Sunday, June 26, 2016

My walk with Duke

I thought I heard a bark.

It is 6am this morning and I was half asleep. I snap awake and sit up halfway in bed. Leaning on my elbow, I stare at the empty doggie bed under the window. I had been dreaming.

The trip downstairs is quiet and slow. We feed the cats. I heat the water for coffee and get the filter, the filter holder, and the coffee from the cupboard. A hot air balloon lands in the church parking lot just across the park. We watch for a bit and then sit outside on the back deck and drink our coffee. I watch a few TEDTalk videos while Angie is on her phone. I decide to take Duke for a walk.

I put on my sunglasses and when I open the closet to put on my P-38 baseball cap, I see Duke's collar and leash on the top shelf. I pick them up gingerly and fold them reverently so they will fit in my hand. The front door opens easily. The sun is warm on my face even for this early in the morning. Raider comes running from across the lawn and I let him inside. I close the door and step off the porch.

"Release."

"Come on, Duke! Let's go!"

"Good BOY!"

I turn right and head for the park. The hot air balloon is long gone. Cupcake, the neighbor's cat, runs up to me from across the street and I lean down to pet and scratch her. The dew on the park grass twinkles in the morning sunlight as if some girls had sprinkled glitter on it. I start off across the park.

"You got the leash tangled in your foot again, haven't you?"

"Sit."

"Let me fix it, you nut."

The church parking lot is deserted. It will soon fill up with the cars of the parishioners. I walk under the Magnolia tree next to the church sidewalk and cross the street. A left turn next to the dog walk/sitting area...I cross the next street, and then head toward the boundary of the development. I hold the leash and collar close to my heart with both hands. I begin to cry.

"Duke, get away from those flowers."

"Come on."

"Good BOY!"

The coat of paint on "Pita's" former house looks nice. A new doggie is inside the fence. She seems to be skittish and is a bit reluctant to come too close. I put my hand through a space in the gate and she sniffs it. I scratch her nose. She moves away and then comes back for another scratch. She runs off toward her owner and I continue my walk around the corner toward Brownie's house.

"Leave the kitty cat alone."

"You've seen one before."

"Stop tugging at the leash."

I never noticed how long this stretch of road was before. The empty lot to the left and the few houses to the right. It always seemed to go so much quicker. Today it is slower. More reserved. Different. The birds are a bit louder because the local dogs aren't barking. Having noticed that, I shift the leash and collar to my left hand. I need my right to wipe away the tears that come again.

"Stay away from the cactus."

"Good BOY!"

"Let's go see if Dozer is home."

The old Naval airfield property has been freshly mowed. A hawk circles over it looking for something to catch. He flies to a tall pine tree and lands on the top. Then he flies to another tree close by. I have to be careful on this stretch of road because there isn't a sidewalk here, just a raised curb. A truck goes by pretty fast; faster than I remember any other car going down this road. I'm almost to the sidewalk. My hand grips the leash and collar a bit tighter.

"Come on, Duke."

"Up on the sidewalk."

"Okay. You can sniff here for a bit."

Up the sidewalk and across one street. To my right, I see the house where our old cat Corky lived after we moved here. Where is she now? A left turn onto our street and I have to be careful because the sidewalk is uneven. I've tripped here before but today I am more aware of the hazard. I cross the street and then onto our front lawn. I stop. The tears come again as I put both hands on the leash and collar and hold them to my chest. I weep. I sob. My shoulders shake. There are too many tears to wipe away.

"You want to play tug of war, huh?"

"Come on, let's go inside."

"Good BOY!"

My walk without Duke.


The video starts out sideways. It will orient itself at about 30 seconds.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Today, June 25, 2016, my doggie Duke died

Today, June 25, 2016, my doggie Duke died.

Duke had been having seizures for about a year and a half. His medication was handling them but he had one yesterday at about 7am and had one today at 7am as well. When he had his very first one about a year and a half ago, I thought he was choking on his breakfast kibble. After the second one, the vet diagnosed seizures and a video confirmed that. But it was different at the beginning…

One of the nurse practitioners at Sutter told Angie that she bred Labrador Retrievers. Angie knew that our current dog Jasmine wasn’t going to be around much longer and was very excited about getting a Lab. We both decided that having a puppy to ease the transition when Jasmine was gone would be great. There was one male puppy left and we decided to go see. He was big and brown and happy to give puppy kisses. We took him on the spot. When we got him home, Angie handed him to me and said, “He’s your dog. Name him.” I had just turned on the TV and the movie The Hellfighters with John Wayne was on. So I looked at this puppy in my arms and said, “Your name is Duke. Like John “Duke” Wayne.” It was going to prove to be a prophetic name. Like Mr. Wayne, my doggie Duke would end up being a gentle giant.

