Fall Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No doubt you’ve noticed that I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit recently.

It’s been rather busy here, with various projects taking time as we hurtle through fall toward winter. Taiko’s quickly growing into his paws, and while it’s kinda silly to compare his personality to Ketzl’s, he seems to be a bit more mischevious, and he’s certainly a lot more willing to get up on his hind legs. It’s taking a lot of time to supervise him, correct him when he takes things off counters (or jumps on people) and get him the exercise and socialization he needs. But things are going nicely: he’s about 50lbs and shaping up to be a good boy. More photos soon.

Zabeth’s fourth year of veterinary school is going by quickly as she prepares to take the boards while, at the same time, doing her clinical rotations. She’s running on coffee and adrenaline at this point, and Taiko and I are trying to stay out of the way.

On the Shirt Pocket side, things have been busy. The release of 10.4.8 brought with it what looks to be a bug in Core Graphics: many applications—including SuperDuper!—are crashing on some Intel Macs when two threads are trying to draw at the same time. This happens in a lot of cases, but in ours we have some NSProgressIndicators that use the standard option that runs them on their own thread. If we’re updating the status view (in our main thread) at the same time the progress indicator tries to update, CoreGraphics uses a lock to handle the contention… but crashes.

Of course, it’s intermittent due to the timing issues, which makes it frustrating, but we’ve reported it both through the standard methods (rdar://4789778) and through other channels. We’re looking at workarounds here, since it’s unlikely 10.4.9 would come out based on this one problem.

For testing purposes, I brought a Mac Pro into Shirt Pocket Headquarters, it’s proven to be an excellent Mac. It’s very fast (although its I/O to a striped RAID set is much slower than I’d expect), very quiet and—so far—reliable. My few Boat Anchor applications are running beautifully in Parallels Desktop now that their MacPro compatible version is out—in fact, it continually surprises me how well Parallels works. If you need to run Windows, and don’t need high performance graphics, it’s a highly recommended solution. (Just make sure your VM is shut down before you back it up, of course!)

More as I get time!

Bad trees better watch out… Sunday, September 03, 2006

Taiko - Master of the Outdoors

Taiko’s in the house. And he means business.
Taiko Monday, August 21, 2006

A few quick pictures of Taiko as I prepare for the rollout of the new netTunes and launchTunes this week…

Young Taiko
Taiko Sleeping
Taiko on Rug - 11 Weeks

Two Pounds Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The original plan was to bury Ketzl in the front yard, under her favorite bush.

I had wanted to do that pretty badly, and pretty irrationally—it was a purely emotional thing, without considering the practical matters: soil depth, future dogs digging in the same locations, garden destruction, coyotes. Not thinking, just feeling, wanting her there with us.

It might have worked with a small dog, but Ketzl was not—neither small in body nor spirit.

So convinced, first ice, then fire.

Delivered today via UPS: the remains of her private cremation. Signature required. Bubble wrapped wood box; small, gold lock; certificate; condolence card.

Two pounds of ash and wood to bury in her favorite spot, and feed her favorite bush: the same bush Taiko found on his own his first day here. Of all the choices available, his favorite spot.

Dog’s choice: I know it’s a good one, the one she would have made for herself.

And there you will be placed, Ketzl. Rest in peace, girl.

Meeses Monday, July 31, 2006

One of the problems with Bluetooth mice and the Mac is that virtually none of them supply drivers. So, your mouse might have a gazillion handy-dandy buttons, but you’ll only get the wheel + right/left click.

For USB mice, USB Overdrive was the way to go for a long time, to the point where it was pretty clear that Microsoft’s own mouse and keyboard drivers were being done by the USB Overdrive guy. But, unfortunately, he’s been unable to get the Bluetooth support out the door.

Apple’s recent Bluetooth version of Mighty Mouse is out the door, but it, too, has minimal capability—you just can’t do much with the extra buttons, at least, not much beyond what has been pre-programmed. (And don’t get me started on that idiotic side-button-and-way-to-move-the-mouse-while-clicking implementation… ugh. Sometimes, Apple gets it wrong.)

For all this, there is a solution: Steer Mouse.

