Monday, February 28, 2011

Why I Volunteer to Drive, Alone

The oldies station also played Loverboy's Working for the Weekend, but that just confused me as they usually save it for Fridays.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted from all that car dancing.

Dog Crossing

Alea Jacta Est.

This is what Julius Caesar is reported to have said as he crossed the River Rubicon at the head of his army and began the pursuit of Pompey, his rival in the Roman Senate, into Northern Italy. Literally translated it means, the die has been cast. Practically speaking, it means there is no turning back once this action has been taken.

Here, the German artist, Wilhelm Truber, gives his version of Crossing the Rubicon (1878/79).

Painting image found here
I love how the painting captures the moment within which the dog may actually be considering its options and how the title perfectly reflects the import of that moment. 

What kind of dog do you think this is?  It looks a lot line a Cane Corso to me - the cropped ears* particularly. 

*This image is slightly different from the one I have in the book, Best in Show: The Dog in Art from the Rennaissance to Today, Yale University Press, 2006.  In that book, the dog is darker, its eyes seem closer to the top of its skull and are more closed, its cropped ears curve in then out again toward the tips, and there are three links in the plate.  But the idea shared by both is unmistakable.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

To Build, Perchance to Dwell –

Ay, there’s the microhouse.

Last year in my daughter’s homeschool co-op, she attempted to help build an 8' Microhouse a la Ken Isaacs (quintessential hippie buildings of the 1970s - you can actually download a copy of his classic book, How to Build Your Own Living Structure here).  

From Ken Isaacs' book, How to Build Your Own Living Structure.

Maybe it’s my own experience with having the only custom-made geodesic dome play structure in the neighborhood (Dad’s always been a real Buckminster Fuller fan), or my fascination with small spaces, but I was very excited when she undertook the project with her homeschool friends.

Like our dome, except it was made of wood and painted blue.
With minimal spatial, geometric, and woodworking skills, a group of ten kids attempted to make the biggest of Isaacs portable structures with his plans.  When it was completed, you couldn't get me to step inside of it, but they did learn how to measure, calculate, cut, carry, and construct things with crappy wood: overall, a worthwhile experience. 
And she still has all her digits! 
But still, I yearn for the microhouse village in my own backyard.

From Ken Isaacs' How to Build Your Own Living Structure.
I was reminded of all this when I saw this article in Thursday’s New York Times.  Mr. Diedricksen has done this very thing in his own backyard, and with his own designs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a Save the World vision for these microhouses; I have long been interested in the basic human need of shelter in all its variations. The beauty of these little huts is that they offer the ability to gain, through a hands-on approach, some knowledge and skills in not only construction principles, but also ingenious space saving ideas in one small, but human-scale, self-contained, and affordable project.

As for Mr. Diedricksen, while I think he may have cut off his ponytail, the hippie is strong within him. Nonetheless, I enjoy his efforts in these mini-construction projects. His video for the pull-down table/fort that he designed for his kids is particularly fun.

More of his videos can be found at the tiny yellow house

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Fun: Scattered Historic Slogans

Found in the ephemera of my daughter's constant doodling, here is a curious list of scattered historic statements and slogans. I thought some of them were random ideas without historical significance, but, as she so gleefully explained, I was wrong.

Your task is to put them in chronological order - bonus points for telling me the historic significance of each.

For those of you not fluent in reading my homeschooler's lamentable handwriting, here is the list:

No taxation without representation
Let them eat cake!
Et tu, Brute?
Liberty or death!
Blood and iron
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
Know thyself
HA. H and A spells "HA."
Thus, with a kiss, I die.
They ride on sticks!
The die is cast.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ms. Bubbles Fined for Threatening to Kill Kids

And, according to today's Federal Register, has agreed to pay $40,000 for her egregious error in judgment: selling this jacket in children's sizes 7-12.

I certainly see the fashion felony for parents who buy this for their 7-10 year olds, but Ms. Bubbles has been fined for not complying with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Drawstring Hazard Guidelines.

It’s important to note that no child has been harmed from Ms. Bubbles actions.
CPSC is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about it by visiting
Merely, Ms. Bubbles violated the unwritten law that guidelines issued by bureaucrats are to be obeyed as laws -- particularly those designed to protect us from ourselves. 
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.
It would appear despite her attempt to distance herself from the legacy of her father's run-in with the National Institute of Health -- it has been speculated that she added the 's' for safety -- Ms. Bubbles was unable to avoid prosecution.

