Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Class Should Be Interesting Tonight

SUMMARY: We've had no class for two weeks due to rain. And--

--tonight it's not raining! But it's overcast and gray and the wind wails around the house with a message from the north. By 8:00 this evening, the thermometer will read 44F (6.7C), but with wind chill and humidity, Accuweather's estimate on the cold feel will be 39 (3.9C). That's almost bearable if there's no wind, but, dang, that wind!

And I'm running on 3 hours of sleep from last night. We won't mention any names, right, BOOST?!?!

Could be an interesting evening. I am, at the moment, after a nice warm bowl of chicken noodle soup, pondering just crawling into bed and calling it a night. But the canids are restless, prowling around the house and yard, gleeful with temperatures that allow them to run and run and never overheat!

Still, that down comforter and electric mattress pad are calling my name. How cavemen survived without electric mattress pads, I'll never know.

I have 45 minutes to decide. Ah, me.

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Monday, March 08, 2010


SUMMARY: Musings between agilities.

Tika's fur is SO thick that her feet and legs are like sponges, and particularly the thick hairy bits on her behind. I'm thinkin' that makes her Sponge-dog Hairpants. Am I right?

My not-too inspired-photo for week 9 of 52 Weeks for Dogs:

When we go for a walk, and we encounter grassy areas, I play tug of war with Boost and her leash and allow her to run run run a bit with the handle of the leash in her mouth. She runs 20 feet ahead and then comes back for more tug. (She has never ever ever run out into the street, but I'm very careful anyway.) She now gets very excited when we get to grassland! Because we all get to run and play! And so, singing to her as we go, with apologies to Paul Simon:

We're going to grassland
In southern San Jose
We're going to grassland.
Doggies and walkers with leashies
and we are going to grassland!
My walking companion is five years old
She is so bored with simply smells
But soon we'll tug and play
And pretend to run away
in grassland!

(Original lyrics here.)

We've had no class for two weeks; been rained out. Rented the field with a friend and her 3 border collies Saturday afternoon and went up and practiced for a couple of hours. Mostly ran Tika just to run Tika. Tried to set up things with Boost where she's ahead of me or I have to push her out or I have to serp her. Bars were knocked. Speed occurred. Progress might have been made. I think just DOING things like that over and over until we get them right is probably good.

At home, have done some desultory threadles and serps. Today took a different approach: Worked on sending them into gambles where they had to keep going straight ahead of me. Not too bad on just jump jump tunnel, but stick a teeter instead of the 2nd jump and things went all to pot. This was good. Good practice at keeping their focus straight ahead.

Then the skies burst into a sudden downpour, although the sun continued to shine brightly. I retreated to the back porch, but continued to send the dogs down to the lawn area to do obstacles for a thrown reward. Rain didn't bother either of them! And revealed again that Boost doesn't know her left from right except in certain very circumscribed situations. I think this was actually an excellent exercise, because now the dogs do not have my body language (good and/or bad) to guide them, just my commands! So they have to listen! AND pay attention!

Again, I think progress occurred and I think I'll try more of that. That continued until I looked up across my back fence--and had to abandon the dogs to race for my camera:

Meanwhile, I am STILL liking the idea of not doing agility. Of course, after our 4-day mega-event Apr 15-18, in rapid succession there are my own home clubs' USDAA trials April 24-25 and May 1-2. See, this is the problem with trying to spread my agility out over the year: The convenient ones and the highest ROI ones are all glopped exceedingly tightly in just a couple of spots during the year, and the rest of the year is empy (that's empty without the hard-to-pronounce t in the middle).

Sigh. I will be VERY tired after those two and a half weeks are over! And probably ready for no more agility for a very long time.

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Friday, February 26, 2010


SUMMARY: February 25 in south San Jose.

The rain is coming.

San Jose waits, the breath of spring from yesterday chased away by looming storm clouds. Spring has burst across the landscape, oblivious to mere human calendars claiming mid-winter, but today the fields of flowers must endure another reminder that it is, no matter how we'd wish it, still merely February.

