Friday, September 09, 2011

Mishaps and Disasters

The last month and a half has been a parade of mishaps and disasters. The morning of July 27 I was looking forward to my flight out to California where I would join my old friends for a camping trip in the eastern Sierras. Our three dogs and I were walking through the front yard as we returned from our morning walk when we all realized we were being attacked by freakin' yellow jackets. I usually get along fine with stinging insects, but yellow jackets are freakin' mean if they decide you're too close to their nest, and we had a freakin' nest in some gopher holes in the front yard. Yellow jackets can sting repeatedly, and they do sting repeatedly - it's not like "sometimes they sting repeatedly, but usually just once" - I mean they just latch onto you, and repeatedly sting - freakin' mean! The dogs freaked out, but we managed to run to the back yard, and I spent the next hour dressed up for a Chicago winter in Alabama July trying to drown and burry that freakin' nest.

Anyway, we survived, and I was glad when I was finally sitting uncomfortably in coach flying to LAX. My friend Hiro organized a 4 day (3 night) backpacking trip. I packed light - just a few changes of cloths and enough food to keep me hiking through the freakin' arid eastern Sierras in late July. Hiro set me up with a tent and sleeping bag, and I rented a pack. We drove up 9000 ft outside of Bishop, and started hiking. I was such an idiot. Everybody got altitude sickness the first day - freakin' headaches and exhaustion, but that comes with the territory, and we made it over a high ridge the first day, and were on our way the second day on a much less taxing hike. By mid afternoon we were getting rained on pretty steadily, but I thought, "no problem, nice summer rain", but there's no such thing as a nice summer rain above 10000 feet. The rain didn't stop, then it turned to hale, and it got cold! Freakin' cold, and I was not the only one not prepared for rain or cold. Finally my friend, Mike, decided to hell with it, and put up his tent - by then it was a freakin' down pour of freezing rain that had been getting worse for hours. I was shaking like a leaf. Fortunately, my other friend, Steve, got his tent up, and let me crawl in. We both dove into our sleeping bags, and I felt much better for a while, but soon I was freezing again, and Steve noticed, "you don't have a matte under your bag ?". Frick - I just had the bag Hiro gave me. Freakin' Steve saved my life letting me sit on his matte. We sat with our faces jammed into the tent wall for about an hour when the rain finally stopped. Steve let me crash in his tent that night, and Hiro lent me an extra matte, so all was well, but we were all pretty annoyed when it started raining the next night, and I was especially upset, because my tent leaked. I was freakin' miserable in this mini tent with puddles all around me, but my friends, Stewart and Chika, took pitty on me, and I squeezed in with them. Everyone on that trip must hate me now.

So fun trip, and I made it home, and all was cool for a week or two, when Joanne's poor Aunt died, and we drove to Atlanta for the funeral - leaving our dogs at the kennel. We have three dogs that I love and spend a ton of time with, but they don't get along all the time, especially Ponzi and Moose, and especially when squeezed in close quarters - like our Volkswagon hatch-back driving to the kennel. We have a crazy system where Ponzi sits in the front passenger seat, and we have this fence thing separating the front seats from the back, and Joanne, Moose, and Shugs sit in the back. Anyway, that worked pretty well, and we made it to the kennel ok, and the dogs were all excited and nervous. I put Ponzi on the leash, and circled around back to let Moose and Shug out, and there's some confusion, and the next thing Ponzi and Moose were trying to bite each other's head off - literally. There's a lot of luck involved in separating two fighting dogs without coming away bleading yourself, but somehow I managed it. I noticed Ponzi holding his head to the side, but didn't see any obvious injury, so we left the boys at the kennel, and went to Atlanta for some family drama. Next afternoon we headed back, and found Ponzi with a very red eye - Moose must have got a tooth into Ponzi's eye. Freakin' mess. Fortunately Joanne got through to the Auburn Vet School, and Dr. Newcomer was good enough to let us squeeze in an appointment just after closing time. Ponzi's eye was ok - the surrounding tissue was injured, and Newcomer set us up with some eye ointment to help him heal. Soon after that I noticed we had a new nest of hornets in another gopher hole in the front yard. What the frick ?

Finally, Ponzi healed up, and I took the dogs to the park to run around - we did that twice a week. Kiesel park is a really cool park in Auburn. It used to belong to some farmer named Kiesel who raised cattle. I guess he donated the land to the city, and it's a great park with a cow fence all the way around, a little pavilion for concerts, a few miles of walking path along the parks edge, and several little woods separating parts of the path. Unfortunately, Shug has a love for going where he's not supposed to go, and a gift for finding gaps in the fence, and sure enough - soon after we arrived he ran across a stream, and under the fence, and into the woods across the street. I followed, and so did Ponzi. I nearly caught up with him when Shug decided to walk out into the road - in front of a GMC Jimmy. The next hour was a mess. Shug survived the accident - dragging himself to the side of the road. I tied him up there, so I could get the car, dragging Ponzi along and yelling for Moose, but when I drove back I couldn't find Shug - he had hidden in some bushes. Fortunately Moose showed up, and found Shug for me. I lifted my poor broken and bloody dog into the back of the Jeep. Moose and Ponzi amazingly didn't fight, and we headed to the vet school. I think it was only about 7am, but the vet school has an emergency service, and they took Shug in. I was a freakin' mess. Long story short, the vets were able to save Shug. He had a fractured right femur and another fracture on the left side of his pelvis, but the orthopedics crew was able to do some magic with a bunch of steel rods, pins, screws, wires, and plates. Shug is three weeks along his way to recovery now - so far so good. I enjoy keeping him company - writing code at the table next to his crate; hiding from whatever else is coming my way.

Oil Buffet

The other day I listened to a short discussion on the PBS News Hour podcast about the proposed oil pipeline from the Alberta tar sands mines to feed our oil hunger here in the U.S.A. The news hour likes to have little mini debates where they have a spokesperson from each side sit down and talk about an issue. The whole tar sands thing and global warming in general boils down to whether we should risk our environment for the economy, or risk the economy for the environment. Of course if the environment goes to hell, then the economy is screwed anyway; and the tar sands wouldn't be viable if the cost of a gallon of gas wasn't already heading north of $4, but whatever.

Anyway - one thing the pro-pipeline guy said (and many others too about this and similar issues) that frustrates me is that the Alberta tar sands will be developed whether the United States consumes the oil or not - the oil will just go to other markets, so we might as well take the oil, because there's no stopping China and India or wherever. I mean per capita we consume over 5 times the amount of energy as China, and 10 times the energy of India (thanks, Wikipedia!). Sure there are a lot more Chinese and Indians, but since we led the way to our energy-fat lifestyle; we ought to also lead the way to a more sustainable future. The cost of energy will go up, and we'll have to change the way we do things, but we'll be better off in the end.

The picture I have in my mind is of big old fat America at the energy buffet - freakin 500 pound energy fatty half blind from diabetes, blood pressure through the roof, butter for blood, zooming around the buffet in one of those fat-people scooters, because America can't walk more than a few steps without getting winded. So fatty America has already eaten 5 times the amount of food as any of the skinny Chinese at the buffet, and ten times more food than any of the Indians; but America is getting pissed off, because the buffet is starting to run out of food, and even though any one Chinese or Indian has eaten a lot less food than America, when you add up all the food that all the Chinese and Indians have eaten - that almost competes with the amount of food America has eaten, and America needs that food! Freakin' China and India! Now America notices Canada just set a giant chocolate cake on the buffet table. Is America going to freakin' go on a diet and start exercising and let China and India and Europe have the freakin' cake ? No way, baby!