Steer Mouse is a replacement driver, like USB Overdrive, that enables all the various buttons for all your 3rd party mice, Bluetooth or USB, and even allows your Mighty Mouse to work more flexibly. (Alas, like USB Overdrive, it’s a preference pane that’s not really a preference pane.)

Works a treat with every mouse I’ve thrown at it. Just make sure to turn off the default “Move cursor to OK” action—the system should never, ever move the mouse on the user like that.

Routine Tuesday, July 25, 2006

With a puppy in the house, my routine has changed from the back-breaking (but rewarding) work of taking care of Ketzl to watching the new arrival like a hawk, ensuring that no inappropriate fluids or solids meet floor or rug, and entertaining/correcting as needed.

It’s a nice change, and concentrating on the pure joy emanating from the little one helps to fill the void left by Ketzl.

We think we’ve settled on a name: Taiko. Taiko has a number of meanings. It’s Japanese for drum—and, when you pat the side of a big Berner, they make a loud, drum-like thump. It’s also the person who rules in the Emperor’s stead—and, when we’re gone, the dog is in charge. Finally, Taiko drummers are typically in excellent shape, so it’s a wish for strength and good health.

And so, to Taiko: welcome! You have big shoes—and a big bed—to fill… but you’ve made an excellent start.

Missed Relay Saturday, July 22, 2006

At my feet, a puppy. Sleeping soundly after an anxious first night away from the pack, legs twitching ever so slightly deep in dreamland.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. There were supposed to be two, curled up next to one another; the old girl and the young pup, side by side.

A few weeks ago, when Zabeth and I went to Chicago for Ben and Irene’s wedding, Ketzl stayed with Lee & Mike and their dog Red. And had a great time: she clearly enjoyed having a dog buddy around. When we got back home, you could tell she missed him, missed the sense of purpose correcting him had brought.

So Z & I talked about it, and decided that we’d get another dog, a puppy, for Ketzl’s sake and for ours: some overlap to brighten up the girl, give her a chance to pass on whatever knowledge she cared to share, to carry on the traditions she’d established, to boss around a bit. And, for us, transition—fur to cry on when the inevitable moment came.

The original plan was to do this next Spring, ten years after Ketzl first came into our lives.

When we got Ketzl, it took nearly 6 months, maybe more, of research, visits, discussion. This time, we planned to go back to European stock—to try to improve our chances of getting a dog without the health problems we’d run into with Ketzl. But, hopefully, to also get a dog true to the Bernese spirit, true to what made Ketzl so special.

Soon after our decision, Zabeth ran into a client at the hospital who had actually imported a wonderful dog from Germany. And, with the name in hand, a few days later I gave them a call.

We had a nice talk, got a good idea of their goals in breeding, the experience they’d had—a hundred years of breeding BMDs in the family, at a farm in Western Germany, among horses. True to the tradition. And shockingly, a litter was just becoming ready—and a puppy from it could be ours.

Six months last time. Six days this time. We were shocked. But it meant that Ketzl would have a companion, in just a week.

Incredible timing. We jumped.

And last night at 11:15pm the puppy arrived, German passport in hand. A wonderful male, bright and playful.

Alas, a day too late. Even after an incredible run, at the end we stretched, reached, but couldn’t hand the baton cleanly, couldn’t give Ketzl this last gift. But her smell is still here, her bed, her toys—a handoff of sorts, her presence in every corner, pillow, rug, surface, clearly detected by the new (still unnamed) puppy.

A puppy who’s ready, we hope, to be true to Ketzl’s memory: a valued companion, a loyal friend. Not just the farm dog, but the farmer’s dog: the one that came into the house, sat with the children...and whose presence and unconditional love made everything a little bit better.

Three Tufts Friday, July 21, 2006

In the end it was respiratory, as we knew it would be.

As I wrote yesterday, Ketzl had a bad night, and we couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.

But we should have known. After each loss of function, Ketzl became anxious, at least until she got used to the fact that this-or-that wasn’t going to work any more, and adjusted.

But it’s hard to adjust to a diaphragm that’s just isn’t working well enough to draw sufficient air. The heart tries to compensate by increasing its own rate, rushing the blood by the lungs to try to keep levels as high as it can, but it can only keep that up so long. And it can’t be comfortable, a 190bpm rate.

