Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, 
a life without one, is a life diminished.”
 - Dean Koontz - Author

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Talk Like a Pirate Day

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  

A word of caution to those of us who have spouses or partners.  Getting your loved one to make you dinner with:

"Avast ye scurvy weasel.  Get below deck and peel me some taters fer grub?"

May be LESS than effective.  Right Abby?
So, what's for Supper?

Something on a plank?  (no, too predictable)
Hardtack? (no,  I got that on my last airline flight)
Kraken?  (too much like calamari)
Chum?  (no, I'm out of Chum Helper)

No, I need something I can grill on the deck.

How about Barbecued Landbird.  Mmm.  Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce.

4-5 bone in chicken pieces
1/2 cup light mayo
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch Hot Hungarian Paprika
2 to 3 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1  and 1/4 teaspoons of your favorite hotsauce (I like Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke from Indiana) 

Chop the garlic and mix with all ingredients except hot sauce.  Reserve at least 1/4 cup in a mug or small bowl.  Add the hot sauce to that, stir well and store in refrigerator until ready to grill.

Marinate the chicken in the remaining sauce for 2-3 hours in a shallow pan turning once or twice during that time.  Remove chicken, discarding marinade and grill for 8-10 minutes over hot coals, (direct heat) turning once at 5 minutes so it sears but does not burn. Move the pieces on grill so they are over indirect heat and cover and cook for 18-20 minutes or until 165 degrees F., basting with reserved sauce a couple of times and turning once more if it looks like it's getting too dark before it is done.
The flavor is subtle and smokey, and the bird is as juicy as can be.

Guests may not walk the plank for it, but they will give it a hearty "ahoy!" Serve it with oven baked beans and salad (with some Gorgonzola cheese and buttermilk dressing). or your favorite side dishes. Don't forget a proper ale.   

Now time to hoist your pirate flag!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Look Abby - a Surprise from Koda's Collars!

What Mom?  I got a package in the mail?

It's from

Koda's Collars by KodasCollars on Etsy 

It's 2 new collars!  A Candy Corn one for Howl-o-ween and a DC Comics one for my secret superhero personality.

Dog Mom and rescue advocate Lisa makes some WONDERFUL collars, leashes, and accessories.

Even better -  $3 of every collar is donated to animal rescue!

The quality of the workmanship is amazing.
The loop design of the dog collar prevents it from slipping off the dog's head if they try to back out or struggle to prevent the dog from escaping and endangering himself. The collar is dog-friendly and more humane than a choke collar because there is no constriction when fit correctly. There is a large loop connected to a small loop. In the "relaxed" position, the resulting circle slips easily over the dog’s head. The larger loop is adjusted so that when a leash is attached to the small loop and pulled, the small loop tightens up, but does not choke the dog. When the smaller loop is pulled, the two outer parts of the collar should join in the middle, fitting comfortably on the dog's neck.

You can also get a quick release on most designs and the directions for doing so are on Lisa's webpage.
In addition to the "loop" the collar has a side strap that allows you to adjust its "relaxed" size a few inches.  With small/medium/and large sizes and the ability to adjust you can probably find the right size for any pet.

There's over 250 unique designs from sports teams, to states, to holidays, to the latest trending things (even a sock monkey one!) -  you're going to have to have more than one!

This being fashionable is tiring!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Abby Lab's Mom With Computer Basics

You know me, safety forced. 
 - Red Green

I'm not the person people come to for help with computers.  I'm just the forensic scientist that has a homemade computer made out of a 1940's Analytical Balance.  That is the total extent of my computer knowledge - what the basic components are (and yes, the big button is on/off).

I'm lucky that I have an admin assistant at work that was  in administration in the Army or I'd not be able to get anything done without him.

So sometimes even the basic stuff is a challenge

Like when I tried to upload Windows 10. The last laptop I got had Windows 8. To say I hated Windows 8 was an understatement.  Using it as I did to capture and sort photos for the blog was about as user-friendly as the U.S. Tax Code.

The intent I guess, was to meld together the desktop and mobile platforms to try for a single operating system that would work on the desktop, notebooks, and tablets.  What I got was a system that just screamed for flaming torches and pitchforks.  The tutorial was no help at all, simply telling me to move my mouse to any corner. . and then. . WHAT?   What is it supposed to do, to be?   And all I could think of was Saturday Night Live's The Church Lady with "could it be. . . SATAN?"

