Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Little Light Reading

Does this ever happen to you? You pick up a Shakespeare play after not having read one in a while, and none of it makes sense to you? You step back, collect yourself knowing full well that you are intelligent enough to understand the language, particularly given that it is your own language and supported by the fact that you have actually understood Shakespeare in the past?

This is how I feel slogging through laws, regulations, and executive orders. Now you can shake your head and think that there is no way to understand the impossibly convoluted language of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Or you can try to sharpen your legal ease reading skills, and move on to the provision of the TARP under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Then, with these in mind, or if you are very devoted, under your belt, you should next attempt President Obama's proposed budget.

Of course, unlike the promise of a Shakespeare play where the reading becomes its own reward, I'm afraid I might want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon not only from the sheer torture of attempting to read the legislative and executive documents, but even more so from whatever sense of reason I can glean from them.

So then, why bother?

I take the ideas upon which America was built seriously; it is my basic understanding that these documents represent unprecedented governmental intrusion into our lives and liberties, contradicting that very foundation.

I would really like to understand how, and by what means, our elected leadership, each of whom has sworn to uphold those ideals, has determined to usher America into this New Era of Responsibility while simultaneously treating its citizenry as overindulged children.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: 17th Century Cheek

To the Soure Reader
by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

If thou dislik'st the piece thou light'st on first,
Thinke that of all that I have writ the worst:
But if thou read'st my booke unto the end,
And still do'st this and that verse reprehend,
O perverse man! if all disgustfull be,
The extreame scabbe take thee and thine for me.

Herrick's instructions to the reader near the beginning of his Hersperides, Volume I.

Our “Magpie Culture”

Renée Loth has written a good op/ed piece in today’s Globe entitled The Yoga Fatwa. (I know! I was shocked, too.)

In it she describes not only the difference between Europe and America in their acceptance of different nationalities, but also points to how capitalism in America helps that integration in our borrowing from different cultures the “shiny items we choose to ornament our lives.”

America's embrace of other nationalities may be part of its democratic character, but it's also accelerated by capitalism: Almost no artifact is too exotic or sacred to be repackaged into a hip new consumer good. I get a catalog in the mail that features sandalwood prayer beads, neti pots to clear the sinuses, and statues of (your choice) St. Anthony, the Buddha, or the Virgin of Guadalupe, conveniently sized for a home altar.

She mentions religiously motivated violent behavior as a failure of assimilation and she counts it as a black mark on the “enlightenment ideals” of Europe; that our own anti-immigration sentiments are in conflict with our “founding values”.

It's hard to imagine, for example, that the question of whether a young Muslim girl can wear a headscarf in a public school would consume the highest levels of American government, as it has not just in Turkey but in Germany and France. It's even harder to imagine that the headscarves would be forbidden.

Guantanamo, English-only movements, and the wall being erected along the Mexican border are only the most recent symptoms. Still, people in New Jersey aren't slaughtering Pennsylvanians over ancient tribal differences. We have football for that.

Ms. Loth uses the Academy Award performance in which Japanese Taiko drummers, coupled with the Soweto Gospel Chorus presented songs from an Indian film as an example of this magpie culture. As I watched the Oscars on Sunday night, I made a similar comment.

Finally, and most importantly, she does not push multiculturalism as a value, but recognizes it as a result of the “easy fluency” with which America embraces other nationalities while retaining its “non-sectarian tradition”.

She actually says it’s “another reason to love America”. While I think there is much more than tradition at work here, I agree.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Primacy of Existence

For those of you interested in Objectivism, the latest round-up can be found here.

For those of you not interested in Objectivism, it can still be found here (as you are no doubt aware, it doesn’t go away because you don’t want to look at it).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is What I Did Today

That's right. I practiced this diction exercise in chorus today!

What? You were thinking that I could tap like that after three lessons? That'll take at least another three. Decades.

Appeal to Ridicule

Look for it from a politician near you.

That video was removed! But this one shows how Gibbs handled Santelli's complaint - by accusing him of not reading the plan.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Virtual Coffee Mug #4

I have started at least four posts of some substance and been sidetracked by one thing or another, so I've decided to let loose some of the linky love (TM) I have built up inside (or in the coffee mug on my desk if you prefer).

Is it wrong to have a two year-old as my new fashion icon? I don't care. She works that wig like nobody's business.

I have fallen into another doggie-do pile. This time it's the Iditarod Dogsled Race! Check out all that is Iditarod on both the official website, and on the website of my friend and fellow homeschooler, Fiddler. We are still in the planning stages of constructing a giant wall map (thinking about using painter's tape) and then picking our mushers to follow. The race starts on March 7, so there's still time for you to prepare.

Two new blogs have caught my eye - well, let's face it - I noticed because they stopped by my blog. Both bloggers seem to be just starting out, but had the serious good taste to link to my blog in their sidebars. The Nuts and Bolts of It and My Own World, neither of whom are known to me that I know of (is that redundant or am I just repeating myself?) but both of whom have something to say. Miz. Mason of My Own World has also paid me a serious compliment, for which I am sincerely grateful.

Finally, I really want to include Grand Funk Railroad's Some Kind of Wonderful, but I just can't find a good YouTube video of it, so instead, I give you their American Band.

Before you press play, be forewarned: you must love cowbell (and who doesn't?) and be able to tolerate semi-nude guys from the 70s!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Calling all my wonderfully geeky homeschool friends!

I would now like to direct your attention to the center link! Straight from Kim's Play Place - it's new - it's fresh - it's bound to be cool - I present to you the very first.....

If you think you've got something to contribute - do it! I'll probably post, and possibly even host, at some point.

Love to see you there.

With All That Money

This weekend my daughters and I went to see some turn-of-the-century summer cottages of some industrialist millionaires. The three homes we toured, The Breakers, The Elms, and The Marble House, were all incredibly impressive in their size and opulence, but we all agreed we'd do some things a little differently (like not emulate any of the King Louis' styles) and some things the same (open courtyards, loggias, huge bedrooms for the ladies, annunciator boxes to call the servants, gorgeous gardens, and lawn all the way to the ocean) if we owned these cottages.