In an ironic twist of fate, Ms. Bubbles’ siblings who did not change their names in order to protect the innocent, brother, Mr. Plastic Bubble, and sister, Mrs. Bubble-Wrap, each have safely thriving businesses in our nanny-state.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wicked Witch

 Subconscious fashion choices lend credence to daughter's claim.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My CrossFit Style: Feisty Old Lady

Adding to the list of OBloggers who have posted on their CrossFit styles (Jenn and Kelly, Diana Hsieh, Trey Givens), I am herein exposing the ugly truth about mine.

While I am a big weight-lifting fan, and an extreme advocate of my CrossFit gym, I am not above playing the old lady card for personal gain.  Not to be confused with Old Maid, the old lady card allows me to sit on the couch between lifting work sets, wait for an inquiring look, and order the manservants to load up my bar with the appropriate weight.  Okay. That happened only once, but I think I could get used to it.

Actually, I am a bar-loading maven – and I can do mathearly in the morning, even!  As every weightlifter knows, this is a valuable skill to have when figuring out weight distributions for every person using your weightlifting platform. Occasionally I get it wrong, but such a mistake usually comes to light before the lifter is crushed by the bar or cruises through the lift.  (Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I did forget the product of 8 and 6 one morning, but I have no idea why I would need such information at CrossFit anyway.)

I write everything down (that’s how I finally figured out the answer is 48) in my CrossFit journal: All the warm-up work – which has happily been reduced to a standard warm-up that I can now remember without looking at the board more than four or five times. Warm up includes 2-3 minutes of rope jumping, three rounds of ten pass-throughs alternating with overhead squats both with a PVC pipe, push-ups, sit-ups, and stretching. I have long been able to do real push-ups and so I sniff with a little air of superiority when doing those. Twenty is my record for push-ups in a row – not great, but not bad for an old lady. I include between 40-70 push-ups within the entire workout period. As of this month, I have been trying to do a similar amount of ring rows in each workout period as well. I tally them all up in my CrossFit journal.

Because I write everything down, including brief notes about how I feel about the work, I have discovered that the second to last set of repetitions I do in any progression of lifts seems like it is the heaviest set I could possibly do. Why this is so, I’m not quite sure, but knowing this helps me get through both that set and the heavier one to come.  I know that no matter how nervous I am when standing on the mat waiting for a timed MetCon or Fight Gone Bad to begin, soon, it will be over and my life will be normal again. In fact, I know that within a few minutes of time being called, I will be able to peel myself off of the mat and breathe normally again.

When I am eating well, I feel strong as I approach the rack. When I eat crap, I feel weak standing in front of the rack. This is not about nutrients ingested immediately prior to the workout – most often I go to the gym before I eat, NOT before coffee – but for the few days leading up to it. While I am at the gym, water is my best friend and I drink it like a beast: spilling it well beyond the limits of my loose water bottle-mouth connection.  Then, most likely, I’ll pick up the bottom of my shirt, wipe off my mouth, and not care. Hey, I figure we’re all lucky I’m not a good spitter!

My biggest weakness is that I give up well before I think my body will explode. Oh, and that I’ll rip your head off if you’re spotting me and take the weight off too soon. Because of the first, it seems that maybe I don’t try hard enough at times and so, when seeing me actually struggle, my spotters have been known to assist me.  Yes, I used italics because let’s face it – assistance at the end of a lift means you failed that lift. I don’t like to fail.

Despite this, I still can’t do a pull-up to save my life (although, oddly, I can do 1+ chin-ups), and doing negatives caused a nasty little injury in the chest-side of my armpit recently (apparently there is part of the pectoralis muscle there). Also, while I can do five double-unders in a row (in a pattern that includes two regular jumps between each double-under), I can’t jump rope like a boxer, and I struggle jumping on one foot.

My CrossFit goals for the upcoming year are to do the Grace work out with 75 lbs. – last year I did it with 55 lbs.—and to own some pull-ups.  Okay, one, even. One pull-up would be satisfying. 

I’ll never be a fast runner. I’ll never enjoy the box jump (it scares me because even though I don’t particularly care for my teeth, I prefer them where they are to anywhere that missing the box jump due to exhaustion may cause them to relocate). But I really do like to lift weights and the way it makes me feel: powerful. 

Here are my personal records:

Squat 150 lbs. x 6 (this week!)
Deadlift 165 lbs. x 1 (work weight 160 lbs. x 5)
Press 65 lbs. x5 (gave up too soon because I was so damn happy to hit the 5 – this week!)
Bench 85 lbs. x 1 (we don’t do this often; work weight 80 lbs.)

I’m not super strong, but I’m pretty strong—for an old lady.

