Friday, July 30, 2010


This really funny thing happened when I was getting ready to go out the other night. Somehow I managed to forget that I had purchased every type of mascara created in 2009. I was desperately trying to find the mascara that I like (L'Oreal Beauty Tubes – see post 1/15/10), when it occurred to me that there were 2 other products that I had yet to try. One was L’Oreal Volume Shocking Mascara, the topic of this review, and the other was Maybelline Pulse Perfection. I didn’t have it in me that night to put a vibrator on my eyelids, so I went with the volume shocker. I wasn’t shocked.

The concept of L’Oreal Volume Shocking Mascara is the same as that of L'Oreal Beauty Tubes: application is a 2-step process. Apparently, L’Oreal likes adding steps to the mascara application process. The difference however, between Volume Shocking and Beauty Tubes is that Volume Shocking also has the added shock value of having a comb as the “top coat” application device and not a brush.

If I had paid attention to the packaging, I would have noticed the Volume Constructing Top Coat applicator comb. However, I didn’t pay attention to the packaging and was shocked, not quite appalled, but definitely shocked to notice the strange applicator. I for one did not enjoy using the Volume Constructing Top Coat applicator comb. Maybe if used with any sort of frequency, one would get used to it, but I have to say, I didn’t much care for it. For one thing, because a brush is round it doesn’t’ really matter how you grasp the applicator. However you grasp it, whatever the angle, you can successfully apply. With the comb, this is not the case. You have to pick the comb applicator up at the correct angle or there is no applicating. You can’t apply mascara with the flat side of the Volume Constructing Top Coat applicator comb any more than you can comb your hair with the flat side of a regular comb. It’s just not going to happen. Add that to the fact that the applicator comb is very small (as it would have to be to be used on eyelashes). So to get the comb at the proper angle to apply without getting mascara all over your eye lids, sticking it in your eye, or creating really nasty clumps is no easy feat. Add that to the rather odd shape of the applicator bottle and you have yourself a small pre-party disaster.

I didn’t take the mascara off and reapply, because well, I just didn’t have that kind of commitment to my aesthetic that day. That said, I did moisten a washcloth to try to rid the side of my eye of the clumps of black goop that found their way there via the end of the Volume Constructing Top Coat applicator comb. I wasn’t entirely disappointed with the results, but the 12x the volume claim is just a crock of hooey. The extent of the dual process-comb-application is that my lashes were brown and more easily visible through my glasses. They were definitely not 12x the volume. Had they been, they wouldn’t have fit under my glasses without scraping the frames and I would have had to wear contacts instead. Since that was not the case, I can only conclude that the 12x the volume claim is at best a slight exaggeration and at worst and outright lie.

Upon mascara removal, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t turn instantly into a nocturnal rodent. The product came off easier than many mascaras I’ve tried, but no where near as easily or as gracefully as L'Oreal Beauty Tubes. (Sorry L'Oreal, but you broke the mold with that one.) With only a little rubbing, my eyelashes were clean and my eyes were not completely red and puffy from the pressure. I was expecting a cleansing process more dramatic than that, but was pretty happy at the results.

Since I now have the product in my cabinet with only one use missing, I figure I’ll keep it around until it gets old and clumpy or I misplace it behind the vanity. Would I ever buy it again? To that question I give a resounding “no”. Although in all honestly, I don’t think it will be on the market for very long. I can’t imagine the market research people have found that the applicator-comb is a great fit for women on the go. It’s too much hassle for not enough result. And really, now, who needs more of that?

Friday, July 23, 2010


At about 2 pm every day, Bobo decides that it’s a good idea to flip out. As she has aged, this tendency of hers has become slightly less abrasive, but unfortunately it has not extinguished completely. Since 2 pm is prime time to meetings and other business related activities, I am constantly trying out ways to distract psycho-puppy during that timeframe. In yet another attempt to find something that would entertain her and that she couldn’t completely destroy in less than a minute, I purchased the Bob-A-Lot. It’s a completely stupid name, but is it really any worse than “Slap-Chop?” For only $19.95, my young dog could be quiet for an hour or so, entertaining herself with a device that distributes tasty treats at untimed intervals and my old dog could potentially be persuaded to eat more without bribery.

The Bob-A-Lot is a pear shaped item with a hole in the top to put food and treats and a hole in the bottom to distribute them. The premise is quite clever really, the shape and the location of the lower hole make it so the dog needs to bat the item around for awhile to get the food inside into the proper configuration and angle to come out of the lower hole. It is a great concept, but the burning questions are: is it fun enough to keep Bobo interested and is it tough enough to be Bobo-proof?

At first Bobo had no interest in it, but Nugget the cat thought it was good fun. The problem was that the Bob-A-Lot is about as big as he is so he didn’t have much luck getting it to move. I had to push it around a little bit to get some of the snacks to come out before either of the dogs became even remotely interested in its presence in the universe. When Bobo did actually take notice, the first thing she did was what she always does. She tried to chew through it. She picked up the Bob-A-Lot by its little yellow cap and started carrying it around the house. She quickly discovered that her usual destructive mode of operations was not going to be effective and put it back down. Then she lost interest again. The critical take away from this is that even after she chewed on the cap and carried it all over the house, she wasn’t able to chew through and destroy it. Score 1.

She slowly began to gain interest back in the Bob-A-Lot after I put better treats in it. Apparently just her food wasn’t good enough. She needed the prize to be peppered with cookies. Go figure. I suppose if you are going to work that hard for a snack, it only seems fair that you should get a cookie or two at the end.

Zac on the other hand had no interest in playing with the thing, and only followed me around when I was on the floor batting it around because I knew the trick to making the food and cookies come out. I smacked that thing and out came a smattering of tasty treats.
For days, this is how it went. I played with the toy and the dogs followed me around eating the mess I left behind. When I was done playing, I left the Bob-A-Lot on the floor in the hopes that one of the canines would follow my lead and bat it around themselves.

At about day four, I had successfully taught the dogs what to do. Play with the Bob-A-Lot until something came out and then eat what comes out. The thing I hadn’t counted on was that the game would turn into a team sport. Bobo had no interest in the food and Zac had no interest in making the food appear. So Bobo ended up playing with the Bob-A-Lot, smacking it around and entertaining herself for (I can’t really say hours…) some indeterminate amount of time, happily keeping to herself and neither bothering me to take her out nor pulling the pillows off the bed (Score 2), and Zac followed her around eating anything that came out of the lower hole (Score 3).

All in all if you have the time to teach your dog(s) how the game works, it really is quite effective. All of my goals were achieved. The Bob-A-Lot is durable enough for Bobo, and both dogs were entertained and fed. The added bonus is that the activity even made the pups tired, and a tired dog is a good dog. All in all the Bob-A-Lot is effective and makes for an entertaining, tiring afternoon for a dog and a calm afternoon for a person.

Friday, July 16, 2010


We made the mistake of going away for a few days. Actually it wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t even fun. We had to go out of town for a few days for work. Because we were driving, we took the dogs. Because we were staying with a friend with 3 dogs of her own, we left the cats. We thought it best to not stick the cats in a car for 8 hours only to have them live with 5 dogs for 5 days and stick them back in the car for another 8 hours. Somehow that just seemed cruel.

We hired a pet sitter to come over for 45 minutes twice a day to hang out with the cats, feed them, clean their box and throw little paper balls around for them to chase. When we returned we realized that she had actually spent an average of 2 hours per visit, spending a total of almost four hours per day with our felines for the duration of the 5 day absence.

Apparently, this was not enough time for our kids and they got pissed. So they did. Upon our return, we discovered that the cats had decided to pee on the carpet by the front door. Now mind you, this behavior had nothing to do with illness or a dirty box as is often the case. No this was simply because Muffin is a little bit of a brat and Nugget jumped on the pissing bandwagon, because apparently peeing where you aren’t supposed to is good fun.

At first we tried some grocery store product that didn’t work. Then we went to Petco for the real deal. We got Dumb Cat. I think the initial purchase was based on the name alone, but the reality is that the concept of the product made sense. It is an “enzyme and bacterial spray [that] breaks down stains, [and] permanently removes odors and pheromones.” Theoretically.

We got it home, cut out the carpet pad, dried off the concrete underneath, and gave it a go. The instructions stated that we were supposed saturate the area with the product, block the section off from the cat(s) for a few days to a week while it was drying so that the enzymes could do their thing, and the cat pee smell would be completely eliminated. We followed the first instruction perfectly. We saturated the carpet with the Dumb Cat. The problem was with the second instruction. The space we were living in was 600 sq ft, so to block off the space from the cats we would have eliminated about half of the dining area. Not such a great idea.

Perhaps this is why the cats didn’t understand that they were not supposed to go back to that corner to relieve themselves. Perhaps it is because the enzymes never had a chance to fully perform their enzymatic-magic. Perhaps we just have, as the product states, really dumb cats. Whatever the reason, we couldn’t seem to stop the cats from peeing on that particular spot. We literally did try everything we could think of including putting furniture on top of the pee-spot.

