Friday, December 31, 2010

Yes , Virginia, Dirty Syringes on NJ Beaches Really Exist

I took this photo of a syringe I found on a NJ beach 10 years ago or so. My first thought was "I'll be damned. It really is true about NJ beaches just like the encyclopedia said!"

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

Late one evening one summer when I was visiting NC, I was sitting on the couch eating a sundae cone. Those are the cones with chocolate and nuts on top and have the inner side of the cone lined with chocolate. At the bottom of the cone is the best part of the cone, the chocolate nugget. I love those sundae cones.

Abby was sitting to my right and Andy to my left. Both of them were begging for what they rightly assumed was a treat. Being in a generous mood, I lowered the cone to their eye level to let them have some. They began licking the cone with their eyes pinched shut and in pure bliss. This went on for a minute or two. They were so cute, adorable and innocent. The scene belied what was to come.

Almost instantaneously, both of them opened their eyes and in tandem, both of them made an ugly face and began snapping at the other. I couldn’t believe my sweet babies would attack each other. I shouted them down before things got out of hand. Both of them retreated to opposite sides of the den. For the next hour, they sulked and acted like they were guilty, much the same way when they had used the bathroom in the house. I would console both of them to let them know everything was OK with them and that everything was all right.

There response to a fight starkly contrasted to how Father behaved after a fight. I had seen Father attack other dogs. Within moments after the flare-up, Father would be bopping along like nothing had happened and all was right with the world.

I learned to keep the babies at a safe distance from each other and to take control over a situation when I fed them. Food could be a contentious issue which I learned the hard way, even when two sweet labs are involved.

In the meantime, I finished my sundae cone and savored the last part.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Vet

The other day I had to pick up some pain pills for Andy. The tramadol supply went out so he needed more. He gets Deramaxx and tramadol for his arthritis pain. Those drugs work well in tandem. We could double down on the deramaxx but too much of it could hurt his GI tract and kidneys. In Abby's penultimate vet visit, her BUN and creatinine levels were high indicating her kidneys were going bad. We don't want to burden Andy's kidneys any more than we have to, but we need to effectively address his pain from arthritis. This drug tandem seems to work well.

So, I'm at the vet. The people are nice enough. The vets know me by name. They know I love my dogs and care for them and appreciate my love for my pets. Despite all that, I now hate going there. Everytime I go there, I think "this is the place Abby was put down." I know the place she was given her shot. I also know that one day, Andy too will have to face that moment. If I'm in school, I may not even be able to accompany him on his last trip. That day is coming and right soon. Maybe in months, hopefully a year and if I'm lucky, in two.

Andy has a check-up next Tuesday. The number of vet visits for him can probably be counted on one hand. This will be a routine visit. But at his age, I can't help but to think of what is coming.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Price of Love
Vet Bill Costs

That kind of cuteness made me weak.
This Yahoo article reminded me of how much I've spent on the babies healthcare in the last 14 years. I won't go into detail about the babies trips to the vet or their ailments here. Between Abby's tumor removals and ACL repair, Father's heartworm treatments and Andy's back surgery along with their regular exams, the vet bills have racked up to well over $20,000 for the babies.

For most of the surgeries, I didn't have to think too long before I gave the approval. However with the ACL and back surgery, I had to delve a little further to find out what the success rate was for those types of surgeries, how success was measured and what the recovery would involve.

Ultimately, I am glad they had those surgeries. The surgeries extended their lives and improved the quality of their lives. On the other hand, that $20k compounded with interest would come in real nicely right now!

A Mexican Stand-Off

One evening while I was in a condo I was renting in NJ, I heard the phone ring, picked it up and heard this “Grrrrrrr…grrrr.” After a half a minute, my mom got on the phone and asked ‘Did you hear that?’ “I did” I said, “Why is Abby growling?”

Abby had squirreled a bone away in one of her hiding places and thought Andy was too close to it. She thought Andy was trying to get her boney and was sending Andy a message. However, Andy had no clue what she was growling about. Since she was growling at him, he postured and snarled at her. On this episode, my mom happened to pick up the phone and let me listen in on it.

These stand-offs never resulted in any fights, but they were always funny to watch. The catalyst for these little tiffs was almost always some kind of bone or treat (tooties). Abby loved her treats. She also loved Andy’s treats and Father’s treats. She did all she could to gather all of the treats doled out. Sometimes she couldn’t eat them all at one time so she would hide them. Some she hid well, such as under tables and couches. Other times, she didn’t do a good job and kept them towards an out of the way place in the den. The den was where my mom and the babies hung out most of the time while inside.

Andy liked his treats but didn’t love them. He could be easily distracted from his treat and would drop it, walk off and forget all about his tootie. Abby would swoop in, grab the treat and add it to her stash. She was a fat baby but under the circumstances she could hustle.

