8 years ago my sister suggested I find a way to publish the amusing emails I sent her about our dog Zoe. Now there is blogging! Zoe tales are about Zoe (3 1/2 lb Chihuahua), Gracie (bigger and the world's friendliest Chihuahua) and other stuff I am thinking about. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Best News In A Long Time

According to The New York Times, watching television can make you smarter. And when you watch as much television as I do, that is very good news indeed! Here's one of the great lessons from the article:

not having to think is boring. Many recent hit shows -- ''24,'' ''Survivor,'' ''The Sopranos,'' ''Alias,'' ''Lost,'' ''The Simpsons,'' ''E.R.'' -- take the opposite approach, layering each scene with a thick network of affiliations. You have to focus to follow the plot, and in focusing you're exercising the parts of your brain that map social networks, that fill in missing information, that connect multiple narrative threads.


The article is an excerpt from author Steven Johnson's forthcoming book Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. I can't wait to read this one! Or better yet, watch the TV series.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Crazy Dogs

Puddin' Head Cat (PHC) is hanging out at my house today sacked out in the bushes. When it comes to this cat my dogs are just nutty. We first met PHC when she boldly walked into our house shortly after we moved in. PHC took a tour and checked out the place. Gracie just watched while Zoe continued to snooze away in her pocket bed. PHC boldly walked over to Zoe's bed which finally got Zoe to look and then promptly crawl back into the pocket and go back to sleep. Strange cat in the house and not a peep or even mild curiosity.

Today when we went for our afternoon stroll we walked right past PHC and the dogs couldn't care less. Now, while they are sitting in the window on patrol to alert me to nefarious passers by, Gracie has just noticed that she can see PHC out the window. This has whipped Gracie into a tizzy. She is barking up a storm. Zoe is joining in even though she doesn't see what Gracie is woofing at. So up close and personal, with a chance to chase her away, these two nut dogs couldn't care less. However, safely behind glass, the sight of a sleeping cat is distressing them to no end.

Crazy! And speaking of the crazy way of dogs and why we love them so, I found a link to this great site via Doc Searls blog. dropthatsock is a site that celebrates these weird and wonderful creatures. Check it out!

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Remembering NYC

I am a California girl through and through. I cannot imagine anywhere else being home. And I say California because I love both the SF Bay area and the Los Angeles area - I'm strange that way (for you non-Californians, people generally dislike one if they like the other). I was born in LA and throughout my life, have lived many years there. And I do love it smog, traffic, narcissism and all. However, I consider the gorgeous, funky, diverse Bay Area, specifically Oakland, home.

Despite taking a multi-year detour through the Midwest and East Coast, I always felt in my heart that someday I would come home and therefore I could never allow myself to fall in love with any other place. One of the stops on my away from home tour was New York City. I tried at first to live in Manhattan. I couldn't take it. I wasn't very close to a subway line so it tended to be a pain to get around (if the 2nd street line were more than a myth I might have been more charitable). I didn't make enough money and lived far enough uptown that regular cabbing would have been too costly. It was the hottest summer in history when I was there so in addition to the stifling, muggy humid weather that I as a dry, desert, 72 and sunny, LA girl could not take, there was the extra rank scent of baked garbage wafting through the air. All little things that, on the balance, made me unwilling to live there more than the 3 months that I did.

There were pluses like taking my dogs for their daily walks at Carl Shurtz park near Gracie Mansion on the water (not lovely - it was the East River - but water nonetheless.) One of my fond memories was when Zoe threw up in protest at Rudy Giuliani's front gate. This was well before 9-11 and when Liberals were still derisive even while secretly harboring an appreciation for how much more pleasant a place Manhattan had become. I visited regularly in the late '80's and went to see bands which meant that I wandered around unsavory places very late at night and literally took my life in my hands - everyone I knew that lived there at that time had been mugged violently at least once. But I digress...

I moved to the burbs and visited Manhattan. I had a chance to get to know and know better relatives whom I didn't know well having lived 3,000 miles away most of my life. I enjoyed the fantastic restaurants, museums, shopping and more. Yes, I carped about the cost and time involved with getting there, and grumbled about my seeming inability to get my bearings there and constantly getting lost, but there were people I loved and many places I adored there so I went and my heart softened.

