Friday, November 30, 2012

I need a vacation to recover from my vacation

Oy vey. We went to visit L's family for Thanksgiving last weekend, and we brilliantly decided to take the overnight flight back. We landed in Boston at 7am Monday morning, and then I went to work. Hopefully after this weekend, I will finally have recovered from our vacation. Here's our trip in pictures.

We went to L's brother's house for our Thanksgiving meal
I forgot to take a picture of the turkey before carving it up

L's mom invited her photographer friend over to show us how to use our new camera

One of his tips was to photograph Badger in black & white

Another was to try out the star filter (I forget the technical term)

And we went to the Suns game and watched them beat the Hornets!

Badger and Mushroom had a much more relaxing vacation. They stayed home, and our dog sitter came over several times a day to walk, feed, and play with them. Our Thanksgiving trip was a blast, but I'm ready to spend this weekend napping and playing our new video games.

P.S. If you haven't already, check out these fundraisers / raffles that our blog friends are holding:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What we're thankful for

I feel like I'm always complaining about our dogs. But in reality, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have Badger and Mushroom. Part of it is just sentimentality, but part of it is because they're actually quite awesome!

Here's a list of what we're thankful for:

  • They loooove people
  • They don't chew the apartment, the furniture, or electronics cords
  • They were very quick to potty train and now rarely have accidents
  • They trust us
  • Badger is very good in new situations
  • Mushroom's reactivity has improved a lot
  • They're fun to hang out with
  • They're cuddly
  • They're fuzzy

Mushroom is thankful for noms

Badger is not thankful - he demands more belly rubs

Why are you thankful for your pets?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Early Christmas (Part 2)

If you haven't already, check out Part 1 here!

As it turns out, when L and I are faced with the decision to spend more money than we're comfortable with, we go all out and buy everything we've ever wanted. We would be terrible gamblers, but on the bright side, we now have tons of new video games.

First up is Skylanders, a game that I've had my eye on for almost a year. I loved the Spyro games as a kid, but you don't need to be familiar with the old Spyro games to enjoy Skylanders. Skylanders combines figurine collecting and video games in a clever marketing ploy. There are a few figurines included with the initial game purchase, and each figurine represents a different playable character. However, there are secret areas and items that can only be unlocked with certain character "types", so then you end up buying more figurines than your TV stand can comfortably hold.

This is only about half of our Skylanders set
My impression of Skylanders thus far is that it's a fun 2-player game for people of all skill levels. Each game level is relatively easy to complete, but if you're up for a challenge, you can gather all the optional collectibles (some of which require you to purchase new figurines - a challenge for your wallet). The game is designed to make swapping characters easy and unobtrusive. The two player figurines sit atop a wireless stone platform, and to swap characters, you just take one figurine off the platform and replace it with a different one. The game automatically pauses while you are swapping characters.

Our TV stand is quite crowded

There are two main changes that would make the game better. The first is the balloonist character, whom you meet in the opening scene. He is obnoxious and occasionally crosses the line into sexual harassment, which is setting a pretty inappropriate example in a game aimed at kids. Alas, all I can do is smack him around with my character. The second is a camera control issue. The game always shows both players onscreen, and players can only be a short distance away from one another. A few times, L and I have gotten stuck on the opposite side of obstacles. More annoyingly, one time we had to turn off the second player completely (it was the wrong character "type") to allow the first player to enter a bonus area. Allowing the players to be further apart by zooming out the camera would have made things a little easier.

Left side: PS Vita and games; right side: Nintendo 3DS and 1 game

We also got a PS Vita and a Nintendo 3DS. (See the part at the top where I said we bought everything.) The Vita actually just arrived in the mail yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to play it yet. I have been playing Harvest Moon: A New Beginning on the 3DS. The premise of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is that your character moves to a declining town, starts his or her own farm, and works on rebuilding the town. The player character also has the option of romancing and eventually even marrying one of the non-player characters. I haven't reached the marrying stage yet, but I have read that the only available romance options are opposite gender. This is a little disappointing because presumably farming and raising livestock are job skills that aren't affected by sexual orientation. Aside from that, the game has been pleasant but repetitive. There are a few secrets to be discovered and friendships to be gained, but mostly I just water my crops and gather insects. I am interested to see what areas I can unlock next, though.