The entire purpose of CrossFit is to work on functional movements and therefore help you get better at life.  As getting older is unavoidable, I’m happy to take the feistier power route along the way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Blogger After My Own Heart

I added it to my sidebar a while ago, but I wanted to formally introduce the blog Retrieverman.  It is consistently interesting and enjoyable to read as the writer discusses all kinds of fascinating aspects of dog life from the evolution of the dog to fun dog (and sometimes cat, cat-like, and other animal) pictures and videos. It is alternatively serious and seriously fun, but seldom saucy (as I sometimes get).

From About Retrieverman:

I am technically qualified to write about the following things: Western history, especially as it pertains to the international political economy; politics, international politics and political economy; and campaign strategy and current political intrigue.
There will be very little of that on this blog.
I will mainly write about dogs and their place in our society, the history of that relationship, and how that relationship can be improved.
I will also write about nature and ecology. I am full of nature writing and meditations on nature, as well as interesting stories about wild animals, including those that lived near me when I was growing up in West Virginia.
I am prone to writing stories about my childhood dogs and bragging about my current dog. As you may have noticed, I love golden retrievers, and I have a deep appreciation for their history and that of their close relations.

Hello? What's not to love?

He recently posted an understated review of the this year's winner of the WKC Dog Show including his desire that an anti-peke should win (I felt and tweeted the same).  And he used a Robert Burns poems to celebrate the Scottish Deerhound's win!

While my thirty days of dog bloject is officially over, if you find yourself missing my canine copy, Retrieverman will more than bring it back for you -- and in better condition!

Go visit.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum MSG

There and back again. We made it.

Here is my first attempt at encapsulating our latest NYC Flash Tour where we attended day 2 of the Westminster Kennel Club 135th Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.  This brief video is a compilation of pictures and videos we took of the benching area under the main floor of the Garden. It was pure chaos. And fun.

While three groups were judged on Tuesday, we seem to have missed the terrier group back stage completely, but got up close and personal to a few of the excellent breeds and fabulous individual dogs from the working and sporting groups at the show. I found a few new favorites (English Springer Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever), and my daughters expanded their favorites (Huskies, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers). In person, my youngest even fell for the crated, dreaded, possessed hassock winner of the toy group, although she later recanted.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the effects of listening to Jack London's Call of the Wild on the way down to NYC.  I'm quite sure that's what spurred my daughters' affection for the huskies, and it definitely caused my complete delight with the dogs that I think perfectly represent Buck as described in the novel: the Leonberger.  It has the coloring of a shepherd and the massive body of a St. Bernard.  I can hardly imagine a dog more suited to the water rescue of John Thornton than this gentle giant. Admittedly, I did not see it act aggressively toward other dogs or men, nor did I hear it howl.

In fact, the lack of dog noises throughout not only the benching area, but the entire MSG was immediately noticeable. There didn't seem to be a drop of natural dog behavior left in these show dogs, but as some of them were actually still working, sporting, herding, dogs, that could not be true. They are just impeccably well trained to stand in the spotlight.

Soon, I hope to have a brief judging video, visiting the MSG "it's a sports arena, too?" remarks, and Moments from the Big Show.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Next time I'll know which book to use when I'm trying to figure out who's who; It would really help my puparazzo work.

Check out this real photographer's work at the WKC.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dogs and Philosophers

No doubt, Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412-323 BCE), Diogenes the Cynic, or Diogenes the Dog as he was sometimes known, was odd to say the least, preferring to live naturally on the streets emulating a dog, than to succumb to the hypocrisy of living by social norms.

From Wikipedia:

Many anecdotes of Diogenes refer to his dog-like behavior, and his praise of a dog's virtues. It is not known whether Diogenes was insulted with the epithet "doggish" and made a virtue of it, or whether he first took up the dog theme himself. The modern terms cynic and cynical derive from the Greek word kynikos, the adjective form of kyon (κύων), meaning dog. Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural bodily functions in public without unease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe. Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth. Diogenes stated that "other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them."

He thought himself a philosopher and was reported to say that “Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.” While cynicism is known as an ancient philosophy it doesn't seem to fit as one in that it does not have a formal theory, but is rather characterized by the unconventional behavior of its adherents; Diogenes was a prime example of cynicism taken to its logical conclusion. It became popular to portray Diogenes in his barrel outside of the city in the company of dogs, such as in this painting, Diogenes, by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1860.

There are several apocryphal stories regarding Diogenes and things he’s said and done. One of the persisting stories regards the day he met Alexander the Great who was passing by Diogenes in his tub. 
To that great Macedonian king, who considered himself the "son of a god" and to whom all had knelt in homage almost worship, the visit to Diogenes was something of a shock. He found him in one of the poorer streets, seated in his tub, enjoying the sun and utterly indifferent as to who his visitor might be. Astonished, the king said, "I am Alexander."
 The answer came as proudly, "And I am Diogenes."
 Alexander then said, "Have you no favor to ask of me?"
 "Yes," Diogenes replied, "to get out of my sunlight." 
Far from being angry with him, Alexander seemed to respect and admire a man strong enough to be indifferent to his presence, and said, "Were I not Alexander, I would be Diogenes."

