New Dogs, Old Tricks

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Those who know me know that 6 weeks ago my family and I adopted/rescued two wonderful, adorable puppies. They were three weeks old at the time and could fit in the palm of my hand. (Side note: if possible, never separate puppies from their litter before seven weeks. In our case, neither the mama dog nor the owner could feed the pups – eight in all).

Two sleeping puppies
Awww... so cute and cuddly - but not for long!

They are nine weeks old now and the days of tiny cute and cudliness have long past. These 15 lb balls of energy are all over the place – running, jumping, barking, biting, and don’t let me forget “going.” Our older dog (14 years old to be precise) has given up dodging the puppies and generally stays pretty passive as they both frantically lick his face whenever they are let out.

I love my dogs, don’t get me wrong. The thing is, I am used to a dog who at least pretends (half the time) to care what I say. If I say “sit” he’ll think about it and eventually do it. If I pat my leg, he comes. Not so much with the young rascals.

I know they need training and between 8 weeks and 20 weeks is the ideal time for things like housebreaking and basic obedience. As a broke college student lessons from trained training professionals is a bit beyond my budget, so I’ve hit up the library and a used book store for some ideas (as well as good old Google).

I have a training book called Training Your Puppy in 5 Minutes (Positive Training).  I found mine at a used book store, but you can find it on Amazon for around $10. I love it. It has a ton of background information you need to get ready for a puppy (or used to the one you have) and really easy to follow instructions on basic obedience.

One of the things I have learned from this is that puppies need a schedule. We are crate training ours and it is going wonderfully. As opposed to my older dog – let’s call him B – who whines in his crate. B is not crate trained, so we don’t leave him in unless there is a special case. But I’m working on him slowly. Z and G (the puppies) whine for a bit in their crates, but then they both fall asleep. Ah, the wonders of puppyhood.

On the other hand, B can walk with a leash and harness and the puppies don’t even wear a collar. It is surprising how much I take for granted when it comes to dogs.

Puppy fighting leash
Puppies do not understand leashes. Mine fight the leash like this one does.

They have a schedule they follow and woe unto us if we don’t stick to it. Bissell has great cleaning products for removing pet stains – in case you’re wondering. They know (for the most part) to “go” outside, so it’s time to bump up the difficulty.

Today they practiced the simple command “sit.” I used the five-minute method from the training guide and it worked pretty well. I put all dogs in their crates and took them out one at a time for a little “play training” as it’s called. B was first and although he didn’t really understand what was happening he did his best. It was difficult for me to withhold the treat until he got it right, but I know that’s what needs to be done.

I had the most fun with the puppies. They were so happy to be out that they climbed all over me and chased the hand that held my stash of treats. Eventually they got the hang of following the treat they were offered and did well with “sit.” I’m going to keep working on that for a few days before moving on.

I have read that at 12 weeks they are able to process more.  By then I am guessing they will weigh close to 20 lbs, so I want to make sure they really understand some basic commands by the time they get too big to handle.

For all of you out there with new puppies, or old dogs who need training – I understand your pain. I am learning, however, that patience is more than a virtue – it’s a hard-won battle and not for the faint of heart. I remind myself every ten minutes that it will be worth it when I have the best behaved dogs in the neighborhood (well, I can dream can’t I?)


Take it to the Web! A quick look into the ‘secret’ code of HTML

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Back in the day (hmm…. let’s say about six years ago) there was this thing called “Myspace.” Some of us may even remember having one and vaguely recall the days it was cool.

I admit to having had one and I thought it was the best thing ever. Not only could I send short messages to my friends, but I could post pictures and all the glitz and glam I found on the web where everyone could see it.

Myspace was also my first introduction to HTML.

Back then, I knew how to make fonts look bold or different colors. I could take the code for a profile theme and tweak it to my heart’s content and I never thought twice about it.  Today I am taking a course that teaches the wonders of HTML and CSS and I smile every time I think that I have been unknowingly writing code for years.

If you have ever thoughtlessly written a bit of code and wondered about it, look no further! I will explain some of the basics that make web pages so amazing.

HTML can be used to do a number of amazing things. You just have to learn it!

HTML (or hypertext markup language)is a name for the code that gives a web page structure. Think of it as the backbone of a web page.
There is a method to the madness that I won’t go into, but you can check out this tutorial for the “hands on” stuff.

