Dog Whispering

I'm a dog whisperer. Literally, not figuratively. I literally converse with my dogs. I'm by no means a Hamlet, waxing in florid soliloquy to my little mute skull buddy, but I do often have extended conversations with my pack of four-paws.

When you spend a decade with any sort of life form, whether it's a person or a pet, you build up a complicated rapport with them. You learn their moods and their habits and you develop an intuitive feel for how they react to things. It's that same shorthand that can make married folk impossible to follow:

"You remember that--" "With the--?" "Yeah, best show ever." "Yup."

To clarify, I am in fact aware that dogs don't actually speak. They can hear you and respond physically to what you say, whether you're telling them to do stuff or just how awesome they are. But for some reason (perhaps stubbonness, or their lack of functional cheeks), they never respond with the proper King's English.

To make up for their epic terseness, you have to fill in the blanks a bit. I'm not saying you should respond directly for them in the first person, using cute, fakey dog voices.

"Yes father, I would enjoy a tasty comestible."

That's just weird. However, it's perfectly acceptable to slip their responses into second-person confirmations or casual third-person narratives:

"Yes, you would in fact enjoy a tasty comestible," or "He would most certainly enjoy a tasty comestible."

Maybe it's my author's blood, but I tend to prefer the narrative angle.

I honestly don't view my whisperings as a way of bonding with my dogs, or even really communicating with them. They get more out of my tone than my actual words anyway. It's more of a way to translate their canine oddness into humanisms I can understand.

For example, who really knows why my Shih Tzu mix sometimes wanders around after dinner with his big stuffed lamby, grumbling and whining and completely unable to find the right place to settle in.

"He can't find his reading glasses."

Who knows why typing briskly and sighing at my laptop when I'm frustrated will send my long-haired Chihuahua twitching and cowering into another room?

"He's about to be murdered. He'd better run."

It's fun and inevitable for us to anthropomorphize our pets into human-ish caricatures. But I can't help wondering if they do the same with us. Do dogs caninomorphize humans into equally strange and incomprehensible hairless bipedal dogs? How can they not?


I've been trying to figure out what to do with myself over the next five years. I spent the previous five years juggling a day job, plus part-time freelancing, plus trying to build my own various products. The fifteen years before that i was a straight one-job developer. Simpler life but still pretty busy.

Lately, however, I've started to question the whole basic premise of working all the freakin' time. It's not just about keeping busy. I enjoy feeling busy, learning stuff, and building things. The problem is that I end up with a permanent backlog of hundreds of little things to do. Add this little feature, upload a new release, try out this other code framework...

Sure I can take breaks and pause for a few days, but I'm never really "off". There's always a dozen things I should be working on and if I don't tend to them, my work queue continues to grow and grow.

Downtime feels like wasted time.

I remember back in my earlier days, before my software career, I spent hours and hours reading books, writing stories, learning guitar, writing my own music. It's hard now to imagine how much time I "wasted" on all that, just puttering away with no deadlines, no backlog, no agenda. It was the most creative I've ever been.

These days if I try to do something creative, I'll focus on it for half an hour, then get distracted worrying about the "real work" I should be tackling. Sometimes I do have a valid point, but usually there is no work more urgent. It's just an old reflex that I have to unlearn.

I'm pretty sure that's the difference between a workaholic and a normal sane person: the ability to sit back and just play.

While I'm still not sure what the next five years will look like, I do know that I need more of that lackadaisical joker kid riding around in my day-to-day.

The Narwhal Trick


The other night my wife and I were heading back to the bedroom with our pack of four small dogs. Our Pekingese grabbed one end of a foot-long chewing stick and marched down the hall with it pointing straight forward.

"Oh look, he's a narwh-- uh, a nar-whale. A narwhal?" I had remembered something about Narwhals from my early days, but couldn't remember if it was real or a mythical creature. Not even sure why it popped into my head in the first place. I probably should have said "unicorn" instead.

My wife was correctly baffled and asked what on Earth I was talking about. I fumbled a response, babbled a bit, then vaguely trailed off. Never mind. It's not really a joke if nobody gets it.

We watched a couple shows then turned on a random Colbert Report episode from earlier that week. At the end of a segment about a show called Eaten Alive where no one was actually eaten alive, Colbert dropped gratuitous Narwhal reference.

It's true, there is no better way to bring attention to the Amazon rainforest than to cover yourself with pig's blood and climb into a snake's mouth. I mean, you see that, and you think, "Man, we gotta save those trees." Just like the best way to save our oceans is to put on some flippers and bone a narwhal. I gotta tell ya, not easy in such cold waters.


...Is this your card?

The Four Fringes

FourFringe was originally the name of a mobile development company I started brewing up four years ago. The company was going to push the boundaries (fringes) of music-related software; the name was sort of a pun on the 4/4 time signature. To no surprise, the domain sat, and sat. I used it as an alternate email address, because three email accounts are clearly not enough for the modern professional.

I've pretty much decided to drop the business idea in favor of more fun personal time and less busy workaholic time. But now I have this cool domain name burning a hole in my pocket, and a decade-long intent to start a blog. So here we are.

I'm not sure yet what the Four in FourFringe is a Four of. Four directions. Four outlets for creativty. Perhaps a compass rose of four favorite things, such as music, writing, movies/television, and technology. We'll see. I'm content to start writing and see where it leads me.