Category: Uncategorized

Free Advice: Worth Every Penny

Lately, I have taken to signing up for free webinars and teleconferences about writing and marketing. I look at it this way, most of them are an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes long, they only cost time, so if I learn only one thing that might help me, then the hour was worth it. If I don’t learn anything then it only cost me an hour of my time.

The Meaning of Life or Something

As I  sit here in my study, pondering life, I have come up with the definitive answer to the eternal question, “What is the meaning of life?” This has been a question that has plagued man for ages. Greater minds than mine have pondered this question and have failed to come up with the answer, yet, here I am, as unscholarly as one can be, and I have found the answer.

Around the Dog Grapevine


As I mentioned in my last post, I have had plenty of time lately to contemplate the mysteries of life, the universe and other important things. If you recall, last time I was wondering about what dogs think. This led to a somewhat logical next step, that being, what do dogs talk about? Now, I don’t mean with their owners, that is obvious to anyone who has spent any significant time with a dog, but rather, when they talk to each other.

I live on a lake, and this time of year, before the ice is thick enough to be on, it can get pretty quiet and peaceful. After awhile you hardly even hear the gentle roar of the interstate. The other day, I began to notice my dog reacts differently to the other dogs that bark around the lake, making me think that each dog is talking about something in particular. (Note: This also happens the rest of the year, but because of the lack of leaves, sounds tend to be more distinct and can be heard over longer distances.) Hear (pun intended) are some examples:

  • There is a dog somewhere across the lake who barks, not consistently, but every once in awhile. Sometimes Buttons, my dog, will hear it, perk up his ears, and let out a little “woof”, maybe two or three, then go back to whatever he was doing (usually sleeping). Other times, the same dog will bark and Buttons jumps up and has to go outside, run to the shore of the lake and bark, rather fast and loudly in answer to this other dog. What are they talking about? I can only assume that the first time, the other dog is just saying hello, and the second time he is sending some kind of warning.
  • The dog in the house behind us, also has two separate barks to which Buttons reacts differently. Pretty much in the same way as the first one mentioned. Although with this one, Buttons runs to the back of the yard and actually patrols the perimeter. Again, I think this is some kind of warning.
  • There is a third dog we only hear occasionally. I believe this is due to the humans it belongs to only are here occasionally. This dog, with a very loud and deep bark, doesn’t bark much, but when it does, it seems it is only for one of two reasons. The first is to let the other dogs know it is here (since this is out of Buttons’ territory, he just lets out his little “woof”, which I think is kind of like a F you and ignores it. The second bark, I believe is in direct response to the fourth and final dog in the neighborhood.
  • The fourth dog, actually two dogs, one male, one female, live in the next house over from me. I don’t know much about different breeds of dogs, other than these two are way outside of my budget and you are unlikely to find them where we found Buttons, at a rescue shelter. Both dogs have remarkably similar barks, however I can distinguish the two, based upon Buttons’ reaction. One, I assume the male, will bark and Buttons will go outside, to that side of the yard and respond. I assume this is some kind of warning that maybe there is an errant squirrel crossing the line. Both of these dogs are not allowed off their runs so, unlike Buttons, can not continue the chase very far. It is my assumption this dog is asking for some help, and Buttons will usually take off into the woods. The female however, is a different story. When this one barks, which is every time it is outside, while it sounds like the other, I can tell it is the female, again by the way that Buttons reacts. At first bark Buttons will perk up his ears, like with every bark he hears, but with the female, he kind of rolls his eyes, lets out a little snort and goes back to assuming the sleeping position. This tells me, as does the way the other dogs around the lake react, that she is talking nonsense, perhaps spreading gossip, or more likely complaining about the her partner is some way. If only the other dogs could be like Buttons and ignore her instead of arguing.

Admittedly, this is an unscientifical, study, just based on my observations. By the way, the word unscientifical, while not officially recognized by any known dictionary, comes from another interesting cultural phenomenon I have been studying, the day time talk shows like Maury, Jerry Springer, et. al.