A bad night.

Followed by a pretty low day. She was tired—we all were—and lay next to me in my home office on egg crate foam I covered with a sheet, propped by pillows, trying to rest. She wouldn’t eat—never a good sign—but would take water. Occasionally, she would sleep, head sideways on a pillow, mouth open, panting. I did what I could to make her comfortable.

Later in the afternoon, to try to perk her up a bit, I took her for a drive. Windows down in the car, a cool breeze ruffling her fur. She lay in the back on the seat, raising her head occasionally to sniff, to try to look, and put it down on her paws. And panted.

Back home, I carried her downstairs and placed her on the floor, near the cool breeze from a fan. On her left side, she gasped for breath, clearly struggling. Thinking I’d put her down wrong, I propped her a bit more sternal and put her head on my lap. I checked her airway, which was clear, and got her water, which she drank. Her head rested on my thigh, on the floor. I went upstairs, put some ice in a towel and wiped her ears, pads, muzzle.

Around 7:30pm, Zabeth called on her way back from rounds. I told her she should hurry home, since something was wrong. Or tried to. Ketzl rested on my lap.

When she got here, we talked, cried, knew what had to be done. Originally, our cut-off point was going to be when she lost the use of her front legs, but when that happened a few months ago, Ketzl stayed bright, alert and happy. So, instead, we waited—waited for a sign from Ketzl.

Given, given.

I carried Ketzl back to the car and we drove to VESCONE. I had wanted to do this with our long-time vet, but it wasn’t to be: I couldn’t let Ketzl suffer for another day. VESCONE was nearby, and they had a nice room with carpet, a couch, fish. An attempt to provide a comforting space. Better than a stainless steel table.

Ketzl was placed on a gurney, a nylon strap holding her in place, a formality, given the fact that she really couldn’t move. She was comfortable, and had been given oxygen to help her breathe more normally. More relaxed, we gave her some turkey, some cheese. She ate for us, her last meal.

And we hugged her, and cried, and the Pink Hammer came down, and she was gone. Her eyes remained open, sunken, lifeless. I tried to close them—the freezer is a harsh place—but couldn’t. Icy eyes. I’m sorry, Ketzl.

We cut three tufts of fur and bundled them like sheaves of wheat: glossy black, chestnut brown and white. Bright white, the color of new snow, the snow she loved so. I wish I could have given her just one more glorious day.

We left the room, with her on the gurney. I closed the door and left the fish to watch over her, left the waiting room, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the people there.

At home, Z and I cried over a glass of wine, raised a toast to Ketzl. She was a great dog, and shared her life with us for over nine years, good times and bad. We loved her like a child, knew this was part of the bargain.

The light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.

And she burned so very, very brightly.

Thanks, Ketzl, for the light you brought into our lives.

Tired Thursday, July 20, 2006

A rough night.

Ketzl, after a relatively calm day, decided that last night was a good night to demand water every two minutes and cry until she got it. This is pretty irrational behavior, and we’re concerned that DM has reached her brain stem and might be starting to affect her higher functions—something that will happen eventually.

No other weird signs, though, but it’s hard to tell: I’m feeling pretty irrational myself on a total lack of sleep. And, the day is pretty fully booked with stuff, so no real time to try to get a brief nap in.

If you get a reply to email today that looks like gibberish, you now know why.

That Bites Tuesday, July 18, 2006

With Ketzl on the decline, every day bring a new challenge, a new obstacle to overcome, a new way to show her how much we love her by making her life the best we can, given the circumstances.

As DM has moved forward, it’s affected all the muscles along the way. Recently, it’s affected her facial muscles. When she lies down, her upper lip tends to work its way into her mouth, and when she sleeps, she bites it. She’s stoic, but I’m sure it’s painful.

We’ve tried to come up with a way to deal with this, and Zabeth hit upon an approach that works, for the most part.

Z took two wide picture hanging hooks, re-bent them and smoothed the edges. Combined with a shoelace, we can hook her upper list on both sides and tie the shoelace over the top of her muzzle. It looks a little silly—kind of like braces—but it holds up her lip just enough… and it’s healing.

Ah, necessity…

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