One of the biggest problems, I will readily admit, is the fact that we couldn’t block the space off from use. The size of the apartment and the way the room was configured just didn’t allow for such a thing. Thus there was no way the carpet was going to fully dry out, with or without the Dumb Cat enzymes. The other problem was the absurd humidity in northern VA in June. For anyone who hasn’t spent time there during the early summer months, please take note. It sucks. It sucks less then spending time there in the late summer months, and sucks much less than spending time in SC in the early summer months, but if you are in any way opposed to stifling heat and oppressing humidity, don’t go there at that time of year. You’ll hate it.

The not-blocking of the area, coupled with the humidity, prevented the pee spot from drying which prevented the enzymes from doing their thing which prevented the cats from NOT peeing in the evil pee corner.

We eventually left the apartment for a few days and after reapplying the Dumb Cat and cranking the air conditioning, the area did finally dry. Apparently the enzymes did their thing and upon our return the cats did not immediacy return to their evil peeing ways. I said they didn’t immediately return to their evil ways, which implied that they did return to their ways eventually. It only took about 5 days and they were back in the corner having themselves a little pee party. So does Dumb Cat work? I can’t really say for certain. If you live in a normal sized space (as opposed to one the size of a cedar closet) where you can actually follow the directions properly the first time, it might work. Although, I don’t have 100% confidence in my assessment, but I do have about 70% confidence.

Really, when your cat pees somewhere it’s not supposed to, what harm is there in trying every single product on the market? I suppose there are additional variables that need to be considered, such as how stubborn your cat is, whether it has a bladder infection and what gender it is. I guess there’s a product out there for everyone. Even with the improper application, Dumb Cat worked better than some products and worse than others. If you have a peeing cat, I’d say it’s worth trying, because as I said, what harm is there in trying every single product on the market? Anything is better than feeling like you live in a litter box.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Zac is a little bit of a nervous dog. He’s a little obsessive and a little jittery. He doesn’t have any disorders that can’t be kept in control though. He doesn’t have horrible separation anxiety, but he definitely doesn’t like it when we are away for a long time. He doesn’t do anything destructive, he just licks. And chews. And scratches. And licks. And chews. And scratches. The good part is that he doesn’t chew on furniture or shoes or anything that doesn’t belong to him. The bad news is that he chews on himself. He will fixate on a small spot on one of his legs where there is absolutely nothing wrong and lick and chew at it until there is something wrong. Apparently this is not completely uncommon, because when we brought him to the vet to see if it was really something bad that he was trying to rid himself of, we asked if there was anything we could do to stop him. The answer was no, but he was diagnosed with what we call a “lickanoma”. I’m not entirely certain if that is the real name for the problem or if that was just the name that we heard, decided we liked and started using. Either way it’s kind of catchy in its absurdity.

He also has an unpleasant tendency to scratch the fur off of his ears. He has pretty bad allergies, so that could be part of the reason for the scratching, but usually he does it just because he’s uncomfortable about something completely unrelated to allergies. Usually that something is more that he doesn’t like the temperature of the room or the softness of the sheets. He’s nervous, but he’s also spoiled.

To try to combat some of the nervous behavior, I purchased some items I thought might be helpful. I got on line and ordered the “Calming Treat Capsule”. This item looks like a multi-colored, elongated egg. One side has holes in it, and the other side has little bumps on it. Coming out of one end are three short ribbons. Presumably the bumps are to massage and calm the canine whilst chewing. I’m not entirely certain what the holes are for, and the ribbons just seem dangerous since if they detach and are eaten they can get stuck in a dog’s colon and cause a variety of problems.

As I have always said, I will try anything if I think it will make my pets happier, healthier and more well adjusted. This particular product did none of those things. What it did do, is give Bobo about 13 seconds of entertainment as she chewed a hole through the hole-side, and it was very interesting to Nugget who is always looking for the next best thing.

All this said, I can’t definitively state that the product is ineffective. For all I know in situations other than mine, it might be perfectly calming. I never got an opportunity to make a real judgment since Zac never got a chance to chew on it. He did give it a sniff or two, but that had neither a calming nor any other effect. I suppose if someone held a gun to my head, I could say it was relaxing because after Zac got up to sniff it, he went back to bed. But that’s really no different than any other day. At 11, if he’s not chewing on his leg or scratching his ears, he’s pretty much maxed out asleep. So all in all this would have to be a “who can really tell” report. It was entertaining to Bobo for that 13 seconds, but for $5.99 it should last longer than 13 seconds. I wouldn’t recommend it, and I certainly would buy one again for my dog, but the cat does seem to like it.

Friday, July 2, 2010


This one is easy. It doesn’t work.

OK, I’ll give you some background and a little story to go with it all. We were driving from DC to SC, it was hot when we left, we were on a deadline, the dogs were in the car, we were 6 hours into the drive somewhere in NC where it was even hotter, and Kath was driving. We pulled over at a gas station, which appeared to be the only one for 100 miles, given how busy it was and the desertion factor of the rest of the road. I was handed the dogs after taking my pee break, and Kath went into the store for her pee break and to procure some beverages. When she returned she had one of my favorites for me, and some unknown oddity in a large blue and purple bottle for her.

NOs, which I assume is come sort of supposedly clever contraction for No Doze, is chock full of all the things that should keep one awake for years. This particular NOs product, the energy drink in Grape flavor, contains 130 mg of caffeine, 1000 mg of Taurine, 100 mg of Inositol and 200 mg of L-Carnitine per 8 oz serving. The large blue and purple bottle contained 22 ozs of beverage.

Caffeine, as we all know, is a well loved stimulant. Taurine, Inositol and L-Carnitine are somehow involved in energy production or metabolization. They are not stimulants like caffeine, but nonetheless are, I suppose, useful in jump-starting one’s day.

All that said, the average cup of coffee contains between 90 and 150 mg of caffeine. A whole bottle of NOs contains about 550 mg of caffeine, which, if we do some basic math (which is about all I’m capable of), is the equivalent of between 3.5 and 6 cups of coffee. That’s sort of a lot, and should be enough, to keep the average human awake for at least a few hours. Certainly a few minutes. No such luck.

I for one, am not all that interested in caffeinated beverages other than coffee. They just make me jittery and a little nauseous so NOs wasn’t even on my list, and when offered, I wouldn’t even take a sip. Kathryn on the other hand is a big advocate of all “energy” products. Red Bull, Monster, NOs, and five-hour energy (which neither of us has tried yet, but is actually on my list for later this year) regularly come up in conversation surrounded by phases like “I love…” and “I used to drink a case a week of…”. It must be the years of working 18 hour days with no sleep.

Kathryn, for those of you who don’t know her, is 100 lbs. She drank the whole bottle of NOs with no(s) result. I will definitely grant you that her body is a little different than most, but still 6 cups of coffee in a 100 lb person? It was nothing sort of odd that she was nodding off in the seat next to me (by this time I was driving, no worries). Nonetheless there she was. I kept waiting for her to shoot out of her chair or start chewing off her fingers or something, but literally, nothing happened. It was just plan wrong if you ask me. And extremely disappointing if you ask her.

I can’t explain if it was the day’s body chemistry or a flawed product. I suppose this one should go on the “try-it-twice-to-be-sure” list, but, that much of a colossal failure does not make me want to run right out and spend more money. I can’t, in good conscious tell you that this product is worth trying, but if you do give it a shot and it does keep you awake, please let me know. I would hate to provide misinformation based on the excessive tolerance of someone who used to drink a case a week of Red Bull.

Friday, June 25, 2010


If you are one of those at-home workout people, you will appreciate this one. As I’m sure you have figured out by now, I live in a part of the country that does not have the conveniences of a city. I can’t say that I live in the middle of nowhere, because I don’t really believe that to be true. I actually think that my town has a lot going on, it’s just not a lot of the type of going-on that city-dwellers are used to. If you crave the outdoors, where I live has it all. If you are looking for fine cuisine and high culture, the pickings are a little slim. They are not completely absent, but you have to really search, be willing to drive a distance, and wait around for the Central NH stop on the performing arts tour. There are, interestingly enough, about 8 different Chinese restaurants in about a 15 mile radius, but other than that one is hard pressed to find anything other than Italian or bar food. There are no upscale pet stores, no fancy restaurants, no spontaneous “hey let’s go to the theatre” nights and no running down to the store for some milk without getting into your car. There’s a university and a hospital 7 miles south, a Staples 15 miles north, and a smattering of bars within spitting distance in any direction. There’s a lot of fresh air and clean water and a few moose. There is no good gym. There are several gyms, but all the ones that are within 20 miles, pretty much suck.

I spend a decent amount of time travelling to various larger cities for work, and so I get my fill of “culture” such as it is. I get to experience the crushing throng of humanity, the litany of restaurants and ethnic cuisines and the convenience of city living. I get to sit in the traffic and have the distinct luxury of periodically being flipped off for crossing the street. I also get to use a “real” gym which is usually within walking distance of where I am temporarily located, or at least under five miles away. At these times I am grateful for my city experience. In a gym, people are usually happy, not flipping anyone off and pretty much keeping to themselves. Just the way I like people.