The rain is coming.

Signs of spring have erupted in every direction. Tika's undercoat hangs off her like a llama's spring molt, and we think we should probably be combing all that out, but who has the time? Instead, we sweep and vacuum over and over and over. I'm sure that saves plenty of time.

The rain--is still coming. And it looks like it's bringing all its relatives, nieghbors, and facebook friends as well.


Last week, Mr. and Mrs. Mourning Dove moved into the pot on the top shelf of the alleged conservatory. I didn't check for Colonel Mustard or the lead pipe. We had none there last year, but the prior two years we hosted litter after litter of birdlets on that very same shelf. Mum watches me with her eternally surprised eye, sitting on a clutch of two eggs, sporting too much eye shadow as is her wont. Now, she huddles beneath the overhang, black eye watching the clouds ride in on the wind.

The heavy rain is coming.

We're sitting on the edge of the storm, patio spattered with drops. I rushed out an hour ago to mow the lawn after its day of drying out. That's the third week already this year it's needed mowing. This is not Minnesota. Didn't have time to trim around the dogwalk, although the dogs don't seem to mind. But the nesting bird does mean that, curses, once again I'm too late to hack away the huge winter overgrowth of the shrubs along the back fence--try it now, and I'm going to disturb someone's nursery for sure. Curses, curses, curses. Ruins the view, makes it harder to trim later.

Luckily, the Merle Girls and I got in a two-and-a-half mile walk with a friend this morning, scurrying before the darkening sky. Luckily, because the rain--the RAIN--is oh, so very here!


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Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

SUMMARY: Bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sun sun sun!

After last night's rain, the air was so clear today that the sun streamed down with no interference whatsoever. All the plants look SO green, it looked SO springish--

The parking lot of the garden center was full.

Gotta love San Jose climate!

There are no standing puddles in the yard and not even goopy mud, just plain old regular wet soil. Today--first time in what seems like forever--set up jumps and tunnels in a huge loop around the yard and just ran ran ran with a few teeters, weaves, and dogwalks tossed in for good measure. YEEEha!

Boost knocks bars. Don't tell anyone.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey, Well, Qs and Titles are Overrated Anyway

SUMMARY: One rainy day of USDAA agility doesn't have a lot of high points. But dogs were happy to be running!

Saturday was supposed to start with a little rain and then clear up. So it started with a little rain and continued with a little rain almost all day. We were under cover for the trial, but it's a metal roof, so when it started raining, especially heavily, you could hardly hear each other to talk. Wonder whether the dogs could hear one's spoken commands.

After all this rain recently, the huge lawn where we usually play some frisbee at the end of the day to burn off any remaining exercise was a bit of a lake. Dogs didn't much care.

If I had taken time to post "what I want from this weekend" before the trial, I'd have said a Jumpers Q to finish Boost's MAD and a Standard Q to finish Tika's Performance MAD-equivalent (PD3 I think). Short answer: Didn't get either.

Both dogs, however, were delighted to be doing agility after weeks of little or none and after a solid week of rain. I could tell from the way they went at it. Very, very happy dogs.

Tika remained in full healthy form, not a sign of pain at all. Halleluia! I did give her a rimadyl Friday night and another Saturday morning Just In Case. She looked great. She started the day with a lovely Gamblers run in which she completed 4 contacts--not 2o2o but completely solidly legal--and got a high enough score that she'd have beaten ALL the 30 dogs in the Border Collie height (16" Performance)--but dang high levels of competition at her height, only 11 dogs and 2 of them had higher scores (barely--3 pts and 1 pt). She made the gamble itself look like a cakewalk, so an easy Q and 3rd place.

Tika then had a simply gorgeous Jumpers run, never even ticked a bar. One challenging rear cross (for me) and she started to turn the wrong way but picked it up and went on--and that lost us 1st place by .2 seconds. Ah, well, it was another Q and a 2nd.

Then in Standard, where I really needed the contacts to be perfect for her title, she flew off both the dogwalk and Aframe without even trying to slow down.

