Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thanks for the ride, pup

Eleven years ago, Robin gave me a trip to California as my law school graduation gift. There really wasn’t much choice about where we’d go once we got to San Francisco: I’d visited Yosemite as a kid, and couldn’t wait to see the park again. It touched me like few places had (or have since), and as we drove east out of the park, we saw a sign for Tioga Pass. We both looked at each other, and though to this day we couldn’t tell you why, we both agreed that Tioga would make a great name for a dog.

We didn’t get a dog for another two years – by then we’d married and bought our first house. We first met him in May, 1998, a couple weeks after he was born. We picked him out of a large litter, and immediately bonded with him. A year later, we moved to California, and that first walk in Foster City was hilarious: he couldn’t go more than two steps without burying his nose in another bush, completely entranced by the new smells. We liked to think that he was just connecting with his “home” state… of course that wasn’t true (he was born in Massachusetts) but it fit. The dog just belonged in California.

We eventually moved to Illinois, where he was happy as ever. He was a Golden Retriever, after all. But sure enough, when we got him off the plane last week and took him on his first walk back in California, he was just as excited to smell the smells as he was 7 years ago.

But tonight we went on a walk and something wasn’t right. He’d go 20-30 feet and pause, seemingly unsure whether he wanted to continue. We’d go a little further, and he’d pause again. Eventually Robin took Robby and Becca ahead while Ricky and I waited with Tioga while he laid down. Robin came back with the car, and we drove him home. I knew something was wrong, hoped it was as simple as something he ate… but it seemed more serious than that.

It was. Late stage cancer, with internal bleeding. It’s hard to believe he’s gone – it happened so damned fast. Tomorrow’s going to be brutal as we break the news to the kids, but they’re resilient. I already miss him, and he’s only been gone a couple hours. It seems fitting that he made it back to California before leaving us, in a way.

We will miss the big guy. He passed with his head in my lap, while I rubbed his ears. It’s been a hard night, but knowing that he didn’t have to suffer long is some solace. He was a phenomenal companion, and we won’t forget him.

Monday, July 30, 2007


A song that was in heavy rotation on KFOG when Robin and I were out here to do our househunt was “Blessed” by Brett Dennen. I’ve since listened to all of his songs on Rhapsody, and “So Much More” has become one of my favorites. In particular, a line from the song keeps resonating for me, on so many levels:

I’d rather be stuck up in a tree than be tied to it.

If you haven’t listened to Brett, check him out. Good stuff.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Living in San Ramon

The moving truck arrived yesterday morning and unloaded our stuff into the new house. It’ll take a while for us to get settled, but we could not be more thrilled to be in San Ramon. I have a gorgeous view of Mt. Diablo from the front of the house, and the Livermore hills to the south are a pretty beautiful sight to wake up to in the morning. I think I’ll feel more or less caught up by next week, at which point I hope to start regularly posting again… lots to talk about going on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm not dead yet...

…but wow, I’d forgotten how painful moving is. Not painful in the “so sorry to see you go” way. No, the goodbyes have been sweet, and appreciated, and since we’re moving to the Bay Area, we’re already scheduling visitors – it’s not like we’re never seeing our friends again. No, it’s painful in the “what day is it? What thousand things need to be done by noon or this entire plan we’ve constructed will fall apart?” kind of way.

In other words, this week has been grueling. It’s hard to remember that I found out I was moving just a scant six weeks ago. In that time, we’ve listed our house (after doing a solid 2 weeks of non-stop fix-it work), bought a house (and closed – yesterday!), donated approximately 30 car-fulls of stuff to Goodwill (no, Betsy, nothing you’d really go for), scheduled our move, and, here we are, right in the middle of the move, and Robin and I are still speaking to each other. So I consider the move an unmitigated success. So far, at least. :)

I’ve got a whole blog post on the amazing apps/services that have made this move possible. On this kind of compressed timeframe, it’s just unfathomable to think of how much harder this would have been without Sittercity, Angie’s List, Google Docs, and others. But one app I stumbled on to last night that has already proven tremendously useful, and 24 hours in, I can tell it’ll completely change my day-to-day productivity. I’m talking about Remember the Milk, a web-based todo list. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Except that it syncs with Google Gears, so you can have an offline copy of your todo list (which is editable offline, and will re-sync with the cloud when you’re back online.) And a mobile version, so you can view it from your Blackberry. And todos can be e-mailed in. And, the piece de resistance, an incredibly elegant (that’s actually not doing it justice) integration with Google Calendar. I’m late to the party; Lifehacker of course wrote about these guys nearly two years ago, and quite a bit since then, more recently here sharing how RTM + GTD = acronym bliss, not to mention actual productivity nirvana.

Put it all together, and my web-based groupware OS is complete. Gmail (plus the required GTDInbox Firefox extension), Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Remember the Milk. I now have e-mail management, shared calendars, shared documents, and shared tasks. (Even better, I can keep work and personal info separate – while still getting a complete view across both – thanks to the seamless integration of these systems for both corporate and personal use.)

I’ll write more up on this later – I’ve just spent the last 6 hours plowing through the day’s e-mails to stay on top of work, and the movers show up early this morning to finish packing us up. But I just couldn’t resist plugging this incredible service – is it really possible it’s just two people? That’s nutty.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Traveling with pets - fly Continental

Among the thousand and one things we need to nail down before actually moving to California (estimated time of departure: 2 weeks away) is getting our dog out to California. When we moved to Chicago over six years ago, it was touch-and-go: American Airlines will not fly pets if either city in the trip will be below 40 degrees or above 85. That’s because the cargo compartments are not well insulated, and prolonged periods of time on the runway/tarmac can result in either very cold or very hot conditions.

One of the recommendations our relo service gave me was PetRelocation.com, a company that specializes in transporting pets. I called them to get a feel for what was involved (having already flown our dog once, I didn’t know if there was some aspect of this that I was missing, necessitating a service to cover our bases). If you don’t want to think about any of the details, PetRelocation is a good answer: they’ll pick your dog up, deliver him/her to the airport, coordinate travel, and then pick the dog up at the airport and deliver him/her to your door. That service doesn’t come cheap, though, so I opted to pass for the all-inclusive package.

But PetRelocation did tell me one interesting thing: they only fly Continental. Turns out, Continental is extraordinarily pet-friendly, and has the same air in the cabin that’s in the cargo… meaning that the pets are in a temperature-controlled environment for the duration of their trip. Continental doesn’t fly direct, so our dog will get a connection through Houston – where they will transport him in an air-conditioned van that’s specifically for transporting pets. He leaves Chicago a couple hours before us, and arrives an hour after us. (We’re flying direct… both for our own sanity as well as that of our fellow travelers. Nobody wants Becca on a connecting flight.)

The cost varies by weight, but our guy will be just over $300. For the peace of mind alone, that’s a very reasonable cost. Kudos to Continental for addressing this need so well; and thanks to PetRelocation for the recommendation.