Monday, July 23, 2012


I’m convinced by piles of anecdotal evidence /snark: it’s a pet peeve of mine that scientifically illiterate people believe that anecdotes can serve for facts or proof of anything, so I’m using “evidence” with some literary license/ that I have a curse. Before every upcoming trip, be it for business or pleasure, one of the menagerie experiences a health crisis that requires veterinary intervention. I don’t want to provide a detailed list of several years’ worth of crises as that will only make me sad. But I can give you a few details about the most recent data points.

We begin with Azza. Although technically this particular item isn’t a crisis, I decided to have her spayed before I go out on holiday. I’ll be gone for a month and the last thing I wanted was for her to have her first season while I was gone. She and Mimi still get along amazingly well (Mimi is displaying depths of patience that I had no idea that she possessed) but I am not sure how their relationship will change as Azza matures. Getting her spayed at seven months seemed to be a reasonable idea.

These operations are laparoscopic these days and the vet neatly closed the small incision with dissolving sutures. The site is healing cleanly. The problem was keeping this crazed beast calm and quiet for at least a few days to give the incision a chance to close up a bit. Azza is so large that it is hard for me to remember that she is still a baby. And quite unlike any other desert dog that I’ve worked with (I’ve now had close training experiences with about 10 of them besides her), she loves to play and wrestle with quite a bit of enthusiasm. If she isn’t exercised enough, she gets pretty manic and that’s not a good fit in my tiny hovel. Kinky was no help at all because he loves to play with her, taunting her by running back and forth and as a last resort leaping onto her head and rabbit kicking her in the face. I finally resorted to crating Kinky in order to give Azza a chance to chill.

The second data point concerns Tsingy. I don’t write much about her. She’s shy and spends most of her time in her room. For the past couple of weeks, she’s had this clear pink liquid coming out of one eye. Finally, both eyelids got red and inflamed. Took her in two days ago, and a really cool fluorescent dye test showed that she had something stuck in her eyeball, inside her cornea! I hauled her back to the vet yesterday for surgery, which took far longer than planned. The vet said it was a long piece of very soft wood (I can’t figure this out since there is no wood in her environment and she doesn’t go outside). He unfortunately couldn’t avoid some damage to her cornea in his efforts to get it out so she will end up with a small whitish-grey scar on that eye ball.

Now I’m treating her left eye for the conjunctivitis (already greatly improved) and her right eye with some special drops. And she has to go back to the vet tomorrow for a follow up.

So in the week and a half before I head out, that’s a total of four vet visits.

Having identified this curse a few years ago, I now simply assume that something is going to come up right before I leave and plan for it (I literally plan for it here by making sure I have some extra cash at home and a flexible work schedule). Of course, you might think that by being so hyperalert I am possibly manufacturing these events. But they are quite real (a piece of wood in Tsingy’s eyeball was the result of nobody’s imagination). And now I can take my trip knowing that the crises have already happened and no new ones should pop up at least until I get back.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Solipsistic Confession

Before many routine business meetings begin, there is usually some idle or humorous chitchat. Certainly it can fill the time needed to wait for important latecomers. But it probably has a more fundamental social function of putting everyone at ease, of establishing some personal connections. Maybe your lizard brain even gets involved by using it as a test to separate friend from foe, prey from predator.

At a meeting I went to yesterday afternoon, our preliminary chitchat suddenly and surprisingly focused on the topic of typing. SK started it off by saying that he wished that he could use his thumbs and pinky fingers while typing and that he was trying to retrain his brain and fingers to do so. I mentioned that a good friend of mine, a mutual acquaintance of the other two guys in the meeting, could type at light speed with only two fingers, and that it was quite a sight to see him go at it. BC sheepishly laughed and said that he had his wife type out important documents for him, not because he is sexist but because he can’t type at all. I said, ah, yes, the hunt and peck method. Then I said, I use all 10 fingers and never look at the keyboard. It’s the unexpected consequence of being forced to take a typing class back in junior high. I hated it then, thought it was unfair and stupid. Turns out that I learned an extremely valuable skill! SK then said, now smart phones are changing everything. Texting is usually done only with your thumbs, and virtual keyboards on some phones are so small that you can only use one finger at a time anyway. And we old-timers all had a good laugh at “those kids today.”

But the entire skit (and I am recalling it as a sort of comedic skit that we scripted out in advance) got me thinking about a topic that I often ponder: communication, and in this particular case, how technology is changing it. This afternoon I read an online discussion about whether personal blogs were a dying art (I don’t think they are; a topic for another time) and decided that was motivation enough to write this post.

So I proceeded to start another rant about the shallow, solipsistic, and derivative nature of FaceBook and Twitter, about the apparent inability of many people to sustain attention or even comprehension beyond 140 characters. I spun off into a related rant about how communication with virtual people belies a basic need of the social animal that we are to look our friends in the eye, see them, smell them, hear them. How else can we truly tell friend from foe?

