The dog I needed

Last October, I adopted Nala, the most adorable puppy in the world. That’s not a surprise to you if you’ve interacted with me at any level since the beginning of last August. If we’ve had more than a five minute conversation, you’ve probably also noticed that dog training and behaviour has become an all-consuming hobby for me, definitely bordering on an obsession.

If you’d asked me to bet on that happening a year ago, I’d have laughed at you. In fact, I distinctly remember talking with a friend about how little training I planned on doing a week or so before I brought Nala home. I had enrolled her in a day training program a coworker recommended, and completely assumed that at the end of it I’d have a perfect well-behaved dog who was all set up for life.

If I had brought home a different dog, that might have been all I did. Sometimes I see people out in the world with puppies who are perfectly chill in any situation, and just totally content to settle in a crowded space, and I’m pretty sure if I had that puppy I wouldn’t have felt the need to work on anything past basic manners. I did not get that puppy.

From the first day, Nala was a rambunctious fireball of energy who did not want to stop moving for even an instant. She was incredibly confident approaching any new situation whether it be a tennis ball or a new person and I was in no way ready to direct her energy. At some point, I stumbled across a Reddit post talking about an online dog training course, thought the results sounded pretty great for not that much money, and signed up thinking it couldn’t hurt. The course, and the podcast which went with it, helped me to learn that there’s so much more to dog training than just “lure and reward” and got me onto this path.

After finishing that course, I started reading (and listening, I really love podcasts) to other voices in the dog training community, and learned a ton more about what’s going on at the forefront of animal behaviour research. I’ve started geeking out on the learning theory behind the training even past the specific skills I’m working on with Nala (thanks to every group class instructor who has dealt with my very esoteric questions you were not expecting in your basic life skills class).

I’ve also gone from loving dogs as a general concept to seeing dogs as real individuals who have real personalities, skills, and needs. I’ve thought a lot about applying the compassion I feel towards those individuals not just to dogs but also to the people in my life.

Without Nala, I could not possibly have learned everything I have and would be a hugely different person than I am today. If I’d known how much I would enjoy dog training, and how much was possible to train, I’d probably have told my past self to adopt an adult dog and put in the exact same amount of effort, but I doubt I’d have had the motivation to put in all the time without needing to do so for Nala.

As it was, Nala was the exact perfect dog I needed in my life. She needed a level of attention that I couldn’t skimp on, and a level of experience that I didn’t possess. Thanks to her, I started building towards having that experience, and realizing I enjoyed it along the way. I also have the most absolutely adorable puppy with the best personality who I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. So, like so many things in my life, I don’t think I made the best decisions I could have, but I’m insanely glad I made exactly the decisions I did.

Recycling some old electronics

One of the things I decided I wanted to do this year was write more blog posts.  I’ve said that many times in the past, and it’s obviously failed to a fantastic degree, however, here’s to another attempt (or to ignoring reality/the past).  I’m going to start off with a rather inane post with the hope that there’s no way I can become more pointless as time goes on.

Earlier this week, I “recycled” some old electronics.  Having moved recently, I’ve done many passes of cleaning out some old stuff, but I think this is the first time I parted with things that felt significant at the time of buying them.  I recycled the first tablet I had ever bought (also one of the first electronics in general that I purchased completely on my own) along with the first digital camera I truly considered mine (and though I ordered it, I’m reasonably sure it came as a high school graduation present from my mom).

The tablet was shockingly the least hard thing to get rid of.  Despite having bought it right when it first came out (it was one of the original Nexus 7s), I had left it sitting in a closet untouched for the past two years and even before then had not given it any attention.  In essence, I had already parted with it nearly four years ago, but it still felt a bit strange abandoning that part of my electronics life.

For the camera, it felt a bit harder setting it aside.  I remember ordering it near the end of my senior year of high school after a lot of deliberation…this was still in the age of cell phone cameras being hopelessly behind real cameras and I wanted something that could at least take reasonable pictures.  I think it was one of the biggest purchases I (or more likely my mother on my behalf) made at that point and through its life

This past year though, I pulled it out to check how it was doing thinking it might be handy to have a smaller camera along for hiking trips and discovered I could no longer turn it on.  I had used it to take a few photos when I first moved to New York (it still felt nicer to use than my cell phone), but hadn’t touched it since.  I plugged it in, left it for a while, and still nothing.  At this point, there really wasn’t anything else I was able to do and I had already acquired several new cameras lately, so attempting a repair didn’t feel worthwhile.  Still, even as I walked to Best Buy to recycle it, I felt like there was so much meaning in it still.  I could hold it in my hand still and think back on the various scratches it had, remembering for many of them the first time I noticed them (as much as I liked that camera, I still just left it sitting in my backpack much of the time; I’ve always felt it better to have a device nearby and risk some damage than to never be able to use it).  Eventually though, I had to accept that the camera, like the tablet, had become more of an ornament hidden on a dark shelf than anything I was likely to use again, and discard it as well.