I bought my first home in New York - a mile from an express train that took me quickly and reasonably to Grand Central Station which allowed me visit Manhattan more easily so my heart softened some more. Also, I closed on and moved into that apartment - about 20 miles from Ground Zero - on 9-11, so in a way I felt somewhat bonded, somewhat of a New Yorker. That feeling intensified when I had the opportunity to volunteer at Ground Zero and feed rescue workers. The outpouring of compassion and comfort total strangers (that I met in other parts of the country in the months after the tragedy) would express to me upon hearing that I lived anywhere near Manhattan made me feel so proud to be a New Yorker even though in my heart I knew it was a lie.

When I left New York I was just starting to come to terms with living there. But that was it - coming to terms. And, poof, I left and it was gone - the pride, admiration and like (not love) that I had built up for New York was gone. Unlike a dear friend who will never leave New York City and return to Los Angeles (a cultural wasteland where you are forced to drive in her opinion), I can't imagine ever living there again.

I read something today, though that me realize why, although it will never be home, I do heart NY. James Rocchi, the film critic at Netflix, has a lovely essay on his blog about NYC in the context of visiting for the Tribecca Film Festival which Robert De Niro started to help heal lower Manhattan post 9-11. This paragraph crystallized it for me:

I've been to New York more than a few times in my life, but even before my first trip, I had been there a thousand times. Thanks to Woody Allen films, Jim Jarmusch films, Spike Lee films. The music of The Ramones, Public Enemy, The Velvet Underground. The novels of Lawrence Block, J.D. Sallinger, Andrew Vacchs. The photos of Diane Arbus. Spider-Man. Guys and Dolls and West Side Story and 42nd Street. The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players. The New Yorker. Dorothy Parker. Andy Warhol. I don't think you can love pop culture without loving New York.


And that's the thing - when I first set foot in New York it was strange, alien and so familiar at the same time. And I do love (am obsessed with) pop culture so how could I not love New York? Plus, having lived there, my life is all the richer for it, quirks, faults, pains and all. Thanks James for reminding me to remember New York with love.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Tight!

Recently we helped my grandmother move apartments and I came across her high school "autograph book" from 1929. Wow - how fascinating! It was more than just "autographs" from her classmates - it was a diary that she kept her entire senior year. Sort of like a self-created yearbook.

There were spaces for photographs of classmates and for fond notes from friends. Including the one that my grandmother had from her best friend - this is when they lived in Pittsburgh, just before my grandmother and great grandparents moved to Harlem - with the usual wishes of hoping they would remain friends after they graduated. This same best friend and her husband now live in the same retirement community as my grandmother here in California! They've remained friends for over 80 years! Amazing - how many BFF's from your yearbook are you still in touch with?

The cool thing I found came in a description of a party she attended. In describing her enjoyment of this party she wrote that she had a "tight time." More than 75 years later tight is still slang for good. There really is nothing new under the sun is there?

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Puddin' Head Duck Update 2

So the ducks (seen here, here and here and explained here and here) have decided to add my house to their daily rotation of lawns to visit! It's so cool to look out my front window and see them lounging contentedly and patrolling just like Gracie and Zoe. The girls don't even fuss at them!

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Why I Love/Hate Blogs

Hi. My name is Wag and I'm a blogger.

Yep, I'm addicted to blogs and blogging. I shake my fist at you accursed instant publishing mind-crack.

So here's my day so far...

