All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

A Friday Great Dog Story

Sometimes you just have to break away from your norm and do something a little different. This is definitely something different for me. I didn’t write the following post. It’s been around since last summer, it seems. I don’t even know if it’s true, and I really don’t care.

Every once in awhile you need something that either makes you feel good or touches you in some fashion. I got this email a couple of days ago, and it moved me. I usually don’t read a lot of these because, as a guy who grew up when macho was the thing, I don’t usually like to take chances with stuff that might make me lose control. No, I didn’t lose control over this one, but man, it pushed me.

This story is on a bunch of blogs, but seeing as the internet is such a large place, I’m betting most folks haven’t seen this story, since I hadn’t seen it before. So, if I may, I’d like to present to you this wonderful dog story, enhanced a little bit with color. It’s long, so if you have a problem with that, stop now and go do something else:

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. the shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.

I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner. See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his New home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls – he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn’t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he settled in. But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like “sit” and “stay” and “come” and “heel,” and he’d follow them – when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name – sure, he’d look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever. When I’d ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn’t going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the “damn dog probably hid it on me.”

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie’s direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home. But then I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I’ll give you a treat.” Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction – maybe “glared” is more accurate – and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down. With his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either, I thought. And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that, too. “Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice”…. …..

To Whoever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it. If you’re reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong… which is why I have to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. the more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it, so be careful – really don’t do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I’ll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones – “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.” He knows hand signals: “back” to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and “over” if you put your hand out right or left. “Shake” for shaking water off, and “paw” for a high-five. He does “down” when he feels like lying down – I bet you could work on that with him some more. He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when he’s due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car – I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he, doesn’t bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you….

His name’s not Reggie.

I don’t know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. but I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I’d never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything’s fine. But if someone else is reading it, well… well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It’ll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a change in his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.

His real name is Tank.

Because that is what I drive.

Again, if you’re reading this and you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with… and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call the shelter… in the “event”… to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting to downright depressing, even though, frankly, I’m just writing it for my dog. I couldn’t imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family. but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things… and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He was my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. I don’t think I’ll say another good-bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,
Paul Mallory

__________________________________________

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

“Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek. “So whatdaya say we play some ball? His ears perked again. “Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Dog Breed Necktie Black Labrador

Dog Breed Necktie Black Labrador

Price – $24.99






Thinking About Quitting Blogging; The Thought Process

That headline is no lie; I have really been thinking about giving up blogging over the past week or so.

I love blogging; at least I have. I have lots to talk about, so it’s definitely not that.

I like comments, and I’ve met a lot of people I’d have never met otherwise, so it’s not that.

I’ve been wondering whether I’m making a difference or not. I’ve been wondering if I’m channeling myself into efforts that not that many people really care about. A couple of comments on yesterday’s post about people not wanting to read long posts and therefore visiting less often is a part of that as well.

I’m not really into catering to anyone else’s beliefs or thoughts on what it is I do. However, the last thing I want to do is waste my time or anyone else’s time.

It looks and sounds like a pity party, but it’s not. Blogging isn’t the only thing I’ve been thinking about giving up lately. I write two newsletters, and I’ve been writing them for about 7 years now. I’ve never reached a mass audience; my main newsletter still has less than 200 subscribers after all these years. I’ve got enough material to write a couple of books if I want to take the time to edit them; I just might do that.

I’m tired. I’m tired physically, and I’m tired mentally. In just over 2 years I’ve written 653 posts on this blog, and, as you see the stats to the right, I have 131 subscribers; that’s depressing. True, it’s not always about how many subscribers, but I’m remembering a blog post I read the other day about continuing to do things that aren’t living up to expectations. I bet almost no one remembers that last January I made a serious push to increase the numbers of subscribers for this blog; colossal flop.

If I decide to stop blogging, I shut everything down. No sales, no just leaving it up. I’d kill this blog and the others and go about my business. I don’t think I’d be missed longer than a week or so, if that long. And maybe I’d get some other things done. After all, even if I quit my blogs and newsletters, I’m still writing them for other people right now, getting paid for it.

