House Camping
February 2008

 
About 10 minutes after midnight on January 1, as we sipped yet more champagne and watched the fireworks all over our neighborhood, Stefan got beeped and had to go fight a fire (just down the street, actually) and so I sat here watching the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special, followed by the Elvis concert in Hawaii. Which actually is not a bad way to ring in the new year for either of us -- we were both doing things we enjoy.

Not sure if it's still there, but if you want to hear a fantastic story of how the historic 1968 special came together and what happened during filming, look on BBC Radio 2 -- they did a documentary on it that was outstanding; I listened to it while in Afghanistan.

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Later in January, Albi had surgery to remove a massive growth in one of her breasts, and the vet removed four of Albi's breasts on Albi's left side, as a preventative measure. Recovery was... intense. The goal was to keep Albi from scratching or licking her massive wound, to keep her from running or jumping, and to avoid any steps. That meant 24 hour surveillance and, for three days, my not leaving the house except for a few feet for her bathroom breaks. I slept on my camping air mattress and in my sleeping bag on the floor next to her bed for most of the following 10 nights, and she wore a sweatshirt, then a t-shirt, during the day to limit her movement and allow me to leave the room for a few minutes (photos of her in her fabulous outfits at my Flickr site). When I went to the vet for the first surgical follow-up (our landlord drove us -- there was no other way to get her down the hill, since Stefan's car can't make it but their SUVs can), her first question was, "So, how are your nights?" For you new parents out there: my hat's off to you.

Bathroom breaks were a challenge; those of you who have been to our house know that we live on the side of a huge hill, and the places where Albi roams at night up here can't be reached in her post-surgery condition, at least not for two weeks. It got easier when, three days after surgery, the vet cleared her for 10 minute walks, and we could slowly, slowly, slowly make our way down the driveway. Two weeks after surgery, she was cleared for longer walks, but no running or playing with other dogs. Three weeks later, she was cleared to go back to her usual long walks and for interaction with other dogs. Whew!

This was my first surgical experience with a dog. Buster and Wiley never needed surgery, and neutering them was an outpatient procedure. No way could I have done all this with Albi if I were working -- I would have had to taken vacation days. But I'd do it all again, and more, for Albi, my Hungarian Princess.

Not getting to have a proper walk for two weeks was like living back in Kabul, however. I have to have my walk every day. Albi and I were both going crazy without that.

I IM'd with Fariba, my Afghan counterpart back in Kabul, about all that I'm doing for Albi, and she wrote back to ask why I didn't hire someone to sleep on the floor next to Albi every night. Not that that's ever done in Afghanistan (dogs are held in utter contempt -- they are considered absolute filth), but you can hire someone for pretty much anything in Afghanistan. As bad as the unemployment situation is here, I doubt I could have found someone for THAT job.

Most of you already know that the surgery revealed that Albi has cancer. Nothing has shown up in x-rays, but the small lumps in her other breasts will have to be removed with another procedure, and we will be administering various shots and pills to her in the coming weeks in the hopes we can prevent a recurrence. Your positive thoughts would be appreciated. If you want more details about the cancer or the treatments, let me know.

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Stefan has now had green bean casserole.

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They attacked the Serena Hotel in Kabul.

I went by the Serena almost EVERY DAY while I was in Afghanistan. It has the most security of any hotel in Afghanistan. You knew if there were important people in town, you knew it based on the increased amount of security and number of SUVs on the street outside the Serena.

Outside the Serena is a fortress, like so many other places in Kabul, but inside was, for me, an oasis. I went inside only twice, for brunch. The two hours each I spent there felt like a weekend away, and came at times when I was feeling pretty down. As you walk across the lobby, looking out the massive windows and up at the incredible mountains around Kabul, and you walk into the beautiful main dining room that's as lovely and well-stocked as any luxury hotel you've ever been in, you feel like, for a little while, that you are safe and secure and every thing's going to be okay. It's a happy place. The staff is made up mostly of Afghans, and the clientele is also mixed (both Afghans and internationals), because alcohol is not served there. Afghans are so proud of this hotel. The Serena is an idea of what Kabul could be -- a city just like any other in the world. I don't mean luxurious and over-priced; I mean beautiful and calm and sane.

The bombing left me heart-broken, because of what it means: a huge morale boost for the bad guys that will lead to more bombings of soft targets, even more restricted movement for international workers at a time when their greater participation and interaction is needed, greater vulnerability for Afghans and internationals alike and a scaling back of much-needed activities and programs.

Given the success at the Serena, I have a feeling about what the next soft target is going to be in Kabul. If you have been there, you know what it is too. I don't want to say the name, but many Afghans are under the mistaken impression that it's a den of vice and profoundly un-Islamic activities. Except for some Thursday nights in the Spring and Summer, it's really quite low-key. Boring, even. But the rumors about it among Afghans are rampant.

For the first time, I'm wondering if Afghanistan might be lost...

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PLEASE REGISTER TO VOTE or PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE. I beg you. Please please please. Some people get all bent out of shape over people burning the USA flag -- I get all bent out of shape over USA citizens not voting. To me, the latter is infinitely more unpatriotic and a greater insult to our forefathers.