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Thinking About Thinking Dogs


After an absence of a few months, I am back. Now I am sure there are some of you who are happy to hear that because you can’t wait to read all of the fine prose I write. Then there are others I am sure, who hadn’t even noticed I was gone.

Now that I am no longer riding around all day, listening to the radio and looking at the scenery, I can only imagine you are wondering “What will he write about now?” I am here to say, that not only are you wondering that, but I am as well. In fact I have been wondering about it for the last hour, so much so I even asked the dog for some input. And that is what began me thinking, “Does Buttons (my dog) understand a word I am saying?” Then that led me to thinking “What does he think about all day anyway?

For example, he was sitting on my lap gazing out the window, very intently. I had to know what he was thinking, I had to get inside his head. So off to Google I went.

Of course I realize that, like people, some dogs must think differently than others, and perhaps, again like people, some dogs probably don’t think at all. But do they think like we do? Evidently they do, sort of. It seems that dog have a brain very similar to ours except it only develops to about the same as a 2 to 2 1/2 year old human. Which makes sense. According to an article in Discovery Magazine they even have quite a range of emotions, again like those of a small humanoid. This explains a lot, about both humans and dogs. Dogs dream, and some even can understand human words, although they rely mostly on your actions and even your tone to understand and listen to you.

One article (see next paragraph) article says that dog owners should try an experiment. Go a day without saying anything to your dog, only use gestures and see what happens. The article claims the dog will still understand you.  I have yet to try that experiment with Buttons, but I have at times tried it with people and it doesn’t work. But then some of the gestures may not have been all that appropriate.

I also came across another article, this one on the Mother Nature website listing 11 things you do that your dog hates. I have always thought there were some things my dog, even though he appeared not to mind, secretly in his little dog brain didn’t like. For example, according to Mother Nature dogs son’t like to be hugged, or patted on the head. Evidently dogs take this as a threat, a sign of dominance.

It also claims that dogs don’t like to be bored. This begs the question – what is boring to a dog? My dog will sit on the window will (something he learned from the cats) and stare out the window for quite some time. His eyes are moving, his nose is twitching, but other than that he sits still. For one who has a hard time sitting still, wouldn’t this be boring to a dog? Of course, he could be thinking about how he is going to finally catch one of those grey squirrels that run around the yard.

This leads to another point, why can’t he figure out that when he traps a squirrel under the woodpile that after a few minutes it has run out the other side? Instead he will sit there for hours waiting for the critter to return through the same hole it went it. Wait, I think I did the same thing once, but it involved a keg of beer going dry and I couldn’t understand why nothing was coming from the tap.

Maybe dogs are more like us than we think after all.

Sorry I Pooped in Your Shoe (and Other Heartwarming Letters from Doggie)

I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs
Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs

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A Pontification on Getting Old

So I started thinking the other day about getting old, more specifically, some of the things I have noticed about getting old. Now, I am not complaining about getting old, it happens to everyone, well unless you stop it and there is only one way to effectively do that, but cryogenics just doesn’t appeal to me.

Anyway, what started me thinking about all this was my weekly trip to the pharmacy. I used to think it was funny when my dad would go into the pharmacy and he was on a first name basis with everyone there because he was there so often, well guess what? But that isn’t what started me thinking. I realized that when I go to the pharmacy I always meet someone I know, whether an old friend or just an acquaintance. Normally these people are the same people I used to run into in one of the purveyors of alcohol establishments I used to frequent. You know, there just might be some kind of a connection there.

The thing is I don’t feel or look any older, well except for the fact it takes me a little bit to get the joints loose enough to be able to get out of bed in the morning. And there is the whole prostate thing going on. (Ah to go back to the days when I could just whip it out and go and not have to wait five minutes just to start.) At least it gives me time to memorize the phone numbers written on the stalls in the highway rest areas. Of course, I forget them by the time I leave but I try, not that it would do any good for me to call them anyway.

