Category Archives: off topic

We rock, as it turns out…

It is Thursday evening, and Velotech has a) not laid anyone off, b) continued to pay its employees, c) found new warehouse space, and d) expects to reopen in a few weeks.

Pretty amazing.

Last weekend wasn’t so good…

Last Sunday morning, Jay and I were woken up at 1:46 AM by a call from the company that handles our security alarm for our internet bicycle parts business in Portland Bike Tires Direct . Anytime the alarm company calls at 1 AM, I know it’s not going to be good news. We’ve had four “meth head” breakins over the years, and it means getting a window replaced and buying a new computer. Generally, it’s a pain in the rear, and getting woken up is a pain in the rear, but we’ve gotten good at it, and the meth heads are pretty stupid. I mean, they went past the 13.5 pound carbon frame luxury bike to steal a $400 computer last time.

It wasn’t a meth head.

In fact, we made the morning news. We made the evening news, and they were still showing the footage Monday morning. I don’t blame them. It was great video. Before I go on, I will stress that no one was hurt and the business was fully insured.

Check out this link: 3-alarm fire rips through NE business

This is what it looked like when we got there:

Warehouse after Fire

(I took that picture with my iPhone. Not bad for a camera phone. The iPhone really came in handy. By the end of the day Sunday I had emailed the photo above to at least ten people, including the fire insurance company and our insurance agent.)

The fire was still smoldering when I got there at 11 AM. At its peak–you can see it in the videos above–there were 90 firefighters there. The roof collapsed. (That’s blue sky in the picture. It was a gorgeous day.) No one got hurt. It happened at night and no one was nearby, and the firefighters knew it was just bike tires–and no one got hurt.

It did get a little exciting, I gather, when the 4000 CO2 cartridges that we had in stock (really useful to inflate bike tires) started exploding. Some of them were found out in the street.–about 300 yards away.

The investigation by the fire investigators–who are first class people and very kind–didn’t conclude until Monday evening. They had to take out debris with a backhoe, and before they could do that they had to brace the outside walls. The cause is listed as “undetermined” which means they don’t know it was arson and they don’t know it wasn’t. I know I didn’t do it.

What we do know is that it was a total loss. Everything in the warehouse is completely destroyed. If not by fire, then by water or smoke. (If you’re looking for Inov-8 shoes, they were in a different warehouse, and we’ll be able to start shipping again soon. Send me an email if it’s urgent.)

And I do have to thank the world’s finest poodle sitter, who took the dogs Sunday morning at 9 and kept them until last night at 9, and who made sure I didn’t have to worry one bit about their happiness or safety while Jay and I began dealing with the fire. Thank you, Cat.

Italian Dogs

I just got back from two weeks in Italy, with five days in Verona and four days in a small town near Padova called Abano Terme.

Verona has the second largest Roman-era coliseum and uses it every summer to have an enormous outdoor opera festival. The town was full of Italian, German, and English opera lovers… not so many Americans. I’m not an opera fan but was there because it looked to be an accessible small Italian city. It was. And the opera thing made for great scenery every night as I had my dinner and watched the opera fans stroll toward the coliseum in their beautiful and fashionable clothes. I saw such beautiful clothes!

Fortunately the restaurant owners didn’t seem to mind that I was wearing my standard traveling uniform: black pants, running shoes (“trainers” as the Brits say), tank top and shirt over the tank top. I had wonderful food. My favorite of the entire trip was a very fancy tuna tartare with fennel cream (actually a mayonnaise) and braised fennel. Astonishingly good.

The wine was good too, even though I went with my standard method of ordering wine: “vino della case bianco” or “rossa”. House wine. It came in a little carafe but occasionally the waiter would tell me it was his favorite or his brothers’ (I think that’s what “mio ragazzi” means in this context). The price was right. After dinner I had limoncello a lot of nights. That’s sweet lemon-infused firewater. I love it.

Many of the visitors to the town had their dogs with them. Small well-behaved dogs that never barked, politely shared what was offered them in the restaurants, and in general were just part of the family. I heard a dog bark once. Of course, it was a miniature poodle, the only one I saw on the trip. How embarrassing.