These stand-offs were sparked when a dog came too close to the stash or even if one of the other dogs looked at her stash. Abby would flash her teeth and crinkle her nose up. The other dog would feel threatened and respond in kind to her. These stand-offs could go for several minutes at a time. One of them would stand-down by either leaving the room, or one of the people would chastise the babies or simply remove the tooties.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dog Pack

Abby Sniffing Phoebe
In the last summer I was in NJ, my cousin moved in with my mom for a few months. Her marriage had ended, and she needed to square up some things until she found a new place to live. She brought along with her two dogs, Phoebe and Gabby. Phoebe was a Saluki mix. She was fun to watch and had a rare combination of speed and endurance. She was probably the fastest dog I’ve seen other than the greyhounds at the dog-track. She could also hang with me on a 3mi run in the middle of summer without any ill effects from the heat. She was a sweet dog, but not very bright.

Gabby, on the other hand, had no redeeming qualities and was dumb, disruptive and destructive. She agitated the other dogs resulting in their snapping at her and flashing their teeth at her. Gabby also chewed on furniture and rugs. My cousin eventually moved to an apartment that didn’t take dogs so Phoebe and Gabby stayed behind.

I found that one dog is not enough. Unless one spends time with the dog almost all day, then the dog will become lonely and will need a second dog for companionship. Two dogs are just right. They keep each other company yet the dynamics between them doesn’t distract them from being pets and companions to the owner. With three dogs, things start to get a little complicated. The dogs start to jockey for position in the pack and continually challenge each other. Things are still manageable, but the dogs start to lose themselves in the pack and spend less time with the owner.

When we had five dogs, things were nuts. There was confusion everywhere. Andy and Phoebe were in competition for the bally in games of fetch. Abby kept trying to assert herself as the alpha. Often she would do this by humping the other dogs. It got to the point where she tried to hump my leg a few times. I had to give her a spank for that. Not a big spank, but just a little one.

Meanwhile, Gabby was running around snipping at the other dogs and causing a few fights to erupt. Normally Gabby could quell the fight by lying prone on her back completely submissive to whoever she was bothering.

Father reverted back to a state of confusion. He grew agitated and snipped and snarled at everything that moved his way. This situation was untenable. We had to thin the pack. We put an ad in the paper to give away Gabby. Thankfully, a retired couple adopted her. It would have been an assured death if we had dropped Gabby off at the animal shelter.

Our younger cousin took Phoebe in. I hated to see Phoebe go, and had I no dogs, she would have been a wonderful companion. She was sweet, loyal and athletic. She was a fun dog, but in this situation, she was not a good fit. I was able to see Phoebe from time to time. She took well at my cousin’s and grew to love her.

I have no idea what happened to Gabby after she was adopted. I couldn’t stand that little shit.

Hot Damn, It Snowed!

It's hard to believe that four months ago we were swimming in that pool in hundred degree weather.

All day long yesterday, the meteorologists were predicting snow. By 6pm, I was beginning to think that this was yet another false alarm. I've cynically thought that even if there were the slightest chance of snow that the weather forecasters would gin it up in the hopes of generating as much viewership as possible. They dole out those winter storm alerts to us the way a crack dealer gives out free samples to entice potential users. All they have to do is say 'snow' and we are hooked. We hunker down and start a 'weather vigil' changing channels from ABC, CBS, NBC, The Weather Channel and even News14 for the Carolinas. In between all that, we constantly glance out of the windows trying to glimpse the first flake.

By nightfall, I was irritated. These meteorologists were messing with my emotions. Greg Fishel kept telling us "This is for real. It will come. Trust me." I was like "whatever." That man especially has been known to cry wolf. He's from PA, loves snow and lets his hopes and wishes color his objectivity in his snow forecasts.

Low and behold, right before midnight, it started snowing. I guess in the strictest technical sense, we got a White Christmas! By noon today, we got about 9" in all. This storm was weird in that areas further east got a little more snow than us. I'm just happy we got what we did.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Alienation of Affection

My dad took this picture of Abby. She was begging for food.
By the time I moved to NJ, my dad had passed through his “period of troubles.” Even though my parents had divorced by then, my mom still kept in contact with him and would even invite him down for the holidays. My dad would accept these invitations. It was a chance for him to be with us, as a matter of fact, his only chance to be with his two sons.

I wasn’t thrilled about my dad being down. In his period of troubles, he hurt everyone in his family either emotionally or financially, including myself. I resented the way he acted and held a grudge against him especially considering that he never atoned or apologized for all the shit he did back in the 90’s. Needless to say, he wasn’t on my list of “My Most Favorite People.” I didn’t want to see him, but it was my mom’s house. It was her rodeo, so I wasn’t going to tell her what she could and couldn’t be doing.

My dad never did things like a normal person. He was eccentricity incarnate. When he visited my mom’s house, he would plop down on my mom’s couch in the den and spend almost the whole time there and would even sleep there much to my mom’s agitation. She spent much of her waking hours in the den. To put it simply, my dad would took over the den and screwed up my mom’s routine. She would stomp and pout to me about it but not say a damned word to my dad. All she had to do is tell him to sleep in a bedroom like a normal person, but she wouldn’t. I would be the one who had to hear her bitch about the situation.