One of the most striking things for me was that these were not only two of the earliest electronics that I made the decision to purchase on my own, but also two of the most recent purchases I made where I had some illusion I would keep them forever.  Even as I look around my apartment at some of things I own I like the most: my espresso machine, my camera(s), even my bike, I can’t help but think that someday in the next ten years or so I’ll decide I’d like to try the newer version.  I remember my parents keeping their old bikes from decades ago in the garage and can’t help but wonder whether the realization that I’m never going to do that is a generational difference, or just a difference in how I think.  I wonder how much this is a true departure from my earlier inability to throw anything away, and how much of it is just me trying to strip off any emotion from possessions as I adapt the the necessities of living without a garage.  And finally, I wonder what my mother thinks knowing that I can’t bring myself to regard any possession I have as falling into the category as a heirloom, and especially how this affects those kind enough to give me gifts that I may enjoy but never consider permanent.



Oh, and as a last note (phew, the prior last paragraph felt way too long for a closing), I realized right as I was finishing the last sentence that I do have at least one possession that still has some kind of emotional attachment to me: a stuffed animal mouse that I have had since I was a child.  Fortunately, the panic triggered by realizing I didn’t remember unpacking it is over and I managed to find it in the “junk box” (hey, no room for a drawer in my last apartment) I had moved from the previous apartment (and added a few last-minute items to as the last things I packed).  Turns out there were also a couple old calculators I’ve had since high school (including a TI-84 with a *very* assertive personality) and some old smartphones…so I guess I’m not completely done being emotional over possessions.

Rent and La Boheme

Woah, I’m posting again!  It’s strange, I’ve written about a half-dozen half-posts that are all insanely more substantial than this one.  Anyways, here’s just a fun rambling of me on Rent!

Today, I watched Rent again after what must be almost a decade.  This was prompted by having watched La Boheme yesterday (at the Metropolitan Opera (vague thoughts on that below)) and then deciding I really did not want to do much today after work.  About two minutes into the movie, I realized I was going to have a lot of thoughts on it, so, here’s a blog post covering a couple of those thoughts.  I apologize in advance for the lack of organization here, this is pretty much just me jotting down all my thoughts in a quick rush.  If you want to read some of my less intellectual thoughts on the movie, feel free to check out Twitter.

First off, wow, I’m so much grumpier than I once was…  I don’t think think this is actually the first time I realized it, but it is absolutely amazing how much I fail to emphasize with the main characters here.  I mean, the entire premise of this movie is that there is a group of artists who managed to get away with not paying rent for a year and then are absolutely grumpy because the landlord says they have to start paying rent.  I mean, I’m already grumpy having to pay rent…but I really don’t think anyone deserves to get off rent-free just because they are “bohemian”…  So, yeah, I’m the grumpy person.  I’m bitter about them getting what looks like a pretty sizable apartment rent-free and I’m definitely grumpy about the fact that they are on the subway singing and disturbing passengers, I mean, what kind of person would actually take a stranger’s hat? (also, first side note, hats get stolen at least twice in this movie)

I had seen the opera once before, as a recording, and it honestly was nothing like seeing it in person yesterday.  First of all, it was my first opera at the Metropolitan Opera (yeah, I know, took long enough), and it was impossible to not be absolutely in awe of the scale they worked at.  When they opened the curtain on the second act, they had what seemed like an entire city on stage with multiple levels built up, multiple buildings you could see into.  It was amazing.  It made me think back to the way that in Phantom of the Opera they used some dummies onstage in order to make it look like the room was actually full.  For this opera though, that was insanely unnecessary as the stage was completely and totally crowded due to the presence of real people.  And that is before they brought an actual horse-drawn carriage onto the stage…or a marching band…yeah, it was crazy.  I’m insanely impressed just having the chance to behold something at that scale.

One of the other amazing things about the opera was how much intermission time the Met gives you.  At least a third of the entire time I was there was spent wandering around.  It was a great chance to people watch, but honestly in general just made me wish I had gone with someone to chat with during those breaks.  I had always been thinking of the opera as more of an activity to actually see the performance (the way I had at school), but it felt almost like it was there to play a more social role based on actually going.

Anyways, moving back to Rent for a bit, I think one of the coolest things is how much of a difference there was between some parts of the two and how similar they were in other ways.  I actually almost did a class project on this in high school once (I totally could have justified this for World History, comparing all the adaptions of La Boheme) and think there is a ton that you can focus on for this.  I want to just touch on a couple of the differences that really stood out to me this time watching through them though, so here goes!

