Saturday, May 24, 2008

Guest dog-blogging: My wife

My wife, ever in search of information concerning pet-ownership, has been reading forums about the breed of dog we just got: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The original question was from a prospective dog-owner about dog-smell and the discussion quickly degenerated into a harangue about how the questioner should not get any dog. This prompted my wife to do what she hardly ever does--post a comment of her own.

It seemed to have an impact: The thread became much more positive from that point on. The posting didn't exactly "change the face of Arrakis", but she did shift the course of a discussion thread in a positive way.

And now to "V's" say...

Wow this thread has really gone from a simple question to a deep exploration of whether Petcrazyme should even own a dog. To answer the simple question as a smell-sensitive clean freak, I believe all dogs have some smell to them but their owners get used to it! If I may be so bold as to put in my two cents on the other subject of this thread, I'd like to offer a different perspective of owning a cavalier as a person who has never been a dog person. Perhaps I'm an exception so please take it for what it is - just one person's experience. I grew up never owning pets. In fact I was always afraid of dogs! My parents didn't like animals and my mother made Martha Stewart look like a slob. Now at the age of 40 and having three daughters, I felt that having a pet would be beneficial to them. Perhaps I also had a vague sense of desiring a fourth child, or maybe midlife crisis, I don't know. For whatever reasons, I decided I wanted a dog really really badly. Just to give you some insight into the kind of person I am - I am very clean (weekly cleaning service), organized (a place for everything and everything in its place), everything I do is well planned and spontaneity makes me uncomfortable, my husband thinks I'm obsessive but I think I just care, I enjoy peace and quiet, and I run a tight ship here at home. My job in software quality assurance is perfect for me. I did a lot of research on the internet and read many books about different dog breeds. I searched Petfinders daily because I wanted a young adult that was past the bothersome puppy stage. I talked to friends with dogs, people at the vet office, dog rescue workers, and breeders. After all of this research, it became apparent that the CKCS was the ideal breed for our family and our lifestyle. I considered the shedding, the accidents, the obedience training, the costs and felt that I could handle it. Since rescue Cavaliers are very rare around here, we decided to look for a puppy. We found a breeder nearby with pups that were already 12 weeks old. By the time we actually brought Meenah home, she was 16 weeks old. The breeder had already started crate training and housebreaking. She was even paper trained and trained to go potty outside, which I was so happy about because I did not want to take her outside in the cold, rain, dark, etc. Everything seemed perfect! Before we picked her up, I continued reading and researching all I could on puppy care and training. Got her first vet visit scheduled, enrolled in puppy kg class, arranged for a private trainer to come to out house to get us started, purchased all the things I needed for her care and comfort. Took a few days off from work. It was all falling in place. I went to pick her up at the breeder's home with my kids. As soon as I knelt down to pet Meenah, I could feel a warm wetness on my leg where she was leaning against me. She peed on me! Of all the things I had prepared myself for - the housebreaking, the shedding, the nippiness and jumping, possible health issues down the road, the fact that they have anal glands that need to be expressed every so often - I had never considered submissive urination! The breeder assured me that she had never done anything like this before and it was probably just from excitement, not uncommon with pups. Even though warning flags went up in my mind and I thought I should walk away right now, I didn't. My kids were all there. The check had already been handed over to the breeder. I thought there was no going back. I was very disheartened by the submissive urination but it seemed pretty much gone within the first week, at least with us. Since then it has cropped up when we've scolded her too harshly or been too insistent that she bend to our will. Also it has happened when she has been petted on the head by intimidating people. So we've learned that she is sensitive, should be handled softly, that we should have her pee before anyone comes over, and to have people ignore her at first and then later squat down or sit down and pet her on the chest. She has really really improved as we continue to work with her and build her confidence. The vet just called me (she is in for her spay today) and said she is definitely shy but hadn't piddled at all! I think that's huge. I was also very disappointed to discover that she was not papertrained at all as the breeder had told me. She tore up the papers, chewed on potty pads, and went potty wherever she wanted on my floor. After a few days of this, we broke down and started taking her outside every two hours and crating her. That worked out infinitely better. She now goes pee on command (we are working on a command for pooping), goes to the door when she wants to go out, and hasn't had an accident in the house in 5 weeks (knock on wood). We have learned her potty habits and recognize her signs. She isn't even 6 months old yet. Not too shabby. My Meenah has slept through the night from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am without a peep from the third day we've had her home. She does not nip, does not chew on anything but her toys, responds to uh-uh if she is doing something she shouldn't, obeys commands, grooms herself, allows me to groom her, and is so sweet and loving that I sometimes feel my heart will burst open. So I've made some adjustments for this little creature. I don't mind her hair on my clothes, but I do put a throw on the sofa before I let her onto it. I have gotten used to her slight doggy smell, but I bathe her every one to two weeks and use puppy wipes on her daily. I have learned to live with floors that are slightly more dirty than they were before. But she has learned that when she comes inside, she must lay on the towel near the door and allow me to wipe her feet and privates with puppy wipes. It is all routine to her now. To dog people, I know this sounds bizarre but she and I have learned to live with each other and we love each other! We go on our daily walkies, we play in the backyard, we practice our obedience training and are working on a couple fun tricks, we snuggle a lot, she gets all sorts of toys and treats, and I believe she has quite a comfortable life with us. She has taught me to relax and to see that things don't have to be perfect all the time. I think I sometimes forget that she is a dog because she is just melding into our family so well. The breeder can't believe how well we are doing with each other and I get comments all the time about how sweet Meenah is. Can a person who is seemingly not a dog person own a Cavalier? You betcha. Do I sometimes feel like braining her? Yeah sure but those feeling are fleeting and I'm sure shared by just about every dog owner! After two months with her, I can't remember how I used to spend the time that I now spend with her. She has to stay overnight at the animal hospital tonight and I miss her terribly. By the way, I still don't care for dogs. I just love mine to bits.

