dogs, funny stories, technology

Healthy habits spurred on by butt sniffers and smartwatches…

I have a couple of issues to address today. They aren’t really related, but I don’t feel like composing two posts. I hope you’ll bear with me, anyway.

Our dog, Noyzi, who came to us from Kosovo last fall, has really been turning into quite a charming beast. When we first got him, he was pretty terrified of most things. He was used to living outside with many other dogs, so he’d never encountered glass before. He bumped his head several times on the glass door before he learned that he couldn’t go through it. Now, he knows how to deal with the door and the mesh fly screen we put up earlier in the spring, although that scared him at first, too.

When Noyzi first joined us, he didn’t really know how to walk on a leash. I gave him a few lessons in the backyard before we took him out for his first walk around the neighborhood. He now walks on the leash like a champ and, in fact, even seems more secure when he’s on a leash than when he’s not. He’s become very civilized in that regard, willingly walking behind or beside me. He never pulls or barks, although sometimes if he’s excited or scared, he will freak out a little bit and backpedal. But those incidents are becoming fewer and further between.

Noyzi is a perfect gentleman when anyone rings the doorbell. Almost all of our other dogs, save for C.C. the beagle/husky mix, have barked like crazy when someone comes to the door. Now, Arran barks as usual, but Noyzi stays quiet. He doesn’t rush to the door, trying to get out or greet the stranger. In fact, he really doesn’t bark much at all, except for when the next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, is outside. I have rarely heard him utter more than a few high pitched yips, which I feel pretty sure aren’t the extent of his full on barking capabilities.

I have yet to see Noyzi be food aggressive or aggressive, in general, at all. He patiently tolerates Arran’s figurative rolling pin waving antics. Arran bitches Noyzi out regularly, trying desperately to cling to top dog status, which he never really had when we had Zane. Arran could really only dominate Zane when Zane wasn’t feeling well. But Noyzi, who is several times Arran’s size, puts up with Arran’s bossiness like a champ. I have noticed a little eye rolling, now and again, and Noyzi will sometimes sneak upstairs even though Arran often bitches at him when he tries to invade. But, for the most part, Noyzi quietly and patiently respects his place in the hierarchy and doesn’t make waves.

I couldn’t have asked for a more naturally obedient and intelligent pet. Noyzi doesn’t counter surf, and his begging for food is minimal and endearing. Noyzi didn’t even need to be house trained, which was a hugely pleasant surprise! It was like he was born to be an indoor dog, despite his size. He even enjoys being bathed!

The one thing Noyzi does do, however, is something that is taking a little bit to get used to. You see, Noyzi is the tallest dog we’ve ever had. He’s almost as tall as my hip. That puts his head at just the right place for sticking his nose right in my ass. He doesn’t do this every day… it’s mainly when he’s wanting to take a walk or be fed. Noyzi, like most of the dogs we’ve ever had, now knows how to tell time, more or less. He knows when he usually gets fed or walked.

Noyzi enjoys part of our longer walking route, thanks to the other monitor in my life… Our local Rewe does its part to encourage the bees to do their jobs.

Usually, Arran will come and tell me when it’s time for either of those activities, if I haven’t already gotten started. But now, I’ve noticed that when I go and get dressed for a walk, Noyzi will come upstairs and wait. Then Arran will lead the way downstairs, stopping and pausing on the way to make sure I’m following. Noyzi will station himself behind me and stick his nose where the sun don’t shine. He does it to Bill, too, though not as often as he does it to me. Sometimes, he also gooses me in the ass when I’m putting on my shoes. It’s like he sees my butt as a target… a funny smelling target… and sticks his nose there to light a fire under my ass, so to speak. It’s kind of like a G rated canine version of the “Shocker”. If you don’t know what the Shocker is, Urban Dictionary is your friend.

I probably shouldn’t allow or encourage this behavior, but honestly, I find it kind of funny. Like I said, in the past, we’ve always had medium sized beagle mixes who have been too short to engage in such antics. This is the first time we’ve had a dog large enough to be a legitimate “ball sniffer” or in Noyzi’s case, “butt sniffer”. George Carlin had a hilarious comedy routine about such dogs… Behold:

Noyzi doesn’t do circumcisions… yet.

I guess as long as Noyzi doesn’t push me as I walk downstairs, I’m alright with being spurred on to success. I did manage to get a cute animation from my new Apple Watch the last couple of days. I’m not sure I’ve dished much about my latest toy, and I originally didn’t realize Noyzi and Arran had anything in common with the watch. But now that I think about it, it occurs to me that the watch and the dogs do have something in common. Both the dogs and the watch are spurring me on to take better care of myself. I don’t think either of the dogs do it for my sake. They spur me on for their sakes. But my taking the dogs for a walk is a mutually beneficial and healthy activity for all of us.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting here at home alone, I decided to order an Apple Watch. I don’t really even need a regular watch, let alone a “smart” one. I don’t have anywhere to be, so I don’t need to know what time it is. Besides, I usually have my phone or iPad with me, or I’m sitting at the computer. Still, I’d been reading about all the nifty stuff on the Apple Watch and decided to order one as a TDY consolation prize/early birthday present. Since we haven’t been traveling, I had the money mostly saved.

The new Apple Watch does indeed have a lot of nannyism health gimmicks that remind users to take care of themselves. For instance, this watch is capable of checking my blood oxygen levels. It prompts me to take a moment to breathe deeply and will pause the exercise if I’m not focused, still, and breathing properly, and encourages me to try again. It reminds me when to go to bed and get up, not that I need any help with that, being married to a man whose brain goes down with the sun (seriously, Bill is practically comatose by 9:00pm, and he’s always up by 5:00am… consequently, so am I). Today, I got a chastising message when I neglected to wash my hands for a full twenty seconds. The watch wanted to know why I hadn’t scrubbed for the right amount of time– was it just a rinse?

