Monday, January 31, 2011

Slowtime Monday

The outside world was a skating rink today, a layer of ice then an inch or so of snow, just enough to be annoying and make a mess of things.  Add to that the 10 degree F temps and 1 degree wind chill and I decided it was a good day for reading and Scooby slippers and the Cocteau Twins on the stereo.

Cody is my couch buddy

Strummer not so much

Lola also not so fond of snow days
Neither of them are particularly good at relaxing

What is this 'off switch' you speak of?

Cody putting in a plea for an end to their shenanigans.  And some hot chocolate.

I did manage to get Strummer out for a 2 mile walk around the lake after bundling him up in coat and booties.  Neither of us had a problem with the cold and we had the trail to ourselves but I didn't want to go any further because I was worried about one or both of us slipping.  We have a 4 day seminar at the end of the week that I've been looking forward to for forever and all I need is for one of us to pull something.  At least we dodged the bullet of the apocalyptic snow storm that the rest of the country is supposed to get.  A couple more days of arctic cold and maybe another inch of snow then we should be fine but I don't think my friends and family in Chicago will be so lucky.  Warm thoughts and Scooby slippers to the rest of you.  I suspect you'll soon be joining me on the couch.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Up and running-sort of

I've got a power saw and I'm not afraid to use it.

O.k., actually I'm terrified to use it but I tried sawing a 2x4 by hand and decided I'd take my chances with the modern technology.  I'm happy to report that I still have all my phalanges.   It still took for freaking ever to saw all the wood though.  And the painting...  I can't believe I wasted two gorgeous days of mid-60's on painting giant toys for dogs.  I thought that painting and sawhorse assembling and hinge attaching would take a day and a bit but it took 3 days.  Plus the day for sawing.  This was a big job for someone who is not handy and doesn't have the slightest idea what she's doing.

Then there's the not so small problem of this only barely fits in my yard.  Now I knew that, really I did.  But one day I decided that the only way Strum was going to learn this dogwalk was if I could go out a few times a day for some short sessions rather than going out to the training field once or twice a week if I'm lucky.  So I busted out the tape measure and with some creative math and a heavy dose of denial I convinced myself this could somehow work.

Between those 2 photos I think you can see how deluded I was.  Part of the problem is that all of this was hinging on the hinges being easy to detach so that I could take the dogwalk apart on my own and put it away from time to time.  Because if I run the dogwalk into the other part of the yard and across the concrete sidewalk it works a bit better.  But unfortunately those 'detachable' hinges are a bitch.  I could barely muscle the pin out before I even attached them to the planks.  Definitely a 2 person job with a wood dogwalk and one of those persons better be strong.  Stronger than me anyway.  And I've been hitting the pool up these days so I do have some sort of kind of visible arm muscles.  I'm not going to be kicking Madonna's ass anytime soon but I've probably got a little more upper body strength than your average middle age dog lady.  Anyway, since this dogwalk is now assembled for the duration I didn't want it in the main yard blocking our access from the house to the garage since this is our main path to the world beyond.  I suppose we'll get good at running into walls.  Hopefully not literally.

This was an exhausting job.  When I finally finished this afternoon I curled up into the fetal position on the couch and watched a documentary on the Minutemen from Netflix.    Because OMG people, the effing MINUTEMEN.  If you never got to see the Minutemen live I weep for you.  Actually what I weep for is D. Boon dying in his 20's when he had so much music left in him.

'Little Man with a Gun in his Hand'-we'll dedicate this one to the Arizona gunman

I went digging through my vinyl for my copy of 'Double Nickels on the Dime' and discovered oh horrors, I don't have a copy on vinyl, must have had it on cassette tape and I threw out 90% of my cassette tapes when I threw out all the Stuff because when was the last time I ever listened to a cassette tape?  Then I got a jolt realizing how long it must have been since I last listened to this album. Time flies scary fast these days.  Then I started getting depressed about D. Boon and decided to look at the video I shot from Strum's first encounter with his new dogwalk.  And this didn't help the depression.