Meenah on the mend

My wife and I went to the vet to pick-up Meenah this morning. (She had been there overnight to get fixed.) She whined a bit even after she saw us and we wondered how long before she would be herself again. The answer came quick: On the way out, we had to pass by the receptionist's desk and Meenah insisted on going over to greet her.

Surgery or not, she is compelled to get a little loving from everyone she sees. She is already well on the mend.

We do not want our coffee maker to face trial and be imprisoned

Here in maison Pecchia, we have a special term we use to refer to the Mr. Coffee being loaded with ground coffee and water: Charged.

As in, "honey, I charged the coffee maker- so let me know when you think it should be started".

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Technological innovation as a driver of new industries

It is easy to spot businesses which were only made possible by innovation. Take Netflix: This could never have been a successful business back in the days of VHS cassettes because the postage would have made it uneconomical. Or look at inexpensive high capacity hard drives. They made possible DVR's and iPod-type devices.

What is next? Lots of things, but one comes to mind: Vehicles which drive themselves. The technology is just about here, just look at the DARPA Urban Challenge. Six teams were able to complete the course.

In a rational world, where would we see the technology first used? I use the "rational world" phrase to mean that laws & regulations will have to change. It is hard to predict how fast--if ever, this will occur. This being said, the first places to use the technology would clearly be in cross-country trucking. Currently, drivers can only work for so many hours before taking prescribed resting periods. This has three inefficient results: 1. It delays the shipment. 2. Drivers are forced to spend their leisure time in truck-stops instead of at home. 3. The capital investment in the tractor-trailer rig is performing less work than it theoretically could. which is to say that a $100,000 truck will pay for itself more rapidly driving 24/7 than 40 hours/week. A trucking company could operate like the pony express (in reverse) and have drivers stationed at way points such that drivers swap-out and keep the truck moving. For all I know, some trucking companies do this very thing. (If not, this post constitutes prior-art for patient purposes)

Even if the electronics, sensors and computer power doubled the cost of a truck, it would still be a good investment. One such equipped truck could put in four times the miles per week and of course, there would be no driver to pay.

