Friday, February 29, 2008

Rocky's Worst Day Ever

Rocky is the only furball in the family that I haven't talked about yet. And it's about time.

Like all of our furballs in our family, Rocky has had some rough times. Rocky came to us as Missy. Missy was a mighty little thing, with the softest long tortoiseshell fur, and a little bunny stub of a tail (Manx by breed). At 6 months old, Missy went in for "the" operation.

Larry got the call, "Um, Mr. Naessens". Alarms go off. "There's been, um... there's something we need to tell you. You see, when we started operating on Missy, we couldn't find any girl parts. Missy only has boy parts. Do you still want him to have his operation?"

Well, one could ask, didn't anyone check out under the hood first? On any previous occasion that he had been to the vet, didn't anyone notice? Apparently not. At least they only charged us for one operation.

Anyway, poor Missy went in as a girl, and came out as a boy. No big deal perhaps. But poor Missy had 2 operations - he could neither lay down, nor sit for a while. Also, he no longer suited "Missy", so we renamed him Rocky.

When we did the research on Manx cats before we got him, we found out that Manxes were very adept at heights, and would often be at the highest point in the room. Not our Rock. We found out that Manxes were very clever. Not our Rock. But he has personality and attitude. Lots of it.

Rocky has the most luxurious fur. But he hates to be touched. He will tolerate it when he's eating, or sleeping. But then only for a few moments. Don't overdo it. It's his burden in life, to be so soft. People love to touch him. He hates to be touched. You can see his body just arch away from your hand. I've even seen him try to get out of the wind when it ruffles his fur. We call him our "rainman kitty".

Despite this, he's been seen letting toddlers touch him. Not a peep, not a cringe. Patient. Gentle. When the neighbour's bunny escaped, he was seen playing with the bunny - not hunting - it was a kind of hide and seek game. He would hunt mice though, and bring them back to our dog (at the time a rambunctious lab named Congo). He would drop a mouse, on more than one occasion... like a peace offering, at Congo's feet, who would proceed to take the injured animal and run with it. Ahh, such fun.

He's an indoor kitty now. He's learning what indoor cats do from Petey, our other cat. Petey has taught him what you do when you're inside all the time - you watch the fish on interactive kittie TV (aka the aquarium), you "hunt" and carry around twist ties as if they were mice, and you watch the goings on outside from the back of the livingroom couch. You also spend time lying on a warm stereo receiver with vents on the top, just like in the picture.

Now you know about Rocky and also his Worst Day Ever. And he's our last furball to meet, but this won't be the last word on furballs. I have plenty of stories to share, so stay tuned.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slim Pickings (Musings on Health Care)

Today I'm going to ask a very important question, which at first glance will seem superficial and superfluous, but stick with me for a minute before moving on to important things in your life.

If you could pick one of the doctors from Grey's Anatomy to be your own doctor, who would you pick and why?

I would pick Izzy. She cares, she's nice, and she wouldn't lecture me for being a "bad diabetic" (I'm sure of it). She's just a good doctor and a fine person.

I'm sure that Izzy wouldn't make me set up a "Meet and Greet" just to ... well, do just that... an interview of sorts. She wouldn't say to me, "No, Jamie. You're just a loser of a patient who has too many problems. I'm a busy doctor, you know. I just don't have the time to look after you."

The sad part is, that's what happens in this province. It's a Seller's Market, and doctors are in the seller's seat. I've written before about making changes. Making a difference. And I think it's time to take the first step in making a difference.

But as we all know, this problem isn't limited to Ontario - it's a problem rampant in Canada, and beyond. If you don't think the health care system is serving you in your Province, in your State, in your City, take the time to make waves. Write a letter. Write a hundred letters. Just do something.

I think it's time to write my Member of Provincial Parliament.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Look Into the Sun

It's our 2nd anniversary today, so I'll entertain you with a few blind stories, and be on my way to do whatever it is one does on such a day.

The Blind Leading The Blind

One day during rush hour, George Shearing (who had been blind since birth) found himself at a busy Manhattan intersection, waiting for someone to help him across the street.

After waiting for some time, he was finally tapped on the shoulder. It was another blind man, seeking similar assistance. What did Shearing do?

"What could I do?" Shearing later laughed. "I took him across - and it was the biggest thrill of my life!"

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

When Peter Falk was only 3 years old, his right eye was removed when a malignancy was found, and he was fitted with a prosthetic eye. Despite his lack of sight in that eye, he excelled at sports, especially basketball and baseball, and it became the source of much amusement.

