus good details on agility training. And human-health issues, since we seem occasionally to share the same "my body isn't what it used to be" concerns.

Training Journal for Devon and Jaime

Such cute dogs, who couldn't be hooked? Doesn't post often, which makes every post noteworthy as we get glimpses into "Cedarfield"'s life and thoughts. Sometimes expresses interesting views that might be unpopular, which has led her to make some posts available only to her friends list, which I believe that you can request, as I did, by signing up for LiveJournal and then clicking the appropriate link. Often posts questions rather than answers, which makes any blogger's heart sing ("Oh, boy, I can write about myself SOME MORE!") but also gets my brain working.

Lucy and Walter

These Canadian dogs are still relative newcomers to agility, so the perspectives are fresh and the newcomer's appreciation for the sport is rejuvenating. Plus they're dogs after my own heart--not purebred or Border Collies, so I love seeing them succeed. They also participate in several other sports, giving them a well-rounded view of the world and giving me an eye into places I've not gone--but nicely separate from the agility, so you don't have to feel obligated to read them if you're really not interested.

Raven and Cipher

Posts once a week or even less often. These seem to be very successful dogs in Australia, so it's fun to read about the differences in the sport. Lots of photos of her dogs. Plus Raven has recently been treated for lymphoma, so it's even more special to see her back competing and succeeding.

Team Fernandez-Lopez

Only occasional posts, but often useful to the larger agility world, not just posts about themselves. Plus they have a whole variety of breeds, including one of the top agility Rotties in the country.

Wishy the Writer

Another Amy, from Arizona. Hasn't been blogging much lately, as she has sensibly decided that Real Life is even better to pay attention to. When she posts, it might be about agility, it might be about motherhood (which admittedly is low on my interest list), or it might be about being a writer (which, for me, is even higher on my interest list than agility, although it's often suppressed while I tweak those damned contact performances). And it's all warm and from the heart.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

About Those Comments You've Been Posting--

SUMMARY: My hosting service does it again.

I just realized that it isn't that no one has been posting comments on my blogs--it's that I haven't been getting email notification about them. Along with the "upgrade" that hosed my blog access a couple of weeks back, they also neglected to convert my list of email aliases, including the one for comment notification.

Sooo--I've fixed that manually, and I just ran down all the December posts looking for comments that I've missed, and responded to some. Sorry about the delay!


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tagging in the Blogosphere, Wikipedia, and Being There (Online)

SUMMARY: Nothing about dogs at all. A scholarly post with many related scholarly links and scholarly footnotes, too.

Until last week, I had never encountered the term "tagging" in the blogosphere. (Or, if I had, I ignored it.) Not that I spend much time Out There, really; just follow a very few agility blogs and a very few friends' blogs. So I'm not up on all the latest fads in larger parts of the blogiverse such as MySpace--which, if Blogger (my blog service) were the size of a pea, MySpace would be roughly the size of a rutabaga if the rutabaga were the size of, say, the erstwhile USSR. (See a map showing comparative sizes; generated from satellite photos, as I understand it.)

So, in the last week, a sometimes-agility blog that I've been watching said that she had been tagged to list the "top seven songs that stick in my head and won't leave." Huh, thought I, "tagged," huh, don't know what that's all about but I think I'm glad I don't have any of those crazed kinds of internet friends who actually interact with one another(**) (because believe me I already have more things to blog about(see following illustration) than anyone could possibly care about even if I paid them (1) ).

(Comic from xkcd.com.)

Then I got a comment from a semicommercial agility site--someone who's partway between being a legitimate blogger (meaning someone who, like me, blathers on about stuff that only a limited portion of the population(2) could care about) and a commercial site (meaning someone who has found a clever way to make money out of their blogaholism which I greatly resent (2a))--saying that he had tagged me. So I went there to find out what that meant. It meant that he has listed Taj MuttHall in a list of links of agility bloggers. Huh, thought I, don't know what that's all about, but, um, OK, I guess...(3)

Now--fool that I am, I created an account for myself on MySpace just so that I could --ah--interact with my sister-out-law(4) (she says that harassing users is strictly against MySpace rules, so I guess that's right out and I must simply "interact"). Well, now she has "tagged" me to "post 5 weird things about myself" and then, apparently, "tag" 5 more people to do the same.(5)

A noted scholarly expert on fudgsicles.(5a)
Anyway, Huh, thought I, what the fudgesicle? Could this be a legitimate, hip, with-it, cool, rad, happenin' blogification thing that I really need to immerse myself into and torture my nearest and dearest with? So I headed off to wikipedia to research it.

