Thursday, November 30, 2006

Old House Fanatic

Despite the fact that I live in a house that's less then five years old (even if it does look like an old farmhouse), I still have a deep and abiding love for Real Old Houses. I get choked up driving past our old house, which I loved despite having 120 years of gunge, broken plaster, odd wiring, and mysterious construction issues. I loved fixing up an old house (well, loved it most of the time!).

I ran across another person who obviously loves old houses -- and her experience in renovating a turn of the century bungalow in Chicago entirely engrossed me for almost five hours. Read through the archives of her blog on doing Bungalow Archaeology -- digging out a hundred years of accumulated "collections" from a previous owner who hoarded everything -- from six WW1 army tents (in original backbacks) to enomrous collections of depression era glass to spare Victrola motors and boxes of rocks.

She has been documenting the finds since 2003. It's fascinating and fun and sad and oh-so-familiar to anyone who has ever looked at an old house and thought, "I can fix that!"

Check out House In Progress. Read from the beginning in the archives. It's worth it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Off travelling

I'm a bit missing this week -- travelling to Salt Lake City to work with a new client for a week.
First off, I'm not flying anywhere near the weekend of thanksgiving again. What a madhouse!ACtually, it wasn't too bad, just really hectic and far too early to deal with families and huge luggage and all heading back home from grandmas house.

Salt Lake City is a lovely place, and it has to be populated by the nicest people I've ever met. I mean, freakishly nice. Too nice. Every single time I've approached a door, someone has held it open for me, even backtracking a bit to make sure they could do it. They hold elevator doors. People came to my rescue when my shoe heel got stuck in the transit rail line while crossing the street. Pregnant women and elderly people got all the seats on the train. No one is grumpy. It's kind of stepford-like.

I'm staying only a block away from Temple Square, which has tons of sights and restaurants, so I may have to foray out into the raging blizzard (really!) and eat somewhere funky today. I have to walk to my hotel (no car this trip), but I can do most of it inside through the office complex and attached mall. Pretty cool.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Leftover Mania

The post-thanksgiving Turkey Feast was a great success! Nineteen pound turkey, about ten pounds of potatoes, and an enormous batch of stuffing. Everything was done on time, everyone had a great time, and we have enough leftovers for the Adorable Husband to eat during the week I'm gone.

The Linnemeyers joined us again -- this time with Rainer's girlfriend in tow (we were beginning to think that she didn't really exist) and a friend of Annika's as well. My friend Mark came along, and we lounged about eating dinner and pie for the afternoon. Much fun!

The Adorable Husband got beeped back to work just as we started the final prep for dinner, so I got everything in order and set the table on my own, but we managed.

Everyone laughed at my Turkey Feast Plan -- a visio timeline to get everything done on time and prepped for dinner. They laughed, but IT WORKED! Hah. No, I'm not going to post it here, it really is embarassing. I'm such a geek.

Friday, November 24, 2006


We spend a lovely afternoon yesterday having turkey and the trimmings with our neighbors -- very nice, lots of good food and wine. And pie, don't forget pie.

The Adorable Husband is on call the whole weekend (pretty much from Wednesday to Monday. He got called in Thursday morning, but was back in plenty of time to join the festivities. Of course, Friday was not so calm -- two cases in the morning, and then he got called in at 9pm...and just as he got back home, beeped again and didn't get home until 2am.

He still managed to make three pies and bake Cardamom bread, so things aren't too bad!

We're doing the entire Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Fest on Saturday -- inviting friends and neighbors to finish off the 19lb turkey and Major Stuffing (I only know how to make one size. It's fun.

The beastie is doing fine and back on normal food. Well, mostly normal food. He's discovered that if he stares mournfully at me long enough, I succumb and cook him chicken and rice. I am so well trained.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Barfing has Arrived

Ugh. The beastie was fine Tuesday night, but spent the whole day today lumping around looking very, very nauseated. He refused absolutely everything, even water, and you could tell he was feeling awful.