In Snooker, I thought I had a perfect thing going after the first five jumps but then apparently Tika entered the weaves from the wrong side and I didn't notice it so got whistled off with a whole 8 points. You'd think that after all these years, I'd notice something like that. I can usually tell a bad weave entry even with peripheral vision and half a brain. Ah, well.

She ran beautifully again in Pairs, which was good because her partner had two refusals--but collectively we were fast enough to earn a Q.

Boost-- Ahhh, what can I say, this is a dog with whom I have to do the straight-ahead and bar-knocking drills constantly, apparently. In Snooker, she had a spectacular start--over a red on the far side of the course, between two jumps straight to me and a perfect right-angle turn into the weave poles. Beautiful. Then--she knocked the next two red jumps, which right there not only kept us from a Super-Q but also from qualifying at all, but we continued into the closing sequence (with combinations, 10 obstacles), which she of course did perfectly. Gah.

In Jumpers, in the first 5 obstacles, two bars down and then turned back to me and ran past a jump sideways for a runout. The rest of the course--clean although still way too much looking back.

In Gamblers, we had a good high-score opening going until our last 2 obstacles--looked back at me as she went through the tire and got caught in it and took a couple of seconds to regain her feet but continued without a backward glance, then leaped off halfway down the dogwalk down ramp to come back to me (behind her). So no points for that, and the buzzer sounded, and she was between me and the gamble entry, so I had to calm her enough to line her up, we didn't have quite the momentum and angle I'd have liked, and she hung out before the 3rd gamble jump doing the "what, this jump? what, this jump?" thing 3 or 4 times before she finally took it and then completed the gamble but over time.

In Standard--oh, the heartbreak, we were SO close to a perfect run, and then once again in a straight line of obstacles, on the middle jump, she turned back to me and backed up past the jump for a runout.

In Pairs, she crashed the second jump on a lead-out pivot, looked back at me several times before taking jumps, and then on the last jump turned back to me just as she got to the jump and ended up crashing the metal upright with the side of her head, the whole thing went flying (jump upright, bars, and wing, not her head, although I was afraid she'd knocked a tooth out--but no, she kept going without a backwards glance). We did squeeze out a Q by about 2 seconds because she had enough speed and her partner executed perfectly. Her only Q of the weekend, and it just wasn't purty.

On the up side, Boost's weave poles seem to be perfect again with no apparent effort on my part, go figure.

After we were done, I took them out to the frisbee field and let them splash their way through it until Boost lay down in the slushy grass, panting. The sun came out at the horizon long enough to backlight a few clouds nicely for us.

Then we spent the night at my cousin's house, where Boost proved that now, apparently, ALL smooth floors are evil except the ones at home and ALL water dishes except hers are evil (I never filled in that story over New Years--will have to come back to that) and my cousin finally managed to get her to drink from a large hand-held plastic pitcher. All other offerings were evil. What a strange dog.

We had a great night's sleep, very comfy, chatted with the cousin a bit more in the morning, and came home. Next trial in 3 weeks I believe.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gotta Love Those Microclimates but How About Jump Bars?

SUMMARY: How much did it rain in San Jose yesterday?
  • 2.2" per my rain gauge (south san jose).
  • 1.1" South San Jose per newspaper (not sure where exactly).
  • 1.33" San Jose airport (7 miles north).
  • 2.9"  Rolling Hills School (6 miles west).
  • 3.38" Los Gatos (8 miles west southwest).
In any case--wet. And the rain continues today. Good news is that the smaller reservoirs are now full or more full; biggest ones are creeping up on half full. Will still need more rain this year to get more runoff to feel that we're safe on water for the coming year (after 3 years of drought).

I'm debating setting up a jump in my living room and doing some close-in bar-knocking drills right there on the carpet. Not enough room for a running stride, but from a standstill to a hop over the jump, yes.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canoas Creek Says No Agility Class (Big Surprise)

SUMMARY: Sob! Dogs going nuts, need practice, oh well.