Sadly, poor, outdated Wikipedia had NOTHING about blog tagging at all! I had to actually google stuff to find ANYTHING on the subject. It turns out that there are two or maybe three kinds of "tagging":
  • Categorizing your web pages with labels--like this blog (and others under Blogger) have been doing for a few months now. Although there is in fact a difference between categorizing and tagging, as you can read here.
  • Interlinking related web sites by posting links on your site to other related sites. Like I have done by posting links to other agility-related blogs. You can read more about these first couple sort of relate kinds of tagging, tag clouds, instant hierarchies, and so on, here.
  • This third, dangerous, subversive, time-consuming(6) kind of tagging, about which I can find no definitive source. However, depending on which of thousands of blogs I look at, it means (a) list 7 little-known things about yourself and tag 7 more suckers--er, friends, (b) list 6 weird things about yourself and tag 6 more suckers, (c) list 5 favorite books and tag 5 more friends, (d) list 8 ways to [censored censored censored] and tag 8 of your [censored] to do the same (huh--with a rutabaga?) ... blah blah. And everyone just seems to know that this is what it means, at least in their own blogspace.

Where did it start? Why? By whom? And how do I kill them in a pleasingly agonizing way? Perhaps I'll have to look more into this fire-maggots-down-the-pantaloons thing.

My scholarly source for everything I know about fire maggots, Captain Jack T. Ripper (circa 1986; time has mellowed him but not the parrot, whom you really don't want to meet alone in a dark alley, especially if you're carrying crackers (7)).

Coming soon, my next post: Ha! You've been tagged! 57 endearments you've actually used in public for your dog, and tag 57 of your closest friends to do the same!(8)

(**) Because, you know, the internet is all about sharing your innermost secrets in total isolation from the rest of the world, not about developing any actual, say, human interrelationships. You could all be bots, for all I know, automatically generating emails or comments on my blogs based on empirical recognition of some agility or web meme.

(1) I mean, more than I'm currently paying.

(2) Nobody.

(2a) ...because I haven't come up with a clever way that I could be happy with to make money from MY blog.

(3) OK, I'll give you that link, too, because there's also useful and noncommercial info, but you've been forewarned(3a) that this site runs some ads and some links to products to purchase.

(3a) As opposed to aftwarned, I suppose.

(4) You think I'm making this up?

(5) I'll give you her link but Fair Warning--(a)most of her posts are private, including the tagging post, and (b) there are so many ads and videos & music & things on MySpace and/or her site there that it often freezes my browser.

(5a) My dad. Heh heh heh. (Circa 1997.)

(6) Time-consuming! Yes! Look how long it has taken me to research the topic, read all the pages and blogs that came up--for research purposes, of course--find all the appropriate places for this post to link to in all the correct humorous (of course I meant scholarly) spots, write this post, repeatedly restart my browser after myspace froze it, assemble a dish of peppermintstick ice cream with chocolate sprinkles to assuage my scholarly frustration, and so on.

(7) OK, I have descended pretty much totally into random chaotic neuron firings.

(8) Because there ARE no weird things about me, let alone SIX of them. My whole life has been completely normal.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Sorry About Blog Outage

SUMMARY: If you noticed that, for a couple of days, my latest post was from March 28--my service provider switched servers and restored my account from a March backup instead of from the current date. I think we're back to normal now.


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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blog format testing

SUMMARY: Experimenting with widening the text body and header; yayyyy I think I've got it but... getttinnnnng sleeeeepyyyy...