First of all, there’s the way Mimi and Roger/Rodolfo have their first meeting.  In both, Mimi walks in with a candle that needs to be relit and it is not long before some heavy flirting begins.  In the opera though, it is Rodolfo who decides to blow out his candle to make her stay longer and then hide her key so she’ll stay even longer right before he starts professing his undying love.  In Rent, Mimi never really had an actual candle problem and Roger only takes her heroin to try to help her (or at least that’s how I always saw it).  It’s a continuous stream of watching Mimi try to come on to Roger and him being less than receptive, a far stretch from the original opera where they both declare they are in eternal love after only knowing the other person for about five minutes.  On this point, the musical is far more believable, and I like the decision to add that conflict where Roger is struggling with whether he is comfortable being in love with anyone knowing that his death is approaching.  When he finally comes around to deciding that he is willing to be with Mimi, I think it makes the moment a lot more emotional.

Oh, as a side note, a vaguely amusing piece of writing I remember from a long time ago: Light My Candle from Roger’s point of view.  Reading it now, the writing sucks, but there are still a few funny quips in there.

In the middle of both stories (well, technically missing from the movie, but you have a nice deleted scene for those of us who need emotional roller coasters) you have Goodby Love (or, well, “Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina” if you are thinking of the Opera), a song that is equally emotional in both stories, but the exchange between Roger and Mark has a lot more emotion in Rent than the equivalent exchange in La Boheme.  Personally, I think removing it and just having Roger having decided to leave without having that emotionally charged moment between him and Mimi removes a lot from the story.  According to the commentary track (which I did not listen to this time but remember from many years ago) it was removed because there were too many funny points and miserable points mixed in and it confused audiences too much.  I’d disagree, and say that that is life, and having that scene in there was crucial to the movie. (side note: opposite couples ended up reconciling at this point in Rent and La Boheme)

Finally, you have the end of the stories.  In La Boheme, Mimi dies.  Silently.  Without anyone actually noticing.  It just happens.  That feels a bit real, and I absolutely applaud the way that was set.  In Rent, Mimi “dies” with everyone surrounding here worrying about her, and everyone notices, but then she comes back to life with a tragic story of how Angel spoke to her in a dream.  Now, ignoring the whole fact that Mimi is probably still pretty close to death and going to die from AIDS anyways, it’s supposed to be a powerful moment.  I personally think that the ending with her death was better, but Rent already had the necessary tragic death, and I understand why the decision to have that hope was taken.

Going away from the arc of Mimi (I really love just being able to use one name here) for a bit, there are a couple huge character changes I also wanted to touch upon here briefly.  First of all, the characters of Schaunard and Colline from La Boheme.  They translate pretty closely to Angel and Colin in Rent, however, are clearly not in a relationship in the opera.  By adding that extra dimension, Larson managed to have a much greater message than was ever in the source material.  Having Angel die in the middle of the story was also a huge emotional tie to everything else that was happening and created a great point for the characters to rally together and realize what was happening in their lives.  It gave Roger his excuse to consider his need to move to Santa Fe, and it did a great job of giving Mark a chance to reflect upon life as well (though, seriously, I don’t get why he had to quit his job).

Another lesser change is moving to having two Marcellos.  In Rent, Mark was always my favourite character.  I had to identify with him as the “techie” of the group (and so much more now…it used to annoy me to no end how he managed to fix all the problems instantly, but now I understand that’s really what it is like in the real world, I’m sorry for doubting).  They also add Joanne who is in an actual relationship with Maureen throughout Rent.  It was kind of sad watching Mark be alone throughout the whole thing (someone really needs to make a montage of awkward Mark being alone moments), I think getting to see the nice dynamic between Mark and Joanne was definitely worth it.  You could still have Mark playing the part of the sad guy who will never actually get over Maureen (much closer to the role of Marcellos) while now getting a super powerful character in Joanne who would go head-to-head with Maureen over all her crazy stuff, call her out on things, and in general make sure we got a much more interesting show to watch.

Finally, I wanted to touch upon the increase in death that you see in Rent.  While Mimi survives, the threat of death hangs over the characters so much more than in La Boheme.  In La Boheme, while they are all starving artists, Mimi is the only one facing an actual threat of death hanging over her.  This is another area where I believe Rent manages to add a lot of depth to an already incredibly emotional opera, moving it from conveying emotions about abstract concepts to the emotions being things that you are capable of somewhat relating to.

For the longest time, Rent was my absolute favourite musical.  Even after it was no longer my favourite musical, when it was initially taken over by Wicked, I still absolutely loved the story.  That slowly drifted away though as I started to realize that I identified more with Benny than with any of the actual bohemians.  I still have a nearly unlimited level of respect for those in creative professions, but I can no longer believe that that allows them to feel the level of pity for themselves that you see in Rent.  They have responsibilities they need to worry about, and I think that Rent does a great job of ignoring those.