He's never done well working with toys and add in a brand new dogwalk and running into a wall in a major way and how tired I was from Day 3 of manual labor and this practice was doomed before we started.  But I wanted to see how he would respond to the dogwalk and how the dogwalk would hold up to him.  Obviously the down ramp needs some reinforcing mostly because it's a bit warped.  The other ramp which is my old ramp is nice and stiff with good reinforcing but it's even worse running him the other way because the fence is even closer to the end of the dogwalk.  I also need to videotape the top ramp to see if it needs reinforcing.  The sawhorses could use some stabilizing members as well.  I also think I need to face reality and move the walk so I have a little more space even if it does take over the yard and block the sidewalk.  For now this set up is too challenging.  I could also think about moving it so that it heads into the walkway that goes to the front of the house.  There are pavers there though so he'd have to run over the pavers to get on the walk and then the walk would block access to the front of the house.  I am NOT moving to a house with a bigger yard to accommodate oversized dog toys.  I have to draw the line on this madness somewhere.  Funny to think we told the realtor we wanted a small yard when we were looking for this house.  I suppose I can always try selling the dang thing if this doesn't work out.  The dogwalk, not the house.

I do have one handy tip that I can pass on though.  If you put hand cream on before you paint then the paint or primer washes off no problem if it's latex.  However I don't have a tip for keeping the paint off the Border Collie.  Or getting it off.  Especially off the tail, it's all over his big goofy tail.

He was not so very helpful this weekend.  In fact more the opposite of helpful.  Had to be banished to the house while I used the power tools and stood at the window panting and obsessing with the occasional shrieking barking fit.  I mean he stood at the window panting and barking, not me, though I was tempted.

Showing off his new dye job.

Very punk rock

Cody says he managed to not get any paint on himself.  It's not rocket science.

The temps. are supposed to plunge to single digits for a couple of days next week so this experiment is on hold for a bit.  Maybe by then my yard will have magically expanded by 20'.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dogwalk video comparison

My new camera redeemed itself a bit.  I shot some video on Sunday of more dogwalk practice and the difference in video quality from my old mini DV is significant.

Practice from 1-23-2011, shot with Flip Mino (8GB, 2 hour, 2nd generation)

Practice from 1-19-2011 (previously posted), shot with Canon mini DV

In order to really see a difference you have to change the setting on the You Tube player from 360p to 1080p HD on the first video.  The other video will only go up to 480p.  I'm assuming You Tube does this so people with slower internet can still watch stuff.  I'll have to try a similar experiment with my Vimeo account.

When I created the Flip movie in Movie Maker I used the HD setting, something I didn't do when I created the handling video because I was scared the file would be too big since it was so much longer.  The file size for the first video is 56,850 KB and the length is 1:21 minutes.  The second video from the mini DV camera is 17,505 KB and the length is 1:07.  The handling video from the other day that was created using what I thought was a lower quality setting is 181,434 KB and 2:33 minutes but it had music and titles and the running contact video didn't, not sure if it matters but I suspect it does.

I'm not sure how well the Flip will work in my yard because of it's limited zoom range.  I may have to climb on my roof to set it up.  Could lead to some interesting video anyway.  And some funny stares from the neighbors.  Looks like we'll finally have weather warm enough for me to paint my dogwalk by the end of the week and my hinges should arrive by Friday so I may be in business by this weekend.

As for Sunday's practice we was pretty much 100% for reps with the treat gizmo, even with a jump at the end of the walk then the gizmo and pretty much all misses for reps without the gizmo and me running with a toy.  I persisted and got one nice rep. in then quit.  At least I know what my problem is, thanks so much to my observant reader for pointing it out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some handling practice

Nice practice session today with my training partner.  It got hot in the sun even though temps. were in the 40's so we cut it short since the dogs were panting.

This is my first video with my new Flip Mino video camera.  I like the small size and ease of use of it but I think it has comparable or maybe slightly worse video quality than my mini DV and it doesn't zoom out as far which is problematic for shooting my practices with a tripod.  It uploads quickly but then when I put the clips into Windows Movie Maker to trim them down Movie Maker has to process them in some way and that takes a fair amount of time.  The files are nearly twice the size for the same or slightly worse video quality and I'm not happy about that.  I'll try it a few more times but I'm leaning towards returning it and waiting until I can afford a regular HD camcorder (and hoping my mini DV camcorder holds out in the meantime).  I suppose for $114 I'm expecting too much.