During one Little League game, Falk was called out by the umpire at third base. Falk, sure that he had been safe, angrily pulled his eye out and handed it to the umpire. "Here," he declared. "I think you might need this!"

What Is Your Handicap Anyway?

Asked abou his golf handicap, Sammy Davis, Jr replied, "My handicap?" he replied. "Man, I am a one-eyed, black Jew! That's my handicap!"

Wonder What Bush Was Thinking?

In March 2002, Stevie Wonder performed at a Presidential Gala at Washington's Ford Theatre. Among those in attendance was Anne Robinson, host of TV game show "The Weakest Link". She later recalled, "I saw George W. Bush actually waving at Stevie Wonder. Someone had to tell him, 'He can't see you!'"

What more can one say?

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, February 25, 2008

Slowly Moves the Snail They Call The Government

Progress moves slowly.

Let's talk about GPS units. They have GPS units for cars, trekkers and boaters. They find roads, trails, and fish. The ones for cars talk, turn by turn, and figure out alternative routes.

This technology is perfect for those who are blind. Whether getting around with a cane, or with the assistance of a Resident Guide Dog, how perfect would it be to know for sure that you are at a given corner, instead of thinking you are at that corner while your dog socializes at a local fire hydrant.

How perfect would it be to program in a "point of interest" - your new dentist, a favourite grocery store, or get off the bus at your bus stop, without worrying that you have miscounted, that the bus stopped one extra time, and didn't announce that you had arrived.

GPS devices are available to the sighted world, and even "talk", and respond to voice command, for under a grand. For the blind? We're talking a couple of those grands. That's serious money.

Sure, these devices would need to be more accurate than the average GPS device, and therefore more expensive. It is very important to get it right - you don't want to "drop in" at your next door neighbour's house, and make yourself at home, helping yourself to a snack from their fridge (although in our house, it might be better pickings anyway). However, I can imagine that your neighbour might be a little surprised.

My own GPS in the car tells me that I'm home when I'm still 5 houses away. But mine was only $200. I can appreciate an accurate one might cost more. And I'm okay with that. But 10 times more? Then I begin to wonder, isn't that a little excessive?

Just think how much mobility means. If a person is able to program in their destination, and then actually find the destination, first time out... it would mean that they could become more independent. Maybe one could easily get to a job previously inaccessible due to the complexity of finding it with a cane or a dog. Isn't that what it's about? Independence?

So far these talking GPS units for the blind are "under consideration" by the Canadian government as an approved "assistive device". It may take the better of 2 years to find out whether they are approved or not.

In the meantime, Larry can sit on his sorry butt, watching the approved "CATV" device that allows TV be more accessible. (Actually, we don't have one of those, but he could if he wanted one.) That device has been approved by the government long ago, and has been effectively replaced by stereo TVs and their SAP capability accessible through the menu. So entertainment trumps accessibility in the government's eyes.

So we need to decide - do we just bite it and buy one? Or do we wait for a couple of years to see if the Canadian government decides to approve it for coverage... one day.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, February 24, 2008

RSS for Dummies

I consider myself to be rather clever when it comes to figuring out stuff. I have been a long time user of the computer, and not afraid to try new things, or even old things previously undiscovered (by me).

Now first off, if you are accessing this blog using an rss feed reader or aggregator, this may seem very basic. But that's okay. This can either be a refresher course, or you can use it to share with other RSS newbies out there.

But this RSS thing has had me pretty baffled. They talk about rss readers and aggregators, but what are they exactly? How can it help me?

Well now that I've joined the blogging world from the writing end, I've become more aware of these questions. Maybe I'm a little slow, but I'm okay with that.

They say that if you have a question, that there is likely someone else in the room who has the same question (I'm hoping anyway). I've been wondering for a while, but didn't have the ambition to take it any further. And once I started to try to figure it out, I found vague, or worse, found explanations that were too technical (read, scary), or just too busy promoting themselves, to really get a handle on it.

First stop: Wikipedia

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts

Let me comment on the "Really Simple Syndication" part. If my eyes start to glaze over when I first try to figure something out, I don't think they've succeeded on the simple part.

So now that we got that part of it over with, let's get to the nuts and bolts of this stuff.

I found this video morning, and because the guy who produced this video is very clever, he provided what I needed to easily share with you.

RSS In Plain English

Now I would also like to add one thing that he didn't cover:

Aggregator = RSS Reader

So now you know what I do - and so much smarter for it, don't you think?

There are other ways to get this info to arrive on your desktop, and that is by downloading a simple application, many of them free. This provides a handy icon located right on your desktop, or wherever you keep such handy icons.

