How I Came To Get Mauled By A Dog

jaxon-023On Sunday at 9AM I walked past my front window and noticed that my cat was staring at a gorgeous Amber German Shepard standing in the street outside my house. What I did not know was that 5 minutes later this gorgeous animal would maul me and send me bleeding to the Hospital Emergency Room.

Here’s how it happened.

I walked outside and heard the dog was whining anxiously and prancing around a street gutter. His ball was down there and he wanted it back, badly.

No good deed goes unpunished.

John, the owner, came by and asked me to help him move the heavy grate so we could get this sweet dog’s his ball back. He told the dog’s name was Jaxon. I bent over and began to move the grate. Jaxon mouthed my foot and left teeth marks.

At that point I should have run away.

For some reason I wasn’t at all concerned that the dog had just bit me, probably because my skin hadn’t broke and I was uninjured. I asked the John to curb his dog so it didn’t get hurt by the grate or knock me over. John curbed his dog a little but the Jaxon was so anxious that he was uncontrollable.

I bent over again to lift the heavy grate. Like a dart, Jaxon opened his mouth and latched onto a large chunk of my tricep. His left top canine tore through my skin and dug deep through skin and flesh. It happened lightning fast, in less than a second it was done.

I looked down and saw a 1″ x 1/2″ hole in my right arm. The puncture had deep tissue protruding and was oozing blood.  I screamed in pain and Jaxon scooted away.

Then it got quiet except for the drip of my bloody arm.

Jaxon curbed himself and was far enough away for me to calmly stand at a distance. John and I spoke. He gave me his business card. He is a Mercedes auto mechanic. He was a nice guy and was visibly surprised.

At that point it could have gone one of two ways. Neal = cranky, or Neal = reasonable human being. I chose to…

Turn the other cheek.

I told him that I would neither be suing him nor demanding his dog be punished — provided he agreed to train his dog to prevent this from happening again. He agreed and told me Jaxon had all his shots — that was a relief!

photo (7)I spent the next 2 hours in the ER getting 5 stitches. On the way home from the ER I updated John on the phone and repeated my intentions to let this thing go. He was effusively appreciative and his appreciation felt good to me.

It’s really strange but my arm never hurt during this entire thing. It began to ache a lot as soon as I pulled into the ER parking lot which I attribute to psychosomatic response associated with my knowledge that it was about to be stitched. The doctor prescribed me pain relievers and antibiotics, neither of which I filled. The human body is an amazing machine.

Get back on the horse.

The first thing I did when I got home is play with my two neighbor dogs Mango and Max. I knew I had to “get back on the horse” and spend time with dogs in a positive environment or my love of dogs might be ruined by one anxious Shepherds mistake.

I spoke to John again recently, and he told me that he’d already talked to his trainer about ways to socialize Jaxon in a way that prevented his anxious biting response. It was good thing this happened to me and not some young kid with a smaller arm.

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Should I Raise Ducks In The Backyard?

[Update] It is not illegal to raise chickens in San Mateo, California. No word on ducks.

[Update] My current preferred duck species is the Khaki Campbell (pictured below). They are good in the water, are hardy and lay more eggs than a chicken. I do not know how loyal they are.

Khaki Campbell in hand

I want to raise a flock of 5 ducks and keep them in my backyard. This is a surprisingly common suburban practice, although more people do it with chickens than with ducks. There is even a Yahoo group called Silicon Valley Chickens for people doing this same sort of thing in my community. If I raise ducks from chicks I’m told they will fly and swim in my lagoon, and return home at night.

Why I want to do this:

  • I miss having animals around. I grew up in rural Minnesota and worked on a sheep farm in Switzerland
  • Fresh eggs are yummy
  • Being disconnected from our food sources is not healthy
  • My backyard is too perfect for ducks not to take advantage of it
  • How cool would it be if they swam alongside me at Aquatic Park (file this idea under “amazing pipedreams”)


Things I’ve figured out:

  • I want ducks, not chickens. Ducks are quieter, and like to fly and swim
  • I want a coop with an enclosed run to keep them safe when I’m not able to watch them

Things I am still working on:

  • What species duck? My criteria are #1 loyalty, #2 egg laying ability
  • Who will sell me 5-6 duck chicks? Hatcheries sell ducks in 25 chick lots
  • If I let them out for a fly/swim how do I “call” them back home?
  • My landlord and local ordinances

Stay tuned.

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Great White Sharks In The San Francisco Bay


The Graphic: The colors lines represent actual sharks from 2000-2008. The gray area represents the extrapolated ranging of all great whites in the area. There is no blow-up of the bay, but supposedly they roamed inside the Golden Gate.

