Friday, December 31, 2010

Purple People Eater & Granada Theater

 I could write a year end reflective post about all my accomplishments for 2010, all my goals and expectations for 2011.  Or I could post pictures of my newly painted kick ass purple dining room.

Jonny finally wore me down on the purple and it turns out I like it.  This was the last room that had the previous owner's paint colors, it only took us 12 years to rid ourselves of them.  But we're finally free of the hideous sea foam green wallpaper border and 1980's salmon pink walls in our dining room.  Jonny had some vacation days so he did all the work while I worked on my contract work and you can imagine how that worked out.

It was a bit stressful for a few days because of all the crap from the dining room lying all over the living room.  Disturbing tableaus lurked everywhere.

I have no idea how the bear in the hideous green snowman sweater and matching hat made it through my purge of Stuff last year but believe me, this year he goes to a new, hopefully more appreciative home.  Ditto for the tacky reindeer made of fake evergreens.  Joey Ramone stays of course as does the plastic praying mantis.  I like leaving it around the house in unexpected places to scare the crap out of Jonny.

There's something disturbing about all your crap laying around in unrelated piles and out of context.  Bill Clinton riding on the rat is my favorite.  Not that our stuff is ever in context even when it's back in place.  I'd like to think it's eclectic but really it's leaning more towards disturbing.

I should probably toss it all.  Except for this.

It came out of the old Granada Theater in Chicago.  I knew they were tearing down the Granada (do not even get me going on what a tragedy that was) so I went to take pictures of it and I spotted a workman leaving the theater with this little gem.  At first I was just admiring it and when he said there were loads more inside I offered to buy it from him (I couldn't go in myself because they were doing asbestos removal plus the part about not having a saw).  $15 later this little piece of architectural history was mine.

Granada Theater in 1989 (I believe it was demolished in 1990)

A man from the neighborhood saw me taking pictures and came over to chat.  It turned out he knew a lot about the theater.  He said the 'alcoves' (located at the top center of the photo below) used to house elaborate statutes but they'd been pilfered. 
Such amazing detail

I have photos from inside but I didn't have a flash with me so they aren't very good.  I did find some photos of the interior on the internets.  I couldn't go too far in because of the asbestos removal but I got to see enough of it to see what a tragedy it was to let it go.  In its stead they built ugly yuppie condos which were eventually turned into dorms for Loyola University.  Ah well, at least I have my little piece of it.

We're having a few friends over for a low key New Year's Eve (and of course to show off our purple dining room).  We were invited to a real party up in the mountains but we finally got our first real snow of the winter along with some nice arctic temperatures and nobody wants to drive all the way up the skating rink of Boulder Canyon and then up more scary steep twisty icy mountain roads to the party's locale so we're having a little flat-lander's gathering.  Hope you all enjoy whatever festivities you're up to tonight and a Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What would you do for Chocolate Crack Pie?

This is what happens when you send the husband to the store for bittersweet chocolate.

This was after 2 trips to the store, yesterday and today at 5 pm.  You can imagine.  I refuse to go to the store the day before a major holiday.  Whatever I need I decide I no longer need.  Now technically I didn't send him to the store yesterday at that godawful hour and he was off of work and could have gone whenever plus he volunteered to go so I think he enjoys it on some perverse level.  I would have been a bit more sympathetic except that he came home the first time all indignant that I hadn't specified which type of chocolate.  Thankfully I had Exhibit A-the shopping list I'd sent him with.  The unspecified 'chocolate' listing was in his writing whilst 'bittersweet chocolate' was clearly on the list in mine.  Poor guy went back out a second time tonight, this time to the Safeway.  If he's not home by 7 I'll send out Search and Rescue.

I'm going to make Mascarpone Chocolate Pie aka 'Chocolate Crack Pie' for our X-mas brunch with friends tomorrow.  Because it's easy and I know I can do it and it's a challenge to see if I can send any of my uber healthy friends into a diabetic coma.  Plus I get to use my fancy pants stand mixer.  I don't deserve such a fancy kitchen appliance given my terrifying culinary skills but my grandmother got it for me and it rocks so I try to pick recipes that use a mixer.