But other than that there really aren’t any changes, unless you count the fact that I can no longer grow hair where I want it (namely on the top of my head) but it has no trouble growing in my ears, nose and eyebrows. Really, nothing has changed.

And just because it takes me a little longer to get places, that’s only because I want to take my time. We should all take the time to smell the roses whenever we can. Okay, so I don’t have any roses between the recliner and the bathroom, but there are other things to enjoy on the trip. Besides, there are roses outside the house where I park the car, I can smell those. Oh, that’s right, those roses aren’t there anymore, I had to stop trimming them because for some reason the pruning shears didn’t seem to want to close anymore. This was okay, they took on this wild look, unfortunately they ended up being transplanted down the street on the side of the road. Who knew roses would root themselves in a ditch after un-sticking themselves from the undercarriage of a car that may not have seen them as it was backing out.

No, I pretty much haven’t changed much in the last forty years, why, I bet I could get up and run around the lake like I used to. Well, if I used to, but never actually ran around the lake, or the block for that matter, but had I did it then, why, I m sure I could do it now. In fact, maybe I’ll go do it right now… or maybe not, besides it is pretty near my bed time.

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A Pontification on Dead People

I bet you all thought I was one of the “dead people” since it has been some time since my last post. No, I can assure you that I am alive and semi-well just very busy with some editing jobs. So all of you loyal readers of my blog can now rest easy, I am here. Okay, so maybe I don’t have a whole lot of loyal fans since I this is only my sixth post, but some day, who knows.

So, I started thinking the other day about dead people. No, not about making dead people, or eating dead people, or doing anything with dead people, but rather what I would ask them if I could. You see there was a post on my Facebook page the other day with one of those questions that people like to put out there. Of course, what these people don’t realize is that when they do this I think about the question for all those long, lonely hours driving around my little part of the world. In fact, sometimes, I think about these questions more than about what I am doing and that leads to missed exits, runned red lights (somehow I don’t think runned red lights is correct, ran red lights?) and other mishaps while driving. Anyway, where was I?

Yes, the question was “If you could talk to any dead person and ask them one question, who and what would you ask?” The problem I had is when I would come up with any one name and question who I thought would be the best, I would then come up with another. Here is my list of who and what I would ask them, in no particular order, but possibly with a political bent:

  • Marilyn Monroe – What really happened the night you died, were the Kennedy’s connected?
  • Lee Harvey Oswald – Did you act alone?
  • The Founding Fathers – What do you think of the country now?
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – What do you think of the direction your movement has taken? Is it what you expected?
  • Richard Nixon – Do you still think you are not a crook?
  • Confucius – Did you really say all that stuff or did you have a staff of writers? And how do you feel about having your words in fortune cookies?
  • My father – How did you manage to get smarter as I got older?
  • George Washington – Is it true you never told a lie?
  • Ted Kennedy – What were you thinking when you drove off the bridge?
  • George H.W.Bush – Wait, he isn’t dead yet, oh well, I’ll ask anyway. Do you still want us to read your lips about the no new taxes thing?

That’s it for now, although I am sure as I drive around tomorrow I will think of some more. How about you?

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A Pontification on Road Signs

I started thinking the other day about road signs. During the course of my time behind a dirty windshield I see a lot of road signs and sometimes, well, you just have to wonder about them. dsc_04291

For example when I am in northern Vermont and New Hampshire there are signs that say “Moose Crossing – Next Two Miles.” There are also similar signs for bears and deer. This brings up the question: How do these animals know where to cross the road? Do they have some special sense which tells them they can cross the road at such and such a place? What happens if they cross somewhere else, will they be ticketed? And who knew that moose could read?

Another sign which always perplexes me is the “Watch for Fallen Rock”, which is similar, but not the same as the “Watch for Falling Rock.” If you are watching for fallen rocks, obviously you are looking at the ground which means you aren’t looking at the sky, or at least in an upward direction. Now, if I am not mistaken, after all it has been some time since I studied physics, but in order for something have “fallen” it has had to have been “falling” at some point. If something is falling it must be higher than where it has fallen to, i.e. the road. Have you ever seen it pour up rain? The same is true for a falling rock zone, if you are watching for fallen rocks  you aren’t watching for fallen rocks. Do you see the problem here? Who decides which action you should take?

rocksignAnd what about the sign that says “Falling Rocks Do Not Stop”? Are you supposed to keep going after the rock lands on you? Do you run over the rocks that have already fallen? I could use some clarification here.