Your Grace! Isn’t it nice to be addressed respectfully? I’ll probably subscribe to Apple Fitness+ once my three months are up.

When I take walks and forget to tell the watch I’m “working out”, it will buzz my wrist and ask me if I want it to record my walk. It’s already been recording, mind you. If I answer affirmatively, it will show the time of the walk already in progress, so I don’t miss those precious early minutes before I asked the watch to count the walk as exercise. The new watch comes with three free months of Apple Fitness+. There are three wellness ring goals that it encourages me to meet every day: exercise, standing, and moving (which seems kind of strange, since I mostly stand and move when I exercise). As I get closer to meeting the goals, each ring– light blue for standing, maroon for moving, and light green for exercise– get closer to closing in perfection. I get a cute animation as I meet each goal and a really exciting animation when I reach all three. And if the day is closing and I haven’t moved, stood, or exercised enough, the watch will send me an encouraging message, reminding me to get up off my ass.

Aww… thanks for caring, Apple Watch. Maybe it’s time I named you.

I also get a warning if my heart rate is dangerously high, or the noise in an area is too loud and could damage my hearing. I got a message yesterday asking me if my period has started yet, since it’s overdue… but I am getting old and will soon turn 49, so I expect that my once Swiss watch regular cycles will go horribly awry soon. I read yesterday that the next incarnation of the Apple Watch will even be capable of checking blood sugar.

Of course, I could disable some of these features. I think if I had real life things to attend to, like a job or a child, the constant reminders for every little thing might get very annoying in a hurry. It’s bad enough that the watch reminds me when it’s time for me to play Words With Friends or sends me notices when some strange creep on Facebook wants to “connect” with me. I probably will start to shut down some of the “services” as I get to know the watch better. I probably will keep the exercise reminders, though, because it’s encouraging to keep track of how much I move… and it’s good to be reminded to move.

I’m sure Arran and Noyzi also appreciate that the Apple Watch gives me a reason to take them for a slightly longer route, since the weather is better. I wish I’d had this watch when we lived in Jettingen, where our walks were twice as long, because we were next to a huge forest. I would have definitely had no problem meeting and exceeding the exercise goals there.

Anyway… I appreciate the help and concern from my dogs and Apple Watch for helping me maintain my physical health, especially since I haven’t seen a doctor in about ten years. But I might need one if Noyzi pushes too hard as he herds me toward the door for his daily walk or victuals. I might fall down and bust my ass or break my face. At that point, since this watch is also capable of sending and receiving phone calls (once I connect it to my cellphone plan and pay the fees), it might automatically call 112 for me (Germany’s equivalent to 911 for an ambulance).

Not that I expect anyone to click the link before buying an Apple Watch, or even to buy one from Amazon, but that would sure make a nice birthday gift in sales commissions from Amazon. 😉 As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from Amazon on anything purchased through my site… and my birthday is on the 20th!

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disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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humor, royals, technology

God bless Queen Elizabeth II…

I don’t have much to write about today. I wrote about how we spent yesterday on the travel blog, so if anyone is interested in that, click here. Other than that, I just have one more thing to write about, and that is the mighty Queen Elizabeth II and her annual Christmas speech.

I never used to consider myself an Anglophile, even though my earliest memories are of England. As I’ve gotten older and have had a chance to visit my ancestral homeland a couple of times, I find myself more appreciative of England and its immediate environs, to include Ireland, even though Ireland is definitely not England.

This morning, my ex shrink, who is now a friend, shared Queen Elizabeth’s annual Christmas message. I decided to watch it, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t moved to tears by it. Queen Elizabeth still looks fantastic, and I am awed by her fortitude and attitude of service. She’s 94 years old!

“God Save The Queen”… the band on horseback and the healthcare workers singing were highlights, besides Her Majesty’s wise words. She really is a remarkable woman.

After I watched this video over breakfast, I sat at the table sniffing back tears. At the end of the Queen’s speech, there’s a lovely version of “Joy To The World” sung by NHS workers that made me all weepy. The older I get, the more scenes like this make my heart fill with emotion. It’s nice to be able to cry because I’m moved, instead of because of someone or something hurting me. I love the way the Brits celebrate tradition and pomp and circumstance, and I love the music and humor of Britain. It makes sense that I’d love the Brits, though, since I would have been a Brit if my people hadn’t moved to America. They’re kind of my people.

Then Bill showed me the very cool and pointed “deep fake” version done by Channel 4. Bill earned a master’s degree in cybersecurity a couple of years ago, so he’s particularly interested in this stuff… I thought it was brilliantly done, although I’ve heard that the folks who made it got some flak. It’s a good reminder, though, that things are not always as they seem, especially online.

Always verify your info and double check your sources. What you’re seeing might not be real.

It’s pretty scary how technology has made it possible to alter messages and create disinformation. I, for one, plan to keep this in mind in 2021. Well done, Channel 4! They managed to make this valuable and entertaining message without being mean spirited or preachy. And yes, I laughed after the Queen made me cry.

And if you’re interested in seeing how this was done, check out the video below!

Fascinating! I like that they’re reminding us about how technology can be used to trick us.

Hopefully, in 2021, there will be some sense of normalcy restored. Until then, I’ll keep following Queen Elizabeth II. She’s a wonderful lady and I admire her very much.

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