Tuesday, April 17, 2007


We euthanized Rukh tonight. It was time.

He was a great dog.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Well, we got the xray results for Rukh yesterday -- much worse than we expected. We stopped all the meds earlier this week, because they were just making him nauseous, and we weren't too hopeful that they had been doing any good.

Not really. His xrays look awful. What was a dozen small spots and a few dime-to-nickel sized spots only a month ago is now dozens of tumors, some a few inches across. If the chemo did anything to slow it down, it wasn't much. It's just too aggressive.

He still seems to feel ok, but he's not getting up to eat and drink unless we prompt him, and even then he's having a hard time getting up on his own. I think he's just getting weaker, since he's not getting enough oxygen. That, and laying about all day just makes him stiff. But he still wags his tail, and still wants to go outside, although he's sleeping most of the time and even a short walk taxes him too much. He's working pretty hard to breathe, even just going out into the back yard.

He really deosn't have a whole lot of time left. The Adorable Husband thinks a week, maybe two, before he's having a hard eough time breathing that we aren't going continue. It's scary not to be able to catch your breath, and I won't do that to him.

Damn. Just...damn.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Snow Update

Remember the three-minute scrolling warning that we were going to have a Blizzard! Oh, no!




Friday, April 13, 2007

Killer Chickens

Using some very interesting new technology, scientists have been able to analyze the protein codes in the fossilized bones of a 68 million year old T-rex. DNA evaluation is usually impossible because the fossilization process simply doesn't preserve it well.

So, relationships between bones is usually done by other types of analysis -- shape, size, age, etc. Rather subjective, and very dependent on the amount of remains there are. Given that fossilization is (despite the popular belief from Jurrasic Park) a rare process. Most animals die and their bones rot and disappear. But this new technology can find molecular-level similarities in bones that clearly show how bones are related to one another.

There's a lot of detailed molecular biology involved in how they figured this out, but:
The first results, described in today's issue of the journal Science, show that the collagen protein in T. rex bone is extraordinarily similar to that of the modern chicken, confirming current thinking that dinosaurs' nearest cousins are birds.
I don't know what else they tested against, but as they continue to use this particular method of comparison, I'm sure the data store will expand and they'll have more and more samples to compare against. It's a neat start. I'll be curious to see how all this data pans out. The article here details how they are trying to use this new technology, adn how it's being tested.

Or course, I have to admit that getting some level of confirmation of the theory that dinosaurs are the ancient ancestors of modern chickens actually makes me rethink just how scary a T-rex was -- and, having seen chickens in action, it actually ratcheted it up a notch. Chickens are not docile, friendly creatures, not at all! Imagine a huge T-rex with the personality of a chicken and dagger-sized teeth. Scares me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Warning Overkill

So, spring snow storm. No biggie. Except that this notice takes about three minutes to scroll over the top of the television screen for "the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for....


The scroll one of the channels was even longer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Faster! Faster!

Remember sitting down to a game of Monopoly with your family? Or Parcheesi? Or an hours-long game of Risk? Apparently we were a slower, better-focused group of people then.

Parents are lobbying game manufacturers to "shorten games" because, they claim, they take too long to play and kids aren't having fun.

Michelle Hastings admits she's sometimes cheated to get through a game of Candy
Land with her 5-year-old daughter, Campbell. The board game can take just too long, she said. Disney Monopoly is another big offender.

"A game like that, it could literally take you days," said Hastings, of Holliston, Mass. "A lot of times, you don't play games because they take so long." Board game makers are heeding pleas of parents like Hastings and introducing games tailored to busy lives and shorter attention spans that take only about 20 minutes to play

So the game-makers are releasing "express" versions of the games. Some have nifty electronics to speed things up, others are just simplified to make the game move faster and be easier to play. There have always been "fast" games (Uno, Go Fish, Crazy 8s), but not everything has to be at light-speed!
Best of all for busy parents and kids, the games are brief and they're packaged differently so they can be taken along in the car."It's analogous to a kid picking up his Game Boy for 10 minutes," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant based in New York. "Yet it involves the whole family."