He was a chewer. He chewed the corner of the railing base on our stairs; he chewed the opposite corners of our coffee table; he even chewed the corner of a book of mine that was on the coffee table. Since he would find shoes and chew on them, we decided to give him some old tennis shoes. He chewed them greedily. He then developed a taste for socks which would last his entire life. You would notice that he was missing and then he’d come back into the room with not one, not two, but sometimes three full size socks stuffed into his mouth. He would pace the room like some great hunting dog that had just retrieved tonight’s dinner. Then he would sit down and gnaw on the socks but never destroy them. He also had a fondness for rocks. The bigger, the better. He would dig in the yard and bring the rocks inside and do his pacing again. We called him our “ock” boy – rocks and socks. Once he found a piece of flat concrete and brought that inside. He also brought in a branch we had clipped off of one of our trees. It was so funny to see him look triumphant with these two very different trophies.

We decided to crate train Duke and we borrowed one from Angie’s sister. When Angie’s brother-in-law dropped off the crate, he took one look at Duke and said, “75-90 pounds.” At first, all I could imagine was a huge grain silo filled with kibble and Duke eating from a hole in the bottom. But he was wrong. Duke would eventually end up being 112 pounds but we got him down to 100 which seemed to be his perfect weight. Three of Duke’s siblings contracted a condition where they couldn’t get any nourishment even though they ate and therefore, were not gaining weight. The breeder called and offered to pay for a test to see if Duke also had the condition. I told her that Duke weighed 40 pounds at 4 months, 50 pounds at 5 months and there was no need for the test. When he died today, Duke weighed in at 100 pounds.

Once I started taking him on walks, we would be all over the neighborhood. We’d walk for 30 minutes or more and visit with all of the friendly dogs. Duke never barked or got annoyed. We met a German Shepherd mix by the name of Duchess (!), a very friendly “Heinz 57” mix named Mary, and a very nice Doberman Pincher named Dozer. Not because he was a bulldozer – his owner said that he slept a lot. On his last walk, Duke met a two year old English Bulldog named Matty. I would take him to the dog parks and he would run and play with the other dogs. Being off leash, he was free to run and I know he enjoyed his time there. I once took him to a creek walk path and we walked for an hour or more. The creek, the birds, the turtles, the vineyards. Duke enjoyed himself. But his biggest enjoyment was at the end of our walks near home. He would take the leash in his mouth, shake it from side to side, and play tug of war with me. He was so strong! He would pull me across the front lawn by digging his hind paws into the grass and tugging with the power behind his massive body. My wrist would hurt from the strain caused by the leash handle. All of this actually caused the leash to separate. Needless to say, Angie couldn’t walk him.

On one walk, a young girl asked if she could pet Duke. I readily agreed and Duke sat still while she pet his head. I told her that if she put her ear near his mouth and said, “Kisses,” he would give her a kiss. She did and got an earful of Duke kiss slobber! Her mother laughed, but for me it was just one more special Duke moment.

He took immediately to my oldest son Dan who I think Duke thought of as just a bigger dog. He and Dan would roll around on the kitchen floor practically every night when Duke was a pup, with Dan playing keep-away usually using a rawhide chew. Dan would roll away and Duke would jump over him. Dan would keep rolling and Duke would keep jumping. Once, Duke slammed into a cabinet and put a crack in the door. The fix was easy and it was well worth the memory. Once, Dan accidently pulled Duke’s collar off. Duke, looking like he was missing something he very much wanted, pushed his nose through the collar to get it back on. He was wearing it today at the vet.

He would sleep on Dan’s bed until about 3am and then come and sleep on his own bed in our room. Because he knew I would get up first and feed him breakfast. He would jump around and pretty much go crazy. I thought he would dislocate a hip or a knee going down the stairs. So I started with simple training. I would have him sit and stay at the top of the stairs and I would walk to the landing and then call him. He would then sit at the landing as I went to the bottom. Eventually, all I had to do was just stop at the top of the stairs and say nothing. He would sit and stay until I finished descending the stairs and called him.

He lived for his walks and when I would say, “I’m taking the psycho for a walk,” he would go into his Pepe le Pew bounce – all four paws off the floor at the same time. Quite a feat for a 100 pound dog. Everyone thought he was walking me and I often joked that I needed to get a pair of roller blades and just let him pull me around the neighborhood.

We thought we would have him for at least 10 or more years. Then on that one day in January of 2015, I thought he was choking on his breakfast kibble. I was holding him on the floor with my arms around his body and trying to dislodge any kibble in his throat with the Heimlich maneuver. I thought I’d done okay because he stopped choking. Months later, it happened a second time. Angie took a video and the vet confirmed he was having seizures. As they started to happen closer together, we put him on the recommended dose of phenobarbital. He burned through that in a month with another seizure, so the dose was doubled. Then he burned through that in a month and the vet prescribed keppra. The keppra did well for about 6 months. Angie and I discussed what to do if the keppra failed. We decided we would say goodbye to Duke rather than have him suffer the torment of seizures.

Yesterday, we got a call from Dan that Duke had seized again. I replayed that conversation and decision over and over all day at work, crying the whole time. I knew what we were going to do but I wanted to hope we didn’t. When I got home, Duke was his old self. He ran to me when I came through the door and I thought for a split second we could keep him. But I knew that wasn’t so. We went to bed last night and I woke up and gave him his 6am medication. At 7am, he seized again. So it was final. He had a hamburger patty as an after breakfast snack. I went to Target and bought some clay. We took impressions of his front paws. I get the right one and Angie gets the left one. (She’s left handed.) For some reason, mine has some fine dark brown hairs embedded in the clay.