It just leaves off right there and apparently, I was supposed to just cognitively know that although most scroll wheels go up and down, Windows 8 wants you to scroll sideways.

So I muddled through, scrolling through screen after screen of run on photos, only to find the one I wanted to add to the blog, only to have something go "zap" like Samantha of Bewitched was in the room and the next thing you know my picture was missing and there was a pony in the room.

See, that's my computer skill.  So tasks that are basic for everyone under the age of 50 are more a challenge for me. Like, what do you do if you have a hard drive you want to get rid of.

Sure you can take out all your data, compress and encrypt using a strong encryption and then format the hard disk drive. Even if the bad guys recover the encrypted file, trying to decrypt the recovered file would be a difficult task (think the average politician and a really hard level of Angry Birds).

But you can't just delete a file from the hard drive, it doesn't go away.  When files are erased  (and that's a pretty loose definition of the word) from a hard drive, they don't really disappear, only the file location information is removed. In other words, the file(s) are invisible to the operating system (like Windows or Linux) but not impossible to recover (especially for geeky folks that have nothing else to do)
"Me, mess with my colleagues?"

So what do you do when you've replaced a hard drive, to make sure someone doesn't get the info off of the old one and you're really not a computer whiz.

I'll offer some ideas from the past few years.  Then you all can come up with one of your own. 
No, not going to cut it.
There's an assortment of shop tools and stuff out in the garage.

You can bury it. With enough old computers around, you can have your own "Hard Drive Body Farm".

There's blunt force trauma.

You might want to check with your homeowners association first. 
 Ve haf ways of making you talk.
There's heat (but there's that whole harmful volatiles issue).

What's this?  

"Product warranty void if drive experiences shock in excess of 350 G's."

350 G's?! What on earth would have that kind of destructive force?


No, with Barkley gone, the current "mandibles of death"- Abby Normal the Labrador  -couldn't do any significant damage, and she shouldn't be using anything but stuffies to play with.

I could use an extra coaster.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Upcoming Blogville Activities

In addition to the Blogville Picnic and Barn Dance (click on banner on the upper right sidebar for more info) the Blogville Demolition Derby is also coming up, now scheduled for Oct. 7.

There is room for several more entries.  You just need to send a front head shot and a side shot of yourself and Oreo's Mom will get you in a car.

The last one was a ton of fun!

Send pictures to her at

And check for updates at:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Going for the Gold

I can't attend the award ceremony in Miami as I had already planned a trip to Dad's and he is really looking forward to it. But I got my medal in the mail!

If any of you want a little more of a backstory to my books or my writings, my most recent live interview is transcribed below:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thankful Thursday!

By the end of the work week - things I have in common with a raccoon.

Dark circles under eyes.
Staying up all night.
Eating junk.
A little chubby.
Will fight you if provoked.
Possibly rabid.

So thankful tomorrow is Friday.


For Thankful Thursday.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Abby Home - An Update and then on to How I spent my summer vacation.

Abby the Lab is home and none the worse for wear but for some shaved fur for the IV's. That was a close call. I am so thankful I was only gone a short time and she was able to vomit all the raisins shortly after ingestion. After a couple of hours without forced vomiting, it's often fatal. Please check your kitchen folks - these were in a deep cupboard where I keep my oat granola bars, a space she had never showed an interest in when the door was opened and also a very small space her head would barely fit into, yet she still got them out. Thank God for Countryside Veterinary Center who took awesome care of her.  Her dog walker helped me get her wrangled to go get her 24 hour follow up blood work (she lives right by the Vet and just met me there to help unload and unload in lieu of today's walk) and she's home from that and the results were great.

Her band-aid has TRACTORS on it!

I knew that macadamia nuts, chocolate, onions, and garlic were toxic to dogs but I had no idea raisins were so potentially deadly. I am going to make sure ANY product with raisins in it is high up in a closed container.

In the news this week, another dog died after eating just one cupcake made with artificial sweetener xylitol. Even one serving of xylitol can kill a dog. That can be found in peanut butter, so please check your label before feeding.

Other sources for xylitol include:

Sugar-free mixes such as pudding, cake, cookie mixes, even ice cream, and yogurt. (we always check Abby's yogurt purchase to make sure it's made with only sugar.)

