We will always remember our “Miss Magoo”

•August 9, 2011 • 1 Comment

click any image for an extended slideshow

Kate and I adopted Miss Magoo in January 2005 from Operation Kindness. She was a year old and had already been surrendered 3 times as “too loco”.  She earned permanent pack-member status within a week by finding and killing a rat that had been residing in our shed for nearly a year.  There was never a doubt Miss Magoo was a Jack Russell:  She was smart, self-assured, determined and tireless. Aside from thunder and fireworks, she was fearless.  While we loved these traits, we knew that meant she would likely never reach old age.

She did not wag her tail, instead it vibrated.  Her play was not for fun, it was her mission.  Constantly on patrol for varmints or even just the random flash of reflected light from a butter knife, or a passing car’s window.  When asked how many dogs we had, we would always say that Miss Magoo really counted as two dogs.  She helped several of our foster dogs overcome emotional problems and gain confidence; Miss Magoo was their Drill Sergent.  Her canine communication style was clear and concise; she was an expert politician.

Miss Magoo was an escape artist and would exploit every opportunity that presented itself.  It was she who taught us to put our cell phone numbers on all our dogs’ tags.  And we were called on many occasions: from neighbors who found her swimming in their pool, to grocery store managers who had lured her from exploring the store aisles into the business office.  This trait would prove to be her undoing.  Recently, one of our foster dogs had scratched at the soil near our fence.  While the foster quickly lost interest, Miss Magoo began working on the spot.  We repeatedly filled and blocked the spot.  But she persisted for days, even chewing away wood at the bottom.  Miss Magoo managed to gain freedom Sunday evening while we were out for a couple hours.

Upon our return, an Animal Control Officer was in front of our house, and was calling my cell phone. The officer said she had been hit by a car shortly before and needed emergency medical attention.  Miss Magoo was conscious and standing, with one leg raised because it was broken.  However, she had massive head injuries: blown eye, half of her face torn open & lots of blood. Any further description would be too sickening to describe or read.  We immediately went to North Texas Emergency Pet Clinic, 5 miles away.  Kate drove like  she was in NASCAR as I held Miss Magoo who was panting heavily and very stressed.  But she remained alert the whole time.  I am glad she was able to spend those few minutes with me; I think it gave her some comfort and familiarity from the ordeal she had just endured.  Within a minute of arrival at the animal ER, the staff had her on heavy IV pain meds and the Veterinarian did his preliminary exam.  While he did not know for certain if there was any brain or skull damage, it was clear that the amount of tissue and nerve damage was severe.   Any recovery of those wounds alone would be long and full of complications and never complete.  While Miss Magoo may have had the spirit to fight on, we knew her patience and happiness would not have endured.  Furthermore, the possibility of fatal complications weeks or months later was significant. We felt it best to spare her that suffering.  She was euthanized peacefully a few minutes later.  Her remains were handled by Toothacres in Carrollton.

Her absence is deafening, as she was a powerful force in our household.  We will always remember the “Jack Russell Terror” as a member of our pack.

We miss you Miss Magoo!



Every Driver Should “Drive Right, Pass Left”

•March 2, 2010 • Comments Off on Every Driver Should “Drive Right, Pass Left”

(…but those who won’t read this are probably those who most should…)

This past Sunday, I had a brush with death… ok, not really but it could have been.   Headed up the Dallas North Tollway (known here also as the ‘Dallas Autobahn’) traffic was on the heavier side of normal for a Sunday afternoon.  The highway has 3 lanes going each way, and the posted limit is 65.   So I’m shooting up there about 65 in the left lane and notice I’m gaining on the car ahead of me, but a truck behind me is gaining on me.  I need to move right to let the faster truck pass.  Immediately to my right is a car going slightly slower than me, and many cars back, I see a BMW making lane changes like crazy.   I need to speed up a tad (closing the distance between me and the car ahead of me) so that I can move right, in front of that car next to me.   As I’m making the lane change, the BMW has come up the right-most lane and is trying to change lanes into the same middle lane I was moving into.  The BMW was threading the needle between me and the car ahead of him in the right most lane.  I kind of expected that, and wasn’t surprised, but I had to back off the throttle to let him pass ahead of me.  (If you were the driver I’d just gotten in front of in the middle lane, please accept my apologies).