Some cottage industry notes: The Breakers, the summer cottage of Cornelius Vanderbilt II who ran the New York Central Railroad, and whose grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt made his money by developing that railroad, occupies an acre in footprint, some of the wall panels are painted on platinum;

The Elms, built by Edward Berwind who made his money in the Pennsylvannia coal industry, unlike the other two mansions mentioned here, was set up with electric lights only - there are no gas/electricity transitional fixtures in the house;

The Marble House, so-called because of its 500,000 c.f. of marble was built by another grandson, William Vanderbilt, and was based on Petit Trianon at Versailles and where the hostess, Alva Vanderbilt, often had fund raising parties for the suffragette movement of which she was a tremendous supporter.

Our favorite home was The Breakers, but our favorite grounds were at The Elms. My favorite room was the one at the Marble House redone in the Federal period (completely gauche, I know, as it was remodelled by the second owner in his preferred style) which is largely devoid of ornamentation.

Overall, the remaining sentiment shared by all was "ew" at the ubiquitous goose poop on the lawns. You'd think that with the recent assessment of $350 million, The Breakers could afford some goose-poop control, but no. Maybe they could take a tip from Simmons College and hire a Border Collie. Those fake black dogs aren't fooling anybody.

The trip helped me to think about what it means to be wealthy and spurred a conversation about how the times and societies we live in can contribute to shaping our values - aesthetic and otherwise.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If only, Mr. Washington.

From George Washington's Farewell Address which was more an open letter to the American people.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Tell me. Did we, the American public, recently incur over $1.5 trillion in the debts to which Mr. Washington refers, and to which we should defer to our representatives to repay? Clearly not as he is referring to taxes for defense and war. The failure of corporations, even huge financial corporations, are not public exigencies. How is ungenerously burdening our posterity with the debt of bolstering failing businesses a proper function of government? How do these recent actions of our government in any way contribute to our strength and security? Where are our representatives who understand this?

It is all of us who must incur the intrinsic embarassment inseparable from allowing, and in some cases encouraging, our once unique (the only one instituted to protect individual rights) and honorable (representatives who understood their roles in safeguarding our rights) government to spend money, our money, our children's money, perhaps our grandchildren's money, improvidently when cloaked in the name of "public good" rather than as circumscribed by our founding fathers in the Constitution.

As an individual who still has convictions in keeping with the founding of the United States of America, I honor President Washington on his birthday.

Fabulous, Not Frugal.

Since I've been a little concerned about our ever decreasing savings and the soon to be shrinking value of the dollar, I've altered my investment strategy to counter those negatives. I've decided to start investing in something everyone needs: shoes. That's right. Shoes.

I began small with the purchase of a single pair of these stunners from Dansko!
I've never owned a pair of Dansko shoes before, but I have to tell you that I am incredibly pleased with them. Sure they're clogs and I have some remnant clog snobbery from the 70s, but I love them! Apparently, as the name implies, these are professional clogs for women who stand or walk all day on the job. And I can understand why. They're so comfortable to wear and walk in, and, oh, did I mention fun? Red patent leather!

It's true. I was only window shopping on our recent Girls Weekend and went into the store to look at the animal print and pony hair clogs (from Sanita), but once I tried these on, I knew we belonged together. The knowledgeable and friendly saleswoman described exactly how they should fit before she went out back to get the shoes. And she was right! The European size she chose for me fit perfectly. In addition to the sheer comfort and high-spirited style these provide, I plan to wear them every fall, winter, and spring for years to come in order to get the most for my money.

Sometimes a mundane moment and a practical purchase can turn into something fabulous (if not exactly frugal)!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

99 Red Balloons

I found this new interesting list at My Own World. I like this list - it's way better than the one on the back of the cereal box urging my ten year-old to bungee jump before she's 18.

The things I have done are highlighted in red. I like red.

1. Started your own blog (Hello!)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (OLGB - Old Lady Girl Band, now, sadly, defunct, and The Muggles, our family band which broke up due to artistic differences after mastering Twinkle, Twinkle.)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (Don't ask my girlfriends about this. Let's just say I'm not very outdoorsy.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (really a duet with my then 8 year-old daughter, but I think it counts.)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris*
13.Watched a lightning storm at sea (on the way back from Martha's Vineyard - spectacular!)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (how to draw).
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France*
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked (Are my kids reading this? Marie made me do it and I was at least 21. See #4.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort (Like in the movie Snow Day when I was little.)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (But I did run a 5K last year and plan to do it again this year. Last really all I can ask of myself at this age.)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice*
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (Disney. We loved it.)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (You mean, like, Salem?)
35. Seen an Amish community (But then we saw the motorized tractor and knew we'd been had - Mennonites!)
36. Taught yourself a new language (trying - Latin, but I can't speak it to anyone, 'cause it's dead.)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (Well, I can't say that having more would make me more satisfied, so I answered, yes - I've done this.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person*
39. Gone rock climbing (Indoors and I do think that counts.)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David*
41. Sung karaoke (In public, twice, in private - all the time.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (A stranger did buy me a meal, though. When I was 5, I sang in a diner and some guy bought me dinner. That's really all you need to know.)
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (It was really shark tagging, but it was off the continental shelf.)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris*
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Off Black Rock in Hawaii. One of my favorite adventures, ever.)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (Made a summer project out of hitting every one in the New England area.)
55. Been in a movie ("The Coming" starring Susan Swift. It went straight to cable under the name "Burned at the Stake". How appropriate.)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China*
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (Best side kick. Most flexible.)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mints - hah!)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason (Other than because I'm the mom and dandelions are beautiful to children.)
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp*
67. Bounced a check (Bank's fault - I swear.)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (Bruno, Misty, and 50 other stuffed animals.)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (It's good.)
72. Pieced a quilt (Not the entire quilt, but I contributed a square or two.)
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (elbow, had a steel rod hold bits together, in traction 2 weeks, cast 2 weeks, therapy one year.)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (This has nothing to do with #77.)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (And looked like Chevy Chase in Vacation doing it.)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem*
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (Was city official for a bit. Photo was in there a few times.)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Lobsters count.)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury*
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (Oh, so many of them! I find they help me to actually do the reading.)
93. Lost a loved one (A few.)
94. Had a baby (A few.)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake*
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone (A few.)
99. Been stung by a bee (A few.)