This practice session went much better than last week since it was a lot easier but still had it's challenges.  Weave pole entries continue to be a problem for Strummer and the one in Exercises 1 and 5 is one of the hardest scenarios for him.  I was even out at the practice field this week practicing that entry.  We worked at it until he finally got it. 

Only one rear cross for the whole practice and I did my goofy little run away from the cross then quickly charge the other way into the cross.  Joy would cringe if she saw that, she was always pointing that out to me.  Strum read it o.k. but still not the way I want to execute a rear cross.

In Exercise 3 I was trying to tighten up the turn to the tunnel with a front cross and at first moved parallel to the tunnel opening which was not so very helpful.  I figured it out though and it was a much nicer turn.

In Exercise 5 I should have put in a front cross between the yellow jump and tunnel.  Not sure how I missed that.

In general I felt more focused than last week.  Tried to focus on focusing and when I remembered to do it it worked.  Hopefully some dog walk practice and a full course tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dogwalk Dogwalk and more Dogwalk

I'm going back to basics to try to retrieve some semblance of behavior that I want on the dogwalk after the last 2 dismal trials.  I looked back over my training vs successful trials and it looks like things started to break down while working on turns in earnest.  The practices themselves were o.k. but the trials that followed not so much.  Could be related but maybe not.  I think the more likely scenario is that he had a bad day at a trial and the next trial was in the same location and he kept up with the incorrect behavior.  In any case the plan was to do some back chaining with the treat gizmo then a few full dogwalks.  Unfortunately I forgot the gizmo and the end result was a dismal 6/14 hits (43%).  On the upside the hits were towards the end of the session so he was finally starting to get the behavior back.  The downside is that watching the slow motion of some of the big leaps is scary.  He's flying onto the down ramp with an alarming rate of speed and power and he can't (or won't) control himself on the way down then uses the down ramp as a launch pad.  I need to figure out how to get him to not extend so much.  The last rep. on the video shows this even though it was a hit.

Yesterday I sneaked in another practice before a snowstorm hit and I remembered the treat gizmo.  Success rate was 4/5 (80%), much better and the one miss was maybe a hit, one of those very iffy ones (1st rep on the video) though and I rewarded it at the time but didn't like the look of it after watching it in slow motion so I won't count it.  Those are the worst because I almost always reward them.  But at least he was putting in the stride on the downside and not leaping.

It's funny what a difference the treat gizmo makes.  So it could be the elimination of the treat gizmo when I was training the turns that contributed to the breakdown of the behavior as well.  I did work to fade the thing but fading props has never been my strong point.  I know, we could argue about whether the treat gizmo is technically a prop but whatever term you want to use it's something that needs to be faded.  Next training session I'll do a few reps with the gizmo then replace it with a jump with the gizmo on the far side of the jump, then  a  tunnel, etc.  That's how I faded it last time but I think this time after I totally fade it I'll bring it out every once in a while (maybe once a month) for a couple of reps to try to keep things solid.  It's such a pain to haul that thing around along with the video camera and tripod and I was thrilled when I was finally able to fade it and maybe faded it a little too quickly.

I've got all the wood sawn for my backyard dogwalk and now all I have to do is paint it and assemble the sawhorses.  I also need to get some hinges.  I've seen some kits specifically for the dogwalk online but the cheapest one I can find is $50.  So far I've spent about $75 so that's a huge expense.  Home Depot didn't have any hinges with removable pins and even if I can find hinges like that it might be hard to get a long bar bent on the end to use in place of the pins.  I found these cool hinges but they would end up costing $57.  Boulder only has one hardware store and I'll try them today.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Get your handling geek on

More handling practice yesterday, more struggling with threadles and back sides of jumps.  I've never had that big of a problem with threadles in lessons (don't think I've ever seen one in a trial) but I've been struggling with them the past 2 weeks.  I guess it depends on what happens after the threadle.  And sending the dog over the back side of a jump then doing a front cross, yeah, if anyone has any tips on how to do that it'd be great because I have no clue.  I can pull it off once by magic then the rest of the time Strum won't take the jump.  Sometimes he runs past it and yesterday he was actually pulling off it and running back around the sending side of the jump to me. There's a bit on the video at around 2:20 but of course the send part is partially off camera.  The courses can be seen here.  We did the 2 on the bottom that didn't use the tunnel.  The back side of jump/front cross thing was in the course on the lower right, 8 (weaves) to 9 to 10.  Things were set really tight due to space limitations and normally this makes things easier for me but not so with this practice.