This incident struck me as wrong in so many ways: the driver of a German car on an “autobahn” doesn’t observe one of the main tenets of good driving:  PASS LEFT. But then again, I realize that the vast majority of other drivers do not observe the other side of that equation: SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT.

Here in Texas, its normal to see signs on rural highways that say “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT“.  That implies that if someone is going faster than you, you should move right.  Someone told me they thought it meant “you are not allowed to go faster in the right lane than drivers in the left lane”.  This is simply not so.  Your High School English teacher would point on that the “object” of that phrase is SLOWER traffic; the phrase has absolutely no bearing on raccoons, UFO’s or faster traffic.

In some counties they have signs instead that say “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY” which is even more clear:  use the left lane to pass vehicles, and move right as soon as you can.   Most of the time, these signs are ignored, but it appears they are heeded enough that the highway department doesn’t have to resurface the left lanes as often. If every driver observed these rules, traffic would flow better, we would save  fuel, and have less road-rage. As taxpayers, maybe we wouldn’t need to fund as many road-building projects.

In Sunday’s incident, I was abiding by the law.  The driver ahead of me was at least being rude, and the BMW operator was flat wrong in several ways.  Texas statute §545.061 explicitly says: “an operator entering a lane of traffic from a lane to the right shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle entering the same lane of traffic from a lane to the left.

This is a very important point and it perfectly reinforces the nearly universal “Drive Right, Pass Left” rule.  So, in a perfect world where everyone observed these rules, there are two main take-aways :

  • If you are moving into a lane on your left: a) go behind the car next to you and b) speed up so that cars behind you will not hit you.
  • If you are moving into a lane on your right: a) go in front of the car next to you and b) be prepared to slow down for traffic ahead of you.

Furthermore, consider the following scenarios you may face:

  • If a car is moving into your lane from the left, don’t get all offended and stuff if they go ahead of you.  They’re doing the right thing!
  • If a car behind you is closing the distance, move right, and let them pass.  If they are tailgating or flashing their lights at you, perhaps they believe you are not paying attention.
  • Oh, and don’t get all self-righteous about speed limits.  If the other driver wishes to break the law (or just be rude), that doesn’t give you the right to do the same.  Don’t be a vigilante – let Law Enforcement enforce the law.
  • If a driver is able to safely pass you on the right, take that as a hint you probably should have been in the right lane to begin with.

Sometimes, looking at a problem from a different angle allows one to better understand its nature. Let’s do that now:  Later that same Sunday, and again on Monday evening I observed a truly foolhardy driving behavior – one on the freeway and another on a major surface street.  The drivers wanted to move into a lane on their right. Rather than speeding up and going in front of the traffic next to them, they slowed to a crawl, and one driver actually STOPPED to allow traffic on their right to pass before they moved over. Honestly, how stupid do you have to be?  One must ask “Why were they in the left lane to begin with?”  “Were they about to miss an exit or turn, and chose to endanger themselves and others rather than keep going, safely exit later and double back?”   And it won’t take a rocket-scientist to predict what drivers behind them did:  they changed lanes right, to avoid hitting them, or getting hit themselves, and passed them on the right!  So, these two nitwits flubbed the entire system, created a significant impediment to traffic flow,  probably made people mad, and endangered the safety of many.

We can probably all agree it would be a ‘Death-Wish’ to park in the left lane of a high speed roadway.  So, choosing not to move right when faster vehicles are overtaking could be considered an “Injury-Desire”.


For further understanding, I refer you to several websites:

Twitter Account Password

•February 17, 2010 • Comments Off on Twitter Account Password

So, apparently the folks at Twitter had to invalidate my password.  Their canned email to me mentioned something about phishing and other scams that seek to increase my follower count.  I’m pretty vigilant about phishing, and I don’t want to artificially increase my follower count.  So, I don’t know what happened.  In any case, my account is back in good standing, and if you got something in twitter that purports to be from me, but seems out of character… well, then my apologies – it probably wasn’t me.   Go figure.  \/shrugs\/

al-Qa’ida really pisses me off!