And the gifts that keep on giving...

Ohai. I gave you poop

Not me. I don't give a shit

Does anyone else have a Vita or a 3DS? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A HUGE Milestone!

First, the camera business:
As winter is quickly approaching, and the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, I don't get many opportunities to take pictures with natural light. But that's what weekends are for! (Also: sleeping, laying on the couch, eating, falling asleep on the couch in the middle of eating, etc.)

Badger loves mugging for the camera

Even though we have a big sliding glass door, getting enough light for the photos was still a challenge. The camera kept giving me the "not enough light" warning, but when I reduced the shutter speed enough for the warning to go away, the pictures just came out as giant motion blurs. So I have dark pictures that I tried to "correct" using Snagit.

The original image

The result of messing with the "gamma" slider until I gave up

One of my photography enthusiast friends suggested getting an external flash so the light could bounce off the ceiling and look more natural. Has anyone else tried this with pets?

And now, the happiest day of my life year recent memory:
Some of you may recall that Badger and Mushroom are not the best of friends, rather, they are the squabbliest of siblings. After 9 months, we are still on a crate/rotate schedule and closely monitoring their interactions if they are both uncrated. This Sunday marked a HUGE milestone for us, because we were able to have both dogs uncrated in the apartment for the ENTIRE DAY!


Well, we cheated a little. In the afternoon, we went to a nearby lake to practice with our friend and her reactive dog Lilee. We were a little concerned about bringing Badger, because Lilee tends to be most reactive toward large black dogs and has reacted toward him in the past. We shouldn't have worried about either of them, because Badger and Lilee were both rock solid.

Note that I left out a certain little brown dog. As it turns out, Mushroom is highly reactive toward geese, and there was a whole flock of them hanging out on the shore. She wouldn't even take treats at the beginning, but eventually she was able to look at the geese without pulling toward them. I guess I'll count that as a small success, but we'll be going back in the future for some goose-desensitizing.

When we got back, Badger and Mushroom were tuckered out and spent the entire evening sleeping on their pillows. The humans may also have fallen asleep on the couch.

Have you celebrated any successes (both large and small) recently?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Early Christmas (Part 1)

We did it! L and I are the proud new owners of a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera - a camera so powerful, you can see the hairs inside Mushroom's nose and the taste buds on Badger's tongue (enlarge for full effect). We knew our dogs were gross, but it turns out they're even grosser than we thought!

That is one high-def nose

And some very detailed slobber

We also managed to solve our lighting problem, but not through any effort of our own. Since our apartment is pretty dimly lit, we were having to choose between taking blurry no-flash pictures or flash pictures of dogs with glowing demon eyes. For some unknown reason (we'll just call it magic), the D3200's flash doesn't make Mushroom's eyes glow.

Just enjoying a Nylabone larger than my head

And even though Badger's eyes still glow with regular flash, turning on the red-eye reduction function almost completely eliminates the problem.

Looking away from the camera also reduces red-eye

Next up is the process of learning how to use the camera. These pictures were all taken in aperture priority mode, which I've found to be the easiest to use with flash. Is it strange that I think Mushroom looks better with a lower aperture number (around f/5) while Badger looks better with a higher aperture number (around f/18)?

Other DSLR-users, what settings do you use to photograph your dogs?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reactive Dog, Selective Dog

Mushroom attended her first level 2 reactive dog class last night in a completely new (to her) location. We didn't get any pictures because L stayed home, so I was handling Mushroom the whole time. In case you've forgotten (I feel like we've been posting a lot more pictures of Badger), this is Mushroom.

Remember me?

