Rack Is Not Ready For His Closeup

If You Can’t Train A Mc Nab Dog, You Don’t Deserve A Dog.

I read this once.  It was written by a breeder of Mc Nabs out in California.  It’s absolutely true.

The same goes for most herding dogs.

Australian Kelpie, shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs, Poodles, all that.

A lot of those undesirable behaviors are due to our subconsciously training dogs in ways we didn’t expect.

We have all seen those videos of dogs doing unexpected things.  Labrador Retrievers standing on the Ice Dispenser button to empty the freezer of ice cubes is probably my favorite.

The trick is to steer the undesirable behavior into something useful.

After all, have you wondered why your dog has this weird ability to predict when that ice cube needs to be shared when you say “I need a drink”?

I didn’t realize that I was training my dogs, but I should have been clued in.  I did this to Lettie, I certainly am doing this to Rack.


Lots of pictures.

They don’t like it.

Lettie would just walk away.  Cause meet Effect.  I would grab the camera, even if just to pop the chip out of it to read it, and she would find herself in another room.


Rack is a much more gentle creature.  He doesn’t cast aspersions.  He merely avoids.


Trash truck on the street a block away?  In the crate.
Vacuum cleaner out of the closet?  In the crate.
Coffee grinder?  Garbage Disposal?  Toaster finishing with a snap?  All in the crate.

I tend to block areas off these days.  He’s got his crate, and he’s got his mat out in the open.  The rest of his hiding places are blocked off.

He hasn’t learned that Flash Camera Bad thing yet.  He just thinks if he’s being aimed at by a camera or a phone, it’s going to get annoying.

When people send me messages, text or email, saying what they’re up to, and I feel the need to respond with the smartphone, I have been known to send weird random pictures.

Someone started demanding to know where I was.  Driving.  So I took a picture of the “guy in front of me” and sent it back.

I got the same question once when I was in the bathroom.  They got a picture of my feet and the bathroom door.

I was in the yard when the text barrage last happened.  I took a picture of the yard and sent it to him.  He was in Lorton Virginia waiting to get off the Auto Train and bored.

Then I thought “Oooh!  Lets try to get a picture of Rack”.

Made a mistake there.  He doesn’t understand that when I am coming after him, camera in hand, that we aren’t playing a game.


I scuffed my shoes on the pavement.

Time to run the human.  Make human tired.  Go do 100 laps around the pool leaping over the milkweed pot.  Pee on the Spider plant.  Bark at the human because human isn’t running at my speed when he scuffs his shoes on the pavement.

I really should toss those sneakers.  They’re too comfortable to get rid of but there isn’t really any sole left on the stupid things.  Long story.  Good sneakers.  They don’t leak through the sole when I walk through a puddle – yet.  10/10 will buy again the brand after I use up the “back stock” in the closet that I got for $20 a piece in close out.

Eventually I knew Rack tired.  He wanted to drink.  Actually he wanted to drink the pool which isn’t exactly a good idea with a salt system pool.  Since it just makes you more thirsty.

I started to follow him around.  Looking for Just That Right Picture.

I know.  I have dozens, if not hundreds of pictures of Rack in the year since we met.  I wanted more.

Awww look at the puppy.

It is like the story of the comic who was asked about children.  She didn’t think babies were all that beautiful.  There is a rare one that she would comment from the heart.  But for the most part she thought they were pretty ugly.  She’d just say enthusiastically “Its a Bay Beeee!!!!” and move on quickly.

That’s what most people think when they hear a pet-parent raving on about their cat, parrot, lemur, monkey, cow, or dog.  “It’s a Doggie!!” And walk away.

But… But… It’s MY Doggie.

Yeah, well, I’m still looking for That Picture and Rack doesn’t like it.

I blame the flash.  If you want to take a picture of your pet – do it outside.  They won’t learn Camera Equals Flash so quickly.

I ended up with the tip of the ear snipped off of the frame, and it saved me from sending a picture of my sneakers to someone again.

Oh and keep a few topical shots in the smartphone just to send off as a random comment to people.  It keeps them guessing when your dog isn’t ready for the closeup.

Auto Train Platform, Sanford, Florida

I have always appreciated trains.

When I was growing up, I watched them build the PATCO High-Speed Line from Philadelphia through to Lindenwold, NJ.  The tracks ran along a disused track that went to Atlantic City, NJ in a more Mass Transit oriented day.  I remember seeing the last freight train on that line, then the work cars coming through and laying the Third Rail for electric power.  After that, the whirr of the High Speed Line was a companion through my youth.