•January 7, 2010 • Comments Off on al-Qa’ida really pisses me off!

I am still fuming about Umar Abdul M’Blahblah trying to blow up Northwest Flight #253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day!!!!

To recap, a Nigerian Muslim boarded a plane in Nigeria with a bomb sewn into his briefs, on a one-way ticket, paid for by cash, with no luggage.  The plane stopped in Amsterdam (where US Air Marshals are not allowed), and then flew to Detroit.  He tried to detonate the bomb on final approach (when passengers must turn off all their electronics).  It popped, caught on fire and the rest is history.

First, let me say that a certain “flying Dutchman” and a number of civilians and air crew did an excellent job thwarting the attack.  In the end, I really think its ordinary people like you and me who can ultimately prevail over this nonsense.

Yeah, it pisses me off that al-Qa’ida keeps trying to kill Americans.  But that’s just the tip of it.

It pisses me off that our government knew much about the bomber.  He was known to have been in direct contact with al-Qa’ida – and in particular, the same Yemeni “Imam” that the Fort Hood shooter had correspondence with.

I’m pissed that our Director of Homeland Security claimed “the system worked”.  This is the same woman who warned that patriotic Americans should be suspected as terrorists, and tried to replace the word ‘terrorism’ with ‘man-made disaster’… and she still has her job!

I’m pissed that they are now talking about doing full body scan’s of “Granny Smith” flying from LAX to DFW, or banning little Timmy Bradshaw from having his comic book on his lap for the last hour of the flight.  And I’m almost as pissed that many Americans seem to think this is “OK” — those folks clearly do not understand the facts!  I’m still pissed at Richard Reid too – thanks to him, I have to take my shoes off at airports.

I am pissed that Umar Faruk Abdul-whatever is going to be tried in a civilian criminal court.  He should be sitting in some military BRIG or, better yet, a POW camp.  He is an enemy soldier who invaded America and carried out an attack.  Furthermore, since he wasn’t in uniform, and attacked civilians, he should face a court-martial (aka “Military Tribunal”) for violations of the Geneva Conventions (i.e. War Crimes), and ultimately hanged!

As bizarre as this sounds, civilized nations do expect their enemies to execute any war they declare in a civilized manner.  U.S. Taxpayers could get off much cheaper if we simply carpet-bombed large areas, inflicting many civilian casualties.  But we have the technology to prevent this, and pay extra to do so.  We hold our soldiers to a standard – ‘rules of engagement’ to minimize civilian casualties. Those who have declared war on the United States (and the West in general) in recent decades, target civilians.

It is time for our government to stop being unwitting tools of our enemies.  It is time to let those of us who bleed stars & stripes be a part of the solution, and not treated as suspects. It is time to cease the politically-correct B.S. and prosecute, to victory, this war against those who’ve declared it upon us.

[I feel much better now, getting that off my chest. Thanks for indulging.]

Paper or Plastic? Grocery store delimma

•November 5, 2009 • Comments Off on Paper or Plastic? Grocery store delimma

Yeah yeah, I know its the vogue thing nowadays to buy some reusable tote bag for your groceries, but what if you make an impromptu stop at the grocery store, but your totes are at home?  And honestly, do you want your apples going into the same bag that last week’s chicken dribbled salmonella into?

The answer is simple – even if they do not ask:  Demand PAPER!

I do, and here is why:

  • My city has curbside recycling.  They’ll take any form of paper, and some forms of plastic, but NOT plastic grocery bags.  So just toss those paper grocery bags into your recycle bin.  What could be easier?
  • Paper bags compost surprisingly well.  Put your compostable kitchen scraps into a paper bag to transport out to the compost bin, and just toss the whole bundle in.  (You DO have a compost bin, right?  Watch for future blog post about that.)
  • Paper bags make great firestarter for your fireplace, chimenia, firepit or grill.  Plastic, notsomuch.
  • Which are you more likely to see blowing around town, or stuck high up in trees?  Paper bags or plastic bags?  Either way, which is potentially more harmful to wildlife and plant growth?  (hint: see composting above)
  • Paper bags are made from a renewable domestic resource.  Plastic bags come from a finite and usually foreign resource.  Until cars run on paper bags, maybe we should reserve those few remaining T-Rex heads for that, and not waste them on toting groceries.
  • For reasons unknown, paper bags rarely end up with just one item in them.  Conversely, its quite common to arrive home with plastic bags containing one item.  What a waste!