We went to a wonderful Italian wedding–the reason for the trip–in a beautiful church in a tiny town near Padova. The church was packed with people, lots of children. There was a Papal blessing–a scroll presented by the officiating priests (three of them) after the wedding. This was a very big deal. It was a zillion degrees in the church, because it was 95 outside and sunny, but who cares? After that we went to the reception, which went on for hours and hours–it was still going strong when we left at midnight–wonderful food (and wine) in a beautiful setting, an old castle (of course I’ve managed to forget the name). Even there, our friend’s mom’s dog–a 17-year-old corgi with a spring in his step that belied his years–was part of the reception.

The bride and groom had their pictures taken with every single person who attended the wedding.

We stayed in the resort town of Abano Terme, in a spa hotel (the President) entirely populated by old men and women in white bathrobes, mostly German or English. It was wonderful. And quite reasonably priced. Our friends had massages. Some of the white-bathrobe-people had entire days planned that involved massages, facials, and other special treatments. Jay and I indulged in our favorite Italian luxury: pizza.

One day in Verona I went to the local “piscina publica” (public pool) because I really needed a long swim to rest my back muscles. It was about a 3 km walk from my hotel and deep into a residential/commercial neighborhood. When I got there, of course no one spoke English, and my Italian is limited, to say the least. (I can order a meal or deal with the hotel as long as they don’t ask difficult questions and speak VERY slowly.) In any case, I managed to pay, figure out the changing rooms, and get into the pool. I promptly got whistled out by the lifeguard, who put his hands on his head and then gestured me out of the pool. Which is when I noticed that EVERYONE–old bald men, little babies, fat grandmothers (wearing bikinis–I was the only one in a one-piece!)–was wearing a bathing cap. I went and bought one.

I swam laps lazily for about an hour, until all my travel muscles relaxed and felt loose and flowing. The pool was huge–Olympic size and 10 lanes wide–and very clean. It was one of three. One of them was shallow and reserved for small children. The second was for teenagers, as far as I could tell. My pool was for lap swimmers: me and the old men. They smiled at me but didn’t talk. They didn’t talk to anyone else either. We were all there to swim.

When I got back to the hotel, the desk clerk who’d given me directions was obviously quite pleased that I’d been swimming. (So was I.) When I told him it was a lovely pool and very blue and clean, he told me it had been built by Mussolini.

No dogs at the pool. There was a sign to say that. But there was an off-leash area right next door. Fully fenced.


I am in Portland with my injured daughter… her knee is clear on MRI and her collarbone has been set. She is still in a lot of pain but will make a full recovery.

Last weekend Dancer got two Qs in Open Jumpers with Weaves at the Golden Retriever trial at Argus. Both of them were 95-point Qs–one refusal each–but I’m not quibbling. She was fast and enthusiastic. Elly has had a shoulder problem for a few weeks but is recovering.

One Nightmare Later…

My daughter is fine (sort of) but she got hit by a car Thursday while riding her bike. She was in the bike line, crossing an intersection on a green light, when a woman driving a pickup hit her. Her helmet broke the windshield; her left collarbone is broken; her right knee is banged up.

I’m glad it wasn’t worse.

I can’t believe how ANGRY I am.

Tulsa, OK

I spent five days in Tulsa last week. I had never been to Oklahoma before and I was thoroughly saturated with it.

I watched a huge thunderstorm out the hotel window while I listened to a tornado warning (“you should take shelter in a ground floor room without windows”). My hotel room overlooked the Wal Mart parking lot and at one point during the storm it was about two inches deep in water. The next morning it was blue skies and sunshine.

The TV had numerous stations broadcasting reruns of famous sermons by notable evangelists. An awful lot of people thought it was important to tell me they were “good Christians.” I got a lot of help from an organization that never claimed to be Christian but certainly walked the walk: the HOW Foundation. It’s an organization for recovering addicts (drugs and alcohol); they have coordinators who find them meaningful work. They came and cleared the trash from the condo I was cleaning out, took the usable stuff to the good will, and did the needed yard work. Reasonable rates, came when they said they would, did good and thorough work. The residents stay for six months, during which they work ten hours a day, all but one day a month. I asked one man what he did on his one day off and he said “I sleep.” Another one said “yeah, they keep us too tired to think about drinking any more.”

Steaks were from Kansas, and they were good. Veggies were from the freezer and were okay, at best.

I went to the Oklahoma Aquarium, which has a nice display that is a replica of an Ozark mountain stream, complete with beavers and otters. It is impossible to watch otters swimming and playing in the water and not feel cheered.