All that said, since I don’t always have the convenience of a fully functional, large fitness facility with decent hours nearby, I am often left to my own devices. To assure that I can get a good workout no matter where I am, I have multiple at-home fitness products and one of them is the SelectTech 552.

You may have seen the infomercial for these babies. The SelectTech is a Bowflex product. They are the dumbbells that give you the flexibility to adjust the weight to what you desire. There are 2 SelectTech products. The 552 and the 1090. As the name implies, the 552 can be adjusted to weights ranging from 5 to 52.5 lbs per dumbbell. Using the same logic, the 1090 can be adjusted to weights ranging from 10 to 90 lbs per dumbbell. Because I am not that strong, I have the 552s, which I might add are plenty heavy enough for your average at-home weight lifter. BowFlex claims that the SelectTech product line replaces 15 sets and 17 sets of weights respectively. This could be a true claim if you were to purchase every set of dumbbells out there from 5 to 52.5 lbs in 2.5 lb increments (or from 10 to 90 lbs in 10 lb increments), but most people don’t actually do that. I suppose you could, but unless you are opening a gym, of your own, you probably wouldn’t.

The SelectTech weights (weight plates, actually) and bar sit in a cradle. The ends of the bar spin and are marked with the different potential weights. The weight plates are notched so that as you spin the end of the bar to a particular weight, the notches on the bar engage with the notches on the plates and you end up with an adjustable dumbbell.

Its’ quite ingenious actually. It means that you don’t have to buy multiple sets of dumbbells to have decent workout. If you have limited space, don’t want to look at a full weight tower or don’t have a plethora of doors to prop open, it may be the answer to all your ills.

The only issue I found with the SelectTech dumbbells, is that they are a little large. The bars are a good size for an adult hand, but the plates themselves are a little large. This is not a huge problem with most exercises, but I find that I need to do bicep curls with one hand at a time because the two dumbbells together force my curls apart, causing bad form. The other element to be aware of with the SelectTech is that if the plates are sitting backwards in the cradle, the weight adjuster-spinner on the end of the bar won’t spin. I actually had this problem once and it took a good 30 minutes to figure out what the issue was. I thought the spinning mechanism was broken, but instead it was the stupidity of someone who wasn’t supposed to be in my house using my things.

All in all this is a durable, quality product that makes getting a good workout at home pretty easy. Completely utilitarian, fabulously compact and completely adjustable for a complete upper body workout, SelectTech is worth the price tag ($399 for the 552, $599 for the 1090). Given how little in this world can actually be relied on, this is a product that won’t let you down.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Bobo spends a lot of time running. She runs through fields. She runs around the yard. She used to run through the streets. And she runs in the woods. When she runs, she runs very far and very fast. When we hike, she goes 15 miles to our 3. She runs because she loves it, she’s good at it, and she can. She’s a German Shorthaired Pointer after all, she runs because it’s in her blood. She was bred to be the perfect hunter’s assistant and can run all day every day. It’s in her nature, there’s no stopping it. The best we could hope for is to make her running safe for her and less frightening for us.

Bobo knew the “come” command,” but being the sophisticated problem solver that she is, she often chose to ignore it. When she didn’t choose to ignore it, she was often far enough away from us that when she did head back our way, it was a good five or ten minutes before she arrived, making us think that she was ignoring us even when she wasn’t. Although we knew that she enjoyed the running and would almost always return to us at some point, our little Bobo also had a tendency to hurt herself. Running that far, that fast through the woods has its downside which includes cuts, scrapes and the occasional puncture wound. Our biggest fear was not that she would get lost, but that she would get hurt and disoriented and we’d never be able to find her. So after one scare, we decided to bite the bullet, spend the money and get her a GPS collar. After much research and $599, we ended up with the Garmin Astro DC 30 GPS Dog Tracking System.

This system has a hand held GPS unit and a receiver on a dog collar. The collar has a giant rubbery antenna which is always humorous when attached to a dog, bobbing through the woods. The system is designed for hunting, so it’s waterproof, extremely durable and good for a range of up to 5 miles. The handheld GPS unit can be used while not attached to a dog which is helpful for those who like to do things apart from their canine companions. The handheld unit can also track up to 10 dogs. You would need to purchase 10 collars in order to do that, but you don’t need 10 different handheld units. Because the system is designed for hunting the handheld provides information for a number of hunting-related elements such as, best hunting times, sun rise and sun set. In addition the handheld unit provides information not only on your dog’s whereabouts but also their actual physical position. It will tell you whether your dog is pointing, treeing, sitting or running. It doesn’t have signifier for swimming, but other than that it’s been pretty accurate thus far.

The most interesting thing about the GPS is that upon receiving and using it, we quickly discovered that Bobo was rarely further than 80 yards from us. Apparently she’s more stealth than we give her credit for. Her coloring is great camouflage, but we figured since she is anything but graceful, we would have heard her if she were close by. Apparently we were wrong.

Notice I said that she was rarely further than 80 yards from us. Not never more than 80 yards from us. One day we were out hiking and we turned one way and Bobo turned the other way. In the 2 minutes it took to figure out she was not with us, she had already run almost a mile in the other direction. Without the GPS we never would have found her. When we did find her, she was far off trail, at the bottom of a hill on the banks of a rapidly flowing river. She was hurt, disoriented and scared. She couldn’t tell where our voices were coming from as evidenced by the fact that as I climbed down to her, I saw her running in circles trying to figure out where my voice was coming from. The sound of the water in the valley did something to the sound waves making the direction my voice was coming from nearly impossible to decipher.

After a little bit of both canine and human stress, the pack ended up back together with no major losses or injuries. And that you just can’t put a price tag on.

Friday, June 11, 2010


We had this need for a truck that could pull, and being the type of people we were at that time, we went for comfort. Might I recommend that you do not make the same mistake that we did. Although the Chevy Avalanche is, without a doubt one of the most comfortable trucks I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in, the Z66 model has about as much usefulness in inclement weather as a broken umbrella.

I’ll preface this review by saying that when we bought the Z66, we were living in sunny Tucson, AZ so inclement weather was not something we were altogether worried about. I will state however that the giant, black truck with heated seats in that particular environment was a little absurd, but in Tucson it’s either hot and dry enough to fry and egg on the hood or raining torrentially enough that you shouldn’t be out driving anyway. In the hot, dry, one does not need to worry about how well their car operates in mud or snow, and in the torrential rain, well either you make it though the flooded washes or you don’t. And if you’ve ever been in the dessert during a monsoon, you should really know to stay out of the flooded washes. Any way, the upshot is that the Z66 was fine for our driving-only purposes in that environment, what it wasn’t all that fine for was our towing need. Of course if I knew then what I know now, we never would have made this particular purchase, but I didn’t, and we did, so instead of a truck that did what we needed it to, we got a good story.

The Z66 Avalanche is the 2 wheel drive, tricked out version of the truck. It is basically a really hot looking vehicle with little usefulness outside of a city environment. Our Z66 had leather interior, power doors, windows, locks and seat adjustment for the driver, adjustable pedals, and just about every possible luxury element that you could think a truck to have. The problem was that it wasn’t powerful enough even with the V8 engine to pull what we needed to pull (shame on us for believing the sales guy) without causing us both to learn forward in a misguided attempt to help get up the hills. Additionally, although this may be different now the fuel economy on this vehicle was horrible. On a good day we got 15 MPG on the highway and when we were towing it was something like 6 MPG. No lie. Our ownership of this particular vehicle overlapped with the $4/gal gas prices and therefore it cost over $100 every time we filled the tank. Add that onto the over $20,000 we paid for the used vehicle (the 2010 models are over $40,000 new), and what you have is a very expensive endeavor.

On the positive side, the very expensive ride was also a very comfortable ride. The trips taken across the country in it were done so in great luxury. The back seat is roomy enough for an average sized woman to lie down and sleep. This particular feature came in handy on more than one occasion. Even my in-laws are convinced the Z66 Avalanche is the most comfortable vehicle in the universe. Unfortunately however it is not a model meant for anything other than pavement. In AZ, not a problem. In NH, a big problem.

This truck does not operate in the snow. It also does not operate in the mud. I would have thought that the weight of the truck alone would have made it capable of driving up a muddy driveway. I wasn’t talking about going off-roading, just getting into our condo parking lot. Alas, it was not meant to be. Many a day went by that, taking her life into her hands, my lovely wife, accelerated wildly in the hopes of hitting the left turn at speeds elevated enough to make it up the hill. She usually made it. If it were me driving I would have ended up in a ditch. Since in NH the road conditions from November to May range from snow to ice to mud and back again with a great deal of regularity, a vehicle that does not operate in these conditions, will leave you walking…a lot.

We decided after one winter in the Northeast that we should sell it and get something useful, but apparently everyone in NH and MA already knew what we had just found out. The Z66 Avalanche is not the most appropriate vehicle for these here parts. We ended up selling it in SC where the weather is accommodating to a truck with those features 364 days out of the year (unless you go mudding in which case you need to reconsider). I am happy to report that we sold the Z66 Avalanche to a lovely woman who was as excited to buy it as we were at first. Here’s hoping she stays in SC, because should she ever have occasion to move north, I have no doubt we’ll be able to hear the disappointment from here.