Oddly there is no 100 to this list. So I will add my own.

100. Got an A in "99 Red Balloons" on Basic in DDR.**

*Want to do. **Will do.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Essay on Man

Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744)

Of the Nature and State of Man with respect to Himself, as an Individual.

EPISTLE II. Part II. The two Principles of Man, Self-love and Reason, both necessary, v.53, etc. Self-love the stronger, and why, v.67, etc. Their end the same, v.81, etc.

Two principles in human nature reign;
Self-love to urge, and reason, to restrain;
Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call,
Each works its end, to move or govern all,
And to their proper operation still,
Ascribe all good; to their improper, ill.
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
Reason’s comparing balance rules the whole.
Man, but for that, no action could attend,
And but for this, were active to no end:
Fixed like a plant on his peculiar spot,
To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot;
Or, meteor-like, flame lawless through the void,
Destroying others, by himself destroyed.
Most strength the moving principle requires;
Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires.
Sedate and quiet the comparing lies,
Formed but to check, deliberate, and advise.
Self-love still stronger, as its objects nigh;
Reason’s at distance, and in prospect lie:
That sees immediate good by present sense;
Reason, the future and the consequence.
Thicker than arguments, temptations throng.
At best more watchful this, but that more strong.
The action of the stronger to suspend,
Reason still use, to reason still attend.
Attention, habit and experience gains;
Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains.
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight,
More studious to divide than to unite;
And grace and virtue, sense and reason split,
With all the rash dexterity of wit.
Wits, just like fools, at war about a name,
Have full as oft no meaning, or the same.
Self-love and reason to one end aspire,
Pain their aversion, pleasure their desire;
But greedy that, its object would devour,
This taste the honey, and not wound the flower:
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil, or our greatest good.

I am presenting this Poetry Friday piece because it is a small part of a very large work in which Mr. Pope tries to explain the Nature of Man among his series of poems dedicated to the relationship between God and Man. I find the epistle form and the philosophical function of this work quite interesting as he stabs at the separate roles of self-love and reason in the life of man; I certainly don’t agree that there is such a dichotomy between them.

In learning some about Mr. Pope, what surprised me most was some of his more famous lines: (from Wikipedia)"A little learning is a dang'rous thing" (from the Essay on Criticism on ); "To err is human, to forgive, divine" (ibid.); "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread" (ibid); "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" and "The proper study of mankind is man" (Essay on Man). He also wrote Sir Isaac Newton’s epitaph:

“Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.”

To read, or print and read, the entirety Pope’s Essay on Man, go here to project Guttenberg.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

3 Good Things (time edition)

1. a moment alone
2. an evening with friends
3. a lifetime with the one you've chosen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

100 Books List

I found this at Kim’s Play Place, who found it at Harriet Tubman Agenda, who found it at The Headmistress, who found it at …

Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you intend to read.
Alas, watching the movie doesn’t count.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (read with daughter)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (I was introduced to it through an article in Boston Globe about its explosion in the UK.)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (had to read, loved the movie, loved the book)
6 The Bible (old Testament, bits of the New)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (hated everyone in it)
8 1984 - George Orwell (school assignment)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass only)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (high school assignment)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (read as daughter read)
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (I'm guessing this was a school assignment)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (didn't really enjoy)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (read in college)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (read two summers ago -loved it)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (read twice, but only because I had forgotten)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (saving for when I am really old - I enjoy Tolstoy)
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (When, as an adult, I decided to become a reader, c. 1990, this is the very first book I chose at a used book store.)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (as part of a book club)
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (as part of a book club)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (school assignment)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - only started
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving (as part of a book club)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (hard to read)
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (as part of a book club)
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan (as part of a book club)
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (Saw and loved the movie.)
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (Made a huge impact on me recently.)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (A personal challenge to myself.)
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (I wanted to read about the slow descent into madness - was not impressed.)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt (I loved this book. It was read as part of a book club.)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (bought it, never got into it)
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (Oui. French class.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (hated it)
98 Hamlet – Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (a high school assignment)

How’d you do with the list?


A fun word to say, probably not so fun to have unless it is voluntary.

When you are a child, you can just compensate by ignoring the image from the weaker eye. But the problem doesn’t go away. Can you say Strabismus or Amblyopia? Treatment when I was a child consisted of the judicious use of eye patches to help strengthen the weak eye, but it didn’t help socially (and the very thick bifocals on top of the patch only enhanced the aberration).

My remaining thought about diplopia is that Foreigner was smart to use the more common term in its song title.

I have to stop listening to the Oldies station in the car.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

But What If I Want to Walk Alone?

The theme to our songs in chorus this year is Musicals. I think there has been some stretching of what constitutes a musical, but for the most part, I have really been enjoying the music that the directors have chosen for us to sing.

In light of the beautiful harmonies we were able to produce from the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as arranged by Mac Huff, I decided that I needed to watch Carousel, the musical from which it comes. We own it as part of a Costco packaging bonanza, but I had never seen it. That I could remember.

Once I started watching it, I remembered why I hadn’t seen it. I had aborted the viewing early on during my first attempt.

It is horrible! Sadly, it’s reported to be one of Oscar Hammerstein’s favorite collaborations with Richard Rodgers. Why? Because of its anti-hero, Billy Bigelow?


From scene 1 (or maybe 2) the viewer is concerned about the safety of Shirley Jones’ character, Julie Johnson. “Run, honey, run!” I felt like shouting out to the screen. I used the moment to discuss with my daughters all of the clues that she was missing, or for some inexplicable reason, overriding in her quest to be brave and not afraid of the Carousel barker. Happily, they were also appalled at her behavior.

The clincher for me, really, was the line toward the end of the movie when Julie is explaining to her daughter that “Yes, honey. I know how someone can hit you really hard and it doesn’t hurt at all.”

Nice parenting, Julie.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of such stupidity shortly after watching it as I was reading New Moon, the second in the Twilight series. In that novel another young girl who is in love with a werewolf basically resigns herself to the same fate – he loves me and he didn’t really mean to slash through half of my face. He’s hurting because of it, poor dear. While this is not the main character, Bella, she also has many dark issues of her own.