Duke always loved car rides. This final one was no exception. He stuck his head out the open window and reveled in the wind in his face one last time. When we got to the vet, the medical assistant that roomed us poured some huge dog treats on the floor for Duke. I don’t think he tasted any of them. I think she was more traumatized by all of this than we were; she was crying a lot and did not return. Another assistant took her place. Duke had that effect; you fell in love with him immediately. I know we did. They took him out of the room to place the catheter in his left front leg. When they returned, I sat on the floor pad and put Duke across my lap with his head cradled in my right hand. The doctor injected him with a sedative and he calmed down right away. The tip of his tongue stuck out of his mouth. Then the doctor injected him with the barbiturate and listened for his heartbeat.

“He’s gone.”

And I wept.

Angie and I cried...I love you Duke...what will I do now...I’m so sorry, Duke...please forgive me.

As I write this I am crying. I want my doggie back. I want my Duke. I want to see his ears flapping and his tail wagging and those huge paws bounding to meet me when I come home. Dear God, when I get to the Rainbow Bridge, please let me cross it with my Duke.

Everyone says that he’s in a better place; that we did the right thing; that he is better off and not suffering. Yes, all of that is true...but really...now there is just a big hole in my life where my doggie Duke used to be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hazel

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

Today, June 19, 2013, my kitty cat Hazel died.

Hazel (because of her hazel-colored eyes) had been suffering from chylothorax (fluid around the lungs) for about 2 months. It was difficult for her to take normal breaths. We could often see her breathing in little puffs around her abdomen. When we took her to the vet, we found that she also had a hyperthyroid condition and had diabetes as well. The vet drained about 80% of the fluid from around her lungs and she got much better quickly. The prescribed treatment to combat the chylothorax is a low-fat diet and an enzyme called Rutin. Unfortunately, the Rutin had to be pulverized from a pill and put into her food. She refused to eat any food with the Rutin in it and she got steadily worse. There is no liquid form of Rutin and the pills, even cut in half, are quite large and difficult to get her to swallow. We realized that we would have to continue to pay to have the fluid drained every 2-3 weeks.

After much soul searching, my wife and I decided that even if we were able to solve the chylothorax problem, there was still the hyperthyroid and diabetes to contend with. We realized that her quality of life would be quite limited and we didn't want to wait until it was too late. We just couldn't see her suffer any longer. Besides, Hazel was 16 years old and had led a pretty good life — for a cat.

We got Hazel and her sister, Corky (real name: Corkscrew) from our friend in the summer of 1997, whose cat had just had a litter. Both parents were semi-feral and we were a bit worried that the kittens would grow up with a wandering eye for fields afar. We needn't have worried with Hazel. While her sister Corky would be missing for days and even weeks at a time, Hazel was our watch cat. You could always see her on guard duty walking around the top of the fence and protecting our house from birds and snakes and mice. Once, I remember getting up at night to investigate some noise in our garage. When I opened the door, I saw two raccoons going after the cat kibble in a cabinet. (We used to leave the garage door open a bit for the cats.) I tried to get our dog Jasmine (a Black Lab mix) to at least take a few steps into the garage and start barking. No dice. The dog was hiding behind me! Then Hazel stepped lightly into the garage, got up on the hood of our van, puffed up to a slightly impressive size, and stared down the raccoons! I made a noise grabbing a broom and the raccoons left. Hazel, proud of her medal-worthy defense of hearth and home, got down from the van and walked into the house with the quiet assurance of a job well done.

When Hazel was young, she used to play regularly with our dog Jasmine. We would see them playing and Hazel would put her entire head into Jasmine's mouth! Jasmine never bit down and just held Hazel's head lightly in her mouth like she would a retrieved bird. Then she'd let go and the two would start playing again. I would often see one of Hazel's claws caught in the loose skin around Jasmine's mouth. It never seemed to bother the dog and the head-in-the-mouth game would be played again and again. Neither tired of it and it was a source of amazement for the whole family.

One of the funniest things she would do was when you were going to the bathroom. You would be sitting on the toilet and you would hear this scratching at the door. As you opened the door, there sat Hazel, staring at you, in all of your missing dignity. She would walk towards you and look up at you. There was nothing you could do except to scratch her under her chin. It's as if she knew she had a captive audience and that you would give her a little bit of loving to forget about your undignified predicament.

