Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My 2008 Was Year of the Dog

My 2008 was all about dogs.

In February, we adopted Zoe and I became a dog owner for the first time. Although she can be a pain sometimes, she has brought far more happiness.

I became engrossed by the National Geographic Channel show “The Dog Whisperer” and was inspired to learn more about dogs. I devoured everything I could read about the subject.

Our visits to various animal shelter in our search that led us to Zoe made me sympathetic to the plight of shelter dogs. I saw so many dogs available for adoption, so many I would have loved to have taken home. It was really sad. There were so many Pit Bulls, many of them very sweet and adorably cute. I would have loved to have rescued at least one of them.

I remember giving treats to two Pit Bulls at the Oakland SPCA, a little black female Chihuahua that we very nearly adopted from the Martinez Animal Shelter, a big blue-tongued Chow-German Shepherd mix at an adoption event in Pittsburg that had nothing but kisses for me, a tiny black long-haired baby Chihuahua at the Alameda County Animal Shelter in Dublin that we were seriously considering, and a big husky at the Martinez Animal Shelter that had apparently been there for months that the staff were practically begging someone to adopt.

I saw a program on Animal Planet about what had become of the Pit Bulls seized from Michael Vick’s property. A large segment of the program featured the efforts of a Bay Area Pit Bull advocacy organization called BAD RAP, Bay Area Dog owners Responsible About Pitbulls. I remembered that name from visiting the Oakland SPCA.

I became sympathetic to the plight of the American Pit Bull Terrier. They have largely been portrayed as menaces in the media. The truth is that they’re really victims of irresponsible owners. I began writing posts about them on this blog. Eventually, it led me to start a separate blog focused solely on dogs.

My blogging led me to another dog blogger, Jeni, who lives in South Dakota. Amongst the stories she shared was about a severely beaten dog named Charlie. She started a fund in Charlie’s name that ended up benefiting students of a grade school. I was proud to have contributed to the fund which provided these kids with a subscription to a publication produced by the Humane Society of the United States that teaches kids to be kind to animals.

Along the way we adopted a Charlie of our own. His mama was a tiny apple head Chihuahua, his daddy, well, we haven’t quite determined that yet. I say he’s a Papillon. Karen thinks he’s some kind of terrier. So now I have two dogs!

With Imani starting her freshman year at Alhambra High School it officially made both my girls Bulldogs.

And lastly, there was Dog the Bounty Hunter. He got caught in a firestorm making racist comments to his son that were revealed to mainstream media. A&E pulled his show. It looked like Dog was about to lose it all. Who knows what exactly led A&E to change their minds, but Dog is back and the new episodes are strong as ever.

That’s my year of the dog.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Last night I went to the movies to see the new Tom Cruise movie, "Valkyrie". This film is based upon actual historical events that took place in World War II Nazi Germany. Based upon the trailers and considering that the film's director, Bryan Singer, had previously directed X-Men and Superman Returns it appeared that I was going to be in for a great action movie. And if an action movie is what you want then this film is not for you. But if you enjoy tense political thrillers you'll find "Valkyrie" right up your alley.

Cruise portrays Nazi Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. He was amongst many within the German military that realized Hitler was a madman and had to be stopped. Of course, their plan ultimately failed, but the film tells a brilliant tale of how this plan came about, and how close they were to succeeding.

Singer did an excellent job of maintaining the tension level throughout the film. The story moves along quite quickly, and you have to be paying close attention to the details to fully understand exactly what's going on. It's feels a bit strange seeing Nazis as good guys. I can only think of one other movie that had a Nazi protagonist, "Schindler's List", and even then Schindler was the lone good Nazi in the story.

The fact that this was based on actual historical events surprised me. I never knew that a German Resistance existed during Hitler's reign. It comes as a comfort and a relief to know that there were Germans, members of Hitler's military, and members of the Nazi party that were persons of conscience and acted upon that conscience. I can imagine the amount of courage it took these men and women to take action against Hitler. Hitler was a dynamic, charismatic leader. He led Germany from utter poverty to being a world power. Despite the horrible things Hitler did, I can understand how a German citizen could turn a blind eye to those things and go along with Hitler's agenda (I know that's horrible of me, I'm just trying to put myself in their shoes).

Tom Cruise doesn't disappoint in his performance. His portrayal as dedicated, resolute character with along with being a strong family man has you rooting for him from the first minute of the film. If you can appreciate this kind of movie genre then I highly recommend "Valkyrie".