Monday, June 7, 2010


So in an attempt to find the greatest mascara available to all woman-kind, I thought I’d give Lash Stiletto a go. I like lashes and I like stilettos so I thought “how can I go wrong?” I thought the television ads rather alluring with the big shoes and such. Stilettos really are quite sexy and it would stand to reason that any length-related association with stilettos would by extension also be sexy.

The package is not entirely sexy, but not entirely unsexy either. The booted legs are vaguely reminiscent of my sudo-dominatrix days with the thigh-high black patent leather boots. OK, you can’t actually see the thighs, but you get the impression that the boots go on forever. And they are not the kind of boots that you step easily into. They are the kind you have to douse yourself in baby powder to don. And then there is the mascara tube itself. Maybelline, in all of their marketing and packaging wisdom decided to make the mascara tube look like a stiletto. More tapered on one side than the other. Clever. Useless, but clever.

But then there is the issue of the product. Not the packaging, but the actual product. Because as we are all well aware at this point that the only makeup that I can apply without dire consequences is mascara. I am a sucker for it, its appeal and its claims. Lash Stiletto claims 70% longer lashes and a shiny patent finish. This would explain the patent leather boots on the package, but I’m a little unclear as how you can tell that an eyelash has a “shiny patent finish”. I mean an eyelash averages 7-9 mm in length. This is not much surface area on which to have a shiny patent finish, but I was, as always willing to give it a try.

Application was simple; 1-step, which is always a plus, but to be honest, I didn’t see anything that looked even remotely like a stiletto sticking out of my eye. That’s sort of a gross thought, but you know what I’m saying. No stilettos. My lashes looked good, but I wasn’t seeing anything to make this product stand out in the crowd of mascara (except for the sexy boots on the package). I’d give the product a 5 out of 10; perfectly mediocre as far as aesthetic.

The fun part came when I went to remove it. In much the same way that I don’t use a lot of different makeup products, I also don’t use a lot of makeup removing products. Actually I use no makeup removing products. I use one cleanser on my face and if it doesn’t work to remove whatever I have applied that day, I just scrub harder. 50 grit sandpaper couldn’t have scrubbed this hard enough. I had raccoon eyes until I scrubbed so hard that really soft, sensitive skin under my eyes was red. (Maybe they do that on purpose so you’ll buy the eye wrinkle fixer-cream.) In Maybelline’s defense, they do tell users to use Maybelline New York Eyes Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover to get the stilettos off, but I think they should make removal easy for the average consumer, not just the Maybelline groupie. Maybe that’s just me though. Perhaps I have it all wrong and in order to look my best I really must have the entire product lineup, application and removal. No way, I don’t buy it.

The stilettos were a bust as far as making my lashes look like a pair of boots out of a NY nightclub, and removing it was worse than getting out of a latex bodysuit, but in a pinch I suppose it’ll work. There’s no real reason not to use Lash Stiletto, it did just fine as far as mascara goes, it just didn’t live up to its 70% claims. Go figure.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have written a great deal about the products I purchase for my dogs, but rarely do I write about the product I purchase for my cats. This is strange because I am, at my heart, a cat person. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs, but dogs are like children in that you can’t just leave them for a few days with an extra bowl of food and water and expect them to be ok. Not that I would do that to my cats, but I could, and that is what I like about them. They re like little furry, independent people who really have no interest in what you are doing. They like knowing that you are around at times, but for the most part, they couldn’t; care less about your comings and goings, and more often than not, they just want to be fed, watered and left alone. I love that in an animal.

For these and several other reasons, I have always had cats. When I say “always” I mean that since I’ve been an adult and not living in my parent’s house. Under those circumstances, I had no pets because the inconvenience of even a cat was too much for my parents to bear. But I digress, I have always had cats because they are independent. They are easy. They require little extra effort, and they don’t cling. The first time I spent an afternoon with a dog, I thought it was the most annoying situation I had ever encountered. They followed us everywhere. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why this was such a great thing. It was like having a canine stalker. I don’t much care for being followed by any living thing. Canine or otherwise. It just seemed weird to me. So cats it was. They would jump on my lap for a minute or two. Maybe watch an episode of CSI with me and then be gone. I’d find them hours later under the bed or in the closet or on the pillow, looking inquisitively up at me with those big brown hazel eyes, questioning my intentions and wondering how I deigned to disturb their slumber.

Cats are prefect. They sleep all day and most of the night. They have no interest in walking on a leash and only need a few chin scratches every now and again. Of course, we are talking about me here, I have managed to turn even my low maintenance cats in little divas. Enter Emery Cat. Granted Emery Cat was not entirely purchased for the pleasure of the cats. It was as much purchased to keep them from annihilating the chairs as to keep prevent them from having to go through the torture of getting their claws trimmed. Trimming a cat’s claws is sort of like baby’s first haircut. They scream and scream and scream until you stop and then they completely forget what they were screaming about. The whole process is not as traumatic as all that, but still, cats are opportunists so if there is an easier way, why not take it? If given the chance and a Visa, any cat would.

I ordered the Emery Cat for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling which conveniently comes with not one, but two Emery Cats. I figured I could give one to my sister in law who has two semi-destructive cats of her own to contend with. All together, the bill came to over $35. I think it was $36 and change, I though this was a little steep for a corrugated cardboard arch, but my babies are spoiled, so I didn’t cancel my order.

The package comes with a corrugated cardboard arch coated in some sort of sand-induced adhesive, a plastic base for the arch to sit in, a baggie of kitty crack (aka catnip), a feather on a stick to put into a little hole in the a plastic base and a de-shedder. The sand-induced adhesive is intended to file down the cat’s claws as it scratches. A good idea, as I can’t tell you how many times, in the absence of a nail file I have run my nails over the sidewalk to try to get rid of the ragged edges. I’m not certain what the point of the de-shedder is, since I think every pet owner has at least one. I can say for certain that I didn’t need another de-shedder (much less two) since I seem to have been collecting them at a rate of about one a year for the past 20 years. I’m a little unclear as to why I have so many, but I do. Perhaps I need to donate them to the de-shedder de-prived or something.

When Emery Cat arrived, I set it up (sans the feather on a stick because Bobo the young dog likes to eat those), sprinkled the kitty crack on the corrugated cardboard and put it out for a rapid test. Actually, I need to caveat that a little. I threw away the plastic arch and tied the corrugated cardboard to the old battered corrugated cardboard tied to a brick that my cats currently use. Its tied to the brick so Bobo won’t eat it. (Are you sensing a theme here?). Once secured to the brick, my youngest cat (Nugget) made a b-line for Emery Cat it right away. My older one (Muffin) was a little hesitant. She doesn’t care much for new things and is oddly suspicious of anything the young one finds enjoyable.

With Nugget scratching away, I thought that perhaps the $36 plus was well spent and put the second Emery Cat together and put it in the room with their food and little box, safely away from Bobo’s curious mouth. The “cat bathroom” as we have so lovingly named it, is behind a baby gate and therefore safe from the scavenging, cat food and cat poop eating tendencies of Bobo. Neither cat would have anything to do with that Emery Cat setup. I’m not sure if it’s presence makes too much clutter, or if it’s just that cats don’t play where they eat. Either way, neither Nugget nor Muffin had any interest in the Emery Cat as set up as intended. In fact, Nugget quickly lost interest in the arch tied to the brick and instead reverted back to the old, flat, sand-less, seriously mangled corrugated cardboard scratch area. Both were tied to the same brick, so it wasn’t as issue of convenience, I guess they just didn’t care for the way it felt on their little feet. I thought it was a good idea, but clearly I was mistaken.

I still have the Emery Cat set up in the cat bathroom and tied to the brick, but they still insist on using the furniture and their old corrugated cardboard. Maybe they just need more time. Maybe the kitty crack wasn’t strong enough. Maybe they are just creatures of habit and don’t like their routine being messed with. Either way, I don’t think I could recommend this product. They cats’ don’t use it and unless you need a de-shedder, your money is better spent elsewhere.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I believed in purely positive (positive reinforcement only) dog training once, and then I realized that it just doesn’t always work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I approve of abject humiliation and constant punishment as a viable dog training method, but there are just some dogs that won’t behave no matter how many cookies you give them and no matter how many “good girl’s” they hear. Some dogs just need that extra little motivation to not act like a complete and total wacko. Sometimes a girl just needs a smack-down.

Bobo is the sweetest dog you would ever want to meet. She doesn’t have an aggressive bone n her body, she has the face of a saint and it is only on a very rare occasion that she has problems with any other dog. To her credit, she has that perfectly innocent puppy-look when she tips her head to the side, which she does relatively regularly because she knows I think it’s just the cutest thing ever. It is only because of that pathetic look that Bobo got away with what she got away with when we first brought her home. Although this is not an essay about dog training, let me just give you one small piece of advice. No matter how cute they are, don’t let your new dog get away with bad behavior. It’ll only come back to bit you in the ass. This I can promise.