Hazel lived with us at 4 houses, through 3 moves, and 16 years of unconditional love. When we got to the house we live in currently, Corky took off to live down the street because there is a wide open field for her to show off her hunting prowess. She lives with a new family now. As for Hazel, she ran the roost. Our next door neighbors had 3 cats and the cats had had full run of our property for over a year before we got there, without interruption. When Hazel showed up, somehow those other cats just knew that Hazel was in charge. She would be lying on the top of the fence (monorailing), with her back to a neighbor's cat, and she wouldn't flinch a muscle. The other cat would just turn and go back the way it had come. They would start fights with other neighborhood cats, but not with Hazel. Even as she got older, they gave her that type of respect animals seem to reserve for the elderly. Hazel would spend winter nights inside and summer nights outside. She never wandered away. Not once. As her playmate Jasmine's condition deteriorated to the point where she couldn't even climb the stairs (to sleep on her doggie bed at the foot of our bed during the night), Hazel seemed to know something was up. Sometimes, Hazel would spend the night downstairs too.

Then, in November of 2009, after 14 years of love, companionship, smiles, and finally, tears, we had to put Jasmine down. Today, it was Hazel's time. As I drove her to the vet that final time, I tried to catch all of the traffic lights red; just so she could be with me for a few extra precious moments. But I caught them all green. Every one. It's as if He was saying, "It's okay to do this and to do it quickly. You're doing the right thing." I held her in my arms as she passed and I cried, not like a baby, but I sobbed aloud like an adult that feels the loss of a loved one.

Goodbye, Hazel-bayzel. It's time to go play with Jasmine. She is waiting for you there.  

 

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Always Earth Day in North Korea

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

North Korea. Just saying it makes you think of cruelty, hate, starvation, inhumanity, barbarism, genocide...in other words, all of the most typical attributes of a socialist country.

And every year, the enviro-nazis want us to be more like North Korea. We are supposed to turn off our lights for an hour on Earth Day to...well, I'm not sure why. To be one with Mother Gaia? Except all it does is to make my house dark. Kind of like North Korea every frickin' night of the year! Look at the photograph. The distinction between freedom and socialism could not be more clear. The light of freedom versus the darkness of socialism. No wonder why the intelligent people say liberals have been seduced by the dark side. Look at the largest spot of light on the Korean peninsula, just below the national border on the left. That is the capital of South Korea, Seoul. Look at it! The light of civilization stretching for miles. Not to mention all of the other points of light in South Korea. Notice the contrast?

In the 19th century, Paris was called the City of Light. NOT the city of lights. What was meant by Light was all of the learning, knowledge, freedom, innovation, discovery, industry, commerce, and science. Many great things were discovered or built by the French in the late 19th century. Louis Pasteur saved millions of lives due to his study in the fields of Chemistry and Microbiology. Ferdinand de Lesseps was a capitalist of boundless optimism whose company built the Suez Canal. Just to name two. French was considered the language of second choice for the non-French. The French did, well...everything! And when electric lighting was installed all over Paris, there could be no mistaking it as the true City of Light.

In August of 1953, the Korean War ended. Both North and South Korea started at roughly the same spot economically. Both had been ravaged by three years of war. Both were heavily indebted to a much larger benefactor country. Both had to start from scratch. But that is were the similarity ends. South Korea had United States troops to protect it from any more incursions from the North. The government was free to concentrate on the economy. They held free elections and have had 11 presidents. Their current president is Park Geun-hye. She (yes, SHE!) was the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party. They got most of their help from the United States. Look at what 60 years of that help has done.

In North Korea, the government demagogued the U.S. troops as possible invaders. They built the military and police forces to the detriment of a sound economy. Their royal family, the Kim's, have been in power since the creation of the country in 1948. Yes, it is a monarchy. What do you call a family-based, bloodline oriented, non-elected national ruler? I call that a King. Which is strange because the entire reason Karl Marx wrote about communism and socialism was due to his distaste for monarchies. They got "help" from the Soviet Union and from Communist China. And look what 60 years of that "help" has done.

Do you own a Samsung TV or cell phone or even household appliance? What about a Hyundai car? Just those two companies account for 20% of the GDP of South Korea. Look at the 2010 GDP tables in this article. The province of Chungnam has the same per capita GDP as that of the United States! Its GDP growth was a whopping 12.4% in 2010! The national GDP of South Korea is $1.151 trillion!

What is the GDP of North Korea? Well, no one is really sure. It is estimated to be around $40 billion. For all we know, it could be $1.98. Discussion Question: Name me all of the products you own that are built in North Korea. Yeah, me neither. Discussion over.

Think of all of the innovation, learning, knowledge, and commerce that takes place every day in South Korea. They don't turn their lights off to celebrate Earth Day.

Now look at North Korea. They "celebrate" Earth Day, every day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1.21 Gigawatts!

Well, I've finally gone solar. We decided to have Vivint Solar install the panels and get us setup to save some money. If you haven't heard of them, give them a call. At first I was a bit skeptical of their pitch and wanted nothing to do with a bunch of greenie meanies and their version of solar power. But Vivint Solar is far from that. Yes, it is a solar sales pitch, but with a surprisingly good twist. In the government approved version of solar power, you buy your solar panels from a government approved solar shop, they install the array, and the solar power is "free." Well, it's free as soon as your energy savings finishes paying off the price of the panels and installation; that could take years. You do get to write off the solar installation and all of the attendant paraphernalia on your taxes. As long as you keep the receipts and other paperwork the government will demand.