By the way, I've been told that if you file for divorce and the other person doesn't respond then you are automatically granted the divorce (in California, that is). If anyone knows anything about this please let me know.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Teen Angst...Been There, Done That

OK, nerd warning. Now that you have been warned…I am soooo juiced that Battlestar Galactica will be returning on January 16! Last season ended with them finally reaching Earth, but finding the planet in ruins. Of course, they can’t end the series on that note, and there are also a great many loose ends that need to be tied up so I am really looking forward to these final 11 episodes.

I need to document what’s been going on with me. About two weeks ago Asha declared that life here was unbearable and that she was moving in with her mother. I don’t blame her. It really is unreasonable of me to do things like ask her to do her chores before leaving the house. And the chores! Wash the dishes (actually just rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher), and clean all your messes off the tables and counter tops. I just treat her like a slave, don’t I? Someone should call Child Protective Services on me.

Caprisha tells me she was really wanted me to respond by telling her, “Please don’t go. I love you. I want you to stay with me.” Sorry. I don’t respond to drama like that. Then I hear she’s feeling suicidal. I don’t mean to sound callous, but I know what’s going on. She’s feeling sorry for herself. This is another attempt to get some attention. I know she’s not serious. I went through the same thing with my dad when I was her age. Isn’t that ironic? I think I have actually become my father. And I have to say, Dad, if you’re reading I feel your pain. Although, I have to add that our situations are slightly different in that if I had actually tried to pull that same bullshit with my dad I know my mom wouldn’t have indulged it like Caprisha has.

So Asha actually does live with Caprisha now, who lives in West Oakland, yet wants to keep going to school in Martinez. She is taking public transportation to make this happen. It’s an incredible inconvenience that I know is not going to last for long. ‘So I know she’ll be back, but when she does move back in I’m going to tell her that if she tries to pull this bullshit again she won’t be welcomed back here a second time.

Asha is going to be turning 17 in six weeks. She’s a heartbeat from legal adulthood. She has so much growing up to do. I’m really concerned about her. I remember my dad telling me as a teen to enjoy your high school years, that they were the best years of your life. And I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? What, life gets worse after this?” And you know what? He was right.

At some level I think that both my parents must have realized I was going to turn out okay. They set good examples for me. They taught me manners. They instilled a work ethic in me. I wish I had that luxury. I am deathly afraid that Asha doesn’t have that work ethic in her.

Happy note. Starting in January a few bucks a payday will be steered to the East Bay SPCA. I am both pleased and proud to be an official supporter. Also, for my Kris Kringle at work I requested doggy treats. The same day we exchanged gifts I found out that Pet Food Express accepts donations that go to the East Bay SPCA and I was able to donate all the treats that same day.

I haven’t made an entry on my dog blog in quite a while. I really need to catch up on that.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Christmas 2008

Yesterday we went to see “Marley & Me”. I must now freely admit I’m a sucker for dog movies. I have been looking forward to this film for months. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston were a great pick to play John and Jenny Grogan. I hope I’m giving away anything by saying that Marley does pass away in the movie. It was one of the saddest moments I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Everyone must have been crying around me from all the sniffles I heard coming from every direction, but I must say that I only heard them through my own sniffles.

I had read the book previously. That is to say, I didn’t actually “read” it. I listened to the audio book. It’s almost always better to see the movie first and read the book afterwards. Inevitably, there are elements from the book that aren’t translated to the big screen the way you’d like them to. One example I found was how in the audio book John made a point of saying Marley had never been told, “you’re a great dog” before John says it to Marley as he lay dying on his vet’s exam table. Although Owen Wilson does say it in the movie the same emphasis wasn’t there. I still loved the movie though.

I also saw “Seven Pounds” last week. I enjoyed it but it was also moved a little slow. I won’t give away the movie but when it is revealed why Will Smith is giving those people those extraordinary gifts it is heartbreaking.

We had a nice Thanksgiving-type dinner with my brined turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie, the whole nine yards. Instead of making a plate I have become accustomed to making my “Thanksgiving mush”. I put a slice or two of turkey along with some mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, stirring them up into a mush, and eating it like that. It sounds good, looks gross, smells great, and tastes even better.

Hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as much as I enjoyed mine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nice Song

This is from the movie, "The Fighting Temptations". It's probably my favorite all-time gospel song. Very moving.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Random musings

First, I've gotta pimp my game again. This game is the primary reason I've let my blogs go. Dicing Dangers is a multi-player online role playing game. Lots of fun. It runs right in your browser. Absolutely no downloads required to play. It's free. It's very social. I've made friends with people all over the globe. Give it a try.

If you sign up look for me online. My new analogy for the clan I belong to is that we are the Jedi Knights of the game. My two character names are "Spiker" and "ZoeChihuahua" (yes, my freaking dog is one of my characters).