When we first got Bobo she was horrid. Aside from the fact that she was a year old, not house trained and she ate just about everything in sight: socks, shoes, our new glasses, books, magazines, pillows and the venetian blinds, she was also relentless chasing the cats and refused to give Zac a moment of peace. After a few weeks of sleepless nights we finally decided that training Bobo correctly was outside of our area of expertise and decided to bring in the professionals. We actually didn’t much care for the trainer we hired because aside from the fact that she was unable (or unwilling) to remember the names of our dogs she, for some reason, insisted on focusing her attention on Zac, the dog who didn’t really need the help. She also informed us that it was actually not a bad thing that our out of control dog was out of control.

Bobo had so much pent up energy and so little self control that she would run around the room so fast that she would actually get enough momentum to run on the walls. This is not a lie. I never would have believed such a thing was possible if I didn’t see it myself. When we told the dog trainer about this, she actually did tell us that if we didn’t mind then we should just let her do it. OK, let me just a take a second to say, who in the world would be ok with their dog running on the walls? And what kind of dog trainer would condone it?

The problem with Bobo, and the reason that "purely positive" training techniques didn’t work that well with her is because she’s not motivated by anything but running to swimming. She’s not motivated by cookies or praise or tennis balls. She cares about nothing but running and swimming and there is nothing better to her than those two activities. Therefore, unless we could have figured out a way to reward her by letter her go swimming or running, we were out of luck. Thus we were in a pickle. She was not motivated by what we could give her and therefore she had no reason to listen and when she was misbehaving she was usually doing so in an environment where she was moving too fast for us to catch her so there was no immediate result (read: punishment) associated to her action. There was never any punishment or scolding associated with the craziness because by the time we caught her, too much time had passed and the punishment would have been useless for extinguishing a bad behavior.

A big part of our problem training Bobo was that she is very smart and a remarkably good problem solver. In fact she quickly solved the problem of how to avoid being yelled at and punished. She learned that here were never any repercussions to her running away from us because, well she was running away, and since we couldn’t catch her, we couldn’t punish her. So instead of getting punished for misbehaving, she got the double reward of getting not punished and getting to do exactly what she loved best, run. Unfortunate for us, but very fortunate for her, her speed and agility made teaching her self control extremely difficult. If she chased the cats, by the time we got to her, the cats were long gone and enough time had passed that the punishment would have been tied to nothing. If she ignored us at the dog park, she got just what she wanted, to run and continue to play, and we got to feel like the asshole dog-moms who have no control over their puppy. For the most part she knew her commands, but being the smart dog that she is, she learned that she could ignore them when she wanted to and there really wasn’t anything that we could do about it. Enter the PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer.

This collar contains a small waterproof box which when remotely activated either makes a small beep or releases a spray of citronella under the dog’s chin. The Spray Trainer has 4 levels of spray so you can increase the length of time the spray sprays if needed. Conceptually it’s a lot like a shock collar only there is no shock. Instead of the shock it’s a spritz under the chin. Nothing painful, just annoying, and yet amazingly effective. With this one small device, we could actually control our Bobo because for the first time we could catch her in the act of behaving badly and we could act accordingly. If she was chasing the cats we could stop the action without having to leap across the living room to tackle her to the ground. If she ignored a command we could give her a spritz and she would know that there was no more ignoring us. The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer put us in charge.

We tried the Spray Commander first which is a different brand with the same functionality. The biggest differences are that the Spray Commander is a little less expensive, only has one spray level, and is not waterproof so after Bobo chased a duck into alligator infested waters, it was pretty much useless.

The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer on the other hand is waterproof so she could swim with it and it would still work, but of course, like all of Bobo’s gear, it needed some adjusting. Bobo, for obvious reasons, is rather hard on her things. She looses jackets, she breaks collars, she is as hard on her things as she is on herself. She managed to kill the first $150 PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer we purchased. She cracked it somehow. We’re still not entirely sure how. Since the device is intended for active dogs, one would think that it would be durable enough to withstand the abuse active dogs would give it. Apparently not. So we shelled out another $150 for another one. Only this time we wrapped the small waterproof box in electrical tape to give it some extra padding. That worked, and Bobo has not, as of yet, been able to destroy it.

The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer is only a training tool and you can’t expect that it will work wonders for your dog if you don’t take the time to work wonders in conjunction. It is however an extremely useful tool for dogs who choose to misbehave because they can. Dogs are a lot smarter than people give them credit for and Bobo is no exception. There are dogs out there that are just more difficult to train than others. Bobo falls into this category. Bobo didn’t care about treats so getting her to behave for a treat was near impossible. We spent hundreds of dollars on books and training tools and private training lessons and doggy daycare to rid her of some of her excess energy. We tried everything that we could think of to get Bobo under control. The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer was the most effective training tool for us because Bobo needed an immediate punishment when she misbehaved. Not all dogs need that type of discipline and not all dogs are as difficult to catch in the act as Bobo, but if your dog is, I highly recommend the PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer. If it works for Bobo, it will work for any hyper dog if used correctly.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I know, I know, this is an odd one. It’s a little old, a little outdated and quite frankly, a little goofy. For those of you who know me, just owning one is nothing short of sacrilege. I pride myself on my kitchen, my knives, my pots and pans. Although I do enjoy grilling, I would never in my life have previously considered grilling inside my home with what amounts to a Panini press with ridges. But alas and alack, at the time of this purchase I was not home. I was on the road working. For months. In a furnished apartment which came equipped with all of the basic necessities required to exist in today’s America. I had a toaster, a microwave, a full-sized stove and oven, a sauté pan, and 2 sizes of pots. I had one small glass bowl, a set of plastic nesting bowls and the crappiest knife block ever created. The steak knives were dull, the butcher knife was duller, and oddly enough the bread knife didn’t event work. I ask you, how can a bread knife not work? I have yet to answer that question, but what I do know is that there was definitely no Ginsu action here. No one was cutting any tin cans with these babies. I have heard the expression “so dull it wouldn’t’ cut through butter,” but I’ve never actually seen it in action. And the bread knife, bless it’s little serrated soul, didn’t actually cut the bread, but instead mostly just tore it. It was almost like the ridges on the blade went the wrong way, but that’s just not possible, is it?

Suffice it to say that this was not my ideal kitchen. I usually enjoy cooking, but when I moved into this temporary location, I was very happy to have restaurants of every ethnicity within walking distance. In fact upon walking into this new space I believe the first words out of my mouth were “there’s no fucking way I’m cooking in here”. Aside from the terrible accoutrements, the space itself was too small to make a sandwich. You think I’m kidding? The refrigerator door hit the door to the small space containing the washer and dryer when I opened it. All I can say is it’s a good thing there’s a little anorexia in my history, there’s no way anyone over 150 lbs could move around in there.

After about 2 weeks of restaurant-prepared dinners, my lovely wife thought that cooking at home would be just lovely. It would be simple and taste just like we were home. We could pretend. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but I love her so I conceded. We decided on grilled chicken (free-range, blessed with the Humane Society seal), asparagus and little potatoes. Nothing too complicated, and the apartment complex had propane grills scattered throughout the property. I had planned on grilling outside, but the thought of toting food up and down 6 stories just wasn’t working for me after a full day at work, so the oven went on. This is where the problem arose. We had nothing to cook any of those items on. No cookie sheets, no Pyrex pans, no nothing. The best we had was the sauté pan, which at least didn’t have a plastic handle so I suppose I could have put it in the oven, but I just wasn’t trusting that to not be a big problem. Thankfully I had thought to buy aluminum foil when I first went shopping. Two hours and one small nervous breakdown later, dinner was ready. I swore I’d never cook in that fucking kitchen again.

And then the lovely wife suggested the George Foreman Grill. I believe I sneered. Then I think I laughed. Then I probably said something really rude and crass because that’s just the kind of girl I am. I cook. I like to cook. If I can’t cook, I eat out. I don’t use weird culinary devices that sell themselves as “fat grilling machines,” that’s just wrong, a little weird, and completely against my pseudo-foodie ethic. But again, I love my wife, so I conceded.

Off we went to Target to get the frightening kitchen-assistant. I’m not a snob about a lot of things, my clothes have been in my closet for an average of 8 years, my jewelry is mostly made of pooka shells and beads purchased from the gem show in Tucson and my favorite chair is a 15 year old chair and a half, the pillows eaten by the dog and the legs picked by the cat. But I take pride in my kitchen and I buy my pans at Williams-Sonoma, not Target. My knives are Henckel’s and the only thing I want out of life is a 6 burner Viking stove. I have my priorities.

But there I was in Target. On a Saturday. Buying a George Foreman Grill. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Immediately upon purchase, I was told, once again that I would not be disappointed by this devious device. I was told, actually, I’d be pleasantly surprised by both its ease of use and its cleanup. We decided the virgin meal was to be steak (organic, grass fed only), carrots and sweet potatoes. Fast, easy and since we’re usually protein deficient, we’d eat it no matter what it tasted like.

Let me first say that because of the lack of quality of my knives, the sweet potato chunks were completely uneven. In the oven, the thickest one would have taken at least an hour. The carrots were whole, bunch with only the green tops cut off. All these items were marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (come on, I can’t completely give up the ghost), but all were also very thick and, as previously stated, would have taken at least an hour in the oven on 400˚. A 400˚ oven, in this small space on this oh-so-unseasonably hot day would have created chaos. The grill a la Foreman did no such thing. The heat required to cook those items in under 30 minutes stayed where it was required, the ridged plates surrounding the food.

