The Heritage Foundation, like most US organisations which can accept tax-deductible donations, is in the last stages of their end-of-year appeal. This is an important time of year for such US organisations as it is the end of the tax year for donation purposes, just like in Australia at the end of June when our tax year ends. Of course, being an Australian, I’m not eligible for any tax rebate for donating to a US organisation.
Like most organisations, Heritage is flooding supporters with email requests for donations, and including a link to the donation form on their website. Unfortunately this form has a bug which causes it to not handle transactions involving non-US credit cards properly. The transaction will succeed, but the page will claim it was declined and advise you to check the address you entered. It wasn’t until the third attempt that I worked this out…so yes, silly me did just give them triple the donation I meant to give.
The good news is that Heritage believe they can reverse the unintended payments…but not until Monday morning their time when some of their senior staff are back on deck, and by then I figure it will cost them extra in fees because my bank will have finished processing the payments, so I won’t bother and instead will just not donate to them for a while. I will call them back on Monday to make sure their senior staff are aware of the issue though.
So, if you’re using a non-US credit card and want to donate to The Heritage Foundation, their website buries a contact number ((800) 546-2843) and a link to a PayPal page (to which I won’t link…if you want to use it, go via the above link to the Heritage website rather than trusting a direct link to PayPal from my site) half way down an FAQ page. If only I’d seen that earlier.
Meanwhile I was also going to donate to Hillsdale College’s end-of-year campaign, but their website doesn’t accept non-US postal addresses (due to the same problems which Heritage have, perhaps?) and they have to be called by phone. Unfortunately they went home before 5PM eastern time, so that will have to wait until next week.
I did, however, donate to the Institute Of Public Affairs‘ end-of-year campaign (although why they have one at the end of the year, apart from it being a nice date, escapes me).
It is nice to start 2015 on a conservative note by supporting these organisations, even if it is requiring more effort than I was expecting.
It was good fun being on with Casey today. For the most part it was a normal show covering a normal gamut of topics for a local talk show, but it was switched up a little in the final hour when Casey opened the lines for “Ask An Aussie”. Thanks to Casey’s producer Tim for taking the photo
Casey podcasts his show, so although my recording in the hotel room worked, I can just direct you to Casey’s podcast if you want to hear any of the show. I’ll also be nice and give you direct links to the specific downloads.
(Each hour runs about 38 minutes as commercial breaks and news breaks have been omitted).
Many thanks to Casey for having me on today, as well as producer Tim, station program director Jon Zimney, and a shout-out to Mark McGill who hosts MNC’s morning program Michiana’s Morning News…you got me with that phone call…I had no idea who you were or what you were going on about, and I was so confused that I didn’t (at the time, anyway, I have re-listened since) catch all of the Aussie slang you threw in…well done! And as Casey said, thanks for arranging the tour of ABC57, it was great to see how a local TV station does things in South Bend in comparison to how things are done in Australia.
I have a lot of photos and a few stories to share about my time in Las Vegas (which comes to an end this morning) and not enough time to post them right now, but before I leave Las Vegas I would like to share this.
On Wednesday afternoon I went out to the Green Valley Range in Henderson with Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey, where Billy gave me instruction on firing his Ruger P95, a lightweight weapon which is probably a good starting point for someone as small as me.
Billy ran me through a safety briefing and introduction to the P95, and demonstrated the firing of it.
(I never noticed until this photo just how much bigger that shirt is compared to the top I had on over it)
Then it was my go, under Billy’s careful watch and mentoring, and a light holding of my right shoulder while I got used to the kick of the gun.
Here are a couple short videos of me shooting the P95. You can’t really see much of what I’m firing at, but you can see enough.
And the targets. In this first one, the clump of shots which hit right on top of each other dead-centre in the target were Billy’s. The rest were mine. All good, but that shot in the arm was definitely a stray.
And the 2nd target. All of these shots were mine.
I definitely have a bias to the right (would you expect anything else from me?) but this could be corrected with practice. Still, for a first go, I was happy with the results.
A very big thanks to Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey for the outing. It was a very enjoyable experience.
I had great fun visiting the studios of TWiT.tv (known as the TWiT Brick House) yesterday. I had all the photos ready to go for this blog post yesterday afternoon, but ironically ran in to a technical hurdle when I realised that there was some video as well. I’ll get to that shortly…but first…
The TWiT Brick House as seen from the other side of Keller St, Petaluma
The studios are located at 140 Keller St, Petaluma. TWiT’s wiki provides helpful directions, but it was easier to find than I expected. The building is quite distinctive on this street and the recommended parking garage which is listed on the site is about half a minute’s walk from the studios. I took a little longer than that to walk from my car to TWiT though as I took a detour to the other side of the road to take that photo.
I got there a little earlier than I had expected, a tad before 10am.
When I got inside, staff were discussing a lighting issue with some contractors, and accidentally turned off a bunch of lights in the studio in the process. Staff were busy, so I filled out the mandatory waiver and waited a few moments until they were less busy and could take me through. The studio portion of the building takes up a tad over half of the floor space, with other rooms taking up the other side of the building in an upside-down L shape with studio entrances behind reception next to the roundtable set, and another around the back near Leo’s office/set, and a kitchen and toilets. The place actually looks bigger to me in real life than it does on screen. It is quite an impressive setup.
Tech News Today with Mike Elgan was about to start when I took a seat.
