Monday, July 27, 2009

Now I've heard it all

And I have nothing to say about this. If you need me, I'll be in my bed, under the sheets, avoiding the rest of mankind.,0,602678.story

Police Bust Canary Fighting Ring In Shelton

Nick Caito Fox 61
5:47 PM EDT, July 26, 2009

SHELTON - Multiple state law enforcement agencies busted up a bird fighting ring in the town of Shelton Sunday morning. However the birds involved are known more for their voice than violence.

Police confiscated nearly 150 songbirds- canaries and saffron finches- from a home at 176 Ripton Road. Police say the birds were being prepared to fight. The raid was led by Shelton Police with help from the Department of Agriculture and officers from Bridgeport, Ansonia, Fairfield, and State Police departments.

"They have a cage in the middle that's set up like a ring, where the two will go into one cage and fight." said Shelton Police Sergeant Robert Kozlowsky. "It's looking like animal cruelty and illegal gambling. They [officers] have found a large amount of currency also at this scene."

Animal control officers were seen carrying cages upon cages filled with birds from the residence. According to a relative, the homeowner claimed to be collecting the birds to breed and sell. Neighbors who witnessed the raid were surprised at both the multi-agency response and the unorthodox nature of the bird fighting.

"Am I being punk'd?" asked neighbor John Coniglio, referring to a television show famous for playing pranks on celebrities. "I mean, this is crazy. I've never heard of a canary ring. I can't picture little canaries with razor blades taped to their feet or anything."

The raid christened 19 jailbirds along with $8,000 cash.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm not allergic to dogs

Working two jobs over the last week has been pretty awful for me. Using the computer aggravates my constant headaches, and of course, both my jobs require the use of the computer for long periods of time. So I have headaches daily from about noon until I collapse at nine or ten at night.

On the occasional day that I break from work early, I try to get away from the computer--which means I haven't been blogging or writing or doing much of anything else. Last night, even though I was really curious about the term "shoemaker's children" (used by a New Zealander to refer to his coworkers), I couldn't even bring myself to look it up on Wikipedia.

The headaches are just one of a litany of symptoms that have been making day-to-day operations miserable for several years. I have finally begun to suspect allergies as the primary culprit.

But the symptoms that I'm dealing with are all a bit offbeat (headaches, itchy skin, exhaustion, perpetually swollen lymph nodes, recurring sore throats) and don't sync up to any particular season. They aren't the classic respiratory symptoms associated with hay fever (runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes).

So I've been hesitant to tell doctors that I have allergies, and it's apparently never occurred to my doctors that I might actually have them. Instead, I've been sent to one specialist after another: a neurologist for the headaches, an ENT for the recurring sore throats, and a dermatologist for the skin. It's become a tangled mess of diagnoses and medications.

Thus, I decided myself to get an allergy test to see if I have allergies, and if so, to what. Then I could request a single medication to treat allergies, and this would hopefully kick the crap out of all the allergy-related symptoms at once.

I told my plan to Byrd. Apparently Byrd had an allergy test when he was a kid. Kindhearted soul that he is, he described his horrific experience in graphic detail, then glibly added, "But I wasn't scarred for life, so I guess it wasn't that bad."

Consequently, I arrived at the allergy testing site with shaking hands and dry mouth, under the impression--courtesy of Byrd--that I was about to get eighty painful injections of toxic substances that would cause my skin to blister and peel off. (I later learned he was just toying with me, rotten bastard.)

The nurse must have noticed my tightly clenched fist and my grinding teeth. She patted my arm lightly and said, "Oh, honey, don't worry, it only takes fifteen minutes and I'll give you an antihistamine after that, if you react to anything."

Fifteen minutes later (after an easy test that didn't involve a needle or anything painful), it was pretty obvious I had allergies. My arms had itchy red welts all over them. A passing nurse started to ask, "So how did your allergy test go?" but ended up saying, "So how did your aller--oooooh yikes." My doctor called the results "impressive."

I reacted to the standard central Texas allergens: cedar and oak. Also on the list: perennial rye, Bermuda grass, some coastal grasses, various molds, and dust mites.

The biggest surprise was that I didn't react at all to cat or dog allergens. The doctor retested the dog allergen since I live with dogs; I guess he wanted to be very sure that my beloved pets weren't contributing to my troubles.

The re-test really did involve a needle, and this time it hurt a little (but still not as bad as Byrd led me to believe). The allergen is injected right under the skin in the shoulder area, and the reaction measured. Presumably, even a mild allergy would cause some sort of welt. But I still didn't react to the dog allergen.

So the good news is that I get to keep the dogs! (I'm kidding, of course. I would never give the dogs up just because I'm allergic to them.)

The bad news is that I'm allergic to my house and my yard and basically everything else in my environment. :(

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What is "too hot" for a walk?

Dogs need to go on walks, right? I hear that from pretty much every dog trainer I interact with. Everyone agrees: dogs need to walk. They need it for exercise, socialization, and training purposes.