I guess what's got me so hooked is that there are so many international players. The person I'm most friendly with lives in Tasmania, Australia. Our clan leader lives in England. A couple of times all three of us would be chatting in Windows Messenger. The first time we did this it struck me. How cool is this? Between California, England, and Australia we are about as far apart as three people could be from each other yet there we were talking to each other like we were all next door neighbors.

Our clan has members in Lithuania, Singapore, England, Australia, and the Ukraine in addition to the US. Our American clan members are in New Mexico, Ohio, and South Carolina. I just find that so cool.

So if you sign up and don't see me look for members of my clan if you need help learning the game. Look for either [EGO] or [NEW] next to player names in the chat column.

I forgot to mention this in my last post. When Imani and I entered Fry's after having waited in line for about 45 minutes before the doors opened the whole Fry's staff were lined up inside applauding us as we entered the store. It wasn't clear why they were applauding but I got the feeling the sentiment was "thank you for waiting outside in the cold like an idiot". It was quite awkward and just a little embarrassing. It made me feel as if I should be raising my arms in victory like I had just won something.

On Monday's Howard Stern show one of the staff members announced that he was gay. Personally, I thought the guy, High Pitch Mike, was a real asshole. I now understand why. He said that he had been in the closet for so long because his mother once told him that she would disown him if she were ever to discover that he was gay. He has lived the balance of his life with the anguish of knowing he would lose his mother if he were ever truthful about his sexuality. He mentioned the special commentary Keith Olbermann had on Countdown following the passing of Prop 8. I thought the commentary was worth watching here if you're interested.

Also on that same show they reviewed the new Guns & Roses album, "Chinese Democracy". According to Howard this album's been 13 years in the making and Rolling Stone had given it four stars. I have never been much of a G&R fan but I decided to download it and give it a listen. It's actually quite good. The songs are very strong and the guitar player was surprisingly excellent. Slash isn't their guitar player anymore, but I think that's a good thing anyway. I definitely wasn't a fan of Slash. If you like heavy rock you'll like this album.

In my widget column on the left you'll see a new widget for Grand Central. If you click on it the program will call your phone then call mine to connect us. What I like so much about Grand Central is that they will provide you with a telephone number that you can keep for the rest of your life.

Most people become very attached to their phone numbers. Whenever I have to place an order for a phone customer that is moving I often encounter people that get quite upset when I tell them they can't keep the number. The reaction is natural. It is a hassle making sure that everyone has your new number and it's inevitable that there will be people that you end up forgetting.

What this service does is forward calls from the number they have provided you to another phone number that you can be reached at. This means that it will no longer matter if the phone company assigns you a new phone number. As long as you set Grand Central to call that new number you won't ever have to worry about making sure everyone has it. As long as people are calling your Grand Central phone number it will never be an issue.

The service is still in beta. There's no telling if you'll ever have to pay whenever it gets out of beta, but it's worth trying. It's a great way to manage your telephone services, at home and with your cell. Register for a number for life of your own at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was one long weekend. Thursday was Thanksgiving with the girls here. Friday was shopping and preparation for Saturday. Saturday was an even bigger Thanksgiving meal. Sunday, we all went to see Brian Copeland’s “Not a Genuine Black Man” and had Rachel and her kids over for dinner.

Caprisha is currently about 3 days away from moving into her new place. She’s staying with her aunt in San Lorenzo for the time being. The aunt’s plan was to go over her mother-in-law’s place for Thanksgiving. Karen wanted a big Thanksgiving so we decided it would it be best to have Caprisha come over here on Thursday so she could have a Thanksgiving with the girls and me. Karen’s plan was to spend Thursday over Jessica’s with her mom and Jeremy.

Thursday Thanksgiving turned out pretty well. I, of course, was in charge of the turkey. We had a 17 lb. bird. As always, I put it in a nice roasting bag and made use of our newly bought electric thermometer. We also had a prime rib roast as well. The girls prepared salad, candied yams, and the dinner rolls. Imani made her world famous chocolate pudding pie. It’s a crushed Oreo cookie crust filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a thick layer of Cool Whip. It’s as rich and tasty as it sounds.

It was a very nice meal. Before sitting down to eat we all said what we were all thankful for. It was a first for us.

Friday was an adventure. Karen and I got up around 3:30am in hopes of snagging us a couple of nice Toshiba $300 laptops. After laying around for a good half hour saying to ourselves, “Oh, my God, do we really want to do this?” we finally got into gear and to Fry’s in Concord around 4:30am. The doors were to open at 5. The line of about 2,000 people as already extended to the backside of the building.

