Ahhhh, the holidays. It’s time of year when you pack half of everything that you own into a small car with 4 people and drive approximately 1200 miles across-country to eat dinner with some folks you only see once per year. it’s a time of joy, a time of laughter, a time of nonsense, and a time of pure, unadulterated stress. And folks, you know me – I always have a story. This time is no different.

as I sit here typing this up, I have a small confession to make – I’m not actually typing this up at all. I’m using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software to translate my speech into text for the blog because currently I am unable to type my blog posts. We’ll get to that in a moment.

This Thanksgiving, like every other, the family and I drove across country to South Carolina to visit our family. It was especially meaningful for me to go for Thanksgiving this year because my grandmother has been very sick this year, and I saw it as a blessing that she was still around for us to enjoy for Thanksgiving. And we had a great time. We spent mostly uneventful time in the upper part of the state with my wife’s family, then made our way down to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Aside from some minor drama with my uncle ( which is not even worth mentioning here), everything was pretty good. Well, almost everything.

My grandmother has been a dog person for as long as I can remember. when we visited her in South Carolina last June, she had one dog at that time, a large adult chow named King who was just about the coolest dog ever. On this trip, however, we noticed that there was another dog in the backyard – another chow in the backyard with King. My grandmother told us that the dog belonged to my uncle, and warned us not to go into the backyard because the dog was mean. Now, I’m not afraid of dogs, and I’m especially not afraid of dogs in my own grandma’s backyard – a place I consider my own home. I was bound and determined to go meet this so-called mean dog. The next morning, I boldly opened the door to the backyard and announced my presence to this dog as though I was the master of the house. The dog looked at me as though I was made of bacon and growled deeply. I closed the door. Obviously, this was not going to be as easy as I thought.

Later that day, I had to go into my grandmother’s storage building, which is located in the backyard. Undeterred, I boldly opened the door to the backyard and stepped outside onto the back porch. King immediately ran up to me to be petted, but the new dog growled at me and looked at me as though I was made of bacon covered with bacon in a bacon gravy. I know a threat when I see one, so I grabbed a rake nearby, just to protect myself as I entered the storage building and retrieved the requested items from my grandmother. The dog showed some aggression, but I noticed that whenever he growled, the growl always ended in a whimper, which to me indicated that the dog was afraid. Armed with that knowledge, I knew what I needed to do: I needed to socialize this dog because he had been abused. DWW agreed with me. Over the course of the next couple of days, I went into the backyard repeatedly, mostly ignoring him, but allowing him to become used to me being in his area. Eventually fear turned to curiosity and the dog even began nuzzling my hand for petting and affection. My God, I had actually done it. Eat your heart out, Cesar Milan!

I'm not impressed.

On Saturday morning, we packed the car to prepare to head back to Dallas. About an hour before we left, I decided to go back into the backyard one more time to socialize with the dogs more because he had made such significant improvements. At that time I felt comfortable enough to allow my 11-year-old to join me in the backyard, which I had not done previously, due to the dog’s aggression. We both walked outside, and the dogs. Both seemed very happy to have the company. The new dog ran and greeted me, then sniffed my son, then went off to play with the older dog. My son wandered off into the yard to look for rocks or some other such thing while I gave the dogs more water in their water bowl. As I stood there with the water hose, I watched the dogs playing and I watched my son wandering around the backyard – just kind of taking in the scene before we had to leave. The young dog suddenly broke off from playing with the older dog, dropped down to his haunches, wagged his tail very hard – then shot off across the yard like a missile and bit my son on the hip.

Oh hells no.

My son had not even been looking in the dog’s direction when it happened – he was completely blindsided. The dog bit him on the hip, breaking the skin, then released him and backed off. My son began screaming and crying in fear, and I immediately ran over to him to assess the damage. Seeing the two puncture wounds and the blood and the torn shirt, my super protective parenting instincts took over – but not completely, not yet. I got between my son and the dog and looked the dog in the eye… And I growled at him the way in Alpha dog would. My hope was, since the dog was very young ( a little over one year old, I would imagine), perhaps he would respond by assuming a submissive position to my dominant display. And I was way, way off. When I looked into the dog’s eyes and growled at him, the dog looked right back at me and growled back at me, basically saying “This is MY turf. And I will eat you if I want to.” And you know what, folks? I believed him 100%. Keeping myself between the dog and my son, I slowly began moving us towards the back porch of the house, never taking my eyes off the dog. When we got near the porch,the dog did the unthinkable – he tried to attack my son again! “Tried” being the operative word here.