I won’t even go into the “Workers in Road” or “Workers Ahead” signs. First of all if the workers are in the road, well I’m sorry but they are the ones taking the chance of being hit and perhaps they need to watch out for cars. I also think someone needs to define “Work.” After all I drive through many a work zone and very rarely do I actually see any work being done.

What I really like is what I saw the other day, there were signs posted for a “Work Zone Ahead”, one stating there would only be “One Lane Ahead” and a third one letting me know that there was a “Flagger Ahead.” I slowed down, eagerly looking for the work zone and after a half mile saw the same signs on the opposite side of the road, which told me I must be out of the work zone and the workers had decided to not actually work that day. I speeded up, drove around the bend and lo and behold there was the work crew and flagger. So, if the flagger gives you the death stare because you almost run him over is it your fault? After all they aren’t in the work zone now are they?

Then there is the mystery of changing mile signs, not the mile markers but signs saying: “Podunk 5” which let you know it is five miles to Podunk. Up in Vermont there is a sign on one of the interstates (like there are a whole lot of interstates in Vermont) which says “Barre 18 Montpelier 19.” Obviously Montpelier is 1 mile further than Barre. At least until you get to the next sign which says “Barre 9 Montpelier 11.” Does anyone else see the problem here? Still further up the road the distance goes back to being one mile apart. Now before you send me angry letters, the numbers may not be exact but the distance between them is. How can the distance change from one mile to two miles then back to one mile? It is all the same road and as far as I know there has never been an instance of a town getting up and moving. Well, I guess there may be a few that have moved due to circumstances beyond their control, but I bet they never moved back.

And by the way, there is actually a real place called Podunk. It is in Massachusetts and my mother actually lived there as a child.

Have you any signs which cause you distress? Let me know.

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A Pontification on Lawn Mowing

I started thinking about lawn mowing the other day. No, not about mowing my lawn but just the whole subject in general. I look at mowing the lawn as one of those household chores that is nothing but an exercise in futility.

Think about it, depending on where you live, I am in the Northeast, you mow the lawn today and in two days it needs to be mowed again. What’s the point? Why not let it wait another two days? Or four? Heck, why even do it at all. At least when you do other pain in the ass yard work, like raking leaves, you only have to do it once and then not again for another twelve months.


Regarding raking leaves, over the course of many years I tried every conceivable strategy to make raking leaves easier. At the time, the house in which I was living had a yard full of oak trees, which tend to have many leaves. One year I waited until I could see that all the leaves had fallen, figuring I would only have to do it once. In theory, this was a good idea, except for the fact that oak trees are notorious for holding onto their leaves for as long as possible. Raking leaves in late November is no better than raking them in October, if fact it is usually cold, raw and damp.

Then there was the year I decided to split the yard into sections and do each section twice. Again, in theory this was a good plan except for the fact that when the New England wind would blow, it would remove and evenly distribute the leaves throughout the yard, including the sections I had already raked.

Finally I had the idea that if I just left them there in the spring they would all be gone. Unfortunately after the snow melted, the leaves were still there, except a lot wetter and harder to pick up. I will say that in the house I now live in, this strategy actually works. You see, when the wind picks up off the lake it blows all my leaves into my neighbors yard and Bod has to pick them up. Good man that Bob.

Any way back to mowing the lawn. I can remember the ex-wife would always want me to spend my day off outside cutting the grass. She would always let me know how our yard looked so much worse than the neighbors. Of course I would reply that if the neighbor didn’t like the way our lawn looked he was more than welcome to come over and cut it himself. Now that I think of it, this could be one of the reasons she is now my ex-wife.