So far, I haven’t said anything about the dogs. Abby was always attracted to food. She had honed her craft of begging to an art. Given how much my dad ate and how often, it was only a matter of time before Abby’s and my dad’s paths crossed. My dad loved dogs and always had one while growing up. I often had to hear how fucking wonderful his dogs were when he was a kid. I could barely retain the resentment because the dogs he got us were awful little shits that bit family members, killed kittens and tried to screw cats.

Anyway, my dad loved the attention Abby gave him and encouraged it by continually feeding her. She hung around him 24/7. I remember one trip during Thanksgiving when I was about to go to bed. Normally, Abby would go to bed with me. On this trip, Abby lifted her head and dropped it down on the chair she was sitting in when I asked her to go nighty. To say I felt resentment for my dad wouldn’t be strong enough. I let Abby stay there and went to sleep. A couple of days later when I had on my ‘traveling attire’, Abby looked startled that I was leaving. She hustled over to me, but it was too late. She had all weekend to spend with me but chose to stay with my dad.

Abby was my dog. I was the one who made her the angel, sweetheart she was. And here was my dad swooping in and stealing the affection of my babygirl. I didn’t like him and especially didn’t like him bribing my dog with food.

About six years later, I would be grateful that those two got along so well. Abby would eventually move in with me at my condo in Raleigh, but a few years after that, her ACL injury and arthritis limited her mobility and she had to move back in with my mom. She would no longer have me and Andy in her life, and given her inclination to depression, I worried that her spirit would be broken.

However, a few months after Abby moved back in, my dad’s health took a turn for the worse, and he too moved back in with my mom. Abby and my dad were both in the twilight of their lives. They also made great companions for each other. I didn’t have to worry about Abby being alone. Other than me and my mom, no one else loved Abby more than my dad.

Phone Calls in Class

Two of my classes were in the same classroom last semester. This room has a landline phone by the blackboard. I never knew it worked until halfway through the semester when it rang in the middle of my property lecture. At first our professor didn’t know that phone was ringing but instead thought it was one of the student’s cell phones. She grimaced a little and then plaintively bemoaned to the class “Come on guys, whose phone is that?” We all shrugged and looked at each other in bewilderment. A couple of rings later, we all realized it was that landline ringing.

Our professor walked over, picked up the phone and answered it. “Hello” she said. “No. I don’t know. No it isn’t. I’m sorry. Good bye.” All of this was said in a normal tone giving no indication to the person on the other side who she was and where she was at.

About a month later, the same thing happened in our civpro class. He handled it a bit more cooly. He calmly walked over, picked up the phone and answered it. “Hello… No it isn’t... I’m sorry… Ok... Good bye.” He picked up in the lecture right where he left off.

I’ve often wondered if the person on the other end realized who they were talking to, if they realized that 50 people were listening in on half of that conversation, or if they were calling a law school number.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Orange Cat

I never told the blogosphere about Orange Kitty. The Orange Kitty lives in a building diagonally from mine and across the street. The owner lets the cat roam free in the evening, and the cat will make her rounds around the apartment complex. On one evening, the cat crossed my path. She seemed friendly and looked well cared for. She is definitely not a stray. I looked at her collar and she has an ID tag which how I knew she lived where she does.

On the day we first met, she rubbed against me, let me pet her and then she ran up the stairs. I found it odd and even eerie she went straight to my door. Since I had moved in the apartment a few days before, it may have been possible that Dodo’s smell was still on me. Possibly the cat thought I had some friends with me, and she wanted to meet them.

When I made it to my door, she was standing right there. The moment I opened the door, she ran straight into my apartment. She didn’t even wait to be invited. She went through all the rooms. I worried about her going in my bedroom since I have a blow-up air mattress. The cat could have scratched a hole in the air mattress much like our cats in the 70’s scratched up our bean bags. I shooed the cat out of the bedroom, and she went into the kitchen. I gave her some turkey. She lapped it up readily and seemed to like it.

The cat wandered around the apartment a little. She didn’t like it when I tried to pick her up and put her in my lap. She didn’t like to be petted either. After a few minutes, I let her out and she went on her way. She visited me a couple of times more last semester. Sadly, that was the only pussy I had.

How Andy Got His Nicknames Pandy-Please-No and Pandy-Please

There is a scene in Spanglish that reminded me of Andy and how we got two of Andy’s nicknames: Pandy-Please-No & Pandy-Please. The wife was lecturing the maid about throwing the ball to the dog. Once someone starts playing fetch, the dog will want to keep going and going the wife said, so she said the maid shouldn’t start playing with him at all. While the wife was lecturing the maid, the wife had the ball in her hand waiving it around to emphasize her point. The dog stood behind the wife unbeknownst to her and kept moving in unison with the ball as the wife kept waiving it around, so too would Andy respond when he locked in on a ball.

He was relentless. He would beg for the person to throw the ball. After returning it, he would try to place it in the thrower’s hand. If that didn’t work, he would drop the ball in the person’s lap or chair. The cycle would repeat. One time I timed him doing this game. He went non-stop for 30 minutes, easily. He was indefatigable. The person throwing the ball always wore out and had to stop.