Tech News Today with Mike Elgan being filmed on February 12, 2014
One thing which was impressed me was how little of this news program was scripted. Story introductions and some questions were scripted, but most of Mike’s questions were not scripted. I might just be a bit too used to Australian news formats where questions are generally scripted, so it was nice to see proof of an anchor who truly understands the subject matter.
Just off to the right of the set from the perspective of where I was seated is another set which is used for The Giz Wiz among other shows. The program feed which was going out for broadcast was visible on the main screen on this set.
And if I walked a little way down the Giz Wiz set and looked across where Mike Elgan was seated, Leo’s office/set can be seen through the window, and on this side of that glass is where his weekend show’s call screener Heather Hamann sits. At the far-left of the photo a large analog clock can be seen. This is on the back wall of the studio portion of the building, and is quite an attractive feature of that wall, but is sadly obscured by other objects in the wide shot of the studio used between shows on the live stream.
Throughout the filming of Tech News Today, I had wanted to get my digital SLR camera out, but alas I could not as opening the velcro pouch would make too much noise and I did not want to interrupt or interfere with the broadcast. So I waited until after the show finished, only to discover that it was a waste of time as it could not handle the large variations in light levels of different bits of the room and was either giving me good images of peripheral bits of the set with bright white people and random bright white objects, or it was giving me great images of the main focal points of the show, with almost black everywhere else. This might be fixable if I spent enough time playing with the camera’s settings, but I didn’t go to TWiT to play with my camera.
It was also interesting to note that for this show, the remote side of the conversation can be heard aloud without the need for headphones.
Shortly after this I proceeded to Leo’s office/set where he was preparing for Windows Weekly #349 with Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley. Leo’s set is awesome to be a visitor in, as the guest seating is extremely comfortable and the wireless headphones are also very comfortable (even for someone like me for whom many headphones cause the frame of my glasses to dig in to my head).
I’ve never noticed the monitor on the front of Leo’s desk before (it’s never really in shot, presumably so as to avoid a visual loop effect) which makes it easy as a visitor to see how what is happening in front of you is being packaged for broadcast.
Over this side of the room, behind the visitor chairs, is a monitor following the TWiT.TV IRC chat session, and the line and preview monitors of the Tricaster vision switcher which is important as Leo switches his own shows when they are being produced from his office/set, whereas other shows are switched from a central control centre in the middle of the TWiT set. Two of the cameras are visible here (one for Leo’s solo shot, and the other for the “Leo plus Skype monitor” shot. On the other side of the glass is where Heather Hamman screens calls for Leo’s weekend radio show and also is the location of the set used by Tech News Today, and then on the far wall, a collection of hats which I was very happy to see for a reason I’ll explain in just a moment.
On this side of the set you can see another camera (the one which faces the window so that Heather Hamman can be on-camera) and at the top right of the bookcase is a dropcam producing a live feed on the internet at most hours.
After Windows Weekly finished, I presented Leo with some gifts. One was an Australia hat (Leo’s collection of hats pleased me as I knew then that I was giving a hat to a connoisseur of hats. I also gave Leo some Tim Tams, which led to Leo demonstrating his favourite way of eating a Tim Tam…biting off the ends and then drinking his coffee or tea through the Tim Tam as if it was a straw. I thought by this stage the live stream had switched to the next set (I had stopped paying attention to the monitors by this stage) and only later, to my pleasant surprise, realised that Leo’s Tim Tam demonstration, our little chat, and a quick photo shoot, had been broadcast.
We chatted about a few things including the time I had Leo on Samuel’s Persiflage, the top I was wearing (seeing as Leo has had some fun with the stories about the NSA spying on everyone and everything, I wore a hoodie with the message “The NSA: the only part of government that actually listens”…I also wore my Linux.Conf.Au 2005 t-shirt as it has a staged IRC session on the back of it which I thought Leo would enjoy, but I was having so much fun that I forgot to show him), and how interesting and mind-bending it is to get used driving on the other side of the road. The conversation was picked up to some degree at first by Leo’s studio microphone, and then later by an open mic in another part of the building. I left it all in the above video for posterity.
Now, for what is now a treasured item:
It was an honour and lots of fun to meet Leo and spend some time in the TWiT Brick House. As always, Leo went out of his way to make sure it was fun…while we had our photo taken he put on an Australian accent…I was too amused to remember exactly what he said but it certainly amused me.
One other mystery which was solved yesterday is the purpose of the symbol on Leo’s clock next to the top half of the final digit of the minutes. I’ve never watched in high definition so couldn’t identify it, but now I know it indicates the Pacific timezone, with the other US timezones not being illuminated.
I had a blast. A very big thank you to Leo and all of the TWiT.tv staff.
If you’re ever in the area, may I recommend Halli’s diner opposite the parking garage about half a minute’s walk away from the TWiT Brick House. Absolutely fantastic lunch and lovely staff. I will probably pop in to the diner again today as I would like to do some sightseeing around Petaluma today, and the old TWiT studio (TWiT Cottage) is a short distance from the current studio, and I would like to see it while remaining respectful of the privacy of the new occupants.
Now, that technical challenge I mentioned at the top.
How to download a particular portion of a long video from Justin.tv
One of the video streaming providers for TWiT, Justin.tv, temporarily keeps an archive of everything they stream (the archived video lasts a few days). While it is preferable to record the live video as it is a much simpler process, TWiT’s wiki also details how to download from Justin.tv’s archive.