Remember earlier when I said my super protective parenting instincts took over, but not completely yet? Yeah well, I lost my damn mind when that happened. Before I even knew what I was doing, I dove on top of the dog as he ran by me on his way to eating my son for lunch. the dog turned, sinking his teeth into my left hand. I quickly grabbed the back of his head to hold him in place while I turned and yelled to my son “GET IN THE HOUSE!! NOW!!” By this time, my sister had seen the commotion from the living area of the house and was now outside with my mother and grandmother right behind her. I screamed at them all to get back inside the house because I just didn’t know what the dog would do if I let him go. He was still chewing on my left hand and the time – which was rather unpleasant, let me tell you – but for me, that was still a better option than him attacking my son again or any other people in my family. Once they got my son inside the house, I ripped his mouth off of my hand and held him by the scruff of his neck with my right hand. He immediately relaxed a little, like a puppy does when you grab his scruff, and while holding him at arm’s length I slowly backed up the porch steps towards the back door. When I got about 3 feet from the door, the dog began attacking my right arm biting me over and over again – but I wouldn’t let him go. Not a chance. When I reached the back door, I turned and saw the handle of a hoe that my grandmother uses as a walking stick.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I love dogs. I have dogs of my own, and I treat them like members of the family. That being said, given that this dog had attacked my son, unprovoked, then injured me pretty badly while protecting my son, I reverted to a very primal state, thinking only one thing: destroy. I grabbed that handle, and… I hit that dog as hard as I could, over and over again, until I could get inside the house. It was only then that I began to assess the damage the dog had done to me. I had a very deep gash in my left hand was bleeding profusely. I had multiple puncture wounds, scratches, abrasions and contusions on both arms. I needed medical attention right away. My son also needed medical attention given the depth of his puncture wounds. I resisted the urge to go back into the backyard with my grandmother’s gun, opting instead to have my sister drive us to the emergency room where they patched up my son and I. Animal Control was summoned to retrieve the dog, who was placed in quarantine for 10 days. The hospital patched us up and sent us home, and we drove back to Dallas the next day. It was only then, after consulting a hand specialist, that I found out the true extent of the damage to my hand.

  • Two severed nerves, leading to a total loss of sensation in my index finger and a partial loss of sensation in my middle finger
  • A damaged tendon sheath, preventing full range of motion for the index finger
  • Oh, and I’m left-handed. Awesome.

Surgery was mandatory. the good news is that the nerves were repaired successfully, and the doctor feels like I will make a full recovery. However, it will be several months (if ever) before I can play bass again and typing is a challenge that is often too large to attempt. That’s why I’m using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software right now. I gotta admit, it works pretty well. Sadly,  the dog’s fate was not so sunny. Although he passed quarantine, the dog failed the aggression and adoption tests, and was put to sleep. Honestly, despite what happened, I really feel badly about that. In my estimation, the dog never really had a chance. He was very likely mistreated by someone, giving him tons of trust issues which he displayed through aggression. I will never know what prompted him to attack my son, and I don’t regret protecting my son from that dog. I really thought the dog had turned a corner and was on the road to recovery. I trusted him just a little bit too soon, however.

Peace.

There are certain people in life who are absolutely useless.

I don’t mean useless like Bristol Palin, or like your drunk, jobless uncle Carl, or like a politician, but useless in that they CAN do things, but simply…don’t. For many a reason. I call these people “bear sweaters”.

This is more like a "BJ And The Bear" sweater, but I digress.

Bear sweaters come in all shapes and sizes, but their flavor is always the same – sour as hell. These are the friends who call you first when they need a ride somewhere, but when you need one they’re either too busy or you live “too far away”. These are the individuals who cannot seem to ever pay you back the sums of money they owe you after the countless times you’ve either loaned it to them or picked up the tab, but they always seem to be able to buy the latest this or the best that. These are the folks who make plans with you, and just when you’ve cleared your calendar for their benefit, they blow you off for something better – if they even bother contact you. You see, they’re not useless from the world’s perspective – they hold jobs, they have families, they meet (some) responsibilities. They are not the homeless, the drug-addled, the mentally-incapable; they are merely the morally-deprived, the selfish few, the ones who constantly withdraw from the Bank Account of Life and Decency but rarely make deposits. To the outside world, they appear to be upright citizens – and in many cases, they certainly are. But they are not to be depended on in a pinch.

Bear sweaters often pride themselves on appearances. They want to appear to be capable, helpful, concerned, thoughtful…but ultimately their concern only reaches as far as their epidermis. They care about you to the extent that the caring affects them directly – meaning, they’re quick to say “Oooh, I’m sorry to hear about that, let me know if you need anything”, but if you follow that up with “Well, I COULD use a ride to the store”, they’ll suddenly remember that errand they have to run, or that they can’t help you right NOW, or that there’s an alpaca in Lima, Peru that’s higher up on their To Do list.

What? They're CUTE AS HELL.

Bear sweaters will sometimes even blame you for their crappy behavior. They’ll say you’re asking too much, that you don’t understand their needs, that it’s different when they’re the ones in need. They justify their unfriendship with false accusations of privilege; with character assassination; with downright ugliness of thought. If you break down their initial defenses of “Oh, I can’t right now because of ___”, they can sometimes flip the script on you and make it seem like they’re the victim. So what if you have a ruptured Achilles tendon and can’t drive your stick shift? Maybe that wouldn’t’ve happened if you had invited them to your company’s Christmas party last year. So what if you have a 103 degree fever and really need someone to go to Walgreens for you? You never go to Walgreens for THEM (except for the 5 times you did it last year, of course). Bear sweaters are never more in their element than when they’re turning you down and breaking you down.