However, with Vivint it is quite different. The government doesn't get involved. You are not buying anything, except buying into a long-term contract to buy the solar power from Vivint. Let me explain. Vivint sells you no hardware because they are a power company, just like Pacific Gas and Electric. When you buy power from PG&E you don't own the hardware. PG&E just transports the power from their generating stations to your house. Vivint does the same thing but they've just moved the generating station from some distant power plant to the solar array on the roof of your house. What you do is to agree to buy the power from Vivint over a 20 year term for the set rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. In CA that is a serious bargain. PG&E has a rate tier depending on how much electricity you use. It starts at 13 cents per kilowatt hour and tops out at 35 cents per kilowatt hour — for now; those will likely rise in the future. The 15 cents per kWh from Vivint is good for the life of the contract. Vivint still owns the array and all the attendant accessories installed on or in your house. If there is a problem with any hardware, Vivint will replace it for free. If you need to have a new roof installed, Vivint will remove, store, and replace the array for a $500 charge. If you sell your house, the contract transfers to the new owners. Simple and easy.

The photo to the right is a piece of equipment called the Envoy. It is connected to your home network (this is also a requirement) so Vivint can monitor their solar array. If you click on the photo, you will see that the array on my house is currently producing a good 1.21 kilowatts (not gigawatts!) of electricity. It has produced 180 kilowatt hours of electricity over it's life and there are 27 panels in the array. I have smudged out the IP address of the device which is just above the electrical information. If you want to see what the Envoy is doing, just enter its IP address into the browser on your computer. You will be taken to the Envoy's home screen. The administration link requires a password, so don't even bother trying to access it.

The Envoy is placed as close as possible to the main electrical panel in your house. The reason for this is because the Envoy is connected to your network via IP over power. The photo to the left shows this connection. A second IP over power unit is placed near your home router and a short ethernet cable is connected from the unit to the router. If any part of the array, the Envoy, or the IP over power units stops working, Vivint will call you to setup a time to replace the faulty gear. Remember, the hardware belongs to them; you are just paying them for the power it produces. A second requirement is that the electrical bill must be paid electronically through automatic bill payment. This is quite a risk that Vivint is taking and they want to ensure that the bill is paid on time. You are notified of the due bill and given roughly two weeks before the money is removed electronically from your bank account.

Naturally, the amount of electricity produced does vary with the amount of sun. The curve tends to start off slow in the morning but climbs to over 1 kilowatt by around 9 AM. By noon to 2 PM the amount of electricity is usually in the 3.5 kilowatt range. On a bright and sunny day just a few days ago, the total was 4.29 kilowatts at 2 PM! Not too bad for a solar array that has 27 panels with 15 on the east facing roof and 12 on the west facing roof. I don't have any real south facing roof space to speak of. I'm not sure how much electricity I use per hour but I'd be willing to bet it's not anywhere near 4.29 kilowatts.

The only "catch" to getting power from Vivint is that they are only allowed to provide no more than 80% of your electricity. In California, PG&E still has a type of monopoly and they want to be sure they get some money. Besides, when the array is not producing, you will still need power. The way this is setup is that when the array is producing, you use electricity from Vivint. Any excess is put into the grid and you are credited for that which you don't use. As the power from the array drops (obviously at night) you draw power from PG&E. California has also mandated that PG&E provide a specific amount of energy from solar. So this meets that state enforced requirement.

The nice part about this is that the government has minimal involvement. There are no tax credits or write-offs or receipts to hold onto until income tax season. This is done completely by private enterprise. Vivint has many investors that are in this for the long term. As more and more people have Vivint supply the majority of their electrical needs, they make money by making a profit, which in turn provides jobs. Instead of having the government intrude into your life so they can give you back some of the money they took from you in the first place, using solar power from Vivint starts your savings immediately because there is no cost to you up front and no waiting for the government to decide if you've filled out all of the tax forms properly. This may not be for everyone, but it's worth listening to the talk. It was for us. Many thanks to our sales representative, Max.

 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Duke

My dog Duke. Named in honor of John "Duke" Wayne. Because, like Mr. Wayne, he is a gentle giant. He is a terrific dog and I can't imagine my family without him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

World Champions!

Buster Posey and Sergio Romo celebrate as Miguel Cabrera walks away dejected after looking at a called third stike to end Game 4 of the 2012 World Series which the Giants swept, 4 games to 0.

It took 10 innings to do it, but the San Francisco Giants won their second World Championship in three years last night. They had shut down the powerful hitting of the Detroit Tigers for the first three games. The Giants had never trailed in the score but the Tigers were not going to go quietly. Knowing that game four was do or die, the Tigers brought their big bats. But the Giants started the game they way they had all year, score early. Hunter Pence doubled in the 2nd inning and then Brandon Belt hit a triple to score Pence. It was Belt's first hit in the series. Then in the bottom of the 3rd, Miguel Cabrera hit a home run to right field off of starter Matt Cain with a man on. It was the first lead for the Tigers in 29 innings. With Cain pitching well and great defense behind him, the Giants waited for their big hit. They got it in the top of the 6th when Marco Scutaro got on base and Buster Posey drove a home run over the left field wall just inside the foul pole.