The Study: According to a Stanford University-led study released Tuesday, great white sharks occasionally stray from their Northern California feeding grounds for jaunts under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay, apparently in search of snacks. The sharks lived in the deep ocean near Hawaii between January and July and in Northern California between August and December. The scientists tracked the snaggly toothed predators between 2000 and 2008 from the Bay Area to San Diego, Hawaii and back as the sharks followed a surprisingly precise route in a strict time frame.

My take: There are thousands of seals in the Bay. However, the water is comparatively cloudy and noisy. This relative different probably ruined the hunting efforts of the sharks while they were in the Bay. That said, it’s only a matter of time until there is a great white attack in the Bay — shiver.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

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Final 16 Ideas from Google Ideas Contest


Google has selected the final 16 public policy ideas from their big ideas contest. You can see the full range of ideas here. This type of work is important to me because ideas frame our understanding of the world and drive our behaviors.

The ideas that resonated with me are:

  • encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists (Neal note: ala the Intel commercial)
  • create a transportation system that enables electric cars to run on a rail-type system (Neal note: imagine the beauty of highways paved in grass with thin rails)
  • partner with banks and technology companies to increase the reach of financial services across the world (Neal note: ala Paypal)
  • create an advanced health monitoring system (Neal note: ala Google Health)

Reading this list makes you realize just how phenomenal a company Google is. 22% profit margin allows Google to think big-picture and drive projects that will change the world. Cool. It’s easy to imagine how all these initiatives will help Google’s central mission to “make the world’s information searchable.”

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Goal = Get iPhone

Huge news, I got my sweet invited into the Cisco corporate iPhone pilot. I’m pretty excited, but am also leery that as soon as I get this iPhone 3GS the iPhone 4G will launch and make my new fancy gadget look like a stone.

While the cartoon is funny, here’s my thoughts on it. 3GS is the upgrade to 3G. 3GS has video recording. As for MMS, I feel like the Facebook app solves this. The memory criteria is just not relevant given cloud computing trends. That said, the cartoon is smack-on with the video call capability, and apparently this is reportedly coming in iPhone 4G.

Why is it a goal of mine to get an iPhone? Well, 100,000 apps cannot be wrong. My Blackberry Bold is/was good but it has only a couple dozen applications. Blackberry apps pale in comparison to their iPhone counterparts (e.g. Webex, Scrabble, Gmaps). And there are loads of apps that do not even exist on the Blackberry, even Chipotle has an iPhone application. A man’s gotta eat!

Source: Journaldugeek


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Panorama of San Francisco After 1908 Quake

desktopThis desktop panorama is just amazing. If you have double monitors at your desk try spanning this image across your desktop. It looks amazing.

I’ve stared at it’s detail for the past 20 minutes waiting for a work telecon to begin. It was taken from a flying gunship overlooking the waterfront and the Golden Gate (before the GG bridge spanned this gate). The picture was taken just after the 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of the city.

What I noticed:

  • Most the buildings are still standing, even after the quake. Reportedly, this mid-week quake struck on Wednesday and was huge,  7.8 on the Richter scale
  • After 100 years of urban development the only recognizable landmark is the Ferry Building, which survived both the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 earthquake with amazingly little damage.
  • The other landmark are the San Francisco piers, but they were different in 1906 when San Francisco was an active port. Now the piers are a tourist destination with a small crabbing and fishing operation based out of Fisherman’s Wharf.


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Example Of Functional Building Design


The horizontal surface of a gym floor is not the most efficient use of space. The underutilized vertical surface the side is a much more space efficient workout facility.

Check out the architecture of this dorm at the University of Twente in the Netherlands by Arons and Gelauff Architects. This is definitely the product of designing and constructing spaces that reflect and functional, aesthetic and environmental considerations.

The dutch  must belay this building using non-standard ropes for this pitch. This building is 9 stories tall, or 90 feet. Climbings ropes are 60 meters long, or 196 feet long of rope. 6 feet is not enough belay slack.


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Sacramento Row



Rowing has become a regular outlet for me. I row the wooden rowboats that the Dolphin Club of San Francisco makes available to members. All you have to do is join, take a rowing skills course, and you can row a boat that was built prior to WWII. Sound amazing? It is. Most of the boats were built in the Golden Era, this is the happy period between WWI and WWII. Many are Whitehall class wooden row boats that are varnished and equipped with 8-9 foot all-wood oars. Some of the boats have a single rowing station, others have 2 rowing stations. Most weekends are rowing weekends for me. I pick a point in the San Francisco Bay and head toward it. Sometimes the currents change my path. I see dolphins during most outings. The Bay lacks sharks so there is a plethora of seals and dolphins that fish the Bay. Rowing puts the entire bay at my fingertips, without the roar of a gasoline motor or being at the mercy of the wind as in a sailboat. In a rowboat I can go anywhere in the Bay, and I like that very much.

This past weekend I was invited on the Dolphin Club yearly Sacramento Row. I immediately liked the idea — it would be light-hearted, challenging and fun. It also met my requirement of having a tangible start and end. Rowing to Sacramento, I found out, is a tradition that goes back 40 years or more, and is currently carried forward by our master boat builder, Jon Bielinski.