For the record, I am enjoying the romance in the Twilight series, but it descends dangerously too close into the depths of “it's okay if you physically hurt me – I love you” darkness.

As for me, I will continue to try to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the uplifting song it was meant to be rather than the thinly-veiled threat of the physically controlling brute that I now see (or the anthem for the Liverpool football club).

Monday, February 16, 2009

3 Good Things (The English Patient edition)

1. The intensity of Count Almásy’s stare.
2. Kip’s wisdom and ability to make magic.
3. Hana.

After a ten year hiatus, we watched it again last night. It's a damn fine movie.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


As I was gone a black-berrying this afternoon, I found something so strange that I just had to add to my blog for my own future enjoyment.

I like fashion. I like hats. I like dogs. Ergo...hairhats.

Perhaps you've seen them before, if not, enjoy the odd whimsy.

(For dog lovers, click on bottom row 1, 2, and 4. Frankly, I don't know what's so special about the bottom row second from right - that's about what my hair looks like every morning.)

Update: I couldn't resist looking around the site, which is now called Nagi Noda, and I found these two lovely little pieces of video: LaForet Butterfly and a small love story about Alex & Juliet.

Happy Valentine's Day.

3 Good Things (red edition)

Shoes (especially patent leather)
Lipstick (how to wear it)
Pens (I am a SAH homeschooler)

And if I were truly fearless, hair (in which we should meet Christophe Robin who walks us through not the 100 Acre Wood, but how to get the best results from L'Oreal Paris haircoloring - but the link is wonky, sorry).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Just wondering...

Would you be embarassed if your blog were the number one response to the Google search "Scottish terrier pees at WKC show, 2009"?

Me neither.

Poetry Friday

As tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and as my Valentine is a passionate cook who loves his aromatics, I dedicate this poem by Carol Ann Duffy to him.

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful
undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

House of Cards

If we tried to suppress the expansion of the subprime market, do you think that would have gone over very well with the Congress?

When it looked as though we were dealing with a major increase in home ownership, which is of unquestioned value to this society — would we have been able to do that? I doubt it.

Alan Greenspan, discussing how despite the fact that he didn’t understand the complex derivative products of “easy money” mortgages, he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Why is home ownership of unquestioned value to this society? It may or may not be part of the American Dream. If it is, then it is possible only in an America where the ability to make something of yourself, no matter who you are, is not only a proud tradition, but more importantly, an ability which falls directly from our government's mandate to protect individual rights.

And is the "home ownership" he speaks of the same as private property as protected by the government? Clearly not. The first is a gift from the government made possible only through the redistribution of wealth; the second is a manifestation of individual values and the wealth which individuals have been able to create and enjoy for themselves. This is what the government must protect.

Everything else is just a House of Cards, tonight on CNBC.

I'm sure it will be a mixed-bag orgy of blame - but that doesn't mean it won't be interesting.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin.

For Charles

Building, crashing, receding,
Compelled to build again;
Water in its vast bowl,
Containing the Origins of life,
Is thus a model for mine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Down in Front!

NOW, I'm done.

An Old Dog’s New Trick

Here are the group winners from the WKC Dog Show 2009 day two:


#1 Sussex Spaniel (“Stump” – quite an appropriate name for its color and size)
#2 Golden Retriever
#3 English Setter
#4 Labrador Retriever

I missed half of the Sporting group because I have a real life. Okay, not so much more real than watching the dog show, but one in which I dance! In any case, I knew it was going to be a banner evening when my husband looked up long enough to blurt out, “That Cocker’s got a nice ASCOB!” Then he snickered and returned his attention to his laptop.


#1 Brussels Griffon (This is the breed with which I have fallen in love this year – it looks like a bat trying to be a Pug. He was attentive to his handler and totally adorable).
#2 Pug
#3 Possessed Hassock (Seriously. Have you seen this thing in motion?)
#4 Pomeranian

I think Pomeranians are just adorable, but I found out that they were bred down from 20-30 lbs. sled dogs to 3-7 lbs. lap dogs. That made me kind of sad for some reason.


#1 Giant Schnauzer (I picked this group winner. It’s amazing how much its face looks exactly like the Scottish Terrier. Judging by the rest of the Schnauzer stock, I’m guessing that Terrier is no more Scottish than I am. After much inner debate, I also picked this dog for Best in Show.)
#2 Boxer (I am generally more impressed with this breed than I was this year.)
#3 Alaskan Malamute (Just beautiful.)
#4 Tibetan Mastiff (Last year was the first year this breed was introduced at Westminster. I like it although it doesn’t have a mastiff look to me: more like a very hairy, short nosed Shepherd.)

Exciting news for the Working Group this year, Turner & Hooch finally got the recognition it deserved! Alright, not the horrid movie, but the hideously fantastic Dogue de Bordeaux was introduced to Westminster this year.

Another interesting tidbit, Mr. Doberman, as in the man who developed the Doberman Pinscher, was a tax collector. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

Best in Show

I toyed with the idea of the Brussels Griffon winning the show, and then, during the walk around, I thought I saw that spark of greatness in the Scotty, but it was only the desperate need to pee, which she satisfied right there in the Best in Show ring. Finally, after much talking to myself, I went with the Giant Schnauzer. But the judge? She went with the Sussex Spaniel.

That’s right! Stump, the oldest dog in the history of Westminster to win a Best in Show! At ten, if he can’t fulfill his reign, I just don’t know who will waddle in to take his place.

And with that, Dog Week 2009 is officially OVAH!

Except this: I heard that the AKC is considering making 10 groups out of the 7 they now have! Oy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

WKC Winners Day One: Scots and Coifs

The four group winners at the WKC Dog Show last night were those of Scottish descent and those with outrageous hairdos!


#1 Scottish Deerhound
#2 Irish Wolfhound (my personal favorite in this group)
#3 Bloodhound (very nice)
#4 Wirehaired Dachshund (hind legs collapse under her during rough turn by handler – didn’t seem to effect judging)

The PBGV, which I usually don’t care for, should have made the first cut in my opinion.

Fascinating tidbit: In addition to the legginess and narrower head, the American Foxhound differs from the English Foxhound in that the American is an individual hunting dog, where the English is a pack animal. So, there.