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taj MuttHall Gets A Redesign

SUMMARY: I'm changing my template from scratch. Sorry for any disruptions.

Because Blogger has a whole major new release of its software and there are some interesting features that I'd like to make use of and don't want to try kludging together one line at a time, I'm going to use one of their default templates and tweak it from there back towards my own little customizations.

Hope this doesn't completely muck up everything. Expect things to move around and change abruptly from time to time.

9:45 PM PST: Known issues: (1) Header background (dark blue-gray) starts to repeat behind next set of boxes. Unknown why. (2) space for posting isn't very wide. Need to photoshop and upload a bunch of revised graphics to make it wider. Not sure I want to spend the time right now, but it sure is naaaaarooooooow. (3) I'd like the labels to be down in the post footer like they showed for the template, but not sure whether it's possible and not feeling like researching at the moment. (4) For prettiness, could redo the dog photos with rounded corners. Sigh. Lo-pri. (5)The lines under the headers in the sidebar are inconsistent in various ways. (6) The borders around the dog photos have vanished & won't come back. Don't know why.


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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Seeing Large Versions of my Photos

SUMMARY: For many of my blog photos, you can click on the image and a really large version then displays on your screen. Handy for seeing course layout details and such.

I might have neglected to mention this before. But, if you position your cursor over the image and it changes to a link-pointer icon (usually a finger), you can click on the photo to see an enlarged version.

Depends on how I upload them. But for most photos since December 2005, that's been true. Enjoy.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007


SUMMARY: Agility blogging, agility training, agility entries, agility knee

Saw my orthopedic surgeon Tuesday for the last time; he said there's absolutely no fluid in the knee which is awesome considering where I'd been for months before the surgery, and gave me a 100%-go-for-it rating (no restrictions of any kind), just suggested that I keep on with my physical therapy to build those danged quads.

Went to class with Tika last night for the 2nd time since arthroscopy. Knee is still a bit stiff but the big problem is that I don't feel that I'm moving anywhere near full speed. I need to practice running, but of course running is the worst thing that one can do now that one has had confirmed that one's knee has begun arthritis. Just HAVE to get back to walking, at least, and maybe jog around the back yard a couple of times a day--I'm sure that 100 feet of jogging will be helpful--

Tika, however, did very well. She was even pretty close to trial-fast. (Where I can't normally get her revved to full excited speed in class, then she takes off like a rocket at trials. It's exhilarating at trials but wish I could practice our living-on-the-edge running a bit more often.) I had trouble with a couple of trick round-about-front-crosses-after-270s kinds of things that we were doing, but Tika had no trouble with some tough weave entrances that others were challenged by. So I guess we're all getting something out of the class.

Agility blogging, for me, was solely an attempt to keep my own diary of my dogs' lives and progress. It has turned into this social thing. People actually read it. And of course I'm intrigued by the thoughts and experiences that other agility people go through, especially in different parts of the country. In class and at trials we don't usually talk about our day-to-day experiences, our fears, our hopes, our deepest challenges (well, ok, I talk about my deepest challenges all the time to anyone who'll listen, usually right after I've screwed up another run). One of the blogs I've been reading for a while (Flirt the Squirt) just pointed me to yet another agility blog, this one Colorado based, and the writing is entertaining: Days of Speed and Slowtime Mondays: How Not to Train for Triathlon and Dog Agility. Just what I need, more blogs to follow. :-)

It's been 2 months since I was last in class with Boost, and today's the day (if we don't get some surprise rain or, they're predicting for san jose, snow flurries (!!). At the moment it's sunny and 30 degrees, quite cold for 9 a.m. She's been blasting around the equipment in the back yard, where I mostly send her rather than run with her, looking ever so much like her superstar mama. But our problems on courses were showing up to be my inability to judge when she had actually committed to an obstacle and pulling her off constantly, and not signalling soon enough on tight turns. I mean, Tika's fast, but-- well, I think Boost could beat Tika, and Tika's speed is right up there. Maybe Tika and I have just gotten used to each other, and Boost's still just a baby competitor. Although she'll be 2 in just 3 weeks! Can you believe it?