Some facts about our row:

  • 100 miles row upriver to Sacramento from San Francisco Aquatic Park
  • 3 men (Jon Bielinski, Darren Palm, Neal Mueller)
  • 2 men rowing, 1 man navigating. We observed a constant rotation of 40 minutes rowing, 20 minutes navigating/resting.
  • Our vessel was the Lawton Hughes 2-man rowboat built in 1938, and refurbished by Jon Bielinski


12835_674293528207_609340_39030721_7087192_nWe set out Saturday morning at 3:45AM for 3 days of difficult upriver rowing. We rowed 14 hours Saturday, 12 hours on Sunday, and finished with 4 hours on Monday. We rowed with the flood (current with us) Saturday morning and Sunday morning. We rowed with the ebb (current against us) Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. here is a day by day.

Saturday started out easy and dark. After 2 hours of rowing we had already left San Francisco and were past Angel Island heading north toward San Pablo Bay. The fog fell over San Francisco to cover our wake. Looking back was no longer an option. The only clear waters lay ahead. We reached the San Pablo Straight lighthouse before day break and headed West toward Benicia where we stopped for a 20-minute break. lighthouseWe looked at the map and agreed to take the scenic route around the decommissioned warships in the “Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet” (aka Ghost Fleet). These old gals were beautiful and very large. The next stretch of rowing seemed to stretch on forever. We rowed port Chicago, a decommissioned naval base, and were spectators to a high-octane jet ski race. It seemed like we’d never reach Collinsville.  Around 6PM we did. It was amazing to see Lou waving at us in his neatly pressed shirt and loafers. We stayed that night in Lou’s house. 4 people from the Dolphin Club drove 3 hours roundtrip to wish us well and eat dinner with us. They left pretty early so we could fall into our beds. What a cool group. We slept well this night.

16632_162466882878_584212878_2744289_2675132_nSunday we rose before dawn for a breakfast by Cynthia and Lou in their comfortable home. The saw us off as the sun rose. Rowing began easier than Darren, Jon or I expected. From my side, my glute and leg aches had totally subsided. We rowed past mooing cow pastures and slowly turning wind turbines. By 10AM the wind increased from 0 mph to 15 mph. Just in time we diverted into the narrow waters of the sloughs which are buffeted by the wind by a high earthen levy on either side. Bicycles waved and encouraged us as they sprinted down the road-covered levy banks. At around 3PM we looked for a lunch spot. We fastened the Hughes to a half-submerged stump on shore and scrambled to shore. I’d eaten so many GU’s that I was too amped up to rest, so I swam across the Sacramento river using the breaststroke because of my recent Lasik surgery. We rowed into the night, and as dusk fell I was getting pretty sore in the glutes. Our rowing shifts seemed to occur faster and our 20-minute rest segments shorter. After 30 hours of rowing in 2 days my body was fatiguing. We didn’t talk much for 12835_674292819627_609340_39030676_6420588_nthat last hour and just settled into the last remaining pulls that were left before we docked the Hughes for the night. Our attitude totally changed when we arrive at Freeport, a lively riverside rest stop replete with a wonderful slip for us and a full bar and grill. We stowed the boat for the night and drank draft beer. The hardest portion of our row was over and we felt like celebrating in those comfortable restaurant seats. Darren and I even had a scotch. It was perfect. We slept next to the Hughes on the levy grass, hoping the sprinklers wouldn’t wake us at 6AM with a shower.

Monday was a short row. 4 hours of rowing from Freeport to Sacramento’s Miller Park. We were met at the beach by Eric Hanson and 3 of my great aunt and uncles, all who live in Sacramento. Eric graciously invited us  over to his house for a gourmet meal. Eric keeps 3 chickens in his backyard, and I might copy him soon (stay tuned). We trailered the Hughes and drove her back home to the Dolphin Club where we washed her out with fresh water and buffed her shine back. At the end of it she looked cleaner than when we left. Hard to imagine that the Lawton Hughes was built in 1938. The trees


that were cut down to build the Hughes have already regrown larger and thicker than before and the Hughes is still around. These boats are a renewable resource in the real sense of the word. In our throw-away culture of short-lived cell phones and car, it’s nice to care for something that will most certainly outlive me.

Our 3-man team was strong, upbeat and had so many good stories. Rowing with Jon Bielinski was an absolute joy. He helped built and/or refurbish most of the boats in the Dolphin Club and told us story after story about rowing and building boats. Before this row I did not know Darren. As fate would have it, it turns out that Darren have worked for the same executives at Cisco, he as a recruiter. Small world.

As always, special thanks to my team, our crew of supporters, the Dolphin Club, and to GU for once again fueling my tangible goals.
View Sacramento Row in a larger map

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