#1 Scottish Terrier (My favorite in this group which is also a first for me)
#2 Sealyham (ew.)
#3 Norwich
#4 Miniature Schnauzer

Except for the top dog, my picks were not in line with the judge’s. I liked the Miniature Bull Terrier, the Smooth Fox Terrier, and the Parson Russell Terrier.


#1 Standard Poodle (If Moxie was watching, I hope he wasn’t too embarrassed by his compadre’s haircut. Amazingly, though, the dog looks quite regal in his photo despite the do.)
#2 French Bulldog (My favorite in this group – I couldn’t believe how tiny and adorable it was.)
#3 Bulldog (The handler kept shoving the dog’s tongue back in its mouth – is that legal?)
#4 Bichon Frise (I just don’t like the ways these dogs look.)


#1 Puli (One of the dreadlock Rasta dogs – the other, the Komondor will show tonight in the working group.)
#2 Bouviers des Flandres (Milkcart dog – not the Black Russian Terrier even though with the clip, it sort of looks like the one in the picture from the working dog group.)
#3 Rough Collie (Think Lassie – this one had a very cool marled coat where the dark brown would be on Lassie.)
#4 Old English Sheepdog (Box O’Hair is what I would name this particular do.)

I was mostly impressed by the Belgian Tervuren in this group, and the very alert Sheltie, but interested also in the Beauceron and the Swedish Vallhund, both of which were showing in only their second year as recognized breeds at Westminster.

Tonight we can enjoy the Sporting, Working, and Toy group judging and finally, the Best in Show. Right now, my money's on the Scottish Terrier.

Monday, February 9, 2009

General Welfare

I, sir, have always conceived – I believe those who proposed the Constitution conceived, and it is still more fully known, and more material to observe that those who ratified the Constitution conceived – that this is not an indefinite Government, deriving its powers from the general terms prefixed to the specified powers, but a limited Government, tied down to the specified powers which explain and define the general terms. The gentlemen who contend for a contrary doctrine are surely not aware of the consequences which flow from it, and which they must either admit or give up the doctrine.
James Madison, Congressional Debate regarding “bounties” for cod fisherman, 1792.

But what did he know?

Cowboy Songs

Scouring the dusty lower level of my local library in a quest to read (and try to understand) more poetry, I found a book with COWBOY SONGS hand-lettered on the black spine in white ink. While I love cowboys, perhaps more than your average person, what made the book irresistible to me was the author’s name on the bottom of the spine, LOMAX.

Immediately I was reminded of the recordings at the Library of Congress I found last spring searching for Songs of the Underground Railroad. Indeed, the book was first published in 1910 and last revised (the edition I borrowed) in 1938 is by the same Lomax family: John Avery Lomax, and Alan Lomax wrote the book, while John Avery and Ruby Terrill Lomax fielded the 1939 Southern States Recording Trip collected at the Library of Congress.

I find old recordings very interesting to listen to, but the book, whose subtitle is "and other Frontier Ballads", is a much more concentrated effort at preserving an American literary art form – the cowboy ballad. The cowboys sang to entertain themselves, to work by, and to keep the cattle from stampeding at night. The last of these are known as “dogie songs”.

There is something in the simple story-telling of the cowboy ballad that appeals to me. But John Lomax who lived to collect these songs explains it better:

There is, however, a Homeric quality about the cowboy’s profanity and vulgarity that pleases rather than repulses. The broad sky under which he slept, the limitless plains over which he rode, the big, open, free life he lived near to Nature’s breast, taught him simplicity, calm, directness. He spoke out plainly the impulses of his heart. But as yet so-called polite society is not quite willing to hear.

Enjoy this version of Zebra Dun performed by Frank Goodwyn in 1939, as he sings a song about a little bit of cowboy wisdom: not every educated man is a greenhorn.

It's not exactly what I had in mind when I entered the library, but the Herrick and Chaucer will keep (at least until I find a Chaucer poem I can actually understand).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

3 Good Things (toy dog edition)

From the AKC

The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight. Don't let their tiny stature fool you, though - - many Toys are tough as nails. If you haven't yet experienced the barking of an angry Chihuahua, for example, well, just wait. Toy dogs will always be popular with city dwellers and people without much living space. They make ideal apartment dogs and terrific lap warmers on nippy nights. (Incidentally, small breeds may be found in every Group, not just the Toy Group. We advise everyone to seriously consider getting a small breed, when appropriate, if for no other reason than to minimize some of the problems inherent in canines such as shedding, creating messes and cost of care. And training aside, it's still easier to control a ten-pound dog than it is one ten times that size.)

The toy group is a little tricky for me. I have a Pug, and this dog was definitely bred for human companionship (and possibly to appear human as is sometimes the case), but with the miniaturization process often comes problems.

1. Manchester Terrier

Until 1959, the Manchester Terrier and Toy Manchester were registered as separate breeds, although interbreeding was permitted. Since then, the two breeds have combined to form one breed, the Manchester Terrier, with two varieties: Toy and Standard.

Development of the Toy from the larger Manchester Terrier was first a matter of chance and later the business of selective breeding.

Manchesters were excessively inbred during the Victorian era, at which point the weight of the average specimen dropped to an alarming 2.5 lbs.

Frustration with ear shape caused Manchester breeders to slow and eventually stop breeding altogether but for a few staunch devotees who continued to keep the breed alive.

The sole difference between the Standard and Toy Manchester, besides size of course, is ear shape.

At one point, the Toy Manchester was so highly prized that it is rumored that surreptitious matings with Italian Greyhounds occurred to keep size to a minimum.

I think the markings on this dog are what make it so interesting. They look like tiny Doberman Pinschers and so are often confused with mini pinschers, but they are a completely different breed.


2. Papillion

Papillons, which used to only have large, drooping ears, were known in the 16th and 17th centuries as Dwarf Spaniels and were often depicted on the laps of French and Spanish noblewomen. Over time, an erect-eared type, fringed as to resemble the ears of a butterfly, developed (Papillon means "butterfly" in French). In the United States, Papillons (erect-eared) and Phalenes (drop-eared) can be born in the same litter and are shown together as one breed.
A Papillion won at Westminster in 1999 and I think that is the first time I fell in love with its adorable little face.


3. Pug

You’re going to put that where?