Where To Find It

Now I would be remiss if I shared all of this valuable info, and then didn't give you any information about where to find such things. It's a tangled mess of info out there, old and new, so here's a list that can help you sort it out, organized by your operating system:

So invite you to add me to your RSS reader. And you now have all the info you need. There ya go. Happy RSS'ing.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, February 23, 2008

All About The Hippo

Enough about Dogs. Today I'm going to talk about Hippos.

Sometimes the simplest inventions are the most brilliant. This is one of them.

Water is the most precious commodity in the world. Without water, we die. Without good water, we get sick, and then we die. It's a simple fact of life.

Can you imagine life without enough water? Having to trek miles every day to get water to cook, tend gardens, bathe, wash clothes... drink? Millions of people don't. While able adults are in the fields, trying to grow enough to eat, they send their children to get the water.

Millions of people worldwide are forced to walk long distances on a daily basis to collect their water requirements for the day. Children carry 20-litre (5 gallon) buckets on their heads.

How much can a 10 year-old carry? Not much. How much can a 6 year-old carry? I'm betting even less. Think about it, how much can your 10 year-old carry? Then there's the health issue - as these children carry heavy loads, they can injur themselves - back and neck injuries can be devastating to a family depending on them for water.

What is a Hippo Water Roller ?

Does it look familiar? It kinda looks like that grass roller sitting in your garden shed.

The Hippo Roller is a barrel-shaped container which transports 90 litres (20 gallons) of water. It is a drum with a large screw-on cap and a clip-on steel handle.

Children and the elderly can easily manage a full roller over most types of terrain. Extensive field tests over many years have proven the effectiveness of the Hippo Roller.

It can withstand tough rural conditions such as uneven footpaths and rocky roads. The large opening allows easy filling and cleaning. The water stays clean, and the steel handle provides firm control, whether pushing or pulling it. The heavy weight of water is rolled, and because the roller does the work, the Hippo operator would only need to move only 22 lbs (over level ground).

The Hippo Roller can also be part of a sustainable irrigation system - to support the gardens where people grow their food, and perhaps families could then grow enough to make some money. They could then become self-sufficient, making a positive difference to their own lives, and enable them to raise their families the way they want to, and should be able to. Their children will be able to go to school, play, and be healthy.

I challenge you to make a difference. There are many worthwhile organizations out there who can do just that, and your donations can certainly help.

But I challenge everyone to think out of the box. There are other ways, I'm sure of it. Just think about the Hippo. Just find a way ... somehow.

To find out more about the Hippo Roller, visit their website

To find out more about alleviating poverty of children in Canada and around the world, visit Canadian Feed The Children,

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, February 22, 2008

Diary of an Escape Artist

Deb, our neighbour and good friend arrived at the door today with our Resident Guide Dog in tow. Thank goodness for Deb to save the day, once again!

We know Keeta is a runner. She loves a good run. But she's her own worst enemy. We used to go to the baseball diamond, which is enclosed by a fence, to let her run, but then she found a space about a half inch wide, squished through, and was well on her way to attend to some wildlife on the other side. So we don't go there anymore. She's also escaped numerous times from our yard too. And we thought we had that all fixed as well.

Now let me set the stage. Our yard is secure. At least, it would seem secure (apparently it's not). This is a 5 foot chain link gate. True, a good border collie lab cross could possibly get through, or over. But now this gate is reinforced akin to Fort Knox - with patio slabs, bent rebar driven into the ground, and wood planks (to prevent burrowing).

To add to the security, there is a tarp to make footing awkward. This tarp used to be strung up to form a kind of roof, but that had to come down because of all the snow. It is further blocked with some well-placed and substantial gardening tool crisscrossed across the space for added visual effect, to hopefully minimize scaling of said fence.

So Larry had to take her out to do her business for the rest of today, on leash. She refused to go. She was offended! Like I said, she's her own worst enemy. But you just can't have your Resident Guide Dog taking herself for an unescorted run.

Now our work is cut out for us this weekend. The question that faces us is, how to further reinforce this gate from said Resident Guide Dog.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dogs With Jobs... and Attitude

I have a sick sense of humour.

Now that's been established, I stumbled on a couple of clips at YouTube, and just had to share.

Chapter 1 - "Guide Dog"
Applying for the Job

Chapter 2 - "Guide Dog"
Doing the Job

And to put my sick sense of humour into perspective, I think these videos are hilarious, and we've have a Resident Guide Dog right here in the house. A bonafide Resident Guide Dog With Attitude, no less.

If you know our Keeta, she's got attitude. She's got the attitude towards lots of things, especially Evil Cars that idle too long, cars that spew bad stuff into Her Air and make her sneeze every time.