I called the vet who gave the chemo and he prescribed Reglan, an anti-emetic med, to handle the nausea. I had asked to get a prescription when we left the office after chemo, but they balked for some reason. I should have insisted, and would have had it on hand to give tot he poor beast when he started drooling and horking. I picked it up at lunchtime, and by dinner he was acting a bit more interested in food.

So I gave him about half a bowl of chicken noodle soup, just to get some fluid into him. Big mistake. He followed it with about half a gallon of water (he must have been very thirsty) and then plopped down in living room.

Half an hour later? Barf-o-rama. No warning, either. Just three enormous spots on the carpet and a very, very unhappy dog. The Adorable Husband hauled out the carpet spot cleaner and we did the best we could, but we're going to have to rent a steam cleaner or have the carpet people back to clean the living room carpet. Ugh.

It might have been the antibiotics, according to the vet. (He's on antibiotics proactively because chemo will lower his white blood count) That can really cause stomach problems, so we're suspending that until he feels better. Poor beast.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Toxic Avenger

Rukh had his first chemo appointment today, and so far is doing pretty well. He seems a bit off, but we stopped for his standard post-vet-visit Arby's Roast Beef and seemed pretty happy about it. They told us to expect the barfiness tonight or tomorrow, if he gets sick at all. Hopefully not!

We opted for Carboplatin, five sessions three weeks apart (probably). Of the three major drugs they use, it has the fewest side effects (the others can cause cardiac damage, or kidney damage, or neurological issues)...of course, it happens to be the most expensive, too. Of course. Well, I'm willing to trade a little pain in the wallet to make sure that he feels better and has fewer side effects.

He was the belle of the ball at the vet's office, though -- they cooed over him, and petted him; he got his chemo while laying on the rug with his head in the tech's lap. He's taken the "I'm cute" act on the road, and it's a hit.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I really, really need one of these. Oooooh!

We saw one at the local Borders, and at first thought it was a mockup -- the screen is white, the words are crisp, it is this close to being a paper page, but it's digital and holds about 80 books.

This might actually be more sexy than the iPod.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For Women Only

The adorable husband gets tons of funny stuff forwarded to him in email, and he passed along this one to me, since he thought I'd appreciate it.

I do. Oh, yes. Make sure to check out all the side effects.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Venti Grande Supremo...what?

I don't drink coffee, and I certainly don't drink the foofy coffee things that people drink at Starbucks. I have to admit a slight sense of giggling hysteria over the jargon thatStarbucks coffee people (oh, wait, the proper term is barrista) force you to use -- and will apparently correct you if you misstate your order. Vente. Grande. Skinny. Half-caf. Legs. Huh? This is just coffee-code. Why can't it be a large coffee? No, you must order a Grande, and will often be snootily corrected if you attempt to buck the system.

But I discovered that Starbucks produced a brochure on "how to order" a few months ago. There's a decoder ring for how you ought to get your enormous coffee (equal to 4-6 regular coffee cups, depending on what you get) properly. One guide has the following
  1. The cup (here, to go, your own)
  2. Number of shots of expresso (single, double [doppio], triple, quad)
  3. Ristretto, Decaf or half-caf (regular is default)
  4. Size (short 8oz, tall 12oz, grande 16oz, venti 20oz)
  5. Syrup
  6. Type of milk (whole, skinny, half-n-half, organic, soy
  7. Modifiers (wet, dry, no foam, whip, no whip)
  8. Type of drink (americano, latte, cappuchino, mocha)
It's still pretty funny, even I can decipher what they are saying. The Adorable Husband loves to go in and order 'large coffee' -- and is often squinted at curiously, and asked, "d'you mean a venti drip?". Hah!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Beastie Update

A friend of mine stopped by today to see Rukh and to pick me up to go house-hunting with him. I opened the front door as he stepped up the curb into the sidewalk and Rukh got one look at him and bounded out the front door, down the three stairs, down the other two concrete stairs inthe walkway and just about bowled Friend over.