Using simple code combinations (called tags), you are able to tell the browser where you want text, images, or hyper-links (collectively known as content) to appear on the page. It sounds so simple – and it is! The only catch is that it’s like it’s very own language and you have to know what it’s saying before you can use it. There are hundreds of sites on the web that go into detail of what all the different tags do, so I won’t waste space by listing them here. The tutorial I have linked above will show you several tags as well as how to code a simple web page. Check it out!

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS is the coding for the web page’s style. Font color, borders, margins… all this can be defined using CSS coding.
This tutorial will teach you basic HTML and CSS, while this tutorial focuses on CSS.

What’s the difference? Well, I’m no expert, but from what I have read, CSS works when it is embedded into HTML code. I think of it as similar to learning to play piano. I could learn how to play with only my right hand, then learn to play using both hands once I have mastered that, or I could learn to play with both hands at once.
Learning HTML by itself is useful at the beginning when you just want to learn to put words on a page with minimal style and get it out to the web. Learning CSS by itself probably won’t do you much good. It would be like learning to play left-handed piano alone – you would be able to play only part of a song.

Learning HTML and CSS together will allow you to incorporate all aspects of style and layout into the process without going backwards for each new concept.

However you choose to learn, once you get started you will be amazed and delighted at what you can do with a few simple tips and tricks. Best of luck and happy creating!

Relay for Life 2011

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It’s 4:30AM on a beautiful night. Music is blasting, frisbees are flying. This is Relay for Life at the University of Louisville. 38 teams comprised of over 500 people gather to celebrate life and to raise money to fight cancer.
We walk all night to represent the fight cancer patients go through as they fight for their lives. At this point in the night we are all exhausted and count down the hours until this is all over. Knowing that we get to go home and relax in just a few hours if a relief. As I walk I think that if only cancer patients had it so ready. They don’t get to tag team someone else to fight for them. That don’t get to decide they’ve had enough and go home or fall asleep in a tent for a few hours break.
My walking had left me with a blister that may take a day or two to heal. That’s two days of hobbling around in pain, but then it’s over and done -a short-lived reminder of my own fight against cancer- if only cancer followed the same schedule.

Jammin’ in the ‘Ville – Winter Jam 2011

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I’m driving home listening to the radio and I hear an announcement for a concert starting in just a few hours. “What?!? That’s tonight?!?!” I yell to my stereo. Of course, the announcer didn’t hear me, so he continued to exclaim about the tickets (only $10 at the door, he shouts) and to re-list all the bands featured at the event.

Chris Sligh, Chris August, Red, New Song… the list goes on and on. So many great bands in one place. What was I to do?? Now, if you’re like my younger brother you’re scratching your head and going “who are these people? I’ve never heard of them before.”

New Song at Winter Jam 2011 in Louisville

I suppose I should explain a few things. These bands are amazing – if you like Christian music. I listen to just about everything.  I love music and a concert for $10 is just too much for me to pass up, especially when I had no other plans for the night.

The concert took place at Freedom Hall. Officially the show started at 7:30, but the place was rocking as soon as we walked in. That would be the pre-jam party, that I didn’t know about. It was nice. Chris Sligh was performing as we came in, then Chris August did a few numbers.

The tour made its 17th stop in Louisville. They will make a total of 43 (or 42??) stops before the end of the tour. The cool thing is that a friend of mine saw the show in Jacksonville, which I did not know until I was uploading photos on Facebook.

My favorite song, I must admit, was Candy Wrap. According to Chris August that is “such an embarrassing song,” but I loved it and laughed the whole time at the sheer silliness of it. It reminded me of being a five year-old and the best thing you could possibly have is candy for as far as you can see.

Fire effects during Red's performance. Amazing!

Red is a new favorite of mine as of tonight as well.  This band shows off the rock side of Christian music. I couldn’t get enough and this was before they lit up the stage with a fantastic display of pyrotechnics. Picture me scrambling for my camera in the dark and pushing the shutter button desperately to catch as much as I could of the band and their set. It presents an amusing picture.

New Song is another band I heard of tonight. I asked my sister who they were, because as usual my memory lapsed. She told me “Newsboys.” I looked at her and said “No way…. really??” Ok, I know who the Newsboys are, and granted they were there but not until later in the concert (as in, the end) but I still went with it. Of course, I know better now.

Tony Nolan at Winter Jam 2011 in Louisville

Band after band, the music went on. Tony Nolan, the guest speaker of the tour got up and told us a bit about himself and his history. He is such an interesting and dynamic speaker. He has a book out that sounded pretty interesting, but I didn’t end up getting it.