So up until this ungodly summer, I was walking Star regularly. And it was going pretty well. Star walks great on a leash, and I've found her to be very reliable in worst-case scenarios (off-leash dogs charging us) as long as I keep my cool, say "leave it," and keep walking.

But now it's in the 100s every day. We have no sidewalks; you either walk on the asphalt or the grass. At these temperatures, asphalt is not an option for dog paws, and the grass isn't really grass, it's sticker burrs, fire ant mounds, broken glass, and automobile fluids.

I've been walking with Star at 10 PM for the last few nights, when the temperature drops into the 90s... but the asphalt still feels hot beneath my feet, and it's so dark that I can't see the broken glass, ant mounds, and all the rest. It's also too dark to see loose dogs and suspicious people; thank goodness the dog we ran into last night was a bit lost and frightened, but not really aggressive (Star and I helped it find its home after I made sure it was friendly). And because we're not walking on a sidewalk, it's not much distance between us and passing cars.

Walking in the morning might be a better option, because it's only in the 80s and the pavement is cooler. But I'm not a morning person...

And then there's Star. She's got no stamina at all. She's good on a walk for about five minutes, then she's just HOT. I swear she acts just like a two-year-old child, dragging her feet and mentally willing me to pick her up and carry her.

My final option is to build an enormous mirror and reflect all the heat back toward the sun, a la Futurama.


Byrd and I planned to go up to Oregon to visit family. We would have had to drive, since Byrd doesn't fly, so the whole trip was going to take two weeks. We were going to see things like Yellowstone, Mt. Ranier, Devil's Tower, and so much more along the way. Stuff I've never seen before.

We were going to go in early August.

So in May--yes, MAY--Byrd submitted his vacation request for the two weeks in August we'd picked for the trip.

I planned the itinerary, reserved hotels, mapped our driving route, went to AAA and got a bunch of maps and travel books, and got totally riled up about seeing Prairie Dog Town. Byrd was excited about the prospect of a vacation unaffected by hurricanes.

Then today, a mere three weeks from our departure date, Byrd's higher ups suddenly said he can't have the time off after all!

WTF. Is that even legal??!?

Now I'm sitting here cancelling hotel reservations that I made months ago--some of them nonrefundable--watching our happy vacation crumble while simultaneously wondering just how bad it could be to be in jail. Cause I am this close to a destructive rampage in the corporate offices.

Hey Mom, good news: You won't have to babysit the dogs for two weeks. :'(

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just kidding... Back to work NOW

Job #1 is still scheduled to start next week.

Then an old client of mine called me up yesterday and asked for help on a project.

I totally accepted. Hey, I like money.

But that makes Job #2.

I'm desperately trying to get Job #2 done this weekend, but it doesn't look likely. Which means I'll be working two jobs next week.

Still, I feel a little selfish.

Am I a bad person for taking on two jobs when so many other copyeditors are desperate for work?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back to work

My new contract job starts next week. It will last for a year, if all goes as planned.

Yay! I'm actually glad. And not just because I love copyediting.

I didn't think I'd get tired of sitting around all day doing my own projects. But when you don't have a "real job," suddenly you don't have an excuse to avoid all those things you've been procrastinating about.

I didn't want to file six months' worth of papers. I didn't want to update Byrd's Quicken (four months out of date and hand-entry required for three of the four months). I didn't want to weed the driveway. I didn't want to clean out all the kitchen cabinets. I didn't want to organize the closet.

But I did. Because they were on The List I Created (Of Things I Really Wished Someone Else Would Do) and I couldn't think of a reason not to do them.

Starting next week, I can go back to procrastinating. Cause I'll have a "real job" again.


In other news, Star got her CGC certificate in the mail.

She is really not very photogenic. She always looks really pissed or freaked out or bored in photos, and unlike Dozer, she doesn't react to words, so I can't get her excited just by saying "treat."

Dozer responds to about a dozen different voice commands and he knows the names of all of his various toys (he will bring the correct toy when given its name). He's one of those dogs I have to spell around, to keep him from getting excited about r-i-d-e-s in the c-a-r. He's also really good at observing the interplay of tone of voice, body language, speech patterns, and more, so even when he doesn't understand the words, he knows what's going on.

Star, on the other hand, just sort of stares, no matter what I say. She's learned to respond to voice commands, but doesn't seem to know the difference between them unless I use hand signals as well. This is starting to be a problem in agility, where, if I don't get my body language precise, she's just as apt to take the tunnel than to go over the A-frame, even if I'm shouting "A! A!"

The only words she clearly knows are "Star," "No!," "Leave It!" and "Yes!" She seems to understand positive versus negative tone of voice, too.

I'm a bit confounded by this apparent language barrier. It requires a whole new set of communication skills on my part. I'm used to having dogs that speak English. :)

With luck, agility classes will help. I'm hoping it will eventually click with her that the sounds coming out of my mouth actually mean something.