And Keeta has got plenty to say to Dogs With Bad Manners. There are a few of those around, especially Jack and "Jerk" who live at the end of the street. Jack was the one who attacked one of our other guide dogs. And then there's Ivan and Igor who also live along Keeta's route, whose owner yells at them in his heavy Russian accent, "Ivan... Igor..." (I guess you just have to imagine the accent to make that work).

Now, she's never been responsible for squishing her owner like the guide dog in the video. In fact, on more than one occasion, she has been true to her Border Collie ways, and has herded Larry to safety, and blocked him from danger from cars with drivers who aren't looking. On one occasion, the save was so well done, that several people who witnessed the save, have come up to us some time later, just to tell us what a good dog she was.

Around here we love our Resident Guide Dog with Attitude. And if you don't already know Keeta, meet her right here.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canine Crimes

For those of you who are on the sensitive side, this may not be for you. But it has a happy ending, so if you are squeamish, skip right through to the end of this. So here goes...

Dogs are occasionally prone to intestinal distress, sometimes for reasons unknown. And that's okay, usually a little fasting required, and they're good to go.

But with all the dog sickness in our house the last little while, I'm a little sensitive to this, and when I came home today, I found a small "gift" in the living room. Thanks... but who's gift is it? Is it from Penny, the little one, notorious for racking up rather substantial vet bills, as recently as last week? Or perhaps from Keeta... who on occasion, just has... issues.

This is when I break out my CSI kit, put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and get right into household puppy forensics.

So who's the culprit? Nobody's talking.

So now I have to escort each one out to see who it is with the issue. It would really be a drag to treat the wrong dog... if we think it's Penny, such issues could lead to the decision for further blood tests based on her recent illness (and tests for her condition aren't cheap). But then if it turns out to be Keeta, we'd feel mighty foolish. A little fasting and Keeta would be all fixed up. And that wouldn't cost us a cent.

So now, instead of letting them out to do their business, I take them out to supervise any impending issues. If any. It could be just a case of the Creeping Crud. Hopefully that's all it is.

Did I mention I love dogs? Really, I do...

Late one night, a burglar broke into a house he thought was empty. He tiptoed through the living room but suddenly he froze in his tracks when he heard a loud voice say, "Jesus is watching you!"

Silence returned to the house, so the burglar crept forward again.

"Jesus is watching you," the voice boomed again. The burglar stopped dead again. He was frightened. Frantically, he looked all around. In a dark corner, he spotted a bird cage and in the cage was a parrot.

He asked the parrot, "Was that you who said Jesus is watching me?"

"Yes", said the parrot.

The burglar breathed a sigh of relief, and asked the parrot, "What's your name?"

"Clarence," said the bird.

"That's a dumb name for a parrot," sneered the burglar. "What idiot named you Clarence?"

The parrot replied, "The same idiot who named the Rottweiller Jesus."

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fido is in the Doghouse

We get reminded again and again that we are Canadian. Not in the patriotic proud kind of sense, but in the sense that yet another corporation, business, government... is going to get their cut.

(If you recall, I had posted about Grey's Anatomy, and the fact that Canadians can't watch missed eps online because of "licensing"... whatever. )

Today it's ringtones. And ringtones may be a rather inocuous subject, but it's annoying just the same.

Rogers, now owner of Fido, has got the corner on ringtone downloads. The rest of the world can download ringtones... even some free ones are available out there. The world can even download from their own phone manufacturers. Sure. We can't.

So, like the clever people we are, with Larry's assistance, took a file, and uploaded it to the phone. We could listen on the MP3 player of the phone. We had a file right there on my computer, no downloading necessary. It was created by my very own better half. Sure, I could upload, but could I set it as a ringtone? Nope.

After some research into the matter, some application downloads from the Sony website, and several failed attempts, it turns out that Rogers/Fido just won't allow it. Seems they have to be specially formatted and encrypted into special format, so that their hands go deeper into my pockets.

Apparently the only way to get a ringtone is to download a Fido-approved tone, often at a charge (even the Fido website charges $3 per download, plus a 75 cent download fee) and then pay Fido the download charges per kilobit. Isn't that special?

So in the meantime, I have written to Fido, not expecting an answer, and will suffer the crappy default ringtone. Perhaps no big deal. It is a ringtone after all. But it's the principle - if I have a file, and the phone has the capability, I should be able to do it. It shouldn't be like this.

Rogers... Fido... are you listening? There are other options out there, and I do have a long memory when it's time to renew.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's Not A Pager

Insulin pumps rule!!! Or the flip side of that coin, diabetes sucks.

