Thursday, February 25, 2010


When we first brought Bobo home from the shelter she was a tragedy. There is no other way to describe her. She was scrawny and malnourished, she was skittish and terrified, she had no manners, she wouldn’t let up giving chase to our three cats (who will never forgive the betrayal), she had so much energy she literally did climb the walls one day and she had herself a very busy mouth. She chewed everything in her way. She ate glasses. She ate socks. She ate shoes. She ate pillows. She ate pens. She ate magazines. She ate blankets. She ate her bed. She ate her brother’s bed. And, ironically, she especially loved to eat all of the dog training books I bought.

Luckily she didn’t eat people furniture, but everything else was fair game. I was able to hide or remove most of the items that she found tasty from her, but there wasn’t anything we could do about the bed she was supposed to sleep in. She needed a bed. She was crated at the beginning of her training, but she needed something soft to sleep on. It just didn’t seem fair that she sleep on hard plastic now that she was out of the shelter.

After several days of searching, I finally found Kuranda Dog Beds, guaranteed chew proof for a year. I didn’t know how any dog product could possibly make such a claim, especially considering that this particular dog managed to chew through the Extreme Kong “for tenacious chewers”, in about 13 seconds. But, given that I absolutely was not willing to let that dog out of her kennel at night and I didn’t want her eating another bed, I was willing to give anything a shot. So I ordered the Crate Bed.

The Kuranda beds are more like cots. The edges of the material are enclosed in what they call poly resin, but what looks to be PVC pipe. Because there are no exposed fabric edges, there is nothing for the dog to chew on. And because there is no stuffing like in standard dog beds, there is also no game in it. There is nothing to disembowel. There is only a cot with a little bit of slack, just enough for the dog to have a nice hammock, but not enough for a mouthful.

The Crate Bed comes with two sets of legs. 3” legs allow for enough headroom in the crate, and either 6” or 9” legs depending on what size bed you ordered. (6” legs come with the bed sizes up to Large, and 9” legs come with the X-Large and XX-Large.) Some assembly is required with these beds, but it’s pretty idiot proof, so as long as you have a screwdriver and at least a second grade reading capabiltiy, you’re all set. Immediately upon putting the bed together, our Bobo decided that it was just fabulous and laid down in it. This was a minor miracle as she hadn’t actually stopped moving since we got her 6 weeks earlier. She didn’t even try to eat it, not that she would have been successful even if she had tried.

Unfortunately, however, I rapidly discovered the lovely sound the bed made when it interacted with claws. There are several different fabrics (and colors) that you can choose when ordering a bed and they are all nylon or vinyl. If you don’t already know, both of these materials make a terrible scratching sound when met with claws. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration. It’s not a terrible sound unless you are trying to sleep. Then it’s a terrible sound. To remedy this problem, I bought a fluffy bed cover which I was certain Bobo would eat. I was right. She couldn’t eat the bed itself, but she could very easily eat the soft, fluffy cover. It was a calculated risk on my part. I finally got some sleep and although the tearing sound was a little distracting, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the claw scratching.

The other relatively rapid discovery was that Bobo quickly became very attached to her bed, as did her older brother (Zac) and all of the cats. Since the bed was her happy place, it went into her kennel at bedtime, and out of her kennel during the day. This meant that Bobo always had something that was hers to make her feel comfortable when everything else around her was scary and odd. However, every time she got up (to eat, or drink, or go “poopy outside” or just wander aimlessly as dogs are want to do), one of the other animals took her place. Apparently, not only is the Kuranda bed chewproof, it also spans species differences, leading me to believe that with a few minor adjustments it could potentially solve world hunger and eliminate social injustice.

To solve the bed-theft problem I got two more beds. Although I had five pets at the time, I thought three beds was enough. The chances of them all sleeping at the same time and in the same position were slim enough to warrant yet another calculated risk. It paid off. Three was enough.

Three years later, Bobo still sleeps in her Kuranda bed which is conveniently located next to my desk. Zac and her switch off between the larger bed that they fit on, and the smaller one originally purchased for the cats. The latest addition to the family, Nugget also really enjoys the smaller bed. He just made himself right at home, and curled up next to the dogs in his own little hammock. Oddly enough no one fights over who gets to sleep in them at any given time. It seems to operate on a first come, first served basis. It’s interesting really, because little else works like that in the land of the fur-people. Maybe Kuranda does have the answer to common courtesy and social injustice after all.