Our dinner was done in about 27 minutes and before I even had the plates to the table, the George Foreman Grill was clean and put away. The food itself was pretty good too. The steaks had good flavor. The texture was a little bit off from if it had been cooked on an outside grill (I think because there was no sear on the outside), but all it all it was pretty good. The carrots and sweet potatoes were soft and flavorful. They weren’t overcooked and soggy like they would have been if I had microwaved them, so I would have to give the George Foreman Grill a ringing endorsement. Granted nothing is as good as the food that comes out of my kitchen on a good day, but I wasn’t in my kitchen, and I can’t imagine a good day in the kitchen I had. So given the circumstances for me and the impatience of most of the current American population, I’d say give it a go. Both the low emotional and the financial costs make it more than worth while.

Friday, May 7, 2010


The busier we got, the more creative we became with our dog’s chew toys. I like to think of myself as a good dog owner, but the very nature of that statement makes me, by default no better than a mediocre one. The fact that I think of myself as a dog “owner” at all eliminates enough puppy-parent-points to leave me spending my life trying to redeem myslef. I would love to say that I want to be the kind of person that my dog thinks I am, but I think my dog knows exactly the kind of person that I am, which would explain why she spends every moment she can trying to push me over the edge. She knows how easy it is, and although for her, it’s just plain fun, for me it’s something a little more unfortunate than that.

We work from home, and although we spend a lot of time every morning making sure the dogs’ needs are met well before ours are, there is always that 2:00 to 3:00 time period where people crash and dogs get their second wind. I’m a little unclear as to why these two species who have had such a fantastic symbiotic relationship for the past 10,000 years are so out of sync on this one. Perhaps the out-of-sync-ness is a recent result of the industrial, technological and information ages wherein the sustainment of life became much easier and less time consuming and humans stopped becoming hunter/gatherers and started becoming text-er/on-line shoppers, widening the distance between us and our canine counterparts. Whatever the reason, there is that time of day when the pups just wanna run and I just wanna tear my hair out because of the stupidity and redundancy and inane-ness of it all. It is at this time that it’s really easy to push me over the edge, somehow, Bobo knows it, enjoys doing it, and while doing it, silently chuckles to herself as she pulls yet another shirt out of the hamper and chews out the armpits.

As my workload increased, I also got more creative about Bobo’s afternoon entertainment. I figured if she could entertain herself for just a few hours every afternoon while I was trying my damndest not to loose my mind, maybe we could come to some mutual understanding on how to best to cohabitate. She could chew on something that was intended for those purposes, and I could not feel like I spent all my time working just to replace all the shirts and pants she decided to eat the sweaty parts out of.

Thus the Atomic Treat Ball was purchased. It claims to be “made of tough, safe, non-toxic thermoplastic material,” and perhaps this is true, but not for this set of jaws. Bobo must have been a pit bull in a past life. She has the jaw strength of a Crocodile. She chewed through one of the super-industrial-strength black Kongs in about 3 minutes. If you don’t know already, that’s not supposed to happen. I guess that should have provided the first clue that a different product would probably not fare much better, but she did the Kong-damage when we first got her and she was terrified and nervous and had zero manners. That was 3 years ago and she no longer qualifies in any of those categories. I wrongly thought that she would focus on getting the treats out of the treat ball and not just save time and eat the treat ball itself. I guess you can’t tell a dog that is she eats the toy, the fun will be over because there won’t be any toy left. Reasoning doesn’t work that well with canines. It doesn’t’ really work that well with humans either, so I guess in that respect the species are still in sync.

The overall concept of the Atomic Treat Ball is a good one. The odd shape makes it roll sort of funny and the treats do come out randomly (or so it would seem to a dog) which makes the whole experience pretty entertaining for the pup and rather humorous to watch for the people. The problem is that the “tough, safe, non-toxic thermoplastic” just isn’t that tough. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know that I could chew through it, but I think I know a few people who could.

The end result of the meeting between the Atomic Treat Ball and Bobo was very simple. The hole from which the treats are distributed was widened so that the treats no longer came out randomly, but instead poured out. Thus eliminating the entertainment associated with the distribution method. It rapidly became just a new way to pour food on the floor. Since that day, the Atomic Treat Ball has sat in the Atomic Treat Cabinet to assure that no more Atomic Treat Parts are spit out on the carpet. Clearly the Atomic Treat Ball needs to be made out of some sort of Atomic Treat Material. Perhaps Unobtainium would do the trick. But the presence of that material would even more widen the chasm between man and man’s best friend. This would move us even further away from the natural instincts we once embraced.

The “ease-of-use” stamped on most of our lives is really just a self-destructive slinky spiraling to infinity. And our inventions and purchases, one after the other are designed for the sole purpose of making our lives easier. But just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s simpler. Simplicity is allowing your dog to eat your shorts because that’s just what dogs do. Ease is going on line to purchase a plastic toy to occupy your dog so you can do something else instead of telling your dog not to eat your shorts. The ease is in occupying our pups to assure that they are seen and not heard during our busiest and most irritating times of the day, simplicity is not having a most irritating time of the day in the first place.

And all best intentions fully acknowledged, the very fact that this purchase was even made means that instead of the simple solution of taking her out for a walk or paying some real attention to her, I just resorted to the seemingly easy solution – buy something to fix the problem. And this my friends is the real reason that I will never be the kind of person my Bobo thinks I am.

Friday, April 30, 2010


First of all let me state that the inordinate focus on youth in this culture is completely insane. The average amount spent on beauty products annually is around $7 billion, and in 2007 women spent over $11 billion on surgery and products to look younger and more beautiful. That’s billion dollars, with a B. Do you have any idea how much money that is? It’s a lot. A whole lot. It’s a lot when you talk about the money spent by the average consumer in this supposedly bad economy. It’s not so much when you talk about the money spent by the federal government, in this same supposedly bad economy.

I’m not certain exactly why youth is so venerated especially since most of us in our younger days were complete idiots. Maybe we just yearn to look like we once did and have the wisdom and experience we do now. Perhaps, that’s the case, but I for one was not particularly attractive prior to my 28th birthday, and although I would hardly consider myself over the hill, I would definitely say that the older I get, the better looking I become. There are a few caveats to that one, but I would have to say that overall, with age truly does come beauty. Nonetheless, we strive for a youthful look at the cost of exorbitant amounts of money annually. And no matter how disappointed we are in the results, we just keep trying different things hoping that something may actually work. In fact in 2009 a Chinese woman sued her salon because the beauty products she bought there didn’t work. Although it’s a brave move to sue over something that absurd, all I can ask is what did she really expect? People age, that’s just the way it is. If you have lived a healthy life, stayed out of the sun, eaten well and have really great genes, you may have a chance, but otherwise, you will get crows feet and laugh lines, and other miscellaneous wrinkles just like everyone else. There is no miracle product to fix that no matter what the advertisements say.

But since we all try despite the facts right in front of us, I can only blame myself for being nothing more than a lemur, and of course in my attempt to have pimple-less skin I tried something that probably was not the right product for the issue, but was entertaining nonetheless. Susan Lucci spoke to me one Sunday morning and told me that her Youthful Essence microdermabrasion system was the be-all, end-all of the universe. I didn’t believe her, but I bought it anyway.

Susan Lucci, is 63 years old. And no one will deny that she looks fantastic. That said, Susan Lucci is also a star. Stars don’t have lives like the rest of us do. Although I would never say that the life of a star is not stressful, I’m quite sure it is, with having to be perfect all the time and being followed everywhere you go, but I have a hard time believing that the stress is the same as the average American. (In the unlikely event that I ever become famous, I may have to recant on this one, but I promise you that should that time ever come, I will be honest about it. I can tell you almost 100% certainty that my issues at that point will differ greatly from my current issues.). In addition to the stress differences, famous people have resources that non-famous people don’t usually have. They have “people” and access and an entourage who’s job it is to make sure they look awesome – all the time. Makes you wonder what is real and what is fabricated doesn’t it? Although I believe that Ms. Lucci uses her Youthful Essence microdermabrasion system, I also believe that is not her only secret. I think there are probably other things that have helped Ms. Lucci along in her quest for perfect, youthful skin.

All skepticism aside, I still ordered the product believing that it couldn’t’ really hurt and maybe it would be fun to use. The system makes really large and completely unrealistic promises about skin miracles and revealing natural beauty. First of all there are no miracles unless you are Walt Disney or Dorothy Gale and natural beauty is just that. Natural. If you have natural beauty, you don’t need help bringing it out, it’s already there because, oh, it’s natural.

The claims of “state-of-the art cosmetic technology” made me start to question the integrity of the advertising right away, because although I was supposed to start seeing results after the first application, I didn’t see any results, ever. I’m still a little unclear as to what “state-of-the art cosmetic technology” is. It might be the little buffer thing that vibrates back and forth and is supposed to exfoliate to the point of miraculous-ness, but really it looked like the same technology my 15 year old vibrator used. Maybe it was “state-of-the art” in 1990, but not anymore.