The Giants had retaken the lead but it only lasted until the bottom of the inning. Delmon Young hit a home run off of Cain to tie the game. Cain pitched a full seven innings and, like Detroit starter Max Scherzer, allowed 3 runs but kept his team in the game. In the 8th inning, Jeremy Affelt started off by walking the lead-off batter but then struck out the next three batters — all of the Tigers' big guns; Cabrera, Fielder, and Young. In the 9th, Affelt struck out the first batter but then Jhonny Peralta hit a long fly to centerfield that Angel Pagan ran down on the warning track. Santiago Casilla came in and got the last out.

In the top of the 10th, designated hitter Ryan Theriot singled to lead off the inning. Brandon Crawford bunted him to second and Angel Pagan struck out. Then with two out, Marco Scutaro singled and Theriot scored the go ahead run.

In the bottom of the 10th, Sergio Romo came in and faced the 1-2-3 hitters. He struck out the first two (Jackson and Kelly) and then had to face Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. With the count no balls and two strikes, Cabrera was looking for Romo to throw his trademark slider. As the ball left Romo's hand, Cabrera leaned in to reach for the slider but the ball didn't break. Cabrera froze for a split second — that's when the fastball from Romo went right down the pipe and the umpire rung him up! With the hopes of the Tigers and their fans riding on Cabrera's bat, he never took a swing at an 89 mile per hour fastball that froze him like an ice sculpture.

Which is why I get to say:

San Franciso Giants — 2012 World Champions!

Please visit the Official Web Site of the San Francisco Giants for more stories, photos, and videos.

Together, We're GIANT!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hearing Elvis for the very first time

I am a music fan. I cannot deny it. I love music. Not all kinds of music. Rap isn't music, it's more of a social statement with a backbeat. And I don't ascribe the word music to a "song" with lyrics made up entirely of the "N" word and the "F" word.

I will admit I'm not a fan of jazz or Dixieland. It's not awful like Rap, it's just not my cup of tea. But I will listen to just about anything.

I have many MP3 files of my favorites. I use WinAmp as my player because it is superior to any media player. I could go into a long dissertation about how Windows Media Player destroys cover art, but that is a discussion for another time. What I want to talk about is Minilyrics. I have mentioned this product in blog posts before. It is fun to see the lyrics appear as the singer sings each line. It completes the song.

However, today I decided to create the lyrics for Elvis' version of Don't Be Cruel. I went through my steps, assigning a specific line of lyrics to a specific time in the song. When I played the song back to check that the lyrics matched, I was startled. I was watching the lyrics appear, but when Elvis would sing the line, it was disconnected somehow. I would see and hear the words, but something was...well, missing! And then it dawned on me.

Elvis' vocal style is so unlike anyone else. Yes, the words to the lyrics you see are correct. Yes, you can sing along. But there is just something WEIRD about reading the bland and unemotional lyrics at the same time you listen to Elvis put his heart, soul, and passion into every syllable. It's like listening to someone describe the contents of an Ansel Adam's photograph. Yes, technically there is a mountain, and sky, and clouds, and a lake, and shadows, and flowers, and all manner of nature. But when you actually see the photograph you realize the narrator hasn't told you anything about it. The contents are there but the distinction between what you see and what you observe is monumental.

This is what Elvis brings to music. It's like I heard him sing for the very first time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Greatest Generation

I always think about the people that were born around the last decade of the 19th Century. They were close to their early teens when Orville and Wilbur Wright taught us to fly. They were around 80 when Neil Armstrong took us to the stars. They saw both the beginning of flight and its ultimate expression in space. They were in awe of the wood and fabric and wires doing what up until that time, only God's creatures could do. They experienced the power and majesty of metal and chemicals and fire shot into the vacuum of space — a place were none of God's creatures could go.

But they are all gone now. And even though we have the photos and movies of these things, they lived through them when both were new. Only they had the experience for the ages.

My mother's mother was one. And, until the day she died, she knew how special her place in history was.

I don't know if there will ever be another leap in technology like those 70 years. Think about that — less than 70 years from first flight to walking on the moon. Think of all the people that tried to fly before the Wrights. All of those centuries of dreaming and scheming and trial and error and getting SO CLOSE but falling at the finish line only to see two bicycle dealers pull it off. And then someone snaps their fingers and Neil Armstrong is walking on the moon.

Sometimes, it's like a vacation post card. Wish I was there...for both.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why I no longer care to watch the Olympics

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

My epiphany about the stupidity of the olympics took 2 full olympiads; 1984 in Sarajevo and 1988 in Calgary.

In the former, the US had a few athletes in the Nordic Combined (ski jump and cross-country). The US entrants were very good in cross-country but just average in ski jump. After the first round of ski jumping, the US held the 1st and 3rd places. Realizing that the strength of the US athletes was yet to come, the "judges" determined that it was unsafe to start the ski jump from that height. Never mind that ALL entrants had already jumped safely. They moved the jump height down a bit, forced everyone to go again, and they were happy with the results because the US was safely out of the top 10, and therefore, out of possible medal contention in a Nordic or Alpine event.