I've had Type 1, or "juvenile" diabetes for 18 years now. It's been a challenge to chase after the ever-elusive "perfect control" that doctors talk about. Personally I don't think perfect control is possible, but the pump lets in a glimmer of hope.

Type 1 means that you are stuck using insulin. There are no diets or meds that will do the job. Insulin is the only choice. Although insulin treatments have improved options over the years, with multi-injection therapies, it's been a challenge to harness all those high numbers, and get them into some semblance of control.

But now I'm one of the lucky ones.

I've had this since I was 28 years old, and have just recently started using an insulin pump. The pump delivers a steady stream of insulin through a small tube. I can program it to give more insulin at certain times of the day, or less. I can press a button to give myself more insulin at mealtime, or if I want that donut. All I have to do is enter the number of carbs, and the "wizard" in the pump figures out how much insulin to deliver, and a push of the button will start the delivery.

My meter, that measures blood glucose, will even nag me when it's time to test, and send the result to my pump. Pretty cool, if you ask me. It's not perfect, but it's better than before. I don't have to haul out my equipment at every meal, and make like a junkie with my drugs.

There are a few trade offs... in that I'm attached to the pump almost all of the time. It's hooked to my pants in a cell phone case - pretty inconspicuous really. Perhaps naively I'm thinking nobody will really notice. I'm still learning the science of better control and learning the hard way what happens if one isn't hooked up properly. And I still have to test several times a day. But it's easier... and better. I have pretty good control now, and feel a ton better.

And in the end, that's what counts.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Petey's Best Day Ever

Today was the Best Day Ever for Petey, our cat. He got to "help" me clean the fish tank today. Ever since he was a kitten, he loved watching the fish. He especially likes the slow moving fluffy fish.

Griffin, our Betta and only named fish in the house, hangs out in the 10 gallon tank in Steph's bedroom upstairs. It's there that Petey undertakes his favourite activity - watching kitty interactive TV, a Kitty Reality Show of sorts. Griffin entertains Petey every day, fluffing out his fins, and coming nose to nose with with the cat.

Petey sees him as a dinner possibility. Griffin hasn't a clue... and I'm sure doesn't care.

So today, I undertook the job of cleaning our bigger 30 gallon tank - the one with the Angels, Gouramis, Rasboras, Zebras. Petey was sure this was a show I was putting on just for him.

You see, I had been a Bad Fish Owner, and hadn't cleaned the tank in a while... it was so bad I had to remove them in their little baggies, and they had to "visit" Griffin in their baggies.

Petey was very intrigued by this process, as I transferred the fish to their temporary homes. Nudge... nudge... fish in a baggie definitely had some shake 'n' bake possibilities to Petey.

Now everyone is in their rightful place. No casualties, and no fish snacks.

And now I promise to be a Good Fish Owner, and resolve to clean their tanks more often.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, February 15, 2008

Song to Smile About

I just LOVE this song. It's apparently part of the MacBook Air commercial, which I've never seen, so really have nothing to say about that. But with all the doggie emotional upset and sickness lately, I thought I'd post this fun little song to send us off on our weekend. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

And if you want to find out more about
"New Soul" by Yael Naim, just follow the link or visit her website.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Back to Normal

I've been redeemed. In the eyes of Keeta. I brought the puppy home - stupid human that I am. Apparently I forgot to bring her home yesterday. But I did bring her home today, so Keeta is talking to me again. And Penny is doing great. Things are back to normal. And I'm thankful for that.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In the Doghouse

Keeta isn't talking to me anymore. I'm in the bad doggie books. I'm a bad dog person. A horrible dog owner. I've created the cardinal sin of taking away her puppy and "forgetting" to bring her back.

It's official now. Penny has been hospitalized with pancreatitis. I felt so bad when I dropped her off at the vet this morning. You just can't look back. Derek, our wonderful vet, was encouraging her to come with him... I could see him just before I drove away. Penny was digging in all four of her heels, as if to say, "I'm not supposed to go with you... I need to go with her". But I was already gone, so with a little encouragement, she trotted on through the doors into the back with Derek. He's so good with her.

So today she was on IV fluids, and an IV antacid, off all food and water for a couple of days. Kristin, Derek's assistant, said she was doing really well, and even a little too energetic when she took her out to do her business (which apparently she opted out of doing any business, but she did take the opportunity to have some fun).

In so many ways Penny surprises me. She is so afraid of so much. But she takes this in stride.