1. Get up.
2. Work out. (Yay for me!)
3. Eat breakfast.
4. Check assorted email accounts.
5. Check My Yahoo! Page 1 for updated news.
6. Check My Yahoo! Page 2 for updated blogs.
7. Click on fresh post "Divo Blogs" at Diva Marketing.
8. Experience brief moment of disappointment that post is not actually on new Simon Cowell opera boy band Il Divo. (previously mentioned here)
9. Find post is actually about a blogroll of recommended male bloggers. (funny given the brouhaha surrounding the lack of links to female bloggers - which reminds me - plug BlogHer)
10. Start clicking on each link. (use shift when clicking on link to open new window - trick learned at Lifehacker - I think)
11. Get to link 5 (of 65) for Blog Business World.
12. Blog Business World points me to Carnival of the Vanities and this month's Carnival posted at Dr. Zen's Yeah Whatever blog.
14. Carnival of the Vanities points me to Chris Clarke's blog Creek Running North and his most remarkable post titled "Life and Death". Read this!
15. Spend about an hour reading and digesting post and the massive string of comments generated. The post combined with comments are a tutorial unto themselves about blogging - the nature of personal blogs, how comments generate discussion, how comment spam of a type gets generated, how bloggers deal with it - the whole lot of it - in actual substance and in instruction, all fascinating.
16. Carnival of the Vanities also points me to LaShawn Barber's post on blogging pet peeves which in my brain makes me think of issues raised by the reading discussed in #15. (Note: I don't much agree with Ms. Barber's politics, but I am repeatedly pointed to her blog and her insights. I have a great deal of respect for her intellect and blogging skills. And, as she is, like me, a Black woman who blogs, my curiosity is always piqued when I see her links.)
17. Write this post and spend too much time updating links, html code and trackbacks.
18. 4 hours after logging on admit that I really should take advantage of the weather and force myself to do some yard work. (Gardening is one of those things that I really, really don't want to learn how to do but it's one of those "joys of home ownership" that you take on - ugh!)

My life sucks - I love it!

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Friday, April 15, 2005

I Can't Help Myself - Marketing Lessons From Reality TV

Yes I keep saying that I'm going to have a separate blog just about my thoughts on marketing. And I will when my website is up. But I couldn't resist sharing these observations since they combine two of my favorite things - marketing (the way I see it) and pop culture so here goes!

On the Apprentice, both last week and this week, the key to the winning team's success was talking to their consumers. Each week, one team tapped into the hearts and minds of the target market for their products and the difference showed.

Last week the teams were tasked with creating "wearable technology" for retailer American Eagle (teen and young adult clothing). When asked what the most important piece of technology was to their consumers one team correctly answered "cell phones" because they'd asked teens. The other team replied iPods. You might get that impression from the media but really - how many teens do you know that have iPods vs. how many teens you know that have cell phones? My 17 year old niece doesn't have an iPod, doesn't use email, doesn't play video games and rarely watches television but she literally cannot live without her cellphone. Lesson: Talk to your consumers before developing new products for them!

This week, the teams were charged with developing a brochure for a new Pontiac convertible. One all male team assumed that they would win easily because they were men so therefore understood cars and their consumers better than the other, 2/3 female team. Despite the fact that most car purchases are either made or influenced by women, the woman dominated team didn't assume they knew what potential buyers wanted - they asked! And, they took it a step further and connected to what they learned about consumers emotional response to the car. No surprise, the team that talked to consumers won. Lots of lessons here including talk to your consumers, connect with them emotionally not just rationally and remember that you are not the consumer - don't try and substitute your judgment for theirs!

The third lesson comes from American Idol and judges Paula and Randy. They made the rounds of talk shows today to hawk their Ultimate Voice Coach DVD. Do I think that watching this DVD will turn anyone into the next American Idol? No. But what I like about this product is that it's a smart extension of the American Idol and Paula and Randy brands.

What this DVD offers is the dream of being the next AI in a way that all the keychains, trading cards and other tchotchkes offered up by the AI licensing machine can't. Beyond offering the chance to get a little piece of the AI dream while still watching from the audience, you're now offered a chance to be part of the AI dream. The judges are a necessary part of achieving that dream so this product feels authentic. The lesson here? Expand your brand in ways that make sense for the emotional connection your consumers have to your brand.

It felt good to get that out! Wheee - can't wait to do this all the time :-)

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Interesting Intersections Continue

I read in the Wall Street Journal today (sorry no link - you need a paid subscription to the online journal edition to access - if you have it it's in the Personal Journal section, page 2 in the Giving Back column under the heading First Class) that Roland Fryer, whom I discussed in a previous post, was named one of the newest Fletcher Fellows.

Alphonse Fletcher Jr., who leads Fletcher Asset Management, pledged $50 million to Harvard's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research to honor the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The selection committee is headed by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. who, as I also mentioned in the previous post, brought together an impressive group of African American scholars at Harvard.