Sugar-free condiments.

Sugar-free breath mints and gum.

Flavored waters and drink powders

Protein bars and powders.

Toothpaste, mouthwash, breath spray and some nasal sprays.

I'm going to be the most avid label reader from now on. No one should have to be terrified that they accidentally poisoned their beloved pet.

Now on to happier news!  It's Abby Lab in "What I did on Summer Vacation" Blog Hop presented by:

Dad spent his extra time working on the house here in the Windy City plus he was in Texas and England a whole bunch this summer for work.  So I kept Mom company and got lots of walks with my dog walkers. They didn't take a vacation so Mom can check up on her Dad in Washington regularly.

But I still had a great summer, even better now that Dad rebuilt the back steps so they go INTO the yard instead of onto the driveway, I have a fence so I can go out and roll in the grass and snoot things.

It used to look like this.
Yes, that's as steep as it looks. The new steps are only half as tall so easier on my joints and on Mom's bad knee.
Dad worked hard on it!

The wires you see up above is a zip line.  When it's super duper cold and dark, Mom hooks the blue line onto my collar and it slides down the red line.  That keeps me close to the fence and the garage which is lit so Mom can make sure I just do my business and come back. (It's high enough and angled so it doesn't catch on the fence). She hates when she has to put on boots and go fetch me because I'm snootering the front corner of the property where she can't see me and won't come in, even though it's 20 below with the wind chill.

Not that we ever get any snow in Chiberia.
I tried to talk her into a little short line with a basket so I could give squirrel rides into the garage door (one way!) but Mom said "no!" 

These pictures were taken before the paving was done from the steps to the gate but I was so happy to check it out after the steps were stained.
"Mr. Bun - are you under the bush today?"  The house was built on TWO lots (lots in the old villages are TINY) so there is another good bit of yard across the driveway and the rabbits have a regular highway going back and forth.
 Thanks Dad for making my backyard fun and safe for my summer vacation!
Squirrel patrol - my watch never ends.
Here it is with the paving!

Monday, September 11, 2017

9-11 Never Forget

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good man do nothing.
- Edmund Burke

I'm constantly amazed at the ignorance of man, not just in those situations which can get one killed, through acts of mental complacency generally fueled by alcohol or gasoline, but the seemingly willful ignorance of events that are occurring around them. I know people who have never left their hometown, but what is more incomprehensible to me, is people who have never thought outside their hometown.  I've heard as I keep tabs on the world on my days off, "Why do you CARE what's going on in the North Korea or Syria?  The new Twilight movie is out!

I've come to the conclusion that there are simply some people who won't grasp the truth of the world until they see the truth of themselves.  Knowing yourself is a lifelong and sometimes acutely painful process, with your biggest lessons often emerging from your biggest mistakes. The truth about the nature of man and the world isn't always pleasant, some things we don't want to know  - what's really in a hot dog, how many calories there are in a piece of pie, and anything at all about anyone named Kardashian. Some things we cannot bear to know. But that knowledge of some things, no matter how hurtful to ones' spirit, is absolutely essential to our well-being, for only with truth do we have the resilience, the capacity to continue on, alive in the moment, unbound by regret and willing to fight.

In a disaster, in threat, to us as individuals, to us as a nation, the nature of truth, and how we face it, asserts itself.

Those who take charge do, those who choose to hide from things do, be it a disaster, heartbreak, the economy, crime or a terrorist attack. After 9-11, I had one acquaintance who refused to watch the news, heading out on a planned vacation and pretending it never happened. Another watched sitcom TV nonstop, staying home from work with a bowl of popcorn. Both of these individuals were in denial, afraid to accept the truth.

Some friends of mine who are first responders at the federal level were, within the last year, in my city, staying at my house while they attended some training.  They could have stayed at a hotel but they choose to stay with their unofficial "little sis". I looked at the house as my friends packed up to leave. It looked as if a testosterone bomb had gone off in here, guns, ammo, knives squirrel gear and more than one badge.  It was loud and it's messy, and sometimes it's bloody, but I wouldn't have traded my life, my duty, and my bond with these people for anything. We shared the fidelity with people we were bound to protect, even if we didn't particularly like them. We've slept on the bare ground and we know the sound of a bullet as it comes at us, not next to us at some sunny gun range, that sound that breaks the barrier that most people live behind. We've discovered things that are not so much "shiny" as unearthing a grave with bare hands and sticks, revealing more than just the comprehension of bereavement and irreparable finality, but that which is visible only to each other.