The only “problem” with paper bags is that the skill & thought going into bagging groceries is lost on the current generation of clerks.  In the era of plastic bags, they just toss stuff randomly into whatever receptacle you request. So be prepared to pack your order yourself: build an organized foundation, fragile and light things on top.

Many cities are banning plastic bags, and lots of stores are doing away with them.  It’s no surprise why!

Oh, and one final thought:  If the product comes with its own handle (milk jugs, detergent boxes, etc), just skip bagging altogether.  It’ll save resources and probably be easier to carry anyway.

“Twitter Lists” & followee management

•October 29, 2009 • Comments Off on “Twitter Lists” & followee management

Rumor has it that Twitter is doing a slow-roll deployment of a new feature they call ‘Twitter Lists’.  This may address what I believe to be Twitter’s biggest shortcoming.  Management of your “following” list – the people you ‘follow’, which I’ll call “followees” – is weak at best.   Sure, some twitter clients (e.g. TweetDeck and Seesmic) allow you to group your followees, but they are pretty clunky.  And I’ve yet to find a client that lists “orphaned” followees: those which you’ve not put into any group at all. Other clients like Twalala and Brizzly allow you to MUTE individual followees; about as precise as a sledgehammer (but some jobs do call for a sledgehammer).

Since I’ve not seen the new ‘Twitter Lists’ feature, I don’t know how useful it will be, but here’s how I envision management of followees… one word “TAGs”:

Let’s say you have hundreds of followees: some are newsies, some are US Senators (from your state and elsewhere), others are your own personal friends (from your town, and from far away).  You might ‘tag’ followees like this:

  • MySenator = politics, local
  • NextDoorNeighbor = friend, local
  • SenatorFromOtherState = politics
  • FoxNews = news
  • MyTownNewspaper = news, local
  • FriendFromAnotherTown = friend

With your followers set up like that, you could (if a client supports it) create groups based on the tags, and focus on only the things you are really in the mood for at any given moment.  You might set a group of “friends” as highest priority, and tweets from FriendFromAnotherTown & NextDoorNeighbor show up.  Or maybe you are in a mood to only deal with local stuff, so a group for that tag would display tweets from MyTownNewspaper, NextDoorNeighbor & MySenator.

Of course, it would be essential to quickly list every followee that has no tag at all, so that you could find anybody you’ve accidentally missed.

If you wanted to get really sexy, it might be neat to be able to direct message everyone with a particular tag,…. like say you want to DM everyone with a ‘friends’ tag.

Well, you get the idea.  I’m looking forward to ‘Twitter Lists’, whatever incarnation they might take.


I’m a Conservationist, not a treehugger

•October 29, 2009 • Comments Off on I’m a Conservationist, not a treehugger

Don’t get me wrong. I love trees (and grass, and water, and animals), but I’m not a radical eco-greenie nutjob. You know, the folks who say you shouldn’t have a dog because its ‘carbon footprint’ (pawprint?) is bigger than an SUV’s. Many of those folks are very arrogant in their belief that mankind can “destroy the earth”. The planet was here long before humans and endured periods of “global warming”, and “global ice ages” long before mankind was around. We may destroy the human species, but the planet will cope just fine without us.  Sure, human impact on the environment can be devastating, but to whom exactly?

No, I’m a conservationist. I believe the earth provides humankind with many essential resources, but that we are stewards of the land. It is not our responsibility to “save the earth”. Personally, I’d much rather ‘save the humans’. That implies that it’s our moral and ethical responsibility to leave a planet to future generations that can provide for them as it has for us. To me, that means take what you need from the land, but do so wisely and thoughtfully.

Native American culture held that if you kill an animal, you should make as much use of its parts as you can: eat it, use the hide for clothing and shelter, antlers and sinew for tools. To do otherwise is disrespectful, selfish and short-sighted.

In coming blog posts, I’ll be offering easy real-world ideas for making better use of our resources. I’ll also be discussing some thoughts on what motivates the radical eco-nut.