There were only 4 dogs in the class, and 2 of them spent the first few minutes of class barking smack. Mushroom? She never lost focus and kept looking back at me for clicks and treats. Honestly, she was a lot calmer and better behaved than Badger was on his first day of group training (though the reactive dog class had barriers set up so she could only see 1 other dog plus the head of the tall dog). I'm thinking that after this set of reactive dog classes ends, Mushroom might be able to enroll in regular dog classes with Badger.

Badger, on the other hand, has had a couple of not-so-great incidents with other dogs over the past month. He was snarly toward a dog at play group that he hadn't met before. But after that particular dog left,
Badger was completely fine with all the other dogs there, some of which he'd also never met. Then, in a separate incident, another dog jumped at Badger, and their leashes got tangled, resulting in a snapping dog right up in Badger's face. No one was bitten in either incident, so I don't know how worried I should be, considering that he's also been just fine near a lot more other dogs.

Badger is weird with dogs. Most dogs he completely ignores. Some dogs, like Mushroom, he never leaves alone. And he even ignores Mushroom when he's on-leash. We've been considering enrolling him in a Control Unleashed class after he's done with his current class, so we will definitely check with the instructor about whether he'll be allowed in.

Can't I just skip straight to my CGC test?

On the other, other hand, Mushroom is fantastic when she's off-leash around other dogs - playful but appropriate. I don't even know anymore. I just feed them.

Do you know a reactive dog or a selective dog? Is there any link between the two?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekend Recap: Beyond the Myth and Camera Misadventures

On Friday night, we watched Beyond the Myth the way it's intended to be viewed -- with a pit bull-type dog cuddled up next to you.

The Mush-dog, with flash

We actually watch a lot of documentaries, so I feel confident in saying that Beyond the Myth was excellent. It was able to present a lot of information about different people and locales without being confusing. I can't speak to how much the documentary would have changed someone's mind, because I've already done plenty of my own research. (Does cuddling count as research?)

There was a screen that showed the states that had laws prohibiting the banning of any particular breed, and I'm proud to say that, even though we didn't make it in time to be included in the documentary, Massachusetts' breed-neutral dog law took effect on Friday as well! This means that bans on pit bull-type dogs in cities such as Boston have been overturned. I'd do a celebration dog walk in my nearest overturned-BSL city if it weren't so darned cold.

On Sunday, we purchased a brand-new Canon PowerShot SX160 in the hopes that it would allow us to take better pictures of the dogs in our apartment. Photographing our dogs is a nightmare in so many ways: our apartment is dimly lit, the dogs move around, their eyes glow if we use flash, and Badger has black fur. As it turns out, we learned that a point-and-shoot is just not going to cut it for our purposes. The following pictures of Badger were taken with the Canon PowerShot SX160. When compared with the above picture of Mushroom, taken with a cell phone camera, they're pretty much the same.

Badger profile, with flash

Our no-flash pictures didn't fare so well

Not even in the most well-lit room of our apartment, the bathroom

So what's next? The folks at Pitlandia recently purchased a DSLR camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i. We've also heard the same camera recommendation from one of our friends, who also suggested a studio light.. (Surprisingly, it's not that expensive -- cheaper than getting 5 new lamps or 2 new dogs that stay absolutely still.)

If we're making the leap to DSLR, what should be our starter camera?
Also, any tips regarding the low light situation?

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Can't Has Cheezburger

Last week in Badger's training class, we worked on "leave it" using cheeseburgers. Badger was a tricky little guy, lulling us into a false sense of security before he would lunge at the burger. One time, he even managed to grab it with his paw, but L pulled him away before he ate any. Then, the trainer had us walk the cheeseburger gauntlet.

I can has?

Nope, guess not

I also caught some pictures of the windows decorated for Pit Bull Awareness Day.

The brown dog on the left looked a little like Mushroom

That's Lilly the Hero Pitbull in the middle!
Badger actually licked one of my nachos last night, so I guess we have a lot more work to do on "leave it". How does your dog do when faced with delicious temptation?