I was hoping to get going on it this afternoon but Jonny was out biking and no way I was going to the store so I'm stuck doing it tonight while I'm sleepy which could yield some interesting results.  On the other hand it's hard to go too far wrong with massive amounts of butter and chocolate.  As long as no one ends up in the ER I'll call it good.


I thought I was pretty bad ass going to the pool this morning for my masters swim workout on the day before X-mas, especially since it was my 3rd masters workout this week and I typically only go twice.  The coach didn't even show up.  But there was a small, intrepid group of us and a guy who was a coach in another lifetime came up with a fun, impromptu workout.

Then I saw this post over at Open Water Chicago.  Yes folks, a group of seriously hardcore open water swimmers did a 1/2 mile swim in 32 degree water with a 14 degree air temp.  For 'fun'.  There are photos and video over at the link.  I'm getting hypothermia just thinking about it.

This is why I don't buy dog toys

The dogs' Auntie Heidi came 'round today to bring them some nice holiday presents.  Because I'm Scroogey and buy them bupkis at X-mas.  Well that's not the reason she brought them toys but anyway it took not more than a couple of minutes for them to rip off a foot of one of the toys while I was chatting with Auntie Heidi about how naughty they were and how much they did not deserve nice presents.  O.k. that's not what we were talking about, we were really talking about Greyhounds in pajamas and I can't even believe I'm admitting this in public for all the internets to hear but oh well.

Heidi soon had enough of the ensuing mayhem and left to deliver gifts to her less noisy and boisterous doggie friends and I went in the house with Cody so he could enjoy one of the toys without getting bowled over by the Trouble Twins.  I was not gone but 3 minutes or so when I went back outside to discover the Demolition Duo had been busy indeed.

Previous to taking the photo I had to pry the squeaker out of Lola's mouth.  And while Lola enjoys a good de-stuffing as much as the next guy I'm fairly certain I've caught the main culprit red-handed.

You know those toys made of tire tread that are tested by Rottweiler/Pitbull mixes for their sturdiness against the most destructive of canines?  Yeah, Strummer laughs at those toys.  And yes he will eat the bits and pieces of whatever he destroys so he can't have toys without a chaperone.  I live in hope that he'll grow out of his destructive, eat everything stage but he'll be 6 in March.  That's years, not months.  I'm pretty sure he's going to be off his head clear into his dotage.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Serps and Threadles

Had a fun practice today featuring serpentines and threadles.  Seems like I was struggling more than I should have been but some of the sequences were challenging.  In Exercise #3 in the video I finally had to cry uncle and put in a front cross.  I was trying to handle it like a serp for the sake of practice even though it wasn't the most ideal handling choice but I became frustrated and realized the front was a better choice all the way around so why force the issue.  Still making the mistake of turning into him sometimes but I think this session was better than last and I'm feeling more comfortable with running forward and having him come into my dropped arm.  He understands the move, I need to trust him though.

PRACTICE 12-23-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

My knee's been plaguing me a bit, tried getting back into running a few weeks ago and it went o.k. for a couple of runs then I had a run where it felt like elves were jabbing broken shards of glass into my knee (which is actually a good metaphor for how the holiday season makes me feel) and I've been scared to try again.  I feel it tweak now and again and it cranks a bit at me when I run Strummer in agility but I realize now it never bothered me for the whole practice and there was a good bit of running.  I had slacked off from icing it every day and now that I've been better about icing it I'm noticing an improvement so I guess I'll keep up with it.  Maybe I'll try running again next week.  I'm considering a new race next year, a sprint triathlon up Lookout Mountain next July, and there's a discount for entering before Jan. 1 but it seems stupid to enter a race so far in advance when my knee is wonky but after the past few days I'm feeling more optimistic.  It's a pool swim though and I've never done one with proper lanes.  Looks like I'll have to suck it up and learn how to do a flip turn.

Still enjoying dry, mild weather, very freaky but I'm not complaining until the hills start on fire.  Mountains are getting slammed with snow, best ski conditions in like 20 years supposedly but I have no motivation to go up there while it's relatively warm down here.  Looks like it's supposed to be in the 50's this weekend, screw yer White Christmas, biking on trails on X-mas day, yee ha!  I heart La Nina.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Running Dogwalk/A-Frame End of Year Stats

I thought it would be interesting to compile the dogwalk and A-frame results from this past year's trials to see how we did.  Also I can easily look up trials where we did well then check my training the few weeks before and likewise for trials where we didn't do so well.  Sometimes the atmosphere of the trial itself as well as Strum's mood on the day had more bearing on contact performances for sure but it's still nice to be able to look back at training patterns to see what had the best effects.  All dates are for 2010.