Then I realized that I am as much a virtual entity to some of the whopping ten or so regular readers of CircusK9 as your FaceBook “friends” might be. I don’t pretend to be your friend but then again, I do sort of hope that you read my posts. In my desire to be read maybe I’m not that much different than someone who uses FaceBook to post repeatedly “look at me gazing at my navel.”

Except that I know how to touch-type using all 10 fingers and I always use more than 140 characters.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Escaping the Heat

The weather station near my house was reporting 118F at 2pm today. It’s as dry as a damned desert out there with about 5% humidity. The dew point is 32F which means, duh, no dew, because even at 9pm last night it was still 98F. To add even more misery, I think that a shamal is trying to start up this afternoon. That could mean several days of strong, hot winds from the north bringing dust down from Iran. All this and it’s only mid-July.

I usually don’t post about my travel in advance but I am heading out in about 10 days and I am really looking forward to this particular break. I’ve been a bit frustrated at work and taking some time off is often a good solution to that sort of attitude problem.

I regret leaving the pups for so long (I’ll be gone for a month) but this trip will be my repat, an annual trip OOK that I am legally required to make. I am pre-imbursed by Aramco according to a somewhat arcane formula for repat expenses.

I will be out for nearly all of Ramadan (and thus will not participate in the dubious pleasures of the sin room) and the subsequent eid (a thinly veiled excuse for Saudis to expand their overindulgence of eating and buying into daylight hours). Not that I’ll particularly miss either of those events. But last year I was here during Ramadan and got the most amazing amount of work done. No Saudis after noon, lots of expats gone as well, no meetings. I started and completed some big projects during that time. This year, I’ll be one of those expats escaping the heat.

A couple of the places I’ll be traveling to will be much cooler than here but that isn’t the reason I chose those places. It’s simply important to get out of here for a while.

A friend and I went to Bahrain on Friday. It was the most normal day you could imagine: walking around a mall ogling hideous shoes and USD 4,500 purses (that were not too hideous), having lunch, then having a couple of glasses of wine in a nearby hotel. When I called her that morning to remind her that the driver was on his way, she said, do I need my abaya? (She’s new here.) And I said, hell no! And that’s another reason to look forward to trips out. I can act and talk and dress like a fully grown, actual human being when out in public.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Favorite Chair

I bought some fabulous dog beds from Orvis to replace the tired, musty, peed-on beds that I've been carefully tending for several years. I wash the covers every couple of weeks. I set the internal cushions on my porch to bake in the sun (I have an irrational hope that the extreme heat will kill various nasty things; at a minimum it helps them smell fresher). Still, dog beds don't last forever, thus the need for some spiffy new ones.

However, I can't get rid of the old beds just yet. Like any grumpy old man set in his ways, Harry prefers his lumpy, smelly bed to the new ones!

Ahh! My favorite chair!

I was pulling the second new bed out of its box when I turned to find Harry perched on the OLD bed with a perfectly good new one untouched beside him.

Harry will use the new beds sometimes--if he has no other choice. This time it was Mimi who chose the old bed first.
You might wonder why I get such large beds. Well, they are sized to fit Azza but the terriers do like plenty of leg room.

Kinky was there first and Azza slunk in with her toy after he was asleep.

Here's a gratuitous pic of my boneless non-terrier. She assumes this position fairly often and will fall asleep like this. Weird.

Pretzel dog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Deductive Reasoning

I like pizza. But good pizza is hard to find here. So I make do with frozen, which on the scale of pizza-ness is already hovering down around 3 or 4 out of 10. And Saudi-made frozen pizzas pretty much fall off the scale. But sometimes one of the grocery stores will get frozen pizzas from some European company or other and those aren't too bad (anyway, you can make them better by slathering them with bacon).

Because I live alone and don't care what people think and because I love my dogs very much, I like to share things with them. This sharing includes pizza crust which is for me the least interesting part of pizza. I carefully pile the crusts up to one side of my plate and divide them equally between the dogs after I finish eating. All three of them love this little treat.

The other night I was in a hurry and had to eat early and quickly so I tossed some frozen veggie egg rolls in the oven. As I was eating them, I noticed Mimi staring at me with laser eyes. I kept looking back over at her and thinking, what is up with that crazy dog? She was perched up on a stool to better keep an eye on me, and wasn't moving a muscle, not even blinking.

Then it hit me. She is far more observant than I thought. Where do pizza crusts come from? The oven, of course. Therefore any food that comes out of the oven has pizza-crust-producing potential and that means treats for alert pups, Q.E.D.

I love my terriers.

Friday, July 06, 2012

On A Roll

Since my first class seat on the train to hell is already reserved, I had no problems laughing my butt off when a friend/co-worker came and showed me two pictures: a pile of 20-foot pieces of lumber stacked in her hallway, jutting out past the stairwell; and her husband laying on a bed in the ER with a cast on his leg from toes to knee. She said she asked and asked him to move the wood but he kept finding excuses not to. So of course Thursday night he tripped over the wood after turning off all the lights and turning to head upstairs, breaking his lower leg/ankle in TWO places. She and I both laughed and laughed, and I had to look at the pictures a couple more times.

Ahh, schadenfreude.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


These came through my email recently. They are both equally offensive and hilarious.