Friday, August 24, 2012

About the Countdown Widget

Regular visitors -- both of you! -- may have noticed that the Doctor Who season 7 countdown widget has been changing almost daily.  This is because the BBC has been waffling considerably about the premiere date of the programme.  First it was to be September 1, then Sept. 8, then 9/1 again, etc.  I tried to keep current with the latest information as it was coming from the BBC promotions department.  I am pleased to say that they have finally, firmly established September 1st as the date for the Season 7 premiere episode, "Asylum of the Daleks."  Just 8 more days!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Not even going to try to pretend to have anything to say this week.  Far too depressed and overwhelmed by current events, both personal and political.  Mostly personal.  And my daughter returning to Pitt this Thursday for what I hope will be a successful sophomore year -- and what I desperately fear will NOT be -- ain't helping, not one little bit.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What To Do....

Regular visitors to Oa will know that a couple of years ago, against my better judgement, I gave my wife and daughter permission to acquire a dog, a rescue from a family at our church who inherited the little guy when his owner passed away.  Their own dogs were regularly beating up on what was going to become our dog.  He went from being the master of his little domain -- it turns out that the little old lady who previously had him spoiled him rotten -- to cringing under the sofa and only sneaking out to eat and pee when there was a chance the other dogs in the house would leave him alone.  The story in capsule form like that makes it seems like we did a wonderful thing, giving this plucky little rescue a new home.

It has been less than idyllic.

Not only have I, as I feared, been stuck with most of the care, feeding and walking, but the dog has really turned out to be quite the bundle of problems and limitations.  I tried and failed to get my family to understand before we took him on that were effectively killing any spontaneity in our lives by adding this pet to our home.  Want to wake up some Saturday and decide to go to Philly, or an amusement park, or even just to the freaking library for the day?  You can't.  Somebody needs to walk the dog.

You get the idea.

And he has turned out to be pretty much the opposite of what we were hoping for in the dog department.  He is not affectionate.  We have daily battles, for over two years, on who is the alpha in our family "pack."  He refuses to accept a spot lower down on the totem pole, and the resulting anxiety makes him crazy.  He feels like he has to always be "on duty" despite all our best efforts to get him to relax, and consequently becomes destructive if left alone for too long.  I still have to repair our kitchen floor where he apparently tried to tunnel his way out to join us when we were all at choir practice.  And I do not want to install a doggie door, or fence in my property -- we have a beautifully landscaped yard, which cost us a pretty penny, and I simply do not want to ruin it with fencing -- so sticking him outside is not an option.  Also, we're pretty rural here, with all kinds of critters visiting our yard, including the occasional bear and skunk, and I just don't want to go there.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  We have spent hundreds on trainers and dog "whisperers" trying to get him on track.  We had to buy all kinds of crating supplies when it turned out he was NOT housebroken and destructive if left alone.  He regularly develops fatty tumors, which so far have turned out to be benign (and at this point, forgive me, but I'm not sure that's a blessing) and have to be removed at anywhere from $800 to $1,600 in vet fees.  I could have spent two weeks in Tuscany with the fees paid from the surgeries alone.  His prescriptions rival mine, and I'm chronically ill.  He has to take Puppy Prozac, an anti-inflammatory for arthritis, an antihistamine for allergies, a tranquilizer for sleep (actually the tranquilizer is so that WE can get a few hours of sleep) and pain medication for spinal inflammation.  He keeps finding new ways to avoid taking these medications -- even the vet has never seen a dog who will suck on a doggie pill pocket and spit out the pill .  It's just ridiculous, and he still "ain't right" as the saying goes.  And as a poodle, a breed that doesn't shed, he has to be groomed every six weeks to the tune of $80 a throw.  He's been a costly addition, at a time when I'm nearly overwhelmed by college tuition costs and home repairs.

Of all the people in the family to focus on, he has chosen ME to be his special "puppy."  I am followed everywhere.  If I leave a room and find I've forgotten something, I always accidentally trip over him or kick him when I turn to go back.  Hell, I cannot so much as go to the john without tripping over him, and I am normally a pretty solitary guy.  I don't like it and I have spent hundreds of dollars AND hundreds of hours trying to change it, to no avail.  God forbid he should latch onto one of the family members who actually wanted him.