The last time Penny had pancreatitis, she was quite seriously ill... but got through it. And since then, has been on a special diet, even limiting her toys - we are ever careful about her condition flaring up. Her only "treats" are her regular kibble that I play the game, "Rain of Cookies" - throwing it up into the air for her to catch and eat up as quickly as possible, whenever we leave the house without her. She's none the wiser and is okay with that. A little extra attention goes a long way.

Because of Penny's special rules, Keeta doesn't get any special things either. She does not miss the toys - she never really got the toy concept except to tease Penny with them - but she doesn't get special cookies, except when she gets to go to Petsmart with us. Such is the way life is around here.

This morning, Keeta knew something was different. Normally when I take Penny out front, Keeta whines and cries because she doesn't get to go first. But she saw me load our Pen into the car, and take her away. So naturally, when I came home, she fully expected me to bring Penny in with me. And I didn't. So she checked the front door... the front window... back to the front door. Obviously I had forgotten something... someone... perhaps I might consider going back out to get that something I forgot?!!

As I said, as it stands now, she's not talking to me. Yes, she accepted a scritch around the ears, a cookie, which around here is a major treat, and something that only happens when Penny isn't around to witness it.

I can't wait for our Penny to come home, and for life to return to normal.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, February 11, 2008

Penny At-A-Glance

This morning started off kind of rough. Penny, our youngest dog, now 2-1/2, has issues - many of them - and after a restless night, throwing up, now she' has some symptoms of her pancreatitis flaring up. Hopefully nothing more than a bit of doggie flu (I'm hopeful!) In a few minutes, we'll be on her way to the vet. She has a rather long story, and I'll go into more when I have more time, in an up-and-coming post.

A little about yesterday first, to let you see a little bit into Penny's life.

Yesterday morning there was a breach of doggie etiquette. Keeta, our Guide Dog, Herder of All, Protector, Penny's Adopted Mommy Dog had to protect us from Intruder Dog.

Intruder Dog decided to visit at the fence between the houses, and was told in no uncertain terms, "GET AWAY FROM MY FENCE" with lots of Big Noise and Bravado. But in addition to all her jobs, one should not underestimate her Enforcer role. And apparently this dog breached Keeta's rules about visiting Keeta's fence.

And right behind her was Penny - Keeta's "baby" and protege. Right after the Intruder Dog was collected by his owner, there was Penny, taking "control" of the situation, "Bark bark bark" (a WOOF would be too big a sound to describe Penny). And there she was, front and centre, dog and owner long gone... bark bark bark. Also, in her enthusiasm, she'll even reach the point of squeaking out her barks, almost losing her voice - which sounds kinda funny coming from a 30 pound dog!

More on Penny in a coming installment of Furballs in My Life. She's had a rough start in life, but she's sweet, and she's ours.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What did he say?

There was a lot of discussion in our household today. What appeared to each of us as totally different viewpoints, in the end, it became apparent that we were really talking about the same thing.

I do believe our brains work differently. Whether it is a male vs. female brain like the video below suggests, maybe it's a physiological difference, or maybe it's just the way two different individuals think, I'm not too sure. But this video demonstrates exactly what happened today, and has happened numerous times in the past.


Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Homework a Homewrecker!!??

I get to read the papers on the weekend. Both Larry and I read them together. The old-fashioned way. I could read online, but something not too cosy about sitting at the computer with the morning cup of coffee... but maybe that's just me. Sometimes there's not too much to read, and sometimes there's a lot - but this morning, it really got me going.

The headline is, Homework a Homewrecker: Report, and I read it thinking... they must be assigning lots and lots of homework these days. Stephanie is in Grade 12 now. She gets a lot of it sometimes, and I figure that's okay. She's going to college next year, and needs to learn to deal with it. Sometimes she has 3 hours or so, and sometimes she has none. I figure you gotta do what you gotta do.

This all-important article graced the first page, and was featured prominently, in the Toronto Star, with 2 innocent looking kids, looking properly forlorn.

Then I was struck with the realization... OMG!!! There are kids out there, mere children, with *gasp*, with an average of 40 minutes of homework per night! And imagine, some kids have less, and some even have more!! And it's wrecking homes everywhere!!

I love this quote from a parent, who shall remain nameless in this space, to protect the stupid:

Parent Jane Doe, a mother of two children, believes children need more unstructured time.

"I think the work should be completed in the classroom and then kids should be allowed to play," she said. "I think there's not enough of that any more. I personally don't recall having homework prior to high school," apart from projects in grades 6 and 8, she added. "We were out every night playing with our friends in the street."

Really? Life was like that? I don't recall having that kind of freedom... and I don't recall my parents ever saying that I should be allowed to play in the street instead of doing homework!