In addition to Professor Fryer, Brandeis Professor Anita Hill, author Stanley Crouch, anthropologist Nina Jablonski, Dance Theater of Harlem artistic director Arthur Mitchell, and artist Glenn Ligon have been selected as Fellows. The Fellows receive $50,000 stipends to explore issues related to race.

I feel encouraged by developments in the Academy such as these. And when there are events such as the efforts to forge coalitions between Black and Latino voters in LA to support Mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa (my Ph.D. research focused on development of Black-Latino political coalitions in urban areas) I sort of miss my academic life. It's a fascinating time right now and I look forward to continuing to watch with eager interest from the sidelines.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

BlogHer Conference 2005 - Sign Up Now

I'll be there. I've become a big fan of the blogs written by a couple of the forces behind this upcoming conference - Elisa Camahort and Jory Des Jardins (Pause) - both of whom are linked to the right here - which is how I learned of this event.

I'll attend because all the areas of discussion are of great interest to me as a blogger who happens to be female and new to the game. I think the issues would be of interest to many bloggers even if they are not female or have been at this blogging business for quite some time. Will I see you there?

Some notes - visit www.blogher.org for much more and to register or volunteer...

BlogHer Conference ‘05 will provide an open, inclusive forum to:
1. Discuss the role of women within the larger blog community
2. Examine the developing (and debatable) code of blogging ethics
3. Discover how blogging is shrinking the world and amplifying the voices of women worldwide

In addition, educational tracks will be available focusing on:
1. Best technology practices, newbie to advanced: how to use technology and tools to achieve text, photo, audio and video blogging goals
2. Best industry-specific practices: Why are journalists, marketers, lawyers, academics, technologists and many more blogging? And how do you find the ones you’re interested in?
3. The rights and the responsibilities of the blogger

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Youth not wasted on the young - Updated

I really can't stand people who are so focused and together when they are this young. Roland G. Fryer Jr is a professor of economics at Harvard at 27. As a former Ph.D. candidate I find this mind boggling-ly impressive. To me this is the most remarkable aspect of his story. Not the fact that he overcame a childhood that for many people would have made it difficult to stay in high school to graduate, let alone go to college on scholarship and graduate in 2 1/2 years. And, in what is turning out to be a running Maroon love-fest in this blog, he got his Ph.D. in economics at Chicago - home of a mess of Nobel Prize-winning economists. And, did I mention that he's black?

Much like with blogging, there is concern that voice of women and people of color aren't sufficiently represented in academia. Certainly not in the ranks of the "superstars." The system for rising to the top in both worlds contains some of the same elements. You get recognition for blogging when people link to you. You get recognition as a professor when people cite your work. So that this kid is getting so much attention and respect at such a young age and early stage in his career is remarkable. That he is black is all that more remarkable since being black in the academy is not yet unremarkable.

He is part of an incredible group of black academics that Henry Louis Gates Jr. has gathered together at Harvard. I've had the opportunity to in some way study with a few of the professors in that group and I feel strongly that beyond the "links" these professors have collected, they are truly impressive and would be even without the links. Gates gets it. And Gates gets Fryer so I'm all the more impressed. And, did I mention he's only 27?

UPDATE: The amazing group of African-American scholars at Harvard appears to be disbanding

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Makes Me Want to Rent - Almost

This genius site almost makes me want to be a renter again - almost. :-)

Having seen it, I can't imagine renting any other way. Google Maps & Craigslist Mashup

Found at PSFK

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Road Trip For Bruce!

In addition to my fondness for punk rock, I love a wide and eclectic variety of music. And that includes Bruce Springsteen. A lot of people find this odd but Bruce himself cites The Clash and The Sex Pistols among his key influences. Bruce has a new record coming out called Devils & Dust which is sort of "modern country" (Bruce's term) similar to his Ghost of Tom Joad record.