And I just don’t understand why people would want to spend all their time putting things on their lawns in order to make it grow more. You know the guy, he gets up early Sunday morning, starts the lawn tractor, mows the lawn then spreads Scotts Turf Builder to make it grow some more. Why? So you can do it all again next Sunday?

The same thing with watering it. Pffffttttt, click, pffffft, click, neighborhoods are full of this sound as people turn on the sprinkler systems. All in order to make the grass they just cut grow some more.

Now, I do have to admit, after the lawn has been mowed it does look a whole lot nicer. The green is greener,the various lawn accoutrements seem to pop from the landscape and there is noting quite like the smell of a fresh cut lawn. Yup, sure is wonderful, I just wish my neighbor would hurry up and get over here to mow it.

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A Pontification on Bridges

curved bridge

I was thinking the other day about bridges, highway bridges to be specific. After all I do seem to spend a lot of time either crossing them or going underneath them. Now I suppose you are asking yourself “What could this guy possibly be thinking about highway bridges?” And that would be a good question, unless you live in Massachusetts like I do and where every time we cross a bridge we have to worry about whether it will fall or not. However that isn’t what I was thinking about.

No, I was thinking about the fences on the bridges. Can anyone tell me why the fence on one side of the bridge is curved and the other is straight? It isn’t like this on all bridges, only some and there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to which is which. The obvious reason for having a curved fence would be to deter people from throwing things over the bridge on whatever is below (and I have noticed curved fence are only used on bridges over other roads). After all we don’t want people throwing stones, bricks, bodies or themselves  the cars below. But if this were true, why are these curved fences only on one side of bridge?  The road below doesn’t stop half way does it?

This one-sided observation led me to further theorize on why there would a curved fence on only one side, perhaps there is only a sidewalk on the curved side therefore this is where someone would be more likely to throw something from. This hypothesis soon falls apart after you realize that this isn’t always the case, sometimes there is a sidewalk with a straight fence aside it. In addition, if someone wants to throw something off a bridge, the lack of a sidewalk will probably not deter them.

Some of the other theories I have posited have included:

  • Wind deflection – Obviously I threw this one out rather quickly for the obvious reason that a chain link fence, whether straight or curved has very little effect on wind deflection.
  • Snow Control – Other than the same reason as for why they wouldn’t be used for wind deflection, I have seen the “One Curved Fence” phenomenon in places which are not prone to snow.
  • Total Randomness – For some time this was my most likely reason for why some overpasses have one curved, no curved or two curved fences. However, since these fences more than likely have to go through some form of extensive government design and approval process, the chances that these are in fact random, is highly unlikely. After all government agencies are certainly models of efficiency.
  • Space Issue – This is another theory I held for some time (and admittedly probably the lost likely), and that is if there is no sidewalk the amount of room between the guard rail to which the fence is attached and the travel lane it is possible a large truck or other vehicle could hit the fence if it were curved. I have yet had the opportunity to test this theory as any time I drove a truck which would potentially be high enough to hit this, I needed my job more than I needed proof.

And while we are on the subject of bridges, over the years I have also concluded I do not want to ever see a bridge with me name on it. Now there are some who might think this would be quite an honor but have you ever noticed one thing in common about bridges which are named after people? They all have signs with the person’s name and these signs, aAmidown1910t least once a year if not more often, are adorned with wreaths and flowers. If your name is covered with a wreath, it means you are no longer among the living. No little white signs covered with flowers for me thank you. A building would be okay, after all buildings with people’s names on them are usually named for the owner or builder. For example in the town I grew up in there is a building named “Ammidown” named for the original owner. Now you may think “But this guy is still dead.” Yes, but he built the building was built when he was alive.

Back to fences… The question remains as to why there is a difference between the two fences on the bridge. I really would like the answer.

Now, a totally random, well maybe not totally, quote from Robert Frost:

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’  

Please feel free to share this post with those you know as well as comment on it. After all any comments will give me even more to think about while on the highways and byways of America.

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