Jan 3 USDAA - 0/1 DW = 0%
                        1/1 AF = 100%

Feb. 2010 DOCNA - No Stats

April 3-4 USDAA - 1/2 DW?
                             1 missed AF (Snooker)

May 8 USDAA - 1/2 DW - 50%
                          1/1 AF? - 100%?

May 22-23 DOCNA - No Stats

May 29-30 DOCNA - 6/10 DW (rubber, no slats) - 60%
                                 10/10 AF (rubber, no slats, 5' high) - 100%

June 26 USDAA - 2/2 DW (or 1/1?) - 100%
                           2/2 AF (or 3/3?) - 100%

July 31-Aug. 1 DOCNA - 10/11 DW - 91%
                                       8/8 AF - 100%

Aug. 9 UKI - 2/2 DW - 100%
                    2/3 AF - 67%

Aug. 14-15 DOCNA - No stats, just a note that DW success rate is improving slightly and some
                                 fantastic 180 degree flips off the DW and AF into tunnels on a verbal cue.

Sept. 22-25 DOCNA Champs - No stats just a note that we missed 2 DW to tunnel flips

Oct. DOCNA - 8/10 DW - 80%
                       10/11 AF - 91%

Dec. DOCNA - 4/11 DW - 36%
                        6/8 AF - 75%

Some of my stats were from memory in that the trial report said only '100% on AF's' so I counted up the number of AF's I thought we did.  This is more for noticing general trends rather than getting too nit picky.

Final end of year stats counting only reps. that I was sure of: 

Dogwalk:  32/48 = 67%

A-frame:  39/43 = 91%

The worst trial was the very last one in December and if you remove that trial the stats go up to:

Dogwalk:  28/37 = 76%

A-frame:  33/35 = 94%

And in fact it was mostly Sunday that brought down the numbers for that December trial (5 of the 7 misses were on Sunday).  Strum had a bad day in general on Sunday as far as his behavior and mental state so it makes sense that his contact performance suffered.  Interesting how one bad day can bring down the numbers so significantly for the whole year and why it's important to look at general trends.

The second set of numbers matches my own perception of his contact performance in trials so it's good that I have a realistic idea in my mind of what's going on in the ring.

A week after the trial I took him out to the training field to run a full course (the Standard Finals run from the AKC Invitational) and he flew off the dogwalk right off the bat.  I tried a few more times and same result.  So I tried to backchain it by having him start at the top of the down ramp and he still couldn't get it.  SO frustrating.  I finally had to stand right in front of the dogwalk ramp.  I eventually got a few hits and called it a day for the dogwalk because once he gets in one of those loops of constantly doing it wrong it's hard to get him out and best to give it a rest for the day.  I was using his much beloved squeaky chicken for reward and this didn't help as he was so excited to get it that it was all he could think about.

Yesterday I decided some remedial work was in order so I broke out the remote control treat dispensing gizmo and put the toys away for the session.  I was determined to reward only those hits that were obvious so there was one hit that I didn't reward.  There was also one that was a hit but too close and I shouldn't have rewarded it but I did.  These were my only mistakes with rewards.

I'm of 2 minds about rewarding those hits that are back feet only.  Technically they're clean if the judge can see them properly.  Silvia accepts these for her dogs.  Strum was doing them at the Daisy Peel seminar and she said they were acceptable.  In watching the video it's true that he's not leaping but it seems to speak to a lack of understanding of the behavior.  And I think it's harder for the judge to see.  A judge that's hostile to running contacts might call it.  And there are times where he just misses with his back feet (this is what happened in the 'close call' rep that I rewarded).  On the other hand I think there's a danger in being too picky.  For now I think I'll reward the very obvious ones and see where that leads us.

Results for the training session were 11/15  or 73%, right in line with his typical performance.

