Knock it off, you aren’t the Dog Whisperer

Now that we don’t have kids at home, we have dogs.

These are the first ones we’ve owned. While the kids were growing up, my thinking was I didn’t need yet another being to clean up after. Especially after our kids were potty trained. That and the recollection of the dogs my family had growing up was cleaning shit out of the yard, and having to walk the dog when I didn’t want.

But while I was laid up with therapy, I watched tons of Dog Whisperer and got it in my head that life’s too short, why not get a dog?

Our first, we named Jethro. We happened upon a family that had puppies and was going to take the lot to the pound. He was six weeks old. Not nearly old enough to be away from momma.

Baby Jet

To say  he had a few nights of separation anxiety would be understatement. But soon enough, we got along and he became part of the family. He also got big. He tips in at about 80 lbs these days.

He’s an honest to god lab/shepherd. His mom was a standard issue Shepherd, his dad a yellow lab. And he’s all black and looks like the “Grim” from Harry Potter. Only goofier.

The big dude. His head is taller than the table.

I learned a lot raising a puppy. And a lot of what Cesar Milan talks about is absolutely true. Except the “schssst” sound he makes. That doesn’t appear to work. But they most certainly respond to energy level, and authority.

We ended up moving, and decided to get another dog. They are, after all, pack animals. And our thinking was that they’d keep themselves busy while I worked, which they mostly do.

We found a rescue dog that was fostered, from a puppy, in our neighborhood. We didn’t realize that until we went to meet and the foster said “OMIGOD! I KNOW THAT DOG!”. She’d seen me walking Jet. I’d seen her with their dog and this one. For whatever reason they named her “Aria”, which, since she was a year when we got her, she knows as her name. Not worth renaming her. Although she responds to “Girlfriend”. As in “Jethro’s crazy girlfriend.”

Crazy Girlfriend

We don’t know what she is. All the puppies were different. She, and her mom, look like cattle dogs (or are at least built like them).

She’s high energy, and you’d think she was the boss, the way the two of them interact. But Jet is most certainly the Alpha. When she’s being annoying, he has this incredible deep bass growl, which causes her to immediately submit.

Both are extremely protective and territorial. I’ve learned that if I invite someone inside, they’ll test the person, but then accept them. Surprise them, and it’s game-on. Take the mailman for instance. He walks through the front yard every day, and every day they bark at him. Yet, we met on the street, and they sat there, docile as lambs, while we talked. He said “ahh, they’re OK, they wouldn’t bite”, to which I told him they absolutely would if he crossed that fence. They are OK, as long as you aren’t on their turf or in my personal space. Twice, Aria wanted a piece of someone, one a jogger and the second a faux-gansta construction dude, that looked like they were going to run into me. The other day, I grabbed Jet by the scruff of the neck for being an out of control dork, and he went to nip me. Aria wore him out all over the back yard for attempting to bite the hand that feeds them.

Where am I going with this?

Every so often I run into people who do dumb things around these two dogs. This is mostly because they don’t understand dogs, and think every dog is like Lassie. Either that or they think they are some sort of dog whisperer.

These two absolutely hate when someone they don’t know walks up to them and tries to pet them, even kids. Even worse is when that person kneels to get to their level, which is spectacularly dumb with a big dog you don’t know. That’s problem one.

Problem two is the odd person that comes up to the gate to try and quiet the dogs, who are going nuts because there’s a stranger at their gate. I was sitting on the patio..uh..celebrating, when they started going apeshit at the gate. I waddle around, and there’s some imbecile, on his knees, with his hand in the gate. “What in the fuck are you doing?” I ask. “Oh..I just don’t like dogs barking at me”. So I tell him “Well, you’re doing two things they absolutely hate – On their level, sticking your hand in their space”

You don’t need to be a dog person to know sticking your mitts at a dog that’s agitated is a super bad move. I learned that with my neighbors cattle dogs when I lived in VA. They were barking up a storm, so I thought I’d introduce myself and went to pet them over the chain link fence.

And they bit me. Hard.

I told my neighbor and she explained the territorial thing. Sure enough, when we all were out front, the dogs were calm as could be and wanted to be petted.

Guarding her turf. Does she look like she wants your hand in her grill?

I had another incident (where it may have been the same dude, an idiot) walk up to the gate, ignore the “beware of dogs” sign, and try to calm the dogs, like Crocodile Dundee. My wife went to see why he was doing that and he walked away.