I know for me, my throwing shoulder would start to ache. This was the same shoulder I pulled out of joint during a race in a swim meet in my junior year in high school. It had never been the same since. To compensate for that injury when I threw, I’d throw side-armed or left-handed. Eventually, I would hide the ball. First, I acted like I threw it then quickly stuff it out of site. Andy would run where he thought the ball would be. He would sniff around for a few minutes and then come back to me and give me a quizzical look. He’d cock his head to the side beseeching me to help him.

I would plaintively say “Pandy, please. No.” I’d emphasize the ‘please’ and follow it up with a sharp ‘no.’ And that is how Pandy Please got his nicknames Pandy Please and Pandy Please No.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Take Me to the River

The Mighty Neuse! That slight turbulence is where Andy and I were swept down the river many yards.

One of my favorite trails in the Raleigh Greenway system is the Neuse River Trail. The trail has tamped down dirt on the surface which is good for the knees and feet. The trail affords quite a bit of isolation, and goes for about four miles along the Neuse River. Even if there are a couple of dozen users on the trail, the people are usually spread out quite a bit so one won’t be bumping into another every few seconds like on other trails.

However, the trail does have a few drawbacks. Even though the trail mostly goes through wooded areas, the trails width means that the trees give no shade on the trail itself. Also, since the trail abuts a river and quite a bit of marshy areas, the trail is usually quite humid, making the shadeless trail that much more hot. Lastly, there are no water fountains to be found. Should one find oneself parched and overheated, one could be shit out of luck. One time on an 8 mile run, I pushed myself harder than I should have and had the only bout of heat exhaustion in my time of running. I almost passed out. I staggered around a bit, kneeled down and regained my composure. It was a close call.

All in all, it’s a great trail!

On one trip down to NC while I was visiting from NJ, I wanted to take the babies for a trip to a new place for them. I took them to the Neuse River trail. There was a spot about a mile into the trail where we could quietly slip into the river and play a bit even though recreational swimming is forbidden by the park authorities. It would also give the babies a chance to cool off after a longish walk in the summer. I had to take precautions to ensure the babies wouldn’t overheat which they were prone to do in the summer.

When we made it to the spur that would take us to the river itself, I let the babies off leash. They followed me to the water and immediately walked into the river. They had a wonderful time. I even got in myself. The water was cool but not cold. I climbed out and walked on some boulders extending to the middle of the river. I went back in and Andy followed me. At the middle of the river was small trickle of water where the water contracted to squeeze through the boulders in the river. It didn’t seem like a big deal until I was caught up in the flow. I was immediately swept downstream 10 or 15 yards. Andy was pulled down the stream , too.

This is when the problem started. As he was taken further away from me and lost control, he started to panic. He turned upstream and tried to swim towards me. I could tell if he kept going, he would have exhausted himself and drowned. I couldn’t say ‘stop.’ I pointed with my right hand for him to go the bank of the river. Fortunately for me, Andy responds very well to hand signals. He would have made a great hunting dog. Andy took my guidance and swam to the bank out of danger.

Did I mention that my mom went on the trip with us? She was standing on a bridge overlooking this spur. She could tell Andy was startled and panicky. When Andy made it safely to the edge, my mom chewed me out. She used words like ‘god damnit’ and ‘you almost killed my baby boy’ and ‘you’re never taking the dogs here again.’

She had a point. I needlessly put the dogs in peril. Abby had gone in before Andy. Even though she was caught in the flow, she handled it with much more composure than Andy. Andy’s fear was palpable. Hell, in some ways I was in peril. The current was strong. Even though from the surface that small trickle looked harmless, it packed quite a bit of umph to it, and I used to be a competitive swimmer. My best bet to get out of the situation was to swim in a diagonal fashion towards the bank.

I had to learn again the hard way not to take a dog to a body of water that doesn’t have a beach area.


By the time Abby was four, she had taken on the air of the grand matriarch among the dogs. She was the leader and unquestionably the alpha. However, when Nikki came around, Abby reverted to her puppy ways. Abby deferred to Nikki and acknowledged Nikki’s status as her senior.

It was always funny to see how goofy Abby would act around Nikki. She would act frisky and try to entice Nikki into playing with her. Sometimes Nikki would but she did so begrudgingly. Nikki would whine a little and make teethies at her. Nikki was not mean to Abby, but it was her way of keeping Abby in her place.

As far as Father and Andy were concerned, Nikki couldn’t stand them. I think Andy was scared of her. Father’s feeling about Nikki was mutual—he hated her too. I was always worried they would get into a fight. They may have had a few stand-offs but I don’t think they had any full fledged fights.

Nikki didn’t mind playing with Abby, but she did so on her terms and not Abby’s.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Anchor of Stability

Abby had a stabilizing effect on Andy. When he first came to the house, Abby became a big sister or a mother to Andy. She guided him to the rules of the house. For example, her actions demonstrated to Andy when and where to use the bathroom, ‘how to ask’ to go to the bathroom, how to beg for food, and how to ask to go out to play. In the process, Abby shed her last traces of puppiness and took on the role of the matriarch of this new dog pack. She grew up quite a bit after we got Andy. Father, too, looked to Abby for guidance, but his behavior stemmed from naivety and willing subservience to her. Deep down, Father wanted to be in charge, but he was the one who came to our home, so he had to submit to our rules. Abby was the queen, and everyone knew it.