The Pug is well described by the phrase "multum in parvo" which means "a lot of dog in a small space." They are recognized for their even-tempers, playful personalities, and their outgoing, loving dispositions. This square and cobby breed comes in fawn, silver fawn, apricot fawn or black, with a well-defined "mask" on his muzzle.

The Pug is one of the oldest breeds of dogs and has flourished since before 400 BC. Most researchers agree that the breed comes from Asia, due to its similarities to the Pekingese. China is the earliest known source for Pugs, where they were pets of the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. The breed next appeared in Japan and Europe, becoming popular when Prince William II became the King of England. He owned Pugs and they became the fashionable breed for generations.

For reasons which I can only describe as an excellent public relations campaign, my daughter has always wanted a Pug. Being the loving homeschooling mother that I am, I made her write a research report on the history, care, and keeping of a Pug. She did it, and did a fine job, too, because with it she convinced me that this little noise making, funny-faced, cold-hating and heat-loathing beast which is prone to asthma and epilepsy would make a fine addition to our family! I think it was the saving Prince William and Napoleon and Josephine stories that put me over the top, though. (That one knows how to manipulate me. Darn it.)

Scroll down to Pug. There are no fewer than 14 different Pug rescue agencies.

Honorable Mention: Italian Greyhound (that’s a bone thrown to my husband who would rather have a fast little dog, than a cute little dog).

Next up: Winners and Rastafarians.

Why Dog Week?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

3 Good Things (hound edition)

From the AKC

Most hounds share the common ancestral trait of being used for hunting. Some use acute scenting powers to follow a trail. Others demonstrate a phenomenal gift of stamina as they relentlessly run down quarry. Beyond this, however, generalizations about hounds are hard to come by, since the Group encompasses quite a diverse lot. There are Pharaoh Hounds, Norwegian Elkhounds, Afghans and Beagles, among others. Some hounds share the distinct ability to produce a unique sound known as baying.

1. The Harrier

Developed in England to hunt hare in packs, Harriers must have all the attributes of a scenting pack hound. [They must appear] able to work tirelessly, no matter the terrain, for long periods. Running gear and scenting ability are particularly important features.

I love English (larger heads) and American (longer legs) Foxhounds. This is really a smaller version of the English Foxhound, and they look incredibly well built. I’d want one of these, but for that “baying” thing.


2. Basenji

A poised, elegant hunting dog from Africa, the Basenji is smoothly muscular and moves with ease and agility. He is lightly built and possesses a wrinkled head and a high, curled tail. The Basenji is commonly known as the "barkless dog," but when excited, he makes a noise that sounds like a yodel.

I’ve met a Basenji and a Basenji mix. I find the yellow eyes a little disconcerting, but the dogs themselves seemed really happy, alert, inquisitive, and friendly, and still well behaved. While they aren’t barkless, they are not likely to bark under normal circumstances such as at the vacuum cleaner or dust bunnies (ironic, I know) as the Pug does.


3. Pharaoh Hound

The Pharaoh Hound, one of the oldest domesticated dogs in recorded history, traces his lineage to roughly 3000 B. C. Fortunately, the history of Egyptian civilization was well documented and preserved through paintings and hieroglyphics. From these we learn that this unique dog was treasured for his great hunting ability and his affinity for close family relationships.

I chose this breed because I think its history is fascinating. True, it has the creepy yellow eyes thing going on, but it's beautiful.

"FROM THE TOMB OF ANTEFA II (approximately 2300 B.C.) This is the drawing from which the Pharaoh Hound Club of America, Inc. has created it's logo."


Honorable Mention: Afghan Hound. I had one. She chewed through two couches. Still, I can’t deny the animal’s grace and beauty. They are really fun to watch as they glide around the ring.

Next up: The Toy Group

Why Dog Week?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Going Green Tip #4: Inspire Thought

“I meant to inspire thought and compassion, not fear.”

Marie Mason

[Ms. Mason] was sentenced Thursday to 22 years in prison for a 1999 arson attack at Michigan State University’s Agriculture Hall that caused more than $1 million in damage.

[She] admitted responsibility for another $3 million in damages caused in other acts of vandalism, including “destroying homes under construction in the Detroit area and Indiana and setting fire to two boats owned by a man who formerly raised minks,”

Ms. Mason said she was acting on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front. For anyone who doubts the intent of the Environmentalist movement, you should check out the ELF. And should you be tempted to be lulled into complacency by thinking that they are only the “extremist” element, I urge you to look at some of the comments on original NYT Green Inc. blog article linked to her name above.

3 Good Things (herding group edition)

From the AKC

The Herding Group, created in 1983, is the newest AKC classification; its members were formerly members of the Working Group. All breeds share the fabulous ability to control the movement of other animals. A remarkable example is the low-set Corgi, perhaps one foot tall at the shoulders, that can drive a herd of cows many times its size to pasture by leaping and nipping at their heels. The vast majority of Herding dogs, as household pets, never cross paths with a farm animal. Nevertheless, pure instinct prompts many of these dogs to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family. In general, these intelligent dogs make excellent companions and respond beautifully to training exercises.

1. Canaan Dog

The Canaan Dog is a herding and flock guardian dog native to the Middle East. He is aloof with strangers, inquisitive, loyal and loving with his family. His medium-size, square body is without extremes, showing a clear, sharp outline. The Canaan Dog moves with athletic agility and grace in a quick, brisk, ground-covering trot.
What I found most interesting about these dogs after spotting them a few years back, was its history. Despite being around relatively unchanged for nearly 4000 years, the Canaan Dog only recently joined the AKC and began competing in 1997. Here is an interesting article in the AKC's Gazette about the Canaan Dog.


2. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

The occupation which made the Corgi worth his weight in gold to those Welsh hillmen came at a much later period, but still hundreds of years ago. This was when the Crown owned practically all land, and the tenant farmers, or crofters, were permitted to fence off only a few acres surrounding their dooryards. The rest was open country, known as common land, on which the crofter was permitted to graze his cattle, one of the chief sources of his meager income. It can be imagined that there was great competition among the crofters to secure as much as possible of this pasture land for their own uses, and the task would have been difficult had it not been for the Corgi. The little dog which had been with this Celtic people so long, and which had come to be of almost human intelligence, was trained to perform a service the opposite of that done by the herding dog. Instead of herding the cattle, the Corgi would nip at their heels and drive them as far afield as desired.

