Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wet Dog Walking

On the way back from our Meadow Park stroll this evening, Jackson and I got caught in a downpour. Ten minutes of hard rain. The first few weeks that we had Jackson, there was very little rain in Richmond, so this was the first time that I got to see his reaction.

Which was pretty much nothing. He took it in stride, literally. He was maybe a little less interested in checking out all the trees, and he seemed to want to get home. But he wasn't agitated. (Fortunately, this wasn't a thunderstorm - thunder and lightning are a whole other story. He freaks out big-time.)

Normally, Jackson pants for quite a while after a walk; tonight, he didn't pant at all. The cool rain was the difference. We're looking forward to some great walks in the fall.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What's In A Server Name?

In the beginning, the admins named the servers. So the servers got geek-culture names like gandalf and sauron, or enterprise and voyager. And it worked pretty well. People remembered the names, and they remembered that gandalf was the development box, and sauron was the production Oracle database.

Then some suit decided that the geek-culture names were unprofessional (whatever that means), so IT management stepped in. They came up with server naming conventions that embedded all sorts of useful information: data center, run-time environment, software configuration, server number, etc. And out came monstrous server names like NYCP3STDZ09. Which is a challenge to say out loud, and hard to remember, and doesn't connote much of anything unless you know the original conventions. Which hardly anyone does after a few years of turnover.

And NYCP3STDZ09 is a hard name to get right in a phone call, and an easy name to mistype in an email, and that's just so much extra fun in the middle of a production problem.

Meanwhile, sauron comes across clearly in phone calls and emails, even when you're frazzled because your boss's boss's boss wants to know when the fuck the system will be back up, even when your data center is offshore and your admin's accent is very different from yours, and you're on a conference call that sounds like a cell phone in a hurricane. It's a great server name when people need to communicate.

But it's unprofessional, and disorderly, and doesn't tell us anything about the server's role in the organization. So we have a winner: NYCP3STDZ09. Just be careful what you type. Don't want to get the wrong box rebooted again!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tough Guy

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The fuck you lookin at?

Cash For Chuckleheads

I really don't like the "Cash For Clunkers" program.

First, the supposed environmental benefits are "middling" at best. There are far more effective ways to use tax dollars to save the planet.

Then there's the moral hazard. The most common trade-ins include Ford Explorers and Chevy Blazers. Why should we reward people who made lousy mileage decisions? We should be letting the free market punish those decisions. I'd much rather reward the guy whose '95 Civic is still going strong.

Finally, the economic stimulus. Short-term stimulus for car makers and dealers, yes. Woohoo! But what happens six months from now? Remember employee pricing, the superstar of 2005? Remember what happened a year later, when there was no more demand in the pipeline? Remember the bankruptcies of 2008? A taxpayer-funded price cut isn't a rescue plan, it's a leaky life preserver in the middle of a big ocean.

So this is one of those odd moments where I find myself in agreement with immoderate Republicans like Jim DeMint. "Cash For Clunkers" gives Joe Taxpayer a piece of bail-out pie, so it's enormously popular. But that doesn't make it good policy. It's as misguided as the huge Wall Street bail-outs.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poop Aesthetics

Greyhound poop tends towards the inchoate. But we've been mixing pumpkin into Jackson's kibble, and there are occasional triumphs: Stacy described his first poop this morning as a "beautiful big pile of shit." We are so proud. (Sorry, no photo. Maybe next time.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Road Trip

We have one car, an Accord, and our first few trips with Jackson were harrowing. I drove, Stacy sat in back with Jackson, and he stood on the backseat. That left him extremely vulnerable if we stopped short or turned hard, and made it pretty much impossible for me to see anything behind us. Stacy tried all manner of treats and cajoling, but Jackson stood tall.

We took a trip to Barker Field dog park yesterday, and we had a breakthrough. It was simple, in retrospect: Stacy sat on the middle of the rear seat instead of the end. That backed Jackson into the corner. At first, he stood anyway, like a four-legged danseur en pointe. But as soon as the car started moving, he decided that he didn't have enough room to stand, and he sat down. That got him a treat. A minute later, he lay down, head in Stacy's lap. Another treat, and a safe trip to the dog park.

On the way home, he lay down almost immediately. Woohoo!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Born To Run

We took Jackson to the Hanover Dog Park yesterday. It was a playdate: our friend Debbie brought her brindle, Brady. And, of course, we wanted to see Jackson run.

He obliged, a bit. We half-expected him to take off like a Tom Seaver fastball as soon as we unhooked the leash. Didn't happen. We had the dog park to ourselves for a good half-hour. Jackson explored a lot, loping around at a leisurely pace. He ran when Debbie threw a tennis ball, and Brady chased it, and he chased Brady. And, when some pugs showed up, he ran with, or after, them. But he didn't seem to have any compelling urge to run, run, run for the joy of it.

Which is a relief to us. We have a postage-stamp backyard, so Jackson isn't getting a chance to run. Now we really believe that long walks are plenty of exercise, and he doesn't need to run. We knew that from the literature, but we had to see it.

The arrival of the pugs gave me a chance to try out our #1503 Scotch Predator Call. The "distress cries of a rabbit" are pure sonic crack for greyhounds. For me, it's like a remote control. Jackson immediately comes, at high speed, and he turns damn near feral: he wants to kill whatever is making that sound. It came in handy when he was bearing down on the pugs like a cruise missile.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back On The Gravy Train

We put out the standard Kirkland kibble au jus this morning, and Jackson pretty much ignored it. A few bites. But we hung tough - no yogurt, and we dumped the nearly-full bowl after half an hour.

This evening, same food, and he inhaled it in about ten minutes. He paused a few times to look at us, to see if something wonderful might happen. But, when it didn't, back to the bowl.