Bruce is solo acoustic touring to promote the album. He's playing in smaller venues that seat 5,000 or less so that makes it tough for the die hard fans. However, Bruce solo acoustic country-fied is an acquired taste even for hardcore tramps*. He even warns fans that they won't get acoustic versions of the hits like Thunder Road. Fortunately, all this leads to Phoenix turning out to be a great place to try for tickets like I did this morning to help my friends Rob and Cheryl. Turns out no help was needed because demand was so low. So I snagged a single for myself and I'll be road tripping out. This may turn out to be a smart move because from the boards at Backstreets, it looks like Oakland is going to be in much higher demand.

I hope I can snag an Oakland ticket though, for sentimental reasons. The show is at the Paramount Theater. Bruce played there in 1975. And I graduated from High School at the Paramount. It was very exciting for me to know that I had walked the same stage where Bruce had played (this is before I met Bruce - a story for another post). I still would love to see him play on that stage so keep your fingers crossed for me that I get the chance!

*nickname for Springsteen fans from the line in the song Born to Run "til then tramps like us, Baby we were born to run"

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Duck Update

So I learned from my neighbors Joe and Jane that the Puddin' Head Ducks (scroll down for pics) are annual visitors to our neighborhood. Apparently the pair just showed up one year and continue to return. So, cool - I live in a duck retirement community!

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Trying to post regularly

Oy - I've been bedeviled by an Internet service outage with Comcast yesterday and an inability to get into my blog account via Firefox today. I'm using IE to post this though I'd prefer not to. I like stuff to work and get cranky when it doesn't.

At any rate, my goal of at least a post a day has been thwarted. These problems combined with reading about some other folks grappling with similar questions and Blogger's tendency to bugginess, is leading me to consider hosting my own blog software rather than using a hosted service for my next blog. I dislike adding more stuff on my plate to learn as I'm already interested in too much. But, sigh, it seems like with many things, you may get what you pay for when setting up a blog.

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Random Thoughts

Simon Cowell from American Idol has a new band that he put together - it's an opera boy band called Il Divo. Even though they did debut at #1 in the UK, I predict that they're going to be a flop here. I often agree with Simon's assessments of the singers on AI but I think he's gone wrong here. Pop boy bands are out of vogue these days - case in point: Backstreet Boys are on tour and playing small halls not arenas. And, the American music biz has been trying to find a winning pop-classical artist for at least 15+ years as I was given the assignment when I worked at a major record label to track down every artist in the country working in that vein because my boss was sure it was going to be the next big thing. It wasn't then and it wasn't because the idea was ahead of it's time. It's especially unlikely to resonate now with a generation of kids raised on formulaic, pitch corrected, pop singles.

When I read a description of the new Ford Mustang I thought it was going to be butt ugly but I must say, as I see more of them, I'm really liking them. They really are a good example of design that embodies the promise of the object as they look quite muscular. I had a run where it seemed like half the cars I rented on business trips were Mustangs and they really are quite fun to drive. I'd look cute in a 2005 convertible ;-)

Sprite Remix has launched their annual new flavor. After the original Tropical (which I liked very much despite the fact that I'm not a Sprite [lemon-lime in general] fan) and last year's Berryclear, they've launched the completely obtusely named Aruba Jam. Not quite a skittle-y as Berryclear, Aruba Jam offers a vaguely candy-ish cherry flavor. The hint is the red trim on the label. Somehow I doubt they grow cherries in Aruba. Update before I even publish - I checked for a link (nothing official out there yet - I think some bottles hit the shelves early before official launch) but supposedly it's orange flavored. My tastebuds could be faulty and my brain could have been thrown by the red trim but it's no where near something like Mountain Dew Live Wire which is a huge guilty pleasure for me. Fortunately Live Wire is only out in the summer so my temptation is limited. Again, I need to quite typing before investigating - I appear to be in trouble as the Live Wire website says they're staying for good not just popping up between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Hopefully, I won't be as interested if I can get it anytime.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Crowns at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

Last night I had the opportunity to see essentially a full dress rehersal for the musical Crowns at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Previews start tonight and the show runs through May 1.

I joined several members of my family to go see and support our dear friend Michelle Jordan. Michelle is an amazing and massively talented singer and performer (and teacher, Choir Director and spiritual counselor). Crowns was adapted for the stage by Regina Taylor (best known for her portrayal of Lily Harper in the criminally underwatched show I'll Fly Away) from the book Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry. The play tells the stories of several women, their life in their communities and in their churches, punctuated by what hat they wore and woven together with gospel songs.