This breed has grown on me. At first I thought they looked like stunted German Shepherds, but they’ve got a specialty all their own. They’re nippers. You think they’re going to herd up all this children, but they just chase them about and nip at their heels. Fun to have around, especially in groups.


3. Australian Cattle Dog

As the name implies the dog's prime function, and one in which he has no peer, is the control and movement of cattle in both wide open and confined areas. Always alert, extremely intelligent, watchful, courageous and trustworthy, with an implicit devotion to duty making it an ideal dog.

I first saw this dog in the movie Babe (apparently it is from whence many good things come). I thought it was so fast and agile moving those sheep – very impressive (even though it played a very bad dog). I also think their blue coats are beautiful.


Honorable Mentions: Border Collie (yup, Babe again), the German Shepherd (I don’t care how popular it is – it’s something to behold), and finally the Belgian Tervuren who is one of the three largely unsung Belgian Shepherds.

Next up: Release the hounds!

Why Dog Week?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bring Back TANSTAAFL (tans-t-awful)

We interrupt Dog Week to bring you this Public Service Announcement:

No, this is not about a new dog crossbred between a Black and Tan and a Neopolitan Mastiff (although I’m sure that would be quite awful, not to mention saggy), this is about the pithy wisdom of earlier days, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

What happened to the people who used this expression? Those people who more than made up for what they lacked in grammatical understanding with simple economic understanding? The people who didn’t take, let alone expect, hand outs?

Richard Maybury, in his book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? explains simply the following terms whose definitions seem to have gone the way of TANSTAAFL. They have been lost to the quaint idea that was America.

A welfare program is the practice of giving things to poor people. Modern governments also have welfare for rich people; that kind of welfare is called a subsidy.

The way all governments, including the Roman government, get the money they want is by taxing people. Taxing mean taking money, by force if necessary…

So how did we end up here, discussing not the complete and utter insanity of a government bailout of any kind, but a $900 billion “stimulus” package to be doled out by the government? Instead of understanding that every dollar taken by the government to give out to entities chosen by the government is a dollar not invested back into our economy, but forcibly redistributed? That every dollar expropriated through taxes is a dollar not used to create a real, for-profit job? That every dollar seized by our government is diverted through government projects so people can feel good about America?

While our leaders try to bicker about who gets what, most people seem to be sold on the idea that this unprecedented amount of money the government is proposing to give away is a necessary evil. Necessary for what – the complete nationalization of our industries?

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, people. For every dollar the government takes from us, there is one less of our earned dollars that we get to apply toward our own lives, liberty, and pursuits of happiness. One more dollar to support the state. One less dollar to support our individual values. One less dollar invested in ideas that made America great.

3 Good Things (non-sporting group edition)

From the AKC

Non-sporting dogs are a diverse group. Here are sturdy animals with as different personalities and appearances as the Chow Chow, Dalmatian, French Bulldog, and Keeshond. Talk about differences in size, coat, and visage! Some, like the Schipperke and Tibetan Spaniel are uncommon sights in the average neighborhood. Others, however, like the Poodle and Lhasa Apso, have quite a large following. The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.

1. Poodle

The Poodle, though often equated to the beauty with no brains, is exceptionally smart, active and excels in obedience training. He is also the only breed that comes in three size varieties.

The stylish "Poodle clip" was designed by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently. The patches of hair left on the body are meant to protect vital organs and joints which are susceptible to cold.
I have to say that I've had first hand experience with dogs in each of the three sizes of poodles. The toy I knew was neurotic, the miniature, flighty, and the standard, smart. Standard poodles are known to be very smart and make excellent pets. If I had to take a stab at why their popularity seems limited to dog professionals and those who’ve really done their homework, I'd say it has something to do with the very “Continental” image which is conjured at the mere mention of the breed name.

These pictures ought to put a few other fabulous images in mind.


2. Boston Terrier

Truly an "All-American" dog, the Boston Terrier is a lively and highly intelligent breed with an excellent disposition.

The breed is an American creation, resulting from a cross between an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier. In 1891, the breed became known as Boston Terriers, taking the name of the city where they originated.
I had to include this breed because it was the first truly American dog breed. But I also have to be honest: the only Boston Terrier I’ve known personally was a Rescue dog and had some serious issues. (He had to walk backwards to go into the living room because it was carpeted - near as we could figure, that’s why). It bit my baby cousin (whose father is a hunter) in the head, and that was the end of that poor dog. Not an auspicious introduction to what I’m sure is an excellent breed.


3. Shiba Inu

Descended from the primitive dogs of the ancient people of Japan, the Shiba Inu was bred to hunt small wild game, boar and bear. The name Shiba in Japanese means brushwood, after the breed's hunting terrain or the color of brushwood leaves in the fall and Inu means dog.

The Shiba Inu, the smallest and oldest of Japan's dogs, has been with the Japanese people for centuries. They make excellent watchdogs and have established themselves as the number-one companion dog in Japan.

This is a compactly beautiful dog. It's similar looking to the Spitz breeds in that it always looks like it's smiling.


Honorable Mention: French Bulldog. Any dog described as “a clown in the cloak of a philosopher” deserves an honorable mention.

Next up: The Herding Group

Why Dog Week?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

3 Good Things (sporting group edition)

From the AKC

Naturally active and alert, Sporting dogs make likeable, well-rounded companions. Members of the Group include pointers, retrievers, setters and spaniels. Remarkable for their instincts in water and woods, many of these breeds actively continue to participate in hunting and other field activities. Potential owners of Sporting dogs need to realize that most require regular, invigorating exercise.

1. Brittany

The Brittany was named for the French province where it originated… It is possible that native Brittany spaniels mated with English pointing dogs around 1900, intensifying their hunting prowess in the process.

The Brittany is strong, quick and agile, requiring exercise and activity to occupy his body and mind. He is a happy and alert dog who possesses willing attitude.

We call these dogs the “happy dogs”. If you’ve ever seen one in motion, you know exactly what I mean!