The basic idea is that, using Firefox and an extension called Downloadhelper, you go to the Justin.tv video you want to watch and then tell Downloadhelper to download that file. The problem though is two-fold:
1) TWiT’s videos on Justin.tv run for many hours as they cover an entire day’s broadcasts and sometimes more (my clip, for example, was 52 hours in to the video).
2) This method only downloads the first half hour of the video.
The solution, until recently, was to mark a section of the video as a highlight, which gave it its own unique URL which Downloadhelper could use to download just that portion of the video. Alas the highlighting function was removed from Justin.tv about a week ago, meaning that downloading the first half hour of the video seemed to be the only option…so how do you make Downloadhelper download a half hour starting at a time of your choosing rather than the start of the video?
A clue comes in the way Justin.tv handles a request to move playout from the existing window to another separate window. It adds a string to the end of the URL to tell the new window at what point in the video to start (although the Downloadhelper plugin is not easily accessible from such a window, so simply opening a popout window at your chosen starting point is not going to work for this purpose).
Instead, open the video as normal and figure out what point you want to start downloading from. Then, work out how many seconds that is (in my case it was a little short of 186,960 seconds) and then add the following string to the end of the URL in the address bar:
where “SECONDS” is replaced by the number of seconds.
So, for example, in my case the address of the video went from
which allowed me to make Downloadhelper download 30 minutes of video from a starting point of my choice, and I was then able to edit the video to my required duration.
It’s Super Bowl Day. I must profess to knowing little about American Football (it probably looks as foreign to me as Australian Rules does to Americans) but I am interested in the Super Bowl…this year I have an extra reason to be interested.
Last year, a friend in the US (Hi Gordon) sent me an NFL jersey from the Seattle Seahawks (a replica of the one worn by quarterback Russell Wilson to be precise). Seattle are in today’s Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. I’m wearing my Seahawks jersey and will be supporting them from afar.
A well-framed selfie (if I do say so myself) of me in my Seahawks jersey.
Over the last couple of days I’ve posted some very heavy stories on this blog, so it was great timing that I received official confirmation of my annual leave application being approved, and therefore today I can finally make the details of my trip publicly known.
The pleasing automated email I received yesterday
Long-term readers of this blog would know that I have a keen interest in US politics and the country in general, and have wanted to make my way over there for quite some time. For various reasons I had a few false starts and couldn’t go before now, and had falsely raised the hopes of a few friends over there when I thought I could go, but ended up not being able to go. (My annual leave application has been unofficially approved for months, but to avoid disappointment I didn’t want to go public until it was definitely official)
In late 2012 I saw that it looked like it was finally going to be possible and started forming a few vague plans and saving up my annual leave (hence the reason I can take so much time off work). It quickly became apparent that, as people I know in the US had spread out across the country quite a bit of late, visiting most or all of them was going to be best accomplished by doing something else I’ve wanted to do…go for a driving holiday in a foreign country.
I started planning the trip based on driving everywhere and stopping in interesting places along the way. This plan, due to time and budget constraints, turned out to be a “go go go” trip with minimal time in each location, so then I started dropping some of the places that were of a lower priority (I can always see them at a later date) and then with a solid basis for a plan, added a little time in some places to give me more time to account for possible weather delays and a public holiday.
What I ended up with is this.
Click map to enlarge
This map shows all of the main destinations for my trip. How I plan for it to unfold is like this:
Tuesday 11 Feb
Depart Australia. Flying from Canberra to Sydney, then Sydney to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Thanks to the time difference I should get to San Francisco around the middle of the day, however I am not staying in San Francisco as I am hiring a car and driving straight to Petaluma which is a small town about an hour north of San Francisco.
With all going well, I should get to the hotel with a couple hours left before sunset.
Wednesday 12 Feb and Thursday 13 Feb
On the Wednesday I’m going to visit the studios of TWiT.tv, Leo Laporte’s technology podcast network (I interviewed Leo when TWiT was just starting to grow back in 2006) and am planning to use the rest of my time in Petaluma getting over any jet lag and doing some sightseeing around Petaluma and San Francisco.
Friday 14 Feb
The full day is set aside (and will be needed) for a drive to Las Vegas. I’m sure there will be a few stops along the way, and I plan on ensuring Bakersfield is one of them.
Saturday 15 Feb – Thursday 20 Feb
This time will be spent in Las Vegas with the possibility of some brief trips to nearby places of interest. People who have been reading this blog for a long time will know that I have quite a few friends in the Las Vegas area…my visit to Vegas is probably not going to be the normal visit of a tourist but I’ll still be doing some of the “tourist things”. I have arranged to meet some friends in Vegas already and hope to make many more plans as well.
Friday 21 Feb
On this day I will be returning the car I have hired and will be flying to Kansas City. I could not get a direct flight to Kansas City and so this trip will take most of the day, but is quicker than two full days of driving. Upon arrival in Kansas City I will be picking up another hire car…one more suitable for the rather cold locations which make up the rest of the trip.
Saturday 22 Feb
I’m looking forward to seeing the interesting sights of Kansas City and meeting a friend who used to live in Vegas.
Sunday 23 Feb
I’ll be driving to the town of Fort Dodge, Iowa on this day. This should only take a few hours so I may have a bit of spare time in Kansas City in the morning and some in Fort Dodge in the afternoon.