Armed with this story in his subconscious, the painter Edwin Landseer saw a stray dog resting in a barrel as another, well-fed dog looked on at the stray and was inspired to produce his own canine version of the story (Alexander and Diogenes, c. 1850).

I love the way Landseer was able to portray the characteristics of pride and cynicism on the dogs. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

No, I did not forget that today is the start of the Westminster Kennel Club's 135th Dog Show, or that my post today was going to be about Diogenes the Cynic, but not being a cynic myself, I'd like to share this little expression of canine affection.

While I realize that this

may be a more common expression of canine affection, I find the husky's ability to modulate his howling to mimic human vocal patterns quite fun to watch and listen to (and I really like the extended dog-only howl).

WKC results as they come in can be found here by refreshing the page often.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

3 Good Things (Fur and Fashion edition)

Given my delight in wearing fur, it is understandable if you thought that this was about the same – but it isn’t. This is about the nexus of two of my interests: fashion and dogs.

1.     Though conspicuously missing the fabulous judge of last year's working group, this series of photos shows how the handlers at last year’s Big Show put their best fashion foot forward.

2.     This three part series part on flickr gives you the skinny on fashions of the 20s for both women and dogs.

3.     Finally, a little insight into the lifestyle of the fashion icon herself.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday in the Park

Dog parks seem so cool (only partly because they remind me of the party scene in Go, Dog. Go!).  They’re a place specifically designed to exercise your dog in the city. I’ve never been to one; my dogs have always been exercised in my back yard, on my street, on in the case of the greyhound, in a giant fenced-in soccer field in the next town (she zoomed across that huge field). So what if there are no dog parks for you and Fido to go to?

Here are just a few of the activities that you can enjoy together and possibly get your pooch into tip top shape.  Challenging the dog, both physically and mentally, on a regular basis will keep it happy and might even save a couch, some base molding, or a shoe or two from utter destruction.

Most people have some familiarity with dog agility trials – they’re like the anti-fluff exhibited by the Dog Show world.  These trials showcase the individual dog’s ability (and its owner’s ability as a trainer as well) to successfully navigate a bunch of obstacles for time, rather than showcase mere physical traits of breed standards.  I’ve seen someone practice with her dog, and I’ve been to one event.  It’s pretty cool to watch the dog and owner connect and the dog work to please his owner.

Regarding restrictions, that depends on the type of association.  The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) makes no breed restrictions, whereas the Norwegian Elkhound Minuteman Association, requires that your dog be not only a Norwegian Elkhound, but also a patriot.  For an explanation of a novice course, see here.

Yup, it’s a Frisbee dog! But with special dog discs now that it’s an official sport.  The dogs that I’ve seen do this certainly seem to enjoy it.

This is new to me.  Originally designed for German Shepherd Dogs, it’s protection dog agility training but can be enjoyed by any of the protective breeds and similar mixes. A series of Expert Village videos are available, but they're a little dry. Since this is new to me and I don't own a breed of dog for which this would be appropriate, I'm having a difficult time judging the resources. 

While I had seen  the video below before, it was not until I read a report on dog intelligence (Do dogs distinguish rational from irrational acts?), it became apparent that dog dancing, also known as musical canine freestyle, is considered special training for a dog.  I thought it was merely a stunt by this gal and her gorgeous golden. That said, I could not find a better display of dog dancing than this one and frankly, despite his 30 year flirtation with Scientology, John Travolta will always be the young, handsome, quick-stepping, “Summer Nights” singing Danny Zucco this song makes me think of.

If you can’t get enough doggie dancing, here’s Britain’s Got Talent’s Kate and Gin, and a DVD offer, so you, too, can learn to dance with your dog.

In searching around for a great graphic on the inner-workings of a dog’s nose for yesterday’s post  (I didn’t find what I was looking for), I found that there is an entire association dedicated to training dogs to work with their incredible olfactory sensitivity. It was heartening to see the Boston Terrier do something (I’m not quite sure what) with its nose seeing that it’s very similar in shape to a Pug’s nose.  Maybe there’s hope for my little Izzy B.

I decided to play this game with my petite pushed-in face pooch last night.  Is that cruel?  You decide.

And finally: Doga

If you didn’t infer it from the name, yoga with dogs seems to have become some type of growing human-dog activity.