Message from the hill: "WEDNESDAY MORNING and EVENING classes are canceled due to 72mph winds (from Jim's new weather station there on the hill) and torrential rains."

So we played tug and tossed toys in the small living/dining area and practiced Tika's rear-foot limp and Boost's handstand work. If I did this every day, we'd be there by now.

And now, I know you wanted--more weather photos!

Hail around noon today (slow speed so you can see streaks of them falling & bouncing. Didn't use tripod so also blurry. Such an arteest).

Now, a block away from here, little tiny Canoas Creek runs through a culvert on its way to the Guadalupe River. Here's what it looks like on a typical May day:

Here's what it looked like at 5:00 today after the rain had been pretty much gone for 3 or 4 hours--you can see the disturbed vegetation higher up showing the earlier level--

--as in, this is what it looked like at 2:30 this afternoon after the rain had been gone an hour or so (you can see there's still wet, disturbed vegetation a foot or two higher than this).

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Close Call on Lightning Strike

SUMMARY: I was spared!
Remember in yesterday's post, right in the middle, where I suddenly commented, "Oooh--just had some thunder and lightning! Boom!" It was a bright flash, the only flash I saw despite a little distant thunder, and the boom came almost simultaneously. I knew it was close. But didn't realize--

It struck a condo on the opposite side of the field from me and set it on fire! Story and news video here.

The arrow is pointing to what's probably the evergreen tree you can see briefly in the video.


Her dog escaped after the strike (hole in the wall, she said? Was that from the firefighters?) but was found soon after she arrived home. Another "Whew!"


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Whether the Weather is Fair or--

SUMMARY: Whether the weather is not--
Whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot,
Whether the weather is fair or whether the weather is not,
Whatever the weather, we weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

(Great, now NEITHER spelling of weather/whether looks right any more! At least it doesn't throw in wether to really snarl my brain.)

The situation right now per radar on Accuweather.com (which has an "animate" button so you can see the rain as it moves). I have this window up all the time in foul weather. Where I am: About halfway between the dot representing San Jose and the grid line below it. (The color scale at the bottom tells heaviness of rain.) It's moving eastward and I'm about to be hit by another heavy mass of water falling from sky. In addition, wind has been howling--gusts up to 50 MPH (80 KPH) they say (I've seen only 30 so far). And coldish--mid-40s (4.5-ish C).

According to Weatherbug, my part of town has had 2" (5cm) of rain already today. (Not sure what their "today" is.) I love weatherbug because they provide lots more info when you go digging around PLUS they use all kinds of independent tracking stations, so you can pick the exact one you want to use. Or you can set up your own and get connected! (Detailed instructions on what equipment you need is somewhere on the site--it's not cheap stuff but not out of the realm of normal people.)

It's weather like this in which I REALLY REALLY love having a Border Collie who will run out to the end of the driveway and bring in my newspaper. Works great as long as she doesn't pick it up by the wrong end of the plastic bag so the paper falls out. So far this week she's done a fine job. My hero! Won't go out back to potty until desperate, but will go get the paper. Whatta girl!

Waiting for a break--it'll come eventually--to take the Merle Girls out for a walk at least. Thinking we're all going to be out of condition for this weekend's trial.

Meantime, I must start going through list of roofers to try to figure out why a doorframe is leaking that shouldn't be leaking. Curse you, Red Weather.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Le Deluge -- Part 2

SUMMARY: A wee bit o'rain and even loud noise from sky.

San Jose's average rainfall is about 15" a year. We've had 3 years of drought. This year we seem to be making up for it in an odd sort of way. Like, remember back in October when we got 3.5" of rain in a day?

This week they're saying 5 to 10 inches of rain over maybe a 7-day period in the low areas around the San Francisco Bay and two or three times that in the mountains around the bay area. As of about noon today, we'd had 2" in the last 2 and a half days. Most of it last night and this morning, I suspect.

