A portal a day keeps the doctor away

Ingress_LogoI had a doctor’s appointment yesterday–just a 30-day checkup because he recently changed one of my meds. He saw that my test results looked pretty good and my weight is decreasing, so he congratulated me and asked what I’m doing differently. I said “I guess you could say I’m on a new diet that’s low in calories and high in XM and AP.” After a moment, he said “Excuse me, what was that again?” I repeated it, and based on his expression and head-tilt I went on to explain what Ingress is and how it’s helping me lose weight along with some changes in my diet.  After that he understood a little more, and encouraged me to do even more of it. Watch out, toads…Now I have a prescription to take out MORE green portals!

When asked, 4 out of 5 doctors preferred blue skies to green skies, for patients who play Ingress.  It’s just healthier.

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Monday Night Features

Watched two things last night:

The Wil Wheaton Project: A wacky little talk show hosted by Wil that I enjoyed. Probably not for everyone though. Of course, I’m a TMZ fan as well, so I like the off-the-wall wacky humor, making light of current events. Wil’s new show is kinda like “TMZ for geeks”, in which he highlights everything current in the geek world–mostly in TV and movies this week, but I’m sure he’ll be all-inclusive, geek-wise, throughout the season. Yesterday was his first episode. I hope it does well. I’ve followed him for years, since he was in Stephen King’s “Stand By Me” in 1986.

Non-Stop: Very exciting movie that takes place in-flight as an unidentified terrorist threatens to kill a passenger every 20 minutes until $150 million is transferred to his bank account by the Air Marshal on the flight. They communicate through the entire movie by text messaging, with the texts appearing in popup bubbles on-screen as they are received. Unique approach. Especially when the air marshal ends up viewing a phone with a cracked screen–the on-screen text message bubbles were shown with cracks, I guess to show how difficult it was to read the screen. Some parts were a bit over-the-top, but it was still a great Monday-night feature for us.

Memorial Day Weekend

Had a nice Memorial Day weekend. The weather has been great, in the 60’s and very little wind. Got all the windows open in the house, and had a nice, comfortable breeze and fresh air in the house! I love it. I even turned the humidifier off for a change. Static is usually a huge issue at home most of the year, so I run a humidifier most of the time. Right now it’s on a break, and I hope it stays this way awhile. Very pleasant. I cut the grass while Kevin was on his movie shoot. He’s shooting a horror movie with a friend from school. He’s an extra I think, but he’s enjoying it.

Kevin had his “passage” at school last week. This is something new for us, we hadn’t heard of it before. It’s a presentation that I student gives to his family and teachers, explaining everything he has learned during the year–projects, field trips, what he likes about school, etc., and Kevin did an OK job with it. He had a hard time presenting, and I know exactly how that is. I had a hard time with the same stuff when I was in school as well. My most-dreaded class was Public Speaking in college. The entire class year all came down to 4 main speeches that had to be presented to the class and guests, one per quarter, which were basically like each quarter’s test. I passed, but it was really rough for me. As it turned out though, the easiest speech for me, by far, was the final, 5thOld phone jacks speech. We got to do that one on any subject we wanted, so we could basically present something we know well. This was way back in 1984, mind you, so mine was on “How to install telephone jacks”. This was when phone jacks were the huge, square, 4-prong jacks, if anyone else can even remember those… Wow, what a flashback! Anyway, I see a lot of myself in Kevin…poor kid. He seems to have a lot of the same difficulties I did, except for the way we’re opposite in the Math Department–I did pretty good in math, and used it extensively as I learned various computer programming languages. Kevin struggles a lot with math, and doesn’t seem to have any interest in it as I did. Maybe it’s just another reason he prefers art and drawing.

A Chihuahua’s Life


Socks, our chihuahua, is a great dog. Most people can’t tell though. It’s been said that Chihuahuas tend to favor one particular person and only that person. Everyone else is to be kept at arm’s (or paw’s) length, and is to be taken cautiously. And since I am the lucky one to have become Socks’ “master”, I get the royal treatment while everyone else–including the rest of our immediate family (Kevin and Sandy) get the cautious approach, get nipped at if they don’t do things “just right”, try to touch me in the slightest, or even hesitate when trying to pet him.

Chihuahuas also seem to be different than the typical description of a dog as in “man’s best friend” and “a dog’s love is unconditional”. At least with Socks it’s different. Socks can be very friendly to family members, cuddle and snuggle nicely, but only when it suits him or when he wants or needs something. If you have ice cream, you’re his best friend. When it’s gone, he’s gone as well. When he’s cold, he’ll snuggle up close to you…but only because your body temperature is a toasty 98.6, and he’s chilly. Once he gets warmed up, he’s outta there. He’s his own dog. Maybe he’s got a little cat in him. When he’s out of water, he’ll let you know by jumping up by you, seeking out your own drink and rudely having a taste of it for himself. Or, on occasion he’ll continuously knock his water dish against the wall until someone notices he’s being weird and figures out he’s out of water. He has his own way of “talking”.

His #1 fear in all the world is thunder and/or fireworks. If it’s very loud and shakes the house, he’s instantly terrified and begins to shiver uncontrollably. There’s no calming him down when this happens. Only the passing of time–about 20 to 30 minutes of no thunder or explosions–will calm him down. During storms, if he still hears the patter of rain on the windowsill he knows it’s still storming out, so the violent shivering continues. I think he needs a sedative. He shivers so violently, I’m afraid one day he’s just going to have a seizure or heart attack. He’s no spring chicken any more–he’s approaching 12 years old, and his hair is turning more and more gray all the time.