In Calgary in 1988, the women's figure skating was a sham. East German Katarina Witt was up for her second gold in a row and US skater Debi Thomas was supposed to compete against her. In the prelims, an unknown Japanese skater, Midori Ito, rocked the house with her routines. She hit every part of every routine and was almost in shock when she finished — the crowd went crazy with her performance. She got 5.1s because this was her first olympics and "hadn't paid her dues." Witt and Thomas looked like two automatons going through the motions of trying NOT TO LOSE a medal. Then Canada's own Elizabeth Manley skated her heart out and put both Witt and Thomas to shame. Granted, it was a hometown crowd but she, like Japan's Ito, couldn't believe how well she had done and the crowd responded. But...

Witt — Gold
Manley — Silver
Thomas — Bronze.

Should have been...

Manley — Gold
Ito — Silver
Witt or Thomas — Bronze (you pick, both were boring).

The winter olympics were always better in my mind because they were much faster. But now, with Russian and French judges screwing everyone else and the IOC refusing to take away every Russian and French medal, send both countries athletes back home, and ban them from the next two olympics (summer and winter), it's just become a ho-hum of zero competition when you realize you're going to lose no matter how well you perform. Kind of like Obama's fundemental transformation of a once great country.  

 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sputnik moment, revisited

Posted by Stranded in Sonoma

I wrote this comment on a site just after Ofailure said we need a Sputnik moment. What a schnook. Here are the facts about the Sputnik and Explorer spacecraft and other socialist junk versus the excellent equipment created by freedom.

Socialists have to be first, not best. It's part and parcel of the propaganda. Remember the Soviet space program?

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite, but complete garbage. It died in about 20 days because it used dry cell batteries and gave no meaningful scientific data except in the negative. Read this from Wikipedia:

1) Apart from its value as a technological first, Sputnik also helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. 2) It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. 3) Pressurized nitrogen in the satellite's body provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection. If a meteoroid penetrated the satellite's outer hull, it would be detected by the temperature data sent back to Earth.
Let's go through those. 1) So if it's orbit didn't change then nothing would be found. Dumb. 2) Maybe. You can bounce radio signals from the Earth through the ionosphere and get pretty much the same info. 3) IF...a meteroid penetrated the satellite. What if the skin was too thick to allow penetration by smaller particles that might be significant scientifically? Ooops! And it had to penetrate the satellite's hull! What if a meteroid penetrated the hull and caused the orbit to change? Wouldn't that screw up the first test of checking the atmospheric density? Wouldn't an external grid be a better way to test for these impacts? If there was no penetration, there was no data. Once again, just typical socialist crap.

Vostok 1 was the first manned satellite to orbit the Earth but the spacecraft was so crappy, it didn't have it's own parachute; the pilot, Yuri Gagarin, had to eject and parachute to safety, in violation of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale rules which stated the pilot had to take off and land with his craft. So, according to the rules, Gagarin was NOT first. But the socialist French overlooked that and gave him the record anyway.

The first space walk, again by the Soviets and a near disaster. The cosmonaut, Alexey Leonov, almost didn't get out of the craft. They had to deflate his pressure suit to get out and then it was reinflated per normal use. But when he tried to get back in, he couldn't and they had to deflate it again, but this time it was deflated to almost zero pressure because he couldn't fit through the hatch. It damn near killed him.

Now, let's put these three up against the effort of the United States.

Here is the Explorer 1 info, again from Wikipedia:

The scientific instrumentation of Explorer 1 was designed and built under the direction of Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa containing:

Anton 314 omnidirectional Geiger-Müller tube, designed by Dr. George Ludwig of Iowa's Cosmic Ray Laboratory, to detect cosmic rays. It could detect protons with E > 30 MeV and electrons with E > 3 MeV. Most of the time the instrument was saturated;

Five temperature sensors (one internal, three external and one on the nose cone);

Acoustic detector (crystal transducer and solid-state amplifier) to detect micrometeorite (cosmic dust) impacts. It responded to micrometeorite impacts on the spacecraft skin in such way that each impact would be a function of mass and velocity. Its effective area was 0.075 m2 and the average threshold sensitivity was 2.5 × 10−3 g cm/s;

Wire grid detector, also to detect micrometeorite impacts. It consisted of 12 parallel connected cards mounted in a fiberglass supporting ring. Each card was wound with two layers of enameled nickel alloy wire with a diameter of 17 µm (21 µm with the enamel insulation included) in such way that a total area of 1 cm by 1 cm was completely covered. If a micrometeorite of about 10 µm impacted, it would fracture the wire, destroy the electrical connection, and thus record the event.
Electrical power was provided by mercury chemical batteries as opposed to the dry cells used in Sputnik. This from Wikipedia again:

Mercury batteries powered the high-power transmitter for 31 days and the low-power transmitter for 105 days. Explorer 1 stopped transmission of data on May 23, 1958 when its batteries died, but remained in orbit for more than 12 years. It reentered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 1970 after more than 58,000 orbits.
Please don't tell me you think Sputnik had any scientific impact compared to Explorer. Also, Explorer 1 found the Van Allen radiation belts. What did Sputnik find? That socialist crap burns up in the atmosphere just like good American spacecraft. Big deal.