Maybe that’s it; maybe it’s the overkill of writing and coming up with ideas on topics I’ve had to learn to know fairly well that’s killing some enthusiasm for this; I’m not sure.

To keep this short for those who hate more than 500 words, I’ll end with this. I’ll continue writing for now until I come to a real decision, and when I do, I’ll bring this up again. For now, less than 470 words, I’m done with this post.

Commentary On A Comments Post

I was reading a guest post on Problogger titled 8 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting Many Comments, and as I read it, I identified with a couple of them, and found that I kind of disagreed with the other points. I figured I’d comment here rather than there, mainly because there are already 111 comments on that post, and I applaud the writer of the post, Charlie Gilkey, on responding to comments on his post, something you don’t often see guest bloggers going back to do (y’all need to be cautious of that).

1. Your Posts Are Too Long

If we set the bar at 500 words for what’s long and what’s short, I’d have to say that, based on my own blog, it depends on what someone is talking about. For instance, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few posts that were longer than that, and most of them got a pretty good response. I’ve also written a few short posts, and one of those only got a couple of comments.

I believe as long as you’re not droning over one thing without adding something new to it here and there, long posts are just fine. People tend to gravitate towards one or two lines they really like anyway if you haven’t bored them. And, the post Charlie wrote on this topic was pretty long, and it got 111 comments; case closed.

2. You Haven’t Asked Them to Comment

This one is interesting. If I asked at the end of every post “please comment”, I’d sound desperate. Actually, every once in awhile I do ask people what their opinion is, and I think that’s actually his point here. If you’re writing something pretty technical, you won’t get many comments, but if you offer an opinion, like I do here and there on this blog (kind of like this post), then asking people what they think makes sense.

3. They Don’t Know What To Say

This one seems obvious, and in this case there’s really not much to comment on because there’s nothing you can do to encourage those people to comment.

4. They’re Doing What You Told Them To Do

This is where we talk technical. One of my posts from awhile ago was talking about how to get Google Desktop to index Thunderbird. This is still one of my most popular posts, and it still gets comments. It never got the amount of comments close to how many people have read it, but it got some, and I know it helped a lot of people. I guess this is just something you have to deal with if you’re going to try to help people from time to time.

5. They’re Chasing Links On Your Blog

Here he’s talking about internal linking, saying that people will go off and follow your internal links to other posts without commenting on the original post. Do those people comment on the old posts if they follow it? I think this is an acceptable risk, because we all would like some of our older comment to be read, it’s great for SEO, and I think people who care will make sure to comment on one or both or multiples as they see fit.

6. They’re Following Your Social Media Trail

This is an intriguing idea, and I’m not quite sure I believe this one. I doubt there’s a single person who follows my blog and me on either Twitter or Facebook who doesn’t comment. What I have seen, though, are people who subscribe to the email not commenting, instead writing me directly. I’m not sure I believe this one at all.

7. It’s Hard For Them To Comment

Hello! He’s speaking to, and for, the choir, or at least me on this one. How many times have I written about making it easy to comment on your blog? How many times have I castigated Disqus and Intense Debate and the like for wanting me to subscribe so I can see responses to a comment I’ve written? Heck, sometimes it’s hard to find the link that allows you to comment. And there’s a new trend where a few bloggers have some posts they’ll allow you to comment on, and others where they turn it off because they don’t want to hear your opinion on their opinion. Not sure where I stand on that one in general, but I know those are usually the posts I want to comment on, so I just don’t subscribe to those blogs because it’s irritating to me.

8. You’re Posting At The Wrong Time

Once again, I have decided to take this one with a grain of salt. I have experimented this concept of posting at different times, and what I’ve realized is that it just doesn’t matter. It seems the email feed goes out late in the afternoon or evening anyway, and Twitter has folks on it 24/7, so there’s always an audience that’s seeing your post when you’re not around. Maybe 4 years ago time made a big difference, but not anymore.

