The end of an era

To say that I built a small part of my identity around my pets, would be a bit like saying Ford has built a small part of theirs around pick-up trucks.

Wizard's passing marks the end of almost ten years of guinea pigs in my life.  Examples include:

  • the frequent visits to Petco, PetSmart, and any other random pet store to look at the "fuzzy guys"

  • sports, like my penultimate championship fantasy football team, the Gridiron Guinea Pigs, or my March Madness 2013 team: the Guinea Pig Point Guards

  • Adorable sayings like, "what's new in the pigloo?" and the guinea pig theme song: "Guinea PIG!  Guinea PIIIIIG!"

  • the trio of piggie pals: Tuft, Pinball, and Wizard

Unfortunately, Steph is allergic to grasses.  She's been kind enough to suffer through timothy hay fever for nearly a decade and it's just not fair to ask her to continue.

One last story....
I brought Wizard to the vet today.  He wasn't feeling well - little appetite and he hadn't left his yellow house for a few days.  While checking in at the front desk, the receptionist remarked that she hadn't encountered a "Wizard" before.  I explained that he used to be part of a set: Pinball and Wizard.

"Huh.  Sounds like a song from the 70s."

Um...  yes.  That is the joke.  (Thank you for making me feel old.)

Tires

I am not a car guy.  I didn't learn how to drive a manual transmission until I'd been driving for 10+ years, someone had to show me how to figure out if an engine was a V4, V6, or V8, and the biggest modification I'd ever really made to a vehicle was getting a vanity license plate.  

So...last month, I learned that I had to get new tires.  I had run flats on my car previously.  They worked well in the summer, not at all in the winter, and they were incredibly expensive.  For the new set, I decided not to spend $300+/tire and I began doing a bit of research.  In the end, I chose a tire that's perpetually on back order.  So I had to go to plan B.

Plan B involved the fine folks at Hogan Tire - http://hogantire.com.  I decided to get the normal tire equivalent of the run flats I wanted.  They were significantly cheaper and, besides, I'd told myself, I have a spare tire.  What are the odds of getting a flat?

I got a flat tire today.  

A few thoughts from this experience.
#1 - I'm proud of myself.  I got the flat on the way into a parking lot to get lunch.  I caught the curb wrong and knew I'd have a flat by the end of lunch.  Steph and I ate, the food was good, and I didn't freak out.  A month ago, I would have been kicking and screaming up a storm about how life sucks and such.

#2 - After lunch, some random guy was getting into his car next to mine.  "Wow.  This guy has a flat.  Haha."  he told his companion.  I caught him off guard as I'd walked up to him and replied, "yes, I do."  Bonus points for me for not freaking out of him as I might have a month ago.

#3 - The Sunoco station that's in Bedford, MA on Great Road can go to hell.  They were the next parking lot over, a mere 50 feet away.  When I couldn't get the last lug nut off the wheel, I walked over to ask for advice, a longer tire iron for more leverage, or maybe some help (god forbid!), the guy at the desk said that he could charge me $50, I could call AAA, or maybe he could help if I could get the car over to the station.  I should have known it was going to be a poor experience when I walked in the door.  The three guys that were in earshot when I began the conversation dwindled to one when I actually asked for assistance.

#4 - Apparently, lug nuts are put on tight.  In order to remove them, I had to stand on the tire iron.  I weigh about 200 pounds.

#5 - Hogan Tire is super easy to work with.  The replacement tire is free; they didn't have the tire in stock when I got there, but they'll have it first thing when they open on Monday; and they said they can fit me in and get me in and out in no time flat.

Robert Levetin, May 18, 1950-December 29, 2011

Once again, I've fallen behind on my LJ.  I guess the life of a blogger just isn't one that I'm particularly suited for.  It seems to take too much of a shock to the system to remind me to write an entry.  I'm sorry if the LJ seems a bit of a downer.  Good and entertaining stuff does happen.  It just never seems to make it here.

And with that preface.....
My dad passed away yesterday.  He wasn't feeling well and was checking his sugars (he was diabetic) when my mom left for work that morning.  Bailey found him a short while later at the bottom of the stairs.  911 was called, an ambulance came, and he was pronounced at Sturdy Memorial.  The medical examiner says that he hit his head.  How, why, and on what, we're not sure.

The funeral is at 2pm on Monday, graveside at the cemetery in West Roxbury.
776 Baker Street, Independent Pride of Boston Cemetery
West Roxbury
Suffolk County
Massachusetts  USA
Postal Code: 02132
Phone: 800-752-5226
http://www.jcam.org

A short memorial shindig to follow at my house until about 5:30ish.  It's not quite the traditional sitting, but it's a start.