Monday 24 Feb
This will be a day for some sightseeing in Fort Dodge and meeting Bill Grady (Bill and I interviewed each other a few times in 2006 and have kept in touch since). Bill is a really good guy who now runs a news website for Fort Dodge and to whom I give lots of credit for sparking a lot of my interest in US news and politics, and being the first person to properly explain to me the 2nd amendment and its historical reason for being.
Tuesday 25 Feb
I’ll be driving to South Bend, Indiana on this day. Given the distance and the fact that I lose an hour by crossing from Central Time to Eastern Time along the way, the full set of daylight hours has been allocated to this.
Wednesday 26 Feb – Sunday 2 March
South Bend, near the Indiana/Michigan border will my base for this time.
Long-term readers of this blog would be familiar with the name Casey Hendrickson. Casey now resides and works near South Bend and I’m looking forward to meeting Casey and some other friends in Indiana during this time.
Other highlights will hopefully include a trip to the nearby town of Hillsdale, Michigan where the fantastic Hillsdale College is (seeing their life-size statues of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and other historical figures is something I’m very excited about), and I’m looking forward to trying out a new shooting range at Rocket Guns in Goshen, Indiana.
Monday 3 March
Another one of my full day drives…this time to Arlington, Virginia which is just outside Washington D.C.
Tuesday 4 March – Friday 7 March
I’m very much looking forward to seeing D.C. and a lot of the nearby spots including Baltimore and Leesburg. If time permits, I might also make a day-trip out of a visit to a friend in New Jersey.
Saturday 8 March
This is the day that I depart from the US. I’ll drop off the rental car and fly out from Reagan International Airport, heading to Canberra via airports in Los Angeles and Brisbane. I’ll be back at home late on Monday the 10th of March, leaving me the better part of two weeks at home before I have to go back to work (and probably make up for my absence with Pebbles).
I’m looking forward to it very much and will provide some more details before I go. I also hope to keep this blog updated with details from my trip while I’m over there.
It has been quite a while since I posted much of anything to this blog and I should probably explain why. Shortly after I returned from Deniliquin following Paul Dix’s funeral, my dear old dog Nattie died. Nattie had been a little bit unwell for a little while prior to this, but I thought she was on the mend, so her passing came as more than a bit of a shock and at a time when I wasn’t really in the best state of mind to deal with it. Ever since then I have wanted to write a eulogy of some sort for Nattie, but have found it impossible to start. To some extent I have felt that by not writing it, I have kept part of Nattie alive and close to me, but of course as time has passed Nattie has not returned and I have started to feel a bit guilty about not writing Nattie’s eulogy sooner. Writing much else on here prior to Nattie’s eulogy seemed wrong, and it seems like the right time now to break this loop of inactivity.
It is safe to say that Nattie’s passing has hit me quite a bit harder than I have been willing to admit.
Nattie was a lovely dog. She was not my first pet as I had a caterpillar (Captain Caterpillar was his name) a couple years before I had Nattie, but she was my first dog. Captain Caterpillar sadly did not live and long-and-prosperous life as he was consumed by a parasite which is apparently commonly used in pest control to prevent caterpillars from reaching maturity and being able to reproduce. Nattie, thankfully did not face such a grizzly end, although it was quite clear that her final hours were not comfortable.
Nattie joined my household in November 2000. At this stage Nattie was an adult dog and we believe she was close to a year-and-a-half old at the time. Originally we thought she was younger than that, but evidence eventually proved us wrong. Prior to coming to live with us, Nattie had been trained to be a companion dog for an elderly lady in Sydney…what exactly this entailed, we don’t know, but she would go berserk if anyone came to the front door and was more than happy to lie quietly on a lap for an extended period of time, much more so than Pebbles is, and so we suspect this was part of it.
Unfortunately the elderly lady died, and Nattie was inherited by one of her nieces…a lady in the Canberra suburb of O’Connor. This lady already had two dogs who were much larger than Nattie, and with whom it seemed Nattie did not get along. The lady was worried about Nattie and eventually decided that the only solution was to sell Nattie so that she would have a chance at a better life elsewhere. We don’t know how much time had passed since the elderly lady in Sydney had passed away, but one Saturday her niece put a classified advertisement in The Canberra Times and we saw it.
If memory serves, the lady was only asking $150 for Nattie as she was more concerned with making sure Nattie went to a good home than with making money out of her sale. I’m not entirely sure that it was $150…I think that’s right but it might have been a slightly different amount…I don’t fully recall as I was 13-years-old and the lady would not discuss financial transactions with a child.
As it was a Saturday, it was cleaning day. Dad stayed at home to continue with the cleaning while Mum and I went to O’Connor to see the dog in the paper and see if she seemed like the right dog for us. I’ll never forget what happened when we got there. The other dogs weren’t interested in our arrival in the slightest, but this little dog ran over to the gate more excitedly than just about any other time I can think of and she pushed her nose through the wire gate and was licking us and sniffing us and was just generally excited to see us. It was as if she knew that we had come to rescue her.
We bought her and took her home where she met Dad and befriended him quite quickly after a moment of apprehension when she first saw him. We suspect that she was mistreated a little bit by a man before we bought her as there were a few odd flinches and similar reactions from Nattie from time-to-time…their weirdest one of all was that she absolutely hated anyone touching any of her feet at first. We helped her grow out of that, but there was still the occasional sign of some mistreatment in her past.