I just about had a heart-attack. I'm still paranoid when the beastie goes down the two small steps into the yard in back (and even more paranoid when he goes back up the stairs) and here he goes flinging himself off the porch with reckless abandon. Yikes!

But, it's another day in the ongoing improvement. Rukh is doing amazingly well, and is starting to get back to his normal self, honestly. He looks better, acts perkier, and seems to be pretty happy. He's still a bit wobbly on three legs, and gets tired really easily, but I figure in another week or so, he's going to be almost back ot normal (or as close as he's going to get minus a leg, I guess). Of course, we're starting chemo this week, but they say that dogs do really well, so here's hoping it goes well.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

To all the men and woman who have served this country -- thank you.

Twisted Gifts

If you want slightly twisted, rather odd, and definitely fun presents -- check out

I really want one of these Voodoo Knife racks, it just makes me giggle every time I look at it. Yes, it's sick. But funny. Very funny.

Maybe if I paired it with the Voodoo Toothpick holder....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I don't need no steenkin leash!

Well, two days off the narcotic painkillers and Rukh is almost acting like his old self. He is perky, alert, wagging, and just seems so much happier. He's still pretty quiet around the house, only getting up a few times to shift around or go outside, but he's having a much easier time of it and is moving around the yard so much better. He's still on the Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory), but he seems pain-free from the amputation.

We dumped the leash on our forays outside, since it just seemed to piss him off to be tethered and watched while he did his business. He's shy, apparently, and doesn't want anyone standing there whistling idly while he takes a dump. He hides around the corner of the house now so we can't see him, and seems much happier. I haven't had any repeats of the 'lay down at the end of yard' episodes, so I'm sticking with it. I do worry that someone will walk along the back fence and he'll try to chase them like he's used to, so one of us is outside with him all the time.

We did drag him to our vet this evening, mostly to assuage my worries that his "good" leg is still good and that he is doing ok. Lisa was so pleased to see him, and said he looks just great. The specific gravity of his urine is still too low (which probably means that he is simply drinking too much water because of the drugs or anxiety) but she wants to wait a few weeks to see if it resolves on its own now that he's off most of the meds. His hock is fine, although he needs time to build up strength, and he was a fine example of cute-and-playful dog at the appointment.

The vet office sent us a Doggy Gift Basket today with biscuits, a ball, and a stuffie toy for Rukh. That was really sweet. We love our vet.

While I'm still paranoid and using the sling each time Rukh gets to stairs, he's really doing well and I might actually be more of a hindrance than a help. I'm just so nervous that he'll slip or fall, but he seems to be balancing so much better now, and he's fast. Speed is the friend of a tri-ped dog, I've been reading -- think about using crutches: hopping slowly is actually harder than getting a good rhythm and swinging along. Same thing with the beast. When he runs, most of his weight is on his front legs and he just has to push off with the back leg (and he's way more stable). Scares the snot out of me, but I assume that he'll be back to running in the yard in a few weeks. At the moment he looks like an oversized rabbit.

Uulaq is having a hard time, though. She really, really wants to PLAY and so far has been rebuffed (either by us or by Rukh himself). It's just about killing her. She is so confused when we don't allow her to pounce on him, and she doesn't understand when he just ignores her. I hope that in the next week or so he feels good enough to at least engage her a little. In the meantime, we've set up a playdate with our neighbor's dog (a 7mo-old Golden) to see if that takes the edge off a little. Otherwise, she's going to be extra-neurotic until things settle back to normal.

And, of course, she's convinced that we just take Rukh in the car so we can stop at some tasty-food place and not give her any. We always stop at Arby's or McDonalds with the beasts when we go to the vet, so each trip out, Rukh comes home smelling like roast beef or cheeseburger. She's getting extra attention to make up for that one!