This DVD has instructions that are easy for you and your dog to follow!  Huh?
All things being equal, I think I’d rather attempt a Plié with my Pug. 

There's got to be something in this list that will interest both you and your dog. And there's always the park. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fun: Furry Friend Flash Quizzes

This is the last furry set for Friday Fun quizzes (for humans - tomorrow I'll have some dog challenges). We’ll be heading out to the second day of the WKC Dog Show on Tuesday morning, returning Wednesday afternoon, and, except for a follow-up Flash Tour post, my dog days are over—for a little while, at least.

First, there is the Dogs Around the World quiz from PBS. Like Jeopardy, there are hints in the questions, but it provides only a picture and some facts about the dog. Here's a dog breed in the quiz that I had never heard of before: Dogo Argentino anyone?  Now that you know its name, you should get this one right.

Then there is this series of Animal Planet/Eukanuba – Be the Judge tests.  Really, that’s all I've ever wanted to be is a judge, and happily I get to do that many, many thousands of times a day. In fact, it is essential to life. But here, you get to answer questions that Dog Show judges would need to know, such as which breed belongs to which group, what will disqualify a dog, etc. My hints: study your color standards.  And repeat the test until you are satisfied with the results.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Nose Knows

But I didn’t – know how successfully dogs were being trained to sniff out cancer!

As reported last month in the online version of GUT, an International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: 
Results 33 and 37 groups of breath and watery stool samples, respectively, were tested. Among patients with CRC and controls, the sensitivity of canine scent detection of breath samples compared with conventional diagnosis by colonoscopy was 0.91 and the specificity was 0.99. The sensitivity of canine scent detection of stool samples was 0.97 and the specificity was 0.99. The accuracy of canine scent detection was high even for early cancer. Canine scent detection was not confounded by current smoking, benign colorectal disease or inflammatory disease. 
This is amazing!

In no way am I suggesting that cancer sniffing dogs replace advanced medical technologies – what I’m excited about is the potential to develop less invasive and less costly tests based on what appears to be a signature smell of cancer-specific chemical compounds. That through non-invasive, inexpensive experimentation (here I’m assuming that costs to train and keep a dog is far less than the time and materials needed to otherwise ensure a promising path for research), this link was found.  Using dogs!

The report says that “Canine olfactory detection of cancer has been reported for melanoma as well as bladder, lung, breast and ovarian cancer.”  I know that cancer sniffing dogs is not a brand new idea, but as reported in the WSJ Health Blog, one of the GUT study’s authors, Hideto Sonoda, told us more about Marine, the black lab with incredible accuracy:
Marine started training as a cancer-detection dog in 2005 and before this study started was already able to pick up the scent of 12 types of cancer in patient breath samples, he writes.
Other dogs have at least 80% accuracy, but Marine was the most accurate — 98% for the stool test and 95% for separate breath samples from the same patients and controls. 
Other animals with a well-developed sense of smell, such as mice, may also be able to detect the cancer scent, writes Sonoda. “However, no other animals can communicate better with people than dogs can,” he writes.
While his comment about communication implies that he is interested in using the dogs themselves for the test work, these results can't be viewed as anything but good news regarding the ease and widespread availability of early cancer detection.

On a related matter, I found the WSJ blog post quite humorous in that it featured a picture of a Pug. The sensitivity of a Pug’s nose was hardly under consideration in its development.  In fact, the extensive specialized epithelial tissue located in the dog’s snout that contribute to its amazing smell detection (up to 100 million times!? more sensitive than a human’s), was cut short in order to breed a dog with such a human-like face.  An ugly human, but a human-like face nonetheless.

In other words, even if dog training for this important work were readily available in an at-home kit, I wouldn’t be able to substitute my sterile squishing at the hospital for some spit sniffing at home anytime soon.

NPR got it right. They showed a Border Collie, widely thought to be the smartest of all the breeds. It's worth mentioning that smart for a dog generally means highly trainable.

Only four more days until the Big Show! (Five for Live! with me and mine.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Dolittle Moment

I'm excited.

Months ago, I had the foresight to purchase tickets to a now sold-out lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see a cooking personality talk about food. While my husband liked his matter-of-fact style immediately, it took me a bit longer to warm up to him.  Eventually, through his own minimalist approach to cooking what seemed like delicious meals, I warmed up.  When I heard he was coming to Boston, I bought the tickets thinking it would be a fun and informative night out for us to share.

Sadly, since the time I purchased the tickets, this cooking personality has started to proselytize for the expansion of government from his New York Times pulpit so loudly that I could no longer disregard his extracurricular activities. In his new column he states not only that veganism is a pie-in-the-sky approach to eating (perfect, merely impractical for this world of imperfect people), but further that government should take a very active role in structuring our food choices.