We have a one-day USDAA trial this weekend. Boost's next chance to complete her MAD (with that one elusive Jumpers Q). We need to be practicing our bar-knocking drills. But--

So hoooold on there, Baba Looey, I'm thinnin'--not today! Maybe not all week! A series of storms are supposed to keep drenching us repeatedly through the weekend. It's raining again now. This is also a little scary; we have these "average" rainfall figures, but they're based on just about 100 years of history and who knows whether that's really normal?

There is a street in San Jose named Dry Creek Road. Nice winding tree-lined road below grade along which luxurious homes nestle, alone surrounded by the usual right angle grids of basic suburbia. Know how it got that way? So much rain in a single week in the winter of 1861-1862 that "most of the valley filled with water," and when the waters subsided, the creek had changed course. (ref) We've not had anything quite like that since, although a couple of winters came close. (Read a bit more about that flooding here.) I sure hope we don't have anything like that again, since most of us don't have flood insurance in this valley. No big rivers go through here, just really small ones that mostly you can wade across in several steps.

Oh, sure, Alviso--which has subsided below sea level because of all the water sucked out of the aquifers--floods more regularly than anyone would like, and downtown San Jose, which is right about sea level and right near the end of the Guadalupe where it meets the bay, has had flooding problems off and on. ("The Guadalupe River flooded downtown San Jose and Alviso in 1862, 1895, 1911, 1955, 1958, 1963, 1969, 1982, 1986, and 1995." (ref)) But not the rest of us in the rest of the valley.

Oooh--just had some thunder and lightning! Very rare for this part of California (and most of California). Boom! Dogs jumped up and barked. I did same thing my dad did when I was a child--explained what thunder and lightning are and how they're a natural part of the world and that thunder is loud but harmless. That seemed to satisfy them for the moment.

When the rain quit for a while midday, I stuffed the Merle Girls into MUTT MVR and headed down the road a bit. The air is SO CLEAR around here right after rain! Washes all that grody polluting crud right out of the sky. Climbed to the 5th story of the Kaiser medical center parking garage for some photos.

To the west, Mount Hamilton hid behind clouds but the foothills glowed green in the sun. And look at that stunning blue sky!
To the northeast--more or less towards the bay in the far far distance--the puddles in the former sprawling IBM complex are reminders of how much of this valley used to be seasonal wetlands. (Property was supposed to be developed into mixed-use retail & residential; all the old buildings were torn down after a failed fight to preserve the main building as an historic structure (read some here); then--Bust!) The light rail sweeps by in the median of highway 85.
To the southwest--oooh, OK, better hustle, the Santa Cruz mountains (coastal range) are still enveloped in rainclouds. And it's moving this way.

We hustle over to our favorite park where we can get away with off leashedness. I throw the frisbee a bunch; the dogs are delighted to be out and about and moving, although Tika takes frequent breaks to go exploring. Boost is all frisbee, all the time. When the dogs are far and away out after the frisbee, I can hear thousands upon thousands of tiny crisp pops, of air bubbles rising from the grassy ground as the water seeps in or the tension on the water breaks as it's absorbed--very interesting to hear. Like what you hear on a beach right after a wave has washed across the sand and receded.

The dogs are sopping with rainwater and mud but are tired and happy. (Happy at least til we get home and I have to hose them down. Ewwwww--don't get me wet human mom!)

We get home just as the rain begins again.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gotta Love January in San Jose

SUMMARY: Photos from my yard.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

In Three Days It'll Be Christmas Eve

SUMMARY: Welcome to winter in San Jose.
My Christmas tree is up--smells great. Not clear whether I'll actually get around to decorating it before Christmas. Hope I can at least get the lights on. (I traditionally leave it up until Twelfth Night, so that's not so bad.)

Good thing I got the Merle Girls holding down my stack of leaves this morning; now it's pouring outside. Oh the weather outside is frightful...Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

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Friday, December 18, 2009


SUMMARY: In my back yard. This morning.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods to Agility We Go

SUMMARY: To Santa Rosa in near-freezing temps for a USDAA trial.