Oddly enough the thing I struggled with the most other than the back side of jump/front cross thingy was the #14 jump in the first exercise (course shown in lower left corner).  The jump was set farther out of the circle then shown on the map and if I pulled away laterally to get ahead he'd come right with me and leave out the jump.  This happened about a zillion times.  I edited it out of the video because watching that over and over would have made you scream for mercy.  It's a simple lateral send but I had to stop and make sure he was practically taking off before moving laterally or he pulled off it.  Something to practice maybe even in my backyard with just one jump.  We've done it a zillion times but it's so different with motion on a course.  I was also frustrated with myself for making the same mistake over and over.  Apparently the focus/mental management thing has not sunk in.  I'm not sure where my brain wanders off to sometimes when I'm running that poor dog.  Strummy did awesome, he was trying his best to sort out my fumblings and had a great time anyway.  No problem with his mental management or attitude.

I ran out of tape for the third exercise so I don't have that on video.  We improvised and did a more straightforward running type course and we did much better with that.  Was good to end on a high note.  The tight trappy technical international type courses are interesting to work on for a change but I'm glad I don't have to do that kind of thing all the time.  The regular stuff seems so easy afterwards.

Hopefully I'll get out to the practice field tomorrow for some dogwalk practice and I'll start in on building my own walk as well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Every trial is a learning experience no matter how long you've been doing this and we learned some good lessons this weekend.

For instance just because you're not in masters yet and the trial is less than 20 minutes away and it started on Friday so your crap is already set up doesn't mean you can be all 'La De Da' and sleep in on Saturday and stop at the coffee shop on the way.  Because it's inevitable that you'll get stuck behind the guy that has nothing better to do at 8 am than flirt with the barista.  Also this is not a good time to pull out the foam roller and start with the IT band stretches that you should have been doing on a daily basis for the past 10 years.  Because master jumpers goes faster than you think and there's a good chance you'll arrive half way through your walk through for advanced jumpers.  According to the book I'm reading this is not so good for the Mental Management.  I'm not reading the book for myself because I don't have Mental Management issues except that according to the book I maybe sort of do and didn't realize it.  I liked life better before I had this particular epiphany is all I have to say.  The book is very good at pointing out the mental management issues but not so good with practical ways of solving them.  Telling me that I need to Focus and that Focusing is the most important thing and that I need to Focus in the face of all distractions and stresses is not terribly helpful because DUH.  I think I need to reread the book when I'm not falling asleep at night.  Or maybe stick my head back in the sand and go back to a simpler time when agility was a fun hobby and not so incredibly complicated.  O.k., who am I fooling, I do love the complexity of the challenges of the sport.  I just don't love a book making me feel bad about my focusing abilities when I screw up.  I wonder if I'm the only one who's ever gotten mental management issues from a book that's supposed to help with mental management issues.

There were a lot of other lessons too.  According to the book I'm supposed to write a debriefing of all my runs and examine the good parts and the areas for improvement and think about what my focus was like for all of it and what contributed to the good focus and the bad focus and  how to replicate the good focus next time.  Except that sounds exhausting and everything happens so quickly out there I hardly know what hit me when I get out of the ring and by Tuesday morning it's all kind of a blur.  Maybe we'll just go with a picture of Strummer in the 10" of snow we got over the weekend.

An example of very focused.  On a Wubba that is off camera.  Maybe I should get me a Wubba.

I don't have any video because my camera was having some technical issues.  I finally figured out that it needed the heads cleaned which was no problem but in my experience once these cheapo cameras start needing their heads cleaned they aren't long for the world.  I'll have to start budgeting for one of those cheapo Flip cameras.  They aren't my favorite but I'm starting to see how handy they are compared to the mini DV tapes especially for when I tape my practices.  Uploading 45 minutes of video in real time is a huge pain.

Alright, I guess I'll give the debriefing a try.  I'll put some more stuff at the end of the post but I'll section this part off because I imagine it'll be even more tedious to read than it is to write.