During his last checkup, the vet said he has to go on a diet, he’s too fat. So we stopped the snacks and always-full food dish and went to two scheduled “meals” a day and no treats. And I’m walking him every chance I get–usually once a day when the weather permits. I think it was a little rough for him at first–not being able to have food any any time of day, but he’s coming around. Also tough (on all of us) was not being able to give him a treat when he comes in after going out to go to the bathroom. We had him conditioned to go out easily, because he always knew there’d be a treat for him as soon as he came in. After we stopped that, he’d still go outside excitedly, but came in all wound up, staring sadly at us, waiting for a treat, but he didn’t get one. I found a replacement though. I know he loves snuggling up in a toasty blanket, and often fluffs his blanket up like a cat does, to get it just right, then circles and nestles himself into it to stay warm–so when he comes in now I get excited, grab his blanket, and use either “nest!” or “bundle!” as keywords, then lay that across a chair or the couch, he jumps in and lays down, and I proceed to wrap him tighly inside with just his head peeking out. He’ll lay there for hours sometimes, just toasty as can be. It’s also funny to watch him, if something startles him out of his nest before he’s actually ready (or perhaps still cold)–he’ll try to get back into it as snugly as he was before, sometimes by going in through the hole his head was sticking out of, but often really messing it up trying to fix it, or knocking it off the chair or couch completely, then looking at one of us sadly as if asking “can you help a dog out here?!”

His favorite thing in the whole world is his walks. He has a very nice yard to run in, but apparently he’s not satisfied enough or knows that area too well already, and just wants to get out more. He doesn’t want to escape though. We can leave the gate open, whether on accident or on purpose, and he stays in the yard. He has no desire to run away. But if given the chance, and the gate is left open and unattended, like any good dog he will get curious and wander out, so we try not to give him the opportunity. But, per doctor’s orders (both HIS and MINE), more exercise is needed, so I walk him as often as I can. He gets so excited when I grab the leash that he just looses control, jumping as high as he can and squealing with excitement, his tail wagging so furiously it waddles his whole body back and forth (I gave him the nickname “Mr. Waddles” because of this). All I do is hold the leash and stand next to a chair and he’s instantly up there, waiting to be attached. Sometimes he’s so excited he’ll jump into the chair, then back down, then up again, just too excited to stand still. I just wait, and eventually he’s ready to be tethered. He likes to tug a bit on his leash during walks, but using a retractable 15-foot leash helps a lot to control that habit. We try to walk a mile or more each time, and this is perfect for him. On occasion we’ll walk over 2 miles. When we do this, he’s usually completely exhausted the rest of the day, but still doesn’t mind it.

He “sings”, just as most dogs do, when he hears a loud siren from an ambulance or fire truck go by, and Sandy can even make the same pitch that sets him off, so she can make him sing at will very easily. The very first few minutes of the movie “Serpico” is also a perfect trigger that sets him off, singing loudly every time. We now refer to this as “his favorite movie” and I think he actually knows what the word “Serpico” means now… It means “It’s time to sing!”

He had an issue not too long ago with his “anal sacs”, which is gross, and was a new one on me. You’ll find a few more gross details in a previous blog entry, if you’re interested. But that was when he saw the vet and when his diet and our habits took a major turn. He’s getting used to his scheduled two meals a day now, and he REALLY enjoys the days when he gets wet food–this occurs two or three times a week when Sandy mixes in his prescribed diet supplements with canned dog food. He loves it!

I prefer chihuahuas over other dog types because of their smaller size (which also means less waste output!) and because everyone enjoys puppies, and chihuahuas are like “perpetual” puppies–they STAY puppies their entire lives. Socks still gets called a puppy by kids when I walk him. We just have to be a bit more careful with handling and activities than we would have to with a larger dog. Chihuahuas have more fragile limbs and can’t handle to cold like most other dog types. We haven’t “broken” ours yet, though we have thrown him in a snow bank or two, just to watch him hop out in his own unique way, but he’s never been left out in the cold long enough to do any damage. I (we?) did accidentally leave him locked out of the house once overnight, but it wasn’t cold enough out to have any lasting effect, and it certainly taught us (me?) a lesson, so it won’t happen again. He sleeps in our bed now, usually snugly tucked right between Sandy and I. He’s a good old boy, always guarding the house, ready to rip off the heels of any intruder who might are to enter–whether it’s family, friend, or stranger–he’s not picky about who he nibbles on.Sammy

Why am I telling you all this? Well, one of Beth and Tom’s dogs recently had an accident that ended up with them having to put him down. It was devastating to their whole family. This dog was a big part of their family for a long time, and we know how that is. It had to be very very hard indeed to have to say goodbye, just as with a human family member. So I just wanted to get this out there now, just to document it accurately, while everything comes to mind so clearly. I know Socks is getting old himself, but hopefully he’s got several more wonderful years left in him before we have to go through the same sorrow ourselves. All dogs go to heaven. Sammy’s fine.

Skokie Caterpillar

Skokie CaterpillarHere are the photos from our recent visit to the Skokie Northshore Channel Park. Kevin and I went there as part of a group outing with some members of our Ingress faction. Each sculpture is a “portal” in the Google-created GPS game, so with such a large number of portals lined up in a row like the Channel Park, the group of portals resembles a caterpillar when you look at it on a map. Hence the title of this posting.

We had a good time, except it was a bit cold, and we thought it would warm up a bit throughout the day, so Kevin didn’t dress well enough to stay warm, and had a bit of a rough time of it. He still managed to take all the photos he could and did his part in the game though. I took the 147 photos in this album. He preferred to take his own photos, separately. We had a good time though, it’s a very nice park with a great walking path and lots to see. If you enjoy art, it’s a must-see.