There are other benefits besides lower-cost shipping. Oh yes, the first movers would make a killing, but after that competition would just drive down shipping costs. This technology could also decrease fuel consumption. Sensors and computer process speed allow responses much faster than human reaction-times. If we combine special "convoy" lanes and wireless communication between trucks; vehicles could form train-like convoys where the throttle and brakes are centrally controlled (most probably by the lead truck). This would give the efficiency of a freight train without the logistic headaches of assembling trains at switching yards. It could be done on the fly and not all the trucks need have the same destination. Since they are not physically connected, any truck could leave a convoy or join one or drive alone as needed to reach its destination--and reach it exactly when scheduled.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Word Jury

The Atlantic Monthly has a feature called Word Fugitives which asks readers to come up with words which are needed but do not yet exist. They also have a usage feature called Word Court, where experts judge on grammar or word-usage disputes.

My need is slightly different: My wife and I have each come up with a word to describe her beloved Morning Star Sausage Patties.

She calls them "soysage" in honor of a primary ingredient and I call them "ersatzage" in honor of their being fake sausage. As a note; they are only fake in the sense that they (I have heard) taste like pork sausage but contain no meat.

So what I need is a jury to determine which word is best.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A really very stupid idea

There are people who think a great way to sequester carbon is to bury trees underground. Don't laugh! They are serious.

Here is a better idea: The United States generates more than half of our electricity through the use of coal-fired generators (lots of other countries do this too--yes, I am looking at you China--though in fairness, they are pursuing atomic power quite vigorously ). If we were to build atomic power plants to make our electricity, then we wouldn't have to burn as much coal. The real benefit is that the coal is already in the ground. We wouldn't have to go to the trouble of putting it there!

I am a big fan of the Molten Salt, Thorium cycle concept, but almost any design would have obvious advantages over planting trees; deep underground.

Here is another better idea: There is a lot of carbon in our trash. We mostly already put this stuff into landfills. What we need to do is slightly modify how we landfill to prevent decomposition, thus the carbon will remain sequestered. I think this would just involve burying trash deeper, so as to make an anaerobic environment for it. Given that we are already disposing of trash, it would be a lot cheaper to slightly modify our practices than it would be to grow trees, chop them down, transport them to a pit and then bury them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Run--Not quite to NH

My wife and eldest daughter had plans to be in Nashua (actually, just yards from the border in Tyngsboro, but close enough) from 11:00 - 2:00 today. I figured that I would jog up there and get a ride home. I didn't want to get there too soon since I would just be standing around waiting. As it was, I got sidetracked and left at about quarter of twelve. I ran out of time and got picked-up before reaching my destination. I made it about 10 miles and it would have been around 11 if I had enough time.

A little standup comedy

Taylor Mali

Green Roofing and Externalities

I had heard a story on the radio while driving to work last week on green roofing,

Green roofs will have a waterproof layer, then a layer of something for the roots to grab onto and which can adsorb moisture. Often Sedium species are planted since they are very drought resistant--don't want to water your roof!

There was a situation in Boston where a large retail outlet had considered the use of a green roof, but decided against it on the grounds that the added expense wasn't worth it. There are a few nice things about a green roof: Heating and cooling expenses are less--especially cooling in the Summer, but the largest benefits are not gained by the property owner. The roof stores and uses rainwater, so this decreases the need for storm runoff capacity. The roofs look better and provide some cooling to the local area, so these things are nice for neighbors.

I am normally fairly libertarian and want the government to do as little as possible, but this is a good example of something local communities would be smart to promote. How they do so is critical: If they just mandate it, then new construction will take place in nearby communities without expensive regulations. If they totally subsidise it, they will quickly go broke. What they need are incentives which are just large enough that much (not all) new construction will use this beneficial technology.

I think it is largely uncontroversial that governments at all levels use their authority to promote things that are socially beneficial and discourage those things which are harmful. This is a more gentle form of power than simply having some things forbidden and others required. Take marriage for example: It is a socially beneficial arrangement--it results (most of the time) in children, and provides a stable arrangement for raising them. That there is a whole legal structure around it,- promotes and encourages couples to participate in it. All well and good.

I think that the above should be the framework considered when looking at expanding the definition of marriage to include types other than one man and one woman arrangements. Quite frankly, arguments which rely on some aspect of "fairness" are simply irrelevant. The question should be; will society reap a net benefit from this change?

The purpose of this post is not to opine on the social benefits or lack thereof involved in changes to our marriage laws, only to frame the profitable areas of debate on the issue.