Advanced Gamblers

The Good
First run of the trial and our only Q for the weekend, 1st place.  Gamble was easy peasy, no problems there.  Smooth and fast with no hesitations.  I headed into it from the jump just south of the A-frame.  It wasn't my original plan but it worked.  Kept my cool for the gamble despite a messed up opening and being out of position when the horn blew.  Got 2 A-frame contacts.  No bars down.

Areas for Improvement
Started out Tire-Jump-Weaves and he flew by the weave entry.  Things went a little crazy after weaves, I was rushing and set a bad line to the jumps heading to the chute.  Then I didn't support the chute and he ran right past it.  Got him in eventually but then did it again.  Had to change my course.

Grand Prix

The Good

Got his weave pole entry on his first try.  I was SO happy about that but was able to refocus on the course while he was doing the poles.  Got all my planned crosses in, timing was good (FC btwn weaves & tunnel 5, FC btwn jump 7 & A-frame, RC btwn 17 & 18).  Debated between a RC btwn 16 and 17 or 17 and 18 and settled on 16 and 17 in my head but I was so far ahead on course that I decided to do 17 and 18.  No bars down, he got the dog walk/tunnel discrimination no problem.  I felt calm, relaxed, focused until he blew his dog walk contact.  Lots of nice focus from Strummer.  Good teeter.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his dog walk and A-frame contacts.  After he missed the dog walk I started rushing, changing my original handling plan and didn't support the last 2 obstacles so he ran past the chute and jump and started heading out of the ring without me.  I called him back to finish them and he did no problem.


Advanced Jumpers

No course map.

The Good
I felt calm and focused despite missing half the walk through and being rushed when I got to the trial site.  Got all my crosses in, timing was good for them.  Strum kept all the bars up even on the 2 front crosses that I did.  Didn't get lost.  Was able to refocus and finish up the course nicely with a RC after we had a mistake.

Areas for Improvement
After I got my front crosses in and Strum had the bars up I started celebrating in my head and lost my focus on the course.  I started rushing and didn't support a jump so he ran past it.


The Good

Opening was nice and smooth up through the A-frame.  Got his weave entry from 7 to 8.  Nice tight collected turns and the 9-10-11 set up jumps even though I did them in the wrong order.  Strum kept all the bars up despite lots of scenarios where he would have had them down in the past.  Got his A-frame contact (I think, somebody told me she thought he did).

Areas for Improvement

I did a FC at the A-frame and he dove behind me to take the off course tunnel entrance.  I think he was trying to avoid me or maybe I took my eye off him for too long while doing the cross.  Then I got distracted, initially I thought by the off course but now I think it might have been because I was happy that he got his weave pole entrance.  Either way I got lost at that 9-10-11 sequence (Front crossed the weave poles and sent him over the #15 jump then a beautiful tight turn to the #9 jump.  Who knows what goes through my head).  Was clean the rest of the course but had a very wide turn btwn. 15 and 16.  That was a problem area for a lot of dogs and a lot of bars came down.

Starters Standard

The Good

No off courses, beautiful fast table, got his A-frame.  No handling issues or rushing or losing focus.

Kept Strum on my left for 1 thru 6 then on my right for 9 thru 13.  Easy course.  5 faults for the missed dog walk.  Starters is so boring.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his weave entry the first time.  Missed his dog walk contact.


Starters Snooker

The Good
The handwritten numbers in the triangles are my opening.

1 thru 3 in the opening was good.  The closing was good through 6 where he missed his A-frame contact.

I was able to think on my feet and get him through the opening when things headed south.

Areas for Improvement

I think he missed all his weave entries and something crazy happened between 4-6 but we got it.  He popped out of the second set of weaves so we didn't get credit for it.

He missed his A-frame contact in the closing.

Starters Standard

The Good

Got his weave entry, yeeha!  I had him on my right from the A-frame to the weaves and it worked a treat.

Nice fast solid table.

Kept all the bars up.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his dog walk and A-frame contacts.

I had him on my right coming out of the #10 tunnel and was too late with my RC btwn 11 and the teeter so he had to double back and got on the teeter at an extreme angle and missed the up contact.  I was too far out of position to fix his path.  In hindsight it turned out I had plenty of time for a FC btwn 11 and the teeter.


Not sure how helpful all that will be to me vs. the time it took and I'm sure it's painfully boring to read.  I'm going to put a little overview for myself that might end up being more useful.