Okay, sarcasm intended... and I know it's not very flattering, but isn't school all about learning all kinds of stuff? Learning to catch up when you get behind? Learning that life isn't fair and you sometimes have to suck it up?

Now let's break this info down a bit - the article said that kids shouldn't have more than 10 minutes of homework for each grade - by my accounting, that would be 30 minutes for a typical 8-year-old, and 50 minutes for a typical 10-year-old.

Now, the 8-year-old in the article was complaining about her ... 30 minutes of homework, and the 10-year-old in the article was complaining about his 60 minutes of homework. Gee, he's doing 10 more minutes than some theory based on... I don't know what exactly...

And wrecking homelife? Homework is a marriage wrecker?! Seems to me that if your marriage is suffering because of your kids' 1 hour of homework, you've definitely got some work to do - adjustments to make - maybe create a workspace for the kids to get their homework done. Don't do the homework for them - teach and encourage them to try it for themselves first, and then ask you for help when they get stuck. Let them work through it. You won't be there to do the work for them when they are all grown up. Time for them to start learning now.

Maybe I'm getting old and crotchety (after all, only old people use the word, "crotchety"... but it is a good word!). Maybe I just don't understand. But I remember back in the old days, in the 60s, when I did homework, when kids did their homework, grumbling, and even putting it off until the last possible minute... has that changed?

I didn't need my parents over my shoulder every minute, and I still managed to graduate, didn't I? Sure, they were there to help if I needed it. But they didn't do it for me. Should they have? I don't think so, and I think I'm better for it. Could I say that my 1 or 2 hours of homework wrecked their marriage? Umm... I believe that they will be celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary this year, despite having survived their 3 children's homework woes.

Now don't get me wrong - despite what I've said, I don't think kids should have hours and hours of homework that takes over their lives. It should be all about achieving balance, and surely there's a nice balance out there, and we should reach for it.

There is so much more that I could say about this article, but I think I'll pass, and let you check it out yourself.

Contributed by Jamie Naesssens

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Have Mercy, Mercer

For those looking for some new material out there, with the writer's strike having affected new programming, and for those who can appreciate Jon Stewart, Rick Mercer is even better. And if you don't know Rick, he's a homegrown guy from Newfoundland. If you can appreciate the finest ironies in life, you'll come to love him too

A few things to note as you watch...

  1. I don't mean to offend anyone by posting this here, but this really is funny. Maybe learn a life lesson along the way - as we say and do ridiculous things, we can laugh at ourselves. And if we can't laugh at ourselves, well, that's just kinda sad, isn't it.
  2. Each segment is hysterical... really. If you don't get it, time to google it, get the facts, and watch it again.
  3. Watch closely - even though this is an older video, 2 elections ago, it's still timely - some of the same people and newsmakers are interviewed - Huckabee, Gore, and some Bush (should have served as a warning!) Some others were in the video that I should know, but don't.
  4. I admit quality lacks, but funny trumps quality every time.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Furballs in My Life - Part 1

The furballs - the namesakes for this blog - it's time to start introducing you to each of the furballs in my life.

Today meet Keeta...

Keeta - our guide dog. I say "our" because, even though I'm not blind, she is first just that - first and foremost - a guide dog in her work.

We picked her up from the SPCA. What a sweetheart! She was skinny, and black, and part border collie, part lab. We chose her her to be a companion to my husband's guide dog that he had at the time. But that guide dog ended up leaving the program, didn't work out - no fault of his - he just had better things to do than guide. So we got another guide dog, who was attacked by some ankle-biting rat dog from down the street, and couldn't continue working because he became afraid of just about everything.

So who stepped in? Keeta. We were waiting for a "real" guide dog from the school. A long time. Keeta stepped up to the plate. She came to us, not knowing how to walk on a leash, and today has become, according to Larry, my better half and husband, the Best Guide Dog Ever! She guides him around obstacles like cars parked over sidewalks, she knows that she needs to slow down over those icy parts, and the Border Collie in her herds him whenever she senses danger. Whenever there is some kind of danger - some piece of sidewalk that has been dug up, some trucks paving some piece of road - she just steps in his way, shoves him over, and for all intents and purposes, commands Larry to "Stay!"

When she comes home, her harness comes off, and she becomes her alter ego, the mom to our younger dog, who is now 2-years old - but in Keeta's eyes, a perpetual puppy - a baby to teach. Someone to teach, she "talks" to Penny, instructs her on the wisdom of doghood, and just tells her the way things are - in typical Border Collie style. It's my way. Period. No negotiations. Reminds me of my mom! God loves moms! Everyone loves Keeta.