The main reason we thought she was younger than she was when we got her home (apart from the lady in O’Connor not knowing) was her weight. Nattie weighed only two kilograms when we got her. For an adult Jack Russell Terrier that is severely underweight. Eventually, with a good diet, she stabilised at about 6-7kg, although she was a fussy eater and would refuse almost every dog food in existence. With dry dog food she would eventually eat very small amounts of it and pick out the green bits and leave them on the floor, and for a little while she would eat Pal’s Little Champions, but only if the tin was freshly opened…no leftovers accepted. Her diet for most of her life consisted mostly of meats and small amounts of vegetables prepared at home in one way or another, and bones, which she seemed to enjoy.
I should probably note that when we got Nattie, her name was Nellie. That happens to be the name of one of my aunties so it seemed like a bad idea to keep that way, so we changed it to Nattie, which became short for Natalie. Her full name was Natalie Darling Gordon-Stewart, although I did sometimes refer to her as “Nats”. When she was older I quite often called her “Natalie” as it seemed somewhat appropriate for a dog of a mature age.
Nattie’s sleeping arrangements changed many times through her life. At first she slept with me. I remember her first night at home. I had just settled her down at the end of my bed and went over to turn on my clock radio as I always went to bed with the radio on…I pushed the button and the radio started to make some noise…it wasn’t very loud but it startled Nattie. She looked up at the radio with some alarm, the jumped off my bed and bolted downstairs. I had to turn the radio down a bit and coax her back upstairs…it took a few nights but she eventually got used to the radio.
On another night Nattie took exception to the loud snoring coming from my parents’ room and tried to stop Dad from snoring. He awoke, somewhat startled, to a thing on his face and, thinking someone or something was trying to suffocate him, got up with a start and yelling, which had the effect of throwing Nattie half way across the room and scaring her to the point that she hid in the far corner under my bed. The first I knew of this was when Dad woke me up to ask me to get Nattie out from under my bed so that we could comfort her. It took some coaxing with some cheese to get her out…which incidentally is the same way we taught her to use the doggy door…but she came out and didn’t try that again.
At one stage Nattie got in to the habit of barking at 6am. She would stand at the end of my bed and bark. Maybe she was trying to beat the alarm clock (which was set for 7am) or maybe she was awake and wanted to play…either way, that plus her gradual spreading out along the bed meant that her sleeping on my bed was no longer tenable. We moved her to under my bed, but she would get up too rapidly and bang her head on the bottom of my bed, so we moved her to her own bed downstairs, but the number of toilet-related events in the house increased and so Dad built Nattie a kennel for her to sleep in at night. The kennel was a large wooden box which was up on a bench and I think it might have been bolted to the wall…in it was Nattie’s normal bed consisting of a sheepskin in a pillowslip plus a blanket. The entrance to the box was covered with a towel to help minimise drafts and, in winter especially, keep the heat in. During winter, we would give Nattie a covered hot water bottle and place it under her sheepskin, to provide some extra warmth. On more than a few occasions we found that Nattie had been so comfortable in her bed of a night, that she had brought a bone in to the bed to chew on.
Eventually, once we were confident that Nattie’s toilet training had resumed being of a satisfactory competency, we let her sleep inside again…at first with a cut down version of the box, and then a succession of other beds. Towards the end, Nattie’s bed was one of our old lounge chairs and eventually a converted lower-section of a wardrobe in my parents’ room.
Nattie in one of her beds, circa 2005.
Nattie loved her walks, and playing ball. She regularly wore the squeak out on any squeaky toy, and would squeak toys at people in a very cheeky and playful manner. When she was young we would regularly take her on long walks…she was apprehensive of metal light poles after one of the first long walks when she sniffed at one on Ainslie Avenue and got a static shock on her nose from the pole. I also remember one of her other early walks in January 2001 when we took her up Mount Ainslie at dawn, stopping for water at such regular intervals that she would look at the water which we poured out for her as if she thought we had gone crazy for stopping for water yet again. After that walk, Nattie slept for a solid three hours, which was unheard of for her during daylight hours. We had to carry her half of the way home from another of the long walks when she, as she often did, accompanied us to BBC Hardware on Mort Street, Braddon, next to the telephone exchange…it was just a tad too far for her on that day (it was a warm day) and she stopped outside the old Ainslie Primary School and refused to move another inch.
I took her to see the hot air balloons during the annual balloon fiesta on a few occasions. She wasn’t too keen on the hot air balloons, but enjoyed the bacon which was always being cooked there. For a while, every Sunday morning I would take Nattie for a walk in to Civic to the newsagency which was opposite the David Jones end of the Canberra Centre, where we would buy the newspaper and then, on our way back home, walk past the little round cafe where the people there were quite fond of Nattie and would give her some bacon.
Nattie at the 2005 Canberra Balloon Fiesta
Nattie enjoying bacon at the 2006 Balloon Fiesta
Early on in Nattie’s life, she hated the vacuum cleaner with a passion. She would bark at it and bite at it…of course we found this to be funny so we played on it a bit and it became a bit of a game. As time went by, Nattie’s dislike of the vacuum cleaner lessened, but she still enjoyed playing a game of “attack the vacuum monster” if we started using it around her in a playful manner. One day I was using the vacuum cleaner in reverse to get compressed air for a dust-removal task…Nattie came outside to see what I was doing and left quickly when I blew a bit of air on her…I suppose she didn’t like the Vacuum Monster blowing warm air on her. “Oh goodness, it used to try to eat me…now it’s trying to cook me” she might have thought…later she took that as a game as well.