I was going to hate the sound the garage door made as it came down as they drove away,  I would pretend the tears were allergies.  My husband would hug me laer and understand.

On the shelf, packed from a trip to my Dad's, is a stone, full of fossilized seashells.  When I was home just before he died, my big brother told me about it.  It came from the quarry we did our target shooting at as kids with our Deputy Sheriff Mom.  He squirreled it away when it was unearthed, knowing what a find it was, so many miles from the sea.  He told me he wanted me to have it.  He then quietly took me to Dad's garage and opened a drawer where he had hidden it as a child, picked it up carefully and gave it to me.  We've both seen a lot in our careers, that we can't discuss, even with one another. We don't discuss it now, we won't discuss it after we retire, we won't write a book about it.  There's an oath we took and we honor that. The rock was his way of acknowledging that what I do is important, that no matter how many years pass, he is still there.

It sits now in my office.

On another shelf, behind a desk, is another stone, one that many don't look it, it's just another rock to be collected to most observers,  displayed along with other artifacts of memory.

The last couple of weeks have been hard, with travel, some job stress, and stresses at home with travel and pets.  This is not quite the life I expected when I hung up my wings for another four years of education on top of two previous degrees and a return to service. But it's the life that fits what strengths I have. I've come home with brain matter on my shoes. I've come home with images a person should never see, playing in my head like a bad film, until sleep comes fitfully. Yet I come home with purpose. With resolution.  I've collected those moments of lives, of loved ones, in the minutes before they leave us. I collect what is left, carefully, gently and with reverence, cataloging the bare bones of all that is truly important, so that we can learn from it so that it doesn't happen again. Then I usually go back to an empty room.

After 9/11 while flags waved on cars, and taps played,  I thought, now people have to see, finally see that truth is fierce and unrelenting. But soon, most forgot. Truth  We cannot ignore it or change it, but we can change the way we live with it. The truth of 9-11 is that the world IS a dangerous place and being politically correct to the point of ignoring the facts of who hates us and who is quietly amassing nuclear readiness while we make nice and look good for the cameras, isn't going to end well.

I finished at the Academy in late summer of 2001 and September 11 occurred when I was still wet behind the ears, assigned some mundane tasks until "something happened".  It did. Looking at the images on TV of Ground Zero, we sat, stunned, waiting for travel orders while I tried to not let it out that I had a brother who worked at the Pentagon, his office there smoking on TV. There was no talk, just a breathing that bordered on keening, looking at one another, our team leader, with an alert, profound justice as though we had already seen through the flames to where we would be, the shape of the disaster of which we could not speak. That day was trial by fire.

When I look at that stone behind the desk, I can't help but connect to the event from which it came, vowing never to forget.  There is something about a physical remnant of such places, those hallowed spots in which the innocent died, that bears with it the same quality of perspective as those who stood in its shadow, as though the object itself is speaking to us. It speaks to us in silent and profound significance, whispering its own truths.

When I'm out in the field I remember as well.  Around me, there is only musing sound, as shadows hang aloft as if from invisible wire, hovering above what remains for eyes to see. A place severed from the living, spectral shadow among that place of circumscribed desolation, filled with the voice of wasted lives and murmuring regret. There, only those left here, who remember history, who will gather what remains, cataloging it for infinity.

As I turned off the lights, the last to leave my office on Friday, I took one last look at a chunk of stone.

It sits in a mundane office, on a flat surface in bitten shadow. It sits near a place where work is done to keep many safe. Most don't see it. It simply sits, in dense stillness, filling the room, the dawn, the dusk, with silent voices. I don't hear the voices but I know they exist. Each morning to start the day in its shadow, warm and safe, we remember that no matter what heartache comes our way, it is nothing compared to what this piece of stone bears witness to.

Those that see it don't look at it closely. But it speaks of so much that our generation, and most of our leaders, will never, ever fathom - the quiet of a shadowed facility where honor stands watch and oaths are kept, a small stone weeps.

Never, ever forget.

L.B. Johnson