Here’s where it’s important, at least around here. You do that, you violate their space, and you are now “Enemy for Life”. Period. They go berserk every time that dude walks down the street.

It’s happened with my neighbor (who I invited in to meet them properly – he declined) and probably his daughter, judging from their reaction when she pulls up. Think about it on human terms. What if I came up to your window and gurned at you while baby talking. Wouldn’t you go nuts the next time I rocked up to the window? Hell, around here, you’d probably get shot.

These dogs have a job to do. One that they take seriously. We live on a corner lot, next to a busy street. They make sure no one is going to screw with our house, or us. In the whole time we’ve lived here, nothing has happened. I can’t even imagine what would happen if some nob climbed the fence to get at the cars, or the garage.

If dogs are barking at you, move on. Don’t take it personally.


Fundamentals (part one)

I grew up around men who fixed things. And fixed them properly. They showed me the way to do nearly everything, and started with the fundamentals. Things that if you get wrong at the beginning, everything else will be screwed as well. I thought of this as I watched my neighbors fence go up, replacing the old one felled by the storm a few weeks ago.

It looks like it was built by teenagers.

Because it was.

It was a painful thing to witness. Day one they had a crew of three, and a hammer. A single hammer between three guys to take down the two parts of the fence still standing. One attached to my fence at the rear and at the front, the part where I had replaced the posts. After awhile watching this in the camera system, I waddled out and lent them my 4′ crowbar and a sledge. Later in the day, I went out with some handy advice – Get a cordless drill. You aren’t going to beat or pry 3.5″ deck screws out of my brand new posts. Fundamental: Get the right tools for the job. If you are going to do this  work, get proper hand tools, a cordless drill, and a sawz-all.  I learned long ago do get the best tools I could afford. Even when I was just starting out, I bought the best I could get. FFS, at harbor freight, hand tools like crowbars and sledges are stupid cheap. I came back from a job one day when I was installing sound systems and handed my boss my tool belt to store in his office, so I wouldn’t have to carry it on the subway.  His eyes popped at  the belt I handed him, full of Channelock, Klein, and other high end tools.

Day two, the crew chief showed up, a beer bellied dude about my age. At that point, they looked like kids playing soccer, moving around as a group, for the most part. True, they had badly underestimated the job at hand. The fence apparently had been replaced at least once before, and there was a ton of extraneous concrete where they needed to plant posts. I could’ve told them that, as I found this out when I replaced two posts. Looks like there was a chain link fence at one point that they merely sidestepped when the last fence was installed. It took a lot of pain to deal with this. I suggested they rock up to Home Depot and rent a demolition hammer (an electric jackhammer). That’s what I had to do. The tubby dude complained they only bid two days. Seems correct. I’ve seen fence replacements (by people that knew what they were doing) and it took about that long. Fundamental: Never give a fixed price before giving a long hard look, especially on an older property. I told the dude he should carry a 1/4″ aluminum rod to probe the ground around fence posts to be certain. When it comes to installing physical networks, I never, EVER, give fixed price unless I’ve sized the job up, and also why I do not do residential. These days services like Thumbtack want you to quote sight unseen. I quote my hourly rate-always.

When they started building the thing, I noticed the tall section was really tall. Much more so than when I replaced the posts. Tubby dude said my neighbor said it was 10′. It wasn’t. It was 8′. I pointed at my new posts (That they had removed) lying on the ground and said “It was 8′. Those posts are 10′, and 2′ was buried. Undaunted they moved on. Here’s the issue – 10′ is against code and he’ll surely set my neighbor to catch the jaundiced eye of the city. The day is coming. Worse yet, I see no permit. I’m certain you need one. You need one for everything here. Fundamental: The customer isn’t always right about everything. See above about quoting. You could look at the thing and see it wasn’t 10′. Measure the SOB, and ask about a permit if you are contracting.IMG_0634

As they started building the fence, it became very apparent they had no clue. they started at the front, the high end, and worked their way back, using a line on the top as a guide.

What resulted was twofold – the cross-members are crooked as they tried to match the fence at the back of my yard (Why? Who knows!) and when they put up the planks they hit a spot where it’s 6″ off the deck, then drops to meet the back fence height. Looks like shit. Fundamental: Start from the known (my fence) and work back. 