Yet more video.  I know, some of you are sick to death of the video but this is helpful to me when I go back to check training progress.  I know, 'Will she never be done training the wretched dogwalk?' is what you're thinking.  Believe me, I'm thinking the same thing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

With a name like Wubba it has to be good

A kind reader invited me to enter a contest over at her blog, Just a Pup, and hey, who doesn't love free stuff?  And adorable Tibetan Terrier puppies?  So I went over there and entered, hoping to win the Grand Prize of a Wubba.  When I got an email saying I'd won a prize I figured odds were it was one of the smaller prizes of treats or something which still would have been great so imagine how excited I was when the package came and it was the Grand Prize of Wubba.  Because I'm easily amused like that.

My Wubba.  No MY Wubba!

Even Cody was fascinated with Wubba.

But he didn't stand a chance with the Trouble Twins.

Tug of Wubba

Pleeeeeze I can haz Wubba??!!


Big thanks again to Catalina at Just a Pup!  Everybody is now a big fan of Wubba.  Except my husband.  Did I mention that Wubba squeaks?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Finally got a photo of a sundog.  I'm obsessed with sundogs.  They're more impressive in person, my photography skills are wanting.  I've been seeing loads of them lately and of course I never have my camera.  I only had the point and shoot today because I was on my bike and was only half expecting to see them.  What a spectacular day, shorts weather and sundogs in December.  There were some nice cloud formations too and the moon kept poking its face in and out.

Marshall Mesa (the moon is visible but it's hard to distinguish from the clouds)

I was back on the Flatirons Vista/Doudy Draw/Springbrook trails again and added on some trails at Marshall Mesa to make it a little longer.  I'm trying to get photos at spots all along the trails.

Flatirons Vista

But I can't seem to help myself and keep ending up with this view with the Continental Divide.  The light was some kind of eerie today.

I guess it can't stay in the 60's forever, it is December after all, and tomorrow it might even rain but today was a special treat of magical.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Left Hand Trail

I've thankfully got some more contract work so I've been busy this week but I did manage to sneak out on Thursday for a ride on the trails near my house.  This view is looking up towards the Hogback Trail and if you go to the link you can see the view from the Hogback looking down on this trail.  We've been having a string of 50-60 degree days and I've been trying to take advantage as much as possible.  The next couple of days are supposed to be in the 60's as well, I can hardly believe it.  I truly loathe this time of year but with this fabulous sunny weather and some work to distract me from the horrors of the holidays I've managed to keep my vitriol for the season to a minimum.  Though I did have a good laugh at 'Consume to your Doom' spray painted in giant letters on the wall of an underpass near my house.  But it's hard to be too grinchy with blue skies and sun bashing away in December and dry trails as far as the eye can see.

Monday, December 06, 2010

December DOCNA trial

So many runs, it's all kind of a blur.  The good was his Jumpers runs-both of them fast, clean, 1st places and there are some fast dogs in Masters nipping at his heels.  There's no room for a wide turn or refusal.  The bad, I'm not even going to discuss the bad.  The ugly was weave entrances and of course the dogwalk.  I thought we'd gone 4/5 hits on Saturday but reviewing the video revealed a gift from the judge.  I had to put it into slo-mo to see the miss but once I realized it I could then see it at regular speed.  Sunday, ugh, the wheels fell off the dogwalk on Sunday.  I think he was 1/6, the worst yet in trial or practice.  I thought maybe he was 2/6, I thought he had it on one run but the judge said no and I'm supposing she was probably right.  I let him get off with it on his first Standard run then thought 'duh, why didn't I make him redo it since DOCNA allows it?'  He missed again on his second Standard run so I made him redo it and it took until the third try for him to get it.  I'm not convinced this is the best way to handle the situation though.  The Time Gamble had the same set up as Standard so I repeated the run exactly and he missed again, had him redo it and that was when I thought he got it but the judge didn't give me the points so it must have been wishful thinking on my part.  So I'm not so sure there's that much value in repeating it other than marking the incorrect behavior.  I've put in a fair amount of dogwalk practice since October and in return I have a degradation of the behavior so something isn't working with the training.  What it is and how to fix it is the question. I think I need to go back to setting things up so that I can be 100% sure of what I'm rewarding.  I suspect the one or two misses that I reward every practice session aren't helping my case.  I think I need to tighten up my criteria a bit as well and only reward the really perfect hits.