Chemo should start next week. We haven't heard back with a 100% confirmation of the type of cancer, which will affect which type of chemo we do. I've been reading a bit about chemo for dogs with osteosarcoma and there are quite a few options, ranging from least toxic to more toxic and least expensive to how much? One of the primary drugs can cause serious heart problems, another is kidney-toxic, while the least toxic of the group is the most expensive (> 1K per dose). Ouch. Different combinations of things are used depending on the specfics of the cancer and size of the dog. Dogs do, however, tolerate chemo pretty well -- most don't get sick or nauseous, and at most are a bit "off" for a day or so. They see to sail through it. Chemo is critical in cases of bone cancer since it always metastasizes to the lungs, whether you see it in the initial xrays or not. So, the chemo proactively attacks any cancer cells in the lungs and hopefully keeps them from growing. With chemo, there's a very good chance that he'll make it a year or more. Rukh is otherwise healthy, although he is nine, so we are very hopeful. As long as he's happy and seems to be pain-free, well do what we can.

We did have a rather macabre laugh about things though -- Akitas, being a giant breed, don't have long lifespans; we have gotten used to the idea that we will lose them somewhere around 10years old. When I got so upset about possibly losing Rukh (who, out of all of our dogs has been my favorite) early, we suddenly thought that it would just be fitting irony if Uulaq (who out of all of our dogs has been my least favorite, despite being a sweetheart) would live to 17 or so. It's not really funny, but in the stressed-out situation around here, we did get a laugh out of it.

So, news from Chez Phouka is pretty dang good this week. So far, so good, knock-on-wood, etc.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bouncy Flouncy

First off -- good news on the change in leadership in Congress.

Second, Rukh is doing really well today. We finally backed off on his meds, since he appears to be mostly pain free (despite the slight sprain in his hock, which we've been icing and he seems to be dealing with ok) and the tramadol makes him a bit woofly.

Oy. He was bouncing around the the house this morning like Tigger. Charged outside this morning to pee, back inside. Up again asking to go ou. Getting up to drink on his own without any encouragement. Apparently, he was feeling more woozy than we thought on the meds and even if he's a bit more uncomfortable, he's definitely perkier. We might have to put him back on meds just to keep him quiet!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ice and Treats

Rukh is actually doing really well today -- he's getting up and moving around on his own, not just when we make him get up . But, he's obviously strained his hock, which is swollen and sore. I think he hyperextended it, hopefully not to seriously. He seems to be able to get around, but it's very weak and not too stable. But -- he's been out three times today and seems to be able to squat ok. We aren't following him around with the sling anymore, it seemed to freak him out. He does have to wait at stairs so we can help, and he's picked up on that really quickly. He just stops and then hops up the stairs once we've got the sling under his belly.

I called Lisa, our vet, and she said to ice it and if it doesn't start to improve tomorrow we should bring him in. The other problem -- dribbling pee on the floor -- is not a UTI, and may just be related to the fact that he's been drinking a LOT post-operatively (either a sore throat, or the narcs give him a dry mouth) and since he doesn't want to get up much, he waits until he really has to go. It's been better today.

Functional Art

This might be one of the strangest things I've found in a while -- sculptural urinals. Urinals are usually plain-jane, functional fixtures. I never thought they'd be seen as an expression of artistic vision.

Clark Sorensen, in San Francisco, makes absolutely stunning floral urinals. They are lovely, fully-functional, but would probably be a pain to clean.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Glad I Bought a SpotBot

Rukh is doing pretty well, actually -- he's much happier now that the Adorable Husband is home, but he's still really leery about going outside (probably because I traumatized him). He doesn't want to get up and hop into the yard, although he certainly does well enough once he's out there. He's annoyed that we have him on a leash.

But, he's apparently having some sort of urinary tract problem -- either he has a UTI or something else is off, since he's dribbling/leaking when he is laying down. This has necessitated spot cleaning the carpet a few times a day, when he managed to lay down off of the quilt or pad we've put down. It's not a lot -- but it's strange for him, and he seems quite upset about it. He's not having problems peeing outside, so we're going to drop off a sample at our vet to make sure he doesn't have an infection or something else. Hopefully, this is a temporary problem!