The hair dryer was originally not on her list of favoured things, probably because it only came out after the dreaded bath and was the subject of guilt by association. While Nattie never started to like the bath and would do her best to avoid it, she did enjoy the drying off afterwards and came to enjoy the hair dryer being part of that process, and the ball game which inevitably followed to get her to run around a bit to also help dry her off.
Dad drying Nattie with the hair dryer
Nattie got greyer as time went on. Her dark tan sections of her coat started to grey around the muzzle first, before extending to the rest of her head and the remainder of her coat. Her three tan dots above her thigh on her right side were among the last parts to remain a tan colour.
Nattie in 2007
Nattie with me in 2009
Nattie on one of her many beds in 2011
Nattie in one of her favourite spots. The small upstairs north-facing window of sunshine, also in 2011
In November of 2011, we added another dog to the household, a little puppy named Pebbles. Prior to this, Nattie had been slowing down quite a bit, as could be expected of a senior citizen, and seemed to be going through the motions a bit when it came to activities such as ball games…she seemed to be participating in some of these things more because we enjoyed it and less because she enjoyed it. We got Pebbles because we thought Nattie could use a companion in her older years…Nattie might not have seen it that way at first though…the very first moment our backs were turned, Nattie made a point about making sure Pebbles knew who was boss. There were no injuries, but Pebbles probably got the point when she was shown teeth that were about as big as her head.
Nattie and Pebbles on the day Pebbles arrived
It took a little while, but Pebbles and Nattie seemed to get on reasonably well after a while. Pebbles was clearly more attached to Nattie than Nattie was to Pebbles, but Nattie seemed quite happy to relinquish ball-chasing duties to Pebbles, and they would sleep together fairly comfortably on many occasions. Nattie did occasionally join in a game with Pebbles, but generally found it too tiring to stay in the game for long. This video shows me playing ball with Pebbles, and Nattie joining in for a little while.
When we got Pebbles, Nattie was already showing signs of advancing arthritis in the rear legs, in addition to her eyesight being slowly eroded by cataracts. Despite this, if we went for a walk up to the Campbell High School oval and let them off for a run, Nattie was more than happy to join in and quite enjoyed it, even if for her it was more of a meander than a run.
Unfortunately the trouble for Nattie seemed to set in late in 2012. I remember when she had her annual injection in November 2012 that I raised with the vet that there seemed to be an increased amount of noise when she snored, and that she could really have tummy rubs much any more because it would induce a snorting, in a manner similar to the shortness of breath she used to experience when she was young. The vet wasn’t too concerned at the time, and said we should keep an eye on it…it wasn’t particularly uncommon but if it got worse, it might be necessary to drain some fluid.
Over the following year, Nattie’s willingness to go for walks reduced and she found it difficult to walk very far. Given her arthritis and age, this wasn’t a big concern either. Overall, Nattie just seemed to be ageing. If my eyesight was failing and I had arthritis in my leg joints, I probably wouldn’t want to walk all that far either.
In late August of this year, Nattie’s increased noise while snoring got worse, and expanded to her everyday breathing. Her breathing seemed to become quite laboured and her energy levels dropped markedly. I took her up to see the vet (Peter, her original vet, had returned to the practice after a period of semi-retirement) and he was concerned by what he observed. There were a number of possibilities as to the cause of her condition, the most likely of which was a hayfever-like allergic reaction…Nattie had suffered from them before and it was the only possibility which was treatable. Peter gave her a cortisone shot which was supposed to last a few days, with the idea being that if it was an allergic reaction, then cortisone should reduce the swelling and therefore help with her breathing. It worked, so Peter gave her a longer-lasting shot to hopefully ride out the time in which the allergen was present. It seemed to work…Nattie was much more active and her breathing was quiet.
Before I went to Deniliquin on the Wednesday for Paul Dix’s funeral, Nattie seemed reasonably well. There was a small amount of noise in her snoring, but nothing more than had been there a month prior. It was, if memory serves, the third week of the longer-lasting shot and it should have had another week to run, so to say I was stunned when I got back home late on the Thursday and found that Nattie was now worse than before I left would be an understatement. According to Mum and Dad, the relapse had happened in the space of a few hours on the Thursday.
The cortisone should have still been working if it was all down to an allergic reaction. We all knew this meant that there was almost certainly something more serious happening, but we didn’t say it. On the Friday, Nattie was clearly quite uncomfortable…her breathing was very laboured and she was extremely sluggish. Mum and I both took her up to see Peter (Dad had to work) and he was very concerned…he explained the situation, explaining how it seemed that a tumour was most-probably blocking her airway and that the only way to really know for sure how bad it was and whether it was operable would be to give Nattie a general anaesthetic which, due to her age and her breathing difficulties, he was hesitant to do because her chances of survival were negligible from such a procedure. He gave her a booster shot of cortisone to try and reduce the swelling a bit and, without saying it in so many words, effectively told us that it wouldn’t solve the problem, but would make Nattie a tad more comfortable for a short time and would give us time to discuss what we wanted to do and maybe even seek a second opinion if we so desired.
Dad was on a late shift that night…I think he came home for dinner but I can’t really recall. I seem to recall that we discussed taking her in to see Peter first thing in the morning, but I don’t recall if that was in person or over the phone. What I remember is that, at first, the shot did help Nattie sleep a bit easier. She was still clearly very unwell, but at least she wasn’t struggling for breath all the time.