Also, he bites.  Not often, but enough to make me worry about lawsuits.  And he goes uncontrollably bat $#!+ crazy when the doorbell rings, which is just annoying, but still.

So.  My daughter is a college student and my wife is a physician who works 70-80 hours a week.  It falls to me to do the feeding and the walking.  And the end result of trying to do a good deed and rescue this dog is having the effect of tearing my family apart.  Wife and daughter profess to love him, although they spend almost no time with him and he gives them very little affection, absorbed as he is in me.  They are as tired of hearing me complain about how I feel trapped and how I'm cleaning up the vomit and pee as I am of living through it.  My wife and I had words just the other night when she and my daughter made plans to visit the PA Renaissance Faire this coming weekend with a visiting friend...and I had to remind them that someone has to Stay Home With The Dog.

More and more, I find myself resenting him.  Now if something should happen to me -- if I should need surgery again for my Crohn's Disease, or have a stroke from my high blood pressure -- my daughter is not going to come home from university to help with his care.  And my wife is certainly not going to change her work schedule to come home twice a day to walk him so that he doesn't pee in the bedroom.  No, we would have to find someone to take him; giving up a 10-year-old poodle who bites to the pound is effectively sentencing him to death, and I don't want that karma.

I think we need to start looking for an alternative home for him now.  Because I can guarantee you, the stress I'm having from this dog is sure as shootin' going to give me that stroke, and sooner rather than later.

And I don't want that karma either.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

XXX Olympiad

There was some pretty cool stuff at the Summer Olympics this year.  I'm still in shock over Jamaica's phenomenal 4 x 100m relay, which Usain Bolt and the rest of the Jamaican squad ran in just a little over 36 SECONDS.  That's FOUR 100m runs just over 9 seconds each, with time made for passing the baton three times in there as well.  Each of those runs individually was a potential gold medal sprint, and the four of them together just took my breath away.

I loved that Rhythmic Gymnastics got so much air time, even if it was only during the day as opposed to airing in prime time.  I think that rhythmic gymnastics is one of the most beautiful and lyrical sports,  bordering on modern dance as it does with the incorporation of the hoop, ball and ribbon apparatuses.  Even though the USA is NEVER a contender, NBC managed to get several hours of rhythmic gymnastics to my television, which just made my day.  It was refreshing to see the coverage be a little more cosmopolitan for once, and a little less chauvinistic and jingoistic.

Did I have problems with the coverage?  You bet.  Failing to show the homage to the 7/7 terror victims in the Opening Ceremonies and replacing it with Ryan Seacrest's vapid interview with Michael Phelps was egregious.  There was too much volleyball and too much Michael Phelps.  No disrespect; they are all great athletes who brought home a lot of medals to the USA.  But I would have loved to see more track and field events, and a lot less fluff.  Did you know that the USA won both the gold AND silver medals in the Decathlon this year?  Neither did I until I looked it up on Wikipedia.  When I was a kid, the Decathlon was a huge deal, culminating with Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties cereal box.  Today I don't think most Olympics viewers even recognize the name of Ashton Eaton, the gold medal winner.  I only spotted a few minutes of things like the pole vault and the discus and the hammer throw; I suspect because these are things at which the USA does not excel.

And the entire world needs to get over treating silver medalists like losers.  Gold medalists are of course the heroes of the moment, and bronze winners are plucky underdogs who are just thrilled to be on the podium.  Silver medalists, however, seem to bear some sort of stigma, like a bad smell.  It's not right.  To win a silver medal in anything at the Olympic Games is a high honor, and it's about time that we started treating it as such.