I don't get to vote in any primaries, and after the fiasco four years ago trying to participate in the Democrats Abroad caucus in Frankfurt (when I was a Howard Dean supporter), I just didn't feel like investing in a process (the nomination process) I actually have no say in. So, no endorsement in the Presidential race, other than I'll be voting for whichever Democrat gets the nomination. I'm okay with all of them. I'd prefer Al Gore... I knew Hillary Clinton was going to win New Hampshire, and had I known that a 100 pound bet in the UK would have gotten me 10,000 on that result, I would have made that gamble! I should be a pundit on CNN International, I really should... I'm right so much more often than they are.

According the Glassbooth.org Presidential Quiz:

According the GoToQuiz for the 2008, these are the candidates who match my priorities best: According to yet another quiz, this is how the candidates stand regarding my priority issues: Not trying to sway you -- just thought the quizzes were interesting.
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So, I have a new computer, a MacBook. Love the computer, and I love most of the software that's working on it, but so far, I'm not impressed by OSX at all. It's taking me longer to find out how to make things look and act the way I want to than even a Windows operating system does! So much for usability.

The iBook is NOT dead. I was able to retrieve all of the data from the hard drive (well, the Mac store could, for a very reasonable price). Since it's just a hard drive failure, I've decided to get a new hard drive, and keep OS9 on the machine. It will allow me to continue to do things I can't do on this MacBook without spending a fortune on software upgrades. Plus, I like the idea of having a backup computer, just in case.

A word of advice: if you don't have an external drive and ALL of your data regularly backed up on it, do so! An external disk is tiny, oh-so-cheap, and will save your life if your computer fails. Plus, I can put all of my data in a common place, and BOTH computers, running different operating systems, can access it!

That's your tech tip for the day...

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Still on the subject of tech toys... thanks to everyone who sent me a message on my Nabaztag Bunny. Keep them coming!

What *is* a Nabaztag Bunny? Well... it's an electronic bunny that sits here near my desk and links directly to the Internet; I control it via a web site, and I have mine set up to tell me the time every hour, to give me a quote of the day, and to tell me the weather forecast at a specific time in the morning and just before I go to bed. And any message sent via the Nabaztag web site is read aloud by my bunny. It can speak in different voices and in different languages. Other Nabaztag owners can also send it music to play for me. It's hilarious for the bunny to suddenly start playing samba music, or to say, "Hey, Jayne, this is Liz. Want to have lunch today?" It's a great way to tell me to call you, or that you are about to call, or that you just sent me an important email that I should read. Or to recite poetry (no one has done that yet).

To send a message to me, go to the Nabaztag web site and click on "My friend has a bunny." Register a user name, and then send me a message! My user name is juanabunny (which is pronounced "wannabunny" in Spanish). Be sure to say who you are ("Hi, this is David Duchovney") because, otherwise, I won't know who it is when the bunny talks to me.

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With my new computer, I can, at last, watch YouTube with abandon. And, really, what else is there to life? What have I been watching?

Some legendary things had been taken down by the time I started looking for them, but I found them elsewhere. Like D*ck in a Box (it was, indeed, as funny as the hype)

I also spent one night watching all the available clips from the original "Gone With the Wind." For those of you familiar with German culture -- don't you think that Scarlet is the anti-Sissy? Those two kinda sum up the difference in Germany and the USA, in some ways. Also, has there EVER been a woman as beautiful as Vivian Leigh? No way.

So, the theme there is country, old-time and bluegrass music, comedy... and a classic movie. Hmmmmm. Interesting mix.

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We're planning on moving in APRIL 2009 to the USA. We really need advice regarding moving companies FROM Germany to the USA. For the first six months, we will probably be in Louisville, Kentucky, though we have no firm plans yet.

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For my Christmas/Birthday present (which I normally get really angry about, but given this particular one, I'll let it slide), Stefan got me the COMPLETE series of the original Twilight Zone television series. It comes packed with special features -- my favorite are the college lectures by Rod Serling. I think I may have a crush on Rod -- he was so brilliant and so incredibly ahead of his time. Tell me this doesn't give you chills: it's Serling's closing of the episode "Deaths-Head Revisited."

"All of Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes - all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by this remembrance, then we become gravediggers. Something to dwell on and remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's Earth."
It's a pleasure to slowly go through these episodes and special features. Because I grew up watching the Twilight Zone, it's really hard for a movie or TV show now to surprise me. And it makes The Simpsons even funnier, as it's PACKED with TZ references.
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I just found out that the Rev. Laurence Mancuso, the founding abbot of the Monks of New Skete, whose hilltop monastery in upstate New York is renowned for breeding German shepherds and teaching a holistic approach to dog training, died in June of last year.

As many of you know, How to Be Your Dog?s Best Friend is my guidebook for having a dog. In fact, in many ways, it's one of my guidebooks for life. So it's only fitting that I was saddened by the news of Rev. Mancuso. He will never know what a huge, positive influence he had -- and continues to have -- on this atheist dog owner.

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If you think steroid use is no big deal, try typing these four words into Google
steroid use health risks
Then click on a few links and read. YIKES.

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Still plugging away at Achieving public dialogue, one of the free courses offered on OpenLearn, and open content initiative of Open University. I think I may be the first person to take the course... I'm the only one commenting on it!

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What I was reading during this blawg:

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I support the:
National Education Association, great public schools in the USA for every child
Thank you, NEA, for being there for me and ensuring that I got a great education.
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Keep the wild in your heard, not in your home; make no wild or exotic creature a pet

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If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.


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