Nattie dozing on the night of September 27, 2013
Peter had informed us that he would be available by phone during the evening if we needed to talk as he had some late work to do at the surgery. As the night went on, Nattie’s breathing got worse again. We did out best to comfort her, but it was a very difficult night as we helplessly watched on as she would repeatedly manage to doze off, only for her breathing to slow and for her to wake up with a start to try and catch her breath. It was as torturous for us as I’m sure the experience must have been for Nattie.
Pebbles checking up on Nattie
Pebbles had showing concern for Nattie for quite some time, and was quite agitated on this night by the state of Nattie’s breathing. It was nice to see Pebbles trying to look after Nattie, but difficult at the same time to try and keep Pebbles calm as she seemed to be a bit distressed about Nattie.
I recall calling Peter at one stage during the evening, around 8:00 or 8:30, and him saying that he would call us back after 10:30 to see how Nattie was at that stage. In the meantime I believe he was dealing with a dog which had a broken leg. Dad got home from work around 11pm and it was very noticeable how much worse Nattie had gotten in just a few hours. Peter hadn’t called, and so I tried a few times over the course of the hour. We figured that he may have gone home after the surgery, which would have been quite reasonable considering that he opens again at 9am on a Saturday, and we decided that we would stay up with Nattie all night…we knew that we didn’t really have a choice and we were going to have to put Nattie down, and thought we would stay up with her through the night, and take her up to see Peter in the morning.
Well, just after midnight I decided to try Peter’s surgery number one more time…so my surprise the receptionist/nurse answered…they had just finished operating on the dog with the broken leg. Peter was concerned about Nattie and asked us to come up and see him right away. We were a bit hesitant, partially out of concern for Peter given how long he’d been working, and partially out of not really wanting to let Nattie go, but Nattie was very unwell so we agreed. Pebbles was concerned when we left with Nattie…we took Nattie up in a box with her favourite blanket in it as this seemed like the best way to keep her comfortable on the journey, and Peter and his assistant met us in the waiting room. I put Nattie on one of the chairs in the waiting room and we all kept her company while Peter examined her…it was very nice of Peter to see Nattie in the waiting room as this didn’t stress her out in the way the yellow table of the examination room would have.
Unfortunately Nattie was in very bad shape and we had to put her down. Nattie stayed on the chair the whole time. We all took a few moments to say goodbye to her. I stayed with her, patting her and talking to her, and generally keeping her company, while Mum and Dad were standing behind me. I was holding Nattie as Peter gave her the injection…I was amazed at how quickly it took effect and reduced to a tearful wreck at the same time. My lovely old dog was gone, and it was awful…utterly awful.
Peter’s assistant got us all a cup of tea…I can’t say that I drank much of the tea. We were all very upset, and Peter did his best to help us with our grief. I remember having a chat with him…I remember some of his words of wisdom…not all of them, but I do remember him saying at some stage that he didn’t think Nattie would have made it through the night and it was probably for the best for all of us that we had the opportunity to say goodbye. It was comforting having Peter there, and I think, in a way, although Nattie did like to try to bite Peter whenever the chance arose, there seemed to be a mutual respect between them, and I think Nattie would be glad that Peter was her doctor at the end.
We took Nattie home. It was very sombre. We let Pebbles see Nattie and she seemed to be relieved…the tension that Pebbles had been exhibiting all night was gone…whether she realised Nattie was gone or whether she just saw that Nattie wasn’t having breathing difficulties, I don’t know.
Nattie stayed in her box in the laundry for about half the day, and I think we all visited her a couple times during the day. By early-mid afternoon Dad finished building her a little wooden coffin. We buried Nattie in the backyard with a sheepskin and her favourite blanket, not far from the aviary, which Nattie seemed to like to look at.
Nattie’s final resting place in the back garden
I miss Nattie. I miss her cheeky and sneaky ways of obtaining food (or hiding food). I miss her curling up on my lap or taking up half of my chair when she wanted to lie down next to me. I miss her excitement, no matter how little distance she could cover, whenever I picked up the lead or said “walkies”. I miss how happy she was when I would come home and how, in her older years, she might sleep through my arrival and wake up a little later and still be excited to see me. I miss the waddling walk she would do, as well as her busy walk. I miss how she seemed to walk sideways when she was on the leash. I miss my chats with her. Basically, I just miss her. She was lovely. But I’m also glad that she isn’t suffering any more.
I had almost thirteen years with Nattie, and I dare say that thanks to Peter Burgess’ veterinary work, I probably had a few more weeks with her than I might otherwise have had. I will always be thankful for the time I had with Nattie. May she rest in peace.
Soon, we think, we will consider getting another puppy. Not to replace Nattie, but to help keep Pebbles company, and to add a bit more lovable chaos to our lives. It took Pebbles a little while to get over Nattie, and she was very upset when we buried Nattie, and while she has settled down now, it seems that she could benefit from some doggy company…she needs a playmate.
So, thank you for everything Nattie. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful companion, and I wouldn’t try. Thank you.
Today is a very exciting day for me because tonight, at 7 o’clock, I will be attending The Seekers’ concert here in Canberra.