Some learnings....
  • Going through the SARA model sucks.  Forum never taught that one.  I'm still in the "S" phase, I think.
  • There's a website out there called "findagrave.com".  This entertains me in a morbid sort of way.
  • If you've never had the chance to shop for a casket, I highly recommend it.  Julie, our funeral director (at Levine's in Brookline, MA), was quick to point out that the real caskets would be bigger.  It's fascinating that she offered that up immediately.  I guess it comes up often.
  • Apparently, crooks like to cruise the obits for places to steal from.  Julie made it clear that we should have a neighbor watch our houses and turn on the alarms if we have them.  Check and check, with some trained attack guinea pigs to boot.  Crooks, you've been warned.
  • From the rent-a-rabbi, I've learned that unused cemetery plots are apparently a hot commodity.  Think the price of gold is up?  Plots are doing even better.  Apparently, they're recession proof. And rent-a-rabbi sounds harsher than intended.  His name is Rabbi Terry Bard, and he seems really cool on the phone.  He also seems to play fast and loose with the rules, which is nice for us.  We had a chat with him on the phone after Shabbat got started tonight.  
  • I highly recommend Rubin's deli in Brookline, MA.  Excellent matzo ball soup and hot corned beef sandwich.  
I can honestly say this is one of those things where I simply don't know what to do.  We're bumbling through things and moving forward, but it just feels like bumbling.  And I've never been one to bumble with pride.

More to come.  I've got some catch-up to do.  Stuff like how Major Lisa is (finally and thankfully) out of Afghanistan; Chopper, the dog we almost adopted; the saga of the baby registry; the baby name criteria and debates; mortgage refi; hirings at work; and more.

in which we consider a dog

Steph and I almost adopted a dog yesterday.  We didn't; the house remains a guinea pig domain for now.  The decision to not adopt was interesting, so I thought I'd share.

We are taking Filemaker Pro lessons at the Apple Store in Salem, NH.  Each week, we're there on Saturday morning and each week, we stop by Nevins Farm, an MSPCA shelter in Methuen, MA.  It's on the way home and I like looking at the "fuzzy creatures."  Until recently, the fuzzy creatures were bunnies, guinea pigs, and degus.  Recently, we started looking at dogs.

Last week, we saw Keto, a big, red pomeranian with a tiny hint of an underbite.  He was freakin' adorable!  And so we walked away because we didn't want to do anything rash.  Yesterday, we went back.  Keto was still at the Farm, but he wasn't in his cage. As I was checking out and buying some guinea pig food, I asked if we could meet Keto.

As it turns out, Keto is freakin' adorable and very tricky.  He was left outside and alone until he came to the shelter and he had some personality quirks that we weren't ready for.  For starters, he doesn't like to be touched.  The staff told us that we could meet him if we wanted to, but they strongly advised that it wouldn't be a good fit.  So we passed on Keto and met Teddy instead.

Teddy was a smaller pomeranian who was "full of life."  "Full of life" is an MSPCA euphamism for "completely untrained and nuts."  This dog had  apparently never been on a leash.  We knew he wasn't a good fit after 30 seconds or so.  He was literally running circles around Steph.  (Steph really shouldn't have let him completely stretch out the leash that way, but we can work on that.)  I took the leash, brought Teddy to the right spot at my side, and we went for a walk.

Teddy bounced around on his short lead.  At one point, I tried to get him to settle.  I bent down, put both hands on him to calm him, and did my best to just get him to calm.  No dice.  When I stood up, Teddy had managed to tie the leash in a knot!    He was a cute dog and full of life.  But he was too full of life for us.  We brought Teddy back and we'll try again soon.

CHIPMUNKS?

THE CHIPMUNKS that are living under our front steps have grown a bit.  It seems that the chipmunks have moved out and we have new tenants.  Groundhogs!

How do we know?  Steph and I opened the door to leave the house today and saw a groundhog book it up our front walk to the left.  It disappeared.  The only place it could have gone is under the steps.

Who let the dogs out?

Last night, Steph and I returned home.  As we pulled in the driveway, we saw a fox at the far end.  The fox saw us in the car and decided that it didn't care.  So it just hung out, looking at us looking at it from the confines of our parked vehicle.  I'm sad to say that the fox won the staring contest because we were distracted.  About 30 feet away, a deer walked into the yard.

Yup...a fox and a deer engaged in a five minute stare down with two humans inside a Ford Fusion.

We eventually won.

For my Philly phriends

I'm watching the Phantom Gourmet.  They offered an idea that I thought I'd share.  Augment your normal "pigs in a blanket" recipe by making a "pig in a popover blanket."  Basically, you make a popover and stick a little sausage in it before you cook it.

Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Our government in action

As I was leaving work today, I saw Boston's Mayor Menino.  He was playing the role of auctioneer in a fundraiser for a school in Roslindale.  I also got to chat with State Rep Russell E Holmes.  He was leaving about the same time I was and we talked on the way out.  Nice guy.

customer service and Bobos

It's getting harder to find creative ways to explain to customers that the reason why they didn't get something is because they didn't ask for it.  I really wish people would read the forms they sign.