Friday, February 19, 2010


The Turbo Vac is a supplemental offer on the Fix It scratch repair website. Since the Fix It product is used to repair a car, apparently the assumption is that you will also need to clean the car you need to repair. Not a bad assumption since I added one to my order . Of course you don’t actually, buy the Turbo Vac, it is one of those freebees where you only pay for shipping and handling at a cost of $14.95. I’m not entirely certain what shipping costs $14.95 when it takes 3-6 weeks to arrive, but I fell for it. I figured, my car needs all the help it can get so for a mere $14.95, the Turbo Vac might actually be worth it. The draw of this item is that it plugs into the cigarette lighter and you can use its awesome suction power to clean your car’s skanky interior. It claims to be “The Detailer’s Choice.” Quite a claim, in my opinion, but perhaps this little vacuum really is worth it’s weight in sucking power.

First let me say that I was immediately put off by the ordering process. On the Fix It website you could order the Fix It product either with or without the “free” Turbo Vac. I opted for the “with the Turbo Vac” option. One would think that would have been the end of the ordering process and you would then go right to the checkout like most other on-line shopping experiences. Not so. I was immediately inundated with about 75 other products that I could add to my shipment for “free”. I turned all of them down until the Turbo Vac came up as an option again. I thought that maybe there was some kind of mess up and the system forgot that I already (technically) ordered one so I clicked on it. I then turned down the next 75 products and finally arrived at the checkout. The best part however is that once you get to checkout, you can’t adjust what you are purchasing. You just have to go with whatever is in your cart. It was at this point that I discovered that I had 2 Turbo Vacs for a not-so-mere $29.90. Let’s just say that at that point, I was really hoping that it worked so I could give one to some unsuspecting family member for Christmas.

3-6 weeks later my package arrived. Both Turbo Vacs and my car Fix It scratch remover (I also got a stainless steel scratch remover system. I’m not entirely certain why, maybe as a thank you for buying two Turbo Vacs.). Since I can’t use the Fix It repair kit until the outside temperature reaches 55 degrees (they don’t tell you this in the commercials), you won’t be hearing about that until this summer at the earliest. It won’t be 55 degrees here until June. I suppose if I had a heated garage I could test it out this winter, but I’m just not that sophisticated, not, I imagine are most of the rest of the people purchasing the product. Despite my Fix It disappointment, I was able to try one of the two “free” Turbo Vacs.

The first thing I did was empty out the contents of the box and have a little look-see so I knew what the deal was. There were several attachments and the snappy red color, for some odd reason gave me hope. There is a corner/edge sucker, a carpet/upholstery sucker and a flexible hose, presumably to get into those tight spots.

I figured my car to be a good test case, since it is pretty much always dirty. Its primary purpose in life is to serve as a method of chauffeuring our dogs to their many and varied hiking locations so it is forever in a state of complete disrepair. The dirt consists mostly of fur, dried mud and sand, but there is a bit of a smattering of dog cookie and plain munchkin crumbs. Although it’s always a tragedy wearing black in my car, the mess is nothing too large or intimidating by vacuum standards. Although there are copious amounts of the above listed substances in the vehicle, there is no substance that should cause clogs, suckability issues, or challenges for “The Detailer’s Choice.”

Upon first run of the Turbo Vac, I was pleasantly surprised. I began on the passenger’s side and vacuumed the seat, the floor mat, behind the seat and the cup holder. The suction power was pretty decent, and although it didn’t get the floor spotless, I didn’t really expect it too. That would have taken soap and water which is not part of the package. What the Turbo Vac did do is remove the free floating sand and grit from the surface, which is what a vacuum is supposed to do. And it was sort of fun to use. I was surprised that a 12V hand vac plugged into the cigarette lighter could do what it did. I was impressed.

I emptied out the fur and sand in the canister and moved to the other side of the vehicle. But my pleasure was short lived. I began to smell electrical burning. By the time I finished the floor on the driver’s side my Turbo Vac was no more. The little light on the front indicated it was still getting power, but the horrid electrical smell and the smoke pouring out of the motor were good indications that I had successfully annihilated the Turbo Vac. (I guess “smoke pouring” is a little bit of an exaggeration since I don’t think that tiny motor has the power to create “pouring” smoke, but you get the idea.) This was not exactly the end result I was going for. I killed it. I killed the Turbo Vac. And I was really quite excited that it was working so well on the first half of the vehicle. Apparently, “The Detailer’s Choice” isn’t so choice. I know that some may say that my vehicle is worse than others, and there are days that I will agree. That said, however, there are people who bring cars to detailers that rival mine in dirtiness and I would imagine that the detailer’s vacuums don’t poop out half way though the job. I will admit that $14.95 for the Turbo Vac is much less to spend than the $100 plus on a detailing job, but then again, the detailers would have actually finished the job, unlike the Turbo Vac that just gave up half way.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Transitions Lenses rock my world. I am lazy with a capital “L” when it comes to sunglasses. I always have the best of intentions when I purchase sunglasses, but since I am not one of those people who wears them to be cool, they usually end up either 1) left on the kitchen or bathroom counter, 2) left in the car, 3) left in the bag I was sure I was going to need or 4) stuck in the deepest recesses of some drawer somewhere in my house. Sometimes they end up in the bathroom cabinet, and sometimes they end up in the glasses graveyard that is my bedside table, but more often than not I’m a little unclear as to where they actually end up since they pretty much leave my field of consciousness immediately upon purchase.