When I was a child there were a few bands which I particularly liked and wanted to see in-person one day, although I didn’t really understand that many of the songs I was hearing were a good thirty or forty years old. There are a few bands and singers who are still on that list, but The Seekers have always been right up there at or near the top. I could barely contain my excitement when I found out last year that they were coming to Canberra, and I snapped up tickets as quickly as I could. Months have passed and the entry on my calendar has drawn nearer, and finally it is here.
I’m looking forward to a wonderful evening, and there are many songs which I am looking forward to hearing. These are but two of them.
And although I’m not expecting it, at the 1994 AFL Grand Final they performed a few songs which they wouldn’t normally perform (and Georgy Girl which they do normally perform) and it would be lovely to hear one or two of them. It would be particularly lovely to hear them sing the national anthem as they sing it with a level of dignity and respect which is wonderful and rare, but I don’t imagine that it will happen.
Last weekend on Saturday afternoon while I was watching the AFL (North Melbourne V Sydney) on the TV, with the TV muted and the webstream on SEN‘s commentary of the match on instead, Pebbles decided to partake in some bird watching, a task which has become a fair bit easier of late with the addition of some budgies and quails to the backyard.
Pebbles often stands at the cage and watches the birds. Unfortunately she also thinks it would be great fun to catch a small fluffy bird, and so she does get excited and jump on the cage a bit, which upsets the birds. Slowly she is being trained not to do that, but it doesn’t help when the birds realise that they are safe in the cage and taunt Pebbles by fluttering about directly in front of her.
In the video you can see Pebbles jump on the cage, at which point I had to call her back inside.
A little while later (when Pebbles had gone back outside) I decided to join her and watch the birds for a little while. Of course Pebbles decided early on in the piece that I wasn’t paying enough attention to her and that I needed to be climbed on.
The budgies and the quails seemed to be having quite a bit of fun.
In all of these videos, SEN’s AFL commentary can be heard in the background.
I am looking forward to seeing Mary Kissel, a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, addressing The National Press Club this afternoon.
Mary usually writes very insightful pieces on things happening in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in the United States. One piece in particular stands out in my mind and will, I hope, act as a preview for her address today.
September 24, 2012 11:27 a.m
BY MARY KISSEL
Liberal attacks on the tea party are nothing new, except when they come from a cabinet member of an allied nation—in this case, Australia. In a speech Friday in Sydney, Labor Party Treasurer Wayne Swan said “the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over a part of the Republican Party.” Mr. Swan, like many Democrats, just wants to spend more taxpayer monies.
(The use of the word “liberal” is used in the way Americans use it, and not as a reference to Australia’s Liberal Party. More can be read on wsj.com, but a subscription is required)
I am very much looking forward to being in attendance for Mary’s speech this afternoon, and I am hopeful that some of you may decide to watch what will, I’m sure, be a very interesting speech, live on ABC News 24 from 12:30pm (it is always nice and unusual to find something as interesting as this on ABC News 24, so that alone makes it worth tuning in).
If I get a moment, I may try to post a photo from there as the speech gets underway, but that will depend entirely on whether it seems appropriate.
Today is Pebbles’ first birthday. It is really quite hard to believe that almost a whole year has gone by since Pebbles came to stay. She was six weeks old when she arrived and made herself at home, and found that Nattie was very keen to make it known that the new dog would not be of a higher rank than her.
Nattie (right) and Pebbles (left) sharing a chair in the last few days…or to be more precise, Pebbles visiting Nattie and Nattie not budging out of her comfy spot
Since Pebbles’ arrival, Nattie has grown to like Pebbles quite a lot, although probably not quite as much as Pebbles likes Nattie. To say Pebbles is fond of Nattie would be a serious understatement. Nattie also seems to be happier and more active since Pebbles arrived and quite gladly joins in on ball games.
I filmed this last night as Pebbles wanted to play ball on the stairs and Nattie joined me at the bottom of the stairs where she tried to catch the balls as they came back to me. Nattie doesn’t like to run up and down the stairs like a crazy dog these days, but when I invited her up the stairs, she was very quick to find a loose ball to take back to her chair and chew on. My apologies for the video being a little bit out of focus.
A very happy first birthday to Pebbles! And a thank you to 2UE’s John Kerr who wished Pebbles a happy birthday on the radio at about 2:30 this morning.
In case you don’t already know, I’m up in Sydney today to see Tony Abbott deliver an address to the Institute of Public Affairs on the topic of freedom of speech. I’m led to believe he has an announcement to make.
As I have a bit of time while I’m up here, I decided to drop by the Seven Network studios at Martin Place and do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time…say hello to Glenn Wheeler in person as it has been far too long since I last did that.
Glenn was kind enough to spare a moment of his busy schedule…so I’m pleased to be able to present the one, the only, the great, and the incredibly psychic (or psycho, depending on which promo you listen to) (drum roll….) Glenn Wheeler! (I couldn’t afford his studio audience, so you’ll just have to imagine the applause).
Every few days Nattie and Pebbles go for a run in the afternoon instead of a walk. Usually they are taken up to the front oval of Campbell High School which is usually pretty quiet in the afternoon, especially in comparison to Reid Oval across the road, which is used by every football and cricket player, and every dog in the neighbourhood.
It also has the benefit of tiring them out, so that they want to have a sleep for a few hours when they get home. This is especially useful when it comes to Pebbles as she can be quite exhausting with seemingly near-endless amount of energy.
Anyway, while Nattie and Pebbles were having their run this afternoon, I filmed some of their activities. Enjoy!