In general the big issue was missed contacts, in particular the dog walk.  Weave entries are also an issue.  They're not getting worse but not getting better either though he did get a few nice ones.  The trainer in me wants to stop and celebrate when he gets an entry and this is distracting me from the rest of the course.  I need to give him the verbal praise without losing my own focus.  Otherwise things went o.k., he was listening nicely and seemed able to relax a bit (this is relative of course) before his runs.  It was a small, laid back trial and I was relaxed myself.  Felt good to be out there running despite the mistakes.

Trial Stats

Perf. Advanced Gamblers Q, 1st place

No titles earned.

0/3 (0%)  Worst trial ever.  Only practiced them twice in the past month since the last trial.

4/7 (57%)  This is also a new low.  Not sure what was going on.

All were legal except for the missed up contact with the poor approach.  They were better than they've  been.  Still room for improvement but I think he stopped at the tip point for every one and mostly waited for a release before charging forward.

Weave entries
3/6 (50%)  Sadly I think this is typical for him.

100% baby.  I think it's the first time he's kept all the bars up at a trial.  I have no explanation for the success except for maybe all the handling exercises/practice I've been doing.


I made a decision after the last DOCNA trial that I need to build a dog walk for the yard even though it'll only barely fit.  I've decided the problems I'm having with the dog walk at the moment are due to not being able to train it in short sessions throughout the day.  At least now he's making a big obvious leap instead of those impossible to detect hit or misses that he was doing a couple of months ago.  The big leaps are easy to not reward.  I just need better access to equipment and some better weather.  Lola and Hermes say it might be some time before my yard is melted again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gamblers anyone?

I'll write up a report of the USDAA trial this weekend but for now I'm posting the course map for the Master Gamblers class because nobody in the entire class-Champ or Perf-got it and I've never seen that before.  Admittedly it was a very small trial but still there were 30 people entered in Champ and 16 in Perf.

I wasn't entered in the class so I didn't attempt it and it's not something I teach my dogs so I doubt I would have attempted it even if I was faced with it.

There was only one dog that made it across the #3 jump and it was a huge dog in the Perf. class.  The handler stayed between the #1 jump and tunnel, called the dog to her when it came out of the tunnel and sent him back out over #3.  He had some hesitation but eventually did it.  But this put her too far behind to handle the rest of the gamble and she ran out of time too.  Can't remember if he made it over #4.  Other handlers that attempted that strategy ended up with the #2 end of the tunnel.  Most people tried running downstream of #1 towards the #4 jump and yelling 'Out' while pushing with their left hand/arm.  Every single dog came flying over the #1 jump when they came out of the tunnel, none of them even glanced at the #3 jump.  Those motion and position cues were far too strong to overide the verbal which is my theory about that 'Out' cue in a scenario like this.

Somebody asked the judge how he expected people to handle it and he said he expected people to use their right arm to turn the dog away back to the #3 jump (my  interpretation of her interpretation, it's possible one or both of us misunderstood his explanation so don't quote us too heavily on that).  On paper I can see what he was thinking but in reality those dogs came blasting out of the tunnel with such speed that it would be difficult to get that redirect even if you did have a strong off-arm flip/verbal cue (if that's what you even would call it).  Again, not something I would attempt to train but an interesting challenge nonetheless.  Maybe there are some NADAC folks out there thinking this is easy peasy or maybe it's a good challenge to try to set up even for NADAC folks, I don't know.  I've never seen a 100% NQ rate in Gamblers though so I thought it was worth sharing the course for those who like a good distance challenge to practice.

Also, please don't take this as indicative of this judge's courses.  His tournament courses were very fun and flowing, similar to the stuff I see in DOCNA.  I didn't run any masters titling courses but the advanced/starters courses were very nice.  I've shown under this judge before and as I remember his courses were nice then too.  If anything this masters gamblers course was an anomaly.  