So thanks, Britain, for giving us a brief distraction from our political and economic woes.  The UK did a fantastic job on the Olympics.  Kudos to the Queen for her superb sportsmanship and willingness to inject a little fun into the opening ceremonies, with her "parachuting" into the stadium to open the games, assisted by none other than James Bond, Agent 007 himself.  It's a memory I will treasure.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dog Days

It's been nuts here in Central Pennsylvania the past couple of weeks.  The summer is as hot as it's ever been.  The power has gone out just about every single day, albeit briefly, but it's scary.  We are actually looking into having a generator installed that will run off of our natural gas because at age 59, I simply do not have good enough health to tolerate a week or more without power in hundred-degree F. weather.  As global warming worsens -- this was the week when Greenland suffered a 97% melt of its ice and calved an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan -- I think we are going to see more and more storms, more powerful storms, and more new and scary storms like the newly-minted "derecho."  (The derecho takes its name from the Spanish for "straight ahead" because it is essentially a hurricane without the circular rotation of its winds.  It just roars straight ahead with winds of 80 mph or more, and one was responsible for millions of people going without electricity for over a week this summer.)  So I think we need to prepare, even though this is probably NOT the last house we will ever own.  The plan is still to follow my daughter to wherever she winds up after grad school, so it may be silly to make this kind of investment in a property that we probably aren't going to keep.  But I'm sure whoever winds up in this house is going to find occasion to be grateful for this particular modification.

In the meantime we are trying to enjoy the air conditioning and the 2012 London Olympics despite the usual chauvinistic coverage -- if the USA isn't playing, it's hard to get to see it unless you can scare it up online.  I personally have always loved watching rhythmic gymnastics, but good luck finding it anywhere in prime time on this side of the pond.  But the Olympics are still great fun and are probably the only sports I watch with any kind of regularity.  And as a long-time Anglophile, I am double dog dee-lighted to see Britain winning so many medals!

When the Olympics isn't doing anything especially interesting (*cough* water polo *cough*), we're getting our daughter ready to go back to university.  We are hoping she has a more successful year this year than last year.  I think she suffered more than she let on from the constant fear of the University of Pittsburgh's nonstop daily bomb scares which ran from February right through finals week.  Her grades suffered, as did her psyche.  I hope that she will have learned as much about how to be more successful in her studies as she has in what or what not to pack up for the coming year.  I am really struggling with letting go, even more so this year than I was when she went away as a freshman last year.  Sophomore year is going to make or break her, and I hope it's the former.  Oh, how I hope it's the former.

And if all that isn't enough, we're back to struggling again with our dog, KC.  He is suffering from some as-yet-undiagnosed malady or maladies which is/are causing everything from loud night panting to sporadic limping to wheezing and coughing.  It also seems to involve a whole slew of intermittent behavioral disappointments as well.  We do not have health insurance for him, and the vet bills are running up high and fast.  The next step is more X-rays, more blood tests and a CAT scan of his brain.  Our vet hasn't come out and said anything, but the little guy has always been prone to benign fatty tumors -- I could have paid for a trip to those Olympics with what we've spent in surgeries on his tumors -- and I think that the vet suspects some sort of bad news might be found in his brain.  Regular readers will know already that KC is not my favorite pet, but I nevertheless dread getting bad news and having to make any of the possible resulting decisions about his care.  My wife and I have talked about it, and the current tentative plan is to proceed reasonably but not heroically with his care.  We simply can't afford it.  The CAT scan alone is going to be about as expensive as we can afford.  Needless to say, it's a source of stress for all of us.

So that's it.  Stress about the weather, about back to school and about the dog.  And my health could not be much worse than it has been lately.  I'm now taking 46 pills daily for my Crohn's Disease, my neuropathy and my rheumatoid arthritis, and that's just to keep me functional around the house.  My hardworking wife recently took some time off and I wanted to treat her to a long weekend in New York City, to catch a Broadway show and eat some cuisine that's not readily available here in the Bible Belt of Pennsylvania.  (We caught Jim Parsons -- Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory -- in Harvey and he was brilliant.)  But the amounts of medication I had to take to make the trip, and the stiff payment I made in side effects once we got home, really made me question whether or not it was worth it.  Circling back to London again, visiting Britain has been on my bucket list since I was a little kid ... and I'm just not capable of making that trip right now.  I may never again be capable of making it, and that, you should pardon the metaphor, is a hard pill to swallow.