A bear sweater will

  • Ask you for $300, then accuse you of “only thinking about money” when you ask for repayment a year later
  • Tell you they’ll pick you up from the airport, only to forget you
  • Offer to help you with your workload, only to then tell others that you’re a slacker
  • See that you’re sick/crippled/unable to perform, then ask you what you’re cooking for dinner
  • Eat a meal you specifically made for yourself, without asking or apologizing
  • Ask to come along on a trip, and ruin the whole thing by bitching and moaning about everything
  • Take something from you for free, but only offer something to you for a fee
  • Only call you when they have issues, but if you want to talk about yours, they’re “too busy”

Why bear sweaters, you ask? Because there is nothing on Earth less useful than a sweater for a bear. They don’t need it on two levels: they sleep during the winter, completely mitigating the need for warm outerwear, and THEY ARE BEARS. THEY ALREADY HAVE A METRIC TON OF FUR ON THEIR ASSES. Bear sweaters are useless.

I bet you know a few bear sweaters in your life. Tell me about ’em.

Peace.

So as many of you know, I suck at updating lately. But the (partial) reason for that will soon be explained. Also as many of you know, I am a technical writer by trade, meaning my job is to spend long, laborious hours writing documentation that no one will ever read because documentation is boring. Truly.

All this information? BORING.

Sometime in the middle of last year, I decided I wanted to extend beyond my little literary fiefdom and learn something new, another skill set that I could use to make my job at <Fortune 500 Company> even more enjoyable – and profitable, if possible. As part of my job as a tech writer, I often had to document things in the user interface (UI) that made absodamnlutely no sense whatsoever. And whenever I questioned someone about why it looked like that or behaved that way, they most said “Eh, that’s the way it was designed/coded/why are you asking me, book nerd?” If you go through that enough times, you start thinking some pretty egotistical thoughts. Thoughts like “This sucks” and “It shouldn’t take 3 pages of documentation to describe a feature that takes 28 seconds to perform” and “I could TOTALLY design this better”. It’s that last one that got me.

After talking to my boss, we both concluded that it’d be a good idea if I learned the role of Systems Engineer, which is equivalent in our company to “business analyst” or “the person who finds out what the software ought to do, then designs it so that it actually does that very thing”, but that doesn’t fit easily on business cards, so “Systems Engineer” is the title of choice. The job of the systems engineer is to design software features, host collaboration team meetings between customers and internal personnel, serve as the subject matter expert for the assigned feature, and generally do a ton of cool stuff that technical writers drool over in their sleep. I apprenticed under another SE for awhile, and then later got handed my own project to work on by myself. Good times.

What I’m starting to learn, though, is that when you’re the giver of information rather than the receiver, the people you formerly considered to be knowledgeable and intelligent turn out to be…less than that. Sometimes they are dumber than a box of…dumb, boxed things. (Sorry folks, I’m still getting back into the swing of blogging again. The analogies will flow again.) Basically, my job is to write the specifications, and the developers (the guys and gals who do the software coding) use those specifications to code the software. But all too often, an exchange like this occurs.

I’ll write a specification that says, for example, “The window will be blue with a gray border” or whatever. The developer will then come to me and say “So Damian, I was about to code this window but I don’t know what color to make it.”

Me: “Make it blue, with a gray border, per the specification.”
Developer: “Hmm. I didn’t see that in the specification. Is that a new requirement?”
Me: “Um…no, it’s been in there the whole time.”
Developer: “Are you sure?”
Me (looking at him like he grew iPods out of his neck): “Yeeeeeeeah, I’m sure. I wrote it. So…yeah. It’s in there.”
Developer: “Well I didn’t see it. It sounds like an enhancement request to me.”

The words “enhancement request” are like a Get Out Of Jail Free card mixed with a lottery ticket dipped in gravy  for developers, because it means they didn’t misinterpret the design or just straight-up miss it the first time around – it means it’s new shit. It means they don’t necessarily have to code it without approval from the project manager. And I am not that person.

Me: “It’s not. It’s been on page 23 since June.”
Developer: “Really?”
Me: “YES. Are you looking at the most recent version of the specification?”
Developer: “June 7, right?”
Me: “Um…no. November 8. And the requirement is in there.”
Developer: “Oh. Guess I must’ve missed that. OK…well, what color should the border be?”
Me: “I will kick you.”

I’ll keep you posted.

Peace.

My writing muse has apparently left me, even though the heffa said she was only going to RaceTrac to get a $1.08 Faux Icee. I’m changing the locks on her. At any rate, since verbal inspiration isn’t currently available, I decided to delve into my visual toybox.

Just like “Squirrel, Please” a couple of years ago, I’ve created a new comic strip called “Social Q’s” that will outline the social ineptitude of its main character, Quincy, as he unsuccessfully navigates the treacherous social waters of his workplace, completely devoid of the same mental filters that most other functioning adults possess. Tell me what you think of this inaugural strip.

Peace.

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