Watching Rent again, the music was more amazing than I remember.  I completely grok why it was my favourite musical for so long, even ignoring the fact that it probably just counts as my rebellious phase of being a teenager (hey, I was a pretty non-rebellious teenager).  The story has so much emotion built into it, but it is sadly not in a way that I can identify with anymore.

I’m using Twitter now!

So, recently, I’ve run into a class of things I think that are way too short to put into a blog post, but I just do not feel like posting to other places.  I mean, there’s Facebook, but anytime I post to Facebook I feel like I’m making way too big of a deal out of something.  Then there’s snapchat, which works, but I think my snaps are pretty boring and then there is no way to remember things.  Plus, it feels too targeted.  To be clear, here are some examples of things that I have thought about posting the past few days:

How to ship code: 1. Change the DNS rules; 2. Upload the files; 3. Fly out of the state without a laptop #doingitright

I just wrote a letter to my sister and managed to start every paragraph with “So,” #ashamed #toolongtorewrite

Finally got my laptop back! #twoweekslater #canfinallywritethispost

Now, at first, I came up with what I thought was a pretty wonderful solution, and I’m sure it is exactly what everyone is thinking of.  I was going to write a small wordpress plugin that would let me make tiny updates that would show up in a module (or whatever wordpress calls the tiny things to the side) with the last couple of them visible.  It solved all my problems: I’d have a chance to do a tiny bit of wordpress development again and I would have a place to post these things.  Then I realized that this really alread existed…in the form of Twitter.

So, anyways,

The Meaning of a Nomination

One thing that is common to almost every single student organization is that elections are held. No matter what org it is, we need some way to choose leaders for the following year, and letting the members decide usually seems pretty good considering the values we hold as a people.  With elections, you always need some way to decide who is running, and parliamentary procedure tells us this should be done through nominations.  Through a couple organizations I have been a part of, I’ve seen nominations lose the meaning I think they should have and I would like to comment both on the problems I have seen with them in the past (both with nominations and seconds), and on what I think a nomination should mean.

One of the first times I had a problem with nominations, it was actually from a person seconding a nomination.  The person being nominated was someone I had never heard of, and it turned out that was true for just about everyone in the room.  I did not know the person who made the nomination, but I did know the seconder, so I asked him about the candidate after the meeting.  Surprisingly, he also did not know about the person, and just felt sorry that no one was seconding the nomination.  While I understand the desire to feel sorry for someone, you should give more weight to yourself than to offer your support for someone just out of pity.  One thing to note is that, in actuality, nominations for office do not even need a second (and unless house rules state otherwise, nominations are not even required if voting is done by ballot).

Another problem is using nominations to encourage people to run.  With another org, there is the habit of nominating just about every single person at the nomination meeting, and not even suggesting what position that person would be good for.  Now, I completely understand the logic behind this one, holding an officer position is a great way to get more involved with an organization, and you want to make sure as many new members get involved as possible, however, I can’t bring myself to put any weight on your nomination.  I understand that you are not making the nomination with the expectation that I will care about what you think, that you are just wanting to help the other person, however, that just takes away the meaning from any genuine nominations that are being made.

So, by this point, you’ve probably figured out what I think a nomination should mean.  Nominating someone for an office should show that you believe the person could do a good job in that position.  If you are not even sure what position the person would be good for, but you think that person would be good for something, talk to the person.  It can be helpful to be encouraging to a person, however, that can be better done through a conversation about why you support the person, and learning more about what he or she could be qualified for, than just nominating the person in the middle of a meeting…right after you just did the same thing for a bunch of other people.

Nominations exist so that we know the field of candidates contains people who have some level of support, and the members time does not get wasted.  I should also be able to use the nomination to gauge something about the candidate, so make sure that you think the person would be good for a specific position before you make the nomination.  Like just about anything in parliamentary procedure, nominations exist for a reason, and I think everything works better if that reason is kept in mind.


(meta note: this has been typed up sitting here for about a month…I really need to get better at actually posting things)

Google Doc Email Notifications

I don’t think I have made any posts in the past about something this simple, however, I just discovered this and I am wishing right now that I had found it sooner.  In Google Docs (well, technically, Google Drive Spreadsheets) it is possible to set up email notifications for whenever a spreadsheet changes.  Most impressively, this means that you are able to have an email sent to you whenever someone fills out a form!  To set this up, open up the spreadsheet (the one receiving form submissions), click on “Tools” (in the menu bar), and click on “Notification Rules…”.  You can select different options for how to be notified here.  Personally, I think the most useful one is to be notified whenever a user submits a form.  You can set this so you get the email either the moment the form is submitted or you can get a digest every day with a summary.

With this said, I was kind of disappointed when I realized that this does not extend to documents.  There are a couple documents I have where I would appreciate an email when someone else updates it.  Overall, however, I think form submissions are the most important action to have emails for and I wish I had known about this sooner.