While I support his educational efforts and his condemnation of corn and soy subsidies, I cannot ignore the fact that he wants to empower federal agencies to ensure the safety of our food supply, going so far as to equate bad food with acts of terrorism in the importance of government intervention -- that he actually wants to expand the role of government through subsidies, provided he's the one who gets to choose them. He gets downright frothy about the idea of using the force of government to control food choices. For all of us. Because he knows better.

You will eat real food. 

So, Mark Bittman, in utter defiance of your reason for being, tonight we'll be eating the tickets to your World Subsidy Tour. Rather than sell them, we're going to absorb the cost of sitting on the unused tickets instead of in the seats of your sold-out auditorium. I like the thought of leaving our two empty seats. Whether or not they'll actually be empty doesn't matter too much -- it feeds my soul just to think about them.

Then why am I excited?

Instead of trekking into Boston on this cold, cold evening, to listen to someone wax poetic about compulsory food programs designed to protect me from my own foolish choices, I'm choosing to do very little but be snug as a bug in a rug* watching this subsidized** television show at home:

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

*A bug in a rug is better than ten million in a bed.  I anticipate my trip to NYC with bated breath.
** Just because I'm excited to watch the show does not mean I approve of whatever portion of tax dollars and government fees were used to produce it. Funding for television is another example of how far from its proper role -- the protection of individual rights -- the government has shifted.

P.S. Just heard about an interesting new group whose approach I appreciate:
Keep Food LegalOne thing KFL will never do is advocate in favor of (or against) any particular foods or dietary choices. We believe strongly that adults should eat what they want (or what they and their doctor think is best for them). And we also believe that children should eat what they and their parents think is best for them. Government shouldn’t tell you what to eat, and neither should KFL.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time-Lapse Tuesday: Drinking Dog

I had no idea the motion of its tongue was so complicated! It’s no wonder that when I tried to imitate the action as a little kid pretending to be a dog, my forward lapping thing seemed so inadequate. What I thought was a simple roll of the tongue to scoop the water into its mouth is really a shallow front roll and big back of the tongue curled lift motion. Two scoops! I’m not sure it’s any more efficient than my earlier efforts, however, it certainly explains the splash range around the water bowl.

Since I’m guessing that some of you are trying to mimic that motion right now, I’ll tell you while all mammals may have the same set of tongue muscles, I don’t think we can make that shape

If you want to test your ability to identify the name and placement of Canine Tongue Muscles – and who wouldn’t—here’s a little quiz for you. 

I got a 28%. 

Go me.

See other fun PurposeGames and test your knowledge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Leash, Collar, and Red Tape.

If you plan on bringing your dog to the Big Apple for the Big Show, you’d best have its health records in hand or you’ll be in violation of the NYC health code. And don’t get them too early – you’ll be in violation.

According the WKC CITY LAWS 
The Director of the Bureau of Animal Affairs of New York City requires all dogs entering the City of New York to be accompanied by a Health Certificate issued by a licensed Veterinarian no more than seven days prior to arrival in the City.
That seven days seemed pretty arbitrary to me, so I wanted to know more about the requirements for this capital H, capital C, Health Certificate. If you need to see the specific regulations, or find the right form, however, don’t bother look under the Bureau of Animal Affairs, it’s not there. 
§4-01. Definitions.  The following changes have been made to this section:
  “Bureau of Animal Affairs” – deleted; replaced by successor program at the Department, Office of Veterinary Public Health Services.
Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere.

The Department is the Department of Public Health, under which I found the VPHS easily enough. But that's where the easiness stopped. While I found laws regulating the speed of rental horses in the city, 
(d) Permissible riding paces. Carriage horses shall not be driven at a pace faster than a trot. Riding horses may be ridden at a canter but shall not be galloped.
I could not find any laws, policies, or forms regarding bringing a dog into NYC there.

Not one to be easily dissuaded by red tape, I tried another avenue and found on EHow – that ubiquitous, yet not particularly helpful clearinghouse of articles written by subject enthusiasts such as myself –that a dog’s written health requirements were licensed under the Agriculture and Markets part of the state health code.  But don’t look for it there, either; the state gave that burden back to the city.