The most interesting phenomenon about this is that I wear glasses and therefore my sunglasses are prescription. As such, they are not cheap. In fact they are rather pricey even though I tend to opt out of the high fashion styles. Nonetheless, I will wear said prescription sunglasses for a few days, maybe even a few weeks and then I’ll forget them one time when I go out. After that, the seal is broken and I’ll forget them every consecutive time, until I have no idea where I saw them last and the decision comes down from high that I don’t really need them anyway.

Since I know that direct sunlight is bad for my eyes, I have attempted to remedy myself of this terrible habit time and time again. I started with nonprescription sunglasses (back in the day that I actually wore contact lenses) but that became too complicated because I didn’t wear contact lenses all the time and therefore I had to time my contact lense wearing with the potential need for sunglasses wearing and that was just a logistical nightmare. I can barely coordinate my outfits without Garanimals so to expect to be able to coordinate my eyewear with my day’s activities is just too much to bear. Once I gave up the contact lense ghost, I tried prescription sunglasses, but since you’ve read to here, you already know how that turned out. Then I tried prescription glasses with the sunglass clips. I figured that those would be somehow less complicated than having two different pairs of glasses for different functions. The clip seemed so small and simple. A little clip that slips anywhere and allows you to turn your regular glasses into sunglasses with the flick of a metal catch. What I didn’t consider was the little clip also tends to be very illusive and thus requires a great deal of attention to assure it is not regularly misplaced. I am sad to report, it was. Early, often and at the cost of >$150 each time. This little clip habit become very costly, very rapidly.

There was also the small problem of loosing the clip right around the time my glasses style stopped being made. So the >$150 clip replacement turned into a >$300 new pair of glasses. Awesome right? Nothing says it’s going to be good day like realizing that the simple task of replacing the same item you’ve already replaced a half a dozen times is now discontinued and no longer exists.

So to avoid such annoyances and protect what little vision I have left, I opted for Transitions Lenses. It certainly seemed ideal. One pair, no periodic contact lense wearing, no changing frames based on location or activity, no loosing clips. Ahhh…simplicity.

If you are not familiar with Transitions Lenses they are the glasses that have some magical property that makes them darken in the sun and lighten in the shade. Their initial ad campaign featured an attractive woman in a sperm suit walking from the dark inside to the light outside and her Transitions Lenses doing what they do best to accommodate her visual needs. Her sperm suit not withstanding, her glasses did their job. They successfully darkened when she went outside thus minimizing glare, reducing eye stress, blocking 100% of harmful UVA and UVB radiation and lowering her risk of developing certain eye diseases. Not bad for some plastic and wire.

Although I would love to be as attractive as the mystery sperm-suit lady, I was pretty sure Transitions Lenses would not help in that regard. Nonetheless, I purchased some. They may not make me hot, but at least they’ll keep me from going blind, and as far as product claims go, that’s good enough for me.

You can get your Transitions Lenses to tint to different colors depending on your taste, frame color or dominant wardrobe color. They really are pretty great and honestly they do alleviate the concern of having to remember yet another thing every time you leave the house. I was told by a colleague that they don’t change well in the cold, but have found that to not be true. The only issue that I have with Transitions Lenses is that they can’t distinguish between “sunlight” and “glare”. The glare from snow makes it appear brighter than it actually is, so in the winter my glasses tend to get darker than is necessary for the actual sky brightness based on the angle of the sun. Some days this does not bother me, but other days it feels like I’m living in Alaska where the sun doesn’t rise beyond dawn for weeks on end. That said, if you live somewhere with no snow, don’t care about dark glasses or actually prefer to be incognito, Transitions Lenses are for you. They certainly make maintaining eye health easier, and as far as I’m concerned, anything that makes maintaining health on any level easier is a major asset. Transitions Lenses definitely do their job. I suppose as far as preventing blindness, I’ll have to get back to you on that one in about 20 years, but so far, so good.