Given that the show is not even in previews yet, it was remarkably well staged and pulled together. I saw another play last week on its second night of previews and it was still very rough around the edges. Crowns got a standing ovation last night so I'm sure it will only get more impressive as they continue to perform.

I highly recommend Crowns for the fascinating sociology, the strong performances and most especially for the incredible music - particularly Michelle's singing. During and after one of her songs a guy behind me kept muttering "wow" repeatedly. I am somewhat jaded and cynical when it comes to singing and performances as I worked in the music business for a while and have seen more than my fair share of "undiscovered" talent - trust me, I think most should not quit their day jobs. And I find myself blown away every time I hear this woman sing. That said, the show would be worth seeing even if Michelle weren't in it but she is so treat yourself.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Gmail Invites

I now have 100 Gmail invites to offer so leave me a comment if you'd like one. Gmail boasts 2 GB storage. The nested conversation feature takes some getting used to but the search function is fantastic. And the big downside that everyone fears of seeing Adsense ads in the emails you receive is really a non-issue. I swear I absolutely do not notice them and have to make myself look. It can be pretty funny sometimes what gets auto generated. However, I have seen some really sad and scary ads generated on websites like the one for slaughter house equipment on Elisa's Santa Cruz Metro article on vegetarian dining. Or ones for "teacup" Chihuahuas on Chi blogs.

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Trackbacks Enabled

On my continuing quest to learn more about this blogging stuff, I've added trackbacks to my blog courtesy of Haloscan since Blogger doesn't provide them. It should be interesting to see if I get any since, as far as I can tell, one of my sisters checks in on my blog with any regularity and otherwise - unless I specifically point a friend or family member to a post, they go unread.

When I was at UCLA the radio station was known as radio for the deaf since it could only be heard in buildings specifically wired for the signal. In other words, unless you lived in a dorm or were hanging in the student union, you were out of luck. So perhaps I am blogging for the unwired ;-)

I can't pull up the blog via any search engines save for putting in the url title (zoetales) into Google given that this is a Blogger/Google blog. I've notified Yahoo! of the blog and have it linked to my My Yahoo RSS reader, but no luck there. I'm not whining - just noting that I've got some more work to do on figuring this stuff out. I've been trying to remain anonymous for now while I learn and as I'm job hunting (don't want to be the first thing a potential employer could Google up about me be a discussion of my dogs and their bodily fluids) so I haven't made a serious effort to get this thing found. But really man, what a drag that I can't even amuse myself by seeing my blog on Google.

Ah well, back to the learning curve which is steeper than I thought and taking me longer to move along than I'd like. Next up on my list of things to learn (in addition to figuring out more elegant ways to add pictures than as individual posts) is how to make jumps so my long, rambling posts don't show whole. I seem to remember that there is a tutorial on it somewhere in Blogger.

I'm thinking of exploring Type Pad for my business blog which I hope to launch in the next few weeks. Just in case - anyone out there have any thoughts on the subject?

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Gracie-side

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Zoe-side

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Zoe-front

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Ducks3

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Ducks2

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Puddin' Head Ducks

So I just started fiddlin' around with Picasa and uploaded the pictures below of my Puddin' Head ducks. Puddin' Head is the name that my friends Rob and Cheryl came up with for the cat that adopted them. Puddin' Head adopted them by just showing up to their new house when they moved to Arizona recently and staying. Having recently moved to San Jose myself, I've had assorted creatures come to my door to introduce themselves, and in some cases, walk on in to meet the dogs and check out the house. Thus, I adopted Puddin' Head as my generic name for such visitors.

In the past couple of weeks I've noticed this pair of ducks walking around my suburban neighborhood. I have no idea where they came from as there is no body of water nearby that I know of. They might be pets but I haven't seen any person interacting with them. However they came to live here - cool! And they came up to my door on Easter for a visit! Cici fed them some bread crumbs and they got so excited that one nipped her toe.

My next trick with Picasa will be to put up pictures of "the girls" Gracie and Zoe. Keep an eye out.

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Ducks1

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