And that’s that. Be sure to read Charlie’s post entirely, and of course I’d love to hear your thoughts on my commentary on that post. See, I’ve asked you to contribute! 🙂

Some Quick Hitters For A Sunday

In less than an hour, the United States hockey team will take on Canada for the gold medal, and yet I wanted to get a post out before then. So, this is one of those posts where I’m going to talk about a few things on my mind, without any consistent theme. Stay tuned.

Let’s talk about the hockey game first. I don’t normally watch hockey. If it’s the NHL professional league, I will watch it if I’m at someone’s house, or if it’s the finals and possibly the final game of the year. I don’t know almost any players anymore, especially since the New York Rangers started playing bad hockey after winning their last Stanley Cup. I used to be a Boston Bruins fan when I lived in Maine as a kid, but once you can’t watch your teams play anymore, you sometimes tend to move away from those teams. I’m glad I still get to see a lot of Boston Red Sox games; I hate the Yankees!

Anyway, whether you care about hockey or not, this is big. The United States versus Canada, the two best teams in the world, are vying for the gold medal. When the U.S. won last week, we had a mini Mardi Gras party in the states, and we’re hoping for more of that today, even though Canada is favored. Hockey is supposed to be their game, like curling, which Canada did finally win the gold medal for (men’s team at least; not sure how the women ended up). This is interesting in that it pits professional teammates against each other while they’re representing their countries. Should be a lot of fun as the Olympics is finally ending its two week run.

Locally, our big story was last night for the Syracuse Orange vs. the Villanova Wildcats NCAA basketball game. Syracuse ended up with the largest on-campus home crowd ever in the nation, 34,616 people, and they crushed Villanova 95-77. They could be the number one team in the country come Monday; that would be something, especially since this team was barely picked to finish in the top half of the Big East conference at the beginning of the season.

I’m glad I wasn’t at the game, because I wouldn’t have been able to see replay after replay of some marvelous basketball. That, plus knowing what the roads had to have been like after all the snow we’ve had lately and many road closings; nope, I enjoyed it right where I was, camped in front of the big screen in the bedroom. That picture is showing what more than 30,000 people looks like in the Dome; wild!

On another front, I can’t believe I never heard from 101Phones regarding the commission they didn’t pay me. I did hear from Commission Junction finally, and wasn’t really happy with their response, but what can you do? I have dropped these people from any advertising, and I went to the site and delisted myself from them as well. Stay away, folks; if this is how they treat affiliates, your business is worthless to them. Even their Twitter account was canceled, if it was them to begin with. Man, I hate being taken advantage of.

That was something else I had to deal with last week. Imagine waking up and seeing a lot of trackbacks to your blog, and figuring out that they’re all your own posts on someone else’s blog.

That’s what happened to me, as this blog based in Egypt had come in and stolen 7 of my posts, verbatim and image wise, without attribution. That was the second time this month I’d had my content stolen, although the first time, supposedly, it was from a site in the British Territories (whatever that is) that was supposed to be something like StumbleUpon, only they took the entire post and didn’t tell anyone who wrote it. Even the ISP wouldn’t intervene on that one, telling me my only recourse was to write the company and ask them to remove the post, which they didn’t.

Man, I wish I knew how to report the ISP to someone for not doing their duty; that’s the problem in trying to overcome foreign companies sometimes. Anyway, the guy in Egypt finally did remove all my posts, so I commend him on that and won’t out him, although I did out him on Twitter when it looked like he wasn’t going to do the right thing.

Man, am I going to have to start adding a disclaimer at the end of every post so people who visit these guys will know they stole content? I haven’t seen a lot of people doing that, but maybe it’s the way to go.