Abby’s protectiveness made it difficult to discipline Andy. As sweet as Andy was, he made mistakes and needed to be disciplined. Andy learned so quickly, and he did respond to negative reinforcement. However, giving Andy a spank could be impossible at times. Abby knew when I was mad and when a spank was imminent. Abby would sit on her haunches and lightly paw at my leg to distract me and prevent me from spanking Andy. This tactic worked well with Abby when she was a mischievous puppy so she used it to ward off spankings for Andy. Unfortunately, there were some bad habits of Andy that persisted well into his adult years because I never had a chance to teach him any better.

Andy, on the other hand, looked to Abby as his anchor of stability. Andy always had a lot of hang-ups. He was scared of many things. When he was scared, he withdrew into himself, shut down and tried to hide. He was scared often. He is a sweet dog, but his borderline neurosis meant I couldn’t play with him in a manner I did with Abby. I couldn’t tease or roughhouse Andy. Acts of aggression like this upset him. He viewed such aggressiveness as a challenge. He was no alpha dog, and wanted no part of any challenges.

When someone rang the doorbell or a strange sound entered the room, a normal dog such as Abby or Father would look to the door in the room or the window. Not Andy. He would jostle around in an agitated state and nervous state; he would look to Abby for direction. If she thought things were OK, then he would stand down and relax. I always thought it was cute he would look to Abby for guidance. Abby would always take charge, and Andy would faithfully follow. He needed her to assuage his fears. She was his anchor of stability.

The Day Andy Vanished From the Face of the Earth

A few days after the beach trip, I took the babies to a park in the west Raleigh area. The park was located at Lake Johnson and is part of the Raleigh Greenway system. The paved portion of the trail is about 2 miles or maybe more around the southern end of the lake. The unpaved portion is about a mile around the northern portion of the lake. Most of the park users stick around the paved trail portion. One added benefit of that particular trail is the number of co-eds running on the trail, since the NCSU campus is relatively close by.

On the day I took the babies to the park, the weather was mild and sunny. When I took the babies out of the car, no more than 2 minutes had passed when a woman about my age made conversation with me about Andy. Andy was so damned pretty and was an awesome chick magnet.

Other than the conversation I had in the parking lot and the weather, I didn’t remember much else about the trip except for the trauma that ensued about a mile into the trip. We stepped off the paved portion of the trail and got a little closer to the lake. Other park users had worn a footpath a few feet from the lakes edge. I led the babies along the trail. We went up a small hill and desecended on the other side. At the top of that little hill was about a four or five foot drop to the water surface.

What happened next burned an impression on my memory that will be hard to erase. I heard a “plunk” sound. I looked back and saw Abby standing there but Andy was gone. I looked in the water and saw no signs of him. There were no waves, ripples or bubbles. Nothing. The water in that lake is a dark almost inky black color. Something an inch below the surface would vanish from site.

I nearly panicked. I had to do something. My mom loved that dog. I mean really loved him. If he died, I was going to be in a shitload of trouble. I had to go get him. I took off my coat, put it on the ground, and removed my keys and wallet, placing them on my coat. Just as I took a step towards the water, Andy popped his head above the surface and bolted out of the lake. In those few seconds it took me to prepare myself for jumping in the lake, dozens of thoughts went through my head. What would I tell my mom? How would I tell her? Should I drop Abby off, gather my belongings and head straight to NJ? How far down should I go to find him? Would he suffer? My mom’s heart was going to be broken, then she would kill me.

Just as I took a step towards the lake to take the plunge, Andy’s head popped above the water, and he bolted out of the water. My baby boy made it through. He was strong and powerful when he surfaced. He must have been underwater for 10 seconds. In my mind, time seemed to stand still. I kneeled down and hugged him. Abby was happy, too. She was always attuned to my emotions. She could tell I was in a state of panic, so she was relieved everyone was back to normal.

I took hold of their leashes, immediately returned to the paved trail, and took that long walk back to the car. My t-shirt was soaked. The trip back was cold. Andy was safe. That was all that mattered. This wouldn’t be the last time I was negligent in my care of Andy. I should never have let him off his leash. I should have never walked so close to a part of the lake where there wasn’t a beach.

It would also not be his last brush with death.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Day at the Beach

In early March 2000, I took a week off and stayed in Raleigh for a mini-vacation. At that time of year, the difference in the weather in NC and NJ couldn’t be greater. Growing up in NC, I became spoiled by the early springs we enjoyed and came to take it for granted. Spring starts a few weeks before the ‘spring equinox’. However, our spring starts in early March, sometimes in February. Not in NJ. Some years, the state goes straight from winter to summer and skips over spring.

I remember how mild NC was that visit. Even though the temps were in the low 60’s, the place felt like Miami Beach compared to the tail-end of a NJ winter where temps barely budge past the freezing mark on some weeks. The temperature was so nice, my mom and I decided to take the babies for a beach trip. They had never been to the beach, so I was anxious to see how they’d respond when they first saw the ocean. I was also anxious to see how they would handle riding on a four hour round trip.