I can see why there are incidences of ugliness on these Black Fridays occur. When the doors open there is a mad scramble to the section that your object of desire resides in. People push and shove. I was hit by shopping carts by at least three people, none of whom held a hint of an “excuse me” or a “sorry”. When you factor in the irritability of having waited in the cold at an ungodly hour, the relative heat on the inside of the store, the frustration of the long lines, and the level of rudeness you would never find in any other circumstance, I now understand why the stress of it all ends up driving some to the point of violence.

After waiting in seemingly mile-long line, after being pushed, and working up a good sweat from the raised temperature from all the bodies crowded, at exactly 5:20am a Fry’s employee cupped his hands and proclaimed that all the $300 laptops had been sold out. So much for that bright idea.

Karen and I picked up a few things and headed for the register. We ended up at a register next to a person that had snagged himself one of those elusive $300 laptops. We asked how long he waited in line. He had been there since 7pm the night before. That’s 10 hours, folks. There is absolutely no friggin’ way I’m ever going to go to some store to wait in line for 10 hours after stuffing myself with Thanksgiving dinner. I’m guess I’m just not a hardcore shopper.

Afterwards, we decided to head over to Wal-Mart just to see what the madness looked like there. We had also heard rumors of a $300 laptop there as well. We saw no ad listing this but some were insisting that it was going to go on sale. We knew that if this turned out to be true we would have missed our opportunity, but we just had to know. What we found was even more of a zoo than Fry’s was. All aisles were packed. We could barely move. It was even hotter inside than Fry’s. And it turned out the rumored $300 laptop was just that. A rumor. There was no $300 laptop.

One thing I remembered that was said from a Fry’s employee was that there was going to be an eight page ad coming out on Saturday that would have different items on sale. I held on to that thought.

Friday was also Imani’s 14th birthday. A couple of hours after getting home from Wal-Mart Caprisha and I headed out to Sam’s Club where we picked up her birthday cake. One year Imani chose to have “Here’s Your Cake, Loser” written on Asha’s birthday cake, so this year’s cake for Imani would have Asha’s revenge written on it. In green icing Imani’s cake said, “Happy Birthday, Moronica”. They are my children, indeed.

Caprisha picked up a perfume sampler from Victoria’s Secret at the mall. That gift would be from her and Asha. I headed over to MetroPCS and picked up a nice new cell phone. This one had a nice slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

We got home and sang “Happy Birthday”, opened presents, and had some ice cream and cake. Imani wanted to do something, anything to get out of the house. We had to have a difficult talk with her. We had to get her to realize that on some years her birthday can fall on the day before a Thanksgiving dinner or even on Thanksgiving itself. This was one of those years. When such things occur she would have to understand that there will usually not enough time to do something just for her. It’s a terrible reality to face, but I know many people that have birthdays in late November. It’s just something you have to live with.

Saturday was a very busy day as well. I woke up and immediately rushed out to get the newspaper. Sure enough, Fry’s had all kinds of things on sale including a $300 laptop. It was about a quarter of eight. The store opened at 9. Karen had overdone it with all the cleaning and her back was killing her. No way she was going to be up to standing in any more lines. So I woke up Imani and dragged her out there.

We got there about 8:15am. I counted exactly 25 people in front of us. It was more madness as the doors opened, but we got to the computer section in one piece. A salesman named Sean took our order and handed us a sheet to be taken to the cash register. There the cashier would take the sheet and bring us back our laptops where she would ring them up. It turns out Sean wrote up a sheets for the wrong laptop. So we scrambled back to him. Luckily there was still some left and we finally got what we came for.

Saturday dinner was very nice. We had a very nice layout, adding stuffing and Karen’s great mashed potatoes to the mix. The mess was kept to a minimum. We had a pretty easy time of it overall. Asha had a friend over that I had never met before. I wanted to visit with them but I just had too much to do.

Sunday was an afternoon trip to the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek to see Brian Copeland’s one man show, “Not a Genuine Black Man”. It was his last show there. He’s moving it to the Marsh Theatre in The City. It was an entertaining show. He spent much time re-enacting his experience growing up in San Leandro. I never realized that in the early 70’s San Leandro was one of America’s most racist cities. He explored some race issues and stereotypes. It was very enlightening.

Not long after we got home Rachel and her kids arrived. It took longer than we had anticipated to get all our food ready. It was probably after 9 when we started eating. It was a nice visit, though. Rachel’s son, Elijah, was about Jeremy’s age, and her daughter, Veronica, is 15, right in between the girls. They had a great time together. We handed the T-Bird over to Rachel. They ended up staying until after 11pm. And on a school night, too!

I’d say going back to work was almost a relief, but that would be a lie.