Friday, February 5, 2010


You’ve all seen the infomercials, the highly sculpted, bronzed Tony Horton telling you that even you can have a P90X body in 90 days. Even you can commit to this program because you will never get bored with the 12 different workouts. Even you can commit to this diet plan because you will get the cookbook filled with delicious, low calorie, low fat foods that anyone can cook regardless of skill. And this time it will be effective because this workout causes something they Beach Body people call Muscle Confusion™. (Interesting that you can trademark that phase, but I digress.) Muscle Confusion™ is basically the theory that your muscles will never plateau because you keep changing the workouts and your body never actually acclimates to it. As a result, your muscles continue to work as hard over time as they did when you began your workouts and you continue to get stronger and leaner. This is not only a great theory, and it actually works.

My wife and I are both pretty health conscious people. She was a competitive body builder and a personal trainer, I am a yoga instructor and we both work out regularly with a combination of cardiovascular activity, weight training, yoga and tai chi. Nonetheless, every once in awhile, we like to shake things up a bit and do something different. We decided that we wanted to shake things up by P90X-ing our way to perfection. We ordered, it arrived, we hung the pull up bar, we began. We figured that despite the fact that we are both ice cream addicts, we could do anything for 90 days. I was a little more committed to the cause having never been a competitive body builder with 3% body fat, and I was truly intrigued as to what I might look like in such a state.

I did take the “before” picture which I can thankfully say that I deleted from the digital camera before it saw the light of day. Granted it wasn’t that bad a picture, but I did what they always do with those “before” and “after” photos and put on my crappiest sports bra and my giant grandma panties. I was laughing the whole time, but I had to look my worst to give myself the greatest distance to go in my path to the perfect body. That’s just how it’s done.

I cooked from the cookbook and we worked out with the videos. We followed the protocol by the letter for about 4 weeks and then our bodies started failing us. Now mind you, we are not Adonis by any stretch of the imagination, but we are above average in physical fitness level. Our cardio capacity and endurance is greater, our strength to weight ratio is higher, and ability to withstand the pain of a workout is larger. Nonetheless, this workout program kicked both of our asses.

The introduction to all of the video CDs provides a warning that P90X is an extreme workout and that you should not do it if you have any sort of physical issues. This is an understatement. We didn’t have physical issues before we started, we did when we stopped. Although each of the videos within P90X is fantastic in and of itself, the rigorous combination of the 12 of them with little rest is more than most people can and should take. The sheer quantity of pull ups and push ups that one must do in a week are mind numbing and unfortunately the sheer number of repetitive exercises led to some repetitive injuries. Nothing that a little time and rest didn’t fix, but definitely enough to make us stop the program. I’m not talking about muscle pain here and there which we are both used to, and actually rather enjoy to some extent. No I’m talking about joint and tendon pain. I’m talking about badness in elbows and shoulders and knees. I’m talking about pains that I didn’t get when I trained for the Houston Marathon and my wife didn’t get when she was winning body building competitions. That kind of pain.

The ads for P90X state that it is an extreme fitness program, and extreme it is. I am not sure that I want to meet the person that can make it through the whole program, all exercises, every repetition, as developed. I would have to say it would take, among other things, superhuman strength and perfect joints to get though the full 90 days without a major physical crisis. Maybe I do want to meet that person, I’d ask them what they put in their cornflakes, because I definitely want some. Although I may not have the kindest things to say about the program as a whole, I can and will say that P90X is still worth the money because the videos are exceptional and the workouts, while challenging and excessive as a 90 day program, are fantastic when done individually.

I can’t in good conscious actually recommend the P90X program as advertised, since I think that most people of average or even above average fitness levels will find themselves struggling and in some sort of non-muscle related pain, but I can recommend the videos as individual workouts to bring your daily routine up a notch. We still scatter the video workouts into our regular fitness routine, but have not yet recommitted to the whole 90 day program. Both of us are a little scared to try. Granted neither of us is 20 anymore, and our bodies don’t heal quite as fast as they used to, but 4 months of recovery for 4 weeks of workouts just isn’t right. The numbers just don’t work.

I never made it to the “after” photo. I’m pretty sure that after the 4 weeks I was leaner and stronger and looked much better in the grandma panties, although I can’t be too sure. After that photo, I tossed them. We’re all much better off without those in the world.