I took that train, and the SEPTA Regional Rails most of my work years in Philadelphia.  Made a lot of sense to do so, you could use them, leave the car at home, and not have to pay for parking.  Since Philly has a compact central business district, I took on the stereotype of a Philadelphian – I walk everywhere.

I even got to take the Auto Train as a child, and enjoyed the experience.  When I returned to it as an adult, I found that my 6′ 4″ frame simply could not sleep in the so-called recliner seating that they had in Coach.  It was either upgrade or drive.  I’ve been told that the seats have been upgraded to make it more comfortable, but I haven’t had a need to leave the state let alone South Florida since arriving here in 2006.

Looking at this picture of the platform, I had two thoughts.  One was the excitement of the vacation.  The anticipation of going somewhere far away, to meet friends and family, see new things, get caught up on old times, and generally have a blast.

The other was my time waiting for the R7 or the R8 to arrive to get me either home or to work.  They ran well when they ran.  At least they did.  Being away from the trains for all these years, I have heard that Septa got very expensive lately and also very crowded.

It’s all a matter of finance.  It is difficult to get a transport system to generate a profit.  Too many other ways to go from point A to point B, and most of them are financed and subsidized better.  Cutting corners is always noticed, whether it be lower quality seating or more infrequent service, all of which are a symptom of shortsightedness in those decide where tax dollars go to support infrastructure.  If the train doesn’t go to your area, then you will not be interested in supporting it and the Corridor services of the Northeast and California are both poster children of that sort of funding neglect.

But rails do have their target audience.  Bulk.  Any time you can send bulk cargo somewhere, it normally is cheaper by rail.  Whether that bulk is Oranges, Coal, or just our collective back-sides along with our cars going on vacation. The virtue of a dedicated road bed makes for more efficient traffic.

When railroads were originally built, the Federal government gave large tracts of land to the railroad companies in order to subsidize their construction.  While it opened up the country, it also made for profitable railroads since the land was basically free to the rails.  You could sell that land off at a premium and fund the construction of tracks.

That business model worked well through the 1940s.  When the suburbs were being built in the 1950s, the local street-car routes weren’t able to keep up with the building pace, and it showed the need for more roads to be laid.  Since roads were local, and railroads were regional, the politicians shifted funding to the competing street network and the railroads began their decline.

It became dis-economic to run a rail network against a free interstate road system, and by the 1970s, the big railroads of the past were dying on the vine.  There are a few left, as evidenced by the FEC tracks that run near my house serenading my neighborhood with their whistles, and where appropriately funded, they thrive in concert with the road networks.  With the idiocy of adding toll lanes to the interstates that your tax dollars have already paid for, I suspect that mass transit may start to get better funding.  That is if the greed of the politicians can be stopped so that the right thing can be done with that funding source.  After all, those toll lanes on the free interstate system will slow down everyone else who isn’t using them.  May as well take the regional train system since you have to pay to go anywhere.

After all, if you need to go somewhere that the trains go, it’s much easier to let them drive you there instead of having to find parking, get gas, and so forth.  Eventually it will all swing back to a new balance.  For now, if you want to bypass 900 miles of driving, you have to get to a platform like this.

Navigating by Remote Control

Ok, rule number one.  When a bunch of people are going for a ride in the car, driver sits behind the wheel.  The rest of the people line up by height.  The tallest gets the seat in front next to the driver.  The shorter people go in the back.

How do I know this?  Simple, I’m 6’4″.  Tall people don’t fit in the back of the car, it just doesn’t work.  Unless you’re driving a limousine or one of those boats that they used to sell back before the 1973 oil embargoes, there just isn’t enough room back there for anyone over 6 feet tall no matter how you try to spin it.

That might explain how I constantly got drafted to be the know-it-all who is next to the driver up front all the time.  Yes, the navigator would be a nicer way to phrase it.

I don’t care if she’s your wife or your elderly grandma, putting someone in the back who is over 6 foot tall means that you’re just not thinking.

But it does mean that you get good directions.  You should at any rate, or that tall person should be locked in the trunk, which might even be worse than sitting behind the driver in a compact car.

I got excellent at giving directions, but there were always limitations.  Back in the stone age, when your grandparents and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there were somethings called Maps.  These things were typically either in a book or were a giant piece of paper best used on a wall to cover a nasty stain that got there when you tried to cover up a food fight you had when you were 12.  You would open this and now the entire surface of the car was covered with a sheet of paper covered with brightly colored lines representing roads of various shapes, and rivers.