You know you want a nice corner, build that, then move forward to the new part. And, work from the bottom – the ground is a known. You put a plank on the ground as a level and spacer (to keep the planks off the ground – (they suck up water and rot) and let the top take care of itself (Tip: it’ll be level). If you want  a fancy header, you can bolt that on and trim. Easier to do on top than the bottom (where they covered the gap with 2x6s).

Later, one of the younger dudes, an dot-indian kid that tubby dude said wanted to get into the business, showed up with a retail grade compressor and finish nailer to fasten the bottom of the fence pickets to the 2×6 boards running on the ground. The exact, wrong way to do such a task.


To make it worse, He showed up later to paint the fence with a pump sprayer you normally use with insecticide.

It looked worse than shit.

What finally broke me was turning out the driveway one day to see the same dot-indian kid painting the fence with a 2″ brush, one you’d use on trim. I was about to go back, get him one of my 4″ brushes.

Then I thought: Fuck this. Fuck them. They leave, I’ll fix the part I see from my  yard myself.

Don’t be lazy. Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Here’s the point. Before you get started on anything, there a fundamental concepts you have to consider. And here’s the sadder point still, these young men could have and should have had mentoring to show them how the job is done.

But they didn’t learn that. All they learned was the pain of failure, if anything at all.




[Screwit] I’m old. Gimme free [stuff]

The actual line is; “Fuckit, I’m old. Gimme free shit”, from Justin Halpern’s Sh*t my Dad Says.”  Pretty funny book.

That said, I don’t feel old. But there’s been a lot of “huh…wonder why they said that” going on with me. For instance, I’ve had a few older ladies, at social functions, ask me “Are you still working?”. I’m 56. Of course I still work. I pretty much have to, and will probably have to until I drop.

I think it’s the grey hair that does it. I consider myself lucky. After Chemo, it was white. And I’ve been feeling the aches of the aged lately.

But what started this moment of clarity was my son. We were talking after dinner one Sunday, and I was prattling on about the average age of trades guys being mid-fifties, and many I know working the trades in their seventies. So I said something along the lines of “I’m thinking of getting into HVAC. It’ll be a good gig when I’m old”.

To which my son replied “Heh…Yeah…When.”

Ahh…the acorn don’t fall far from the tree. Irish wit must be a dominant gene.

Very funny.

I’ve been meaning to get back to weightlifting, and bought a cheap set of iron to get back into shape where going to a gym is worth it. So I went to the local rec center to check it out. The one I belonged to in Plano had a nice array of freeweights. This one, did not. Only machines. So as I’m asking the reception dude about the lack of iron, he starts selling me on attending the senior center. Wut?

All these things got me thinking hard about what I should be doing as I age.

One of the businesses I have includes doing network and security camera support. I’ve done a few jobs in homes lately that were punishing. Although I’m good at it, I’m not sure it’s for me. There are other reasons, like they don’t pay real well for the hassle, but I’ve already told my partner I’m done with this, unless he wants to do it with a helper, which will drive down the profitability further. I’m simply not as agile as I used to be. My recovery times are in days rather than hours.

And besides, that was part of my career that I liked the least. A necessary evil.

But back to the title. Am I really old enough to start glomming discounts? It’s worth looking into. Pride may keep me from doing it, but entertainment value of being a penny pinching pain in the ass may be worth it.

That was one big assed storm

My city got battered by the most intense storm I’ve ever witnessed Sunday.
That said, I’ve been through tropical storms, including some good Texas ones, but I’ve normally slept through them. What’s funny is nearly zero of the smart tech devices I have gave me any warning whatsoever. We went to Mass, then breakfast. All in all a normal Sunday. I sized up my weather app and it said 60% chance starting at 4 or so. Fair enough. I figured I’d knock out the mowing, stain the fence posts I replaced a few weeks ago, and maybe throw down some grass seed for the upcoming rain. Easy day.
But as I started, it got darker and darker. I had only the side yard left. Took one pass, and as I turned towards the back I could see hell was coming to lunch. A few seconds after hitting the garage it opened up. I was watching it from the Patio with my trusty protective sidekick, Jethro, but it got way too windy so we retreated. I was texting back and forth with the missus, and checking the radar on my iPad. Somewhere along the line I heard an explosion like a transformer cutting loose, and peered out the window at the road. That sound is also similar to an idiot not paying attention and plowing into another car at high speed. No power interruption though.