And finally, let’s talk snow. Some of you, like Sire, have no real clue as to the kind of mess too much snow can cause. Here in the Syracuse area, we’re usually well prepared for snow, but Thursday and Friday were something else. It was a heavy, wet snow, which adds a lot of weight to the effort of trying to remove it. This was one of those snows where small snowplows, those on trucks your neighbor might have, actually got stuck in some places; now that’s wild. Thursday I was able to get to the snow before it got too high. Friday, however, my back wasn’t having it, and even with my wife home, in 20 minutes we’d barely made a dent in the driveway, though I made it my mission to at least get a thin trail to the street, just in case there was some kind of emergency. Many people missed work because large plows couldn’t get into their neighborhoods, and even if they could there was no place to put the extra snow. The thing about snow is that people sometimes disregard it, saying it’s just snow, but when snow is heavy it takes out more people over a larger area than any other natural disaster can. This last storm took out the entire East Coast; not even a hurricane does that.

Finally, it’s the last day of February, and I said I wasn’t going to post financial numbers anymore until I made at least $500 in a month. Nope, nowhere close to that, but I still hate that I’m not getting credit for that one affiliate sale. I need some free time to do some extra stuff, but it’s fleeting. I’m expecting March to be a great financial month offline, as I landed a short contract that will pay a lot of money in a short time, so that might bode well for April; guess we’ll see.

I hope everyone else has a great Sunday and last day of February; go USA!
 

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When Opera Isn’t Opera

Friday night, I went to the Syracuse Opera production of The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner. I would say that I went to the opera, but that would be a misnomer, based on what they did to it.

Let me get this part out of the way. The singers were fabulous. The lead, Greer Grimsley, was spectacular in the role of the Flying Dutchman, and his counterpart, Peter Strummer, was also great. The leading female role was sung by Lori Phillips, as Senta, and she was fabulous as well, although, if it were me, I might have wonted more of a lyrical coloratura in the role, someone with a higher pitch, but that’s me.

The orchestra was also great. The conductor, Douglas Kinney Frost, is new to me, and though he did a competent job with both the orchestra and the choir, it seems that conductors might be doing something different these days than what I’m used to. Instead of being animated when the orchestra was supposed to be hitting accented notes, he would do it first, and then a beat later the orchestra would follow him. That was bothering me early, as I kept wondering if maybe he was off the beat in some fashion. Eventually I decided to stop looking at him and to close my eyes when nothing else was going on.

So, what was missing? The opera, that’s what. This was more of a choral version of the opera Flying Dutchman than an opera. It wasn’t a production. There were no costumes, no acting, no sets. Instead, they decided to do something they said was innovative. What they called it was a multimedia production. They got some Syracuse University students to put together video montages of, well, pretty much whatever they wanted to do, and they showed them on screens behind the orchestra throughout the performance.

Talk about distracting. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s a tale of a ghost sailor who made a statement so bold that the devil decided he would have to sail the seas forever unless he could get a woman to give her true soul to him in love, and thus he and his crew cold finally die. This means you might expect that there would be some things in a video such as boats, maybe pirates, bad weather, etc. There’s one point in the opera where there’s supposed to be a feast, so maybe there would have been exhibits of food and the like.

Nope, none of that. Oh, there was some water, a tree once, someone pouring beer, and a mixer beating batter that eventually becomes a cake. Other than that, none of what they came up with had anything to do with anything that was in the show. That, plus they kept replaying some of these videos over and over. It was really distracting because above all of this was the translation of the German libretto, which also at times was confusing because when two singers were singing different lyrics at the same time, you weren’t always sure whose words were being printed above, and every once in awhile they wouldn’t put up any lyrics at all.

So, the opera was a mixed blessing at best. If they had done this entire thing without the video, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed. Not having the entire colorful production, I feel kind of cheated. There are pictures online of this production with some of these cast members, and in costume this would have been spectacular. As it is, I’m now a big Greer Grimsley fan, and I was elated to have the opportunity to tell him 30 minutes after the production ended how great I thought he was (I knew someone in the choir), then today at the mall, in Macys, I ran into him again and thanked him again for his performance.

Oh yeah, one more thing. For those of you who might not know the Flying Dutchman, I’m betting you know What’s Opera Doc; same music. Unfortunately, seems it’s against copyright to show you the cartoon here (really?), so here’s a live performance of the cartoon for you:


 

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