Spasmodic Dysphonia

Weird. Apparently Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comic) lost his voice about 18 months ago as a result of a very strange and exotic disease called Spasmodic Dysphonia-- where the part of the brain that controls speech just fritzes out. People with SD can't speak normally, but can often sing or chant or (in weirder cases) talk if they pinch their noses or speak in a falsetto or other "fake" voice.

This is usually permament, but Scott apparently has recovered his voice (at least partially) in the last week or so; he's one of the few who has ever recovered from this.

You can read his experience here, in his blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to the fabulous nieces -- ONE YEAR OLD TODAY!

You can see the details here -- at Slippery Tiger.

Yeah! Wow! Omigod we feel old now!

Walking! We're Walking!

Update on Rukh, since I've been entirely offline since Friday. It's been a wee bit hectic.

He's doing really well in terms of getting around, adjusting to the tripod stance, and is getting up on his own a few times a day to either find a new spot to lay in or go outside.I don't think he's in much pain at all -- the Rimdayl seems to cope with most of the discomfort and the tramadol just seems to make him woozy without offering any actual relief. Cutting back actually made him a bit perkier, and I can't see any obvious signs of pain. Amazing. He just needs to adjust to the new balance paradigm and you'd hardly know he'd had surgery just four days ago.

The incision (while horrifyingly large) is clean and the bruising is even clearing up. They shaved most of his butt (except his tail-- so his whole back end is nekkid) and about half-way up his belly, so he gets cold easily. He's getting a lot of bruising along his belly and sheath (where most of the swelling has settled, poor guy) but he's otherwise doing well. The Adorable Husband commented that it'd good that he's neutered, or his testicles would have swollen up to the size of oranges. Oy,

Definitely improved over Friday. If he continues on this path, he'll be romping in the yard by tuesday.

We had a bad episode last night -- I got cocky in letting him head outside without the sling under his belly so I could support him down the two shallow stairs to the yard -- and Uulaq bumped him off balance on their way down the stairs and he fell on his right hip (the amputation incision)...and then just stopped. He refused to move, and lay incision-side down on the concrete stoop (and it was COLD) and refused to even try when I called him to come inside. I tried tempting him with food, tried just about go.

In retrospect, I should have called the neighbor to come over, Rukh probably would have stood up on his own..but I hit the wall. Collased in a pathetic heap, crying hysterically, throwing up, and ended up dragging the beast up the two stairs. Every attempt to pick up him and get his front legs set was met with limp submission (and increased mass to at least 900 pouunds, I swear), I just picked up his front end with the sling behind his elbows and hauled him bodily to the deck,rear leg be damned. Uulaq kept trying to engage him in play and I yelled at her..

I don't think I hurt him (any more than the crash onto the concrete did), but I felt awful. Just awful. I scared him, and scared Uulaq, and that was terrible. A tiny part of the incision reopened, but he otherwise, seemed unhurt.

However, dogs have a much bigger heart that we have, and by this morning he had either entirely forgotten about the incident, or decided to forgive me. Going outside this morning was uneventful, and he seemed to be ok -- even perky.

I called the the Adorable Husband this morning and he checked out of hte hotel and headed home, skipping his last three classes so he could be here. Rukh seems SO much better with DH home. His attitude improved immediately (and he headed out to the yard to poop about five days' worth in fifteen minutes) and he seems happy that the Husband is home. I think that Rukh believe that he'd had abandoned us, or something. He's definitely more upbeat now that he's home....and the Adorable Husband can simply pick him up and carry him inside when he gets too tired or sore to continue (the benefits of a large, muscular husband, eh?)

So -- much improved over Thursday (despite my nervous breakdown) and we're hoping that his improvement continues as his strength increases. All in all -- much better. I feel horrible that I scared him, but he's ok. I also went up to nap as soon as the husband got home...and apparently fell into a stupor for about five hours while he managed things. Even throwing lemon peels down the garbage disposaln in the next room didn't wake me!