Oh, so that’s what the red parts are like…
Soon enough It was just light rain and I ventured out to see what the deal was.
The deal was about a foot of water in the busy intersection near my house. The storm dumped like a foot of rain in a short, short time.
So I took some video, texted some, and walked back in my gate. Then I saw it – The storm had smote my neighbor’s fence’s ruin upon my yard. It pretty much was down, except for a small section in the corner and the section I had just rebuilt.
My big shepherd mix – Jethro, stood on the wreckage of the fence and pretty much claimed my neighbors back yard as his territory, and looked like he was about to repel my neighbor from his own back yard.  I got him inside and then picked up on the the devastation all around. I won’t catalog it all, that’s not the point of this post.
But, trees down, power out, fences ruined. A house south of us had a huge tree fall on it’s roof. Texas storm damage. It was our time, this time.
There was a foot of water in the intersection near my house.
So what was good?
  • This is Texas. And although DFW is a yuge metroplex, most of it is like a small town. In my neighborhood and all over, neighbors were helping each other out – Clearing brush, running a power cord from their house with power to their neighbor without. Neighbors were out checking on the elderly in our block. By Monday, most of the folks in my neighborhood had piles of brush in front. Most of the yards were clear.
  • We have a functioning utility infrastructure. My power was out 16 hours or so, but it came back nearly to the minute Oncor said it would. The 250K without power, got whittled down in days. Sure it blows to have no power. But what they had to do, they did in a pretty short time, all things considered. They called in resources from other states, probably the instant they realized the scope of the outage, because there were bucket trucks all over starting Sunday evening.
  • I have two whirlpool refrigerators. My wife picked up ice, which we put in the fridge and freezer sections. The next day, nearly everything was still cold, or frozen. We lost almost no food.
  • It was cool enough that no AC wasn’t a huge deal.
  •  I have two big, protective, territorial dogs. Ain’t no way anyone breaches the perimeter unscathed. A construction dude nearly collided with me on a walk the other day and the female – the smaller of the two – went for his throat. I can’t imaging what happens when someone tries to enter the house uninvited.
What was bad?
  • We’re woefully unprepared for this stuff. I have two mobile phones, and both were low when the storm hit. Good thing is I have two APC 1500 battery backups for work. Those chugged away powering the interwebs and charging my phones for hours before they gave up.  I need to get a generator. I’ll wait until people forget, and the price goes back down.
  • My chainsaw is electric. I did that on purpose. My gas one sucked. So I’m consoled by the thought that had I still had my gas saw, it wouldn’t have started and I’d have flown into a rage like I nearly did last time it failed me. So the branches I had to clear, I did so with an ax. I have a collection of really sharp axes. It’s more satisfying anyhow.
  • There were creepy disaster porn people floating around. A dude stopped and hectored me about people in the neighborhood not keeping things up. I didn’t recognize the dude or his car. It was a spectacularly dumb thing to say to a rather pissed off Irish dude holding an ax. He caught me off guard. Otherwise, I’d have sunk the ax into his hood.
  • There were dumbshits doing dumb shit all over. How do I know? Sirens. All. Night. Long.
  • Between the weirdos and the dumbshits, I had enough and moved my .44 to the nightstand from my office when I went to bed. Screw them. The dogs will tell me long before I need to act. If they survive the beasts, I’d cap them with a .44 talon.
  • My driveway has a gate. An electric one. If I needed to venture out, I’d have to decouple the chain drive. See “generator” above. I think that’s the key here.
  • My truck was behind the gate. I spent all day clearing limbs and propping up the destroyed fence. Although I gave up alcohol. I wanted a beer. Bad. But there was none to be had. Power was out for miles around. I settled for water.
  • I stream nearly everything. I have no way to listen to radio, or get info without power. The alternative was to sit in my truck burning power and gas.
I love reading prepper sites. A lot of them, I take with a grain of salt. But, there are some things I need to do. A generator comes to mind, as well as the ability to store enough gas to run the thing at least a week. I can’t get on internet, I can’t work.
I need more guns and ammo. I have a serviceable collection, but there’s room for improvement. I also need my carry permit.
I picked up a battery radio (the only other one is in the cars) and a really cool solar charger for my phone/ipad.
I need to store more non perishable food.
It was a tough few days, but a really good learning experience.