The only positive from the whole experience is that the introductory 30 day supply of resurfacing cream actually lasted longer than 30 days. This would have been fantastic if the company hadn’t automatically sent me more product. The part that they don’t tell you when you are ordering this “miracle” system is that once they get your credit card information, they will continue to send replacements of the resurfacing cream until you take time out of your life to cancel the orders you never really made in the first place. Then they will try to convince you not to cancel, as any good sales/customer service representative will. I know everyone wants to make money, but automatic reordering, that just seems a little wrong to me. Especially for a product that doesn’t really work.

I would have to give the product itself a bad report because it doesn’t work. I did not become naturally beautiful, and no miracles occurred in my bathroom. I will say that it was fun to use the little vibraty-thing, which conveniently enough is waterproof, so I could even use it in the shower. Sort of like that 15 years old vibrator.

Friday, April 23, 2010


When one is married and has two dogs and three cats, sleeping quarters become very cramped. Yes, it is so, that both dogs and all three cats (two now deceased) used to sleep with us no matter where we were. This included the full bed at my in-laws house which caused serious consternation, since if you have every slept in a full sized bed with another person, you know that it is more than a little cramped. Add to that 130 lbs of four-legged animals all with night-time gastro-intestinal-air-release and you have nothing short of a potential natural disaster. Couple that with either no sleep or disturbed sleep with very unpleasant dreams and you have a downright crisis on your hands.

The sleeping arrangements were also a little tight in our queen sized bed at home. The slightly larger size of that bed made it a little easier to sleep, but there was still the fighting over prime feline real estate, and Zac’s tendency to expand to fill whatever space he is in. I think some days that he is part goldfish, since when he is sleeping in his own bed he takes up scarcely more space than his little, tightly curled body, however put him in a queen sized bed and all of a sudden his 60 lbs seems large enough to span the grand canyon. We are still trying to name this most irritating of phenomenons.

We decided that the only way to remedy this situation was to up the ante and get a king sized bed. Now mind you, neither of us are very big people, and when we have slept in king sized beds in hotel rooms we don’t see each other and certainly don’t touch over the expanse of bed available to us. We, as we have been trained by the pets to do, claim our own side and don’t stray from the 6” at either the right or left edge. Nonetheless, after weighing the options and realizing the pain of contorting around the fur-people, we decided a king size was the way to go. Even if we did continue to stick to our requisite 6”, the remaining 60” in the center of the bed was sure to be enough for the two dogs, remaining cat and replacement kitten, We figured then we could bring the old queen size to my in-laws house thus increasing the likelihood of getting any sleep at all.

Since we had come to the conclusion that we were going to buy a new bed anyway, we decided that it should be the most comfortable bed on the planet. I had, in the past spent no shortage of dollars on mattresses that I was sure would be the answer to my back problems. Several moves later, it occurred to me that the $1500 mattress would probably have been better for my back had I not had to lug it from home to home. Seems the liabilities of toting that thing around outweighed the benefits of using it in the first place. Live and learn. Se after much consideration, we opted for a Sleep Number. You know the Sleep Number. The Bionic Woman’s choice. I mean if it’s good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for us.

We actually went to a store and had the nice lady test our number. Ironically we were both 35s. Who knew? It also seems to be the favored number of our goldfish-dog, Zac. The bed came in pieces and was rapidly assembled by two guys who looked like they would have had trouble constructing a Lego set. In the, highly likely event that I would have to move the bed, “some assembly required” was not going to cause the meltdown so often resulting from such things. Additionally, because the Sleep Number bed is basically an industrial strength air mattress, aside from the inconvenience of wrestling with a 76” x 80” rectangle, the weight wouldn’t be anywhere near that of the old double pillow top queen (you knew that joke was going to come out eventually).

The Sleep Number is, as I mentioned, an air mattress covered with, and surrounded by, foam. The reason you can adjust it is because you can add or remove air as desired by using a remote control attached to a pump which is cleverly hidden under the lego-frame. The reason that you can adjust your side separately from your sleeping partner’s side is because the queen and king beds actually consist of two different beds. You can inflate, deflate and jump up and down on your side all you want, and it won’t bother your sleeping partner because they aren’t on your bed. Your side is really your own bed. You don’t, however, have to worry about falling into the crack between the two sides because the crack is filled with foam and the two “sides” get zipped into what amounts to a giant pillowcase which leaves no room for shifting, but is surprisingly easy to zip up.

Sleep Number beds come in different grades, or “series”. Like everything else in this world, the beds increase in cost as the features increase. Our bed is the right-in-the-middle king. We also purchased a memory foam mattress pad because our model didn’t come with that extra layer of squishy, that we so enjoyed with the double pillow top of our last bed. It makes an already amazingly comfortable bed absolutely stellar. The great part about the memory foam mattress pad is that it’s removable and we have been known to travel across the country with it when we know we will be sleeping on a less-than comfortable bed for an extended period of time (which is painfully often).

Our Sleep Number bed is quite possibly the best purchase we’ve ever made. It was a little pricey, but it was worth every penny, and because there are no springs to sag, it lasts longer than a regular mattress making the extra up front cost actually cost less over your lifetime because you don’t have to replace it every 5 years. I’m actually hoping to die an old woman in this one. So unless you sleep with a machete, point side down, you don’t have to worry much about damaging or wearing your Sleep Number out.

All those claims they make about sleeping better and falling asleep faster, are actually true. I’m definitely not one to believe the advertisements, but there is no doubt that the bed has made a difference. We absolutely love it. The only reason we wake up in the middle of night now is because of the toxic fumes emanating from the pet’s nether regions.

Unfortunately, however, the goldfish-dog seems to have expanded even more, as predicted. We’re closer to having enough room for the whole fur-family, but if only we had just a few more inches. Maybe we need to buy another twin to increase the width of the bed another 50%. Maybe a triple king will give us the space we need. Or at least get us far enough away from the farts to not dream of outhouses. Maybe, but probably not.

Friday, April 16, 2010


You’ve got to love any product that Chuck Norris promotes. I mean how could you possibly go wrong with a product that the man who can do anything uses to prepare to be able to do anything? It sells itself don’t you think? And Christie Brinkley, well what is there to say about Christie Brinkley and her promotions. After all she has so many. Clearly people buy what she sells or Coke, Anheuser-Busch, ConAgra Foods, MasterCard Worldwide, Revlon, the Got Milk? people and multiple others wouldn’t have all jumped on the Brinkley-wagon. People love her, people want to be her or be near her and as a result will buy what she sells just because well, it’s Christie Brinkley. I’m sure both Christie and Chuck have a Total Gym® at home. And I’m sure they use it daily…

The Total Gym® ( is a strength training system which uses your own body weight for resistance. You have some flexibility with the resistance by adjusting the angle of the moving platform on which you are sitting to perform the exercises, but the maximum amount of weight you can lift with the Total Gym® is always a percentage of your body weight. The moving platform is adjusted by changing the angle to the support pole. Unless you can figure out a way to keep another person on the moving platform with you while you are working out, there is no way to lift more than you weigh. For some people this is probably a good thing, for others, perhaps not. Clearly depending on the exercise and your fitness and strength level it would take some time to build up to lifting your own body weight, but there are people who actually can do that and then some. I don’t really recommend the Total Gym® for those individuals because the resistance is just too limited. For those of us however that are not Adonis, this is a great product.

We purchased our Total Gym® when we were on the road for work, living in a small apartment and lacking both our home gym setup and a local gym membership. We figured that for a few hundred dollars we could get the workouts and bring the Total Gym® home to add to the other home gym products we have collected over the years. A good plan, and one that we were pleasantly surprised by.

Truthfully, we were not expecting anything fantastic from the Total Gym®. Even though the celebrity promoters are awesome in their awesomeness, one cannot assume that the product they are promoting is as well. After all, promotions are all about money, not about effectiveness. But with a Sears nearby and a desperate need for some resistance training, we gave it a go. We bought the last Total Gym® in the store and ended up with a discount because it was the floor model. If you go to the Total Gym® website you will see home models ranging in price from $599 to $1499. I think ours was $199 with the discount which brought the grand total to somewhere around $150. Our plan was already coming together brilliantly. We knew of the small footprint and the ability of the Total Gym® to slide easily under the bed for safe keeping so even if it was completely useless, we could at least hide it from ourselves and any future guests.

Some assembly is required, and first of all let me say that it is not quite as easy to assemble and disassemble as it appears on television. Not that this fact should surprise you in any way, but I thought I’d share it nonetheless. Once assembled however, the Total Gym® is extremely easy to use. You can work out every muscle group including abdominals and increase resistance as your strength increases. The resistance increments are dictated by the incline of the moving platform so for some muscle groups (example: shoulders, triceps) the jump can be very large. For other muscle groups (example: legs) the jump may not be enough and the likelihood of maxing out the weight increases.