So anyway I said "yes" (with some arm twisting) to a classmate's suggestion that we try for a two-dog private lesson with Nancy on Sunday. I can use all the field time I can get with The Booster for now. Especially since I've started sending in those entries with the highest hopes, and wanting to get Qs instead of feeling like I'm wasting my entry fees.

And there's where the money comes in (aside from lessons, I mean). Bay Team's first trial is one day Masters, one day Starters/Advanced, and I had two $50 gift certificates, so I had to pay only about $20 for that weekend (plus I guess I'll need to stay in a hotel; no sleeping in my minivan in this weather). But I also sent in my entry for the following weekend for VAST. Five runs per dog Saturday, four-per Sunday, for a nondiscounted total of--gulp--$248. PLUS gas to get there and hotel in cold/wet weather. This is why I have no money. This is why there aren't very many younger competitors. I'm signing up for trial committee jobs that earn me free entries left and right, but that still covers only a small portion of my entry fees.

If it weren't so much danged FUN.

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Monday, January 08, 2007


SUMMARY: The challenges in trying to schedule my hours.

I'm coming to believe that my life is ruled by exceptions, not by regularity. I am arriving at this revelation based on a week's worth of attempting to schedule out exactly 9 hours of billable working time--more than I usually do--per weekday for a week, and being unable to manage it.

To start with, I assume that I'm schedulable from 7:30 in the morning, about my average time for morning rising, until 10:00 at night, when I (nominally) retire to bed. Subtract 9 hours of work, gives me 5 and a half hours per day for other activities.

It takes me about 3 hours a day to do only the basics--rise, eat breakfast while skimming the morning paper (and doing my average-8-minute crossword), shower, dress, prepare and eat lunch, prepare and eat dinner, do the exercises I'm supposed to do to strengthen my knees, go through my mail, clean the dishes...in short, just get by. I'm not even talking about bonus activities like reconciling my checkbook or doing the laundry.

Dogs consume a lot of my time on top of that. Two days a week, we have agility class (once for Boost, once for Tika), which is 1.5 to 1.75 hours of class time plus gathering oneself and one's dogs to go, driving there, and driving back. That consumes 3 hours each time, so for those two days a week, I have only 2.5 hours in which to do my 3 hours of basics.

But wait-- even on those days, there's just a minimal amount of dog attention that needs to be paid, let's say 10 minutes per dog sometime during the day (and that's not really enough to satisfy them, AND that has to include toenail trimming, hair removal, and such), that's another half an hour per day that's a high priority. More realistically, it's 10 minutes per dog twice a day, or I have bored, impatient, unexercised dogs starting to climb the walls. And even that's a minimum. And they don't count the time in which I'm rearranging or setting up agility obstacles for exercises or picking up 24 hours worth of three dogs' waste matter from around my large yard.

So I'm in arrears already from those 2 days unless I eat my reheated pizza over my keyboard while working, skip the exercises, skip the morning paper, skip the dog exercise--oh, wait, can't do that, dogs go nuts. OK, so I'm not going to manage 9 hours a day on those 2 days.

But the other 3 days should be fine, right? 9 hours of work plus 3 hours of basics plus 1 hour of dog exercise and I actually have 90 minutes of free time for those bonus activities like laundry or grocery shopping or watering the potted plants in the yard so they don't die or mowing the lawn before it overwhelms me.

So here's how my life is ruled by exceptions.

Last Tuesday, I was only a little behind schedule until 6 p.m., just needed 3 hours of billable time to make my daily goal. And a friend who's been living in Germany for the last 2 years calls. He's in town for a day or two. We'd like to get together. The only time our schedules look like they'll match is RIGHT NOW. So I bustle around, vacuuming up the dog hair and washing the dishes so at least there's a semblance of order and cleanliness. Then he's here for 2 hours and I actually kick him out so that I can get back to my billable hours. But I can't manage to stay awake and focused until midnight, so I'm out of luck.