Tika's not competing this weekend because of her sore toe. The trial is an interesting mix of events: DAM Team and Strategic Pairs on Saturday, then rounding out the Tournament classes, Steeplechase and Grand Prix on Sunday, along with Snooker and Gamblers.

So, no Jumpers. No chance for Boost to finally get that first Masters Jumpers leg to cmoplete her MAD. Ah, well, just as well, gives me a chance to work on bar knocking and stuff again later. Because in gamblers, dropped bars don't matter so much (as long as it's not in the gamble), and in snooker they matter somewhat but it's still possible to Q with a dropped bar. Probably not Super-Q, which is what we need, but still. (And maybe Santa Rosa will break my dry streak of Super-Qs for Boost; worked for Tika a few years back and then she got several in a row. Who knows.)

Grand Prix, dropped bars do prevent you from Qing; Steeplechase a dropped bar might not prevent you from Qing if you're really fast (which Boost is) and don't make any other mistakes, so that's OK.

And in Team, dropped bars for the most part don't count against you very much (except if it causes a really low score in Snooker).

So it's a good weekend for a dog who knocked bars like crazy in class wednesday night and I don't have time to go out and work those exercises today.

Plus it's danged cold. At least overnight in Santa Rosa it's supposed to drop only to mid-40s (4.4 C) instead of mid-30s (-1.1 C) like last night. I am NOT sleeping in my van this time around, as convenient as it may be.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday's Storm--The Aftermath

SUMMARY: Big storm indeed!
For San Jose, this was the 7th worst storm in 50 years. At San Jose airport (10 miles from here but milder microclimate), this storm provided 2.48" of rain compared to the worse, in December 1995, with 3.27"; and 87 MPH (140 KPH) winds compared to 1995's 103 MPH. I had only one branch blow down, and it was already dead. Boost is happy because that's more sticks to chew on.

My yard is healthily damp now. Everything was so dry that it had no problem absorbing 4" (10cm) of rain.

Reservoirs captured quite a bit of the rain--"enough to provide water for 20,000 families of 5 for a year." (But are still at less than 50% capacity--which is good for flood control at the beginning of the rainy season). Tika is happy because my big pond, which has been dry all summer, now has a foot of water in it and that's her favorite place to pop into while exercising and playing intensely.

Because it has been so dry, no hillsides were already saturated with moisture, so although there were a few mudslides, only a couple of houses (that I know of) were partially damaged by hills rearranging themselves into their living spaces.

Rain has been very good for all those fires that were still burning around the state.

None of my agility tunnels are full of water. That is odd, because usually they fill up with the slightest hint of moisture. Maybe they are so deteriorated that they're now full of little built-in drain holes. At least I don't have to crawl inside to dry them out. (Yes, easier than trying to lift & drain.)

My Internet service is A MESS. Horrible static on the line. Keeps dropping out, over and over and over. Hard to do anything. Phone company says (a) probably water in the lines somewhere and eventually it'll dry out and get better. Probably. and (b) they are so busy making repairs at the moment that the earliest they can have someone come out here is NEXT TUESDAY! Aughhh!

(See, I just clicked Save Now on this blog and it can't because it has cut out again! About the 20th time since I started typing.)

Tonight is agility class. Although Tuesday and half of Wednesday classes were canceled for wind and rain and mud, they've been ongoing since yesterday evening, and it's a *beautiful* sunny day today, so off to class we'll go! Yay!


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Storm As Seen on FaceBook

Seeing everyone's input as the storm wears on certainly gives one a better perspective than simply checking the news. Here's how it progressed among my friends.

HANDY TIP: For the big picture, read through the main WHITE status boxes. For more interesting details, view the indented BLUE responses to the main status posts.

(Detail of Amy's post--Amy is on the east coast--)

(one of Gina's photos:)

(For some lyrics referenced in preceding post, go here.)

NOTE: All preceding snapshots taken around 8:00pm tuesday evening (hence notes about "12 hours ago", etc. refer to this time). Following post captured around midnight (hence 2 hours ago = 10:00).


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