For the most part the Total Gym® is easy to manipulate and use, however there are a few exercises that require some amount of contortion to get yourself into the proper position. Of course there is a distinct possibility that I’m the only one that has that problem, since my wife used to look at me like I had intentionally grown a second head very time I was unable to position myself properly. With that questioning look of “how could I have married such an idiot” lovingly expressed in her eyes, I often found myself with my left arm just millimeters from dislocation. Actually, now that I’m writing this, I’m sure that was just a personal problem related somehow to either my inability to tell my right from my left or maybe my overwhelming lack of efficiency of movement.

All in all, for an average person, and by this I mean not a bodybuilder or a powerlifer or someone with extra-super strength requirements, the Total Gym® is a great piece of equipment. We very much enjoy the versatility and convenience of such a small piece of fitness equipment. The disassembly part is still a little cumbersome, but with practice, you can get your time down to only a few minutes. If you live in a small space you really could set it up, work out and break it down all in the time it would take you to drive to the gym and shower. In this time-constrained world that we currently live in, convenience and speed are critically important, as is the ability to multitask. The Total Gym® is perfect for the lifestyle of most of today’s urban professionals. It’s easy to use, fits anywhere, allows for enough variety that you won’t get bored, allows you the ability to workout in private, and of course is promoted by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley. How can you go wrong?

Friday, April 9, 2010


I know I write a lot about Bobo (aka Lady Shirlington aka Paddles Pendleton aka “the crazy dog”) but this week it’s all about Zac (aka Lord Shirlington aka Bunny aka Benedict Bunny McFadden Von Pantz the 3rd). Zac is older and much more distinguished than Bobo could ever hope to be. He is gray around the muzzle, is beginning to get “old man bumps” on his eyelids and body, and is (often) the fun police at the dog park, assuring that no other canines have any sort of romping, joyous entertainment without eliciting at least a single series of barks.

Zac is a very attractive gentleman, rather tall for his breed and somehow manages to catch the eye of many passers by. Children love him, adults love him, other dogs sometimes love him and we really love him. He deserves respect and he demands it every chance he gets. He’s completely spoiled but he is also 11 so that in itself gives him permission to be a little more demanding. He spends most of the day sleeping on our Sleep Number Bed and unfortunately most of the night as well. We even know which number he likes. (He will always pick the 35 side.) And this is where the story really starts.

We bought a king sized bed because it was a little tight in a queen sized with 2 large dogs and 3 cats. We figured that if we had a larger bed, there would be plenty of room for all of us. We didn’t consider the fact that animals are like sponges. They reliably expand when given the opportunity to do so. Our king sized bed rapidly became too small and we now joke that we’ll buy another twin to put next to it to make it just that much bigger. We haven’t done that yet, but we did go the next best route.

Zac is older, we don’t say he’s old, but he is definitely older. He’s not quite as spry as he was in his youth, he doesn’t bounce back quite as quickly when he overdoes it, and he’s a little creaky when moves from lying down to standing. We don’t begrudge him loving the Sleep Number, we completely understand why. The problem is that he lies in the middle of the bed and sticks his legs out to assure that he possesses the greatest amount of space possible. This is a very interesting phenomenon considering when he sleeps on the couch or a chair or even in his own bed (which he will only occupy between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm), he takes up about as much real estate as one of the cats. That is, not a lot. So it’s interesting really that he expands so much in our bed.

In his defense, his bed is a little beat up, so it’s understandable that it’s not his first choice of sleeping locations. His sister Bobo (aka Lady Shirlington) had in the past made it her personal mission to remove all of the stuffing from it. We are therefore forever restuffing it, so it’s a little lumpy. We knew we were going to have to buy him a new bed eventually, but which one to choose…

We figured since he was getting older and liked our bed so much, we would do what we could to replicate it. Since they don’t make Sleep Numbers for dogs (yet), that wasn’t an option. What we do have however, is a Tempur-Pedic, memory foam mattress pad, and they do make memory foam dog beds. There are several companies that make these illustrious beds, but we decided to go with the Buddy Beds because they seem to be the most popular and received rave reviews.

Buddy Beds are made of 2” of 5 lb memory foam with 3” of supporting foam underneath. They are waterproof and anti-bacterial and anti-dust mite. They are not however chew proof, and they are rather expensive. $299 for a large one. So this was a pretty major decision as we did not want to spend $300 + dollars (don’t forget the shipping costs), only to have Bobo annihilate it within minutes. We decided to take the chance because Bobo has aged a bit and gotten much better about not eating things that don’t belong to her. She still has her moments with socks every now and again, but she doesn’t go for anything larger than that anymore.

All the reviews written by satisfied customers claimed that their dog slept through the night in their new bed immediately or almost immediately. We figured Zac need some time to acclimate to his new digs, but that he’d realize eventually that his Buddy Bed was a good thing. He took to it immediately and spent his days between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm happily sleeping in it. But come bedtime, there he was back with us. We thought our biggest problem with getting Zac to sleep in his own bed was the quality of the bed. But we soon learned otherwise. Zac likes having a back edge on his beds so he can lean against it. Buddy Beds don’t have those. To remedy that situation, we stuffed pillows between his bed and the night stand so he would have something to lean against. It didn’t work. Apparently Buddy Beds can’t beat our Sleep Number.

But then we had to move temporarily for work and live in an apartment with a queen sized bed. Since all of the animal accompaniments at night can really disrupt sleep patterns, in a smaller bed, this certainly would not do. Disrupted sleep would definitely not be good when we needed to be smart. So when we moved, we insisted that Zac sleep in his own bed and kicked him off of ours when he ventured up before 5 am. Unbelievably, he took to it like a Zac to Sleep Number. He now sleeps happily though the night on his very own large memory foam tuffet. He still comes into the big bed in the mornings, but that’s part of the fun of having a dog isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Weak stomachs beware, this one is pretty gross.

We were having a little bit of an issue with our bathroom sink, which isn’t altogether surprising since we rented our house out a few years back to people who left it looking like they spent their free time frying chicken in the bedroom. Even after moving back into the house, gutting the bedroom, repainting the bathroom and bleaching every possible surface, we are still finding odd remnants of their inability to live in a modern, industrialized society, with all the trimmings of the good life. Now, I’m not blaming them completely for the clogged drain, after all, drains clog, but I am blaming them for the massive quantity of grunge that was clogging up the drain.

We try to be politically correct and since we have both a well (uphill in the back) and a septic system (downhill in the front) which leaches into our yard (as most septic systems do). As such, we try hard not to put bad things down the sink or onto the lawn (such as it is). We don’t use fertilizers that aren’t 100% manure, we don’t pour paint thinner onto the grass, we don’t use bleach in our laundry and we don’t use toxic chemicals to clear clogged drains. Usually we just ignore them.

We decided that ignoring the problem would not, in fact, make it go away, as is often believed, and thought for a mere $10, it may be worth our while to try out the Turbo Snake. After all, the infomercial makes use look so easy and effective.

The Turbo Snake arrived on what was to become a very irritating day. Nothing seemed to be working quite right and even the beers at 3 pm didn’t raise our spirits. The only thing that seemed to have any effect on the dark cloud, was the anticipation of trying the Turbo Snake, and the possibility that it might work.

The Turbo Snake is an industrious tool designed to clear out your drains without having to deal with the ever-so-intimidating plumber’s snake or ever-so-impertinent toxins. The Turbo Snake comes in two sizes, one for the sink and one for the shower, along with a little sticky hook used to hang them after use. All these items come nicely packaged in a neat little plastic baggie, and you get two sets per order. The Turbo Snake is a thick plastic-coated wire with what appears to be velco’s cousin on the end. This Velcro-type element is designed to catch and remove the nastiness clogging your drain with a simple twist. It’s clever, simple and certain could work.

Fast forward to black-cloud day in the great North East, the neat little plastic baggie sitting on the counter unopened, the anticipation mounting…We enter the bathroom with camera in hand prepared for whatever will follow. We fill up the sink with bubbly water so you, good reader, can see the clog at it’s finest and insert the smaller of the Turbo Snakes.

With just a brief twist and pull that anyone capable of tying their own shoes can do, out came the most disgusting, rotting organic matter known to man. It smelled worse than the septic tank which had recently been pumped. Interestingly enough, with the help of a paper towel, it was easily removed from the Velcro-like substance at the business end of the Turbo Snake. Once the large chunks were gone, after a quick rinse the Turbo Snake was clean enough to wrap up and hang from the little, included sticky hook. Since once wasn’t enough to be believed we had to try again with the tub-sized Turbo Snake. The tub size Turbo Snake is longer and thicker and the Velcro-type item is a little larger, but it worked just as easily.

The Turbo Snake comes wrapped very nicely in its original package and after use is a little difficult to get back into the nice tight little curly-cue. Although this is purely aesthetic in nature, I did try to get the cleaned, used Turbo Snakes back into their original curly form. I was unsuccessful. Despite my utmost attempt, I just couldn’t do it. They ended up both fitting on the hook, albeit, a little askew.

Nonetheless, I would definitely not poo-poo this item based solely on its inability to be returned to its perfect curled state after use. An inexpensive, effective tool that lifted that black cloud and made us both not only smile, but actually laugh out loud. It’s functional and entertaining all in one. Really, what more could you ask for out of a $10 item (with $7 shipping and handling)?