Whoa! it’s been quite some time since I’ve added anything here.

I was overcome by events. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

So, let’s start.

Behold, the end tables, which I have as the main pic up above.


They came out OK. One thing I’d like to add about Harbor Freight from my last post; with some things you buy there, in my case an air sprayer, you need to upgrade as soon as you get a comfort factor with the tool, even though you don’t use it often. In my case, I thought I made a minor adjustment (which I should have tested first) and the spray gun dribbled onto one of the tabletops. This caused a massive imperfection in the finish, which had to be sanded out and the top re-lacquered.

So, I’m in the market for a better spray gun.

Now that I’ve had my Apple watch for awhile, it’s lost some of it’s luster. One of the major negatives is battery life. Still long enough – more than a day, but short enough that when you find it’s time to leave for an appointment, the damn thing needs charging. And then this happened:
0117a4111caaa1b2b22b0070e059bb3b010aeb593eThat there is a big honkin’ crack, right at the top. So, do-it-your-selfer that I am, I started looking at new screens. To have Apple fix it costs nearly as much (almost) as I paid for the watch itself.

I don’t like it that much. The cheapest screen I can find would buy me a decent wristwatch.

I recently got a Ring Doorbell, which is Ok, and I’ll write about that later, but the app tells me there’s someone at my door, but I can’t do anything with that information, other than snooze the motion alerts.

I may fix it later, but these days I’m in no mood. I dropped my iPhone off my desk, something I’ve done many times before. But this time it hit at a funky angle on the top corner and cracked the screen. The one part that the case I bought didn’t cover. Replacing it was tedious in the extreme. Add to that the first screen Amazon shipped me didn’t work, screwing up the home button in the process. I was so pissed, I nearly threw it at the wall, and reactivated my spare 6S plus.

It’s fixed now, but I’ve already cracked it again. I will say that the screen kit, by Milmont, was pretty complete.

I have a lot to say about Cameras, having installed Ring, Nest, and a more conventional setup. So keep tuned.

Stalwart Mouse Sander

To be honest, I had no idea what this thing was called. I bought it cheap at Harbor Freight. and had to go look at the box to figure out anything about it.

Here’s the deal. I’m a tool snob. If it’s something I use a lot, or use professionally, I’ll buy the best. That’s why my telecom and NW toolkit is festooned with ChannelLock, Klein, and high end tools. They’ve served me well. Most of my high end tools I’ve had for over twenty years.

I have friends in the trades that have the opposite philosophy. Fully expecting their tools to get broken or stolen, they buy the cheapest they can. There’s some merit to this.

Enter into the picture, Harbor Freight Tools. This is where I go when I need something, and either want to try it out, or know I won’t use it much and don’t want to spend a ton of dough. In this case, I bought this sander to refinish guitars. I don’t do a ton of this, so I went cheap. I think this thing cost me about $15. Turns out, I didn’t need it at the time since the instrument I was working on polished up OK, and the next one in line is so screwed, I have to buy a new neck, which will come pre-sanded.

But, Finishing guitars is harder than furniture and I have some cool end tables to do, and the gear to do it. Although, I don’t think I’ll use my high gloss instrument lacquer on them.

At hand is my grandmothers end tables, which through a series of incidents, I’ve wound up with. They’ve been through a few people, and were hurting.


The other one has paint drops on it, courtesy of my oldest kid. So I hit them with the belt sander.


They are solid mahogany, from probably the first part of the 20th century. There’s no telling. Where there is veneer, it’s an astonishing 2mm thick.

Sanding this, I get the sweet smell of mahogany but also the hard candy and incense my grandmother kept in the drawers which is causing me to have flashbacks.

The mouse sander is working as it should, hitting all the places my other two sanders can’t reach, leaving me with very little left to deal with by hand.

So far, It’s worked flawlessly, since I found 220 grit pads at Home Depot that work great.

Here’s the deal. I don’t use some of these tools daily, weekly, or even monthly. If I did, I’d surely buy Dewalt or another pro series tool. But for this, the Harbor Freight tool hits the mark.

What it looks like now:


Keep tuned. I had an issue where I noticed a brace wasn’t glued any more and had to repair it. In a week or two I’ll shoot it with old school lacquer. They were reddish brown, and I have those dyes. So we’ll see. They should be stunning.