Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bad Internet Connections Cause Sleepless Nights, or Spiders Got Ears!

SUMMARY: In which damaged technology and neglected cynology don't mix. Plus spiders. (Fair warning. At the end.)
This was supposed to be a very short post because I already wrote a paragraph in response to Team Small Dog's Internet fixing post. Somehow, as usual, it got away from me.

Storm remember

Remember we had a big storm last Tuesday? (How could you forget, I made, like 500 blog posts about it.) The Storm Of The Part of Half A Century Or So. Guess what happened to my internet connection. Yes. Flake city.

Imagine your crappy internet

Imagine sitting with your fingers on the keyboard, staring staring staring at the little "DSL" and "Internet" lights on the gateway, one of which is now red and the other blinking, and wait for that moment when both are green so that you can REALLY QUICKLY try to post something on Facebook, or maybe upload a photo to Taj MuttHall, or say download a 900-MB file that you need for work, or pick up your email, and DAGNABBIT the photo started to upload but then the Internet light turned red again and hte little "working" is now spinning spinning spinning.

Calling the AT&T

Wednesday when I called the AT&T about my internet connection waxing and waning, I discovered that I had an excessively generous quantity of static on the line, which can really hose a delicate data connection. It took me 40 minutes (really, I timed it) of looking things up on the web and dialling numbers and keying in my 9-digit phone number 5 different times and talking to various people and being on hold before I got someone who, when we connected, had a conversation with me like this:

* Person who knows what they're doing: How can I help you?
* Me: My internet connection has been flaky since the storm and...
* PWKWTD: ...and you have a lot of static on your line, which can really hose a delicate data connection.
* Me: Yes.

40 minutes. For a 14-second technical conversation.

After which he said maybe someone can come out next tuesday. I argued that I can't work in an environment where I can't even reliably get or send email. They argued that tough shit. Only he phrased it like, "we're very busy right now [duhhh (that's mycomment about the storm)] and Tuesday's the earliest anyone can come out."

Gone gone gone I've been gone so long.

So I kind of expected that eventually they would tell me WHEN on tuesday. But I can't work with no reliable internet (try downloading a gig of data with a connection that drops every minute or two), so I started commuting (gasp) to Mountain View every day. This means about 15 minutes every morning of packing up and getting ready to go, a 40-minute drive there, an 8-hour work day, and 40 minutes drive home again.

Plus Monday I had an emergency dental appointment, so take me out of the house for an additional 2 and a half hours, and yesterday I had an emergency chiropractic appoinment, so take me out of the house for an additional hour and a half. Make that gone 12 hours Monday, 11 hours yesterday.

Imagine your dogs

Imagine you have two active driven agility dogs who are used to you being home all day and taking occasional breaks to throw the toy and maybe walk for a mile or two and even do some weave pole proofing.

Now imagine that all you've done for 2 days is throw the ball for 5 minutes.

Now imagine trying to sleep at night while the dogs are restless, stand up, lie down, move around, chew on the foot, scratch behind the ear, sniff at your face to see if you're awake, get off the bed, get on the bed, get off the bed, go into the crate, rearrange the bedding in the crate, get back on the bed. In various combinations all night.

Appointment? Not really.

So anyway, yesterday morning I called the AT&T to find out when they'd be here, and they (AT&T being plural) said that I had signed up for a 12-hour window. I said that I certainly wouldn't have signed up for a 12-hour window if someone had asked me about it, and I can't sit here for 12 hours with no internet, so do I have to actually be here when they show up?

The said it would be nice if someone would be here but most of the time they can fix it outside the house and they guaranteed to have it resolved by 8:00 that night but if it isn't resolved ("guaranteed"? huh.) then I can call back and sign up for a one-hour window at some other time.

So I commuted to Mtn View again. When I got home well after 8:00 at night, I appeared to have a new, steady relationship with my internet, and an urgent phone message from the repair guy on my home line, and an urgent message from the repair guy on my office line, and the repair guy's business card stuck in my door telling me urgently to call him ASAP underlined. I guess I should call him to tell him that apparently he fixed it outside the house and I appreciate that.

Imagine gouging your eyes out

And all I had to do was to tear my hair out for almost a week and gouge out my eyes with the dull end of my mouse while trying to download huge files or even post to facebook. But at least I didn't have to open up any walls or any junction boxes and stare numbly at all the wires and try to remember what I did the last time I played with phone wires back in the summer of I think 1826 or so.

Happy endings

I felt so good about having a working internet that I took the dogs for a nice mile and a half walk around the neighborhood in the dark until Boost got to where she wasn't playing tug of war and flying back and forth hanging onto the end of the leash full tilt and had calmed to where she was merely trotting eagerly.

They slept better last night than before, but still. Not perfect.

Spider warning for arachnophobes. But this one won't bite, guaranteed. If it does, I'll call you back Tuesday.

Today, work at home, do some more weave pole proofing. And finally get around to taking photos of the cool Basic California Garden Spider whose lovely web is on my back porch and greets me in the morning when I let the dogs out. For those scientifically minded folks who want to know how big the spider is, I quickly grabbed a ruler and measured his body, and so you know: It is about 2 picas long. Oops. Guess I picked up the wrong ruler. So for you non-type-layout sorts of people, there are 6 picas to an inch, 2.4 cm to an inch--the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

It was tough taking the photo at times because while I was standing on the bench trying to do macro photography, Tika stood on the porch near me and every time some molecule somewhere popped an electron, Tika would let out with a huge BARK! and the spider would jerk into an erect spider posture with his legs sticking out in the air and the web would vibrate (and so would my head). So apparently spiders can hear BARK!

And here he is (yay, can haz uploaded photos!):

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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 I think. Let me know if you don't see my profile page come up. But there's an additional web site ( 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. Should go to exactly the same profile page.

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

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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, 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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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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