My mom and I took her PT Cruiser. I took the back seat out to make room for the babies. Abby and Andy eagerly clambered in and down I-40 we went. (Father stayed behind because he gets car sick easily.)This would only be the third or fourth trip to a NC beach in my life. When I was growing up, our beach trips were almost always to Myrtle Beach. As a matter of fact, I think I have been to more Florida Beaches than to any in NC. This would also be the first time I had traveled on I-40 east of I-95. When I was a kid, I-40 ended in Greensboro. Back then, a beach trip inside NC involved going down US-421 or US-64. Both highways winded through speed traps and one horse towns of no consequence in eastern NC.

I was surprised how fast we made it to the beach. Since it was early March, we had the beach to ourselves. We had no problems parking. Now came the moment of truth. I put the leashes on the babies, escorted them through the dunes, released them from their leashes and set them free. At first, they looked up at me for direction. I started jogging down the beach, and they started running after me. I know dogs don’t smile, but they almost seemed to be smiling. In their unfettered state, they were happy and unrestrained.

They loved the beach itself, but the next moment of truth would be how they handled the water. Here, they were a little restrained. I think they were skittish to get in either because the waves scared them or because I didn’t get in. Later, I found out the water was around 60 degrees, well above the temperatures we had to swim in at Lindley Pool when I was a competitive swimmer. I would have got in the water had I known how mild the ocean temperature was. That was a lost opportunity I still regret. The babies did walk around ankle-deep in the water. They were intrigued by it, and it wouldn’t have taken much to lure them in.

We spent the afternoon running around on the beach, playing fetch with a Frisbee and tennis ball, as well as playing tug-o-war with Abby. We jogged to a pier a half mile away and back. The babies were absolutely thrilled by our little jaunt. I also developed a mild sunburn, a farmer’s tan at that.

Eventually, the babies tired, and we had to call it a day. On the trip back, the babies slept soundly and peacefully all the way back to Raleigh. The babies saw the second biggest ocean in the world and had a great time.

More About grad school v. law school

Another difference in law school and grad school was the intensity of classes towards the semester's end. In law school, the professors have throttled back a little. They're teaching us new stuff but not with the same rigor as earlier in the semester.

In chemistry, it was quite different. Not only did the intensity level remain steady up until the last day of class, but we had one professor who had us come in for a couple of lectures after classes had officially ended. Since our exam was on the last day of the exam period, the guy thought it was a bright idea to bring us in and lay some more info on us.

The most unkind cut was his assertion that the info we learned in the post-class period would only have a bit part on the final. Unfortunately, this subject, kinetics and mechanisms of radical reactions, constituted 1/4 of the exam. I could have shit a brick when I saw that!

However, I got the last laugh. Seven months later, another organic professor wrote a cumulative exam based on the JACS paper that the radical kinetic/mechanistic question from our exam in the first semester. I was the only student to go over the JACS paper after the exam; I was also the only student who got a full pass on that cume.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bad Ads Make Great Lawsuits

The other day when I was watching a commercial for Skil Power Cutters, I felt more like a law student than a chemist. In every single demonstration they were giving, whether they were cutting plastic, carpet, metal or cloth, all the people operating the instrument were not wearing any safety glasses!!!

All it takes is one person to lose their eye with one of those things after a shard of material kicks up into that person's eyes, and "Hello lawsuit!" and "Goodbye to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It could have been worse.

I had my civpro final today. Could things have been worse? You darn tootin'. Thirty minutes after I finished turning in my exam, my damned computer up and gets infected with malware. I never had this problem with Kaspersky. But the school made us remove it and install their program which hasn't done so well. This is the second time I've been hit with a malware infection this semester.

Things could have been worse. It could have happened 30 minutes before the civpro final.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Memo is done.

It's all over but the crying in my writing skills class. I just handed in my memo which means I just finished my first law school class. The class is useful and worthwhile, but it took up a disproportionate amount of time and could be a real pain in the ass. Even though we only got 2 measly credits out of this class, it took almost as much time as our 4hr courses.

It reminds me of the labs science majors had to take. We would only get 1hr of credit but have to do almost as much work as a 2 or 3hr course. Then the dipshit humanities majors would act smug when they found out you were only taking 14hrs and roll their eyes while they were taking 17 hours.

Maybe now, those dipshits can appreciate.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Random Thought:

Star Wars and Plastic Surgeons

Yesterday afternoon, I was studying most of the time. In the background, I had the TV on Spike TV, which was airing the Star Wars Trilogy. There was one scene where Luke took off Darth Vader's helmet to reveal a hideously transmogrified face. I'm talking grotesque.

Then I started thinking about how advanced technology was in that setting. There were gravity defying levitating autos. There were space ships so huge and complicated that they practically had their own gravitational field. There was also sources of energy tapped into that physicists and engineers can only dream about.

This led me to think. Why didn't medical technology catch up with that culture and give Darth Vader a new face?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More About the Bluebook

I have a love-hate relationship with the Bluebook. The index could be clearer and not so cursory. There could also be some extra room around the edge of the pages or in the back for notes and annotations.