All-in-all? I'm glad we did this. He's adapting well, and has less pain and seems to be so much happier. Chemo starts next week, and with that we hope to have another year with the beastie!

Friday, November 03, 2006

First Tri-ped Day

We had a pretty quiet night last night -- although Rukh whined in the car because he couldn't get comfortable. It's the FIRST TIME I've ever heard him whine; DH got so concerned he pulled over on the freeway to check that nothing was poking him or pulling his stitches. He was just woozy from the drugs and very tired.

Once we manhandled him inside (and manhandle is the word -- he was DONE with walking by that time) he racked out in the living room and slept. I couldn't get him up to pee around midnight -- he seemed like he was interested in going out, but wasn't going to budge.

This morning, he was wagging and got up himself to get to the door. I still had the towel tucked up under his belly to support him, since his "good" leg is really, really weak right now and he tires so easily. He rabbitted off into the yard like he had a purpose, and I let him get too far....about a quarter of the way back, he STOPPED. I spend over an hour trying to get him back in the house (including pushing him onto a sheet and dragging him across the grass) and eventually just had to hoist him up as best I can and pull him into the house (it's only about 20 degrees outside, and I didn't want him to sit outside in the cold without his fur!). I don't think I hurt him, but it can't have been comfortable.

Once inside, he just sprawled in the hallway for awhile, but a few minutes ago got up under his own power and made it ot he living room.

It's my responsibility to know that he's got no stamina and prevent him from doing things like he did this morning -- now I know. Yikes.

Oh -- his incision is about 12" long, 40 staples. Other than being really, really red (and I'm sure he'll be a lovely shade of green and yellow as the bruise forms, since he's pink under all his fur, he looks great. I saw a huge improvement even from last night in how it looks. And, I wasn't really grossed out, like I thought I was going to be. I don't really even notice the lack of his leg -- just the massive bruise. Poor guy. He doesn't like the cold packs (as instructed by the vet) but they do seem to help!

I'm very tired, though. I hope that he gains enough strength to manage a bit easier soon. We'll be up a creek if I throw my back out trying to haul around a hundred pound beast. And those blow-up camp mattresses? Not so comfortable. If I have to sleep on the living room floor again, I'm having my neighbor go out and pick me up an Aerobed or a futon. LOL.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Good news

CSU called this morning, and Rukh is doing really well! He has been up already, and when they got him outside, he tried to run. I'm not sure if he was actually trying to be energetic, or trying to escape (the hydromethone makes them really, really disphoric, so he might just be confused) but that's very encouraging. He's eating and drinking and they have already turned off the IV drugs and put him back on Rimadyl and Tramadol (which he was on before). That should control his pain.

Yeeha! He should be able to come home today!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Update II - 8pm

CSU just called, Rukh came through surgery very well -- he's groggy but comfortable.

They did the amputation all the way up to the hip socket, removing the entire femur and all the musculature associated with the leg. I assume that is because it's easier for them to balance without any structure on that side, and to remove as much weight from his rear as possible.

Here's hoping that he can get up and move around tomorrow, so he can come home!

Surgery Day

We brought Rukh up to CSU this morning to check him in for surgery. Yesterday was a bad, bad day -- he was barely able to stand up and his hock and foot had swollen up terribly. Even his toes were poofy. We upped his pain meds, and the two Tramadol every four hours that was making him so groggy he couldn't walk just a week ago, now took just enough of the edge off that he could sleep and was able to get up and around.

This morning, he was actually a bit perky -- went outside and walked around a bit, and seemed pretty happy in the car. The student who is handling our case is very sweet, and she spent a lot of time just talking to Rukh and petting him, so when we handed over the leash he was quite happy to go off with her.

Surgery should be around 1pm, and they'll keep him on intravenous pain killers and fluids for twenty-four hours after that. When he can stand up on his own, and when he pees as least once, we can take him home. Probably tomorrow afternoon, late.

I really, really hope that this is better for him.