Back to when we got her - we picked her up from the Humane Society. According to their story, she had been found by someone, apparently a runaway, and tied out in that person's yard. For months. Eventually they gave her up. When we got her, she was a skinny thing, with each vertibrae sticking out, and a large chemical burn on her side. It became obvious very quickly that she didn't even know how to walk on a leash. I walked her on a harness, just because she was too strong for me on a leash - a lot of pull in that 50 pound dog! She was pitch black. Now she has a patch of white where that burn was.

And now, even though she's only about 6 years old, she's greying ... there's a lot of responsibility when you have so many jobs! But she's got spunk! And we love her to bits.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Furballs for consideration

I didn't make these up, and you may have already seen some of them. But they make me laugh. After a few soap boxes in this space, it's about time for something like this.

Here are some of my favourite observations by comedian Steve Wright, who originally made them, and I'd like to take this space today to share some of my favourites.

1. Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.
2. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
3. Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.
4. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

The Truth
1. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
2. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
3. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
4. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
5. A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
6. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

1. Half the people you know are below average.
2. Ambition is a poor excuse for not being smart enough to be lazy.
3. I intend to live forever... so far, so good.
4. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
5. The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Universal" Health Un-care

You've seen the headlines... you've maybe even seen the quasi-documentary "Sicko"... but universal health care is a sham. At least where I live it is. Actually, it is a political hotbed being played by the "big boys and girls" in the governments, and the people trying to access the health care system are left out in the cold.

Real Life Story (Really!)

A friend and co-worker's mother has advanced dementia. She cannot turn over, feed herself, is incontinent and must be catheterized (and has complications, making it necessary to perform this procedure more than once per day). Believe it or not, she has been discharged from hospital.

She is now in a "holding" part of the hospital, waiting for a nursing home bed that doesn't exist in all of southern Ontario. The family has the privilege of paying $50 per day, and has come to care for her, finding her in dirty diapers, and unfed. Where is the staff? They are doing what they can. There's just not enough of them.

Life On Hold

What are they "holding" her for? They say it isn't appropriate for her to be hospitalized. Actually, one thing I said isn't exactly true. There are beds in a nearby facility. But she doesn't qualify because they are reserved for Alzheimer patients who need to be in "secure" areas. Because she cannot move on her own, she doesn't qualify. They won't even fill the beds temporarily, until they find her a more appropriate place to be.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot - her gerontologist isn't allowed to treat her anymore - after all, she's in the holding area. That area of the hospital requires different doctors. Apparently doctors from the "other side" cannot cross over.

Can the family put her someplace privately? Who can afford that? Can they hire private nurse's aides? First of all, because she is immobile, she requires 2 attendants. That's just way out of the ball park financially.

Besides the nursing home beds are private anyway. And taken, as mentioned above. Take a number please...

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Canadians not allowed

I'm going to start off on top of a soap box ... I have recently become a Grey's Anatomy junkie. Yes, maybe I'm a little behind the times here... but I've seriously been catching up. I've been dutifully dropping into the local video store... and now that I'm almost caught up, only to catch up on this season... not yet available in the trusted video store.

Wait?! You might suggest at this point, what's the problem?! It's online!

Well, apparently not to Canadians. Not that I can find.

Even the new eps at ABC are restricted to millions of people in the U.S., anybody at all with a computer, but not to a Canadian... why? Licensing.

Now, we can watch this on TV, PVR it, rent it, we can see it on satellite TV, cable TV, and even good old fashioned over air via Bush TV (well, I can't, but others could). But should you need to find something that might be a little older? Forget it.

Anyway, I visited ABC, was told that I could download the player, and even got to see a commercial. But then blackness, and the dreaded...

"Only viewers in the United States can watch these full-length episodes."

It's licensing. A well known and long time problem, that has still not been resolved by the powers that be. Although they'd be happy to sell me Season 4 ... when it becomes available.

Addiction sucks. And they wonder why people try to access things illegally? (not that I'd do that, of course... well, maybe...)

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thank you for visiting Flying Furballs

One may care little about why I created Flying Furballs, and why I'm joining hordes of people who are also sharing their bits and pieces of themselves in blogs. I guess the only answer here is, "Why not?!"

What is Flying Furballs supposed to be? It is to be a collection of my ramblings. Sometimes I might have a mighty soapbox to climb... and to fall from. Sometimes I might have a diatribe of a social nature. Or just a random thought shared for the purpose of... well... who knows - maybe just to get it off my chest.

I welcome you to visit and comment whenever you like. I believe that sharing viewpoints is a way to grow as people, and ultimately as a society.

Jamie Naessens