The Mecury spacecraft was much better than Vostok. Not the least of which was it had it's own parachute to allow for a safe landing. The pilot didn't need to exit the spacecraft unnecessarily while it was hurtling through the atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour, as with Vostok.

When Ed White became the first American to walk in space during his Gemini 4 flight with Jim McDivitt, there was no issue with pressurization. The only problem was that the hatch was momentarily stuck. The pilots got it unstuck in short order and everthing went fine.

Technology produced by socialism — unmitigated shit. Technology producted by freedom — the best in the world. Or even out of this world!  

 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Perfecto!

Matt Cain, right handed pitcher for the San Franciso Giants threw a no-hitter last night against the Houston Astros! Cain is the elder statesman of the Giants having been with the team since 2005, the longest of any current Giant player.

But this wasn't just any no-hitter. This was a perfect game! Not one Astro batter reached first base. The reason this is historic is because it is the first perfect game thrown by a Giant pitcher, in the 129 year history of the club! Even the umpires knew it was special.

It took some outstanding defense in the 7th and 9th innings to secure the win. In the 7th inning, right fielder Gregor Blanco made a diving catch on a deep ball hit to the warning track in Triples Alley. In the 9th inning, Third Baseman Joaquin Arias handled a tough ground ball and made a great throw across the diamond for the final out. One of the best outs was the third out in the 7th inning. Astro shortstop Jed Lowrie, batting left handed, swung and missed on the third strike, lost the grip on his bat and it landed to the left of home, then he spun 180 degrees and gave home-plate umpire Ted Barrett a high-five! You can see all 27 outs here.

Cain got 14 strikeouts, 7 swinging and 7 caught looking, to match the previous strikeout total in a perfect game by Sandy Kofax. Congratulations, Matt! I can't think of a pitcher more deserving of a no-hit perfect game. And thank you for the memories!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Raider



My kitty kat Raider playing on our porch. Click the picture for a larger version. Should I enter this photo in our county fair competition?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Crusade

Today is June 6th. Sixty-eight years ago, on a very bleak and windy Tuesday morning, Operation Neptune, the code name for the naval invasion of Normandy, started as thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen began the Allied liberation of Europe. The overall operation was called Overlord and was scheduled to last until D +90. At that point, the Allies believed they would be on the south side of the River Seine with the Germans holding the north side. From there, the breakout would happen and Eisenhower's broad front strategy would slowly consume the German army in the west. Of course, it didn't happen that way.

There were five invasion beaches, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, running west to east along the Calvados Coast. The Americans came ashore at Utah and Omaha, while the British used Gold and Sword with the Canadians at Juno. British paratroopers dropped behind Sword Beach to secure vital bridges over the River Orne. American paratroopers dropped behind Utah to secure vital causeways off the beach and to take the important town of Sainte-Mère-Église. At Omaha Beach, the German's had the entire landing area zeroed in and the casualties were high. Eventually, in small groups, sometimes as small as one or two men, the 1st and 29th Divisions moved inland and secured the Omaha beaches. The invasion went much smoother at the other four beaches with the Canadians at Juno advancing the farthest on that Day of Days.

The Germans reinforced the area around the city of Caen and British General Montgomery failed miserably in his bid to take the city on D-Day. Eventually having to destroy the town to take it, Montgomery's men had most of the German armor facing them while the Americans under General Bradley had to contend with the Norman hedgerows. After nearly two months of brutal fighting, Bradley unleashed Operation Cobra. The Army Air Forces would carpet bomb an area near St. Lo, and the ground troops would rush through the shell-shocked Germans. At that point, General Patton took over 3rd Army, General Hodges took 1st Army from Bradley, and Bradley moved up to command 12th Army Group. Patton replaced the infantry spearheads with armor spearheads and broke out into the flat country south of the Cotentin peninsula. Patton swung his forces west to take the Brest peninsula and also east on a rampage that would end up with 3rd Army helping to seal off the German army and take bridges over the River Seine. Less than a year later, in May 1945, the Germans surrendered and the Great Crusade was over.

One of the finest books on the subject is D-Day, by Stephen E. Ambrose. If you haven't read it, do so. It details the details of the invasion. The most fascinating detail to me was the order in which every unit had to hit each specific beach. On a floor in Allied HQ, thousands of 3x5 cards containing information about each unit were placed in the order of when they would hit the beaches. If any data changed for a unit, someone had to go retrieve the card, make the change, and then put it back. These cards were shuffled to and fro until the commanders were satisfied. All of that without the aid of any computer. Amazing! And the most amazing thing was that they were able to keep the invasion secret. The Germans never knew it was Normandy, even with thousands of little 3x5 cards floating around.

For those that put themselves in harm's way to keep us from harm — Thank You.