Weave entries didn't fair much better and cost us placements in Standard and the NAC.  I don't care so much about the placements themselves but now that we're in Masters I'm using them as a way to gauge our progress.  I'm not content to just go for Q's, I want the runs to be the best they can be with no refusals or wide turns or having to redo the weaves a million times.  Just because DOCNA allows refusals doesn't mean I want them to happen.  Every trial we're pretending we're at Championships so that I can have some motivation to get better.  Because now that we're in Masters and there's nowhere to go I'm finding myself lacking a bit in motivation.  Titles are o.k. but now that they don't have any real world value, ie I'm not moving up to a higher level, I don't care all that much about them.

Saturday looked good on paper-5/6 Q's but I wasn't happy about the refusals and missed weave entries.  Sunday looked not so good on paper-1/6 Q's though Strum and I were clean save for a refusal in the Jumpers portion of Trigility so I guess technically 2/6 Personal Q's.  I used one Standard run and the Time Gamble for training the dogwalk.

You want video?  We've got video.  Here's a link to his Jumpers run and 4 Standard runs that a friend shot with her Flip camera.

And I'll also embed the videos I had on my camera.

North American Challenge (like USDAA's Grand Prix) and Snakes & Ladders
DOCNA Dec. 2010-NAC and Snakes & Ladders from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Standard runs (shot with a tripod)

DOCNA Dec. 2010-Standard from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The Jumpers run on the Flip link is the best.  The NAC run wasn't too bad either, just the missed weave entries and the missed dogwalk that wasn't called.  It was so close though, it's easy to see how the judge didn't call it.  She gave most people the benefit of the doubt all weekend and was very consistent with her calls.  We ended up in 3rd.  I put slow motion clips of the dogwalks after each run.

Most of my handling issues for the weekend were due to being too far behind.  Must be more faster.  And have more independent obstacles.  Some of those courses were horse races though.  Look at this course from the #11 weaves poles all the way to the end.  I managed to keep up until the dogwalk and then it was all over for me.  The entrance to the #17 tunnel was set at more of an angle away from the #16 jump and with me too far behind to reset his line Strum ended up in the wrong end of that tunnel.   The opening was challenging as well (the 5/7 jump was rotated a bit more counter clockwise so it handled more like a serpentine).  I had to run like I stole something to be able to get ahead to handle the serpentine then rear cross 5 to 6 and front cross 6 to 7.  The weave poles were the only chance I had to catch my breath.

I was really pleased with both Jumpers runs.  Both had serpentines and I remembered to stay straight and not turn into him, worked perfectly, thanks to Jennifer Crank for helping me with that when she was here for a seminar last year.  Pulled off some tight front crosses too and no bars down.  6.15 yps for the first run and 5.99 for the second, whee-ha, that was fun.  I love Masters Jumpers.  Let us never speak of Advanced and Starters Jumpers again.

Final Stats

Specialist Traditional Gamblers Q-5th place (struggled with the gamble and lost time)

Specialist Standard Round 1 Q-7th place (2 refusals, missed weave pole entry cost us time)

Specialist North American Challenge Q-3rd place (2 missed weave entries)

Specialist Snakes and Ladders Q-11th place (again with the weave entries)

Specialist Jumpers Round 1 Q-1st place (6.15 yps)

Specialist Jumpers Round 2 Q-1st place (5.99 yps)

No titles completed.

4/11 (36%)  Worst ever for a trial and probably for practice too.

6/8 (75%)  I think this is a low for the A-frames too.

100% legal but I wasn't happy with several of them.  I stayed back to babysit one of them and this put me behind and led to an off-course.  Must work on teeters.

Weave pole entries
I think he got 2 or 3 out of I don't even know how many.  Goes without saying that I must work on this.

Bars down
Maybe 1 or 2, all were handling errors

Overall more Q's than last October's trial but big degradations in contacts and weave poles and I spent the last 6 weeks working on these things.  Maybe I should try the not training approach.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Anatomy of a nap

Courtesy of Mr. Cody Baloney, Professional Snooze Hound, S.H.

He does a lot of snoozing these days and at 12 1/2 years old I figure he's entitled.  He loves to lie on the deck in the sun, especially if I block off the deck from Strummer and he can finally get some peace.