Easier. Faster. Is this really a good thing? C'mon -- not everything in life is instantaneous and not everything should be "easy". This trend actually kind if disturbs me. Everyone has made up rules to a common game to get it over quickly if you really don't have time; but to demand games that are shorter because they take longer than 10 minutes to play? Seriously, do parents really want to teach their kids that a) everything can be done quckly and if it's not fast then it's not valuable and b) they should always be able to "win"? This is where I put on my child-free hat and criticize parenting: kids really do need to learn that they don't always win, that some things do need work and practice and attention to do properly. It's not enough to try. You have to succeed. The world really doesn't give a damn about your fragile self-esteem. [turn off harpy-mode]

Methinks that the demand for faster games has absolutely nothing to do with the kids' attention spans and abilty to play. It's the parents who think things take too long. (As evidenced by the opening paragraph of the article.) Kids can sit and do the most inane things for hours on end, they are perfectly capable of playing a game lasting an hour. Or at least, I certainly remember doing so. I remember playing cards with my dad for a couple hours (he taught me cribbage -- great for math!) and spending the afternoons playing Monopoly or Life with my friends. Scrabble should not be a 10 minute game. Well, maybe it can be, but that's an entirely different mode of leisure, in my book.

And books! If everyone is used to 10-15 minute bursts of entertainment, how on earth are we going to teach them to appreciate books? It takes most people a few days to finish a long novel...if their entire childhood is spend on fast-forward, will kids every learn to enjoy that?

I'm one of the highest-input-requiring people that I know -- I have to have something to read while sitting the carwash or waiting in line to get the mail. I read while I watch television (how's that for a bizarre twist?). I have a ton of hobbies that are tedious and time-consuming in a way that only a zen master can appreciate (a 24x36" cross stich piece on 36ct linen, anyone?). I multitask by default. I feel let down when movies are only an hour and a half long. I really don't get the weird "must be connected must be amused must be entertained" vibe that I get from alot of people. I really have a hard time being passively entertained. Sit in front of the tv and just watch? Not likely.

Apparently, I'm weird.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Catching up

Apparently, it's been a busy week. Or I've simply been too depressed to post. Either way, I haven't had much to say lately. For those who pop in to see what's going on at Chez Phouka, sorry about that.

So what's up? The wine cellar is in and trimmed up, and I've been feverishly entering all the wine into the Wine Curator software that I bought. Very nice. And then printing out labels to hang on all the bottle tags so we can identify things. Yes, appealing to my weird, OCD-organizational habits. I even found little images of grapes, red and white, to put on the labels.

We talked today about Rukh, and decided that we really don't want to keep him on the metronomic chemo that he's on. The combination of chemo, anti-inflammatory, and antiobotic seems to really make him feel crappy, and frankly, I'm not willing to make him feel crappy anymore. I'd rather have four weeks of happy-dog than six of not-so-happy. We're going in for x-rays on Saturday to see where things are, but we've stopped everything except the thyroid meds -- and even after only a day he actually seems perkier and his face looks better. Yeah, you, might think it's hard to discern much of an expression on a fuzzy face, but anyone who's met the beastie would notice a difference. I feel much more calm about the whole thing now. Now we just make him comfortable and spoil him rotten and wait. That's ok.

I expect that his xrays show rather aggressive growth of the tumors in his lungs -- I will be surprised if things haven't progressed much. Although even if they haven't, and things appear to have stalled, we're still going to stop treatment for the cancer itself (chemo, etc). It will give us an idea of how long we really have, though, and that's important.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Seeing in the Dark

As anyone in the technology industries know, the cock-eyed change to Daylight Savings Time early this year caused all sorts of computer distress: patch releases for Windows that boogered up other applications, database issues with timestamps, etc. All in the name of "saving energy".

I've always been skeptical that this has any effect on energy consumption. So what if using lights later in the evening...we're just using them earlier in the mornign to make up for it. We no longer have the luxury of changing our schedules to match the sunrise-sunset, we still have to get up in the morning for work at 6:00 am, for example, and if it's dark outside, we're turning on the lights and turning up the heat.