Well, there’s always this little compendium of dealing with animals in public settings, but those aren’t regulations. Do not fear, however, I think I found the umbrella agency that issues and enforces the regulations regarding the requirement of a dog’s Health Certificate: 
New York City has many laws that apply to the keeping of animals, some of which carry fines of up to $2,000 per violation. Some of the regulations pertaining to animals are the Dog License Law, the Dog Leash Law, the Canine Waste Law (Pooper Scoop"), the Rabies Vaccination Law and the Animal Nuisance Law. VPHS works with the Police, the Parks Department, the Sanitation Department and other agencies to enforce these regulations. DOH will take complaints concerning the presence of animals or will refer you to the appropriate agency. To make a complaint call DOHMH Central Complaints at 311. For additional information regarding the animal laws or applicable permits call VPHS at 311.
The DOHMH: The New York City Department of Hygiene and Mental Health.

No, I haven’t found the actual regulation or form yet, but I’m not going to drive myself insane trying to find it.  

I’m sure there are some regulations, somewhere, against that. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bad Penny?

Here’s a little morality tale called Frank and His Dog (Prelinger Achives) from 1952.

The moral of the story:  Cats are bad.

Maybe that’s what I get out of this video because it strikes a little too close to home.  Maybe I have a distinct dislike of cats coming onto my property and my having to pay for an operation on that trespassing cat because my beautiful and sweet greyhound rescue dog – who was trained in Ireland with live bait – was minding her own business on her own property when live BAIT came into her yard!

But I'm not too bitter about it anymore. I've learned from the experience. I've learned that even if your house is cat-free and your yard is fenced in, cats are everywhere!

Here are some tips for making your greyhound rescue cat-friendly. Learn from my mistake; even if you don't have a cat, your greyhound needs to be cat-friendly.  They're too damn fast for the cat to get away and for you to intervene in time.

While I don’t think I’ll get another greyhound rescue for a while, I must say that every greyhound I've ever met is gentle, loving, and a very sweet companion.  And they look a little like Spy vs. Spy.

Find an Adopt a Greyhound near you. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tough to Remain Neutral

photos from the WKC

There are four very cool breeds of Swiss Mountain dogs.  Two, the Bernese Mountain Dog  (Berner, left) and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Swissy, right), have long been accepted by the AKC and shown at Westminster in the working group.  I have always admired the appearance of these dogs, particularly the Greater Swiss because I can see its musculature better than its teddy bear-like cousin, the Bernese. But there are two similar breeds in the herding group that I had never seen before: the Entlebucher and the Appenzeller Sennenhunde.   

photo from the AKC

The Entlebucher, first known as the Entlebucherhund, was accepted by the AKC in December of 2010 and is eligible to show in January 2011 (none are registered for the WKC show this year). It is the smallest of the four breeds at heights varying between 16-21 inches. Unlike the Berner and Swissy, it looks longish to me rather than square. 

photo from the AKC

Because the two breeds are all so similar in size and appearance due to their facial markings, it's hard to distinguish between them.  I like the tail-carried-over-the-back style of the Appenzeller Sennehunde (pictured above with his cart). 

The Appenzeller is part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service – the AAA league of registered dog breeds – but has yet to achieve full recognized AKC purebred status (invited to the Big Show).  If I had to guess why, I’d say it’s the name.  Hund, is obviously easy to understand. Sennenhunde, however, I’d have to look up (shepherd’s dog). And Appenzeller Sennenhunde is just too much of a mouthful for me. 

And before you p’shaw! at my dumb American statement, take a gander at what the AKC implies about the pitiful popularity of the breed in America:
There is a record of at least one Appenzeller Sennenhund export to the United States in 1950. Some of the small Swiss farming communities that became established in the U.S. also brought their dogs. They are unsuitable for inactive lifestyles and have not become popular in the U.S.
Why don’t they just go ahead and slip a ‘therefore’ in that last statement?

Clearly, someone is taking sides on behalf of these beautiful Swiss dogs.  And that's a good thing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Fun: Fluffing

If additional stimulation is needed to get you all in the proper Dog Show state of mind, I offer you this challenge:

Identify as many dog breeds (1-12) represented in this year’s WKC poster as you can without looking them up. 

Just for reference, I was pretty confident that I could correctly identify 10 of the 12, until @WKCDOGS informed me otherwise! But I think I have some excellent guesses in any case.  By way of contrast, Stephen identified four of them (one of whom he trips on every morning – but color me impressed: 4 is 2 more than I thought he would be able to identify).  

By the way, sheepdog will only earn you a half-point provided it’s attached to the right dog(s), Mop and Mop’s Brother, though perhaps clever, will not earn you any points, and finally, while Aikido is a type of Japanese martial arts, and CBGB was a punk club in New York City, neither is a breed of dog (and neither the Akita, nor the PBGV are on this poster). 

Let the games begin.