Mommy and daddy are much happier now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jackson 1, Bob 0

Jackson had a good day. He met Stacy's brother Robert, and some other people, and nothing untoward happened. So we were optimistic when we put his dinner out. Costco kibble in water, dusted with psyllium: a classic. Yesterday, he was licking the bowl clean. Tonight, nothing. He approached it, then walked away.

Uh-oh. Two meals in a row, he wasn't eating right. We tried gentle persuasion. No go. On our side, mild panic.

Then I put a dollop of yogurt in the bowl, on top of his kibble. He ate most of the yogurt off the top, like a kid eating the icing off a cupcake. Then he walked away. Hmm. I swirled the remaining yogurt into the kibble. Better: he ate about 2/3 of the kibble. Hmm.

A little thinking, a little browsing, and we think we have the answer. Pieces of steak, spoonsful of yogurt - we were unwittingly training Jackson to expect better food. These treats were random, not tied to anything in particular. So, when the kibble appeared, he passed. Why not hold out for something better? Maybe it'll happen.

And, in a masterful counterstroke, he started training us: he stayed away from the kibble for a few minutes, and we added something tasty to it. I'm a quick learner: I learned to add yogurt after just two repetitions. Good boy, Bob!

Well, we're all over that scam now. No more fabulous treats till Jackson's back on the kibble. And we've learned something about training. From the trainee side, unfortunately, but still.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Trouble In Paradise?

Jackson ate just half his breakfast this morning. Very uncharacteristic. Every other meal, he's vacuumed up his food like a competitive eater at Nathan's on July 4th. Empty bowl in five minutes.

We gave him a couple of bites of steak last night. Maybe that threw him off, so we're going to stop that. On the plus side, his poops this morning were normal (where "normal" means somewhere between mousse and pudding.)

And his butt is raw from all the scratching he's been doing. He had fleas, so we started him on Frontline this past Friday, and we gave him a good workout with a flea comb last night. Not sure yet if he needs another trip to the vet. We're trying to walk that tightrope between overprotective and oblivious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Interviews 2.0

I've been doing some J2EE screening interviews for my company, over the phone. Some trends:
  • Candidates google as they go, so feature questions like What's the difference between a HashMap and a HashTable? have almost no value. All you're testing is how quickly and quietly the candidate can type.

  • Candidates have found a quasi-ethical way to embellish their resumes: describe a project in detail, but don't say which pieces you worked on. List every tool/technology used in the project, whether or not you were the one using it.

    Of course, this is pretty easy to blow apart. I've gotten some amusing explanations of Ajax from people who maybe used it once to clean a sink. Which brings us to...


  • Don't just ask people to explain a technology. Ask them how they've used it on a project. Any candidate who answers with an accurate general description of the technology probably hasn't used it much. A candidate who can tell you what he's done with the technology, the problems he ran into, how he worked around them - he's telling you the truth. Bonus points if he gets animated while he's talking about it.
Experience is hard to fake, even over the phone with a browser open.

Home Alone

We left Jackson alone for over two hours last night, with just a rawhide chew as company. No crate, no muzzle. No furniture assaults, no bathroom accidents. And two hours was enough time for us to catch a set of good music.

We had started alone training about a week ago, leaving Jackson alone for just five minutes. Gradually, we built up to an hour. Now we feel ready to spend the occasional evening out.

Of course, we're just at the ten-day point in this whole adoption thing. According to the literature, greyhounds can go through some dramatic personality changes over the first six months of adoption. So we may come home to an unpleasant surprise at some point. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Big Brush-Off

A good greyhound owner brushes his dog's teeth every day or two. So far, that's like asking me to defuse a bomb every day or two. It's a tad unnerving to invade the mouth of a hound who doesn't know you very well yet. Those teeth look real big up close.

So I'm nervous. Jackson knows that, and it makes him skittish. But we're making progress. For a couple of days, I did nothing more than hold his snout for a few seconds. Yesterday, I reached into his mouth and rubbed his teeth and gums. That got him a treat. Then I used a washcloth with some toothpaste on it to do a little brushing, followed by another treat. It's coming together.

(The greyhound folks gave us a toothpaste/toothbrush kit. The toothpaste is tasty, and no rinsing required. The brush has a long handle, so that you can get all the way up in the snout. But many people suggest using a cloth or gauze pad instead of the brush.)

BTW if you want to see greyhound toothbrushing done right check this out.

It's A Small Greyhound World

On our after-dinner walk tonight, we stopped at a local grocery store. I waited outside with Jackson while Stacy went in to shop.

Jackson is a stunning brindle, black and beige in a tiger-stripe pattern. He drew his usual crowd. People want to pet him, and that leads to questions about greyhounds and adoption. It's part of the fun.

Two women walking by were especially interested. "He looks like Chatter," one of them said. She stopped and petted Jackson. She asked me how long I'd had Jackson - a week, I said. Then she asked me what his name had been.

That confused me. Most people want to know his name now, but no one had ever asked about his racing name. That's ancient history. "Well, his name's Jackson," I said, "but he was JG Bacardi."

The two women stared at each other, stunned. "Chatter!" they shouted. Turns out we had bumped into Sarah, Jackson's first foster mom. He went straight from the track to her home. Two fosters later, he's with us for good. And, based on how well he's doing, Sarah did a great job at a critical time in his life.

She loved him up, and told us she would be happy to walk him for us anytime. She lives just three blocks away from us. We told her she can visit anytime, and we thanked her for the great job she did. Especially stairs - he's fearless, up and down like a mountain climber.

There are a couple of hundred thousand people in Richmond, and the surrounding counties bring the Richmond metro population to over a million. Jackson could have ended up anywhere in that crowd. Amazingly, he ended up three blocks from his first foster mom.