Handling Excellent FAST–Some Observations

Yesterday at the Evergreen State Shetland Sheepdog Club trial at Argus Ranch, I watched the Excellent FAST competitors from my in-ring seat as a bar setter. I love bar setting in the Excellent ring. I learn so much from watching the best handlers on the course. No one is talking to you, you see every run with no distractions, and you get to feel good about having such a good seat; the Clubs need their volunteers to run the trial.

The judge was Lisa Potts. (She also has a poodle.) I enjoyed running her Open and Novice courses, finding them challenging but not impossible. I liked that she made a point of complimenting really nice runs. Thanks very much to Lisa Potts for her permission to post the course map here. This is the Excellent FAST course:

Excellent FAST 3-1-2008 Lisa Potts

Okay, let me say upfront that several people decided during the walkthrough that they would do the course only for training, because they didn’t want to be forced to layer a jump. I’m going to ignore any runs that were clearly for training when I discuss what people chose to do.

For those of you unfamiliar with FAST, it is a strategy game that requires that the handler accumulate 60 points (in excellent), which includes a required distance challenge (the send) worth twenty points plus the value of the obstacles. The obstacle value is set by the judge as part of the course design. In this course, the send is worth 33 points, so getting a Q would require 27 additional points and a successful send. There is a limited amount of time to complete the course. Every second over is deducted from the points earned before time ends.

If you’re trying to understand how people handled the course, I suggest printing out the course map and tracing the routes described with a color pencil. It really helps to use one color for the handler and one for the dog.

The send was 5-1-7 (jump, jump, weave). Not many competitors completed the send successfully–fewer than five of a class of 30.

The most common opening was a leadout to the entry end of tunnel 4, followed by the dogwalk and a swing to tunnel 3 (9 points to this point, 18 to go). From there most handlers did a cross to put the dog on the left over the A-frame (ten more points, 8 to go), over the two jumps (1, 9, points finished) and around to the send and out over the finish jump.

One handler, who did Q, took the dog over the broad jump with the dog on the right, then front crossed to put the dog on the left for the 1-9 jump sequence and the send. Still short on points, she swung the dog back and took the 8-point jump in the corner, then ran hard for the finish jump, finishing as the horn went off.

Another option, which I saw two people use unsuccessfully, was to lead out from the dog between the dog walk and the finish jump, take the 1-point jump, then the A-frame, then the 1-9 sequence (all with dog on left, total to here 21 points (6 points to go if the send is successful), then the send. From there, they pulled the dog back to the 8-point jump, then over the broad jump and around the one point jumps and the 3-point tunnel (in one case) or out (in the other case). Both of these handlers crossed the line to complete the send, so they didn’t Q, but they did complete the course within time.

Finally, a competitor who was clearly avoiding all contacts chose to do the 4-point tunnel, the two jumps to the 3-point tunnel, the 1-point jump after the tunnel, the broad jump (total to here 15 points, 12 to go), the 1-9 jump sequence (2 to go), the send, the 8-point jump (by stepping in after the weaves were complete, putting the dog on right, and sending the dog from left to right over the jump), and ran hard for the finish jump. I believe this worked for her, although my memory of exactly who Q’d and who didn’t is hazy.

Yep, definitely spring.

The tree frogs ( were singing up a storm last night. I’m sure that lots of female tree frogs were lured by the sound.

And the bobcat wandered through the front yard early this morning. I wasn’t fast enough to get a photo but the camera is next to the front door now and I’m optimistic about the next time.

It Must Be Spring

At noon today, I saw the neighborhood bobcat (he’s seen regularly in the neighborhood) walking down the neighbor’s driveway. I’ve only caught glimpses of him before, but this was close (the dogs were yelling at him from the safety of the house). He is huge–imagine the biggest housecat you’ve ever seen–and double that.

Then a few minutes ago, I stumbled upon two hummingbirds (Anna’s hummingbirds, for you bird-lovers) squabbling over territory. (I was trimming back a bush.) For a moment, I thought I’d disturbed a hornet’s nest. Loud buzzing. It scared me, because they were about six inches away from my head.

And Elly caught and ate, not one, but two voles today at the dog park.

Hey, It Stopped Raining

When it stops raining around here during the winter, the view can be astonishing. The air is clean and clear (and cold), and there’s snow on all the distant mountains. This is the view from our back deck, through the cedars on the hill below us. Those are the Olympic Mountains, and the cranes are in Kirkland. The lake below us is Lake Sammamish.

View of the Olympics