Real Dog Show Fluffing

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Sputnik Moment

President Obama used the phrase “our generation’s Sputnik moment” in his State of the Union speech last week.  By referring to a time when this country was filled with fear and uncertainty because it appeared that the USSR was more technologically advanced, he meant to incite the feelings necessary to rise to a challenge – to lay down the gauntlet, a butt-kick moment, if you will – to this generation of innovators. He promised to invest in their projects provided, of course, that they meet with the approval of his progressive clean energy ideals in the hopes of spurring them toward greater advancement.

Because this is dog month, I’m going to leave the President’s spurious incentive program to be dismantled by those better equipped to do so, and herein discuss another Sputnik moment: that of Laika, the Russian space dog.

I first became aware of Laika while watching the movie, My Life as a Dog.  (I remember liking the movie, particularly the part about the kid having a drinking problem - go watch it and I’ll do the same and we'll meet back here in a month or so to discuss.) In it, the main character, a young boy forced to live with strange relatives, becomes obsessed with the idea of Laika being sent into space without a way home. While Laika’s situation parallels his own somewhat, he often finds comfort in the thought that at least he’s not Laika.

Poor little Laika. The stray terrier/spitz mix, weighing only 13 pounds, was ripped from the mean streets of Moscow only to be packed into a half-ton tin can to orbit the Earth without a return ticket!  While the official government story in 1957 was that she was to orbit for a week and be euthanized well before Sputnik 2 burned up on re-entry months later, it is likely that she died within 5-7 hours of being in space from overheating and panic. You can imagine the outcry of animal cruelty was tremendous over this muttnik situation.

One of the scientists on the Sputnik 2 project, Oleg Gazenko, opined in 1998, "The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it.  We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."

While festering over the dog's more anthropomorphic than actual Major Tom moment, some lost sight of what was gained. They learned that life could be sustained in space no matter how briefly and uncomfortably it was sustained for Laika.

And now, for your listening pleasure, I present, Surprise!

In the interest of full disclosure, I once sang this song, complete with Russian accent, in a tiny pub at a ski resort while drinking vodka shots with three of my friends.  Who says homeschooling moms are no fun?  No, really. Who?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dog Sung Blue

Mr. Bojangles

I know that it’s not about a dog, but it is one of the songs I think of when I think of dog songs.  In my mind, this song will forever be enmeshed with this movie. No reason other than I was probably introduced to them around the same time, and the dog up and dies.  It’s true that in the story, the boy also dies, but did I mention the DOG up and dies?  


Ew. Hippie. Well, it was 1970.

The was THE sad dog song of my youth (WildFire, THE sad horse song). Imagine my horror to find out only this morning that this song was written for not one, but two Irish Setters named Shannon!  To see the story of Henry Gross’ inspiration for writing this song here (half way down the page).  Somehow, it is less sad to me now on both counts – hippiness and dopey-dogness.

Echo Mountain

It’s the old tale of the much loved, but wronged hound dog. If you listen/watch and need help figurin’ out them ol’ cowboy lyrics, see here.

Better With You There

I don’t like country music, but the juxtaposition of the primitive dog art with the twangy music started to get to me by the end.

I'm frightened.   

Can February 15th come (and go) soon enough? 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We All Have Our Standards

And our faults.  But have you ever read dog breed standards?  Height, weight, color, markings – I understand those. But take for example, America’s most popular dog, the Labrador Retriever:  we know what they look like, but to be a member in good keeping with the American Kennel Club, this is what a Labrador Retriever ought to look like:

The skull and foreface should be on parallel planes and of approximately equal length. There should be a moderate stop--the brow slightly pronounced so that the skull is not absolutely in a straight line with the nose. The brow ridges aid in defining the stop. 
The Labrador’s hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short hocks. 
Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg. Feet are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and well-developed pads. Dew claws may be removed.

These are just a few sentences from the multi-paragraphed requirements.  But if you, like me, are an amateur dog enthusiast (and not a horse person) and need some help on more obscure terms like stop, hock, and pasterns, here’s a little worksheet for you to complete before reading through the rest of the standards. When you’re done filling it out, you can color it with your favorite dog markings and put it on the fridge.


Then take a gander at the faults, or characteristics that will disqualify a Lab from Club standards.

Eye rims without pigmentation is a disqualification.
Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the tail is a disqualification.
Undershot, overshot, or misaligned teeth are serious faults.
Woolly coats, soft silky coats, and sparse slick coats are not typical of the breed, and should be severely penalized.
Light, "weedy" individuals are definitely incorrect; equally objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens. Labrador Retrievers shall be shown in working condition well-muscled and without excess fat.

Well-muscled and without excess fat?  Who knew that the standards for a Lab would so closely resemble my own? 

It makes me happy to know that except for those strictly tied to youth, a man can meet most of his important standards at any age.