The next day, middle of the day, I'm right on target. I have half an hour scheduled to bip to the bank to make a deposit and to the PO to drop off my bills. I'll sneak in a quick walk around the block with the dogs in a different neighborhood, by the PO. So I load the dogs in the car--and the battery won't go. I spend 10 minutes trying to trick it into starting, but no go. Unload the dogs, call AAA. Then deal with AAA when they get here, and it's not merely a drained battery, it's a battery on its last leg. Then deal with getting a new battery for the car. So I don't make my target that day.

The next day, I'm sitting quietly at my desk, enjoying a post-Christmas nougat, when a crown pops right off my tooth. I grab a paper towel to capture it, but Lo, my full stein of cherry soda is sitting on one edge of the paper towel, and now I have cherry soda all through and under my day timer, all over my desk, into and under the binder with my project info, all through the hardcopies of the document with my notes, and dripping onto the carpet. Cherry soda. There goes 15 minutes dealing with that, then call the dentist. That wasn't a lot of time that day because my dentist was out, but it rolled over into a 2-hour trip and procedure today.

This morning, I'm right on time for leaving the house to get to the dentist, except that as I start down the stairs, Jake vomits all over the wood in the hallway. This isn't something that can be left for later. I have to clean that up and hence am late for the dentist.

And as I'm putting things away, I notice the Discover magazine sitting by my door to remind me that my subscription has inexplicably stopped. This is after I already had to send them a letter a couple of months back, with a copy of my check, saying, "stop sending me past due notices because I sent you a check, here it is, please fix your records." So the past due notices stopped, and then my subscription did, too. So now I have to find the last issue that I received, get another copy of my check, find out when my subscription was supposed to be good through, and write another letter...

And then I have to come home and write about it in my blog. There's another 30 minutes down the tube. So I'll have to stay away for the rest of the week.

Oh, and I forgot to mention--my jaw is now throbbing and is approaching the moan-out-loud state of pain, and that's after a big dose of ibuprofen earlier. It's going to be hard to concentrate on anything requiring any thought at all, and if I take a codeine that'll put an end to any brainular function whatsoever. Tra la.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

The Doggernet

SUMMARY: Dogs, dogs, everywhere you turn.

Individual pages for dogs and dog blogs are everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. The question is always how much to look for and how much to read. I learn something everywhere I go. For example, did you know that Yahoo has an "Individual Dog Blogs" category? And that Taj MuttHall seems to be on it? We've traveled pretty far for a blog whose original purpose was simply to be my way of tracking my progress and experience with my dogs and was never intended for public consumption.

I learned that latest tidbit by reading Pappy's Dog Blog and comments posted thereon by its readers. However, mostly I just follow two other agility blogs, Flirt's Dog Agility Blog and Training Journal for Devon and Jaime--because one day I found them, somehow, and because their posts are interesting and because they touch on lots of material that's of interest to me.

It's fun--or strange--to see how often pages I've worked on come up at the top in dog-related searches:
  • "hemangiosarcoma": Wikipedia's article, which I started because I knew 2 things about it from Remington's illness

  • "Remington agility": The top 5 listings from this Google search are me and my dog (all the more reason to have dogs with really unique names)

  • "how many legs to earn a NATCH?" (something I tried for what-the-heck last week) and of the first 7 responses to come up, one was my Taj MuttHall page about Remington and/or Jake earning their titles, one (another Bay Team member) Jack & Libby's page about Skye Buhite, and one a PowerPaws page about their dogs (my instructors and also Bay Team members)
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    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Archive Links Broken

    SUMMARY: Blogger Beta something's amiss

    OK, two people reported that they couldn't get to my archives (the list down the right-hand side--which I've now converted to a drop-down menu) and, indeed, when I migrated from the old version of blogger to the new version, it seems to be posting those links incorrectly. (It's all automatic, which is usually cool, but the new beta blogger is having trouble with the links, I guess.)

    Meanwhile, use my "Complete Archive of Posts!" link to the right, which I create manually, so it works fine, plus you can go to each post individually as well as monthly.

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