 On the other hand, it's fortunate we have a a systemized citation system that law students are exposed to early in law school. Even better is the instruction we receive from our writing skills professor and TA.

This is in complete contrast to grad school. We didn't hear a fucking peep about bibliographies, footnotes and other forms of citation. Hell, we weren't even told about any Manuals of style. I had to find out the hard way that the American Chemical Society does indeed have a style manual.

I remember when I turned in my first draft of my thesis to my advisor. The bastard was a real shit-ass about my format and style. I had no damn clue how to do this, and he sure as hell wasn't going to help me, and even worse, he expected me to pick this crap up through some form of osmosis or something like that. I fucking hated that "sink-or-swim" attitude those assholes had in grad school. In this regard, law school is much better than grad school.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is it Racist?

Discover Card Commercial

On the surface, those Discover Cashback Reward commercials are not racist with the guy name 'Peggy' answering the phone. After all, the person being mocked is a guy of Nordic/Slavic descent. But on a deeper level, the commercial does have some racist overtones.

In my experiences, if the customer service representative is a foreigner, he/she is most likely from India. Imagine the public outcry if the commercial mocked an Indian. The PC police would be screeching like howler monkeys. And for good reason. But having the person on the commercial be a burly, bearded Nordic/Slavic man in a flannel shirt, the racist element was removed from the equation

So, hats off to the admen for skirting the racial issue the way they did.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Year Ago on This Day

I received notification that I was accepted to law school. I was surprised that I was accepted and accepted so soon. I heard within weeks after applying. I didn't know if I'd get in or not. I barely got into grad school, and I thought I had stronger credentials for getting into a chemistry graduate school program than a law school. There were no guarantees  I'd be accepted anywhere. Some schools even offered me money to boot.

Exams are coming up soon. I guess in a couple of months I'll find out if I get to stay in law school after grades come out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Muhammed Ali & Law School

A few years ago, I read a biography on Muhammed Ali written by Thomas Hauser. The author interviewed one of Ali's opponents (I forgot the name). The opponent commented on Ali's punching power. Ali was not known for his power such as Liston, Foreman or Tyson were. However, many of Ali's fights ended in KO's.

The opponent remarked that after taking his first hit from Ali, he thought "This isn't so bad. I can take this guy." He said after a few rounds of relentless punching, he couldn't take it any more. Those hits added up.

In some ways, my being in law school has been like that. The information at the start wasn't so bad or complex. I thought "I can do this." However, after a few months of this, the info adds up, and now my legs are wobbly, and I'm trying my best to finish this fight.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Old Advice from a P-Chem Professor

At the top of each exam in my physical chemistry class in grad school was the admonition above given by our pchem professor. Usually, the acronyms were in some funky font, underlined followed by a few exclamation points for good measure.

I think this advice may serve me well when I take exams next month. I can be absent minded at times, so I especially need to focus or I will fall into an ugly trap set by a wily professor.

For those who haven't figured it out yet, RTDQ & ATDQ stand for: Read the Damn Question & Answer the Damn Question.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Extraneous Information

There is a saying in drama that "if there is a gun hanging on the wall at the beginning of the play, it must be used before the end." That right there is the difference between a law school exam and a chemistry exam.

A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar given by a law school professor about taking law school exams. An important note he made was that everything in the hypotheticals have meaning, are relevant and should be addressed in the student's response. I think he said that he doesn't include things in a test just for the sake of good writing and reader interest.

In chemistry, things are quite different, especially in physical chemistry exams. Chemistry professors will give the required information to solve a problem along with some useless information for the problem at hand. Suppose a professor asks for the density of an ideal gas at a given temperature. Off the top of my head, I think one or two other pieces of data are needed, notably the molecular weight of the gas. A sadistic pchem professor would throw in some irrelevant information such as the specific heat of the gas or the root mean square. The unsuspecting student will furiously try to incorporate the extraneous information that has no bearing on the question asked by the professor and subsequently get the wrong answer. Often times after the exam, the cries of "that's not fair" can be heard from the class. The professor doesn't even bother to act sympathetic or understanding and only stands there a smiles thinking "I tricked your little ass."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Information Processing and Computer Screens

I have a hard time absorbing words on a computer screen. It seems like I can't retain information and pick out details as well on a computer screen compared to what is on paper. I wonder if it's something as simple as the angle the screen is at and that it is different than what I call my 'study' position. My study position is my sitting at a desk in a certain way with a book that has its own particular place. Maybe I've conditioned myself over the years to be able to study in only one position and that any changes from that will screw up my ability to study.

I've also wondered if looking at a computer screen activates different parts of the brain so that the information is processed differently.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tick Tock

Exams start in about a month. I'm nowhere near prepared for this. I have yet to get a handle on the material we will be tested on. I also am not ready for the format of the typical law school exam. This will be so different from an organic chemistry exam. At least in organic chemistry, we had homework assignments allowing us to gauge how we were doing in the class. Here in law school, we are kind of bopping along without any kind of feedback to see how we are doing. Do I really have a handle on the Erie Doctrine? What about future estates?