2. German Shorthaired Pointer

A versatile hunter and all-purpose gun dog, the German Shorthaired Pointer possesses keen scenting power and high intelligence. The breed is proficient with many different types of game and sport, including trailing, retrieving, and pointing pheasant, quail, grouse, waterfowl, racoons, possum, and even deer.

This dog is the official icon of the WKC. And Carlee, a GSP, won Best in Show in 2005.


3. Spunoni Italiano

Vigorous and robust, his purpose as hardworking gun dog is evident. Naturally sociable, the docile and patient Spinone is resistant to fatigue and is an experienced hunter on any terrain. His wiry, dense coat and thick skin enable the Spinone to negotiate underbrush and endure cold water that would severely punish any dog not so naturally armored. He has a remarkable tendency for an extended and fast trotting gait.
How can not love a breed with a name like that? And it looks like a big terrier - bonus!


Honorable Mention: Weimaraner. Sure, they’re sleek, well-muscled, popularly photographed balls of fun, but one peed on my picnic basket when I was five. You just don’t forget (or forgive) a thing like that.

Next Up: Non-Sporting Group

Why Dog Week?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

3 Good Things (terrier edition)

From the AKC

These are feisty, energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. Many continue to project the attitude that they're always eager for a spirited argument. Most terriers have wiry coats that require special grooming known as stripping in order to maintain a characteristic appearance.
1. Border Terrier

Alert, active and agile, the Border Terrier is willing to squeeze through narrow holes and sprint across any terrain to capture his quarry: the fox. This persistence made him an excellent working terrier back in England, and allows him to succeed in Earthdog, Obedience and Agilty trials today.
I have one word for you here, too: Benji. I don’t care what the media says, the original Benji looks an awful lot like a purebred Border Terrier to me. I like this dog precisely because he does look like my all-time favorite kind of dog: a mutt (with a streak of terrier in him, of course).


2. Bull Terrier

Playful and clownish, the Bull Terrier is best described as a three year-old child in a dog suit. Given his muscular build, the Bull Terrier can appear unapproachable, but he is an exceedingly friendly dog, with a sweet and fun-loving disposition and popular in the obedience, agility and show rings.

Bull Terriers do not bark unless there is a good reason. When a Bull Terrier is barking, pay attention.

Since I was a child, I have called this dog “pig dog” because the one we knew was quite a bit more rotund and I definitely stayed away from it. They look like they could kill you with their massive heads and necks. That all changed two years ago when I first saw Rufus at Westminster. Immediately, I fell in love with this perfect looking specimen of a dog, and called it!


3. Bedlington Terrier

The origin of the breed remains a mystery, although as far back as 1820, it is known that a Joseph Ainsley of Bedlington acquired a bitch, Coates Phoebe*, who was bred in 1825 to produce the first Bedlington Terrier. About this time, a colony of nailers in Bedlington took to the breed and became known for their plucky terriers. Their dogs were famous for their abilities in drawing badgers and ratting, despite their smaller size than most of the dogs of the day.
I bet Mary had a couple of these! It’s just the clip that gives this plucky little dog its lamb-like appearance. I suppose the gamboling doesn’t hurt the image either.

*This is not to be confused with Phoebe Cates who once lisped “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” in that famous made-for-TV moment in Lace.


Next Up: The Sporting Group.
Why Dog Week?

Monday, February 2, 2009

3 Good Things (working group edition)

From the AKC

Dogs of the Working Group were bred to perform such jobs as guarding property, pulling sleds and performing water rescues. They have been invaluable assets to man throughout the ages. The Doberman Pinscher, Siberian Husky and Great Dane are included in this Group, to name just a few. Quick to learn, these intelligent, capable animals make solid companions. Their considerable dimensions and strength alone, however, make many working dogs unsuitable as pets for average families. And again, by virtue of their size alone, these dogs must be properly trained.

1. Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Developed to withstand Turkey's harsh climate, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog has evolved to endure the nomadic lifestyle of the shepherds. Loyalty, independence, and hardiness are the three factors most appreciated by fanciers of the breed.

This is my new favorite dog breed. I saw my first Anatolian Shepherd Dog at the Dog Show (sadly, on TV) a few years back. It’s hardworking, noble-looking, and kid friendly. They just scream "DOG!" to me. What more could you ask for in an animal?


2. Black Russian Terrier

The breed was developed in Russia and used as guard dogs for protection. They must be balanced, have a good temperament and be reliable. The dogs have great courage and strength.

I love the pure tenacity of terriers. Put it in a huge frame and Voila! Perfect guard dog. I’d like to have one or three of these around.

No rescue organization was listed.

3. Doberman Pinscher

The properly bred and trained Doberman has proved itself to be a friend and guardian, and his intelligence and ability to absorb and retain training have brought him into demand as a police and war dog.

One word here: discipline. I’ve met a lovely, friendly Dobie who was left unclipped, untrained, and as a wandering neighborhood dog. He was a delightful dog. But the real power of the Doberman comes from its discipline training. Check out the stack! Gorgeous!


Next Up: The Terrier Group.

Why Dog Week ?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dog Week

You’ve heard of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, Senior Week for graduating high schoolers, and you may have even heard of Staff Appreciation Week (when the school ropes the parents into giving more time and money than they already have). Well, this week on 3 Ring Binder, I present Dog Week.

In preparation for the Westminster Kennel Club’s upcoming AKC Dog Show beginning next Monday, each day this week I will be posting seven “3 Good Things” – one devoted to each group of dogs represented in the show. Now, I know what you’re thinking: But why, LB?

As I see it, except as a direct food source (which I’m sure happens, but I’d rather not discuss), dogs are unparalleled in the animal kingdom in terms of how they have been bred to match our needs. They work for us (hunt, pull, guard, swim, fetch, herd, rat, run), are constant and loyal companions, and can live an entire lifetime providing us with simple amusement. They are a diverse group of animals with amazingly varied skills and attributes, all of which have been bred for one purpose: to serve man.

While I am certainly more impressed with an individual dog’s performance in an obedience trial than with the beauty pageant aspect that this dog show represents, there is no better way to see and learn about the differences between the many species than by watching and listening at Westminster. I will begin tomorrow by presenting three good dogs from my favorite group – the working group.

I know. I’m excited too.