Of all people to send a message, Tony Nolan is a great choice. His history shocked me to my core. I never would have guessed half of the things he told us. He struggled from day one and now gets up and tells everyone about it. I’m sitting in my seat listening to him talk about being adopted into an abusive family in a bad neighborhood (very near where I grew up) and getting into drugs and alcohol. As I sit, I am thinking, all those people out there who have no idea how to find the good in themselves, just need to look at Tony here to see that the floor doesn’t keep dropping out from under you.

It seems like sentimental nonsense when I write it here, but being there was very powerful. Everyone can take a message away from it, even if it’s as simple as “don’t be so hard on yourself, everyone is human.”

David Crowder and band put on a "hoe down" while playing in Louisville.


David Crowder talking to the crowd at Winter Jam 2011

Great music, a fantastic speaker and stunning effects – all before intermission. There was a talk about helping orphans with Holt International. The stories were moving and if I were anything other than a broke college student, I would have considered sponsoring a child. Alas, I am not. Instead I applauded the people who lined up to do so.

KJ-52, a hip/hop Christian band pumped everyone up for the second act. Kutless made their appearance with a slow start, but got around to playing some songs I loved.

My sister and I decided to go out and check out the merchandise tables. I bought some CDs and looked around. Chris Sligh was the only artist I noticed out at the tables greeting fans. I thought about stopping to say hello, but even with the concert going on there was quite a crowd around his table. We passed.

Multiply this by eight or so. One of the reasons we left a bit early... we did not want to fight traffic to get home.

Always in an attempt to avoid traffic we leave early. I must admit, after viewing my friend’s pictures I am kind of disappointed that I missed Newsboys. From what I can see they had the drummer’s platform rigged so it lifted up, tilted and spun while he was playing. I really, really wish I hadn’t missed that. Next year, I am sticking around ’till the bitter end.

What’s your sign?

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Let me start out by saying I don’t normally pay much attention to astrology. Sure, once in a blue moon I’ll read a horoscope and chuckle over it, but I never really took it seriously. So, it surprised me when there was a huge outcry over the news that the astrological signs may be changing. It intrigued me, and I decided to look into it and see what it was all about. Even though I may not plan my life around my zodiac sign, I’m glad I did.

The name Ophiuchus is one I first heard soon after I started digging. “So, this is what the fuss is all about,” I thought. Well, maybe. Some articles explain that the earth has “wobbled” on its orbit, which shifts things around – including how we view the constellations from earth. But, that’s not new either, right? Surely the earth didn’t just decide to move out of its comfy orbit only in the last few years. So why is this news now?

Turns out that this “news” isn’t really new. Several sources say astrologers have known about the shifting signs for thousands of years. Despite this, every so often it becomes bright and shiny-new again and creates a stir. I can imagine why. Depending on where you look, the information you get can say just about anything.

According to an interview by Stephen Hunt with Calgary Herald astrology columnist Georgia Nicols, there are two ways of looking at astrology. In both Vedic and Sidereal astrology the constellations are used to determine the signs. Another way of looking at it is called tropical astrology. This way uses mathematics to determine the signs, which, according to Nicols, tend to stay the same for thousands of years. This is how most astrologers view the zodiac.

Some articles claim that the signs will change and that those with zodiac tattoos of the wrong sign are seriously SOL. According to The Stir, astrology is insignificant so even if they do change, it really doesn’t matter. Seems a bit cynical to me, but OK. Although I freely admit that I don’t plan my life around my horoscope, there are people out there who do. From what I understand the sign change would mean a personality makeover – at least for them. One astrologer compared zodiac signs to clothes. Just because you change your outfit, doesn’t mean you change who you are. I thought that was an interesting point.

My favorite interview was a video from a Tampa news station. Astrologer Janet Scialis agrees with the side that says the signs are not changing. She mentions being born under a sign, and although she doesn’t elaborate, it caught my attention. When I look at a horoscope, I look for the day I was born – so doesn’t it make sense that your sign would be whichever sign you were born under anyway?

Like I said, I’m glad I did some digging. Even if I don’t understand all the ins and outs of astrology, I at least understand what the big deal is. This is an issue that while not life-threatening can still be pretty confusing. Sure, we may have better things to worry about, but let’s face it, this is much more fun. The thought of going from an Aries to a Pisces is much more entertaining than thinking about how I’m going to organize that basket of old class notes sitting by my desk. But now that I’ve solved one mystery, it’s onto another. Until next time…