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A trial of a different sort

I had to go to court today.  No the fashion police didn't haul me in and charge me with contempt of grubby nylon dog lady workout pants.  I was subpoenaed as a witness for the prosecution for the traffic accident caused my a teenage girl running into me last October.  I couldn't believe it but she and her father decided to fight the ticket.  This caused me a lot of anger and anxiety because I couldn't possibly imagine what sort of lies they would make up in court.  I worried over this for weeks and to make matters worse the court date was postponed because the cop couldn't make it on the original date.  I know it sounds silly that I was so upset about it but a lot of aggravating stuff has gone on with this involving the insurance companies that I haven't written about because it's too aggravating to relive here on my blog where I already have plenty of much more fun things to be aggravated about like running dogwalks.  I'm sick of people not taking responsibility for their actions and I'm especially sick of parents lying for their kids.  These are the worst sort of parents and they're raising the worst sort of kids.  Getting the subpoena for the court date was the last straw.  Because on top of all else now I'll have to get all dressed up in my fancy business suit and wear the wretched pantyhose.

I found out the father is a contractor and let me tell you, stirring up a hornet's nest with someone who's in your profession when there's over 40% unemployment in your field was not the brightest move on this guy's part, but anyway I figured his business is probably getting sued all the time and he has a sleazy attorney on retainer.  We're all going to go in front of a jury and the sleazy lawyer is going to attack me on the witness stand and turn the whole thing inside out and have the jury sobbing over this poor wittle 16 year old girlie.  Because I watch way too many detective shows and just look what happened with O.J.  For the past couple of months I've been waking up in the middle of the night screaming about Johnnie Cochrane and the Chewbacca Defense.

So today I was something of a nervous wreck.  I knew it was ridiculous and I did what I could to calm myself down but at one point just before I started getting ready I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack.  I don't know what a panic attack feels like but I'll bet this was close.  I debated over whether the jury would believe me more if I wore a fancy suit or a nice but more casual dress.  I had a brief moment of Crazy where I contemplated trying to figure out how to put make-up on but figured that was going to go nowhere good.  I did try to blow dry my hair out so it wasn't too feral and even used some velcro rollers.  Didn't look quite as good as when I go to the hair dresser but was better than my typical finger in a light socket look.  In the end I went for the fancy suit and pantyhose.  It's amazing and disturbing how much nicer people treat you when you wear fancy clothes.  I  may be a nervous wreck but I'm going to try to at least look good when Jonnie Cochrane rips me apart in front of the meticulously 'hand-picked for the defense' jury.

I arrived at the courthouse early and had time to chat with the prosecuting attorney and the cop who would also be giving testimony.  I admitted to her that I was nervous and that I knew there was no reason, that I wasn't the one on trial but still.  She was a very nice woman and explained the whole procedure of what would happen in the court.  She told me to just get on the stand and tell the truth about what happened and don't worry about it.  As it turned out there wasn't going to be a jury, just a judge who would decide the case and that was a huge relief to me.  Juries are unpredictable but I knew an experienced judge would take one look at the evidence and see the facts of the matter for what they were and hopefully not be so susceptible to the Chewbacca Defense.  I was also happy to find out that I was only allowed in the courtroom to give my testimony and to hear the closing arguments and verdict.  I was worried that I would lose my composure if I had to hear the lies that the other side was surely going to concoct.

I had to wait outside the courtroom for 20-30 minutes or so before it was my turn and I took the time to try to focus and calm myself down.  I've been reading a book about enhancing sports performance and one of the things they tell you to do if you become nervous and distracted is to remember past performances where you had really good, perfect focus.  Lately when I run Strummer in both trials and practice I've been taking a deep breath and having a brief moment of Calm in my brain before I release him off the start line.  Prior to doing this I'd been going into something of a panic upon releasing him and seeing the speeding bullet flying at me and thinking 'must get out of the way' sort of like those kids who run from softballs flying at them when they're supposed to be catching them.  So I sat outside the courtroom and tried taking deep breaths while thinking about that feeling of Calm.  I'll admit I was still nervous when they called me in but my heart rate had gone down to something reasonable and I wasn't feeling like I was having a panic attack.