Don’t drive on the Blue Roads.  They are rivers.  Your car won’t survive long nor will it get where you are planning on going unless you are trying to collect on the insurance.  In that case, you’re a bad person and you made me a Sad Panda.

Later, you would find things that would fight that massive sheet of paper by simply printing out the road in a strip.  Don’t stray from your route or else you will fall off the edge of the map to where There Be Dragons, and who knows what other evil creatures of the night might find you as you hurtle through the unknown in your little compact car of doom.

I still haven’t managed the attraction of a GPS.  Sure, I have the software on my phones, whether Android or iPhone.  They work well enough, but then you get this rather assertive voice barking at you while you’re stuck in traffic.  The one I used last had a fight with the one the driver had turned on for the same route and as a result there are little computer chips and shards of LCD screens laying on the floor of the car.

It wasn’t a pretty sight.

This time though, I will be a Navigator by remote control.   Kevin is coming back from up North where he spent a week with Mom.  Holidays with Mom, then Mom and Sister’s Family.  He’s currently stuck on the Auto Train where a switching problem in Banjo Player County Georgia has him limping along to the promised land of North Florida and Sanford Beyond.

How these trips go are that I start getting calls when the train is past Daytona on its way South.  Then he’s sitting in the station playing with the iPhone getting fidgety waiting for the giant train to disgorge his car so he can drive back.

Stop by a Wawa in Central Florida if one is nearby and get an Italian Hoagie.  I swear the bread is made by license by them from Amoroso…

As things progress I get more calls saying I just passed a cow in the middle of a field, do you know where I am?

Well, no, I can watch your progress on Google Earth, but I don’t have access to those Spy Satellites that I’ve heard about.  If I did, this world would be an interesting place, but that’s a different flight of fancy.

It’s bad enough that I load up Google Earth and start looking at things like borders on the map and scratching my head as to why I can trace the border for miles when the neighbors have been peaceful for 200 years.

You know, Pennsylvania and Maryland?

We seem to have jumped over the standalone GPS era and went right to the Smartphone based GPS.  But it’s still easier to ask me, 100 miles away, where that particular cow is.

Ok, just get yourself home.  I’m sure you must be back in Florida by now.

You’re not?  Oh well, I’ll go make some espresso.

Standing on the Platform at the Auto Train

I’m a big fan of travel and public transportation.  I’m a green even if I do drive a Jeep that gets 18mpg city, and I justify it by riding a train when I am able.  I was able to only put 4000 miles a year on the thing when I lived in Philly because I rode the SEPTA Regional Rails everywhere. 

The R7 is where I met some wonderful people when I learned how to share the seat. 

In the case of this picture, it brought back that flood of memories, joining up with Velma and the morning crew and riding to work every day for 7 plus years.  The platforms are pretty standard, even though this one is for the Auto Train in Sanford Florida.

Kevin’s taking a trip to visit Mom, and will be arriving in Lorton Virginia this morning.  Onward to Pennsylvania afterwords. 

I took the Auto Train way back in the 70s when it had first started up with my family.  We rode to Sanford and took a grand tour of Florida, first heading to Tampa area, then Fort Lauderdale, and back to Orlando to see the Rat.   After all we kids, Pat and I and Cousin Darlene, were not yet teens and it was a chance to see all the fun at Disney World while it was still exciting.

Back then, we rode coach.  It was uncomfortable then with seats that didn’t recline and blankets that weren’t quite warm enough in the Air Conditioned “comfort”. 

Later, I tried it again in Coach and found that the seats were a little better but not suited to my 6’4″ frame and thought only in an emergency. 

Kevin tried an “Individual RoomEtte” and liked it.  They’re not quite four feet wide, have a teeny table and two chairs in them.  When you’re ready, the porter pulls down a berth for you to sleep your way through some rather unexciting scenery in the deep south and you wake up in Virginia.  North Florida if you’re coming down from Snowbird Land.

Much more comfortable than trying to pretend that sleeping in a stiff backed and semi padded chair that is semi reclining is a good way to spend a night.

Theoretically the costs work out fairly even, you can go the distance in about the same time and expense as it would be to drive.  Certainly safer since I know that in the middle of that first day drive, I’ll start getting white line fever and need a good time out of the Jeep.