I guess I'll have to wait until December or January for the answer to that.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Asshole Cops and Southern Accents

Have you ever noticed that the bigger jerk a cop is on TV or a movie, the stronger his Southern drawl is? It doesn't matter if the cop is in Mississippi, New York City or Oregon. The asshole cop will most likely have a Southern accent. For example, in Rambo when the cop was trying to clean and shave Rambo, the cop had a strong Southern accent and capped off his sentences addressing Rambo with "boy."

Then on The Cable Guy, set in NYC, the cop who arrested Matthew Broderick, too, had a rich and authentic Southern accent. That guy, Charles Napier, was born in Kentucky and has been in notable films such as Rambo II, The Silence of the Lambs and The Blues Brothers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Epiphany

I had an epiphany a while ago when I was watching the O'Reilly Factor--It's a big damn informercial! At every turn, the man is trying to sell one book or another. Then at the end of every show, he directs his viewers to , a distinct entity from Fox News. At, the viewers have the choice of "premium membership" or some crap like that where they get to see more of Bill, his opinion pieces and interviews. And if that is not enough of the man, he now is promoting this tour he and Glen Beck are giving throughout the nation. What they do on stage, I don't know. They could sit around and do a circlejerk for all I care. But it's the viewers money, and if they want to pay to watch Bill and Glen complain about liberals and the man, well, that is their gosh-darn-right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Black Armbands

I was watching CNN last night discussing the upcoming election. I've seen jollier faces on funeral directors. These guys were somber and morose to say the least. But don't worry Democrats, a House or Senate in Republican hands will almost guarantee Obama reelection in 2012. The Republicans won't get diddly done in the next two years and will get all the blame for whatever goes wrong. There is no way Obama's veto power will allow the Republicans to achieve their agenda, whatever that may be.

So chin up, Dems, there is a silver lining for this election.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Luck Ran Out

I recently got my schedule for next semester, and my luck has run out. Unlike this semester when I had no classes before 10, I have three 8:30 classes next semester. Damn I hate classes in the 8 o'clock hour. Knowing my luck, I'll get some chatty professor who calls on me all the time. I'm not a morning person. I try to have meaningful conversations, and if I do have to talk, I try to keep the topic to traffic, sports or weather.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Legal Writing

I'm not that great at it. (TWSS)

I received my first graded assignment in law school today. I made mistakes--many , many mistakes. I found out the hard way that in memo, the following are frowned upon:

  • Dashes ( I really didn't know this!)

  • Abbreviating months.

  • Contractions (I knew better but it's a bad habit I've fallen into since the advent of the world wide web.)

  • Complex sentences (I have a habit of combining phrases, clauses and so forth using subordination and conjunction into a huge sentence that my professor doesn't like.)

  • Improper use of contractions and possesive form of proper names ending in "S." (I'm really awful at that. It's embarassing.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weight-loss Reality Shows & Shaming

There have been several reality shows with a "weight loss" theme such as Thintervention or The Biggest Loser. The cast members almost always lose weight. What makes the programs so successful? It may be the exercise regimen crafted by the outgoing and enthusiastic trainers or the sage diet advice from the registered dieticians.

Those things help, but I think the real common denominator of the shows is the elements of accountability and shame. There's nothing like the cold, hard numbers from the scale staring one straight in the face saying "Hey Fatty" and subsequently shaming the contestant to get with the program.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bad to the Bone

In the first or second winter I was in NJ, an incident happened when my brother took the babies out front to play. My brother was not aware of Father’s hostilities or at least the extent of them. Father could fight and kill, and he did not like Andy that much. It was a constant battle keeping Father from going at Andy. Inside, Father would never try anything on Andy, but out front, Father would get a little confused with all of the commotion and activity and would revert to his feral ways. When Father was on his own for who knows how long, he fighting and killing was a way of life for him—it was a necessity.

Once in a while, he would snap at Andy, but I became keen of the events that would trigger Father’s abrupt anger and ward off any danger. Normally, all it took was a firm admonishment from me, and Father would almost always back off. Father always recognized me as the ‘alpha’ and never challenged me or show any signs of confrontation with me.

My brother, however, did not know how mean Father could be. Well, during Christmas break, my brother took them out front, much to the baby’s’ delight. I didn’t see what triggered the event because I think I had gone back to NJ to work. I didn’t get much vacation time at Hoechst-Marion-Rousell. Anyway, something triggered Father, and since no one was there who would have recognized an imminent danger, Father let out his anger and bit Andy in the leg. My poor baby was bitten all the way to the bone, the vet sad. I felt so awful for him. Andy has always been such a sweet dog, and it broke my heart to see someone being mean to him. Andy’s leg healed but who knows what kind of psychological impact it had on him. He always had tendencies for neurosis and this didn’t help.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I picked up a malware infection the other day. I almost shit a brick thinking I was going to lose everything. Then I was pissed off at my school since they required us to use their anti-virus software which clearly didn't work in this case. Fortunately the school has computer services which took care of the problem.

And I swear, I wasn't looking at porn!