But other than forcing millions of drowsy American workers and school children into the dark, wintry weather three weeks early, the move appears to have had little impact on power usage.

"We haven't seen any measurable impact," said Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation's largest power companies, echoing comments from several large utilities.

It's nice to have more hours in the evening that are light, and leave work in the daylight, but the whole "energy savings" things is a bust -- an opinion that most energy companies expressed last year when this whole thing was suggested.

I feel quite vindicated.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Internet Gateway

I have to admit that I get very annoyed at poor spelling and grammar on the 'net. Not that I am immune to typos or dangling participles, but the number of people who can't figure out the difference between your and you're and don't understandthat there, they're and their are different words. Or too and to. Its and it's. And the bizarre evolution of txtspk in IM and text messages has me confused.

I can't tell you how many emails I receive that have 'I really like you're website'. Or the misplaced apostrophes that show up all over in ads and webpages. We should have some sort of standard!

So, Defective Yeti blog has set up an Internet Gateway for users, testing just these things. Refresh the page a few times -- there are a number of different tests!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wine Cellar

The Adorable Husband spent yesterday putting together the 19 boxes of wine racks that arrived last week. They come as an enormous jigsaw puzzle of side pieces and cross bars and molding and all that -- something the Adorable Husband loves to do.

He didn't have to buy new tools, but he did have to special order really long screws to secure things to the wall. We ended up adding another 2 1/2" of insulation to the outer concrete wall because we were actually having problems keeping the cellar WARM enough. It seems to be stabilizing now. At any rate, in order to secure the racks to the walls, he had to find 5" screws to get through the wallboard, insulation, and the bracing for the racks. And, since the Adorable Husband is a Handy-Fix-It-Scandinavian, they are solid. We could climb them. There is no way these things are moving.

It took him the better part of two days to get things together and attached and laid out properly but it looks so cool! I'll take some pictures and post them when he gets all the molding up. Soon, I promise!

More info on Dog Food

Ok, I'm not defending Menu Foods, I think their response to this tragedy is shameful. They are making decisions based on the bottom line, and trying desperately to cover their collective asses about this whole thing because it wil cost money to fix it.

However, even human food producers don't test every product they use. They don't test each load of ingredients, regardless of where they come from. THey might test samples now and then, but each new shipment is not checked before dumping the bag into the hopper of the machine. That doesn't happen. While I feel Menu Foods needs to step up and take responsbility for their actions, the tainted wheat was not something that would have normally been tested for, even if it was used in your wheaties.

Even if they did test, what do they test for? It doesn't seem reasonable to expect testing for "everything" -- our food producers rely on existing laws and regulations to ensure that the food they receive is "good". By choosing to import food from an unregulated country, Menu Foods made a huge mistake; but we import billions of dollars of foodstuffs from countries that do not follow our FDA rules. And even if they did follow those rules, only about 1.3% of the food imported into the US is ever inspected or tested at all. 1.3%. Scares the hell out of me, I tell you. Less than five percent of US beef is inspected. We risk eating contaminated food every time we eat something we didn't grow ourselves. And even then.

What I can't figure out is why Menu Foods and the related companies didn't approach this like the Tylenol case -- "Holy Crap! THis is awful! Something happened and we're going to get to the bottom of it. We were following the laws about food safety and apparently that wasn't enough. Here's what we're going to do...."

Instead, we get protestations that they don't really see a clear correlation, that it's someone else's fault, that they aren't liable because it was tainted when they bought it, etc. Shameful. I'm waiting for one of hte high-end dog foods (SD, Euk, etc) to start advertising that they are making food NOT at Menu Foods, even if they have to open their own plants to do so.

By the way, the shipper of the tainted wheat gluten is ChemNutra, sourcing from Xuzhour Anying. ChemNutra’s shipments commenced November 9, 2006 and ended March 8, 2007. [snip] ChemNutra shipped to supplies wheat gluten only to pet food manufacturers.

The total quantity of Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten shipped was 792 metric tons.

Wikipedia is keeping up with the story -- perhaps not as fast a breaking news, but they seem to be well fact-checked.