I gave my testimony to the prosecuting attorney and I thought it went well, I explained everything clearly and pointed out on a diagram of the street how it had all happened.  Then it was Jonnie Cochrane's turn to question me.  Except Jonnie Cochrane turned out to be the 16 year old girl who hit me.  Defending herself.  Her parents were there but she was acting as her own lawyer.  I was stunned.  The prosecuting attorney objected to most of her questions and the judge sustained every last objection.  They let me answer a couple of questions but none of them helped her case.  It was all over in just a few minutes.  I had to stay in case they needed me for more testimony after she gave her testimony but they never did need me.  The lawyer came out of the courtroom and said I could leave but I decided to stay to hear the closing arguments and verdict.  The prosecuting attorney gave a succinct summary pointing out how my evidence corroborated with the cop's and showed that she was guilty without a shadow of a doubt.  The girl's closing arguments made the Chewbacca Defense sound rational.  And the judge was having none of it.  Guilty as charged.  Phew.  So glad to be over with that.  I was so cynical going into this, so sure the system wouldn't work.  It was good to see that sometimes the system does work.  My testimony had turned out to be a key piece of evidence that won the case so I felt good about going despite all the stress.

I have a much more fun, hopefully less stressful trial this weekend.  Three days of USDAA at Boulder County Fairgrounds, less than 20 minutes from home, yeeha.  I even entered Strum in the Tournaments for the first time ever so that we would have a reasonable amount of runs each day.  Also I think he's finally ready.

I took Lola to see her chiropractor Dr. Jay this morning because she hasn't been since last summer and my knee's been acting up.  It was a significant bother at the last trial and I wanted to get it fixed before the weekend.  A few simple adjustments that I could barely feel and it feels good as new.  The man is a miracle worker and he didn't even charge me extra for it.  I didn't run on it today, wanted to let the adjustment sink in but I'm going to try to get in a practice tomorrow to see how it's doing.  Lola's pelvis was all locked up, I felt bad waiting so long to bring her in.  She goes back in 3 weeks but then hopefully she'll be o.k. for a few months.  

Looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight for once and no Wookies to haunt my dreams.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Let fury have the hour

A shiny new training challenge for the new year, whether I want it or not.  Strummer may be named for a rock icon but it turns out he hates the guitar.

No sir, I don't like it

It's kind of a long story but at Christmas brunch some friends and I decided to form a rockabilly band.  Now the Cambodian singer doesn't know yet that she's in the band because that's what happens when you leave the party early to go to some Karaoke thing.  And the drummer doesn't exactly have a drum kit or know how to play drums but he claims he can knock out a rhythm on the dash board when he's waiting at stop lights and that's good enough for us.  The stand-up bass player has only just started taking lessons and I haven't touched my guitar in about 14 years.  And I only got as far as sort of learning the 3 power chords you need to play 90% of punk rock songs when I gave it up for reasons I can't quite seem to remember but probably had something to do with short attention span.  Doesn't help that I'm completely self-taught though I did have piano lessons as a kid so I have some clue about how to read music.  But that was a looooooong time ago.

Anyway, I dusted off the guitar, somehow managed to find a pick and my old 'how to' books and commenced to re-learning the guitar.  Because how can I pass up the opportunity to play in a rockabilly band with a real honest to goodness stand-up bass?  Plus we just recruited a French horn player over New Year's and now maybe we'll be ska/rockabilly.  It keeps getting better and better.  Except for the part where Strummer, after several days without incident, suddenly decided out of the clear blue that he hates the guitar.  Yesterday I'd had many short sessions throughout the day with nothing more than a single whine and a quick odd look from Strummer but the first session after the sun went down sent him into a fury.  He started off howling which is not something he typically does and at first I ignored him thinking, 'Oh well, everyone's a critic', then he progressed to loud, angry alarm barking and then charged the guitar and started biting it.  Oddly enough there was nothing in my 'Guitar for Beginners' book that addressed this issue. 

So today I set about training Strum not to attack the guitar.  I taped my training sessions for laughs and I'm glad I did because even though what I was doing seemed simple enough I noticed some improvements I could make and some bad timing though overall my timing seemed pretty good.  I think the running contact training has sharpened those skills a little bit.  I edited the training sessions heavily but I think I've got a good representation of the methods, execution, results and mistakes.  I also included a 'before' clip of him attacking the guitar.  It wasn't as bad as the night before but still you can see how this might be distracting to me and not so good for Strummer's mental well being never mind my poor guitar.

One thing I'll do differently next session is to continue to play while the treat gizmo is dispensing the treats.  No reason to stop and I think the more I can pair the noise with the treats the better.

Why can't I have a normal dog?  As if trying to teach yourself guitar at age 46 isn't enough of a challenge.